Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gaining A Little Headspace: How's Your November Zen?

Quick!  Grab a Moment Of Zen right now because thanks to Halloween being Officially Over, THE HOLIDAYS ARE UPON US! I need room for all of that in my head, thanks to crass commercialism/consumerism via The Media (aka Target and KMart Layaway, the first retail outlets that I saw to air Christmas commercials), so I'm going to have a bit of a Cranial Clear-Out.  Here are a few embryonic thought nerfuls that have been nattering around, taking up space both in my head and on my Desktop StickyNotes.

^*^Parkinson's Law^*^ This principle is stated thusly:  Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.  First proposed satirically by Cyril Northcote Parkinson to criticize the British Royal Navy in the 1950s, this rule is now cited as often as the famed Peter Principle when skewering the operation of large organizations, most notably corporate entities.  All I can do is lament the fact that I was oblivious to the existence of Parkinson's Law when I was In Education!  I could have used it almost daily.  Every single teacher knows that no matter how long you give for an assignment, the vast preponderance of students will fritter away that time frame and still do the task the night before it is due.  OR, if possible, do it in the hallway five minutes before class.  These days, Parkinson's Law still applies to my life.  Now that I have an entire day to do, say, the laundry, grocery shopping, and cat maintenance, well, that is exactly how long it takes to do it.  Often, those chores are still incomplete at 5:30 when Rick gets home, and I am sheepishly folding towels as he walks in the door.  Oh well.

^*^I Don't Love Messes. Here's My Mommy Card.^*^ So I'm watching TV, and a commercial comes on for Clorox Clean-Up.  It shows a mommy in the kitchen, cooking/baking with her children.  Messiness and wonderful loving happiness ensue.  The mommy cheerily cleans up all of the foody messes with Clorox Clean-Up while hugging her kids and smiling.  The voiceover says, "Clorox Clean-Up...for the messes only a mother could love."  Really?  I've been a mother for over twenty-seven years, and I have yet to love a mess.  Or cleaning a mess.  And let me tell you, there have been plenty.  Even the Christmas cookie decorating messes, which are the worst, actually, with all the little nonpareils, the chocolate jimmies, the colored sugar, and heaven forbid if the food coloring gets spilled.  Did we have fun in the kitchen?  Usually, yes. But did I love the messes? Hell no.  Come on, Clorox.  Time to get real.

^*^And Yet Our Government Is Full Of Them^*^ By far, my favourite quote about men still comes from the book Bridget Jones's Diary.  The titular character's staunch friend Sharon maintains that "men--...are so catastrophically unevolved that soon they will just be kept by women as pets for sex...outside in kennels."  It is terribly mean, but think about it when you read the following dialog sent to me by Jared, my eldest.  It is a small snippet of a conversation that took place at his job, a workplace staffed almost entirely by men (They have one female employee).

Jared:  Dave, do you have the DC/Baltimore/Maryland map I created?
Dave:  No.
Gabe:  It's hanging right on your wall, Dave.
Jared:  Did you even know that that existed?
Dave:  The wall?
Jared:  Yeah.  Yeah, Dave.  The wall.
Dave:  Oh.  Yeah.  Yeah, I knew about that.  Just didn't know the map was on it.

Shake loose a few of your own Cranial Cobwebs in comments.  But hurry!  Here comes...well, you know!

illustration found here


  1. Oh I definitely use all the time available to me - & then I take some time that's not really available (staying up late to set out my clothes for the next day is a frequent occurrence in my house).

    You know, I am as unobservant as Dave is. Last week sometime Mike replaced a hanging basket with the lighthouse birdhouse we keep out during winter. Yesterday I was looking out the window & noticed it for the first time. I would make a lousy witness for the prosecution OR the defense.

    Last year I promised myself that I would create some new Christmas ritual this year. Our Christmases have been quite ragtag since my mom died - & she's been gone for 8 Christmases now! But alas I haven't come up with anything new. Sigh.

  2. I've always kind of liked November, and since the election is now over (mostly to my satisfaction), I've been quietly contemplating the run up to the holidays. Since it's just the two of us this year, we decided to dispense with the customary Thanksgiving trappings, and are planning a tenderloin roast, asparagus, crabmeat and hollandaise sauce. (I will bake a pumpkin pie, because I really LIKE pumpkin pie.

    We got to reminiscing, realprof and I, about the Thanksgivings of our childhoods, and what a production it was. Back in the early fifties, you couldn't get turkey any day of the week, not even at the deli counter. In fact, in Canton, Ohio, there was no such thing as a deli counter, and lunchmeat was either baloney or boiled ham. No frozen turkeys with popup thermometers and built in basting, either. We got a fresh one, and I remember my mother painstakingly plucking off the remaining pinfeathers, then singeing the skin to get rid of the residue. The pies were baked beforehand (pumpkin and mince--yechh to the mince) because we had a 4-burner gas stove with one small oven. The cousins and the aunts would bring things like rolls and candied yams (yechh again). There were mashed potatoes and stuffing both, oceans of gravy, cranberry sauce (out of a can, with ridges). I would wander in to the kitchen to sniff the good smells, and be shooed out to watch the "Macy's Day Parade", in black and white, of course.

    Then, the next day, the lovely turkey carcass would dominate the frigidaire in solitary isolation, because pre-Vatican II Catholics could not eat meat on Friday. This was a trial to my father.

    Good times, labor-intensive, but tinged with rose-colored nostalgia. How Mom managed it all with seeming serenity was not for a seven-year old to know. Happy November, all.

  3. Hubby works this Thanksgiving, MissNewOrleans will be in New Orleans so I believe Miss HoneyHaired and I will be going to my ex-mother-in-law's for the holiday and hoefully slip out in time to see Life of Pi. I felt free and easy for about a millisecond before I felt guilty for not cooking! Think I'll cook up a little turkey and something some time during the week...I know, I'm a mess!

  4. I remember when I was a full time student with a 30+ hour a week job, and friends and a boyfriend, and people would ask me, 'How do you get it all done?' The answer was, because I have to. Because I didn't have much time, magically, things didn't TAKE as much time. Plus I could study on the bus, or on lunch breaks, whatever. Once I graduated and all I had to do was work and so on, my productivity went WAY down. So did my stress.

  5. j.@jj--It's so true. I am a huge believer in Parkinson's Law. It has a counterpart in "If you want something done, ask a busy person." When I was teaching, I was the Queen Of Busy & Organized. I could squeeze the life out of those 5 minutes between classes, let me tell you. Now? I can look at the clock and not believe that an hour has gone by. But your observation about stress is right on. Stress? What stress? Loving that.

    dbso--Methinks that you had a bit of a Freudian Slip there with "hoefully slip out" to see a movie on Thanksgiving! LOL. What dangerously casual and carefree behaviour from two loose women on such a dignified holiday. Ha ha!

    I don't think you should feel guilty, but I completely understand the pull of wanting to cook a traditional turkey and a few trimmings for your own family at some point. We used to go elsewhere for the holiday, but I still made a turkey and the etceteras so we could have leftovers! Nothing beats Thanksgiving Leftovers. Nothing.

    fauxprof--We Ohioans of a Certain Age have very similar memories of Family Thanksgiving, and thank you for sharing yours in Comments.

    I still have never had even a taste of mince pie. Thank you for not making me regret it.

    Your holiday meal sounds wonderful, but I think I would miss the traditional turkey. Rick keeps threatening to cancel Thanksgiving and run away to Canada, just us. The boys, of course, would not hear of such a thing, and until they are married and have kids of their own expect Thanksgiving and all the trimmings here. I am happy to oblige.

    I wish I liked pumpkin pie. I find it boring and icky. Yet I bake two, sending a half home with each son, leaving one here for Rick. I then eat whipped cream topped with chocolate syrup and a few salted nuts. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Bug--LOL on taking time that's not really available. Until you take other people's time, you're okay.

    I am painfully unobservant when it comes to things I care nothing about. My sons will gleefully recount to anyone/everyone how I failed to notice the presence of almost a dozen full-sized Corvettes INSIDE A MALL when we were shopping one day. On our way home, the boys and Rick started talking about one of them, and I said, "What are you talking about? What Corvette?" Jared or Sam said, "MOM! The one right outside of Macy's! Remember?" I said, "What?! There was a CAR in the MALL at MACY'S?!" At that point, they were hollering at once, all yammering about how every major store had a Corvette at its entrance. Sigh. I had missed them all.

    Who cares? I wasn't shopping for a car, and I think Corvettes are ugly.

    Re: your mom and new C-mas rituals. That's a tough one. But I get it. My dad has been gone for 12 years, and it's still very, very hard for my sons. His chair at my house on Cmas Eve is always a tearful sight. We talk about him in that chair, and it just never has gotten easier. I think it's okay, though. Don't you want to be missed by those who love you? Maybe get a new ornament for your tree every year that reminds you of her in some way. Just a thought.

  6. Sadly, so very many of the men I know (and know of) fit into the "pet for sex" category. Most of the rest are not even good enough for that, and should be neutered and sent to the "unwanted men" sanctuary. One does occasionally meet men with working brains and a sense of humor, but they seem to be few and far between.

    Many of the women I know are also boring, brainless, and oblivious. That's why I always come back to the best blogs (like this one) that remind me there are still people out there who are bright, funny yet snarky, and can actually put words together in an intelligent manner. AND understand grammar.

    And yes, work does expand exponentially to fill the space available. I have a full-time day job, and work at the barn seven days a week. People ask me how I do it. The answer is that mostly I don't sit around well, and you really can't sleep more than eight hours a day. It keeps me out of trouble.

    Just so you know, Jared and my daughter are the same person in two different bodies. In that conversation with Dave, those are exactly the same words she would have used.

  7. LaFF--Thanks so much for the Affirmation. It's been great having you back in Comments, and I've always maintained that I have some of the sharpest readers and participants on the Interwebs.

    Today, I had the luxury of really starting my Christmas shopping in earnest. Jared and Sam finally got sick of being harped on and gave me a few ideas/sizes, and off I went with a time limit and only two stores in mind, and it was manageable. The place was crawling with other Women Of Leisure, but of the...well, let's just say, "Fiscally Endowed" nature. Honestly, "boring, brainless, and oblivious" pretty much summed up the snippets of conversation I heard from the pairs of these ladies, and I wasn't actively listening for blog fodder. Two of them were recounting the timeline and players from the Petraeus scandal as if they had inside information, and treating it like it was a Bravo "Housewives" series. Another set--both encased in black, head to toe--lamented the dearth of Stocking Stuffer options, wondering if it were because of the economy. Sigh.

    And I'll make sure I tell Jared that he's not unique in the slightest. That will be good for him! LOL.

  8. Anonymous9:51 AM

    I found your blog via J. I'm glad that I did.

    I'm a walking example of Parkinson's law. I like to pretend that I take my time doing things because I'm so discerning, but the reality is that I take my time because I can.

    It's a wonder I accomplish anything.

  9. Ally--I'm glad that you did, too! Welcome to the Dept. and to Comments. I hope you plan to make this a regular stop.

    I like your statement that you take your time because you can. After 30 years of living my life in 45-minute increments announced by a bell, I can heartily relate to that. Being able to take my Own Sweet Time at...well, almost Everything now, is a luxury I take full advantage of.

    One habit I definitely have to break, however, is draining away my time in the morning by simply turning on my computer. Does this happen to you? Suddenly hours are gone, and so are all of my Good Intentions for the morning.

  10. Time management: I'm such a loser. I have come to certain conclusions about it, though, which at least help me understand why the number of things that get done in a day often has little to do with any real ability to get them done:

    1. What does get done, without fail, is that which is a real "have to"— such as getting the garbage disposal fixed because it is belching carrot peel into the sink; entering progress report grades because I will get fired otherwise; or going out to forage for food because the fridge only has leftovers that not even a starving person would eat.

    2. Everything else that I consider a "have to"--- but which is really wishful thinking--- may or may not get done, and the latter is more likely.

    3. As j@jj so aptly states, when you have a lot of legitimate have-to-do items on your list and hardly any time to do them, you find some amazing short cuts to get them done. Which leads us to the epic question: why did 3 things I would have gotten done in an hour when I was in grad school seem to take the entire morning now? And the only answer I can come up with in my case is that I am a perfectionist, and if I have more time to do stuff, I will use it. The other deadly trait that contributes to this phenomenon is that I secretly want to be distracted by things that eat into my time and prevent me from doing things more efficiently because it offers a bit of respite and sort of sweetens the deal. This includes your observation on how just being on the computer sucks a lot of time out of the day. The laundry didn't get folded and put away, but wasn't interesting reading about such-and-such?

    @fauxprof: my early Thanksgiving memories are from the same time period. I cannot thank you enough for the reminder about "cranberry sauce with ridges." In my family, it was the dish that everyone took an obligatory scoop out of, but which no one really enjoyed. And yet... it would not have been Thanksgiving without it. lol.

  11. Ortizzle--How soon can you retire? We can meet halfway between TX and OH and have a little adventure.

    You and fauxprof make me smile re: your jellied cranberry sauce. I always felt so deprived as a child because we NEVER had that stuff. I was painfully curious about it my whole life. At some point I tried it at a large, extended family Thanksgiving. I remember being so disappointed.

    I have a load of towels still languishing in the dryer--Day 3. We have an abundant supply, and I did them out of sheer boredom anyway. I'll fold them tomorrow, maybe. Today I went to the 11:40 AM showing of "Lincoln" all by myself and was thrilled to do so. I felt relaxed, a little indulgent and sinful, and enjoyed it immensely. (I was about the youngest person there!)

    And distractions!? I am so distractable lately, too. Worse than cats and toddlers. Almost flighty. Do you think it's age, menopause, retirement, or a deadly (your word, and I'm stealing it) combination of all three?

    Your time spent reading and commenting here is much appreciated,as always, Senora. Gracias!

  12. Just yesterday real prof and I drove past one of the local mega-maxi-multiplex cinemas, and noticed that the parking lot was jam-packed. He remarked that "Lincoln" must be doing very well. I explained to him, sadly, about the "Twilight" phenomenon.

    I'm eager to see "Lincoln" myself, and so, proud to report, are my students in a movies as history colloquium I'm teaching.

  13. Thanks for the kind words. Oh, that I were retired and could take a little jaunt somewhere. Maybe in a few years.

    I am also dying to see the movie Lincoln. Saw Sally Field on TV the other day--- she said she spent 6 months gaining 25 pounds to play that role.(It took her longer because she wanted to do it by eating healthy food. Can't say I blame her. It would not have been fun to get the weight off later if you put it on by eating giant boxes of Krispy Kremes. Even at that, she said it took her a year to get it off again!)

    Have a great Thanksgiving and fret not about cranberry sauce. I am convinced that even if I had a homemade version placed in front of me, I would still not like it. Pass the mashed potatoes and homemade gravy, please.

  14. Ortizzle--I love homemade cranberry sauce, and I follow the directions for Whole Cranberry Sauce on the back of the bag. Delicious warm, and the leftovers are lovely with a pork roast, too. Rick likes the Orange Cranberry Relish, which he makes for himself and the boys. But GRAVY! Oh, there is nothing more lovely than *Turkey Gravy* which is Food Of The Gods as far as I am concerned. To paraphrase my dear now-departed friend Ann, I see most of the Thanksgiving meal merely as a conveyance for Turkey Gravy.

    Sally Field was good in her role although as a Mary Lincoln Champion, I was not entirely pleased with the part, such as it was. I mean, I could tell what and why the filmmakers/writers were doing what they did with her, but it seemed...concentrated. If/when you see it, we can compare notes.
    Tommy Lee Jones, who I do not really care for ordinarily, was v good.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and Mr. O. as well.

    Fauxprof--At the megaplex where I saw "Lincoln" the showing was entirely full. The audience, owing to the 11:40 Thursday showing time, was entirely a ... mature crowd. The line of traffic I followed in was like a parade, and the car in front of me was covered in Civil War battlefield and reenactor stickers. I knew it was carrying "Lincoln" viewers. It was. At the end of the film, the audience--most of them--applauded. I was surprised. It seemed an odd thing to do in this day and age, but it happened. Several people--my son, St. Patsy, Rick--want to see it as well, so I will likely go again at least once. It will be interesting to see how my impression changes, if it does.

  15. Nance, if you're feeling daring, you could try changing your cranberry sauce recipe just a tad. I saw this in the current 'Cooks Illustrated' at the grocery store. It's very similar to the one on the back of the bag, but they said that adding just a TINY bit of salt enhanced all of the flavors and made it that much better. I'm game.

    12 oz of cranberries
    3/4 cup water
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 tsp table salt

    Bring water, sugar, and salt to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar. Then add cranberries and reduce heat. Simmer 5 minutes, until about 1/2 of cranberries have popped. Remove from heat. Proceed as normal.

    Do you ever watch America's Test Kitchen? They're so wonky about it all. So they tried this recipe with different juices instead of water, with more or less sugar, more or less salt, cooked longer and shorter, etc. This was the one they liked best for a basic cranberry sauce (which is my favorite).

    I did notice the recipe I usually use is 1 cup of water, and this is 3/4. Hmmm.

  16. j@jj--I love the Test Kitchen, esp. the Test Kitchen Guy. They are much nicer in their wonkiness than Alton Brown. I'm game, too. I'll try it, thanks!

  17. Anonymous9:38 AM

    Nance, you have described my morning "routine" perfectly. Good intentions vaporize once morning computer dawdling has commenced. I'm trying to learn to worry about this, but so far I'm not having much success.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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