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I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Five Things

Last week I gave my Non-Fiction Writing students a prompt: write about five things you want to figure out in the next five years. After the writing time was up, I was giving students a chance to read their lists aloud, and one of my students asked what my five were. I'd been spending the writing period trying to catch up on paper work, so I hadn't thought about it. But I promised my students I would.

Five Things I Want to Figure Out in the Next Five Years

1. How to keep my desk clean. Make that how to keep my desks clean, since I have clutter disease on both my desks - the one at home and the one in my office at school. It takes me forever to clean my desk, and then when it's finally clean, it seems like it gets cluttered again within a week. Why? One word: paper. Cleaning up clothes, toys, dishes, tchotchkes - that's all relatively easy because they're different colors and shapes and sizes, and I can quickly decide what I use regularly and need to store, and what I don't use and need to get rid of. Provided that I have the time to keep on top of it, keeping that stuff in order is possible. Paper tends to be 8 1/2 by 11, and it tends to be white. And it tends to pile up and pile up, and I can never decide if it's worth recycling or if I need to keep it for future reference. And once I decide to keep it, I can never figure out where to file it, or if it's worth creating a new file folder just for this one piece of paper.

2. How to improvise on guitar. I started playing guitar when I was twenty, so I never had all those hours of noodling around that all my guy friends who began playing when they were adolescents seem to have had. (For some reason all the guys I know who play guitar started when they were fourteen, or younger. All the women I know who play started when they were twenty or older. Pre-teen and teenage girls, if you want to play guitar and haven't started yet, get on it!)

3. How to do it all. I want to be able to do my job well and be a good mom. And I want to read novels that have nothing to do with school. And play my guitar. And exercise regularly. And spend time alone with my Old Man. And write poetry. And go out with friends. And keep my house tidy enough to promote my own sanity. (And clean my desks more often!) I want to spend more time with my kids, and I want to spend more time by myself. And, realistically, I need about 73 hours in a day to get all of this done. Especially since I want eight hours of sleep every night too, please.

4. How not to let crazy people take up my time and energy. One thing I've learned in my years of being an adult is that you can't avoid crazy people. They will show up in almost every area of your life at one point or another. You will have to work with at least one, and chances are you'll eventually have to work closely with one. They'll show up in your family, and if you get married, there's bound to be at least one in the family you marry into. My problem is that I can't just say "Wow, that person is crazy. I think I'll try to ignore him or her to the extent that it's possible." I always have to try to fix things. Thus, time and energy sucked into the gaping maw of insanity. And that makes it harder to figure out how to do all the stuff I want to do up in #3.

5. How to listen to my kids. Before I had kids, I always assumed I'd listen to my kids very intently, once I had kids. Now that I have kids - kids I love to pieces, whose perspective on things I truly care about - I occasionally find myself only half listening to them. Not because I don't care, but because I'm a very busy and distracted adult with a lot going on. And because, although my kids usually say funny, interesting, endearing, or amazing things, sometimes they go on and on in great detail about things that I'm actually not that interested in, and then it's a bit of a struggle to listen. Especially if I'm also trying simultaneously to figure out where I left my keys or what needs to go on the shopping list before my Old Man leaves for the store. But I know that as my children get older, listening will only get more challenging, because as children become more and more their own people, their parents sometimes have to struggle to hear what they're actually saying through the filter of what the parents want to hear (or are afraid to hear). And that, I think, must be when the listening thing gets really challenging.


Blogger Mike B. said...

Guitar improvising is easy once you realize there are no wrong notes. This is really hard for some people to get around, and their improvisation turns into scales.

Learn a few scales (pentatonic is very easy. Song is in A minor? Play notes within the pentatonic scale starting at the 5th fret. You have just properly improvised) and then mash them up. Coming at this at an older age might be to your benefit. Young people tend to be wanky with their soloing. Some never grow out of this, but I've noticed that as I've grown up, I care less about how many notes I can fit in and more about WHICH notes. That just takes experimenting and hitting lots of "wrong" notes to get there. But dissonance is sometimes really beautiful, especially if it then resolves it then resolves itself by returning to the song. Neil Young plays some great one note solos.

1:58 PM  
Blogger DoctorMama said...

This just begs for solutions, doesn't it? I can't resist. So: You'll never learn #2 (sorry Mike) or #3, and I bet you really already know #5. So that leaves #1 and #4.

That bit about paper being all the same confused me, until I realized that I fold most of my papers in different ways before tossing onto the pile. So they really aren't alike, right from the start. There you have it: Folding.

As for #4 ... that's something that you could have real fun with by doing experiments: try approach A for a couple weeks, approach B for a couple weeks, etc. Especially if you keep a log. Go all Jane Goodall on it and report back.

I'm interested in what the common themes were among your students.

5:39 PM  
Blogger E. said...

I am an optimist, so I'm going with Mike on #2. (Esp. since I've actually been playing some scales lately, so I've already got a head start.)

In terms of #1, I need a little more detail, DoctorMama. Like, what exactly is the system for your paper folding? I'm intrigued, but cautiously so.

Of course I know I'll never get #3. What I actually need to do is make peace with the fact that I can't do it all, which I've actually gotten a bit better at this past year or so. Though it still drives me crazy that, despite the fact that clothes, toys, etc. are easier to tidy than paper, I still rarely have the time to keep my house as tidy as I'd like. Sigh.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try different types of paper - different colors, different sizes. That helps for me.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get a cleaning lady. We have a woman come in every two weeks and it has contributed immeasurably to my sanity.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Feral Mom said...

Re: #2

Play with people who improvise. I couldn't do it either until Good Bunny Gone Bad. Then, it was either do it or find another band. After a while of fumbling around, I started to "get it" and do OK.

Re. #3:

Tell me when you figure it out!

Re. #5: Oh Irish bitch, puhleeze. You are the model for this sort of thing. It's cute that it's on your list, though.

11:27 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I really hope you figure out #4. I would really like to know how to just let people be crazy without it making me crazy!

Just so you know, I think you're pretty darn good at #3 and #5. Don't sell yourself short.

Oh and I'm not too optimistic about #1. I still haven't learned how to completely organize desks either. I usually end up getting lots of file organizers and trays and then just shoving all the paper in them, but then can never find what I need.

Interesting post... definitely got me thinking what my 5 would be!

5:07 PM  

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