9026 + 899 = My Email

This is not a new math problem that can only be answered using Common Core Standards. Seriously, these were the numbers I saw when I opened my email on the desktop
counter top computer. I tried to access my email via my phone, but lately it has taken a long time to load. I was impatient so I booted up the computer and felt uneasy when I stared at the large numbers.

It reminded me of when I  was really sick a few years back and my husband was out-of-town. I was so sick I couldn’t walk. I had to crawl to the kitchen and told my small children they had to make their own breakfast and amuse themselves with television for the day. A week later, I was finally able to deal with the aftermath – mountains of laundry, a lot of dishes, dust bunnies as big as kittens, grimy counter tops, and dirty bathrooms. I felt so overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to tackle first because it seemed like getting my house back to normal was impossible. Eventually, I chipped away at the neglect  and little by little things were back to normal. Just like I had neglected my house during my illness, I have also been neglecting my email. Day after day and month after month I just let the emails pile up instead of deleting and filing a bit at a time. Most of it is e-junk mail. A hot deal only for today, a new collection out, a newsletter about local education issues, a class thread about homework. Instead of deleting these emails or placing them in the right folder, I ignored them until they grew out of control.

Well, I realized it was time to clean up the mess and not have a cluttered inbox. It’s just too distracting to my brain and prevents me from being productive. I began Friday afternoon and set my goal to delete 1,00 emails. Saturday, I spent the morning with my goal to get through to last October. While I was successful with both goals, I was not done. At this point I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I have less than 6,000 emails in my inbox and less than 300 in my folders. I decided that I couldn’t spend my entire weekend at the computer just cleaning things out. My end goal is to have 0 in my inbox by the end of this week.

It has been a tedious experience and I think I have learned a few lessons in the process. For the future I plan to do a few things differently:

  1. Delete as many emails a day as I can
  2. Try a weekly catch up reading folder  and see if a.) I remember to use it and b.)I am able to read through the emails/articles/blogs I am setting aside within an hour or so
  3. Schedule time once a week to clear/organize my email accounts (yes, I have more than one!)

I hope that I can keep a tidy inbox so I am more productive and spend my time writing and creating instead of dealing with accumulated electronic clutter. I also hope this overhaul will resolve the issues with my phone.

Am I the only one who has let an inbox get wildly out of control? I’d love to hear your stories or tips on how you tame your inbox.

A Hallway Makeover – Part One

IMAG1476

When we bought our house a  few years ago, it wasn’t for the stellar floor plan, it was for the neighborhood. In fact the floor plan is rather odd, probably because the building used to be a 3 flat back in the day. Instead of having the doorway open into a room, several of our doorways open directly into hallways. Very. Looooong hallways. Did I mention they were long? Initially we used the upper back hallway  to store boxes and bins of items we had no place to store because not only was the floor plan crummy, the house had minimal closet space and no garage. Little by little I have gone through the bins and tried to clear out unnecessary items, or find homes for things now that we are fairly settled. Still the hallway remained filled.

Last Fall I had an idea to turn the hallway space into a usable space – for me. I wanted a place to write and work on projects and keep some of my things that did not work in the main shared areas of our home. A place where I could leave myself post it note reminders and not get repeatedly asked if it could it be thrown away (No, not yet, , I just haven’t had time to do it, but if I throw it away I will forget all about it.)

In order to accomplish this, I had to go through all the bins again and figure out what to do with the contents. This was a great exercise in “What the heck do I/you/we still have that for?” because let me tell you, I found things from the last century (husband’s undergrad text books!!!) and things I/he/we no longer needed. I spent the  better part of November and December taking care of that and used some of our attic space for items we needed to hang on to, but did not need on an every day basis.

Stay tuned for Part Two – A Space For Me.

Your Opinions About Free Blogging vs. Paying a Premium

A little over two years ago I jumped into the world of blogging because I wanted to do something more with my writing. Like a child, it has evolved over this relatively short period.

In the beginning, before I knew what I was getting myself into, I signed up for a free blog. I thought I didn’t want to pay if it turned out I didn’t like blogging or didn’t want to commit to it anymore. I have kept the same name, but have changed themes and formats several times. Even now, it is not exactly what I want it to be. If I take time to fix the look, then I have less time for writing. So, it works for the time being.

I have wondered (since obviously I am still blogging) if I should invest some money into it and make it more my own. If I do this, then I hope I would be able to add more “do-dads” to it and not be limited to how many widgets I have. This will allow me to make it more personal. I do have one reservation: I am not sure I want to keep my blog name forever and I don’t know if I will have to start all over if I decide to make any future changes.

So, fellow bloggers, how many of you are still blogging for free and how many have put some money into your blog? Please weigh in and share your pros and cons with me so I can make an informed decision. Thanks!

 

What is $1.80 Worth to You?

Money - Black and White Money

Money – Black and White Money (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

About a month ago as I headed into a coffee shop  – my regular Tuesday/Thursday wait spot while my daughter takes a class nearby, a man approached me asking for $1.80 to be exact. Right away he informed me he needed the money to ride the PACE bus. I asked him several questions before I handed over the money.

In retrospect I was  being a jerk. I had $1.80 and it wasn’t going to inconvenience me to part with it.  He wasn’t just begging like the typical person asking, “Can you spare some change?” or “Can you help the homeless?”. He was specific and didn’t follow the normal protocol and I was suspicious.  His carefully rehearsed voice that told a story of needing to take the bus (why?) to see his therapist in the suburbs (why?) to get a new prescription for his medicine. It was then that I backed off on the questions and handed over the money with a smile.

Later I saw him across the street exiting a fast food place  with a cup in his hand. At first I was a bit irritated. Had I just been taken advantage of? Had he just used my money to buy coffee? Did he ask another person for money? Then I told myself to let it go. It was a dollar  frigging’ eighty cents.

The Unexpected Benefits of Talking to Your Neighbors

One of my new hostas

Some of my new hostas

There is a woman who lives across the street from me. Her front yard always has decorations for almost every holiday. When the weather warms up, she puts her efforts towards decorating with plants and flowers. Her flower baskets are gorgeous  – full of color, big blooms, long-lasting. I guess you can say I’ve watched her for the past three years, gathering ideas (for my flower gardens, not holiday decorations.) We have spoken occasionally.

It occurred to me that she has a bit of experience with all things green and since other gardeners were unable to answer my question about something growing in my backyard, I decided to ask her. It turns out I have wild onions growing in my backyard. This question turned into a twenty-minute conversation on plants and landscaping. Then, she mentioned she has tried to thin out her hostas, but couldn’t find anyone to take them. I all but jumped at the offer. The very next day they were waiting in a bucket for me. I planted them right away and already they are making themselves at home in their new backyard. I have a feeling I’ll be talking to her a lot more this summer.

Stand Up Against Standardized Tests

No one I know takes standardize tests for a living

No one I know takes standardize tests for a living (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

A friend and neighbor alerted me to a petition signing she is participating in tomorrow at the school where our children attend. She posted this on Facebook to help spread the word:

” ….to support the brave teachers in Seattle that are boycotting the misuse of the MAP testing of their students. As a way of showing support, myself and many other parents throughout the city will be at our local schools collecting signatures to give to CPS asking them to greatly reduce the amount of testing our kids are experiencing. If you haven’t already signed the online petition, you can do so here.”

Why is this so important that I chose to write a blog post about it? First, I am a parent. My children feel the impact of excess testing. Their teachers cannot teach a lesson when they have to test almost 30 students. Students miss out on instruction time. Not all the tests help a teacher assess what a student knows.

Second, I am a former teacher. One of the biggest things that bothered me about education was the decisions being made by those who were a.) not currently teaching  b.)had never been in a classroom. If you talk to any educator, they will agree that 19 standardized tests a year is too much.

Third, I now work with teachers as a Math Coach. They started the school year with weeks upon weeks of testing and now they have to test their students again. No one wants a coaching cycle because they haven’t had time to implement the practices we discussed in our last coaching cycle due to the demands of testing. The teachers say many of the results are unreliable because the students do not know how to use the computer, or read or read in English. The testing seems to be a district wide one size fits all mandate.

The fourth reason I am writing about this is because this is not just a local problem. All around the country schools are administering more tests, while compromising quality instruction. The educational trajectory our children are on is cause for concern. If your community  is currently not affected by these decisions at the moment, that is great, but that could easily be an issue in the future. All of these children will grow up and make decisions in the world you live in. Do you want them to be critical thinkers and problem solvers? Do you want them to be able to collaborate and be innovative? I do. The question is, do you?

Let your voice be heard, even if you are not a parent. You can sign the petition here:

https://www.change.org/petitions/chicago-board-of-education-and-chicago-public-schools-end-the-overuse-and-misuse-of-high-stakes-standardized-testing?utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

A Picture and a Story

Couple Embracing

On a whim I decided to try out a weekly writing challenge. This is my story based on the picture above.

Dear Melissa,

Mom and I were cleaning out your old dresser and we stumbled across this. You know that song by  The Pretenders that starts out with the words:

I saw a picture of you, whoa oh oh oh oh oh

When I came across this picture of you I turned it over and saw your handwriting in loopy scrawls, still somewhat juvenile in form, which wasn’t surprising as you were only seventeen. Class trip to Lisbon June 1998. 

I can still remember the tram ride that day; hot and stuffy. That was a bit unexpected, given it was nearly summer. The passengers were a mix of locals and tourists, mostly from our school. I’m wondering if you even noticed anyone else on the tram that day. You had wedged yourself into a seat and he  had his  arm around your waist. Your forehead nuzzled against his as blond strands of hair fell across your cheek. I  had to look away because you were my daughter. I stared at the others in nearby seats. It was not hard to pick out the  American tourists. They stood out like they always did in foreign places with their casual shorts, backpacks, gym shoes and cameras. I laughed to myself at how much I blended in with the locals.

It was the first tram we had taken since we arrived in Lisbon five days before. Senor Brito  insisted we visit Rossio Square and see the ruins of an old convent that suffered damage in  some earthquake years ago. I tried hard to concentrate on his words, the details of the tragic event, but instead concentrated on the old buildings passing by, the walls filled with graffiti.  I wasn’t comfortable seeing you kissed in public. I wondered if what you had with him was serious. I heard rumors he was going away to college in September, but not to Ball State like you.

As we neared the end of the tram line at the top of a hill, I saw you had turned away from him slightly. When the tram stopped, you hurried to the front with him close behind. He reached for your hand and you let him take it, intertwining your fingers in his. I wanted to grab your arm as you went past, but my parental instinct told me to let you be, enjoy this time with yo.  I exited with the others and walked further up the tiled stairs to resume my obligations as  chaperon and unofficial trip photographer.

As others milled around waiting for the entire group to  disembark, I saw him approach you. At first you turned away from him and crossed your arms in front of your chest, just like you used to as a little girl when you did not get your way. Then he pulled a small, green  wrapped package from inside the pocket of his cargo shorts. You opened the tape and parted the tissue paper on the inside, a slow smile spreading across your mouth. You held out a delicate necklace and let him fasten it around your neck.  I kept my eyes behind the lens and watched the two of you,  an excuse to see what you saw in him. When you flung your arms around him, I snapped this photo.

I always think of the words later in the song:

Those were the happiest days of my your life

As you go through this difficult time in your life, remember the good times.

Love,

Dad

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.