Tetris

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 11.32.34 AMI’ve never been a video game player, but I feel like I’m playing one in real life. I’m reevaluating our storage to see if I can weed things out, put things in new places, and perhaps, by some bit of magic, make the space expand to hold more stuff. It’s tantalizing to think that if I can get just the right arrangement,  re-fold or re-stack, I can make things smaller. Of course, there is some law of physics I’m trying to violate, so, it isn’t working. But I remain hopeful.

I’ve unpacked an entire closet. The volume of material coming out of it is surprising, and fills the room. Who knew this closet could hold so much? Looking at the contents, I wonder, what is all this stuff? And why do we still have it? Gloves without a mate, boots I haven’t worn in years, and my paper calendars between 2006 and 2013. Why?

Now the job of putting the closet back together is complicated by the weeding out process. The trash pile and the donate pile. There is also the pile reserved for our kids to review. I feel like I should give them one last chance to claim that scarf or coat. But, really, if they haven’t taken it with them for the last 4 years, they probably don’t even know it exists.

I open some of the boxes and say “Aha! that’s where it is!” Other boxes are full of things I haven’t looked for, but they are somehow useful, so I’m loathe to get rid of them. Why we need 20 cloth bags emblazoned with logos, I’ll never know. Sure, we have to bring our own bags to the grocery, but I already have a dozen for that. Donate pile.

“Important” papers are the hardest category to cull. I tend to think that everything that touches our budget could potentially be needed in an IRS audit, so I should keep it all for 7 years. But after checking irs.gov, I see that I should retain papers related to my taxes anywhere from 3 years to “indefinitely” – eek. This is why our filing cabinet is overflowing. I’ve also kept medical records since our children were born. Vaccinations, braces, prescriptions, height and weight measurements. Do I think I’ll hand these over to the kids one day and they’ll be grateful to know how many earaches they had when they were 2?

Maybe this game is more like a Rubik’s Cube. The size never changes, but there are some arrangements that are more pleasing than others. Finally, I’m happy that closets have doors. Everything fits in there for now, just don’t pull anything out.

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Exposed

keysSo far, I’ve retained enough presence of mind to not leave the house before I’m fully dressed, but there’s nothing that makes you feel naked faster than realizing you’ve forgotten something important. My lunch was made and packed, but I never carried it to work. My purse is not on my shoulder – it’s on the chair in the coffee shop. I don’t have my keys.

Why isn’t there a scanner as I go out the front door that beeps if I’m leaving something behind? Why can’t I detect that I’m a few ounces lighter, or question why I still have a free hand? I don’t have memory problems, but while I’m thinking about the tasks in the day ahead, I sometimes shift the focus from what I’m doing, and I miss a step in the normal routine.

Last week, a snow storm was such a novelty that after trudging through the snow to the train, I realized I’d forgotten to bring shoes to change into. Annoying, but I decided to own it and claim “snow day rules” to anyone who wondered about my ensemble.

It didn’t go quite so smoothly when after all of my groceries were scanned and bagged I realized I didn’t have my wallet. This was where I shopped every week, but they still weren’t going to let me take those groceries without paying.

Approaching our building after work, I paw through my briefcase and realize that the keys are not there. They’re in the coat I wore yesterday.

This week, I was missing another increasingly important object – my phone. I hadn’t misplaced it, but it just stopped working. What began as random restarting became total battery failure that sent me running to the Genius Bar for help. I didn’t think my phone mattered so much until it was a blank brick. We don’t have a landline in our home, and I hadn’t even bothered to tell my family my phone number at work. I was off the grid, or so it felt.

I realized how many times a day I would reach for my phone to do something I couldn’t have imagined 4 or 5 years ago. Texting my kids, ordering lunch and paying for it with that nifty app, checking the train and bus schedules, the weather, and local movies times (I mean, really, they don’t even print that information in the paper any more!). And then there are the codes needed for multi-factor authentication that I use for work. Without my phone, I was stopped in my tracks.

I have a replacement phone now, and everything is “back to normal,” but I’ll admit I’m a little bothered that so much depends on this small object. I guess the phone joins an esteemed group: keys, a license, a payment card. Without them, it’s pretty hard to function anymore.

Where Does the Time Go?

ClockTime goes quickly when we’re busy or doing something we enjoy, and it drags when we’ve managed to choose the wrong check-out line. But when Daylight Savings Time springs forward to steal an hour from my day, it feels like an affront. How dare “they” take my hour?! I was going to …. what was I going to do with it? Read more of my book, make progress on that to do list, or something equally important and valuable, I’m sure.

We want to consider time a tangible asset that can be saved or spent wisely, but it can also be wasted. If I’m fiddling around without a particular plan, I look up and say, geez, how did it get to be late? A small errand stretches into more of the afternoon than planned because of traffic, a crowd, or getting distracted in a big box store. Going around the TV dial, looking through the overwhelming number of choices available on cable or Netflix sucks up at least 30 minutes and we haven’t even picked a show to watch yet. I regularly get caught up in social media – cute videos of children or animals are the culprits – and poof, there goes the evening.

Before I bemoan losing one hour, I should think back to the fall when we gained an hour. What a gift! More time to do…something. I used it to sleep in and it was delicious. Somehow, the darkening, chilly fall days did not motivate me to be spectacularly productive with those extra 60 minutes.

I remember the time changes being harder when our kids were young. A one hour shift either way wreaked havoc with standard bedtimes, and it didn’t help if it was still light outside. Just because the clock says 8pm doesn’t mean your toddler is tired.

In truth, we absorb these time changes pretty easily. Unless you completely forget and show up somewhere an hour late or an hour early, it’s pretty seamless. That hour shifts in the middle of night while we’re sleeping, and the most noticeable sign is the position of the sun when you get up. If nothing else, the time change makes me aware of time, and what I’m doing with my day. If I could make purposeful use of 10 or 12 of the hours, it’s a good day.

Mastery

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-12-18-36-pmWhen do you know you’ve mastered something? When you can do it without thinking? If I want to learn Italian, mastery might be jumping into a conversation with my nephews without them looking at me like I’m crazy. If I want to be a good swimmer, mastery may be out of reach, but I’d settle for making it two laps without stopping.

There are also things we master by accident. We didn’t set out to be excellent, it just came with multiple trials, and many repetitions. In the mini-Olympics of everyday life, there are some things that would earn me a little plastic trophy, or at least a participation ribbon.

Grocery challenge
Having forgotten the list, get through the store in under an hour with everything you’ll need for the week.

Transit timing
Navigate an efficient path to the train, dodging puddles, dog doo, and people who are walking too slowly so that you get up the stairs just as the train pulls in.

Meal coordination
Have all parts of the meal on the plate at the same time, still warm. Bonus points for not cutting your thumb and remembering garnishes.

Sock pairing
After completing the washer and dryer stages of the obstacle course, have all socks paired up with none mysteriously lost.

Printer wrangling
Print tax returns on home computer without ink blotches or paper jams. Expert round: change the toner without getting it all over your hands and/or the carpet.

Clothes horse
Take a minimal wardrobe and make it appear to be 14 unique outfits. Not applicable for weekends.

Life support
Keep houseplants alive; bonus points for pets.

News hound
Read at least one newspaper and one magazine a day to stay well-informed, develop opinions, and chat with co-workers. Entertainment Weekly is OK; subtract points for relying on social media posts.

Entertainer
Use tissues, gum, and receipts in your wallet to make puppet for a child; accompany with wild facial expressions, compelling story and/or song. Subtract points if baby cries.

Pack efficiently
Fit everything you need for a week into one bag. Look at it again and cram in three more outfits. Don’t even think about packing a carry-on bag of equal size.

I’m sure you can just see me, breaking the tape, basking in the applause, singing the national anthem. Woo hoo!