Friday, September 24, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

Sorry for my lack of posts in the past two weeks. Life has been throwing us curve balls, and we've been scrambling to keep up. Do you ever experience those times where you feel like life couldn't possibly get more hectic, crazy, stressful? I'm not so good at dealing with it when it all comes all at once.

I finished filing our paper work from the past 4 years! Woo-hoo!! Thank goodness that's done. There are a couple things left before the project is complete, though. As you can see, I have two very full brown paper bags - one for recycling and one to be shredded. And I still have to figure out an in/out system for mail. Those are certainly small tasks in comparison to all the filing! Admittedly, when I finally sat down and did it, even with 4 years worth of paper it only took me an hour and a half to find the correct place for everything. That's not so bad.

I wanted to be sure to share the final results with you, and just recommend this system again. You can read about it here!

Happy weekend, all!

~ Ms. S

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sometimes this lady feels like a fool

Today I was reading a post over on Freya's blog at Brit Chick Runs laughing at her funny/random searches she found in her stats, and wondering how I could view stats on MY blog. 'bout by clicking on the huge 'Stats' tab, Ms. S!! Oh dear. So now I'm wondering: is this tab new or have I really just always overlooked it? Maybe I'm actually happier not knowing the answer to that question.

Having discovered this new-to-me tab, though, I'm blown away by the page that shows me where my readers are! Ok, first of all - I have readers!!! Who knew?! I was very much under the impression that my friends and a few family members were the only ones who trekked this way. But no. From Canada, to the UK, to Demark, Germany, Austria, Latvia, China, South Korea, and South Africa! Wow!! [Side note: Latvia stands out to me because my brother in-law spent a year there as an exchange student and loved it; and I actually studied in Austria for the month of January my sophomore year in college - gorgeous!] This is one of those times where logically I tell myself that when I post something on the world wide web, it can of course be viewed world wide, but continue to pinch myself nonetheless.

It's probably a good thing I discovered this tab. Knowing there are more readers out there than I thought provides excellent motivation to update more frequently. Though it should be noted: I love comments! It's how I know you come to my space and read the words I write. I'm a friendly person, I promise, and enjoy 'meeting' new people. So don't be shy! Let me know you visited!

In other news, I've decided with this much time on my hands I should learn how to do some basic redesign for the blog. Really, I decided this yesterday and spent hours trying to download GIMP with no success because X11 isn't on our computer. And the installation disc is at home in Iowa. Download it from Apple's website, you say? Oh no! After I'd spent a good number of hours trying to get it to download properly, Husband took a stab at it with no more luck than me. *sigh* I guess I'm just going to have to wait a little bit, but I am very excited to get to work. Mostly, I have plans for the header. Maybe if that's successful I'll venture into other things.

And finally, my project for tonight. Filing. Honestly, it's going to be a tedious task - we have stuff from 2006 all the way up to today that needs a home. I've had this project ready to go since last year a really long time ago, but have put it off because looking at the stack of papers makes me want to fly in the other direction. Of course, that just means the papers keep piling up.

I was inspired yesterday to tackle something bigger today after reading this blog post from Real Simple that seemed to be written just for me. In her post, Erin Doland talks about common excuses used for putting off home organizing and cleaning tasks. I'm guilty of using the first two: I'm messy and I don't have time. But here's the thing. I, Ms. S, am prone to messiness - my family (husband and myself) is not, as Mr. S is quite tidy. And not having time? Yeah, being mostly unemployed I have plenty of time.

This morning I had to go through our files to find some information for a job application. Rather than putting everything back where it has been, I decided to leave it out to put it away properly tonight. What does 'properly' mean in this instance? An excellent question.

My sister in-law provided me with an article last summer about creating an easy home organizing system after she used it and liked it. The article is from the April 2009 Better Homes and Gardens magazine called 'Paper Trail' by Joanna Smith. I tried searching for the article online, but didn't find it. It's a 5 step process, so it's easy to follow. And what I like most is that reader Bobbie Ambuske, who shared this system with BHG, recommends using 12 pocket accordion files for your permanent storage. Here's what I like about this system: it keeps all important items from one year in a single, compact place, and once you enter into your eighth year (it's recommended to keep up to 7 years on file), you can easily reuse the accordion folders - all you have to do is change the year the folder is labeled. So simple! I've filed all of our paper work from 2009 using this method and really love it - I've just been bad about keeping up with 2010 and moving all the paper work prior to 2009.

Here's how I make it work for me. The categories I file are: Income - pay stubs; Investments - 401-K, IRAs; Giving - all charitable giving; Insurance - car, home; Medical - bills & statements; Taxes - once completed; Banking - statements once reconciled (yes, it's a good idea to print them off); Receipts - big items or returns only; Utilties - water, electric, gas; Paid Bills - internet, phone, Netflix, etc; Credit; Loans. You should only use categories that make sense for you. This is the part I'm good at - determining what categories work best for us and then filing appropriately (and shredding whatever is unnecessary to be filed). Additionally, we keep the article at the front of the folder for the current year, just so be sure both Mr. S and I are clear on how it all works. But there is another component to this system that I have yet to implement successfully.

The article recommends having two trays or baskets - one for receipts, the other for bills to pay - and placing them in a spot that's easily accessible and visible. The idea is to "follow the "touch it once" rule for receipts and mail." In other words, upon receiving and opening mail, you place it in its appropriate place: basket, recycling bin, or shredder. Brilliant, right? Following this would lead to a life of significantly less paper clutter. I just haven't hit on the implementation of this system that works well for me, and therefore works well for Husband.

Do you have any suggestions for such a seemingly simple task? Are you good about immediately filing paper work at home, or do you let it pile up? What kind of a system do you use?

~ Ms. S

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Check out Iowa Girl Eats!!

Ack! My guest post appeared on Iowa Girl Eats today and of course I haven't been here to write in a week! Silly me. Well, as Kristin and Ben travel in Italy, she has been posting others' favorite vacations. I wrote about our recent trip to the Oregon Coast, but you will also find two other amazing vacations - a trek across Europe and a honeymoon to Italy! Go check it out! Her readers have been just about everywhere, it seems.

Alright, quick update. The house (ok, apartment) is a disaster as Husband and I have been out of two many weekends in a row and have been bad about unpacking upon getting home. For example, we finally put the camping gear away from a weekend away literally right before leaving for a weekend in Iowa. Now all the laundry I did at home (in Iowa) is still sitting in the laundry baskets in the living room. So this weekend we will be purging a bit. Because it's become a sty! *and no pictures were taken because they'd be way too embarrassing...even though you've seen my underwear drawer.*

Here's to a lovely evening. And cheering on the Vikings!!!

~Ms. S

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"What's wrong with kids these days?"

I'm having a hard time figuring out what to call today's post. Probably because there are a million thoughts running through my head (like last time) and I haven't actually decided what to write about yet. Does that ever happen to you? Too many thoughts to focus in on just one? It happens to me more often than I'd like.

Still no luck on the job front, though I have landed two very part time gigs and one of them actually involves cleaning! A friend of a friend from church just had a baby via C-section about two weeks ago, and she also has a 13 month old son. Needless to say, she needs some help with household chores for the next month, as well as with her oldest child since she's restricted in how much she can lift and bend over. She is also legally blind - she and her family moved into a new townhouse literally three days before she gave birth, so she hasn't yet completed learning her new home. So far I've helped her sweep, mop, clean the bathroom, and vacuum. But I've also gotten to play with her oldest son and feed him breakfast. Truly a lovely woman with two adorable boys.

My other job is helping out with an after school program working specifically with preschoolers. I know. Haven't I been trying to avoid that? Well, let's just say that it's not my ideal job, but I love working with this age and it's such a short amount of time and not in a classroom setting that it's all good.

Today, though, I think I want to address something I overheard on my way to work today. As I was waiting for the Light Rail train to take me to the after school program, I heard two ladies talking and couldn't help but over hear part of a conversation about Christmas gifts. One of them was telling a story about an expensive gift she'd gotten for a nephew who'd "always been a brat." He didn't like the particular gift she'd given him, so she told him not to expect anymore Christmas cards (which I assume also meant gifts) from her. She was disgusted and went on to say that her other brothers kids were always grateful for whatever they received. The woman she was talking to just shook her head and said, "What's wrong with kids these days?"

They didn't ask me, so I kept my mouth shut, but the beauty of this space is that I can open it and answer them anyway. :)

I don't understand this particular reaction from people, because in reference to this specific story there are plenty of examples of children from hundreds of years ago who weren't thankful for a gift they received. So what is so different about this situation that makes all kids today thankless, as the question implies? The context is different, perhaps, and people tend to have many more gadgets, possessions, and 'things,' but all of those together only illustrate how surroundings are different.

Having heard something during this story about buckskins that had been in the family for years, I put some pieces together for myself (not sure if they're correct). Did the woman telling this story gift a buckskin to this "always been a brat" nephew? Let's pretend this is the case. Part of being a good gift-giver is doing your best to give something you think the recipient will like and/or want. That can definitely be challenging sometimes, but you know, there's nothing wrong with asking if there's something that someone wants if you're a little stumped. It may not be quite as much fun, but you can be sure your recipient will be thrilled. Whereas, getting them something you would want without thinking about their interests....well, no one can really blame them if they aren't interested. Ok, so the buckskins were clearly important and of value to this lady, but they might not have been to her nephew (understandable, in my opinion. What in the world do you do with buckskins?!). Does his lack of interest in this gift really warrant a grand sweep of something being wrong with all kids these days?

Maybe this kid really is thankless and has been for a long time, but maybe he just thinks his aunt is really weird and that her gifts are a bit strange. I wouldn't blame him. But I also wouldn't lay the blame on him if has "always been" the "brat" his aunt claims he has been. In my experience, most bratty kids are the way they are because of parenting choices made by those raising them. *Please note, I said "most." There are certainly exceptions.* Kids are by and large a product of their surroundings. Manners and grace are learned qualities and different from culture to culture, society to society. Was this nephew ever taught to how to gracefully accept gifts - even those he was less excited about? Did his parents teach him to write thank you notes for gifts he received? Maybe not, and if so that's hardly his own fault. Did his parents talk about the 'crazy' gifts they always received from someone? If so, and if he heard that from a young age, it's no wonder he came across as thankless.

I'm would never call myself an etiquette snob, though I am a stickler for manners. Comments like "What's wrong with kids these days?" just irritate me because it implies superiority to all young people in the person who said it. In my experience, those who choose to make such a comment are rarely justified in their superiority.

Thank you for letting me rant just a little.

~Ms. S