Friday, March 23, 2012

An Orderly Life. ( Ha! )

        Like Jules Verne's Passepartout I adore ze tranquil life. I adore it the way I adore Frank Sinatra and Dean a far off, timeless, we-never-met and it-ain't-gonna-happen sort of way. Magical and impossible.  Meanwhile in our ramshackle valley I am feeling slightly victorious about the spring cleaning of the back deck and the front porch.
The porch was once buried in tools, various equipment, a couple of fancy stove ovens, and a few ricks of firewood.  Plus all the random junk that accumulates on porches during the winter when no one wants to haul stuff further than the front door.
Now after a week and a half of work nearly half of the floor is visible. This is real progress and we're not done yet.  Good things have been hauled to the newly built workshop. Yucky things have been burned. Recycleable things have gone to the recycling center.
 I propose to make this a habitable porch, since a few days working on the sunny back deck convinced me I'd rather have a shady place for mid-day.
This kitchen hutch belonged to The Manimal's grandmother. For twenty years or so it has held a hodge-podge of oil cans, small tools, and such.  These are soon to be relocated to the new workshop. Then I'm going to "steal" the hutch and also the charming little baker's table, and use them in my porch reclaiming project.

What I have in mind is something akin to my Mamaw's front porch, which is where we did a lot of visiting and stitching when I was a child.  There were windows on three sides of Mamaw's front porch, and a nice glider to sit on, plus a couple of rocking chairs. There were shelves along the fourth wall, with calico curtains hung across them to keep sunlight and dust off the books and magazines stowed there. Reader's Digest Condensed Books and National Geographic featured heavily in the collection along with Papaw's many cowboy novels. He was a big fan of Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour.

. Mamaw and the aunties would sit and mend or embroider on pleasant afternoons, enjoying  a nice breeze but safe from the burning sun.  My cousin and I would sit on the floor where we could spread out our work.  We hand stitched outfits for our dolls. We stacked together book-pile furniture for them. We also overheard fascinating conversations of which we understood very little.
       If you are a child it is useful to developed the ability of being very quiet.  Despite what they think this is not for the grown-ups benefit.  When you are very quiet  sooner or later you will become invisible to the adults in the room.  When that happens you are bound to be rewarded with fascinating adult facts and fancies from which you can puzzle together a charming misunderstanding of the world.

Well then.  Our porch is not windowed or screened, but it is big, and I'm a good scavenger so I imagine I can make it habitable without too much trouble.  I haven't a glider, but we have plenty of chairs and my Mama's little rocking chair can go out there.  It isn't upholstered, so being outdoors under roof won't harm it.  I think I'll put the little child-sized rocker out there, too. Grandbaby has finally grown into it. If I can't ever have a truly orderly house, perhaps an orderly porch will suffice.


I have spent (invested, wasted) a big chunk of my life organizing things. I find this to be great fun. I like to sort things. I like to create tidy systems for storing things.  The one thing I'm not good at organizing is TIME.  Many and many a year ago in a kingdom by the Ohio River I got my first Planner. I was married, housewifing, and mothering a brood of four precocious offspring at the time. It seemed to me that a planning system was just what I needed to make family life more orderly.  This was partly sensible and partly a pathertic attempt to control the uncontrollable.

Over the years I've had four or five variations on the perfect-your-life-via-paperwork theme. This picture shows about 1/3 of the pages and forms available for my Franklin planner, which is typical of the genre.
Yes, an organizing planner helped to a certain extent, when I was up to my pretty little ears in family life.  Yes, it was also useful post-mommyhood when I was awash in a sea of academia for several years (although it did constitute one more ghastly heavy thing to lug around in my bookbag.  It is abundantly clear to me that the whole planner idea would have been much more useful to me if I had a more planner friendly personality.
  I like creating systems, but I don't like living a highly systemized life. 

The story of Rapunzel and planners runs like this:
 With a hearty heartful of excellent intentions Rapunzel buys herself a lovely planner complete with monthly calender pages, weekly calender pages, chore sheets, goal-planning sheets, car mileage sheets, meal planning sheets and a zillion forms for tracking everything else  imaginable.
She sits herself down at her desk reading the instructions and filling out forms to create a unique and workable system for running her life and her household.  She becomes terribly, terribly organized and runs her home like a well-oiled machine for about two months, then she wearies of writing things down then whole darn day, wearies of looking things up before she can decide anything, and her enthusiasm begins to lag. Then it dwindles. Then it is gone. And she is left with a great supply of task-specific paper that only fits a particular binder.

Perhaps there are certain personality types who really take to having a well-planned-down-to-the-last-moment life.  I am not one of those personality types. I am a see-what-the-day-brings person.  I have finally come to realize I do not want to know today  what I'll be having for supper two weeks from Thursday.

For awhile now my latest and fanciest planner has been sitting on the desk open to the same single page absentmindedly unused whilst life chugged on all around it.

The La-di-da Planner

Free IU Alumni calendar
Meanwhile I have been using this, the IU Alumni association calendar that arrives for free in my mailbox, unasked, every stinkin' year.  IT weighs aproximately nothing, and fits into a pocket or purse. In my new drastically simpler life this is all the planning I really need. The lack of structure suits my flighty temperament more too. I could even use a smaller one, but hey-this one is free. When I tire of the picture of the front of the Alumni Hall I can cover it with pretty paper.

Since I have a great lingering affection for my old planner, and also have a great honking stack of paper and forms for it (not to mention a purpose-made seven-hole punch and a huge storage binder for extra pages) I've decided to reincarnate the planner as a playbook. More commonly known as a sketchbook or artist's journal.  However inconsistent I've been over the years at using planner systems for my daily life I've been very consistent in my inconsistent way at jotting down ideas and inspirations in my sketchbooks.

a small sample of my years of jottings

The drawbacks of regular sketchbooks though is that all they are is bound paper.  They're either plain paper or lined paper or graph paper, but not all three.  You can't add or remove pages, and there's no place to put your pen or pencil. They don't fasten shut either.

My playbook on the other hand has the superior virtues of being user-friendly to persons of an artsy nature. It is a ring binder, and the pages are half of a letter-sized sheet, so it was easy use my 7-hole punch to add pages of drawing paper, graph paper, colored papers, etc.  I can add or subtract pages at wil, rearrange to my heart's content. It has plastic sleeves to hold other papers, cards, etc. It zips shut against inclement weather, and the gusseted outer pocket easily holdspens, pencils, scissors, a set of watercolor pencils and a glue stick. Portable art kit. What could be a better resurrection for a languishing planner?  No longer consigned to the shame of desktop disuse, it now gets to go places and do things.

  In going through my stock (overstock really) of planner pages to set up my playbook I observed that the Task Sheets for January, February and March are all quite blank.  I also observed that in all these years I haveset very few goals and have never Formulated A Mission Statement.  I think this speaks volumes about my Committment To Excellence.

   I have read a good deal on the subject of goal planning and success in life. What does it mean that all really successful businesses have a mission statement to guide their decision making, and that marvelously successful persons in every walk of life have a mission statement to keep them on course, and I little Rapunzel have got no mission statement at all, nor have ever had such a thing?

  It means that I have been seriously remiss.
 And I truly do repent.
 Clearly I cannot go on with my life without  properly defining what I am about in this world.  I have thought about this for days. Thought and thought and thought some more.
   And then in a true Eureka! moment it came to me that I DO Have A Mission Statement.  I have had one since I was a very young girl, since I first heard Rick Nelson sing Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" and thought he was singing about myself.

                        SHE'S AN ARTIST
                  SHE DON'T LOOK BACK.


  1. Whoa, you've made SERIOUS progress on that porch.

    Nice mission statement! Not easy to measure, but definitely memorable.

  2. The advantage of a mission statement that is not easy to measure is it frees you from having to measure. I consider not measuring progress to be an advanced spiritual practice.

    Obviously since I'm working on the porch I need more spiritual practice. Not quite enlightened yet.

  3. Just ran across thIs - it's wonderful.


If you disagree with me try to keep it clean, or I'll wash your mouth out with homemade soap.