Pondering

Every Day Carry (EDC)

In Which Our Heroine Ponders What Burdens Are Necessary

I have a very bad habit of carrying far too much (mainly literally, but sometimes figuratively) on my person every day. I like to travel light, but I also like to be prepared for any contingency. I also detest not being able to find things – everything I carry must have its designated place in my Daily Kit.

Every so often, I purge my handbag of All That Is Unnecessary and try again, but there are certain Things Without Which I feel Distinctly Uncomfortable. I continually struggle to find the balance between Bare Minimum and Distinctly Overloaded. Add to this my constant Hunt For The Perfect Handbag (which means changing bags fairly often and sometimes forgetting to move some Essential from one bag to another), not to mention the back problems that occur when I overload myself, and you see part of my need to simplify and streamline my EDC.

I imagine that I am not the only one who struggles with this dilemma.

So, how does one decide what is necessary?

For some people, there are auxiliaries that will vary from day to day and situation to situation. Is today a work day? A vacation day? Will I be near home, or will I be far away for the day? Will I have a lot of down time, or is every moment booked solid?

While these are all important things to take into account, most people carry a “core” with them every day. For some, it’s as simple as KWP: Keys, Wallet, Phone. As long as one is carrying those three things, one can contact others and be contacted, one can get into one’s home/car, and one can identify one’s self and make purchases.

For many people, however, there are other daily tasks and activities that require equipment. I gave myself this guideline: If you truly use this every day, then carry it. Otherwise, leave it at home.

In the interests of keeping myself accountable (and possibly inspiring others to take a good, hard look at what they carry every day), here is my current EDC:

(Not pictured: my phone, as that’s what I always use to take photos. Pray ignore the cat hair. Hiro firmly believes that I stuff bags full of yarn especially so that he can cuddle with them.)

My wallet is a Pocket Deluxe Chic Sparrow Elysium. It holds all the usual things (cash, cards, ID), as well as the notebooks in which I keep my Bullet Journal and a fountain pen. (My current favorite is a Pilot Namiki Decimo with a Fine nib, though I have also been known to carry my ever-reliable Kaweco Sport.)

My other supplies are split into Tom Bihn Organizer Pouches by category. Because I have at least one fountain pen with me at all times (as this is definitely my favorite kind of pen), I also carry ink cartridges. In the same pouch, I have a letter opener, a pencil sharpener, and three tiny stamps that I use to track weather in my planner. I usually carry a knitting project, so a second pouch holds essential knitting notions. A third pouch contains a very minimal First Aid Kit with Advil, adhesive bandages (Star Wars and Wonder Woman, because life is too short for boring bandages), and lip balm.

To be honest, I probably still carry more pens than I strictly need, but I use them every day. I also always carry at least one ordinary rollerball in case my husband needs one and forgets his.

The various pouches help me to make sure that I can find everything, even in the most capacious, non-pocketed handbag. They also make it easy to remember to transfer everything from bag to bag.

I use everything on this list almost every day. Those things that I carry “just in case” are purely medical at this point (other than Alex’s pen). There are things I have left behind in the past (like my knitting), but I have consistently regretted it.

What do you carry with you every day? What are your reasons and requirements? Let me know in the comments or, if you’ve done your own blog entry on this subject, please leave me a link!

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Categories: Pondering, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments

The Bullet Journal

In Which Our Heroine Attempts To Bring Order Out Of Chaos

As readers of this blog know, I am not the most organized person. My methods, particularly in the creative areas of my life, tend to be slapdash and haphazard. This leads to long breaks in productivity, a tendency to forget things (such as the fact that blogs need to be updated in order to remain relevant), and the necessity for scrappy “catching up” entries like this one.

Fortunately, I have been working on improving my organizational/planning skills over the past year, so I am hoping that I can go less than a year between blog entries. Apparently, creating an actual schedule helps. Who knew?

The most important organizational improvement I have made is using the Bullet Journal system by Ryder Carroll. I’ve been using the system for over a year now, in conjunction with a couple of mobile apps, and it’s working very well. I work better with pen and paper generally whether I’m planning or writing fiction, and the Bullet Journal has been great for that. I remember things better if I write them down by hand. Just the Index and Page Numbers have made a huge difference.

It all started with my notebook collection. I mentioned in an earlier entry how much I love notebooks, as well as my bad habit of purchasing notebooks and storing them in a drawer rather than using them. A little over two years ago, I decided that it was time to find a way to use those notebooks. I came across a tweet from Maureen Johnson about how she had nearly lost her Bullet Journal in a taxi. “What’s a Bullet Journal?” I (and several other people) asked. She sent us all to Bulletjournal.com.

I knew this was the perfect way to usefully consume at least some of the notebooks in my collection. I always try to carry a notebook on my person in any case. The idea of being able to put everything – plans, tasks, story ideas, sketches – in one, everyday notebook, and then to be able to reference and find everything when I needed it was an epiphany. It was simplicity itself, yet endlessly adaptable.

The best thing about the Bullet Journal system is that it has worked. I have filled notebooks. I have become more productive creatively. I have managed not to forget as many things or let them slip through the cracks. I still have a long way to go as far as forming productive habits, but I have consistently written in my journal every day (except perhaps one or two) for over two years now. I’ve modified the system to fit what works for me after extensive experimentation with different modules. I’ve also moved from the recommended A5 Leuchtturm1917 notebook to a B6 Slim “Fauxdori” Chic Sparrow notebook, as I’ve found it useful to split my Collections off from my Monthlies and Dailies. I still use digital apps like Google Calendar and Habitica, but I’ve integrated them into my Bullet Journal system.

One trap to avoid: There’s always that idea that, if we just buy the right pen/notebook/dividers/stickers/sticky notes/fill-in-your-favorite-stationery-supplies-here, we will instantly be effortlessly organized. If you want to take up this system, my best advice is to avoid the words “Bullet Journal” on Pinterest and Instagram for at least a month. The artistry that some people devote to their journals turns said journals into beautiful jewels – but that’s not where the focus needs to be. That’s additional stuff, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but a Bullet Journal should be functional first. Figure out what modules work for you, and go from there.The wonderful thing about the Bullet Journal system is that one uses whatever notebook one has on hand and whatever pen gives one delight.

This is not to say that I do not have an impressive collection of sticky notes and pens and glittery ink and suchlike. My powers to resist Shiny Things are not strong. But I am using these things, and I suppose that’s what counts.

Next on the list, of course, needs to be an Inventory and Organization of my Organizational Supplies. That always feels just a trifle recursive.

Have you tried the Bullet Journal system? Did it work for you? Do you want to, and just haven’t dipped your toe in yet? What’s stopping you? Let me know in the comments, and I will respond with encouragement!

Categories: Pondering | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

That Wistful Feeling

In Which Our Heroine Does Some Navel-Gazing About Travel

Once again, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. One of my Autumn Resolutions is to be more regular about posting, and it’s never too early (or late!) to start.

Today’s post is about travel, and how the best-laid plans “gang aft agley,” as Robbie Burns so aptly puts it.

Alex and I had plans for this month. We were going to England, where we would spend time together in various places. (We went to the UK almost exactly two years ago, but that was with my parents. While it was a very pleasant trip, there is a big difference between travelling with four people and travelling with two.) First, we planned to go to London, to see off the competitors in the London to Brighton Run, visit the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at the Museum of London, and see what a real Bonfire Night in London looks like. Then, we planned a leisurely journey, stopping at enticing places along the way in a romantic, carefree manner, until we reached Birmingham and the giant, all-indoor NEC Classic Motor Show.

However, for a variety of reasons (not least of which is the fact that Life has been insane, and we didn’t want to add the stress of planning an international trip to said insanity), we decided to put off the England trip. (I’m hoping we can try for sometime in March — no motor show, but the Sherlock Holmes exhibit ends April 12.)

Before we called off the trip, I had already started plugging dates into my Google Calendar — Bonfire Night, Remembrance Day, the NEC Motor Show, and so on. I never got around to taking those dates, or the automatic reminders for those dates, off the calendar.

Thus, every so often, an alert pops up on my computer or phone to remind me of what I’m missing. I don’t cry about it or anything, but I do feel a bit wistful when my calendar reminds me that I’m celebrating at home, rather than in England. (Glenna C’s recent jaunt to England, complete with photos, definitely boosted my wistfulness. Just saying.)

While I know we made the right choice in not going to England this year, I still miss being there. I’ve been three (four?) times in my lifetime, and I feel homesick every time I leave. I will say that the weather here has been conspiring to be as English as possible for this time of year (cold, damp, foggy), and I’m grateful. I’ve pulled out my woolies and tucked my T-shirts away for the winter. I’ve also pulled some bangers out of the freezer and pulled up my favorite recipe for onion gravy, so good old bangers and mash are definitely in my future. I’m looking forward to cooking at home more, getting the house really clean and organized, and continuing my eternal game of catch-up with my blogs and other writing.

At the same time, I’m already starting to plan the next trip, and the next…

I’ll keep you posted.

Categories: Pondering, Travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

This Is Important.

In Which Our Heroine Continues To Ponder The Importance Of Writing Things Down

I am a Writer. I have never been published, partially because I am Very Bad at Finishing Stories. (It turns out you have to Finish Stories in order to Get Stories Published. Fancy that.) However, I am Excellent at Writing Down Ideas.

Today, I read something Very Important over at Strange Ink, which is Kat Howard’s blog. She says, “The words on the page are the only ones people can read.”

I just want to repeat that for emphasis:

The words on the page are the only ones people can read.

It seems so simple, but it’s so profound. I think this is also something that Aspiring Writers (whether writing a letter or a story) forget. If we don’t record our thoughts, our characters, our ideas, then no one will ever be able to read them. Those things will be lost forever. These ephemerae will only be preserved by being nailed securely to a page, whether that page is in a notebook or on a computer.

Are you a Writer? Write. Write early, write often. Write and write and write. Nail those ideas down, keep them, don’t let them escape.

The words on the page are the only ones people can read.

Categories: Confessions, Pondering | Tags: , | Leave a comment

On Memory

In Which Our Heroine Ponders The Importance of Writing Things Down

My mind is a bit of a whirl today because I have several different things I wanted to write about, and it’s hard to focus. My mind is not the most well-organized in the world, to put it mildly, and that is one of the reasons why I write things down. The very act of writing something by hand helps stick it in my memory in a way that typing it into my handy-dandy phone reminder system does not.

We all have different ways of augmenting our memories. We keep calendars and to-do lists. We remind ourselves by setting reminders on our smartphones, repeating things to ourselves, even tying strings around our fingers. (A useless exercise, I always think, because tying a string around my finger does nothing but worry me about why I have a string tied around my finger. If one tied a note to the string reminding one about how one should go buy milk because one does not drink tea without milk and one has no milk at home and one would like to drink tea in the afternoon, that would be more practical.) Our human brains can only hold so much at a time, and our lives are generally filled with shiny, shiny distractions.

In my case, I am generally a scatterbrain, so I write things down and keep my lists with me. I often keep lists in several places so that I will be sure to remember. If I don’t write things down, however, those things are sure to be lost and forgotten. I know this about myself, so I Write Things Down.

“What,” you may be asking, Dear Reader, “is the point of this? So you have a bad memory! You write things down! While this seems an obviously practical solution, why are you harping on it?” Well, Dear Reader, this is a blog about writing and its uses, particularly letters.

My Point Today Is This: Letters Are Written Memories.

Isn’t that wonderful? Letters are conversations that can be read over and over again, treasured, and never, ever forgotten. This is particularly significant to me because of my dear maternal grandmother. She and my mother used to write to one another when my mother was in college. I asked my mother the other day whether Grandma would like a letter from me.

“She would treasure it,” my mother told me. “She would read it over and over again. She likes letters better than phone calls, because she can review letters, but she forgets phone conversations.”

“But,” my mother warned me, “don’t expect her to write you back. She hasn’t written me a letter in some time.”

I wrote to Grandma. I haven’t gotten a letter back, but that’s fine. I didn’t expect one. The thing is, Grandma’s memory is not as sharp as it once was. She has to write things down far more than she used to. She may not remember to write me a letter, or she may have given up writing letters. That’s OK. Every time I write to her, I will be writing her a memory to keep. Every letter is a gift, and I don’t know how much longer I will have her to write to. I hope to write to her at least once every fortnight. (I wrote to her today.)

On the other hand, I have received several written gifts over the past few weeks! My relationship with my LWA Pen Pals is going strong, and I also received a card from my Aunt! It is amazing how writing letters can renew relationships as well as start new ones. It also surprises me somewhat how delighted I am every time I receive a letter in the mail!

All four of my Mailings have made it safely and received the following responses:

Mailing #1: A phone call from my friend telling me how much the little elf brightened her day.

Mailing #2: I recently visited the recipient, and “This Is Your Chicken” is proudly displayed on her refrigerator.

Mailing #3: Tweeted to the world at large by a very happy recipient.

Mailing #4: A Facebook message immediately upon receipt, telling me how much she loved the kitten and how she’d displayed it on her sideboard.

Every single Mailing was appreciated, and I am lucky enough to know how much. This, of course, encourages me to do even more.

What memories do you write down? How do you remind yourself to do things? What memories will you share this week through the mail?

Categories: Mailings, Pondering | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Joining The Alliance

In Which Our Heroine Receives Her First Assignment

Guess what came in the mail today?

My first Pen Pal Assignment from the Letter Writers Alliance!

I am rather excited. Her address is in New York, not far from where I visited in April. I can’t wait to start writing–but how do I introduce myself? Should I send a resume’? A biography? A list of interests? A drawing of a cat? I know nothing of her, and she knows nothing of me. What would create the best first impression? Is there an etiquette manual about this?

Perhaps I should simply hope to impress her with my penmanship. Perhaps I am overthinking this, as usual.

In other news, Mailing #4 is winging its way to a friend in need!

My friend is going through a tough time–I hope that receiving this in the mail will bring a smile to her face.

Time to write!

Categories: Introductions, Mailings, Pondering | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Post on the Post

In Which Our Heroine Ponders The Etiquette Of Letters–Perhaps Too Extensively

As I prepared for my Pen Pal Assignment from the LWA, I decided that it would behoove me to study the proper way to write letters. I would hate to unintentionally offend new friends, especially on first acquaintance. As the old saying goes, one only has one chance to make a good impression.

To that end, I have referred to Emily Post, that Empress of Etiquette, for she wrote her book during a time when long, chatty letters were still being written–or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise when I read the following from Chapter 28 of Emily’s Etiquette, “Longer Letters”:
The art of general letter-writing in the present day is shrinking until the letter threatens to become a telegram, a telephone message, a postcard. Since the events of the day are transmitted in newspapers with far greater accuracy, detail, and dispatch than they could be by the single effort of even Voltaire himself, the circulation of the general news, which formed the chief reason for letters of the stage-coach and sailing-vessel days, has no part in the correspondence of to-day.
Taking the contents of an average mail bag as sorted in a United States post-office, about fifty per cent. is probably advertisement or appeal, forty per cent. business, and scarcely ten per cent. personal letters and invitations. Of course, love letters are probably as numerous as need be, though the long-distance telephone must have lowered the average of these, too. Young girls write to each other, no doubt, much as they did in olden times, and letters between young girls and young men flourish today like unpulled weeds in a garden where weeds were formerly never allowed to grow.
It is the letter from the friend in this city to the friend in that, or from the traveling friend to the relative at home, that is gradually dwindling. As for the letter which younger relatives dutifully used to write–it has gone already with old-fashioned grace of speech and deportment.

In 1922 New York, Emily Post was already mourning the decline of the Posted Letter. (Her dig at the Younger Generation and Their Decline is one of many and can be set aside for the moment.) Like many of us here in 2013, she felt a nostalgia for the joys of the written word, winging its way from far-away parts to bring news, well-wishes, and loving thoughts from one who is temporarily out of sight, but never out of mind.

Luckily, Emily goes on to say that “…people do write letters in this day and there are some who possess the divinely flexible gift for a fresh turn of phrase, for delightful keenness of observation.” There is hope, it seems, for the Posted Letter, even among the despised Younger Generation.

In Chapter 27, “Notes and Shorter Letters,” and the aforementioned Chapter 28, “Longer Letters,” Emily Post indicates, in the minutest detail, the proper way to go about writing different sorts of letters. She emphasizes things like legibility, spelling, and even appropriate stationery–chosen not just for its suitability to the writer’s societal position and the occasion for writing, but also to the writer’s individual handwriting and style. A letter must not only be coherent and clever, but also aesthetically pleasing.

Once one cuts through all the specifics, however, the etiquette of letter writing seems to boil down to the following: When writing a letter, do your best to display the care and affection you feel for the recipient in every aspect of your efforts, from your choice of writing paper to your penmanship and spelling to the way you address and seal the envelope. Your letter is a sign of your regard, and your respect for your recipient should show in every fold of paper and dash of ink.

Fashions of both speech and writing change, but etiquette is still the act of showing respect to one’s fellow human beings. I hope that my future pen pals, as well as my friends and relations, see the esteem in which I hold them in the letters that I write.

Categories: Pondering | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Writing Anxiety

In Which Our Heroine is Already Concerned About Her Blogging Powers

I should probably warn you, Dear Reader, that I am embarking on this new Blog with a certain amount of trepidation. I want–very badly–for this to be a good and useful Blog, not only to myself, but also to you. At the same time, this Blog needs to be for me to use as I wish. I do not want to lock myself down and, above all, I do not want to build up expectations that will surely doom all of us to disappointment. That Way Lies Madness. I worry about neglecting The Other Blog in my excitement over this New Shiny Blog. I worry about Not Being Able To Persist–about starting things I will not be able or willing to finish. (This is a Known Flaw in my Character.)

However, as I ponder these things, I realize the following:
1) The more I practice writing, the better my writing will be. Therefore, writing here can only benefit The Other Blog.
2) Each entry I write here will boost my Self-Discipline and Persistence. Practice is the key. This will, obviously, Build Character.
3) This is my Blog, where I should write what I like. Your expectations, Dear Reader, are your own to look after. I do hope that this Blog will be Educational, Entertaining, and Enjoyable for all of us, but I certainly cannot promise to be spot-on every time. That is what this Blog is about, ultimately: Improvement.

So, since Improvement requires Practice, I can also post here as often as I like without feeling guilty. It seems odd to feel guilt for posting too often, but there it is. Further Self-Analysis may be required to figure out that particular puzzle.

Mailing #1 finally made it into the mailbox yesterday and is winging its way to its Intended Recipient. Mailing #2, “This Is Your Chicken,” is going out today.

I do not usually attempt anything close to this kind of realism, but this was done in the spirit of Challenging Myself. It is, at least, recognizable as a chicken. I used the same materials as Mailing #1: 3×5 “Window” card, pencil, Sharpie pen, and really cheap “Colorific” colored pencils. I have to say that I really prefer the Sharpie pen over many other art pens–I can run my eraser over the lines without them greying out. The message on the back of the card is rather silly. I feel that I need to work on being clever and pithy instead. That’s another challenge. “Pithy” is not my middle name, to be frank.

How are you challenging yourself?

Categories: Mailings, Pondering | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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