Going Analog

If you work in an office environment, there is a pretty solid chance you stare at Microsoft Outlook a decent chunk of your day. If not the majority of your day. For emails, yes. Calendar, definitely. Both of my jobs used Outlook to schedule meetings. Smartypants Superusers like my husband keep their tasks and lord-knows-what-else in Outlook too.

You know how people cleverly tally up the number of hours you spend sleeping or waiting in line or in the bathroom in a lifetime? I’ll venture a guess that if I tallied up the number of hours I spent calendar-jockeying in Outlook these past 10 years, I would be horrified.

In fact, I spent so much time staring at my Outlook calendar, it became second nature to just plop in my personal appointments too – for planning purposes. If Andy and I needed to let each other know about work travel or impending visits from family, we’d just send each other an Outlook invitation that automatically blocks out the time on the other one’s calendar.

I’m saying all of this for you Baby Boomers out there, by the way, because my Gen X and Millennial readers are like “DEBBIE, EVERYONE DOES THIS. BLAHBLAHBLAH GET TO YOUR POINT.”

So here’s my point: I have not yet successfully figured out how to survive effectively without Outlook during this, ahem, employment gap.

I’ve been using Google Calendar and making appointments on my phone using the calendar app. Shortcomings abound. We’ll start with the latter.

The Apple Calendar app is flawed. I personally like looking at a month view so that I can plan ahead… see whose birthday cards I need to buy and when the kids have appointments coming up, etc. Plan the week, you know.

This THIS is how Apple helps me plan ahead:

IMG_5444

Awesome, thanks bro. So no dots tomorrow, then? Sweet.

I’m joking. This is completely unhelpful. A dot indicates that something is happening on that day. It does not indicate what at a glance. Which is what I need.

I have to click on a day to get details, which then looks like this:

IMG_5445

Okay, better. Except now I’ve lost all spatial relationships to appointments. They’re all just… piled on top of one another. If a day doesn’t have an appointment, it simply doesn’t appear.

I’m sure this works for people. Just not for me. Screenshot 2016-01-10 22.27.32

This is what Google Calendar looks like when I log into it from my desktop computer. So nice, huh? (I know you can’t read it, but go with me on this.) Good color-coding going on. Spatially laid out with just a bit of detail. Very nicely done, Google.

Except… the only way I get this beautiful vista is if I walk into my home office, sit down at the Big Computer, and get on my web browser. Reference three posts ago as to why this happens, ohhhh…  basically never.

I’ve been stuck. Trapped in a neverending Pong game – alternating between habitually, obsessively checking my phone and neurotically making mental lists of appointments I need to remember.

Finally, FINALLY, today I took a time machine straight back to 2001, walked into an office supply store and bought a paper calendar and a bunch of colored felt-tip pens.

IMG_5441

BOOM.

IMG_5442

Peace.
IMG_5443

Serenity.

IMG_5440

And a handy location that is at once close to the kitchen, in line of sight when you’re coming and going from the house (Yippees from me!) and also out of plain view from the rest of the house (Hoorays from Andy).

Yes, I still plan on using my phone for making appointments and sharing them with Andy. And any dyed-in-the-wool organizer will tell you this is a death sentence to a new method. Have one location for any given thing and rid yourself of redundancy. It takes up extra time and ultimately either one wins out or they both fall away in lieu of something new. Lots of boring and perhaps obvious reasons for this. Regardless, passing this wall calendar gives me peace. And I’ll take any little bit of that I can get these days.

 

Home Computers: A Cautionary Tale

Friends who have work-issue laptop computers, beware.

You all have home computers. I’m sure of it. Andy and I do too. We bought our current Big Computer in 2009 just before we had Graham. It was great.

In recent years, however, it has transitioned from ‘The Place We Go To Do Everything’ to ‘The Place We Go To Dump the Photos Off Our Memory Cards and/or Handheld Electronic Devices’. Mostly because we can do almost everything else on our tablets and phones and – because the Big Computer has been creeping up in years – the tablets and phones are easily 2-3x faster than this old machine that I’m typing on here.

The work laptop I never really used as a personal computer. At least that’s what I thought. But after having turned in my laptop my last day of work I realized I did regularly use my work laptop for one thing: writing my blog posts. There’s just something about having a physical keyboard and good, old-fashioned multiple-windows-visible-on-one-screen interface to work from.

Hence, when I turned in my work computer, the blog posts came to a screeching halt.

Butbutbut, you say, you have a Big Computer. What about Big Computer?

Yes, good question. I’ll answer that with this:

IMG_5416

And this.

IMG_5418

Oh, and this.

IMG_5419

I sat down to write a post at 8:30 this morning. After much rainbow-wheel spinning and grinding sounds in the hard drive, I decided to get a stopwatch and see how long this endeavor was going to take me. Just to paint a picture so you can see why exactly I haven’t been writing. Because – just so we’re clear – I have sat down to write on Big Computer a handful of times over the last month.

This morning, I was determined to get something posted. When I first wiggled the mouse and got rid of the screen saver, I saw my internet browser was open with multiple tabs open. I decided the fastest way to get out of this was to close out of the browser altogether and start fresh. It took 2 minutes 30 seconds of rainbow-wheel-grindy-noise action for my first window to pop up telling me a page wasn’t responding. I killed it. Then 15 seconds later, I got another pop-up, so I closed out of that too. Finally at 3 min 17 sec after I hit the “x” on my internet browser window, the browser actually closed. Relief. Except… I hadn’t actually accomplished anything, had I?

I waited a whole minute for the grinding to subside (not stop, mind you) before taking a deep breath and opening the Photos app (where I have to go to get the photos off my phone for a post). 40 seconds after clicking the icon to open the application, the application icon was still bouncing indicating that it heard me – but no actual window was open yet. At 1 min 3 sec, a window appears. Ahoy! But… the window came with yet another, slightly different wheel telling me to Please Hold On while my computer tries to rally and, you know, actually DO something.

IMG_5420

I stared at this screen until 5 minutes 45 seconds had passed. I decided that maybe restarting the computer was a good idea. I clicked the apple icon in my upper-left hand part of the screen to open the ‘shut down’ menu, but all I got was more grinding and the tortuous (yet oddly memorizing and pretty) Rainbow Wheel. I stared at the Rainbow Wheel for a solid minute, until I finally reached around the back of the computer and held the power button until the screen went black and the grinding was put out of its misery. No more grinding. Peace.

Time check: I’m now 14 minutes and 45 seconds into the process of writing a blog post and am staring at a powered-off computer.

I start the bugger up again and a paltry 5 minutes later (just shy of a total 20 minutes from the outset of this journey) I have succeeded in starting up my computer, downloading the photos off my phone and opening a browser window to start a blog post.

Not bad! Except, yes, BAD. Awful, in fact.

So, back to my original message. If you have a work-issue computer and you have been using that to get by  – all the while neglecting to keep your home computer up to date – you might think about doing a little maintenance on your home compy. Dance with the one that brung ya.

Because it’s almost an hour since I first sat down to post since I went dark over a month ago – and you STILL have no idea how I’m doing or how the family’s holidays were. But we’ll get there. Promise. Just maybe after I’ve stared at my Rainbow Wheel a bit more.

 

Run-On Sentence

Sometimes this site can really get ahead of me. Or… behind me, is more accurate. I guess.

We’ve been muddling through the winter months, as we do. Ask any Wisconsinite about this winter and the answer will generally be the same. A theme of: “It really hasn’t been that bad. Ready for it to be over though.”

IMG_2486

Funny because we’ve had constant snowcover on the ground since January (not November, please note) and the mailbox is looking a little nervous about the encroaching snow bank at the end of the drive. (He’s about shoulder-deep at this point.) But, you know, not bad.

We had a lovely Christmas season. Pointedly NOT a white Christmas, however. I managed to feel slighted. We more than made up for it with a season surrounded by family. My mom (poor sick dad couldn’t come!) came up the weekend before Christmas, Andy’s family all came in for Christmas itself and Mark, Marilyn and Eric made the trip down from Wausau the weekend following.  Just perfect. I swear my heaven might be standing in my kitchen churning out food for people. And so nice to have adults in the house for a change – people who don’t flail about on the floor and act like they’re gagging on poison when I serve something other than chicken nuggets and pizza.

January was basically a giant game of “Which cold do you have and have I had that one already?” We all lost horribly. Multiple times. On two occasions, Reid got taken to the doctor when I thought a fever on Day 10 of the cold signaled some other looming infection… only to be told that it was just another virus starting probably. One time that was coupled with breathing issues, but we were told that “we’ll tolerate a little labored breathing, but watch him.” Like… it’s okay if he only chokes a little.

IMG_2385

I happened to interpret “watch him” as “obsessively and continuously count his breaths per minute while he sleeps to ascertain if he is in respiratory distress”. So, asthma is fun. In fact, I’m finishing up my own ‘prednisone burst’ as we speak for a little bronchitis that I swore was fine until Andy was like, “YOU SOUND TERRIBLE, TAKE THE MEDICINE.”

February started like no February should. We lost my Great Uncle Mark unexpectedly, and everyone was completely rocked.

Mark and Marilyn live a couple hours north of here and have been such blessings in our lives. Graham and Reid know them like they know their grandparents or their aunts and uncles. My mind is busy listing this enormous list of things that Mark and Marilyn have done for us… just even since we’ve gotten to Wisconsin, though the list certainly doesn’t start there. Visits to our home, trips for family events, subscriptions to kids magazines, care packages, Christmas presents, recommendation to a local CSA. You name it. Mark was my grandpa’s little brother. I could hear a little of him in Mark’s laugh. None of us were ready for him to go. He certainly will be missed in our little family.

Mark’s death set me off on a little journey of which I’ll share just a bit. Listening to stories about Mark – who was a social worker in the health field, retired from an inpatient care and hospice center in Wausau – were inspiring. Those who knew him spoke of his presence. He cared deeply for others and made constant efforts to reach out and comfort or otherwise support those around him. His funeral was on a weekday and the church pews were filled.

I’ve told Andy before, but I want to be that blessing for others. I may be very much engrossed in the business of mothering and providing for my little family now, but as my boys become more self-sufficient, I want to pay attention with how we’re filling our days.

In fact, I was so moved that I reached out to our local hospice organization to start the lengthy process of becoming a hospice volunteer. That lengthy process is going to be a little lengthier than usual, because I immediately disqualified myself by having a family member who has died recently. They’re giving me a year to air out, but come this time next year once they’re feeling better about my mental state 😉 I’ll be beginning the process again. The disqualification is fair. It was Mark’s death that led me to them. Just not in the way that they think.

Deep thoughts from deep within the snowbanks of Wisconsin. We dream of summer now… and camping. Swim lessons for G. Perhaps getting Reid to sit through a meal without shoving his plate away from him and demanding, “No, COOKIES.”

Because 2-year-olds.

But mostly we’re just… getting along. Which is mostly why I’m not writing. There are days that go by when the TV never turns on. We talk and play and sing songs and tell stories. We race remote control cars around the house and think up our next projects. When we get stir crazy we go out and play in the snow. When that gets too cold, we come in and drink cocoa. When all’s said and done? It’s not a bad way to live.

IMG_2596

IMG_2425
IMG_2442
IMG_2484
IMG_2488
IMG_2497
IMG_2498
IMG_2552
IMG_2623
IMG_2642
IMG_2653
IMG_2661

 

Some Updates

We’ve been busy around here lately.

Andy transitioned to full time employee (from being a contractor) last Monday. This means lots of fun things like quarterly bonus eligibility and a company phone, but we are just excited that he’s now gainfully employed in a non-temporary way.

This job, when he took it, was contract-to-hire, so we had line of sight to this change but Andy still had to impress them well enough to keep the job. Way to go, dear!

In his spare time, Andy holes up in the garage and saws wood into pieces. Every so often he sands. When the stars align, he’s been known to glue a piece or two together. I have no idea what he’s doing out there except for the fact that he is doing and that makes him happy. Good enough for me!

Graham continues to keep us on our toes. He is making friends at his ‘new’ daycare, which we are all thrilled about. He played tee ball for six weeks this summer. He loved being on the team, but after Week 3, he pretty much devoted his time seeking out opportunities to stall the game and get laughs out of the other kids. Maybe next year.

Graham starts 4K in a couple of weeks. He is very excited and even has a new backpack to show for it. The 4K program is funded through our school district and hosted by local daycares – of which Graham’s current daycare is one. This means we will drop him off in the daycare class in the morning, he will play, eat, nap there and in the afternoon he will put on his backpack and walk to the 4K classroom to join other kids from the community. Really, it’s a lot of shuffling. But they make a big deal about the shuffling, and he’s excited to shuffle with other kids in his class. So we roll with it.

Reid is learning new words all the time and figuring out (FINALLY, thank you God!!) how to put some words to what he wants. This makes life better for everyone. He relies a lot on signs still and generally prefers moving around to speaking, but we’ve made progress in the verbal department.

Reid’s favorite show is Sesame Street. He loves Elmo and Big Bird.

There is also a distinct possibility that Reid is the reincarnation of Andre the Giant. His mission in life is to tackle someone. Mainly Graham, but Andy or I will do in a pinch. When the boys are watching a TV show, and Graham isn’t interested in rough-housing, you can tell it takes concerted energy and concentration on Reid’s part not to tackle his brother.

As for me, I continue to become adjusted to my new work environment. I work with some really great people and things are constantly evolving. It keeps me on my toes.

I’m still running. My regular run loop now is 4 miles, and I don’t get lost anymore! A few of the girls I work with signed up for a race in late September, and I signed up too. I was very excited to run a[n organized] 5K again, and I told them so. Immediate mock-shaming commenced because they had all signed up for the 10K loop. Uh.

I caved to peer pressure. I am now training for a 10K. Hold me.

In related news, I am trying to get ahead of some asthma issues. I’ve been having attacks since coming to Wisconsin for the first time in my life, so I’m trying to get to the bottom of it. Predominant theory is allergies. Getting asthma in your 30s is awesome.

That’s an update on us! Debbie, out!

Snapshot of Life in June 2014

Somehow here we are in June already. Can you believe it? How did this happen? I guess the year goes by fast when you’re praying for sweet sweet warmth until May.

Baby Reid turns 18 months tomorrow. I keep mentally logging all the things he’s doing and just what he’s generally like to be around. Then I look at Graham, and I remind myself that I should write in his baby book too. So much has changed in such a short time. A post seems like a good enough way as any to document a snapshot of sort of ‘where we’re at’ in life lately.

Youngest first.

Baby Reid

Reid is an absolute joy. He is handsome as all get out. Don’t believe me? Reference the picture, please.

Pajama Day

I didn’t even take these shots – they were posted in Reid’s daycare room. Little Owen there, bottom left, is your typical toddler. Dressed in his jammies, staring blankly at the camera. What a sweetie. Then you have Reid, up there in the upper right corner posing like he’s on the cover of GQ Baby magazine featuring an article on the latest robot trends in toddler fashion. This wasn’t even a fair fight.

That’s Reid though. He adores adoration and has perfected his method of getting smiles out of strangers. If eye contact doesn’t work outright, he’ll raise his chubby little arm and give them a little royalty wave as he passes by. Gets ’em every time.

Reid loves trips to Costco (free samples!), snacks (namely “Crack-EEEE’s”/crackers), making Graham laugh (it’s his ultimate goal at every meal), wearing people’s shoes around the house (EVERYONES shoes – he’ll try to take them straight off your feet), and running. Reid runs everywhere, and he’s pretty fast!

Cowbaby Reid

But Reid isn’t all love and sunshine. He goes from zero to SCREAMING in no time if something isn’t going his way. Things that really set him off are:

Hugo getting in his way (there is a telltale short burst of a shriek from Reid, followed by a quick pop on the nose – poor Hugo – if we don’t intervene quickly enough), diaper changes, giving him something he DID NOT ASK FOR, ARE YOU AN IDIOT, I CLEARLY SAID, “RAHSMUCKLDUH” ARRGGHGHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [this usually followed by sweeping the nearest tabletop clear of everything on top of it in rage.]

Reid’s a fairly decent eater, as evidenced by his hearty stature. He’s good with main courses and snacks. Fruits and vegetables are a dicey subject, especially if the fruits are cold. Forget it. He adores milk and all milk products.

He’s not a man of many words. Where Graham was a student of enunciation, constantly practicing and repronouncing words to match what you said, Reid’s more of a “whatever, you get my gist” kinda guy. If you try and teach him a word, he’ll just violently shake his head ‘no’ at you. He pronounces “Graham” as “Mammy”, “paci” as “nonny”, and “shoe” [as previously mentioned] “sh-thhhth”. It so reminds me of that Friends episode where Phoebe tries to teach Joey French, and he doesn’t quite have the ear for it.

friendsfrench

Graham

I don’t really know what else to say about Graham except he is turning into this marvelous, interesting little person.

Free Box

He is all Big Kid. Graham has adventures, builds collections, takes on responsibility. He has this ability – which can be heartbreaking at times – to tell you exactly how he’s feeling and finds some great words for it. Just last night, he got really angry that it was bedtime, so he picked up a cowboy boot and threw it at the TV. By the sounds coming from downstairs you’dve thought he’d lit Andy’s head on fire, so I made the two separate, and I asked Graham to tell me what happened and how he was feeling. Sobbing – as you would expect a 4-year-old to be – he said, hiccuping, “I should have… known… Daddy would get… mad at me for that…” He just sounded so grown up, you know? He’s starting to understand that there’s often only regret on the other side of impulse.

Graham can make quite a few letters, and can even write his name now, left to right, with no help. The chore chart is still king at our house, but he’s swung back to favor instant gratification and buys himself a lot of whirlpool baths these days.

Every morning, Graham sleeps until 6-6:30 a.m., then emerges from his bedroom fully dressed.

Silly Graham

I don’t care how fashion conscious of a mother you are. The first time your 4-year-old pops out of his/her bedroom bursting with pride at how they got themselves dressed, the last thing you’ll want to do is undo all their hard work before sending them out the door to preschool. I mean, OK, let’s be honest: I want to redo his entire outfit. But the last thing I’d want is for him to work so hard then feel like he’d still not quite done it right. We’ll build from this. 😉  Fact of the matter is, half Graham’s class looks like the picture above. And it’s great. We walked a couple of houses down to meet our neighbors, and their four year old son was outside playing in navy blue fleece pants [in 75-degree weather] and a red plaid button-down shirt. And Crocs. It’s just a sign of the times.

Andy and I

Tomorrow, Andy and I celebrate our 8-year wedding anniversary. We went out on a date this weekend (we have discovered babysitters in Madison – YAY!) and were mentioning that somehow it both doesn’t feel like that much time has passed and feels like exactly that much time has passed.

For our 8th anniversary celebration, we went to see a matinee of the latest X-Men movie, which was great, by the way. (We were a little scared to see it, because we’d just seen The Wolverine on DVD. And…yikes.) Then we went out to a restaurant called Graze. It’s a great little restaurant on the square downtown. Farm to table concept. Craft cocktails, local artisan cheeses, fancy pickles… I had something with a duck egg on it. It was right up our alley. And so very Madison. Perfect stop for one of our first date nights out in the area.

graze

We both ate so much we went to bed with stomach aches – a sure sign we did it right.

Other than recent discovery of babysitters, Andy and I are settling right in here.

Andy’s new job has been great. He’s enjoying working around other IT professionals, and – like I did – finds his new job exactly the same and in every way different.

At home, he’s been getting really into woodworking. We no longer have a 3-car garage, but rather a 2-car garage and a woodshop. I never recall having an actual conversation that this would happen, but all of the sudden I was informed that the third bay garage door shouldn’t be opened because too many wood scraps are leaning up against it. He really enjoys having something to work on.

I continue to enjoy my job and am acclimating fairly well to new ways of doing things. At home, when I’m not playing or cleaning up after the boys, I’m either finding a bit of time to read (!!!), working in the garden – mostly trying to figure out what plants are back there (your visit can’t come soon enough, mom!!), and – as we just read in the previous post – trying to regain some independence and rediscover my girlish figure through running.

Basically, here we are. It’s summer. Things are growing, we’re settling in, and life is very, very good.