Change is long overdue.

I don’t know where to start or what to write. This has been a disturbing and frightening few days. On May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man was killed by police in Minneapolis. The arresting police used force well beyond anything even remotely indicated by the situation, including pinning down Mr. Floyd with a knee to the neck for almost 9 minutes leaving him unable to breathe. There were many witnesses and the events were captured on multiple devices. Mr. Floyd and bystanders can be heard calling for help and he clearly states that he can’t breathe.

Since then, there has been so much to follow. The 4 police offers were fired. One has been charged with 3rd-degree murder. As yet, no charges against the other three, although there are calls for more to be done

Peaceful protests have been taking place around the US and in other countries. Some have turned to violence but in many areas, people of all races and backgrounds are joining forces and peacefully but forcefully saying that change is overdue. In many areas, police officers are putting down their riot gear and walking with protesters, supporting their call for justice.

In Some Cities, Police Officers Joined Protesters Marching Against Brutality

At a time when the US needs a leader attempting to bring people together, Trump is threatening to escalate violence and urging governors to show force and shut down demonstrations.

LIke many, I feel helpless and unsure of how to act. I am a white woman living in relative comfort in a safe community. I can not claim to understand what it is like to fear being stopped or arrested or threatened – or even being killed – because of the colour of your skin. I have always tried to speak out against individual instances of racism or discrimination but that is not enough. People being discriminated against by the system are not the ones with the power to change.

Clearly it is time to recognize that white privilege is a thing, even if you don’t feel you have privilege. One thing that I have heard in discussions this week is that white privilege means simply that you might be white and still have lots of problems and not feel privileged but you are because of basic opportunities. Fundamentally, it means that you still have problems but the colour of your skin is not something that makes your life more difficult.

Black and Brown people have been telling us for years that this is their experience. Is it any wonder that people angry? The protests and escalations of this week are not sudden or happening out of nowhere. They are part of a progression.

Too many of these police incidents have happened because of unfair and unbased biasis and assumptions. We know the names. Most recently, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Always there is immediate outrage and action but then the news cycle changes and the ingrained problems remain and build up under the surface, unseen until the next tragic and unnecessary death.

We can not continue to accept this being dismissed as ‘a few bad apples’; it is systemic and the systems need to change. We can not let it stay hidden and convince ourselves that it doesn’t exist.

Be Part of the Change

Get informed. Ask questions. Have difficult conversations. Most importantly, LISTEN. Then act. Some places to start.

Learn how we got Here

Trevor Noah used his platform of the Social Distancing Daily Show to try and process recent events with a thoughtful talk on George Floyd and the Dominos of Racial Injustice, a piece that has been widely shared and assigned in many virtual classrooms.

Read powerful opinion pieces like this one by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the LA Times: Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge

Understand more about white privilege

My White Friend Asked Me on Facebook to Explain White Privilege.

Learn how to be an ally in the fight against systemic racism

For our White Friends Desiring to be Allies

Be aware. Examine your behaviour. Do not practice or accept ANY of these thoughts or actions.

Understand why All Lives Matter is Damaging

Read an interview with Professor Olivette Otele , an expert in the History Of Slavery that Explains The Mistake In Saying ‘All Lives Matter’

Be Better

It is up to everyone to learn more and contribute to solutions. Each one of us needs to stand up and take responsibility. We need to do better. We need to BE better.

The case for imperfection

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.
Henry van Dyke

I have been accused of being a perfectionist.   It always makes me bristle.  “Ridiculous!”  I shout.  And, as proof,  I argue that my work isn’t perfect.  Turns out,  That is a classic symptom.  So is my tendency to take waaaay too long to do just about everything,  typically a result of redoing or overthinking or restarting or, worse yet,  not starting.  All in all, strong evidence of a perfectionist – or at very least, perfectionist tendencies.

It is not like I don’t know I’m doing it.  I am aware that that I am taking too long and tell myself to consider it done and move on to the next thing.  And I do to – you know, right after just one last adjustment.  It is time to get that under control.

I need to let it go so I can accomplish more in less time.   And finish more.  Take for example past efforts to keep a journal – or blog for that matter  – to track progress.  Inevitably I miss a day and then feel compelled to ‘catch up’  before moving forward, which obviously somewhat defeats the purpose.

What was my point – oh yeah, not a perfectionist.

Perhaps I could stretch the truth just a little and claim to be a ‘recovering perfectionist’ (read that somewhere at it appeals to me).  I’ve made some progress but not nearly enough.  It is time to again take up the charge and embrace imperfection.

Perfection stifles creativity AND productivity.

Aim for progress, not perfection and just get started

 

 

 

 

Aim for progress.
Aim for excellence.
Be realistic- about time, expectations, and resources.
Don’t wait for the perfect time.
Start today.  TAKE ACTION NOW!!

If you have stories to tell, don’t let perfection be an excuse for getting started. Don’t worry that you have all the details exactly right.  Do not stress over finding the perfect font, the ideal picture the best quote.

Even the biggest failure beats the hell out of not tryingGet it started.  You can always refine or revise – to a point of course.

Progress, not perfection!

Where are you on the perfectionist scale?   Are you a perfectionist and proud of it? A sometimes or situational perfectionist? A denying or recovering perfectionist? Or perhaps you are the polar opposite of a perfectionist – would that be an unperfectionist – or maybe anti-perfectionist?

Share strategies you use to make sure that perfectionism doesn’t become procrastination.

A new tactic

Sometimes you have to move on

For many years, I have wanted to restore an old trunk.  Several years ago, I picked up one that had be thrown out with the trash.  It was in decent shape and I took it home with the best of intentions to either restore it to a measure of its former glory or create something new and creative with it.  I was sure if I couldn’t find a space and use for it in my home, I could sell it and at least recoup costs – all while learning some new skills.

I didn’t have time or space for that project where we living at the time but we were in the processes of packing for a new home with a planned workshop.  The trunk went into our project pile.  Where it sat.  It was moved several times when we relocated, needed space, even when we had a flooded basement. And still it sat and sat.

I purchased some supplies including a suitable paper liner for the top tray.  I did some research on best strategies.  I even looked at ways and places for selling.

But I had reasons (excuses) that I couldn’t get to it – no room in the shop for the project, lacking the proper tools, not confident about where to start.  And all the while it almost taunted me as an unfinished project that was not progressing.

Last Fall, I decided that I had been keeping this around taking up space for too long.  It was time to let it go and move on to other things.  Two factors that sealed this decision: 

  1. Other projects took priority because they were more interesting or current
  2. I didn’t have an connection or history to that particular trunk and it occurred to me that this was neither my story nor something that I need.

Finally making that decision allowed me to set this aside, albeit with some lingering resistance.  Doing so would give me more space to work on other projects, tell other stories.  I still have an interest in this project  but when and if I decide in the future to finally tackle my goal for a trunk restore, I am sure that I can find another one.

I considered trying to sell as-is but that would have taken time and didn’t want to reradd to my list or have it continue taking up space.  So, I emptied out and took it out to the road on Curbside Give Away Weekend, when people put out furniture, equpiment, toys and more out for free pick-up.  Some time during the weekend, it was taken away to a new home for someone else to use or restore. 

 

Long time listener…

…first time caller.

I heard this on a radio call-in show when I was driving this afternoon.  I don’t often listen to call-in shows but it seems whenever I catch one, at least one person makes this comment to begin their conversation.  Today it occurred to me that is a bit of a rallying call for action – a decision to do something more involved.

Almost two years ago (is it really that long already??), I  decided to cut way back on my time on line.  I was spending much of my working day on the computer for my job at a not-for-profit, and more hours weekly for client work on a small home business.  To find some balance, I wanted to spend more of my own time on other projects so I stepped away from some forums, shut down my blog (no loss as I hadn’t really built much of a following) and drastically reduced my other social media time.  It was not a difficult transition but life changed, as it continues to do.  My work responsibilities evolved and I had less computer time so I renewed some of my online contacts.

I started Keep the Stories to promote an idea that I had had in the back of my mind for some time.  It related to my business and some personal challenges to organize and reduce.  I started with enthusiasm, a growing list of ideas – and the best of intentions.   I did the first few posts and was getting a rhythm, building to more frequent posts but then lost any momentum while I was waiting.

Waiting to resolve some technical issues… waiting for the ‘perfect’ idea …waiting for the right picture for the header… waiting for enough time to write extra posts to catch up on missed days …waiting for the brilliant idea to launch with a bang … waiting for things that were not going to happen.

It is time to stop waiting – time to stop just listening and make that first call.  Time to start with one post and then the next one.  To write when the mood strikes and not wait for some big inspiration.  To tackle the technical issues – or not – as they come and do what can be done.  AND to not worry about gaps in the posts but to plan to write with some regularity and consistency.

It’s a perfect day to start

Long time reader, first time poster?   Well, not exactly first time but first this time.  As the Chinese proverb says “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The next best time, is today.”

Fall is here, leaves are changing.  It is a perfect time of year for new beginnings.

Are you ready to make that first call?    Perhaps it will be to literally make a call but maybe your call to action will be to write a letter, take a trip, clean a closet, end a bad relationship, look up an old friend….   How will you take action today?

Reusing and organizing

Organizing and Reclaiming

Well, despite my best intentions, sometimes I fall back into collection mode.  I have learned that the best way for me to handle that is to recognize that it just a slight misstep and doesn’t have to mean that I revert to previous patterns.  One of the strategies that I have learned is to not let this slip discourage or undo progress but to face it head on  before it spreads.

Take the example of my  t-shirt collection.  I mainly wear T-shirts with logos or messages only when I am doing some work in the workshop or yard.  However, I continue to accumulate them through challenges and volunteer projects with the result that even though I clear periodically and don’t buy T-Shirts, this is an area that demands regular attention.  It is again at a point when my drawers are overly full and need attention. I keep this collection in a small 3-drawer dresser in our guest room and it is looking over crowded.  It is time for a quick clean.   Today was a cold and grey day so it was a perfect time for that task.  I set the timer for 30 minutes.

before_drawer1
Time to do some reducing and organizing. Selecting a specific area, like a set of drawers, is manageable in a short time. A perfect 30 minute project.

It can be difficult to let go of some of these the accumulated T-Shirts because, as I mentioned, they typcially have been collected at events and, therefore, stand as testament to some affiliation or achievement.  Knowing what to do with them can also be a block to reducing and when I have thought of donating them, I think that they wouldn’t really have meaning for anyone not connected to the same event.  As I was sorting through, however, I realized that some still held strong positive memories but many, not so much.  I dedicated an hour to these three drawers, set an alarm, and determined to work quickly (not my forte) and get a start on the reduction.

Outcomes

Repurposed materials

I decided to cut the logos/images off the T-Shirts that were valuable memories but no longer worn.  I’ll collect them up and make something of them in the future.  Perhaps a quilt or wall hanging.  In the meantime, I drastically reduce the space required AND still have the reminder of the associated event.  I cut the rest of the shirts into strips for rags for the workshop and garden shed, where they will be put to good use.  An unexpected bonus of this approach is that some of the well worn shirts would not lastmuch longer and this way the most important part of the story is preserved.

 

before_TShirts1
Preparing to cut logos and images. When I have enough collected pieces with sufficient variety, I will make these into a memory quilt.

 

I turned this stack of shirts… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…. to this collection of images and pile of rags.

after_material-rags
Cutting 15 shirts to small squares for saving and strips for use as rags. NOTE: This process took 15 minutes beyond the original 30-minute timer; I had the time and wanted to finish this piece.  If that was not the case, could have put this in my to finish basket for small projects in case I have a small block of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Project

I also set aside 10 golf shirts with company logos.  I plan to cover the logos with a patch or design of some type so I can wear or donate them.  I didn’t have the time to begin that today so I took the shirts that I removed from the drawers and put them in a basket on a shelf in my closet marked “30 minute projects”.

Improved Organizations

I reduced the number of shirts in the drawers dramatically, leaving only ones that I continue to wear when I exercise or do work around the house or garden.

after_tshirtdrawer1

Donations

I put clothes that no longer fit or suit, as well as a number of T-shirts that I realized didn’t really have an emotional attachment but are still in good shape – in a bag to donate  While I was at it, I collected some items already set aside for that purpose and bagged those up too.

Result – 1 1/2 garbage bags of clothes and a bag of bed clothes taken out to the car to drop at Value Village on my next trip to the city.

Time well spent

In less than hour, I cleared some space in the drawers.  I do have another small collectin of shirts that are in a plastic bin with off-seasonal clothes.   Maybe I’ll put some unused T-Shirts back in rotation – or perhaps I’ll just take the plunge and donate some or cut  as logos or rags or donate.

What is your T-shirt strategy?

Do you have  a T-shirt collection?  What do you do with T-Shirts from runs, school events or promotional activities?  Do you wear them regularly?  Use them for night shirts? Donate them?  Discard them?  Share any suggestions in the comments.

Recording Oral Histories

Capturing stories before they disappear

I have been working on designing a variety of memory quilts.  One that I want to do is a tribute to my Mom and Dad.  Whenever I work on that, I am grateful for the time that I spent with them talking about family pictures and stories but I always wish that I had recorded more of their stories  more formally.  And definitely with some vocal recordings.

Recording history

Do your parents have a box of old photographs with no identifying features?  Does your favorite aunt keep trying to give you memorabilia from her days as a roving reporter?  Does your grandfather regale you with stories and offer you tokens of his adventures?
 
You might value the collections and want to restore them for display and sharing.  Or it might be that you want to learn the stories behind accumulated stuff that has come into your possession.  Or maybe you don’t even want all the treasures but  you  want to be sure that their tales are not lost.  Whatever the reason, now is the time to record some of those details.
  • Sit down with your Mom and Dad and have them tell you about the people, places and events in those old images.
  • Interview your aunt about her days on the beat and have her tell you about the people she met and the meaning of all that memorabilia.
  • Listen to your grandfather retell his stories and hear them with new attention – ask questions, make note and seek details.
Taking the time to do this will ensure that history is not lost.  Start now.  Make a date to connect.  Don’t wait and later regret not asking the questions.
 
It is not really that long ago that the source of much of our family histories were from the oral tradition and reminiscences of people who lived it.  Maintain that tradition and speak to older family members to learn about your family history.

8 Tips for conducting an oral interview

  1. Ask permission to take notes or record the discussion.
  2. Have a list of questions to start the conversation but don’t be too tied to a specific list or order. Be able to change course according to the whims of the speaker.  Ask follow-up questions and be flexible.
  3. Start with brief, biographical questions for context and to help your subject relax.
  4. Use open ended questions that invite a detailed response rather than a yes / no answer.
  5. Give the person time to think and answer.  Be prepared to wait and learn to be comfortable with silence.
  6. Be an active listener and check understanding of words, phrases and references.
  7. Rather than one long marathon session, plan on multiple smaller ones.
  8. Make notes shortly after the conversation while it is fresh in your mind.

Most people welcome the opportunity to share their stories. For you, it can be gift, a chance to spend some time connecting with family and friends.  I remember a few sessions when I encouraged my parents to label pictures and they brought out one of the boxes then went back and forth with stories while I noted details on the backs of the photos they described. Those were fun evenings with lots of laughter. I feel lucky to have shared that time with them and only wish we had done it more often.    Now they have gone and there is still so much I wished that I had asked.

 Time to connect and gather the stories is never wasted. So, you might want to decline the generous offer of a stuffed swordfish but don’t miss the chance to hear its meaning.  Invite Gramps to pose with his trophy fish and tell you again about the day he caught it – and how it fought the good fight.  You’ll be glad that you did!
 

KTS – A Two Part Challenge

I’ve broken my Keep The Stories project to a two part challenge. The first step is to capture the moments so you can tackle the second part and reduce the “stuff”.  It’s a simple idea but not always as simple in practice.

Part 1: Capture the Moments

Find ways to capture the stories of your life – from the everyday routine to the once-in-a-lifetime moments. Express your stories in ways that work for you. Use the same approach or mix it up as the mood strikes you. Use one style or many, in sequence or in combination.   Keep your creation private or share it with the world in print or online.

  • Shoot a photograph
  • Scrapbook (digital or traditional)
  • Write a song, a poem, an essay – or a blog post
  • Make an audio recording or a short movie
  • Stitch a quilt
  • Paint a picture
  • Incorporate the object into a unique piece of art

How will you capture your moments?

Part 2: Reduce the Stuff

Once you have captured the story, it is time to let go of the stuff.  Having a ritual might help.  In my case, I’ve decided to tell the next chapter and include what happens next to finish the story.  I’ve created a worksheet for telling the stories and have a section for the next step for each item. So far I’ve   identified donate, reuse, recycle/freecycle (http://www.freecycle.org/ to find a location near you), trash (sometimes it is the best or only option but I use this as my last resort).

I am accepting that it isn’t necessary to keep the things we associate with memories and finally getting rid of the stuff, though there is a still a way to go.

Take the challenge to keep the stories and lose the stuff.  Reduce the clutter, reorganize and change the way you think about the things. Recycle, repurpose or donate.

Do you have rituals that help you let things go?  Share in the comments.