Unscheduling

Now that business has slowed to a more manageable, and some would say sane, pace, I’ve found myself with more time to rest. Not just sleeping more than a few hours at night but throughout the day by being truly present.

Right now for example I can hear the ginger ale fizzing in the can on my desk. It’s quiet, barely a whisper but without a call to attend, audios to review, music blaring, dogs barking and IMs chiming I can hear it clearly.

I do enjoy the fast pace of my life and habits but no longer want that non-stop demanding routine. I don’t want the routine that looks ideal on paper and sketches out every minute of our waking lives down to the minute. Those lists were fun to make when I worked a soul deadening desk job and wasted hours dreaming about being more productive at home.

But living by a list is not really living – it’s just completing tasks like a robot.

Such as right now, I “should” complete this post but instead I need to clean up some broken glass, I want to sort the recycling and turn on the fan. So that’s what I’m going to do.

When I consider my mental to do list of the prints I want to purchase or organization projects to complete, or even see my projects page it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s also tempting to get caught in a world of “when” such as ‘when my files are all digital and my office is paperless’ or ‘when I have new floors installed’ or ‘when I can afford new gutters and painting the exterior.’

What happens ‘when’ all of those things are done? Likely I’ve already moved on to the next project in front of me. You see this all the time with bloggers who put a pathway in their garden and then pull it out next year. Who paint a piece of furniture only to later distress it then repaint it, then strip it.

It’s decision ADD and if we are caught in constantly looking for something else to change or do then we’re not present to what is right now.

Right now my guest room has awful, stained carpet. It’s clean but that’s about the only thing good about it. But when I’m on the yoga mat, writing in that room or simply enjoying 5 minutes of silence while sitting on the floor, I’m not thinking about the carpet. I’m not mentally comparing the options for hardwood or the sq footage or the cost. I’m not even mentally emptying the room and thinking of where all the furniture will go during installation.

Yes, I think of those things years ahead of time. Yes, I’m weird.

These patterns leave us spinning and unsatisfied, especially if instead of appreciating my yoga time I’m focusing on the flooring. When I’m installing the flooring I could likely be worrying about the ceiling fan. When replacing the ceiling fan I’ll be thinking ahead about the windows. Stop, appreciate and rest.

So that’s my challenge today for you to stay completely present to the world around you. Appreciate what you have, where you are, what you’re experiencing in this moment.

I didn’t plan on taking pictures of the dogs today but Nixon sat still long enough for me to do just that.

The unscripted times are so much better than any list I could create.

 

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Starting the Week

…with coffee, swinging on the bench and old man slippers.

Why? Because coffee is the nectar of life and no one sells cute ladies slippers in August.

Love sitting out here under the maple tree and really appreciating the beauty of these leaves before falls turns them a new hue.

As challenged by Leo Babauta in this post on Zen Habits, it’s time to stop and appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t. Enjoy where you are, not where you want to be. Or as Leo says:

if you always worry about what you’re missing out on, you will miss out on what you already have.

This morning I have coffee (hallelujah), engaging work, amazing colleagues and clients, the silence of the morning, and these flowers

Also 20 quiet minutes before the dogs demanded breakfast.

Still More Door Updates

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m still working on the door hardware, with 6 internal doors and 2 that lead outdoors, I have a lot of work to do.

After replacing the door knobs the next step was to work on the hinges. I had two spare sets from taking down the office door so I set up a system to replacing them (I’m a big systems gal, see here for the background on that).

But first I want to issue my first retraction! It’s sad that this is exciting, right? Right.

Whatever, I want to formally say DO NOT follow my advice to tape off your door knobs when painting doors:

as referenced in this post.

Just don’t do it kids. Honestly. Why? you ask? Well it’s way too much work to keep your paint even and undrippy.

See:

I only did it because I was irrationally afraid of being unable to reinstall the door knob and either being stuck in the bathroom or having Dad come to fix ’em.

Dad’s a civil engineer by the way so the mocking would be unending, not to mention another mechanical engineer I know who would never let me live that down.

As someone who has now removed 5 door knobs and seen the aftermath of that bad decision I implore you: don’t do it.

Because it’s so easy to remove them, even if you’re not spray paint happy like me. Ready? I’ll show you how:

1. Locate the door knob and screws

2. Using a Phillips head screwdriver take out the screws, they’re pretty long

3. Use some sort of container to store all the pieces together (I like old butter containers and melted tupperware pieces for this).

4. Gently pry out the inner knob, if you’ve already slapped some paint on it may peel. Oops.

5. Remove the outer knob

6. Now all you’re left with is the latch and it can be in pretty tight. To get this one out I had to use the screw driver laced through the opening as a level to pull the latch towards me.

7. On the door frame you’ll want to remove the strike plate which is usually held in with two wood screws.

And if the terminology is making your head hurt here is the most simple diagram I could find:

Then when you have a nekkid door you can paint the whole thing. Don’t even try painting 95% of it and then removing the handles. Nope. Because when you use a paint roller you can evenly coat the entire door surface. Once you get 2 coats on the areas you did not cover will always be a little wonky.

That’s the technical term: wonky.

It probably took me 50% more time to make sure the paint around the door knobs were even, not drippy and lacking of wonkiness before I could reinstall the new painted pieces than if I had done it properly the first time.

Now, I know what you’re thinking,

“removing them is easy but what about reinstalling without getting trapped in the bathroom?!”

Well, bring your cell phone and a magazine…. no, you’re not going to get trapped inside. Unless you’re really bad at following directions.

So here are the reinstall directions:

1. While they’re off the door go ahead and clean up the door knobs. Clean off the dirt at least. Maybe polish them up. Go ORB crazy and give them a new finish.

2. Bring everything with you, all of the screws you used and the Phillips head screwdriver. This is where having those individual containers comes in super handy.

3. Start by placing the latch into the door and set it so that the curved part will hit the striker on the door and push in.

4. Then add the outside knob (the one with the long pieces that thread through the latch). If your knob is like mind and has a handle (not just round) then you’ll want to arrange it so the handle doesn’t get in the way of the door closing. Just a suggestion.

5. Keep the door open and line up the inside knob (again keeping the handle lined up so the door will actually close) and insert the screws. The screws need to go through the outer handle, through the latch and line up with the inner handle. Make sure they’re lined up and then screw in.

6. Now you’re pretty much done. Screw in the strike plate on the door and then test the door knob a few times. When you turn it does the latch open and close? When you lock it does the knob lock and stop turning? If it all seems copacetic then test it out.

One Big Project

All the little projects I’ve been accomplishing have been great but in the last few weeks I’ve completed a huge project that had hundreds of small steps involved.

I just had to share because I’m so proud of it and it’s been two years in the making. I’ll give you the whole story in a bit but first, for the impatient among us here it is:

My new business site www.kellyazevedo.com which is a compilation of resources for online entrepreneurs ready to build their business and grow with the support of systems and teams.

Check it out if you’re just curious about what I’m doing and the tools I offer or especially if you run or are thinking of starting an online business.

I built this business because as much as I love working in online businesses I find myself frustrated with lack of clarity – how things work, what steps we take in a given situation, how to get things done. And I’ve seen that the entrepreneur who doesn’t have these things in place cannot grow beyond the day to day operations.

How did I arrive here?

Let’s back up two years to the fateful day when I was laid off from my “good” job working with an electrical firm in Sacramento. I’d learned a lot and implemented some new systems which increased my productivity. Which was important because I carried two positions: one in purchasing keeping the catalog up to date, pricing orders and proofing purchase orders and the second position in accounting setting up service jobs, billing and collecting accounts and serving 5 project managers.

I loved the work I did because I was able to work very efficiently. While I didn’t really like my crazy co-workers, the company was good to me.

And then I got laid off.

I didn’t mention it much because I was too focused on finding another job. Another job was secured within 2 weeks but it wasn’t exactly a step up. Less pay, fewer hours and more crazy co-workers.

The only solid benefit to the new job was the short commute: under 5 minutes in the worst traffic. I could walk to work in 20, mostly because I had to navigate the schools that were like strategic landmines between my home and office.

But within 3 months of the new job I was ready to move on. Why? Because my official review was “you do great work, your systems are efficient so we’re cutting your hours.”

Once I heard that I knew something had to change.  And it took me over a year, some false starts, bad ideas, good connections, hard luck and the desire to keep working. Now, eighteen months into this pursuit, I’m ready to launch the business I’ve been building with the new website to serve the people I love.

It’s been interesting to identify in myself how I’ve created systems all around my life

  • a method of playing Word Search that allows me to find words in under 4 seconds
  • systems for email filtering and labeling photos, transferring data and filing
  • a way of shopping that cuts down the time I spend in the store and unloading groceries at home
  • calendar tricks that enabled me to serve several overbooked entrepreneurs with very few hitches
  • email tracking systems to follow up on tasks, assignments and requests
  • hacks to assembling jigsaw puzzles, cleaning and feeding my dogs

And I was able to trace my love of systems back to a very young age. My mom recently told me the story of taking me to the grocery store. At the checkout stand 98% of kids would grab candy from the display shouting ‘buy me this! I want this one!’ I was the exception as I would rearrange the candy to straighten things up ‘this candy goes there and this one belongs there…’

Yes, I was a strange child.

But I come by this naturally and it’s honestly so much fun to do on a daily basis. Instead of looking for a desk job that would appreciate my talents locally (because I honestly hate commuting and don’t want to move) I decided to do my work with online businesses.

It’s going to be a wild ride, I’d love if you took a look, share your thoughts and share with your friends who might be interested as well.

~Kelly

10 Years Time

I’m sure many people will be reminiscing today about the events of 9/11/2001 and where they were, what they felt and the aftermath.

I don’t have a dramatic story, had never even been to New York, and yet, like many Americans, I reflect on that time.

In 2001

I was a senior in high school, just a few weeks into the year. After a disastrous junior year (that culminated in my ditching class during finals week and telling a certain teacher to kiss a certain part of my anatomy…) I had successfully negotiated the easiest schedule possible for my final year.

While I did walk out my junior year and promised never to return, I had so few credits to finish that I needed just economics and one semester of civics to graduate. I decided to add on Honors Anatomy and AP English just for funsies.

But the rest of my schedule was cake: bible, off campus for an hour, TA, aforementioned civics. It was a Tuesday and thanks to my brilliant block scheduling I didn’t have to be awake and to school until 10am. Thus, I was initially furious when my mom woke me at 6am, telling me to go turn on the tv.

I watched the smoldering Pentagon from the safety of my California home and my mind raced. I watched the towers crumble and fall one by one and my heart sank with them. I couldn’t imagine the chaos, I couldn’t understand the why.

My first thought was Evelyn, the matriarch of close family friends who I had interviewed my junior year for a Living History project. Evelyn had lived through wars, lost a husband in one, seen and experienced so many things. Unfortunately Evelyn had died in early September and I was still reeling from her funeral. How could she not be there to talk to me? To help me understand?

So I left for school, desperate to be around people I could talk to and on my way stopped at the grocery store for breakfast. I remember talking to the man at the checkout and he was the first to tell me,

“They think it was Osama bin Laden.”

And I had no earthly idea who that was, what he believed, where he lived or why he wanted to crash planes into buildings and fields to kill Americans.

I reached school before the bell even though I didn’t have class. We congregated in the parking lot, talking and hugging, praying and crying. Some people had family in New York, friends who might be on a plane in Boston.

Even all the way out in California we were trying to reach everyone close and ensure they were safe.

It was Picture Day. If you look through my Senior yearbook you’ll see a lot of dazed expressions on the underclassmen, very few meticulously chosen outfits and perfectly styled hair.

Everyone was in shock.

And I remember my friend Rachel coming up to us like nothing was wrong and carefully asking her, “did you watch the news or listen to the radio this morning?” She said no and we explained, as best we could, what was happening in our country.

As you all know, in the days, weeks and months following we were a different country. The members of Congress stopped bickering and sang on the steps of the Capitol building. The President had bipartisan support as we sought answers to the who and the why. The overriding focus was to find survivors, protect our borders and keep our nation safe. The Nation drew its strength from each other and we believed that we could overcome.

One Year Later…

I was in college in Virginia. I’d seen the Pentagon up close when Mom & Dad drove me from DC down to the university and we’d spoken to people who lost family in the crash.

We learned that our family was closer to tragedy than realized as my mom’s best friend (more like an aunt to me) heard days later that her nephew was piloting a plane out of Boston and was on the tarmac behind one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers. His plane was grounded but he was one of the first to note the plane wasn’t communicating with the tower. It had already been hijacked.

I was on the college debate team and immersed myself in the world of politics and international relations, hegemony and isolationism. It was empowering to go from a place of complete ignorance about the world and how we were perceived in it to understanding how US policies reflected around the world. And the consequences.

I went to my first and only “remembering 9/11” event and as we sat in the bleachers listening as a droning voice read off thousands of names, none of which I knew, I understood that my choice was to reflect once a year on the bad things that killed so many OR to do things differently every day of my life to honor theirs.

Ten Years Later…

These days I don’t have cable tv and I avoid most of the news of the world. In fact the only reason I learned Osama bin Laden had been killed at the same time as the rest of America was that I had taken an impromptu trip to the beach and every channel had the same news conference.

In 2011, I still wish I could talk to Evelyn, hear her wise words on how to deal with these events that irrevocably change my life and the lives of all Americans. While I do know more about the world, the politics, the religions and the beliefs, I don’t focus on them. I know that these things do affect me, that it could mean terror attacks in my city, on my plane, directly impacting my family. But I recognize that my control over those things are limited.

It’s easy to become paralyzed in fear. It’s easy to be caught up in despair. It’s comfortable to operate from hate. But those ways make me a victim, continually.

This year I traveled to New York and despite every criminal procedural tv show telling me the risks I rode the subway, the train, I flew in and out of major cities and visited some beautiful targets… I mean buildings.

I was fortunate enough on my final day to take the observatory tour of the Empire State Building (unfortunately hauling along all of my luggage). Standing up there, seeing the new skyline of New York I thought about the people on this very tour the day of 9/11. What did they see? How did they watch? Did the run, cram into elevators and take 100 flights of stairs down to the street, fearful this building would be next?

It also made me wonder how many people would not visit such a great city like New York from fear. How many people were not pursing their dreams because of worries about the economy. How many people are holding themselves back from their full potential out of misguided attempts to keep from losing something important.

I know that the most important way I can honor all of the victims of 9/11, including those who have died in the military defending our country, is not to light a candle, say a prayer or thanks or hang a flag. It’s much more than that. Every day I have to face my fears, get my ass out of my comfort zone and change the world. While I understand politics and international relations more now than a decade ago I don’t despair knowing I can’t influence the likes of Osama bin Laden. I rejoice in the fact that I can change my world, I can influence people around me and that is the biggest lesson 9/11 taught me.

That and I’m very proud to be an American.

Lots of Little Projects

There’s been a lot going on lately and I’m working on small projects around the house. First up is updating the door hinges to match the new door knobs:

See how ugly they were? With the paint settled into the grooves of the screws it’s really hard to remove the hinges. After some work I was able to get them off and replace with a new hinge that has been painted with oil rubbed bronze paint.

Much better. I finished the main bathroom door and the set of hinges I removed are painted and curing. Next up is working on the bathrooms.

The work goes a bit slow because I have been touching up the paint around the hinges and that takes awhile to dry.

Next up is these cork boards that I picked up at work over a year ago (headed for the trash):

First I peeled off the border which was already coming apart. I used fabric that I picked up at the store for $1/a remnant and centered it on the front of the cork board.

I pulled it tight and began to staple, first on each side to anchor and then around the edges, trimming the excess fabric at the end.

Before I put them up I’ll need to secure something on the back for hanging but I’m thinking of using the few hundred push pins I have in my office supply stash. I think both cork boards look good!

Final project was something simple enough. I decided to clean and polish up my faucets which were looking pretty bad. Like my master bath:

Yeah… that’s dust. Plus a good amount of water drops, some paint splatter from cleaning brushes and deposits from hard water.

First was a Lysol bathroom cleaner

And that cleaned most of it. But once it was dried I still needed a little shine. So I tried a tip I’d read about months ago, to use car wax to protect the faucet from water spots. It looked pretty good after the waxing:
After the bathroom faucet I did the second bathroom and then the kitchen. You can really see the difference in the kitchen. Before:

After:

Not bad! Next up is cleaning the fridge and freezer I got for free and I’ll be reinstalling all the drawers, shelves and such this weekend. There’s still a little more cleaning to do and while the unit is cooling down I need to make sure there’s nothing growing.

Rocks in my Yard

It was 2 years ago now that I completed an ambitious and completely insane ’99 things in 99 days’ list. One of those items was to finally remove the rocks that were lying in a shallow planter outside my living room window and move them into boxes.

Where the boxes have sat for the last 24 months. At one point a neighbor wanted to use them to line her grass (? what the…?) but then moved out. So it wasn’t until I started my Project page that I came up with an idea to get the rocks out of my garage and make them useful again.

Idea #1

Sometime in the last 2 years I stopped using these holders for my garden hose. They seemed to be taking up too much room, were tethered too closely to the faucet and the hose always kinked. Plus the connections were bad so moving anywhere close to the holder meant getting soaked.

This summer though I decided to give them another try (they weren’t cheap even on sale) and made some changes.

I replaced the hose that connects the faucet to the holder thingy with new ones from Wal-Mart. These were maybe $6 or $7 each. This solved the water spraying everywhere problem.

After really rinsing off the cobwebs, the bugs, dirt and a few snails I decided to keep these as clean as possible, even if they were sitting in the dirt.

The solution was the rocks. By using the largest and flattest rocks I created a layer between the dirt and my garden hose so that it doesn’t get all mucked up every time I use it. And since I try to get outside and water the potted plants every day, it saves me a lot of muckyness.

The last piece of this solution was to completely untangle the hose, lay it flat and then roll it up. By doing this I can halfway unravel the hose and still use it as intended.

Now by this point I had about half a box left and didn’t want to revert to my original plan to put one in the trash every week until they were gone. Thus,

Idea #2

The last time I really did anything to that original patch of dirt from whence the rocks came was when I moved out some of the tins to use them in another area.

I was left with this:

The impatiens I planted were doing well in one corner but the rest had died out. And what was worse, the damn cats were using the other end of this rectangle as a litter box!

My initial solution was to fill the area with mouse traps, covered by a thin layer of dirt. If pain didn’t keep the felines away then I would escalate the plan of attack.

Only one thing stopped me. Thanks to my non existent short term memory I would likely be the victim of my own prank. Drat.

Thus the Plan B which was to fill in the area that had just dirt with rocks as I’m pretty sure cats are too stupid and lack the opposible thumbs necessary to move large rocks in order to dig around in the dirt.

I didn’t quite have enough rocks so I put the watering cans there to take up space. Plus they’re easier to fill now because the runoff water just waters the flowers.

Small rocks

I mentioned in my Friday post that I had all these little rocks from the side yard that I’m gathering, mostly to get rid of the dead grass, weeds and junk that make the side of the house look ugly.

And I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with these yet. So far I’ve used them to weigh down pots as detailed in this post. Other than that I don’t know the fate of these rocks but I can say that after 2 years of looking at two HUGE boxes of heavy rocks and fearing what kind of spiders and other horrible things they contained, I’m glad I was able to reuse them.