Author Archives: Jay

MasterMind Program – Starting Soon in Madison!

On March 24 a group is going to be starting an exciting adventure in Madison. We’re going to be holding a MasterMind program. For those not familiar, a MasterMind program is a monthly meeting of individuals who are focused on making their goals into reality. We start the group by defining our goals, and meet the 4th Tuesday of every month (Except December 29) for a couple of hours in the evening. Between these meetings participants have a weekly meeting with their coaching partner that lasts about an hour.

I’ve really been looking forward to this group, which I’m facilitating. It’s a great opportunity to get serious about what I want to accomplish! This program was designed by Patricia Clason, the co-owner and director of the Center for Creative Learning in Milwaukee. We’ll also be including a slew of valuable resources designed and gathered by Patricia as part of the course.
If you are interested in participating, please download the flyer and registration form. And you can let me know if you have questions.
We can’t wait to start!

Two Down, Many to Go

Josh and I went to the Kalahari Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells to celebrate our second anniversary. I would normally eschew something so touristy (I am a snob in several ways…), yet Josh wanted to go somewhere warm. I was happy to go, especially since he got a special deal through work.

We arrived, as planned, before our room was ready, and went to the waterpark. There were, I dunno, a thousand people in there? The Lazy River wends its way through the whole place, which is punctuated by rides here and there, as well as four hot tubs.It wasn’t as warm as we were expecting–at first, anyway. we walked around for a bit, then went on a couple of the rides, then a couple laps of the Lazy River. What’s very cool is that they have single- and two-person innertubes. We jumped in a two-person and floated around, then went down more rides in that same tube. Then we went down a ride that used no tube–lie on your back, cross your legs (lest you want something unpleasant to happen) and put your hands behind your head. Unfortunately, I put my hands behind my neck, which did not serve the same purpose–I bumped my head. Not too bad. The ride itself was very fun! It involved shooting down a snaking tub into something large that was akin to a toilet bowl, then getting dumped unceremoniously into the pool below when the centrifigal force dropped. We had a lot of fun!

After a while we sat in the hot tub. However, after a few rides, we were warm enough everywhere in the park.

We went back to the room around 4:30 and had a nap, then got ready for dinner. We went to the Cheese Factory for dinner on Diane’s suggestion (thanks, Diane!). If you’re a Facebook member, you can read my review.

After dinner we went back and walked around the game area. Not so fun–lots of cheap, shiny things to attract kids’ attention. It just seemed kinda lame. However, we stopped and took a sequence of four pictures in one of those machines–that was fun. I’m attempting to get the picture up here or on Facebook and am being stopped at every turn–don’t know why.

We went back to the room and played a really fun game of Settlers of Catan cardgame. The game lasted 3 or 4 hours. I just squeaked out a win before Josh was about to take over and win.

What changed our plans was a call before dinner from the “showing line” that someone wanted to see the house a second time at noon the next day! We wanted to spend more time in the waterpark, but that was not meant to be. : ( However, we had a good time while we were there, and will probably go back another time.

Take Care of the Bacon, Y’All!

I think I got this from Merlin Mann. It works.

You already know what spam is–it’s the stuff you don’t want. Well, there are less-important emails you also received from organizations and other stuff you signed up for, but you don’t really want to read it often. This stuff is called bacon.
Bacon is really annoying in the inbox. I really just want to see email I’m interested in reading in my inbox. So I decided to do something about it. Since I use Outlook, I created a rule that puts emails from certain email addresses into a special folder called “Bacon” (oddly enough). I’ve placed this folder beneath my JunkMail folder. As new bacon arrives in my inbox, I add the new email to the rule I created.
Now when I check email, I see the emails I’m most interested in when looking at my Inbox. I then use the Unread Mail filter (saved to favorites) to quickly review all my Bacon and see if I want to read any of it. Otherwise, I can quickly delete.
I also have emails filing themselves upon arrival, and read them all in the Unread Mail filter. This is especially handy if you can predict the subject line (especially from mailing lists that put a prefix in the subject), or if the email is always from or sent to a specific email address.
This all makes email much more painless!
What other tricks do you use to help with your influx of emails? Please share in the comments!

A Dream

I had a very interesting dream the other night. It was brief, yet very emotionally vivid. I don’t often dream of such topics, yet I’ve been so troubled by the violence in the Middle East–maybe my brain was looking for some kind of resolution.

To begin, understand that the world in this dreamscape differs dramatically from the world in which we live. Here were the “facts” in my dream:
  • One of the worst things a Muslim or Jew could do cultuerally would be to use a comb that had been used by one in the other group. Kind of like how throwing a shoe is a significant form of disrespect.
  • Muslims and Jews wear a small piece of metal shaped something like a ring in their hair near their temple–on opposite sides. These rings are incredibly significant, and one would never go without wearing one, or wearing it on the “wrong” side.
It wasn’t clear in my dream which side was appropriate for which group. I should explain that my dreams are never very visual; they are more “situational.” I experience in dreams what I do when reading; I don’t dream in color, and images are never very distinct. I tend to know who someone is simply because I know who they are–not that they look like the person I know them to be. Also, sometimes I am a participant in the dream, sometimes I’m simply an observer, and sometimes I go back and forth. In this dream, I’m only an observer.
OK, so here’s the dream. It’s brief:
* * *
The setting is somewhere in the Middle East–somewhere where Muslims and Jews live in proximity to each other. Out in the open, as though it were a market or something. Daytime.
There is a small, simple stage with side curtains and a back curtain. Two men stand on the stage: one is Jewish and one is Muslim, but it’s not clear which is which (see how odd my dreams are?). They are doing some kind of impromptu performance. They are both passionate.
One of the men pulls out a comb and runs it through his hair. He hands it to the other man. The second man then runs the comb through his own hair. The crowd gasps.
The men then simultaneously flick the “rings” out of the hair at their temples, and they ping, ping, ping on the stage. A much louder gasp.
* * *
It was clear to me in the dream that these two men passionately yearned for peace. While coming from different faiths, they did this significant show of unity. The comb through both of their hair connected them. The flicking of the rings signified a refusal to any longer appear separate. While the image of the dream was very brief, it felt at the end that this ripple would continue to travel beyond them, and would not be stopped. People would tell the story of what they saw, and somehow understanding and Grace would travel with the story.
I long for a world where that happens.

"First Date?"

I wasn’t expecting a first date, but there it is. Josh was out of town; was I cheating on him? I was ironing clothes and getting cleaned up to look just right, taking great care with all appearances, there was even talk of mouthwash on Facebook. Being received positively was so important! What kind of first impression would I make? Would there be another meeting? Would the deal get closed?

OK, enough with the double-entendres (which really means I’m running out of ways to stretch it any more without horrible sentence structure). If you’re up to date on my life at all, you’ve probably already figured out I’m talking about the house: I listed on January 2 and today was the first open house.
While the place was in very good shape already, I wanted it to be perfect. This is a great place for my perfectionism to come out. I’ve had a basket of clothes thats needed ironing for months. I didn’t want the basket in the laundry room, so I ironed everything. By the time I was done doing that and laundry, it was quite late, and the only dirty clothes in the house were those on my body. While I don’t achieve it anywhere near what I’d like, I very much enjoy “a place for everything and everything in its place.”
I finished organizing some random packing boxes, and some loose odds and ends that hadn’t made their way into boxes yet. I cleaned this and that, vacuumed the entire main floor and polished all the floors (which really needed it—I hadn’t done it since construction was done).
I planned out everything to be done today, and got to bed late. This morning I did a few more things, then went to church. On the way home I stopped and got a wrap for lunch and flowers for the kitchen. I baked cookies (yes, I’m a completely house-selling whore), prepared the cats for our trek, turned the heat up to 70° and turned on all the lights. A few minute before 1 Connie showed up, and I stowed the three cats and me into my car; we were going to spend some quality time. Everything passed Connie’s inspection, so we were off.
Connie found out last week that there was going to be an Orchard Ridge Parade of Homes, and she got my house into it—great timing! So while she showed my house, I went to look at most of the others (there were 12 total). I got to 8 of them in two hours.
It was fun: I got an opportunity to see what the market by me was like. I’m happy to state that I’m positioned quite well. I enjoyed talking with the other Realtors, and was up-front that I was another house on the tour; no one seemed to mind. I walked into one house and a woman was ironing. Hm. I wasn’t aware that there were two houses on the tour that were being shown by the sellers. It was even ok with them; we had a nice chat. He enjoyed showing off his house, which deserved it: they’d done a nice job with it.
One beautiful, large, expensive house was vacant and all the storm windows were open! I informed the Realtor and we went about closing them all. Three of the houses had clear pet odor smells. I asked them if they’d like a recommendation (www.odormute.com), and all three jumped at it. It felt good to be able to help some people out. Some of the properties were in pretty rough shape (one in particular), and one small house was absolutely stunning: new maple floors (strip, not plank like mine), in-built maple cabinets with glass doors and lights, beautiful tile by the entry way and other finishes. The woman and her boyfriend had done much of it themselves. I was impressed, and glad that they were only a two-bedroom so that they weren’t my competition!
We got back at 3 and Connie waved me in—there was no one there presently. She said four couples came through, which is ok for an open house in January. She’d already prepared us that open houses don’t do a whole lot any more, although she always likes to have one after putting a house on the market. Tom, a previous owner, came by with his family and a few of my neighbors, and he left me a nice note. I asked Connie if anyone had critiques, and she said there wasn’t one. Everyone loved the floors, the sunroom, the other approvements and appointments, and someone even complimented the staging (points to Connie and Stacy for that one!). Many of the houses I saw weren’t depersonalized or staged that much; I was again thankful for my position.
I feel very good about the position of the house in the market, my price point, etc. Now that this “first date” is out of the way, I’m more relaxed. I can be myself a bit more.
I made way too many cookies. They’ll go to work tomorrow.
Forgive the shameless plug: see the house at www.1317RaeLane.com

One of the Gang

I had a neat experience at Home Despot [sic] yesterday. I went to get the LAST FOUR outlet plates for the kitchen. Of course I could only find two of the four I wanted. They apparently had five in stock, but at Home Creepo [Tim calls them that] all that stuff gets horribly mixed around.

The guy who was helping me got help from another guy at a computer, and a woman was standing by talking to him. I told them how I’d been at Home Depot, on average, once every day for the last two or three months. “To get these covers?” he asks. Funny. “No, I’ve been spending LOTS of money here renovating my house.” “And we appreciate it–we’ll miss you!” Nice.

When he mentioned there were only five in stock, and then mentioned there were 250 at the East Side location, I said that I’d send my boyfriend there after work to get them. They laughed. Not that I said it about a boyfriend specifically, but they got my light comment that I was delegating this responsibility to him.

I make a rule that when I’m in a situation where anyone else would mention their significant other, I do as well, regardless of the consequences (as long as people with white robs holding shotguns aren’t nearby). For a moment I lived in a world where the gender of my life partner didn’t matter.

I enjoyed it.

Is This What Civilized People Do?

Great day today. Josh and I had our Sunday-morning pancakes (he made them–wonderful), then church, then home to continue work on the house. I finished the drywall in the downstairs bedroom while he put the stew on to cook that he prepared last night. He made some bread (focacia), and I asked him to make an extra loaf of dough.

We installed all of the hardware in the bathroom (looks very nice). For five years I looked at a set of shelves that had been installed crooked over the toilet. Like 1/2″ off one side to the other–how does that happen? When I installed the new shelf it was crooked! I futzed with it, and it was just that the thing wasn’t seated properly. It’s now quite level, thank you very much.
I did something I haven’t done in about 30 years: I made cinnamon rolls! While they were rising and cooking we cleared all of the tools and extra stuff out of the living room–it had been the staging area during constructions. The furniture was all piled up (the cats loved the hiding places) and tools were everywhere. No more: it’s all out and vacuumed, and the furniture is set up. We filled all the nail holes, then sat down on the furniture for rolls and hot milk tea. We just sat there. And ate rolls. And drank tea. It was very odd.
Is this what civilized people do? Eat rolls and drink tea while sitting on furniture? Turn off lights using switches that have switch plates on them instead of seeing the wiring? Walking on vinyl and hardwoods instead of subfloors? Use the bathroom on the main floor instead of going down to the basement? Sit at the kitchen table for a meal instead of at the counter because the table is full of junk?
Hm. Civilized, eh? I like it!

Girlie Construction Men

Josh and I have been working our tails off recently on the house. Tonight as we sat down to dinner, we wondered whether other guys doing construction experience what we do.

This weekend we removed all cabinet doors in the kitchen, then removed their hardware, and painted them. We remediated the flooring in one room to prepare for hardwood floors. We installed a new toilet in the upstairs bathroom (except the water thingy is 1/2″ too short…). Since we got a bunch of veggies from the CSA on Thursday, Josh made a big stew, as well as two different kinds of squash, and a focacia bread.

So, after working hard all day in grungy clothes doing the above and a bunch of other stuff, we sat down to a candle-light dinner of food that was about the best I’ve tasted from Josh’s cooking–truly spectacular.

We decided other guys doing construction probably don’t do the same thing. :o)

Too busy now, and never fear: I’ll upload a bunch of renovation photos when we’re done. We have to get this house on the market!

See Obama Being Elected

I got this in email this morning and really liked it. Give it a try.

“….stay  at the center of the circle and let all things take their course….” Lao  Tzu

The  year is 2016. We glance at the television one morning and see Barack Obama  having another of his many press conferences. He has now been in office for almost 8 years.

It hasn’t been perfect, but  things are way better than when he took office in January of 2009. You  notice that his hair has whitened and he still has that winning smile and  that take charge/positive energy that he had when he was campaigning way  back in 2008.

You remember back to how  concerned you were about whether or not he would win in 2008 and you feel deeply contented that  he has been safely in office for such a long  time.

He and Congress have done much to address  global warming, health care, development of alternative energy sources and a  variety of other important matters to the country and the planet. You feel  deep gratitude for the past eight years and how things have  unfolded.

See it…

Feel  it…

Breathe it….

Pass it  on.

Lets stop fighting against McCain and Palin, and  start working ‘for’ Obama-Biden. Lets stop driving ourselves crazy with all  of the outrageous mind upsetting details about them and start remembering  all of the wonderful reasons we want  Obama.

THE CHALLENGE: take 30 seconds right now. Close your eyes and imagine exactly what  our country will feel like with President Obama.

Imagine  how good it will feel.

Imagine  whatever it is about him that you desire.

Imagine  the pride.

Imagine  the diplomacy.

Imagine  the peace.

Imagine the wind mills and the clean cars.

Imagine  the citizen groups.

Imagine the earth being healed and revitalized.

Imagine  being very proud of your country and its leader.

Imagine  whatever it is that draws you to support Obama.

Imagine  what your life will look like.

30 seconds. Do it several  times a day. We can shift and change the vibration of this country with  positive visions just like this. It’s only 30 seconds a few times a  day.

Zero Inbox

In a previous post I described the trials and tribulations of floods of email and living in that lake for way too long. I also described slashing and burning and emptying my inbox.

After that entry I was minimally successful at keeping my inbox empty. And I still had one very bad habit: if something arrived in my inbox that needed to be done but couldn’t happen right away, I left it there until I did it. When would I ever learn?
Well, the answer to that is August 22, 2008. I don’t remember where I got the link, and I found this page with a video by Merlin Mann talking about his Zero Inbox philosophy. None of the concepts were rocket science: there are 5 actions you can take on incoming emails:
  • Delete
  • Delegate
  • Respond
  • Defer
  • Do
Delete: I wasn’t deleting enough. Does everything really require a response? No. Delete.
Delegate: I’m a very compliant person. I’m very quick to take on too many responsibilities and say yes. I’m working on this (no, I didn’t buy any magazines for candles to the kid who came to my door yesterday, and I thanked him for offering). So for me, delegation starts with saying, NO I WILL NOT DO THIS–at least internally. Then ASK someone else to do it. I’ve been working on this one over the years and am getting better and better at it.
Respond: This one is not a challenge–I’m pretty quick to respond to people.
Defer: This one I was doing all wrong. I was deferring by letting it sit in my inbox. NO NO NO! I’ll get back to this in a second.
Do: I probably do too much of this. Just take the action now. Touch it once. The problem is that I can so easily get distracted by doing requests that come in that are of low importance or urgency, when there’s other more important and urgent things to do. So don’t do too much doing.
In Mann’s words, the most important thing to do when having an over-full inbox is to “simply stop sucking.” I love this! He suggested creating a DMZ folder (Google DMZ if you don’t know it) and putting all inbox contents there. Deal with that as you go, but don’t leave it in the inbox. Start fresh with the inbox and stop letting them pile up. This works! I stopped sucking immediately, and it felt great.
Getting back to the deferring, the inbox is NOT a successful way to defer. I now spend a bit more energy identifying the things I really want to do and saying no to those that I don’t or won’t. I then defer by putting the item in my calendar on the date I will do it.
If I take an action on an email by sending an inquiry, thus needing to wait for a response before more action, I flag the email as a task to complete, and put it in a new folder I created called “Waiting.”
If something is just kind of there–not really significant but I don’t want to lose it–I’ll flag it and add a reminder date, and stick it in the DMZ folder. Maybe not the best strategy, and at least it’s out of my inbox.
None of these concepts are new or earth-shattering–indeed, I learned most of these concepts from Patricia Clason years ago when I took her time management course. It simply took a decision to be really conscious and disciplined about it. Both of these ingredients are crucial to keeping an empty inbox, which for me means having a much more relaxed and orderly life. I continue to whittle down on the DMZ folder, and will one day perhaps delete it altogether (hopefully it will be empty. ;o}).
I’m practicing the same discipline on my desktop: nothing remains on it for more than a day. The receipts I put on from Home Depot last night I entered into Quicken this morning and filed, except for the return I have to make, so that is going out to be rubber-banded on the item and put into my trunk on the next visit.
I find as I follow these practices life is a lot more enjoyable. While I have experienced many long periods of having a buried desk and a flooded inbox, I know very viscerally that these things drain my energy and put me in a funk. Having clear space helps me feel like I can breathe.
How’s your breathing?