What Do You Do All Day?
(or "Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again")

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Virus 1; Me 0. OK, the only thing worse than being so busy you don't have time to breathe is being that busy and sick at the same time. It has not been a fun week. And to make things worse, it was my first full week without a babysitter, so not only did I have too much to do, and no energy to do it...but my work days just got three hours shorter. Can't even tell you how much longer that makes the "to do" lists.

Fighting Back

- Attended 8:30 a.m. budget meeting at neighborhood school and met with principal briefly afterward
- Answered a few urgent e-mails
- Wrote agenda & minutes for PTA Executive Board meeting
- Wrote agenda & minutes & action summary for PTA Parent meeting
- Answered a bit more e-mail
- Ordered pizza for PTA potluck
- Attended PTA board meeting
- Attended PTA membership meeting/potluck

posted by Elizabeth 11:36 AM

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Weekends Hate Me; They Really Hate Me

For the last week, I've been really stressing out about finishing the architecture plan for the church website, with very little time to work on it. But Friday night I finally found some time, and then a bit more on Saturday morning...so when I scheduled a Sunday afternoon playdate for Alex, which would give me a solid four-hour block of work time on Sunday, I was actually optimistic that I might be caught up by Monday morning.


Alex has had a cold for about a week, but aside from one earache, it hasn't been serious and hasn't kept him from fairly normal activity. On Friday, however, just as he should have been recovering, he seemed drippier and more congested again...and also had a headache for most of the day. It continued to get worse on Saturday. Then, on Saturday evening, he had a bit of a fever...and on Sunday morning he still had it, and the headache came back. He felt so crummy that even he agreed we should cancel the playdate (something he'd never say if he didn't really feel bad). So there went the work time. Didn't get even a single minute.

How the Work Time Disappears

- Dropped Alex off at a friend's house at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday and made it to a 9 a.m. meeting with a mortgage broker to discuss a possible refinance of our house. Took only five minutes to figure out the numbers just didn't make sense (we should have done it six months ago - that would have worked).
- Got home in time to squeeze in an hour of work before Alex came home.
- Biked en famile to the local library and checked out a stack of books.
- Came home to read e-mail while Dan and Alex biked to a burger place for lunch.
- Alex's friend came over to play for several hours, so I lightly supervised the playdate while doing a few weekend chores and researching books for book group pitches.
- Fed the boys dinner, then dropped Alex off at his cousin's so Dan and I could go to the book group meeting.
- Picked Alex up, got him to bed and conked out myself.
- On Sunday morning, got everyone out the door to the local coffee shop by 8:30, where Alex played on a computer and drank cocoa while Dan and I attended a neighborhood association board meeting.
- By the end of the meeting, Alex said his head hurt so bad he was dizzy, and on the way home we decided to cancel the afternoon playdate.
- Dan watched Alex for an hour while I ran out to church to pay for this year's silent auction wins.
- Came home, got Alex bathed and helped him write two blog posts. Then read to him while he did his handwriting practice (which always takes at least five times longer than it should).
- Ate dinner and wrote another blog post with Alex (at his request), and put him to bed.

posted by Elizabeth 9:17 PM

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Friday, March 04, 2011


Sometimes great, should-have-been-so-obvious-but-wasn't ideas just reach out and smack you in the head when you least expect it. I LOVE when that happens -- it's exactly the kind of re-energizing thing that keeps me going, especially when progress on so many other things has been sluggish for a long time.

The inconvenient thing about such brainstorms is they tend to hit when you really need to be doing something else, and it's really hard to steal time from the thing you should be working on to follow the energy flow of the new idea. Also, because you now want nothing more than to jump on the new idea, it's also hard to focus and concentrate on the same-old-same-old thing you really do need to be working on at that moment.

Which is exactly my struggle today. While doing our regular 7:30 Friday morning gardening at the neighborhood school I suddenly realized that a short garden update item in the school newsletter each week could help both staff and parents understand what the garden is all about (something we've been struggling with since we started the project). So of course I ran home and, instead of digging into the Neighborhood Council agenda that needs to be written by about noon today (and isn't started yet), I sat down and banged out the first sample garden story.

Now I'll be fighting that distraction all day.

Also, to make it worse, my partner in the new sort-of-business project had a brainstorm of her own this morning, called me to talk about it, and wants me to help implement it...which I'd love to do since it, too, is a great, why-didn't-we-think-of-this-before, "duh!" idea.

Despite the "Duh!" Distraction

- Pulled weeds for an hour in the neighborhood school garden (with our new volunteer - yay!)
- Wrote up sample garden story (which I'm hoping to turn into a weekly feature) for the neighborhood school newsletter
- Edited NC Land Use Committee meeting minutes that will be needed in preparing the board meeting agenda that's due today
- Talked to business partner about her big idea, which she wants me to help with (and with which I'd love to help)
- Caught up on several e-mails, invitations and contacts that affect the board meeting agenda that's due today
- Wrote board meeting agenda (including summaries of Land Use issues covered)
- Posted the agenda to the NC's website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, e-mail list and also e-mailed it to our local libraries
- Did weekly RE updates for church website
- Formatted and posted two months' worth of sermons to the church website
- Took Alex to a family movie night ("Finding Nemo"...in German) at his school
- Weathered several tantrums on the way to getting an over-tired Alex to bed late after the movie night
- Found a cool tool for testing website architecture and spent an hour and a half entering a proposed organization for the new church site
- Quit finally at 11 p.m.

posted by Elizabeth 9:19 AM

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Thursday, March 03, 2011


Seems like there's one day in every week where I'm just running from one thing to another all day, and not much else gets done. Today was that day.

Relay Points

- Attended 8:30 a.m. Neighborhood Council Outreach Committee meeting and met briefly with the NC treasurer after that to sign some paperwork.
- Picked up NC mail from post office box.
- Picked up my neighborhood school garden partner at her house and drove to the Valley to attend a Greening Schools meeting (learned some interesting things about why soil testing is necessary and how to get it scheduled and funded)
- Drove back to the neighborhood school to meet with a potential new volunteer who's looking for a school garden to get involved with
- Dropped off my garden partner at her house
- Home for lunch about 2:30
- Answered a bit of e-mail
- Returned phone call from neighborhood school principal regarding agenda for upcoming PTA meeting
- Did monthly church website updates
- Quit, exhausted, a little after 5 p.m.

posted by Elizabeth 5:10 PM

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Desk Days

Finally, a second day in a row where the path seems clear for productivity. It's amazing how much smoother things go when there are consecutive days for desk work. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to schedule desk days on my calendar, and try to work some of the meetings around them. As it is, when I get out of meetings now, very often, instead of going home to do the required follow-up tasks, I either rush directly into another meeting, or home to prepare for the next meeting...and then none of the real work gets done. As a result, desk days have come to feel almost like vacations, despite the fact that they're when I get my real work done. As if that makes any sense at all.

Desk Day Done

- Attended another 2-hour budget meeting at the neighborhood school
- Came home and answered a bit of urgent e-mail
- Did some online research on church website architecture for the church project and did a bit of brainstorming on how to organize a couple of sections of the new site
- Looked up a couple of corporate grant opportunities for the neighborhood school
- Printed out and filed information from Monday's subway station meeting
- Updated the grant opportunity "hot list" for Alex's school
- Went over the latest Neighborhood Council website comps and had a phone consultation with the designer to discuss minor changes and next steps
- Spoke with one of the vendors the NC has been trying to pay and finally got the payment worked out
- Filled out and pulled together documentation for several demand warrants and the quarterly credit card reconciliation report for the NC, so the treasurer can sign them at a meeting tomorrow morning

posted by Elizabeth 11:43 AM

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Fear is Good

Although it started out with a long morning meeting (which was supposed to have been two meetings; one of them got postponed), fear of completely dropping the ball on every last thing I'm working on finally got to me today. And fear has always been one of my best motivators.

What Fear Does

- Attended a 3-hour budget committee meeting at the neighborhood school
- Came home, updated the agenda for the postponed PTA executive board meeting
- E-mailed a person I've been needing to contact about doing a presentation to neighborhood school parents on the benefits of a 501(c)3 booster group for the school
- Wrote minutes for another school budget committee meeting tomorrow
- Uploaded photos and created a small photo album for shots from a recent church event on the church website (but broke something in the process...which I then wasted too much time trying unsuccessfully to fix)
- Fielded several calls from a friend trying to muddle through some computer problems and made an appointment to go help her next week
- Edited a couple of sermon audio recordings and caught up on about two weeks' worth of miscellaneous church website and mailing list updates
- Read and answered a lot more e-mail
- Put in an order for a captionist to help a deaf stakeholder at our NC board meeting next week
- Spent a bit of time researching books to pitch at this weekend's book group meeting

posted by Elizabeth 9:24 PM

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Monday, February 28, 2011


And so it begins again. Had great plans, as usual, but they were KO'd right at the start when Dan wasn't feeling well this morning...which meant I had to drive Alex and our carpool partner to school. And that, in turn, meant a 9 a.m. start to the work day instead of the hoped-for 7:30 a.m. start. Always throws me off. The good news is I will have a sitter for a while this afternoon, which will buy me a couple of extra hours there (though I'm never as productive in the late afternoon as I am in the early morning).

Fighting Back

- Drove Alex to school, ran a few laps with him, made sure his lunch money account was up to date
- Wrote agenda for NC Outreach Committee meeting
- Updated and distributed agenda for PTA executive board meeting
- Answered some e-mail, including a very welcome query from a potential school garden volunteer
- Attended a truly inspiring women's club lunch program on women's experiences in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee
- Conked out after the heavy southern soul-food lunch, and had to nap for a while
- Remained pretty foggy and unproductive for the rest of the afternoon
- Attended the first meeting of a Station Area Advisory Group I've been appointed to, which is discussing plans for an eventual subway station at Wilshire & La Brea
- Home around 8:30 and ready for bed

posted by Elizabeth 10:48 AM

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

Another weekend, that is...without catch-up time. Saturday the plan was to drop off Alex and a friend at a morning workshop, hang around for the two-hour class time (maybe get some reading done), then transport both boys home for lunch and take them later to the friend's house for the rest of the afternoon so I could work.

But it turned out the other boy wanted one of his own parents to drop them off, which meant I had a couple of hours free at home before going to pick them up. That was actually OK, because it gave me time to e-mail the neighborhood school's weekly newsletter, which I haven't had time to do for the last few weeks. Then I picked up the boys, gave them lunch and paid some bills while they played afterward.

Just as we were about to head off to the friend's house, however, another friend dropped in with her son, and it just seemed easier all around for everyone to stay here and play. So the rest of my afternoon turned into babysitting (and finishing up the bill paying, which was one small good thing).

The evening was spent feeding the trio of 7-year-olds and then, after they left, usual parent duties (Alex and I actually had a lovely time playing games and reading together). But then, although he got to bed on time, Alex woke up at 10:30 with an earache...and neither of us got to sleep until after midnight. Bleh.

Sunday morning was taken up getting Alex through his chores (bath, some handwriting practice), taking him over to the friend's house, and then heading off to church to pick something up and put in our bids for the annual silent auction. Got home, had lunch, and then ran out of steam from not getting enough sleep last night. Put dinner in the oven, then collapsed in front of the TV for an hour or so. And now it's too late, and I'm still too tired, to do much of anything productive except a few chores.


- Sent out neighborhood school newsletter e-mail
- Paid bills
- Got Alex through his weekly writing practice
- Ran church errands

posted by Elizabeth 4:33 PM

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Big Fat Zero

Ah, the best laid plans... Today was looking like a good opportunity to make some headway on at least a couple of fronts -- my only commitment was the weekly 7:30 a.m. Friday work hour in the neighborhood school garden. After that, I was wide open.

Except that Alex came home from school sniffling yesterday, and by evening it was clear he was coming down with a cold. By bedtime, he was so stuffy that he could hardly sleep. He woke up at 11 p.m., miserable, so I gave him some cold medicine. But neither of us got back to sleep until midnight...and then he was home from school today.

Dan was able to give me the early-morning hour for gardening, but after I got back, he had to spend the rest of the day getting ready for a talk he's giving at a conference tomorrow, so I had parent duty all day and all evening. Sum total for daily achievements: a big fat zero.

posted by Elizabeth 9:37 PM

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Getting Back on the Horse

Woke up at 2:30 this morning panicking about all the things I'm so behind on and feeling like I'll never catch up. Didn't get back to sleep until 4:30. Now, later in the morning, I'm still not feeling great - can't figure out if I'm getting sick, or just stressing out. Which is making it hard to get back up on the horse and start charging again, which I really need to do. I think the big things getting to me right now are the overdue work on the church project and trying to figure out how I can quit the two Neighborhood Council secretary jobs. I really, really need to...and can see no way out. But I'm going to have to get through one, if not both, of those challenges before I'll really start to feel better.

In the meantime, this gives me heart: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc It's exactly why I freelance and volunteer so much, and why I've turned down every long-term job offer I've received in the last 20 years.


- Went through a lot of e-mail
- Uploaded another month's worth of family photos to Flickr
- Attended a 1 1/2 hour webinar for the school book fair
- Updated grantwriting committee database and hot list for Alex's school

posted by Elizabeth 9:31 AM

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