Reschool Yourself

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Top 10 Things On My Radar This Week

Throughout the coming year, I plan to share the variety of things I’m learning and doing. Here are the top items that I’ve been introduced to or have been thinking about this week. Here they are, in no particular order.

1) Online To-Do lists may finally rid me of my crumpled Post-It collection.

crumpledI’m notorious for scrawling countless To-Do lists on everything from yellow pads to napkins, and it adds up to a whole lotta crazy. Today my sister tipped me off to Tadalist.com, a free site where you can create lists of tasks that you can check off as you complete them. I admit to adding “eat breakfast” and “watch 27 Dresses DVD” just so I can feel accomplished. One day I will graduate to more advanced project management software like Base Camp with milestones and file sharing and other fancy pants features.

2) Though it’s not advertised, compost can go in the yard debris bin.

In San Francisco, the city picks up compost bins in addition to garbage and recycling. Sonoma doesn’t — but they do have one for yard trimmings. Turns out that any organic material besides meat and dairy products can go in this bin. Eggshells, coffee grounds, and fruit pits are fair game. It makes me very, very happy to know that my banana peels will be fertilizing grapevines instead of being held captive for hundreds of years inside a plastic bag.

3) Technobabble isn’t all that scary when you have a secret decoder ring called “The Google.”

Who knew that the solution to most tech issues floats freely about the Interweb? From a quick Google search, I learned that you use an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site to store files online and transfer them between computers. I learned how to change the look of my blog (you’ll notice the makeover) and how to edit bits of HTML code to adjust text and pictures. You can usually find a forum or article dumbed down enough for young children and technophobes to understand.

4) My most productive work hours are often between the hours of 4 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Midnight

Now that I’m doing freelance writing, I’ve been frustrated that every day I stay up and get up late, exercise, catch up on email, and suddenly it’s gettin’ on to 5:00. Most people have gotten in a full day’s work, while I’ve only brushed my teeth and found three new Facebook friends. I’ve begun to give myself permission to putter around in my pajamas until the afternoon, since I know that I’ll be on my laptop until the wee hours of the morn.

5) A lot of my friends have blogs that rock, and I’m not just sayin’ that.

Heather keeps a blog about her devoted foodie-ness. Her husband Grant posts about everything from sick and twisted gingerbread houses to musical ESP. My sister, Gill, writes about planning a wedding without losing her soul by reading Modern Bride. Her fiance, Brian, shares what it’s like to be stationed on a military base in Iraq. Kathleen is documenting her quest for U.S./E.U. dual citizenship, and Katie is writing about moving to Chicago and starting a new life. This is not to mention the hilarious Chuck, Lisa, Keane, and a few others who will remain nameless because they keep their blogs a secret. (Hint: Find them in my Blogroll.)

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Cutting Ambition Down to Size

GinsuMy Facebook status update for today is: “Melia wants just one moment without ambition.” What would it feel like, I wonder, to be completely content with something that’s merely good, rather than great? I honestly can’t imagine. When faced with any task, I feel compelled to do it as well as it can humanly be done, and I’m constantly surprised when it ends up making me unhappy. Here are just a few pieces of evidence.

Exhibit A: Girls’ Dinners. My girlfriends and I have regular dinners where we take turns cooking for each other. When it’s my turn, a simple idea like “Spanish food” grows into a culinary tour through the regions of my beloved España. The meal might begin with a three-cheese plate served with a baguette and red wine from the Penedès region, followed by a tortilla española and sautéed spinach with toasted pine nuts and plump raisins, culminating in a dessert of flan drizzled with caramel sauce. As you’d expect, I always run out of time and end up ignoring my friends while rushing to prepare this type of gourmet meal on my own. I use every dish in the house and most likely end up flipping the tortilla onto the floor, blackening the pine nuts, and realizing too late that the flan needs to be chilled for an hour before serving. Then I proceed to pout throughout the meal while my friends assure me that it’s delicious. ¡Que aproveche! Bon appetit!

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My Day of Doing “Nothing”

I am writing from the same couch where you could have found me over 24 hours ago, wearing the same pajamas. I haven’t showered or put in my contact lenses, and I have crossed off a grand total of one item — a brief phone call — from my Saturday To-Do list.

To my usual self, it would appear that I have done nothing today. My usual self would be annoyed about all the items left for tomorrow. It would sigh and fret over the opportunities missed by spending a full day vegging out. My enlightened self, on the other hand, that fleeting self that I’m always chasing, knows that I’ve accomplished a lot more in my day of doing nothing than one would think.

If it weren’t for my throbbing headache, the one that has stayed with me on and off for days, I would have gone through with the day’s agenda. I would have walked over to the Carnaval parade before going to the bank, two grocery stores, and the gym. I would have done the sinkful of dirty dishes and vacuumed the rug, then would have driven an hour to a friend’s graduation party. I might have then stopped by another friend’s birthday at a beach located an hour in the other direction before driving home. But my headache kept me glued to the couch, too exhausted even to get up and brush my teeth.

I almost never get headaches, but for the past couple of months a potpourri of health issues has started cropping up, practically a new one each day. It’s like the menu du jour in hell: “What’ll it be today: the cracked lips or the numb toes?” I know that I’d be healthy if I could just listen to my body’s needs, sleeping when I’m tired and exercising when I’m restless instead of pushing through physical fatigue in order to do more. I pulled an all-nighter last Wednesday to complete a copywriting assignment, and at 5 a.m. the anxious tightness in my chest that has been growing for months screamed at me, “You need to stop and breathe!” But I could not take a full breath, and being on deadline, I ignored my body’s warning signals and soldiered on.

I’ve been this way since I was little, not wanting to miss out on anything, trying to cram as much activity into a day as humanly possible. My mom loves to remind me of how, as a toddler at naptime, I’d tell her, “I’m not tired! I don’t want a nap! I—” and fall asleep mid-sentence. There’s even a photograph of me (see above) reading two books at once with a bottle dangling from my mouth, eyes at half-mast, my mind fighting off the sleep my body knows it needs.

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All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten

“All I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten” was just a cutesy saying for me until I actually spent a day with kindergarteners. Now I understand.

I visited the kindergarten class in order to generate ideas for the first phase of Reschool Yourself, to decide  what I’d like to do in my old classrooms. I spent the day observing and interacting with the kids, ages five and six. I cut a cardboard box into a stage for a puppet show, listened to a story, and watched the kids practice movement and dance. I agreed to play tag at recess, and only then was informed that I was “always it.” As I chased the kids around the jungle gym, they joyfully teased me by sticking out their tongues and taunting me with singsongs of “Nanny nanny, foo foo.”

The day’s activities began with Kid Writing, a time for students to draw pictures in their personal journals and practice writing about them.

Max 2“Do you have a kid journal?” a boy named Max asked me. I told him that I didn’t.

“I’ll make you one,” he said.

He disappeared and then returned within a few minutes, presenting me with a paper booklet neatly stapled down the side. He had trimmed the side of the page “to make it look nice” and had printed the words, “Melia AND THE” on the fluorescent pink cover.

“Melia and the what?” I asked him.

“That’s up to you,” he said.

I raised my eyebrows, impressed by this 6-year-old sage. “Hmm, I’m not sure how to finish that,” I said. “I’ll have to think about it.”

Max looked me straight in the eye. “Sometimes it’s good to just do what you want to do,” he told me. “Sometimes that’s the best thing.”

I told Max that this was such great advice that I would write it down. I printed his words in oil pastel inside my new journal, on the paper with dotted lines for handwriting practice. When I showed him his own words on the page, he said, “This will be on the first page to remind you, for life.” This kid was a regular Yoda. I wished I could shrink him down to pocket-size and carry him around with me—my own insightful little Pez dispenser.

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I could have an itinerary, but I don’t want to

People have been asking me what my year of reschooling will look like: how long I plan to spend in my old classrooms, where I plan to go during my travels, what I plan to do when I get to each location. I haven’t known what to say, and the question has begun to stress me out. Until now, I had been planning from a practical standpoint: I would spend a few days in each grade at my old schools from August to December, then travel from January to June with a pre-determined itinerary. This plan made sense — I could find a place to stay and make arrangements for the learning opportunities in each location, well in advance of my arrival. But making a schedule seemed arbitrary and limiting.

I have been basing these plans on what makes practical sense, or what I think I should do, rather than what I really want to do. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less sure of what it is that I want to do. I have so lost touch with my own intuition that making even the smallest decision becomes a cosmic crisis. Should I wear the black skirt or the jeans? Should I go jogging or lift weights? In line at Tartine Bakery, I nearly hyperventilate when faced with all my options — should I order the almond croissant or the chocolate? Or the bread pudding? My life is so hard!

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