Friday, January 31, 2014

March 17 Celebrates Many Things

St. Patrick's Day,
Evacuation Day,
& the Start of Spring!

Most people know March 15 is St. Patrick's Day and in some locales it is a recognized holiday with big parades. Few know much about the saint, except that he lived in Ireland a long time ago.

But I learned there are other interesting things associated with that day.

As a child, my mom (first-generation Irish born here) taught us about St. Patrick and each year we proudly carried an Irish flag and genuine shamrock to school on March 17, until one year. That year I no longer walked to the neighborhood school, but commuted to Boston, Massachusetts, every day. The trip took over an hour due to heavy traffic and waiting for the two buses, train, and then another bus. My schoolmates were nearly all of Irish descent.

After a while at the Boston school there was a mastery of the quirkiness of the old school building with its hundred-year-old desks, creaky wooden floors, mimeographed books, ink wells, and ancient water bubblers.

Eventually we neared mid-March. Our assignment was a written one, a contest, and the best essay could win a lot of money! With all the St. Patrick things at home it seemed an easy project. But the topic was not St. Patrick, it was "Evacuation Day." Hmmm, What was that?

The local librarian, not in Boston, found a one-sentence reference to Boston's Evacuation Day and it has nothing to do with St. Patrick, but everything Irish. The day commemorates George Washington driving the British forces out of Boston in 1776 at the beginning of the American Revolution. With Boston's large Irish population, the 17th of March was an obvious choice to establish the city's holiday in 1901. By 1941 the holiday was observed in all of Suffolk County by government offices and schools, but not most private businesses.

However, by 2010 it was decided that Evacuation Day should no longer be a holiday because of the expense of paying state and municipal workers for an extra day off. So March 17 has reverted to St Patrick once again.

Family traditions can be misunderstood and strange, too. One grandfather declared that spring always started on St. Patrick' day. At that date I always pulled out my summer clothes, even amid the snow, and was never reprimanded. A feat that always amazed me! Decades later and hundreds of miles away, I still believe grandpa was right because for a few days around March 17 robins flood this neighborhood during their migration.

Gramps told a lot of tales. Me? I tell a few and I make jewelry. Here are some St. Patrick's day earrings I made. More photos and sale info is available if you click the links.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Can We Vote Out This Rule?

Can We Please Cancel
the 80-20 Rule?

You know that rule, it has many expressions like 80% of the problems are caused by 20% of the issues, or, flipped over, 20% of the effort completes 80% of the work. You can spin this concept many ways and it seems to work well in all sorts of situations. This concept is also known as the Pareto principle, or the law of the vital few, and works in the natural world as well as business and economics.

What I find discouraging is that if 20% of the effort completes 80% of a project, then the final 20% of a project will require overwhelming effort -- 80%. Experience says this is true.

In practical terms, I have reorganized my office/work space for the most part (80%). The big things are moved, hooked up, reinstalled, and working. But it is those oddball piles of papers, magazines, gadgets, and whatnot that are not yet finalized. Are these my "vital few"? They create 80% of my frustration as they glare and scold all day long.

The quick solution is to sort: filing, trash, recycling, or shredding. Why is that so hard? In researching about the Pareto principle I discovered that a common misconception is that the numbers must add to 100. In a given situation 80-10 or 80-30 may be more accurate. All of which means there are many ways to stall that sorting process with research!

If you look ahead to St. Patrick's Day, here are a couple of my jewelry pieces that may provide 80% of your Gaelic wonder. The links go to my online shop where there are more details and images.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wonderful Shops of the Web
Sharing My Discoveries

There are so many shops online that searching for a particular item results in an overwhelming list of  where to purchase. Rather than helping, it can be discouraging.

So, from time to time I'd like to share some online shops I have found that are real treasures.

Today's shop is so appropriately called "Cozy." It is a place of comfortable and cozy handmade items and it will appeal to those looking for unusual and practical gifts.

Here's an example, a knit cotton hand or guest towel.
There are also very colorful and unique headbands, cotton washcloths and more. Take a look at this very Cozy shop and be amazed!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Creativity Takes Control

Important New Discovery!

Taming creative hurricanes

There comes a time when the swirl of projects, plans, failures, and successes becomes a hurricane of disaster. I seem to live in a place where cyclones happen more frequently inside my studio/office than on the weather report. Perhaps this can be called "creative chaos" -- that sounds positive!

I admit to being a creative junkie. There, I said it! From creating websites, to making and selling jewelry, designing newsletters, cards, and prints — there is a lot of activity here. Lots of papers, receipts, bills, plans, ideas, and especially to-do lists. Mailing supplies, postage printers (2), supply bins, stored completed items, file folders, and back-up drives and equipment — all claim a bite out of my space.  When a huge project comes along and demands full attention, these "space invaders" try to claim more territory and settle in shifty new places.

Making a gorgeous newsletter or website from overly dark photos and 25 articles with 25 formats and even more fonts is simple when compared with playing lion tamer to my creative space's tornado aftermath. But I made a discovery!

Replanting everything in new places only works for just a blip in time. I needed a new modus operandi.  Decisions had to be made. Every paper and folder was evicted and subjected to intense interrogation. Ancient receipts and statements were tossed in one box with their days numbered. Archived papers in other categories got flipped to the trash barrel. How was this newly possible? Aha! the agent of change is a very large paper shredder.

Arriving just yesterday, this hungry beast ate up years of history in an hour and freed up much space. It worked speedily and quietly, only asking for a sip of oil now and again. There is a new best buddy sitting beside me now. I must find more for it to devour! I know just where to look . . .

Next, some equipment and furniture will play musical chairs to reorganize the printers, but that's a tale for another time.

Happy New Year!

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