a year of being a *real person*

A year of being a real person

I think it’s kind of fitting to start my first work day for 2015 with my new year goals post. Ironically though, my goals in 2015 are all about working less and being a *real person* – a three dimensional, present, engaged person who isn’t defined by work.

There are lots of things I want to do this year. Big things. Big goals to hit. Big changes to make. A thesis to finish. A new degree to implement. New units to design.

But when I started thinking about what I wanted to do this year, I realised those big ticket work goals weren’t at the front of my mind. Yes, I totally want my PhD to be done. Yes, it’s also time for me to think seriously about my career trajectory and decide if I’m still following the right dream. But when I thought about what I wanted to do this year, I found myself returning over and over to those things I love doing that fell off my radar in 2014. Not work. Not career. Not PhD. But the little things I love to do that keep me sane and happy.

In 2014, I didn’t read a single book. I went about eight months without sewing, finishing a total of two small projects all year. I did very little non-work writing. I hardly baked at all. I didn’t do enough making, and making is really important to me. Because really, as American graphic designer Saul Bass once said, ‘I just want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares’.

I was pretty much a hermit this year too. I hardly saw my friends at all. I spent a lot of time saying, ‘I’m sorry, I have to work’ to everyone around me, including the twins. I followed my sorries with, ‘It’s just one more year’, and then, ‘It’s just a few more months’, and then ‘I just have to get past this intense phase of writing’, and, ‘My thesis will be done by the end of the year and then I’ll be back in the land of the living’.

Recently my sister called me out on this. She said there will always be a ‘I just have to…’ I realised my family fully expect that, once the PhD is done, I will find other projects that become my ‘I just have to…’ excuses. And I realised that although this is definitely not what I want, if I am not careful, I will do it. Because that’s how I roll. I see the shiny, pretty, exciting things I could be doing as part of my job and I want to do them all. And then I take on all of those things and I lose all capacity to be a friend and a daughter and a sister and an aunty and a maker and a reader and… a person.

2014 was a pretty unfun year. I let the things I love go out of necessity; work was stressful; I got caught up in trying to get myself into a permanent position at work; and I jammed an incredible amount of thesis writing into a very short period of time.

I get to be creative at work, and I found thesis writing to be a creative process too (especially because I struggled with the linearity of thesis writing, so I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about the design of the final document). This helped to balance out the lack of sewing and non-work writing and the fact I didn’t really make anything beautiful at all (except some pretty slidedecks). But no matter how much I get to flex my information design muscles at work, it’s not the same as being creative for fun or being creative for the sake of being creative. I miss reading, I miss sewing, I miss writing for pleasure, and I miss my friends and family. These are things I want to focus on this year.

Doing all of these things means having (or making) time. I know that the single most important thing I need to do to make this stuff happen is to reclaim my weekends.

I’ve been reluctant to set goals for 2015 (and maybe even more reluctant to share them) seeing my 2014 goals were great big flops (more on this in a later post). But I really want to change the balance in my life and I know I can’t do that without giving myself a framework for what I want to change and how I might make it happen.

I questioned whether I should share these goals here. But I think in two ways: with my fingers on the keyboard, or by creating a visual narrative. I sensemake by creating a story in words or images or a combination of both. So writing these things down is about planning and making sense and working out how to get to where I want to be. I’m naming these goals here as a way of claiming them and thinking through how I’m going to achieve them.

I don’t want to set myself up for a series of fails so I’m setting goals that I think are definitely achievable. There are four of them, with the first being the condition for the other three.

In 2015, I am committing that I will

  • work weekends as an exception
  • sew one thing every month
  • read one fiction book every month
  • spend time with the people who matter most.

Work weekends as an exception

Over the last five years, I’ve gradually gotten into the habit of factoring Saturday and Sunday into my work schedule every week. Having a weekend off is currently the exception, not the norm. I don’t mind working weekends to meet deadlines, but I am pretty over working a full day every Saturday and every Sunday. I’m sick of missing out on doing fun stuff and it’s really exhausting.

I made a single resolution last January: to take a day off every week. That seems like a pretty simple, achievable resolution, but it went out the window by the end of January. I had days off, but not as regularly or as many as I should have. And in the second half of the year, I basically worked non-stop, juggling the usual family commitments and curve ball after curve ball on the personal and family fronts with my very busy job and writing my thesis.

I know that shifting my mindset to see weekends as separate from the work week will be the hardest change I make this year. It’s also the most important because all the other changes I want to make hang on reclaiming some downtime.

To help me reclaim my weekends I’m going to do a number of things:

  • Set boundaries and stick to them. Mostly, this is about telling my students I’m unavailable on weekends and then actually following through. Over time, I’ve learned that students generally respect boundaries as long as I respect them too. Once I start engaging during my designated off-the-radar time, I send a message that I’m available. In short, my students aren’t the problem here. I am.
  • Set aside one hour every Saturday afternoon to respond to social media posts and email from students. I don’t feel I can be completely unavailable on the weekends because I know part time students in particularly do most of their study on the weekends. But I can restrict my availability to a certain timeframe.
  • Define types of work that I will and won’t do on weekends. For example, everyday, operational work should fit within my Monday to Friday work week. Unexpected, time critical or one-off work might need to be done on the weekends. For example, I often need to work weekends when I’m marking. I also expect to put in weekend time on my thesis. And I invariably need to work weekends when grant applications are due.
  • Manage my workload better by distinguishing between what actually needs to be done and what I’d *like* to do. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. (Haha! A bit!) I’m also heavily invested in my students and my teaching. I also have lots of interests and a fear of being bored. Together, these things mean I generate heaps of work, all of which I see as important, and all of which I want to execute perfectly. I need to rationalise my workload by looking at what I’ve got on and working out which bits of it actually don’t need doing (and I know there’s quite a lot of stuff that falls into this category). To get started with this, I need to spend some time with my current project list and my to do list and work out what really matters.
  • Ask people to hold me accountable. I’m going to need help to do this, so I plan to ask my family to help me by calling me out on working weekends if I’m doing too much of it.
  • Track my progress. I’ll note my weekend activities on my planner so I can keep an eye on how I’m going with this.

Sew one thing every month

I’d like it to be a garment for myself each month, but that might be more than I can manage, so I’m calling it ‘one thing’, whatever that thing may be. To help me achieve this, I’m going to:

  • Organise my office / sewing room. I’ve almost finished doing this. I now have a cutting table set up all the time. After today, my sewing machine will be out on my sewing table all the time too, and I’ll have all my supplies to hand on my sewing table. Less set up means I’m more likely to sew.
  • Add projects I want to make to my sew in 2015 Pinterest boardThere are a few on there already:Follow Kate’s board sew in 2015 on Pinterest.
  • Track my completed projects on my sewn in 2015 Pinterest board.
  • Work through the tips in this blog post about transitioning to a mostly handmade wardrobe (this is such a good blog post – I highly recommend it) to help me get started with sewing clothes for myself. I’m going to start by working out what my favourite fabrics are (by checking out what’s in my wardrobe) and creating a wish list of items of clothing I want to add to my wardrobe, which I’ll add to my sew in 2015 Pinterest board. Then I’ll plan my first item (I think it will be the Staple Dress from April Rhodes).
  • Use the tips in this post to make sewing more fun (including limiting myself to only one or two projects at a time – having a million unfinished things hanging around is not productive).
  • Buy fabric for specific projects, not just cause I like the fabric. I also plan to go through my stash and sell off anything that’s been there for a while without being used. I have SO MUCH fabric in my stash that it gets overwhelming. It also makes me feel like I can’t buy more fabric when I need something in particular for a particular item.

Read one fiction book every month

Reading for as little as 6 minutes reduces stress by more than 60%

Yep. It’s been proven that reading lowers your stress levels. And it’s just fun. This year I’m going to read a fiction book a month. I used to read significantly more than this, but over the last few years, the number of books I got through each year steadily declined, and then plummeted to 0 last year.

I’m going to make this happen by:

  • Building a 2015 hit list bookshelf in Good Reads. I’ll fill my hit list with the latest offerings from my favourite authors.
  • Tracking my reading progress by adding books I read to a things I read in 2015 shelf on Good Reads.
  • Choosing a tried-and-true, easy-to-read author for my first book – I’ll read the latest Marian Keyes novel The Woman Who Stole My Life.
  • Reading in bed at night. Which means stopping work at a more reasonable time and choosing to read instead of trawling social media.

Spend time with the people who matter most

This is about catching up with my friends – especially those that have patiently stuck it out with me through my PhD, with seemingly unending understanding. I’ve been a shitty friend a lot over the last four years. I’ve been there for the big stuff – for the births and the deaths and the crises and the happiest moments (although not always in the way I would like to have been) – but not for all the little moments. My bestie’s little girl is almost two and she hardly knows me. That’s something I want to change.

It’s also about saying ‘yes’ to the twins as much as possible. It’s about being more available to them so they default to assuming I’m going to be there for the important things, rather than defaulting to assuming I’ll have to work.

It’s also important to me to be a bit selfish with this. I’m a massive introvert and I can’t be endlessly social or I end up exhausted and unhappy. I need to manage my energy and be social when I can and in the ways that work best for me.

Most of all, it’s about being present when I’m with the people I love, so that I’m not half heartedly engaging with them while I answer email, or stressing about what I should be doing.

So that’s my grand plan for learning to be a person again in 2015.

Happy new year! May your year be full of fun, as I hope mine will be too.

here’s what i’m doing with my coffee money this month

I spend a minimum of $45 a week on coffee. Probably substantially more. I just zip through the drive through, tap my credit card on the pay wave machine and away I go. Today I was looking at my credit card statement and it reads like a biography written in coffee transactions. I can tell where I was and what I was doing based on my coffee charges.

There are lots of other things I could be doing with that money.

Like helping a friend fund her cancer treatment by donating to a GoFundMe campaign.

If you can spare even one day’s coffee money, or make a sandwich instead of buying your lunch one day next week, or go without a bottle of wine this weekend, please consider donating. Because fighting cancer is expensive business. Because worrying about money seems kind of trivial when you’re dealing with cancer. And because helping is a way of saying, ‘fuck you, cancer’.

The GoFundMe campaign finishes soon. If you’d like to donate and it’s closed, please let me know by commenting here or emailing me (davis [dot] kate [at] gmail [dot] com).

Blog every day in June: 9/30 (Oops. Apparently I fail at blogging every day in June this year)

buying fabric online

I am often asked where I buy fabric from and I’ve been meaning to put a quick post together listing some of my favourite stores. So here it is!

Just a note to accompany the list: I mostly buy quilting cottons so this list reflects that. I have absolutely no idea where to buy knit fabrics online from Australian stores. I have my eye on a couple of US sources for knits – in particular, Girl Charlee – but their shipping is pricey. I went to order a bunch of knit fabric a while back and when I got to the checkout, the shipping cost more than the fabric.   so if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

I’ve bought from some of the stores on this list a few times, others only once or twice. But in all cases, I’ve been happy with the transactions.

Before the list, I have a few tips.

Local or international?

I really like to shop local, but the price difference between buying from an Australian seller and buying from the US is huge. It can cost as much as twice the per yard price to buy a meter of fabric from an Australian store. Of course, you only get a 91.4cm length when you buy a yard, but it’s still a huge difference.

Buy up big when ordering from overseas

I only buy from the US when I want more than a couple of meters. Sometimes I see something I want in a US store but I generally try to bulk out my order with other fabric. Some online fabric stores tell you how many meters or yards you can fit in a standard shipping envelope or package and I use those guides to work out how much I can fit in the package. See, for example, this chart from one of my favourite online stores, Jaq’s Fabrics. The shipping charge is estimated to be the same for 2.5 yards or 9 yards. So really, you’d be *crazy* not to buy 9 yards. (Clearly I have lots of justifications for excessive fabric buying up my sleeve!)

Buying minky or other bulky fabric

If you’re buying something bulky, buy local. The bulky stuff is heavy and… well… bulky. Don’t fill up your precious shipping space with this stuff.

Online or in the flesh?

I much prefer to buy fabric online. I think I might be in the minority. I find that I get overwhelmed in fabric stores and I end up buying stuff that I really don’t have a plan for. (Look, if I’m being completely honest, I should admit I do that online too.) But I like those ‘design wall’ features on fabric sites that let you put fabrics together to see what works. I always feel really rushed in fabric stores too so I just end up grabbing at stuff. My online fabric purchases are generally much more considered.

The list: places I’ve bought from and recommend: US

Fabric.com

Pros:

  • Huge range
  • Frequent sales on quilting cottons
  • Stocks all the big designers
  • Often has stock of popular ranges that have sold out elsewhere
  • You can order swatches (I never have)
  • They have a design wall where you can put a bunch of fabrics to see them side by side

Cons:

  • Call me picky, but I do like my fabric to be carefully folded and that’s not something you get here
  • I really like the idea of supporting small businesses and this is kind of the fabric store version of a department store – it’s big business
  • I’m a fan of seeing sale information in my inbox, but these guys send pretty frequent emails and I could do with a few less
  • Sometimes the range can be a bit overwhelming and I can’t decide what I want… So I buy nothing – or, more likely, I buy everything

Jaq’s Fabrics

This was one of the first places I bough fabric from when I started sewing. I originally bought in the Jaq’s Fabrics Etsy store but there is a separate website, too. When I want to order fabric from the US I generally check to see if I can get it here first.

Pros:

  • Fabric is carefully cut and always pretty well straight
  • Fabric is always neatly folded and nicely packed
  • Emails for new ranges and sales but not an overwhelming number
  • I just feel better about buying from a small business

Cons:

  • Smaller range – I can’t always get what I want here

The list: places I’ve bought from and recommend: Australia

Addicted to Fabric

Addicted to Fabric is a fantastic Canberra fabric store that sells some of their range online. I have only bought from the store, not online, but if they had their whole range online I would definitely be a frequent shopper. If you’re after a particular fabric I think it would be worth giving them a call.

Fat Quarter Sisters

You can never have too many fat quarters, and they’re so cheap! (I realise they’re not actually cheap when you consider the cost per meter… But they’re like $5. Who can resist?) A while back, I was tempted by some very cheap, very cute fat quarters from the Facebook-based store. I bought one or two, which actually turned out to be 17 when the invoice came… Oops! This store is also on Etsy.

Pros:

  • Fast invoicing
  • Fast shipping
  • Neat cuts
  • Nice (but small) range
  • Small business, Australian

Cons:

  • Fat quarters only

Fabric Pixie

Pros:

  • Good customer service – I needed fabric in a hurry and they got it to me in under two days
  • They have stock of some ranges that are getting to be hard to get
  • Very neat cuts
  • They currently have some good sale prices on some fabrics
  • Small business, Australian, and (for me) local

Cons:

  • Limited range

Blog every day in June 7/30

on needing to know and information experience

I have this obsessive need to understand the things I fear. When I’m worried about or scared of something, I go looking for information. I find as much as I can and I take it all in and I digest it and I see the thing from all the angles. Then it’s not a mystery. There isn’t any chance I’m going to stumble on something unexpected and terrible because I’ve seen under and around and over the thing. If there’s something terrible there, it won’t sneak up on me because I will have found it before it’s had a chance to find me.

As an information experience researcher, I’m interested in understanding how people experience information in their everyday lives. It’s kind of interesting to inspect my own practices in the way I would inspect those of a participant in a research study. If I was naming this thing that I do, I would probably call it something like ‘coping by knowing’.

It’s a control thing really. Knowing what the possibilities are gives me some sense of control in situations in which I really have none. Knowing is almost as good as controlling.

I know other people whose modus operandi is to put blinkers on, but blinkers seem to me to be the worst possible way to deal with my fear or worry. What makes some people choose blinkers? What drives others, like me, to visit Dr Google and trawl Wikipedia?

I wonder whether I do it because I’m a librarian and an information researcher, or whether my grandfather started it by encouraging me to research *everything*, or whether I Google everything simply because I have the web in my hand all the time. Or whether ‘needing to know’ is just how I am.

Blog every day in June 6/30

contribute to a list of must-follow LIS, GLAM, ed tech etc tweeters

I’m taking advantage of #blogjune to make a self serving work post 😉

Every year, I share Twitter lists with my Library and Information Studies students. I teach a unit in which students are encouraged to begin developing their own personal learning networks. These Twitter lists help them get started with building a network on Twitter.

Help me compile lists of LIS, GLAM, IM, records, archives, ed tech, digital humanities, research support and data management tweeters. Add your suggestions to this Google Doc, and then I’ll set them up as Twitter lists that others can follow.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Blog every day in June 5/30

on pride and wonder and greed

Today, Mr 5 received a student of the week award, which means school assembly was a family affair.

I’m super proud of him because he got his award for “being a trustworthy friend and classmate who always takes care of others”. He is a gentle, kind soul (except when reenacting Star Wars scenes!), a great brother, and an awesome little person.

He was so proud of himself. He stood up straight and pushed his chest out and held his certificate up in front of him. He looked like he was about to burst with pride.

Ms 5 was super proud of her brother too. When we got to school, she ran up to her best friend and said, “My brother is student of the week!”

As I watched them go through the routine of assembly, I couldn’t help thinking about how much of their lives will be spent at school, and consequently, how much of their lives we aren’t privy to. They know all these things that we had no idea they knew. They know the national anthem! They have all these rituals and routines that we don’t know about. They are learning so much, so quickly, and we only hear about a fraction of the things they learn. There is this big chunk of their lives that is enacted at a distance from us.

And I’m greedy. I want to know about all of it. I want to *see* all of it. Even though I’m proud of their independence and their growing confidence. Even though they get to share these experiences with each other. Even though they are at a great school, with wonderful teachers. Even though they are so proud to come home and show us what they have learned.

I just want to be there with them. To watch them learn. To see their wonder.

I’m greedy, and I want to see *all* the things.

Blog everyday in June: 4/30

there’s no words

I love how the phrases we use become the language of our kids, and how our habits rub off on them too. My littlest love likes to tell us, “There’s no words for how much I love you,” an expression she learned from her nanny. We are big on saying I love you.

I’ve lost my voice. It’s been MIA since Sunday night. I’m grateful it didn’t happen til the end of the day on which I had my very last teaching commitment for the semester. But my phone has been running hot all week with enquiries from prospective students and I feel ridiculous whispering at them. And I don’t really have much whisper in me either. It’s quite hard to communicate that I can’t talk, so the first minute of the conversation is very odd.

Today I looked at my thesis for the first time in five months. My schedule gives me six days to finish this chapter. Today a sixth of the time I budgeted for this chapter disappeared with no words to show for it.

I didn’t post yesterday, not for lack of ideas. I was going to write a post about risk. I had some words down already but I couldn’t find the new ones I needed to stitch it into some kind of coherent story. It felt like it was going to take a lot of effort to drag the words out of my brain and I didn’t feel like I had the energy to do it.

And I’m not sure I’ve got enough words in me to write a blog post every day this month.

Sometimes, there just aren’t words.

Blog everyday in June: 3/30

was dawson’s creek this cringeworthy the first time round?

Warning: This post is particularly profound. Read with caution.

I love TV. In a big way. I binge watch series after series. I also love Netflix because it supports my TV watching habit.

I am currently re-watching Dawson’s Creek. I grew up with Pacey, Andie, Dawson,  Jen, Joey and Jack. My teenage angst happened in parallel with theirs… Although my angst was decidedly less angsty than theirs, which was probably part of the appeal – my mini dramas looked very small compared to those of the Capeside crew.  

I have been busting to re-watch Dawson’s for ages, but now that I am watching it, I’m thinking back to my first viewing and asking myself whether it was this lame the first time around.

Dawson is just not likable at all. All the characters are over-acted and Katie Holmes and James Van Der Beek are particularly cringeworthy together.

People just don’t talk like that.

I’m not even sure I can keep watching it, partly because I’m sitting here asking myself whether I took my angsting cues from the show (god I hope not), and partly because it’s destroying my memories.

Surely, *surely* it couldn’t have been this bad the first time around?

The one enduring memory I have that hasn’t been shattered by this second viewing is my memory of Pacey, who I love as much now as I did 15ish years ago. I’m just not sure Pacey is enough to redeem the whole show.

PS. How much would Dawson love Netflix?

Blog everyday in June: 2/30

what a difference a year makes

Or not.

It’s June, which means I’ll be blogging every day for the next 30 days. I’ve been doing this every year (with varying levels of success!) for the last five years. Con kicked this off in 2010 and five years later there is a huge list of library types from Australia and New Zealand joining in the fun.

As I kick off my month of blogging, I can’t help reflecting on where I was at the last time I took up the #blogjune challenge.

This time last year, I was writing my very first post on this blog and gearing up for a sabbatical during which I would write my PhD thesis. Or more accurately, a sabbatical during which I would finish my data collection, code all my interview transcripts, develop a theory and write my thesis. I’m nothing if not ambitious.

I didn’t quite make it, but I got close.

In January, I went back to work. With a vengeance. I took over as course coordinator of the masters program I teach into. I also took up a fellowship on a university-wide teaching and learning transformation initiative. And I won’t bore you with all the details, but man, has it been a crazy five months.

So crazy, in fact, that I haven’t touched my dissertation since the first week in January, which really is a bummer because I was hoping to have my final seminar early this year. I was pretty devastated about my timeline slipping out so spectacularly, but it was unavoidable.

So 12 months on from #blogjune 2013 and I’m in much the same position as I was last year: psyching myself up to switch into dissertation writing mode. But this time, sans sabbatical.

I have a pretty grueling timeline that will see me have my final seminar towards the end of November and submit my thesis for examination in early December. And I am utterly determined to stick to it.

So here I am. Standing in roughly the same place I was in 12 months ago. It’s kind of like Groundhog Day. But this time I’ve got 40,000 ish words under my belt and a timeline that will put this PhD baby to bed before Christmas.

Now I just need to make myself start.

Blog everyday in June: 1/30