Highly Recommended: Surfwise (The Amazing True Odyssey of the Paskowitz Family)

I don’t feel like it’s hyperbolic to say that Doc Paskowitz, the main subject of the documentary Surfwise, is a nearly perfect representation of what this blog aims to impart.

Paskowitz was living the American dream, a successful (by all modern definitions) doctor in Hawaii, when he basically made the decision to drop out of society and, after a sabbatical to Israel where he apparently single-handedly started the Tel Aviv surfing scene, took his life on the road with his new wife Juliette.

What followed embodies almost all the ideals I hold highest and would love to see more people buy into, albeit lived out in very different ways than I will ever be able to (read: I can’t surf and don’t want “berries and sticks” for breakfast each day).

Doc and Juliette began their love affair living in a car on the beach, but soon they were pregnant and moved up into an RV. It was the early 60s and they were so countercultural that it’s almost hard to envision where their ideas came from. This was “before Jack Kerouac went on the road,” as the trailer points out.

Living in a 24-foot motorhome, they proceeded to have nine children (all of whom were breastfed for at least two years, because, as Doc implored Juliette, “No child of mine will have any less than a gorilla.”). No, they never did move into a bigger RV, let alone a house. They travelled all around the US and Mexico, surfing every day, eating simply and wholesomely (except for those times when they went hungry for lack of cash), and never receiving a lick of conventional education.

It’s not the specifics that I aspire to. It’s Doc’s realization that we don’t have to adopt any convention thrust upon us by our culture. Though some of his thinking was likely flawed and some of his methods may have backfired (though this is arguable as his family is at least as, if not more, successful and happy as your average North American family), his convictions to keep his children close; raise them to appreciate the beauty of the earth and to have personal discipline; put his family before all else; and to be successful in his marriage (via good sex — his thoughts on this are amusing to witness) are inspiring.

This is my favourite documentary, and I’ve seen a lot of really amazing documentaries. If you homeschool or unschool your children; come from or have created a large family; live on the road or wish to; or dream of divesting from modern society, it will appeal to your imagination.

It’s hard to find, but is available on American Netflix, as well as American iTunes and Amazon (.com and .ca). You can also check your local library!

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Day 15 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Eat That Frog

This is a really fantastic tip, perhaps the best out of all 28 I’ve chosen. I’m going to quote Ruth of Living Well, Spending Less here because she just says it so well. I might even print this quote and hang it on my wall:

I read a book a few years ago that totally changed the way I approached my daily task list.   It was called Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get Things Done by Brian Tracy.  It got its name from a quote by Mark Twain, who famously once said something to the effect of “if you eat a frog for breakfast, chances are that will be the worst thing you have to do all day.”  The point of the quote—and the book—was that if you start your day by tackling your hardest but most important tasks, even if you don’t do that much for the rest of the day, you will still have accomplished a lot.

Life moves fast and it is really, really easy to get sucked into mundane–though essential–tasks of the everyday.  We spend our time putting out fires or escaping into the time-wasting vortex of social media and email.  It all seems so important, so urgent, but before we know it, we’ve spent the whole day reacting to other people rather than proactively reaching our own goals.

My own life changed dramatically when changed the order in which I completed my task list.  Most importantly, I stopped checking email first thing in the morning, and instead focused those first few hours of my day on long-term projects and goals.  As a result, my productivity skyrocketed and I was finally able to start accomplishing the things I really wanted to.

So I’ve been eating that frog. Almost every day. Like Ruth, I was starting my days with mundane but essential tasks, things that took very little brain power but would allow me to cross items off the to-do list. Later in the day, when my brain was fried and I was due for a break, I’d be left with all the hard, unattractive, time-consuming tasks … and inevitably I would put most of them off for another day.

Now I start with the handful of essential tasks that must done early in the day and that I don’t particularly love. Tedious work chores, we’ll say. A bit of email, some social media management, and a load of dishes thrown in for good measure. Sometimes, also, a load of laundry.

Next, I look at my list and see if there is anything that I am dreading doing today but that absolutely must be done by the end of the day. I do that thing, or those things, first. I reward myself between tasks with coffee, a snack, headstands or a game of Tetris on my phone (these are my current rewards. They’ll likely change in summer.). Next up are the small, easy tasks — like returning Facebook messages or making appointments — that I’ve been putting off for days or weeks because, as mentioned in an earlier post, I hate communication. Obviously if I’ve been putting some things off for weeks, I don’t always get through all these.

And then I can choose what to do! I am working on making sure that working out and writing are next on the list, but that’s still to come. Well, the workouts, anyway. The writing is going okay.

Please, if you only take one thing from this experiment of mine, let it be Eat That Frog! This is the winner! (I would say “so far,” but I just feel pretty confident this will win over all. We’ll see.)

Tomorrow, I meditate! Really!

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

Day 11 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Set a Timer

Before I even start, let me just say that I love this one! It’s not like it’s a new idea, but it’s definitely one I should be using daily. It’s easy to get distracted or perform tasks less efficiently than you could, or just work on things (say, cleaning the bedroom. Or weeding the garden.) for a longer period of time than you need to.

This tip comes from the blog Living Well Spending Less, in a great post entitled 10 Tips for Getting More Done Every Single Day. Ruth lays out some great tips here, especially (in my opinion) for stay-at-home or work-at-home moms. So check it out!

By User:S Sepp (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Staying true to my strategy thus far, I chose one tip from the post, and it was “Set the timer.” Ruth says:

“Setting the timer can be one of the best ways to motivate yourself.  For instance, if you give yourself only 30 minutes to tidy your house, you will most likely get more cleaned in less time than if you weren’t racing against the clock.

Limiting your time on seemingly endless tasks like email and Facebook helps a lot too.  If you only have 15 minutes to sit at the computer, then you have no choice to prioritize.  Likewise, setting the timer helps accomplish tasks you might normally procrastinate, such paying the bills.  Telling yourself you only have to do it for 45 minutes is powerful motivation to get it done.”

So basically I love this strategy and I hereby endeavour to use this simple tip to help me with everything – like she says, even time-wasters like Facebook. Today I used it for work. I have estimated times for each task in my To Do list, and I used those times to set limits for myself today as I worked from home. I checked clients’ social media accounts more quickly, I gave myself half an hour to write something personal, I was super-efficient checking my email and as for the tasks where my time estimate was way off? I either gave myself a more realistic limit based on how long it had taken so far, or moved on to something else and changed the estimate in my To Do list for when I have to do that task again in the future.

And of course I LOVE this for cleaning and chores! I can clean anything for 5-10 minutes!

Tomorrow I’ll prep my smoothies for the next week. I’m a bit skeptical and there are dry goods, liquid, frozen fruit and fresh veggies that need to go in there so it’s four different things to prep, but we’ll see!

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

Image credit: S Sepp (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Day 7 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Move Every 45 Minutes

Today, via Buzzfeed, we have “Get up every 45 minutes and move around. When you sit back down you will feel greatly re-energized.”

This is from the post 23 Ingenious Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder. Not bad. I do agree that it’s a good idea to get up and move periodically if you have a desk job. I only have a desk job 1-2 days per week, but on those days I do need to remember to move in some way at least once an hour. In fact, some days at work, I get up and hula hoop for five minutes every hour. That’s fun! I’m lucky enough to work in an office in a heritage building, with wood floors, high ceilings and large classrooms in which to hoop.

Hula hoop... check!

Hula hoop… check!

I went into work today intending to get up and move every 45 minutes. But then I noticed that between coffee trips, bathroom trips, walking up to the store front to check a product, and searching for my boss to have a quick chat, I was moving far more! I got up and walked around at least every half hour. I do think it’s important to get up and move, and it does help, but this tip didn’t change anything I was already doing. Oh well. It could still be useful for someone else! Maybe try hooping at work!

Original pin is here.

And once again, the dedicated Pinterest board for this series.

Day 3 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: “Start the Day”

The real name of this tip is “How to… Start the Day,” and outlines the things that different very successful people do first in their day. Pin here.

“How to Start the Day” – part of a life-hack pin by Anna Vital.

When Day 3 came around and I looked at this a little more closely, I realized that this tip is actually six different tips, two of which I will be doing on other days and one which is not applicable (no opportunity for customer service this morning!). I chose Steve Jobs’ quote: “Every morning I asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?'”

We were having a snow day, and didn’t have anything to do or anywhere to be. The plan for the day was to stay in bed until about noon and spend the morning drinking coffee while watching New Girl on Netflix. If today were the last day of my life, is that how I would want to spend my morning? Yep.

Not a real goldmine of a tip here, but given that I fulfilled my plan for the morning and it felt great, we’ll call this a win.

Tomorrow, I’ll be identifying what is unessential in my life, and eliminating it, apparently. I am not quite sure what I am going to eliminate… hopefully I can come up with something. Pin here.

Once again, the dedicated board for this series is here.

The Childcare Swap: Job Sharing’s Rad Sister

Unjobbing – eschewing a conventional career curve to cobble together a living from your passion(s), often through creative scheduling, living simply, or generally thinking outside the box – can be a fun and exciting way to live as a student or single person. But often it becomes more difficult if/when you have children.

For some, becoming a parent can be a catalyst for the unjobbing lifestyle: in a two parent family, one parent can work a full-time job while the other works from home, runs a home business, does contract or freelance work, or works in an art or craft for extra money (or all of the above). Most often, moms fall into this category, and the jobs might include doula, home party sales rep (though there’s usually more free products than money in this line of work), house cleaning, book keeping, odd jobs, freelance writing, photography, teaching of different types, or childcare. This could also include, of course, the many industry-specific jobs a person might tailor to fit their life – taking your regular 9-5 (or whatever) and working half days, or partially from home, or consulting, or freelance, or job sharing.

The trickiest part of it all is the childcare. Unless you’re working a regular shift that is compatible with a daycare or dayhome, or you have a partner or family member whose schedule works well with yours, a lack of good childcare options can be prohibitive to being able to work at all. Even when you do have access to childcare, the cost can mean that you’re ending the month with only a few dollars of your wage remaining in your pocket.

Enter the childcare swap. I’m honestly amazed more parents don’t utilize this. It’s kind of a combination of running a dayhome (only with very few children, and with no money changing hands – like a form of barter!) and working. With luck, you can choose someone whom your own child loves, and whose child(ren) complement your own family and actually make your life easier (amusing your own kids while they’re over).

Here’s how it works (it’s really simple): the two of you decide how many days per week you would each like to work, up to 3.5. Generally 2-3 each works best, though you could alternate with one of you working two and the other three one week, and then the next week switching. While one of you works your set number of days, the other has your kids, and then on the days the second person works, you take their kids in exchange.

I’ve done this twice, successfully. The first time, there were three of us, each with one child. I had Neko, 3, Renee had Eve, 2 and Rachel had Hazel, 2. On Tuesdays, Rachel would take Neko and Eve from about 9-5. On Wednesdays I would take Eve and Hazel. And on Thursdays, Renee would take Hazel and Neko. The really nice thing was that the three girls became really close and loved the consistency; they each got the benefit of each mom’s strengths (and the dads sometimes, too); and each house had different things to do and a different playground or park nearby. We three moms did one day of childcare each per week, in exchange for two days that we could work.

I’m currently doing a swap with Nicole, who has Mairead, 4, and Finn, 2. (Neko is almost 6 now.) She has Neko all day Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoon, and I have her two all day Thursday, and Friday afternoon. This is working especially well as Nicole works at my store, so we also have the consistency there. Our kids get along great and I love sending Neko to her place, and having Mairead and Finn at my place. I also like this set-up since Neko is an only child (and homeschooled), so it’s like she has siblings half the week.

It can be tricky to find someone who lives close enough (especially important to us, only having one car), has compatible kids and parenting, and whose work schedule might work with yours. But it’s doable, and I really think it’s worth it. This arrangement gives Neko and me, as a homeschooling family (or when she was younger and not in school yet), the freedom to do the same things we would have been doing on my days off (playdates, taking in performances, going to the museum or science centre, going for walks, visiting the library), only it’s better because she also has other kids to play with. It also allows me to work and not scramble for babysitters. This is a problem for me otherwise as Justan’s work schedule is sporadic and unpredictable (he does location sound recording for TV, documentaries, commercials, etc), so we don’t always need a babysitter. And paying by the day can be pricey! I also hate being that person who is always posting desperately on Facebook asking people to look after my kid.

I have this idea for a childcare swap match-up site… but the idea would have to be a lot more popular first. Until then, putting the idea out there to friends, posting on parenting forums (I would use my local attachment parenting group), or approaching others in your line of work or on mat leave at your place of employment are all ideas that might get you some leads.

A round-up of the benefits of the childcare swap:

  • Only children get part-time “siblings;” siblings get extra siblings and some variety in their life
  • More personalized care than a daycare
  • You get to choose a person whose parenting ideals match yours – spanking or not, the cultural views they’ll teach your kids in day-to-day life, cloth diapering, discipline, babywearing, types of meals, homeschooling, amount of TV…
  • You get time to spend with your own kid(s) each week
  • You get to pursue your passions and have a break from parenting a couple times each week
  • The money, of course
  • Consistency for the kids, without monotony
  • For homeschoolers: as you’re aware, once a child reaches school-age, childcare options narrow. In my experience, my friends have taught Neko things and exposed her to things I might not have thought of, or been able to. The moms I’ve swapped with have varied backgrounds and strengths. At one house, kids might swim, ride bikes, play in the yard more; at another there might be regular dance parties, crafts and baking; while another house might be the place for science experiments, nature videos and hikes. I don’t have to worry about Neko not being enriched while I’m at work, especially since we’re unschooling.
  • Flexibility – if the schedule isn’t working, you can work together to adjust it
  • There is a bit of a social aspect to this, if you want there to be. Usually, mornings are just drop-off, and afternoons are just pick-up. But when time and circumstance allow, there can be shared family dinners or at least time for a visit and a cup of tea at the end of the day. I like seeing my friends regularly, even if there is only time for a five minute chat.
  • I get inspiration for activity planning. I find that when it’s just Neko and me, I fall into patterns (as does she), and we sometimes have a hard time thinking of things to do day-to-day. But (and maybe this is the camp counselor in me), when I know I’ll have several kids in my care, I snap into teacher mode and start planning fun activities. Ironically, I’m more apt to do a craft or experiment with three kids than with one. Right now, I have theme days and outings planned already for the whole next month, and I’m really excited about all of them!
  • I feel very strongly about building a “village” – a support system of friends and family who can help each other in times of need, be there for social interaction, share traditions, and, when kids are involved, provide an extended family where it might not exist otherwise. This is where my “social change” platform comes in. Whether you’re single, coupled, poly, with kids or without (or with them part-time), young or old, a community is important to everyone in it and even those who are just on the periphery. Small “tribes” of likeminded people can form little urban families, a lifestyle that is more well-suited to many people today, especially in an urban setting. Childcare swapping fits in extremely well in this type of scenario.