I Need a Plan(ner)

For years I had a simple planner system I loved. It was just the right mix of ink-on-paper, creative doodling, and handy portable calendar for organizing my pre-pandemic life. Finding that planner and system was a bit of its own miracle – I’d never gone more than a few months with a planner or organizer before being seduced by a different one. Along came the Passion Planner and stability (I wrote about in a blog post and was invited to write about it on another blog as well at RediscoverAnalog). Alas, life changes and as my fave Leonard Nimoy said (tweeted actually, but that seems less poetic) just before he died,

Tweet from @TheRealNimoy saying, "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP"
Live long and prosper 🖖

Unprecedented and Unplanned Times

With the pandemic, my needs changed. I didn’t need a planner that held all the possible information I might need while away at the office for eight hours. I didn’t need something portable at all – the commute from my dining table workspace to my bedroom workspace is not particularly harrowing. 

I found I was making a lot more random lists, and of course the lines between home tasks and work tasks blurred/melted/spontaneously combusted. I also went back to school as well as continuing my full-time job and freelance work. The idea of goals and planning steps toward those goals went out the window, along with all our plans. My daughter’s school schedule (sometimes in person, sometimes remote, never full days, rarely full weeks) changed *nine* times during the school year. I tried to adapt how I used my beloved planner, but it wasn’t meeting my unprecedented needs.


I’m changing my life in a big way in 2022. I’m retiring from my day job, building up my freelance work, and probably taking a part-time job too. (I do have two kids to get through university, and a lot of energy 😄). Who knows how/if I will plan all that? I need something flexible, that’s all I know.


I decided to try out ALL THE PLANNERS!!!!!!!

I didn’t even limit myself (haha as if I would) to bound organizers or binders or notebooks. Why not a desk pad calendar? Maybe sticky notes? What about detachable pages in a pretty little book. What about a pretty big book? Pocket size? 

Side Note About the Distinct Lack of Minimalism

I make up for minimalism in much of my life by having *oodles* of pens and notebooks. And pads, and sticky notes, and markers, and you get the idea. I love them and use them daily, so I don’t usually fret about the maximalism; it doesn’t seem wasteful.

Wasteful, however, seems to have seeped into my planner world. I was going to take a picture of each of the planner items I’ve accumulated, but that would crash my website. Here is a group photo of the, um, handful? pile? hoard? of organizers and planners I have. To add to my embarrassment, I have another two pads on the way (they are BEAUTIFUL – check out bookbindersdesign.com in Sweden – none of these are affiliate links or anything, just excitement). Oops, I mean, if you want to make an well-thought-out intentional choice to bring new material belongings into your life, these would be an option to consider. 🙃

Messy pile of calendars, planners, sticky notes, and pads with a 'week-at-a-glance'.
I might have overdone things

Your reward for reading this far is to claim any of the (many) unused or barely-used items I have left. If you see anything you like in the photo above, let me know! All stationery deserves an appreciative home. 🙂 Seriously, I will happily send you my extras, just ask.

Back to the Planners

I experimented with varying sizes and types of my beloved Passion Planner (they have free pdf templates online), the Panda Pro, and I ended up designing my own pages for a filofax organizer binder. I found it tedious to print and cut the pages though, never mind that the paper is nowhere near the quality I want – at least the designing was fun!

I’m currently trying out – with great success, but it’s early days – the filofax notebook system. It’s got movable pages and is less calendar-y than the others, so it suits me and all my lists. The internet tells me that my pretty notebook will fit pages from similar-sized disc notebook systems, but so far I’m happy with the types of pages and calendars I have for it. I am looking forward to the days of doodling all my ideas for trips.

Medium-size notebook with colourful leaves on the front.
Ding ding ding! We have a winner! 🏆

What I Learned

My process is to open my planner in the morning, say hello to myself, and think about what needs to get done that day, what I want to get done, and how I want to approach the world. Here are the things I need/want a place for:

  • Word(s) of the day to give me focus.
  • Dinner. It’s not helpful to remember to thaw something at 4 pm.
  • Three priorities. Only three, otherwise the word “priority” is a bit too watered down.
  • Lists of non-priorities that may or may not get done that day, but are easy to find the next day. Or the next week. Or month.
  • Frequently used lists, like my monthly ritual or a class outline, that I use to plan my tasks.
  • Meetings and appointments, but not too much space for this – they’re in my phone/computer too, I just want a general way to picture the shape of my day.
  • Quick visual of my kids’ schedules, again no details needed here.
  • Long-term planning (hahahahahahahaha, good one, COVID).
  • Tasks – like putting the garbage out or paying a credit card that doesn’t have auto-pay – that need to be done on a certain day. [FUN FACT: Our garbage collection is every six business days. It is a different day every week and gets extra confusing when there are holidays. If you live in a place (anywhere but London, Ontario probably) that has a regular schedule, pause to give that predictability some appreciation right now.]
  • Reminder to reflect on what went well or didn’t, maybe a gratitude list.
  • Dreaming. In the Passion Planner it’s called the “space of infinite possibility” and every planner – every life – needs that!

I’ll update you next year (I put a note in my planner to do that), so we’ll see how long I stick with my current system. I did promise myself to not spend another penny on planner items, so that may motivate me!

No More Mousing Around

You can skip this post if you’re not interested in me nerd-ing out about keyboard shortcuts. 😄

It’s All About Accessibility (and efficiency)

Many computer users can’t/don’t use a mouse to navigate around on the computer. Some use the keyboard only, some use alternate access devices or software to read and move through pages with switches or voice commands, and some get irritated at the inefficiency of taking their hands off the keyboard when they’re working away in the zone – in flow.

For computer files and websites to be accessible to everyone, they need to be navigable (is that a word?) by keyboard only. Go ahead, try and tab through the menu items on a few sites and see how you would do without your mouse.

I spend whole days immersed in documents in MS Word – on a PC and increasingly on my Mac – often doing fairly repetitive things like formatting references for academic papers. My bliss is finding ways to do that quickly and consistently without having to figure out where my fingers and mouse cursor are and where I need them to be. In other words, I live for keyboard shortcuts.

How to Remember ALL THE SHORTCUTS?

Before my son turned 19 (yes, I’ll explain), I had a system that was less than stellar for when I switched from a PC (work office) to a Mac (home office) and my motor memory wasn’t enough to do things efficiently. I had all these little sticky notes with shortcuts I found helpful but didn’t use often enough to drill them into my brain. I didn’t like the notes because they had things like “CTRL+OPT+SPACE = emojis” which, while accurate, wasn’t very time-saving if I had to lift my hands up to figure out which was the option key each time. I rely on my fingers knowing where to go, not knowing my CMD from my CTRL or my ⌘ from my ~. AND, the messy little notes listed the shortcuts first instead of what I was trying to do, so my brain took a while to find the relevant cue each time. Thank goodness for my son’s birthday.

The Birthday

My new system has nothing to do with my son really, it was my daughter that (indirectly) made my life much simpler. She is a brilliant artist and in honour of the keyboard-related gifts for her brother’s birthday, she made this card.

hand-drawn keyboard with the letters on the keys saying "Happy 19th Birthday Andrew"
Her gift for him was a mechanical number-pad keyboard 🙂


I am quite sure I’m not the first person to think of depicting shortcuts in a more visual way, but it was a new concept to me and I got to work drawing my own keyboard.

hand-drawn keyboard on graph paper
perfect use for these adorable MUJI graph paper sticky notes

Then I added some colour coding.

hand-drawn keyboard on graph paper with coloured borders around some of the letters and explanations before
hmmmm not looking as good as it did in my head

It didn’t make my heart sing.

Luckily, I also know lots of shortcuts in Adobe Illustrator, so I was able to make a much better version. (Truth be told, I use the mouse all the time in Illustrator – moving objects around to the perfect spot is quite satisfying.)

My New System

I made a table with the function I’m trying to achieve, the shortcut keys, and a pretty picture for the ones with three or more keys to press. You can download the document from the bottom of the page if you’re interested – it’s a Word doc because making a pdf accessible is its own circle of hell. Here’s what a clip of it looks like:

screenshot of a table listing functions in Word (copying selected text with comments and track changes included) then the shortcut (Cmd+Fn+3) and a visual of the keyboard with those 3 keys highlighted.
so pretty

The Irony

Putting together this document was an excellent lesson, and now I seem to know all these shortcuts by heart. Maybe after a break I’ll need to refer to it again … or I’ll use the template I made in Illustrator to put together a birthday card or two 🙂

*Wear* have I been?!?

Coming up with a punny title, that’s where 😁

I’m writing about clothing shopping today – not a topic I usually pay much attention to, but bear with me, the story ends with peace, clarity, and comfy pants.

My relationship with clothing is complicated. My size changes year to year, I had limits on how I could dress at work, and well, I’m a woman and spent half my life feeling obligated to “look pretty”. Before the pandemic, I’d started to let go of others’ views about what I should wear (yay 😊 ) but the real epiphanies came during the lockdowns.

I don’t enjoy shopping, and spending money on obligatory clothes I didn’t actually like was never a priority. Living life more sustainably is important to me, so I did most of my shopping at secondhand and thrift shops. Like everyone, I had to shift to online shopping as the stay-at-home orders went on and clothes wore out or I grew out of them. I expected it to be a disaster, selecting clothes (especially pants!) from pictures of people who are shaped differently than I am. I was wrong. I’ve never been happier with my wardrobe than I am now.

Having a Uniform

I’m late to the uniform wardrobe game. Secondhand clothes are awesome for many reasons, but strengths are also often weaknesses. I’ve loved many unique pieces I found over the years, and it meant my wardrobe was always a system of mix and match. When a piece wore out – which, let’s face it, happens quickly with secondhand stuff – I’d find myself with a few other items that no longer had anything to go with. I’d move them into my group of ‘pending’ items, lonely pretty things waiting for a magical future when I’d have something to match them. I didn’t realize how convoluted the system was until it ended.

Last year, I’d bought a t-shirt dress online and found I was wearing it constantly. I worried about wearing it out too quickly, but since I’d bought it new … aha! … I could buy another one of the exact same thing. I did. This (obvious-to-everyone-but-me) strategy continued over the year, so when I found a tank top I reached for each day (at least each day that I wasn’t wearing one of my t-shirt dresses), I bought two more of them. My summer wardrobe is now two dresses, a few tank tops, t-shirts, two pairs of shorts, and a pair of light pants. I am happy every day and I don’t have to think about any of it. My previous pretties went to my daughter who is fabulously creative putting things together. I didn’t spend much money, and I actually shop less (as in *not at all* for months now) because what I have is so satisfying, I feel no need to buy anything. For the fall, I have heavier pants, sweaters to put over tees, and tunics with leggings already, nothing else needed.

It’s hard to describe how much peace I feel looking at my closet.

tidy closet with about 40 pieces of clothing hanging and a few folded items
I upgraded from old wire hangers to celebrate.

Bonus Joy

I won a sweepstakes through one of my online purchases: $500!! And the funny thing is, I can’t think of anything I want to get with it. I scrolled through all sorts of options, but none of them look as good as the things I already enjoy. My kids are pretty happy to boost their own wardrobes, especially since they’re fully vaccinated and starting to venture out into the world again.

Another, Totally Different Bonus

When I used to try clothes on at a store, it was in a little dressing room with a big mirror. At home, I try them on in my big bedroom with a little mirror … and the mirror isn’t even visible from the spot by the bed where I open the packages. This time, my aha moment came when I put on a pair of pants that felt amazing, like these-could-be-pajama-pants-I-wear-to-work amazing. I realized I didn’t even want to look in the mirror. It didn’t matter at all what they looked like, I was going to wear them all the time.

Now, I choose my clothes based on how they feel, not how they look (except polka dots, that’s just basic science, polka dots = little smiles all over). It took me 54 years to get here, and it’s a glorious place to be!

me (54-year-old woman with brown hair) wearing a blue polka-dot dress, smiling amongst greenery overlooking blue water

p.s. My son’s punny title was “Closet Uniformity” – pretty good, but mine’s better, right?

A Cure Through Connection

I’ve been a bit out of sorts lately, particularly with my day job. I’m irritable and quick to judge. I wanted to reconnect with the person I want to be, my inner Karen of calm openness. As usual, I ended up wandering down a different path than I intended and found myself in a beautiful place. I set out to connect better with myself but ended up finding what I needed through connections with others.

A workshop popped up on my twitter feed, a zoom session with Tara Brach talking about her new book, Trusting the Gold. Tara is the author of a couple of books that (radically) changed how I am in the world: Radical Compassion and Radical Acceptance, so I eagerly signed up.

While I fiddled with my zoom settings to clear the clutter of hundreds of participants from my screen (muttering to myself, why would anyone leave their video on?), Tara told the story of the clay Buddha. Here’s my version:

Monks caring for a massive clay statue of Buddha were having difficulty caring for its frequent cracks. Despite their best efforts to maintain the clay, the cracks got deeper. One day, they noticed a warm glow coming from the deepest crack. They found that the statue itself was made of gold. The huge golden Buddha had been covered with dirt and clay to protect it during a time of danger. The monks had been working to maintain its cover long after the need for protection had ended.

We’ve all been covering ourselves for extra protection recently (not just literally! metaphorically!), and I’d been working on my protective shield so much that I’d forgotten the gold inside. When we did an exercise about a source of stress, I realized I’d been separating myself emotionally from my workplace and the people there. I’m taking early retirement at the end of the year, and I guess I’d started my internal goodbye process ahead of schedule. A bit of clay crumbled off me.

The zoom session continued. I stopped taking notes. I opened the gallery view and scrolled through, saying hello (on zoom-mute of course, but yes, out loud, my cats didn’t mind) to each of the participants. I cried as I did some of the meditations and could see others wiping away their own tears.

Near the end, one of the audience questions led Tara to do an exercise with a participant that was moving, intimate, and so relatable it felt like she was speaking to me personally.

After that, Tara asked us to scroll through the gallery view and simply look at someone and know they were wishing us well. I did the unthinkable and turned on my own video, so that someone could see me.

I am a hider, forever wishing for invisibility. My urge to let others see me was a landslide of clay falling away.

I have a golden Buddha inside me, yes, and its glow shines calmness through me. The magic I needed though, came from seeing hundreds of golden Buddhas glowing back at me. Connection. Acceptance. Compassion.

My steps are lighter today, my smile warmer. Let’s see how my work meetings go tomorrow 🙂 


Excited and Not

I get my first vaccine shot this week. I’ll keep following public health guidelines, but what a relief it will be to soon not worry about catching covid myself. I foresee a summer of porch visits and maybe even a restaurant patio once servers get a chance to get their shots too. I’m even starting to dream about going *inside* libraries and museums.

But I’m not excited about things getting back to normal. I wasn’t thrilled with normal. How did you feel about your daily life before the pandemic? I was a bit burned out and remember the wave of relief washing over me those first few mornings that did not involve three of us taking turns in the bathroom and kitchen, rushing to leave the house for the day and crashing back home later, too spent to do much of anything fun at all.

In the winter, I didn’t see the sun some days, walking to and from work in the dark and spending my days in a windowless office and meeting rooms. I daydreamed about upcoming escapes – to a writing workshop, a yurt, New York City – and the promise of getting away from normal for awhile. I started to skip lunchtime yoga because it was too hard to keep up with an instructor whose pace felt like watching a YouTube video on 1.75x speed. Finding yoga too stressful was a sign I was struggling for sure. I knew I was clinging to trips and events as ways to avoid facing whatever was bothering me, but to be fair, that’s been my coping mechanism for ages and I don’t regret it for a second 😁. Then, boom. COVID.

This past year was difficult in unprecedented ways, including having the word unprecedented filling up newsfeeds and conversations. I am eager to get back some of the freedoms I took for granted, but I don’t want my precedented life back.

I got rid of all my pants with zippers and buttons, I gave away formal shirts and blouses, and never being a fan of bras in the first place, I got rid of all but one that’s really just a short camisole. I promised myself I could spend the rest of my life wearing clothes that I like. I mean, I wrote it down – I have a signed permission slip for Karen Lowry to wear whatever the heck she wants to each day.

I was able to move to a new office at work and have a glorious window now, so there will be no more fully dark days. I’m not there often yet but when I am, even on short December days I get a view of the sunrise. (The picture above may not be a stunning landscape, but compared to no windows? It makes my heart sing!)

Will vaccination, comfy clothes, and sunlight help? YES. So much.

So why am I still filled with dread? That’s why I’m writing this. Putting my fingers on the keyboard to put my finger on the source of my angst. I have less than a year left at my day job, and while it’s been exceptionally stressful during the pandemic, much of my day-to-day work is already back to how it was before. I do prefer working from home, where my schedule and routine suits my work habits better, but this pit in my stomach is bigger than the inconvenience of shifting back to an office schedule.

I’m worried about having to rush again.

I miss kids’ school shows, having drinks with friends, eating out, travelling, and live music. I don’t miss doing all of those things every single month.

There it is. My fear is that once it’s safe, everyone will want to do ALL THE THINGS right away. I need my life to be on 0.75x speed, maybe even 0.5x. I won’t rush back into life, I’ll savour each step, watch the sun rise, and continue my slow yoga.


Anecdotal Evidence

I’m adjusting well to the pandemic this last little while, getting in the groove while we look ahead to new vaccinated grooves. I still don’t like that businesses are closing, I hate that people are sick and dying, loneliness makes my soul sad, and the impact on my teenage children, well, is rough. I’m finding the upsides more easily though, working from home and getting to spend tons of time with my daughter.

I do want to talk about a little thing I miss a big amount. Anecdotes. I miss stories, little snippets of everyday life. The other day, I saw two people I’d chatted with at least weekly for years, but hadn’t seen once since covid started. One lives only three blocks away, such is the ungrooviness of all this.

We exchanged Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, Happy Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc. We talked about any big changes for our families over the past year. It felt great to catch up, of course. What we didn’t share were all the little dramas, fun ones or scary ones, that still happen despite the smallness of our worlds. I miss all the chit chat that doesn’t happen over zoom.

I broke my glasses. They were my first-ever pair so I don’t have old ones to fall back on (haha, I fell front on these, that was the problem). I got in to see the optometrist quickly and new glasses are on their way. It’s caused huge changes in my daily life because my kinda-stuck-together frames are painful to wear and yet necessary for everything I do on the computer, which is everything. The thing is, by next week I’ll have new ones and by the week after that, I’ll forget all about it. When I bump into someone a year from now, I’m hardly going to demonstrate how I smushed the frames with a shovelful of snow jamming into my coat pocket. I won’t recount the evening I screamed in frustration (sorry Julia) as I tried to put them back together – without being able to see – in a way that wouldn’t give me a pounding headache. I’ll likely neglect to mention the impossibility of choosing new frames while wearing a mask.

What happened to you this week that you wish you could be chatting about? I miss hearing about my colleague’s dogs’ antics. I hope their health issues are stable. I want the scoop on people’s dating adventures and indignance at parking lot drama. I’m sure my neighbour’s granddaughter has done a million cute things I don’t know about.

I think this is one of the reasons that time feels so wonky these days. There was a rhythm to our lives. Acknowledging someone’s string of bad luck or saying ‘things happen in threes’ after their second happy coincidence – those were markers, keeping the beat. Our collective pulse has become irregular.

red glasses with electrical tape, glue, and clear tape holding them together
Yes, this was a bad repair job. No, I couldn’t see how bad it was.

When she stopped laughing at the tape on my glasses, a friend asked, “When did you break them?” And I didn’t know the answer. I still don’t as I type this. It was quite recent. I saw the optometrist on a Wednesday. Today’s Saturday and it wasn’t this week, so … sigh. There was no one here to tell at the time. I don’t know exactly when I broke my toe last fall, but I do know when I dyed my daughter’s hair because we timed how long the colour lasted (waaaaaaay longer than the box said). I don’t know when I took my cat to the vet or had the, um, incident when I was stuck at the liquor store in my pajamas in the middle of the day with my car not starting. There was snow on the ground, my not-in-boots feet remember that. What about last summer? What happened then?

I find my memory less reliable as I get older (who doesn’t?) but instead of struggling to pull up a few details about an occasional event or two, this past year all I see is a faded collage of blurry pictures in my head. From a distance. With broken glasses. Telling anecdotes made the pictures clearer.

I searched (briefly, it is the weekend after all) to find research on how telling stories helps us remember events, but all I found was evidence – heaps thereof – that we remember information better when it’s told to us in a story rather than in dry, factual lists. I knew that. I can remember lots of stories that prove the point 🙂 Storytelling helps the teller remember too, though.

If I didn’t tell anyone about the funny thing that happened on my morning walk, did it even happen?

I guess the answer’s yes, but will I even remember it? Nope.

I hope you’re all well, and if you don’t have anyone to share your little daily stories with, I’d love to hear them.

The Joy of Joy for Joy’s Sake

Of all the freedoms that come with age, embracing who I am by doing what I love is the most fun. Not giving f*cks about what others think is right up there, entwined with the self-actualization, but the core of this particular joy is joy itself.

I didn’t even know I was on this journey while I moved through its steps over many years (decades), but the path is clear in hindsight.

Continue reading “The Joy of Joy for Joy’s Sake”

Oops! The Cost of Multitasking

Through detailed scientific investigation, I determined the cost of multitasking to be $49.95. US. What’s that, $70 Canadian? Ouch.

Like any academic endeavour, I started with a hypothesis. I predicted that while the guy on the webinar was introducing his topic, I could scroll through Instagram on my phone. And answer a few quick emails in another window. My methods involved leaning back in my chair, scrolling Insta with my left hand (a talent perfected with practice) and moving my computer mouse with my right. My ears were engaged (theoretically) with the webinar. I chose a time of day (not really, the webinar schedule was not within my control) when one cat was sleeping and the other satisfied with an occasional pat with my foot. The only unusual aspect of the experimental design was that I had no food or beverages with me, an oversight I will rectify in future studies.

Continue reading “Oops! The Cost of Multitasking”

Breathing in 2021

There are meaningful, lyrical pieces written about hope, renewal and vaccination in the new year. This is not one of them. I do feel hopeful – and impressed, yay scientists! – with the covid vaccine rolling out (shooting out? injecting out?) already. But I don’t feel able to offer inspiration to you, lovely readers, because we’re all experiencing this pandemic so differently. You may have extra time or far less, financial strain or more money in your pocket, gratitude for relationships or strife or loneliness, good health or a sore nose from all the swabs you’ve had. You may cry each day or savour the chance to live in pajamas, or both. I’ve struggled and found new joys, and had deep lows and guilty highs (and bought lots of new pajamas).

One thing I’m sure of is that we’re all living with uncertainty. There’s shaky ground beneath us and fog clouding the path ahead, so my main intention for 2021 is to be kind and continue to cut everyone some slack.

Continue reading “Breathing in 2021”

The Joy of Quirky Kijiji

Here in Ontario, we use a ‘craigslist’-type site called kijiji. Go on, take a minute to savour how fun it is to say kijiji out loud. It’s fun to write too, with all those little dots. For me the best part is the window it opens into people’s quirky lives. I have a folder filled with cut-and-pasted ads I call “Kijiji Poetry”.

Wanted:looking for a lost passport  

the passport is in my black backpack, i lost the backpack.

My fascination started with a post asking for a “quiet horse” and I was hooked. Why quiet? Would it be kept near neighbours (neigh, haha) who might complain? Are most horses noisy? Were there no other required characteristics, just quietness?

Continue reading “The Joy of Quirky Kijiji”