Tuesday, March 10, 2015


So with the days of full spring upon us, it's gotten quite busy around here recently. The spate of 80 degree temperatures has meant that I need to be watering more.  I have snow pea and spinach seedlings starting. And before long, I will be sprouting tomato, pumpkin, squash and cucumber seeds to go into the ground in another month or so.

Where did winter go?  I don't know, but I do know we see a lot less of her these days, while my friends in the midwest and east can't seem to get free of her icy grip.

But anyway, all this busy-ness has led me to appreciate the few unbracketed days I have.  What are those, you ask?  (It's nothing to do with basketball's March Madness brackets). For me, it works like this: Anytime I have a commitment of some sort I must keep on any given day, it creates a little bracket within that day.  For instance, it can be for something fun: if we're meeting for lunch at noon, I probably bracket a little time in the morning to get ready, time to drive into town, and a couple of hours for us to chat and eat our lunch.  For my work days, if I have a meeting at the winery at 10 a.m.,  I bracket that time out and don't schedule anything else until whenever I estimate the meeting will be over. So anything extra I'd like to do needs to get fit into the time on either side of whatever's bracketed for that day.

No space in between the brackets.

But I think the key to sanity in this modern world of ours is to have at least one or two unbracketed days a week, to do with as you please.  It doesn't necessarily mean a non-work day (although it can and sometimes should be) but it does mean that you are free to schedule your day as you please, with no hard-standing commitments you have to work around.  

I think everyone needs to have the basic right to not have to be anywhere for 24 hours or so, on a regular basis.  In this culture of ours, we love to fill up our downtime -- not just with things we have got to do, like get our teeth cleaned and show up in pick-up lane at our kids school at 3 p.m., but we also love our voluntary activities -- sporting events and concerts, clubs and groups, classes at the gym, etc.  And there is nothing worse than looking at your calendar and finding days upon days upon days which all have something (and sometimes many things) written in the box under each date.  

The opposite problem. Sometimes I fear retirement because of this.

When things gets bad enough, even the things we signed up for and thought would be fun, like a concert or neighborhood party, can begin to feel like one more thing you have to show up for. But a life with no brackets is not good either, because those brackets also  frame another wall -- one around our free time, and free time never feels better than when it comes between two busy times.

Sometimes I feel like a tightrope walker, attempting to stay in the middle lane between too busy and too aimless (mostly trending towards the former but slowing down more as I age).  So I keep an eye on my brackets but even more, and on the spaces in between them.

Inside the brackets, produce and work. Outside the brackets, I stand, I rest, and I breathe. And I set my sights on the next bracket, and get ready.


  1. It's either feast or famine re scheduling isn't it? I'm in a sloooow period right now (everyone is waiting until spring break!) and could use more filled brackets. The result has been going out to lunch too much! But that's okay. Part of working in a business that ebbs and flows with seasons. But I so agree with you. Having some flexibility in your schedule really does bode well for happiness. Funny how you can trudge through with no time when you need to, but when you do have that flexibility you look back and think "HOW did I keep that pace?!"
    I saw that California had its warmest winter ever. Unbelievable. I wonder if this trend will continue and amplify over time? bizarre what a disparity between east and west there was. We warmed up dramatically and now I'm trying to decide the best week to reseed the Barbie Fetch Path in my lawn that looks like tiny planes have been landing there all winter. I'd be jumping the gun though, we usually have one huge snow in March. It's been very pretty the past few days though, with warm air and so much snow on the ground we have tremendous, thick fog. Very pretty against the naked trees.

    1. I was going to say that I'll bet you get snow-clobbered one more time before Easter. As for us, yes, this is very strange weather indeed...it may be 90 degrees this weekend! I am afraid it's the New Normal though, which I suppose is true everywhere. Who ever thought we'd see what would normally be a 500 year weather shift within the space of our own lifetimes? Crazy.

  2. We had our coldest and snowiest February on record. Strange weather indeed.

    As for bracketing, it's been feast and famine for me. For the first time in my life, I have too much time on my hands and I never thought I'd be in that position. For years it was a juggling act of family and career. When I retired, I had three glorious years of doing all the things I wanted to do but couldn't when I was working. Then arthritis and sports injuries set in. I am discovering a whole new life at the aquatic center. It is a warm water therapy pool filled with people like me who are of a certain age, but not ready to give up on an active life yet.

    1. Oh Molly, that sounds wonderful and I'm pretty sure I will be following suit eventually. Boy, the years of sports injuries sure do take their toll! Before I started working at the winery I think I also had too much time on my hands and I realized I'm just not ready to go there yet. Maybe no one is and it just happens to us anyway. If you're homesteading, you are usually busy, but it's pretty much work done alone and I still enjoy working in a group dynamic. Probably I should have joined a Kibbutz lol but the winery suffices. Glad the water aquatics class is giving you people you enjoy hanging out with!