#48 – See Billy Joel in Concert – DONE!

I finally saw Billy Joel in concert!  I’m not much of a music person.  I like music, of course, but not in the way that a lot of people do.  I’d almost always rather listen to a podcast or audiobook than music, though I do love me a good kitchen dance party.

Billy Joel, however, is an exception.  My mom is a big fan, and I don’t remember when I first heard his songs, but I’ve loved his music since I was little.  My appreciation for it has only grown over the years as I could understand the significance of the words in Goodnight Saigon, or the message in Vienna Waits for You .  I love the piano-driven music, the timber of his voice, and his great story telling.

Seeing Billy Joel perform live has been on every started and abandoned 101 list through the years.  It went back on this one, because Billy is probably one of the less than five artists I feel compelled to see perform live.  And let’s face it, our boy Billy hasn’t always taken the best care of himself, so he may not have a lot of tours left in him.

My plan was to watch his tour schedule and try to do this at some point, but it wasn’t on my radar yet.  However, this summer my friend Jen posted on Facebook that she had two great tickets to an upcoming Billy Joel concert in DC that she couldn’t use and asked for takers.  Hurray for needing to get up early to feed the hounds.  I was the first to jump on the offer and had the tickets locked down by 8am, long before all the other people who commented on her post tried to snag them.

Concert tickets are expensive, so it was a splurge, but it also made the perfect early birthday present for my mom – the lady who introduced me to Billy Joel.  She was so excited when I told her about the concert, and I knew this would be a birthday present both of us would cherish.

We headed for the Nationals stadium on Saturday, July 30.  The forecast was looking ominous, but the rain was holding off…until we emerged from the metro.  The skies opened up and it poured.  The concert faithful packed into the covered walkways of the park where the bathrooms and food counters are, hot, sweaty, and slightly smelly in our ponchos and wet shoes.  But people had fun with it.  A man kept getting the crowd to sing Piano Man, and I amused myself by watching a woman unabashedly read a filthy romance novel on her iPad, in huge font.

An hour and fifteen minutes late, the show started.  The opening act was cut and Billy carved a couple of songs off his set, but we still got to hear all of our favorites.  Our seats were perfect – in the stands along the third base line, second row.  As a bonus, whoever had the seats in front of us must have decided not to brave the rain and we had a totally unobstructed view.  Mom and I danced and sang along and had the best time.

Billy Joel has not lost his touch – his voice sounds the same as ever, he played the piano with so much energy, and his chatting between the songs was really funny.  And the production value of the concert had me rethinking my previous concert apathy.  The backup musicians were tremendously talented and fun to watch and the videography and lighting really enhanced the songs and the experience.  Mom and I both declared it the best concert we had ever been to.

Giving Mom that gift made me so happy.  We had such fun – including the adventure of the rain.  I know the memories of that evening will last far beyond that one day, proving again to me that experiences make the best gifts.

In Praise of Evernote

I find that most apps that are recommended to help improve my life – make it more efficient, effective, etc. – just end up stressing me out.  Last year I was at a conference and the keynote speaker pitched herself as “your nerdy best friend,” the person who would tell you which apps were really worth it.  One of her top picks was Evernote.  I realize, I’m pretty behind the times on this one, but it’s been a revelation to me nonetheless.

The intro text on Evernote’s website is pretty  accurate about what the app does and why it is useful: “Inspiration strikes anywhere. Evernote lets you capture, nurture, and share your ideas across any device.”  Basically, it’s a highly organized, easy to search, note taking app that allows you to remember and find information.  If you can upload documents, pdfs, take pictures of documents and turn them into pdfs, make checklists, record audio notes…the list goes on.  I paid for an upgraded membership and with that comes the ability to make notes on/annotate PDFs.  So useful for meetings.  I now use Evernote exclusively to take notes for work and volunteer meetings, and to capture quotes that resonate with me, life hacks that catch my eye, etc.  It’s been a game changer for making information I need and want to access easily available.  And since it syncs across all devices, I have access to my information on my work and home computers, my iPad, and my phone.  Brilliant.

So Evernote is the shit, but why am I writing about it on my 101 Blog?  Because it helped me fix one of those nagging problems that has always been in the back of my mind, causing the kind of background, low-level annoyance that can be, as my spiritual guru, Gretchen Rubin would say, “a happiness stumbling block.”  That stumbling block – my gift stash.

I think most women have a gift stash.  It’s comprised of things we run across that are little and cute and we think, “that would be a great little gift to have on hand.”  We see ourselves giving them as little hostess gifts, a silly treat for friend’s birthday, a shower gift for some yet-to-be-conceived baby.  For me, the list goes on and on.  The gift stash is definitely a symptom of my both my over-buying and pack rat tendencies (sister says hoarding, but that’s just because she’s mean).  The result was, though, that I had great little gifts squirreled away in a few spots, but no recollection of what I had purchased.  So every time I had just the kind of situation the gift stash was envisioned to address, I went out and bought something new.  Whomp whomp.

During the complete cleanout I did in the first six weeks of my 101 (as required by #59 and to be written about in more detail later), I vowed to get a handle on the gift stash.  Enter Evernote.  I created a note called Gifts, and as I cleaned things out, I took a picture of each item and added it to the note.  At the end of the cleaning out, I sorted the stuff and created three storage solutions: one for stocking stuffers for my immediate family, one for smaller sized gifts, and one for larger items.  Then I went back to the Evernote and added info about where each item was stored.

And I’ve already used the system.  Saved money, saved time, solved that nagging problem.  Thanks Evernote!

Caffeine and Cash

I started #69 yesterday (Take coffee to work (i.e. no morning Dunkin’) every day for a month.

I often make coffee at home, but I also somehow often convince myself it is easier and faster to drive to DD and get it.  Then when I get there, I add in a not so healthy breakfast option that I don’t need.  I figure my DD fast will help break the habit and reinforce that the coffee making hardship is all in my head.  Plus, I figure I’ll save about 10-15 bucks a week.  If I keep the habit of making coffee at home through the whole 1001, I could save upwards of $1,500 – that’s real money!

2 days down, 29 to go!

And she’s off!

Kicked off my 101 by tackling #59: Clean out all my closets, drawers, etc and organize my life within the first six weeks of the 1001 days and the last six weeks of the 1001 days.  Whew, and what a kick off it was.  I took Friday and Monday off of work and pretty much worked on this continuously for four days.  I’m exhausted, but my closets look fabulous.

I have about eight bags of things to go to various donation places, a big bin of yard sale stuff, and about 15 bags of trash.  Sister and I did a clean out like this about a year ago, so it was surprising how much stuff there still was to get rid of.  It was a good reminder about needing to be more mindful of what I purchase/accumulate and bring into the house.  I actually have empty space in drawers and closets, which is a pretty freeing.  And now there is a strict moratorium on purchase of any of the following items: chapstick/lip balm, cocktail napkins, cute paper straws, honey, tea of any kind, hot cocoa, small purse packs of tissues, travel size ANYTHING, cupcake liners, and fancy vinegar.  So very much of all those things.

Doing #59 also helped to get a few other things crossed off my list: #86 – Create Evernote list of pre-purchased gifts for easy searching and using and #89 – Organize jewelry cabinet.  It’s going to be so nice to have all my jewelry organized in a way that is easy to see so that I’ll actually use it, and not wear the same two pieces every day.

The Evernote of gifts is also going to be soooo handy.  Like a lot of women, I’ve accumulated quite the stash of little odds and ends that would make good gifts.  But come gift-giving time, they were tucked away in hard to access boxes and scattered around the house.  Now, not only are they all in the same place, I have two Evernotes with a picture of each item (one for kid gifts and one for adults).  The next time I need to gift something, I’ll just scroll though the pictures, go get that item, and wrap it up.  My long term goal is NOT to accumulate that kind of stuff – it’s often night quite the right thing and most of the people I buy gifts for I want to be able to give them something more personal than a candle from my stash.  But the Evernote organization will definitely help me “spend down” my current stash.  Btw, using Evernote in general has been life changing and I’m an evangelical Evernoter.

Last update – A.J. and D.B. came over for breakfast on Saturday and we worked on their lists.  It’s so fun to be talking about this idea of positive goal setting with such fun, smart ladies.  I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone’s final lists look like!  I guess you can say the breakfast also accomplished part of #95 – Have at least five 101 progress report and planning dates with Lauren and others.  Cheers!

P.S.  My very favorite thing from the clean out is the increased functionality of my upper corner cabinet thanks to the addition of two 18″ non-skid turntables/Lazy Susans.  I am obsessed with them and can’t stop opening that cabinet to admire how beautifully organized and functional those spinny little disks are.  Everyone with one of those god-awful black hole cabinets should get one.

101 in 1001…

The Challenge:  Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days (roughly 2.75 years)

The Criteria:  Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. achievable, but represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days?:  Many people have created lists in the past – frequently simple goals such as new year’s resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organizing and timing some tasks.

So follow along as I work on making some practical and healthy changes, having some adventures, and adding a little more light to my life.  ahead