Small Wins

Work was good today. I got to leave early.

The weather wasn’t great but the drive from our house to Logan was okay.

We found parking easily in the economy lot.

The driver of our shuttle bus called in to his people so they could bust into the car near ours and turn off the lights, saving someone annoyance after the holiday.

There was no line at security and we were through in under 5 minutes.

My in-laws were already waiting for us at the gate.


Legal Seafood had three spots open for us to have a chowder and a beer.

Assuming the flight is good, this will be a massive win of a day. And after the past few days, I’ll take these small wins.

The Yard Work is DONE

Our yard is large for where we live in the suburbs – about a half-acre. Most other lots are 1/3 to 1/4 acre. We also have a LOT of trees: a beech behind the house, several ashes around the perimeter, and a huge maple in the front. So fall is always a time when we need to deal with the leaves. It normally takes us 5-6 days to get everything done.

Well this year, our brother-in-law lent us his new industrial-grade leaf blower and let me tell you: this thing is a game-changer. Raking always leaves me wrecked (pun totally intended). Today I spent 2.5 hours leaf-blowing, then Amy and I took 3 loads of leaves to the town dump/recycle center (front half of the yard) and got the leaves from the back half of the yard dumped into the gigantic compost pile in the back of our yard. We’ve got another load of bagged leaves plus downed sticks to bring to the dump tomorrow, then we just need to mow the lawn for the final time and we are DONE with yard clean-up.

Leaf-blower is a TOTAL game-changer. I didn’t hate today (much) because of it.

Also I am exhausted and this is the dumbest blog post ever.

Extra Curriculars

You know how when you’re in school and they call sports and clubs “extra curricular activities”? Well, I work in academia, so I’ve taken to calling my non-work life my extra curriculars. And when I start doing them, I often throw myself info it full steam ahead. Over the past decade, here are the things that I’ve gotten waaaaaay into:

Knitting – I learned in 2004 – it was one of the reasons I started this very blog! And even though I’m lucky to finish one or two things a year now, I have so much yarn. I’ve made a ton of hats over the years thanks to favorite my Ravelry group’s January knit-alongs called the Puck This Hat Trick. If you knit three hats in January you earn yourself bragging rights! Maybe I’ll try that again this year, since it’s been a couple of years since I made any new hats.

Megan in a hand-knit hat
Pretty in pink and cables (my favorite hat!)

Ice hockey – I started playing when we lived in Philadelphia, but moving to Boston threw it into high gear. For a couple of summers I played in 3 leagues, averaging 4-5 games/week. For goodness sake, Amy and I, along with our friend Libby, actually went to adult women’s hockey camp at Dartmouth for 3 summers running! Now I limit myself to one league at at a time – one game per week.  Except that I haven’t been able to play since April. Hoping to get back on the ice in 2015 though.

Megan in hockey gear
In full protective gear!

CrossFit – I started CrossFit in 2008, when I realized that 40 was breathing down my neck and I was only getting less fit and healthy. Like many folks who tend to throw themselves into CrossFit, I annoyed and bored the living daylights out of everyone around me for at least a year, maybe more.  But I got into great shape, got strong, and felt great! When I can, I still go to CrossFit several times a week. (If you’ve ever seen a video of “annoying CrossFitters doing annoying things”, that’s what I was like. Sorry everyone who I subjected to that kind of thing. I’m much more self-aware now.)

Chest-to-bar pullups
Chest-to-bar pullups

Weightlifting – After doing CrossFit for a couple of years, one of my coaches started getting into competitive Olympic weightlifting. I managed to catch his enthusiasm and spent almost a year training solely for that. I participated in a few meets, and had a total blast! If it weren’t for a rather unfortunate ski incident and the realization that training 2-3 hours/day was taking over my life, I’d probably still be doing it. Alas!

Bay State Games - Snatch
In the setup for the snatch.

Downhill skiing – When I was a kid, my folks learned to ski along with my brother and me. I skied regularly (in the midwest – sigh) until I was 18, and then pretty much stopped until I met Amy. Her family all are skiers, so I got back into it. And it’s like riding a bike! I completely remembered how to do it after just a run or two! We ski a lot now, mostly in Maine and New Hampshire. That said, my favorite ski resort is one of the first places I ever skied as a kid: Big Sky in Montana. I hope to get back there next year!

On the chairlift at Big Sky
On the chairlift at Big Sky

So there you have my extra curricular life in a nutshell. I’ve tried a lot of things that haven’t stuck over the years, like yoga, indoor soccer, drawing, running, biking. I’m kind of adrift right now – we’re not yet in ski season, and my ice hockey and CrossFit is severely curtailed thanks to the post-concussive headaches. So I’m trying to figure out where to throw my energies… maybe it’s this blog!

I’m Megan Brooks, Librarian at Wellesley College. This is How I Work.

In the vein of the popular LifeHacker series of posts, I thought I’d take a stab at describing how I work.

Location: Metrowest Boston
Current Gig: Director of the Research Services team, a group within Research & Instructional Support, which itself is part of Library & Technology Services at Wellesley College
One word that best describes how you work: Intuitively
Current mobile device: iPhone 5S
Current computer: at work, a 13″ MacBook Pro; at home, a 13″ MacBook Air

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why?

At work, I’m a diehard Google Apps fan. We use Google Apps for Education at MPOW, and frankly, without it I’d be lost. Nearly everything we do is now someplace in the Googlesphere; groups for discussions, drive for shared and private files, and sites for organizing everything.

For my personal life, I am a big fan of Feedly on iOS and the web for following blogs; TweetBot for Twitter on iOS, IFTTT for moving things from here to there automatically, and Instagram/Flickr for photo sharing. Plus CrashPlan to backup my computer. Yay CrashPlan!

What’s your workspace setup like?

At home, I sit in an IKEA Poang rocking chair, but at work, I’ve got a much more ergonomically-friendly setup (plus I got in on the StandStand Kickstarter, so my options are only going to increase in the ergonomic department going forward.)

my office setup
My Office Setup

This view shows my inspiration wall – feminist postcards, a small monthly calendar, Dead Feminists broadsides, a painting I did at one of those painting places and dog postcards. I’ve also got an IKEA lamp (for when the overhead lights aggravate my migraines), a couple of chairs for when I meet with colleagues or students, my office phone, and an analog clock. This shows my computer setup a bit better:

computer setup
Computer setup

Here we’ve got the MacBook Pro (normally locked up when I’m not in the office), an external keyboard, mouse, and raised monitor, with a dual screen setup and a super old mousepad showing off Our Lady of Guadalupe.

As you can tell, I keep my desk really clear of paperwork, books, etc. I can’t abide having a cluttered working surface, and tend to clean up every night before I go home. People get a little weirded out by that, because I guess it’s not a typical librarian trait? Oh well. I’m a librarian, and it’s my trait, therefore it’s a librarian trait.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

I have one that gets me out the door in the morning. I set out all my outfits for the week on Sunday (including socks, undergarments, belts, accessories, etc.) While this might feel very elementary school, it actually helped me solve that problem of staring into my closet in the morning wondering what on earth to wear. I’m not a morning person (AT ALL) so being able to grab an outfit the night before from the pile – an outfit I know looks good because I put it together mid-afternoon on Sunday, when I was well-rested – saves me time and mental anguish. My brain works better in the evening, so my morning brain trusts the decisions my evening brain made. Win-win for everyone!

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I hate to-do lists and to-do list managers (my brain does NOT work that way), but I am giving Trello a whirl, to see if it works any better than my whiteboard or post-its. So far, I’m a bit happier than lukewarm on it, which for me is saying something.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

At work, I need a good whiteboard and whiteboard marker. At home, I’m rather fond of my Kindle Paperwhite. But I could easily live without either of those.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?

Okay, this is weird and totally NOT related to work at all. I’m really good at being able to tell if something is level or not. You know how some people have perfect pitch? I’m like that with pictures hanging on the wall. No need to grab a level if I’m around. I have no idea what my secret is for that – I can just tell.

Excuse me, I have to go adjust the painting on the living room wall for a moment.

(I’m not kidding.) (It’s level now.)

What do you listen to while you work?

The sweet sounds of silence. For real: I don’t like listening to music when I work because I find it distracting.

What are you currently reading?

At home, I’m reading Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor. She’s a Nigerian-American speculative fiction writer and she’s amazing and I can’t wait to read everything else she has written ever. I recently read Akata Witch, and got hooked.

For work, I’m just checked out Putting the User First: 30 Strategies for Transforming Library Services by Courtney Greene McDonald, and hope to do a quick read-through over the weekend.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Both personally and professionally, I’ve spent most of my life as an extrovert – I do get energy from being with people – but with strong introvert tendencies – I need my downtime to recharge.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I try to go to bed before 11pm every night, although lights out can happen anytime from 9pm to 2am. My alarms go off at 6:30, 6:40, 6:50, and 7:00 (yes, I have 4 alarms in the morning. I did mention I’m not a morning person.) I’m usually up by 7:10 during the week. On weekends I usually sleep until 8 or 9am.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

Twitter librarians! You know who you are.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

These are my two favorite pieces of advice, the second in direct conversation with the first.

From my dad: If you can’t find the time to do something right, when will you find the time to do it over?

From a good therapist: Make sure you know if it’s something that needs to be done in the first place.

Edited to add: props to Michael Perry for doing this a couple of weeks ago and inspiring me to do the same!