Spring always inspires me to notice the details; so as a toast to this lovely season, I offer a few little things that make me happy every time I use them:

  • “is:unread” … Do you use Gmail?  Of course.  Do you use the filters?  Possibly.  If you’re like me, you are on a lot of listservs that don’t rank too high on your priority list but you keep them around anyway.  In an effort to de-clutter your Inbox, you might have created a filter or two that send these listserv messages directly to their appropriate Label and neatly out of your way until you decide to look at them.  Unfortunately, many of us operate in an “out of sight, out of mind” fashion, and those filtered messages just pile up in our poor neglected Labels.  All I wanted was a nice little link in Gmail’s left sidebar, under “Starred Items” that read “All Unread” which would show me all the Unread messages I have scattered across my Labels.  Well, I can simulate this handy feature simply by typing “is:unread” (without quotes) in the Search box at the top of the Gmail screen.  You can also get the same effect by clicking “Show search options” and selecting “Unread Mail” from the drop-down that defaults to “All Mail.”  Now I just type that magic phrase in the search box a few times a day and – voila! – I  catch up on ALL my mail, not just the Inbox.
  • Podcasts … Three podcasts in particular.  One of my favorite weekend routines is cleaning the house while listening to (1) This American Life, then (2) Selected Shorts, and finally (3) NPR’s Poetry Off the Shelf.  This gives me exactly 2 hours of cleaning / picking up time, and it’s delightful, to boot.   If you’ve never heard Selected Shorts, I highly recommend it.  It’s simply a talented actor/actress reading the short story of the week.  I love being read to.  I love attending author readings and hearing their words in their own voices.  Heaven.  The Selected Shorts readings are recorded live so you also get the wonderful sound of the audience’s reactions to the story.  I found that I couldn’t listen to this podcast sitting down because the steady voice would invariably lull me to sleep, no matter how great the story was.  But if I was doing something that kept me moving, with my iPod in my pocket, I could listen to the stories with full appreciation.
  • The Creative Whack Pack … my only deck of cards.  This is a set of 64 cards in 4 suites (Explorer, Artist, Judge, Warrior) with fun little suggestions for getting out of a creative rut.  I got this when I was an undergrad and felt I had a severe case of writer’s block.  I found them again recently and find myself (again) at a point where they could come in handy.  Tonight I did a “Whack Reading” to get myself motivated to work on a big project that I’ve been kicking limply but not really “doing” … below is the card position followed by the card I pulled for it:
    • Environment card = “Reverse” (as in, reverse your perspective)
    • Mirror card = “Set A Deadline” (oooo… touche)
    • Shadow card  = “Rearrange” (the shadow card represents what you’re not seeing)
    • Caution card = “Let Your Mind Wander” (ouch! guilty!)
    • Power card = “Get out of the Dogma House” (as in, let go of your assumptions)

    So there we have it.  I will ponder this over my toaster oven dinner and try my best to get down to business, now that my mail has been read and my house is clean.