Wednesday, April 4, 2012

To Break or Not To Break: The Art of Listmaking

As of today, I am sitting squarely in the middle of my first official Spring Break as a real art teacher. And as per usual, despite all my plans for it, I am unable to truly relax. I had big plans for relaxation. Those plans evaporated along with my inability to sleep last night-- yes, I have cleaned the apartment, I went to a wedding-planning event, I stayed up all night talking to a dear friend who unexpectedly came in from out of town, I have washed and hand-washed nearly every dirty garment in the place-- but I hadn't done anything school-related yet. And unfortunately, there's a lot I was (am still) hoping to get done this break. But it's always a lose-lose for me... if I work through a break and get a ton accomplished, I look back on the break with regret and and proceed with exhaustion. If I fill a break with fun: travel, attempts at relaxation, doing what I want to do... I come back to work not as Ms. Kristen-Crayon, but as A Ball of Stress, with the regret piece still intact because I got so little accomplished.

So, the question is...

Question: How to strike a balance? 
Answer: Write a list!*

*Disclaimer: Writing a list does not guarantee said "balance", but might serve to soothe some anxiety. In my case, when in doubt, write a list. I've been doing this since forever.

Ms. Kristen Crayon's Personal History of Listmaking
I'm pretty sure I've been writing lists since they entered my awareness. Or at least since February 27, 1996, when I was ten years old. How do I know this, you ask? Let me show you.

Impeccable taste in art from a young age.

Love, peace, and books.
(ie: All doubts about my popularity as a fifth grader have now been confirmed.)

My obsession with the Fear Street series is chronicled in cursive.

No cursive these days, but better literature (maybe?).
Needless to say, I love lists. There's the organization component, it's so satisfying to cross things off, and if you save them, they read like a personal history. An average day for me is packed with lists. These are things I record on a regular basis:

  • To-do (the quintessential list)
  • Grocery lists
  • What I wear / outfit ideas
  • What I eat
  • When I go to the gym
  • Daily purchases
  • Lesson ideas
As mentioned above, in an attempt to weed out clothes I don't wear and make the most out of existing pieces, I started recording what I wear when I teach. That looks something like this:

Apparently when I'm not listmaking, I'm musing on the following: "Who looks good in a turban? Could I look good in a turban?" I ask the tough, hard hitting questions, folks.

I think a better version of this idea resides in something I found on Pinterest: DIY Vintage Postcard Calendar Journal. Maybe I'll put that together this summer? Oh wait, lemme start a summer to-do list...

On one hand, I see these lists as sentimental. On the other, I see them as a way I exert control over my daily life. As if keeping a record holds things in place, or slows change, or... something.

The obsession with lists even poured over into my teaching. Last summer, when I taught at MICA's YPS I included a lesson titled "From 'To-Dos' to 'Top Tens': What Lists and Collections Reveal About You" when I taught "It's All About Me: The Art of Visual Journals" to 6-8 graders. Lesson description: From the mundane to the monumental, we will use lists to compare and contrast our likes and dislikes, everyday experiences and special occasions, and other opposing life themes. Because lists are written collections, we will also unpack the way collections can be a reflection of who we are.

Here's my Spring Break list, or my hopeful "collection", in all its glory:

If you zoom in, you'll see that my wishful thinking hopes that I'll post three times to my (this) neglected blog. There's a fair amount of blue hilighter cross-offs, but not enough for my taste. There is still much to be done. And if I can't relax, because I won't let myself, might as well get some things done.

Lisa Frank 4 lyfe.
I couldn't keep my fabulous clipboard to myself. Fabulous since third grade!

If you're obsessed with lists and haven't done so already, check out McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Lists. You'll be better for it. Because I can think of no better way to close this post than with Lisa Frank + McSweeney's, I bid you adieu.

Bye! --Fifth grade Ms. Kristen-Crayon


  1. I am so with you on all of this. I am also mid spring-break and I was just whining to my fiance that it's been crappy- mainly because I had dreams of making fantastical artworks all week, and all I've done is rearrange our pantry, put away laundry, and shop around for wedding crap online.

    I am also an avid list maker. In fact, I just opened McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Lists on your recommendation. I thank you in advance.

    1. The week is slipping through our fingers! And unfortunately McSweeney's will just eat up more precious minutes... but I think it's worth it. You're welcome :)

  2. I make lists too. I love crossing stuff off - it gives me a real sense of accomplishment. BUT I think maybe your clothing list is over the top!! When you are married with kids you'll be happy if you have something clean to wear. My job is VERY messy lately - I wear an apron all day, and I still come home with paint on me somehow. I think I'm going to burn my teaching wardrobe when I retire. I certainly can't wear these clothes anywhere else. I was astounded by the clothing on your list - don't you ever get messy?

    By the way - I recently read Just Kids (Patti Smith) with my book club. The ladies were not fond of it at all, though I was (my generation?). What was your opinion?

    1. I do get messy, Phyl! My fiance and I are taking private dance lessons and when the teacher went to demo some moves with me she burst into a smile and said, "You smell like the art room!" Tempera, namely. But I do wear nice clothes to work, maybe nicer than most art teachers? I can't quite shake the business casual expectations from my first place of employment post-undergrad. And I love clothes. A lot, haha.

      As for Just Kids-- I LOVED it. But I have deep love for Patti Smith-- both her music and poetry. I was interested in her relationship with Rob Mapplethorpe and I felt like it illuminated their influence on one another in ways I was not previously aware of. I guess if I wasn't a Smith fan it wouldn't have resonated with me-- but I am so I loved it!