Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Categorize and List

July 7, 2009

I always tell my students that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who divide people into categories and those who don't. (rim shot)

I don't think that Erin ever categorized, or worse stereotyped, people, but she was a big one for sorting. I found this photo montage in a document folder yesterday when I was searching for something else. These are not dogs she owned or knew. This was part of her research a year and a half ago (12/16/07) when she was trying to decide what kind of dog she wanted to buy. Whenever she saw one that fit in the category of "acceptable" she copied a photo of the breed into this document. Notice that they all fit some of the criteria that ultimately led to Teddy's adoption four months later (small, cute, quiet, and capable for forming attachments. . .emphasis on small and cute).

Anyway, I brought up categorization because it often serves as a prelude to my class discussions on personality. Some students buy into personality categories. Others don't. I'm not sure which way I fall, BUT when I guide the discussion over to the topic of individual differences, a lot more students willingly confess to recognizing that people have naturally different tendencies. When I ask, they willingly sort themselves into groups like risk averse, risk neutral, and risk loving, or procrastinator and early starter, or usually tardy, usually early, or right on time.

List making or not is another way the students willingly sort themselves, but it's not as simple as "To Do" or not "To Do." Some make elaborate lists, having multiple lists going at once with a master list of lists, others just jot down what they
definitely need to remember. Some claim to carry all essential lists around in their heads for immediate access. Others sneer at the whole idea. My favorite (I occasionally fall into this category) are people who make to do lists and include things they have already done or that they know they will do with little effort, just to experience that little trill of thrill when they get to cross those items off as "done."

I have to admit that there is a list maker in me. I really try to suppress the urge to list in the summer, because. . .well, because summer is for spontaneity and a little laziness. Lately, however, I have found myself spending time in the shower, or on my dog walk, or while weeding thinking about my what I need to do, or perhaps more accurately what I need to list. You see my lists encompass more than tasks. I try to make a note of grocery items as I use them up so we don't forget them next time we make a grocery run. I try to jot down potential gifts for friends if they mention they like or need something, because I'm not a very creative gift giver. I also have at least a mental list of books people mention that I may want to follow up on.

Lately, I have had to notice what beading supplies I need to replace so that I can make my weekly run to Michael's or Hobby Lobby. Believe me, this week that list is long! Remember last week, I sent my whole inventory to Sacramento, California, where donations exceeded $1500 and depleted the entire stock. Last Friday, I had a house full of beaders to help me re-build the collection: 35 folks came to make lanyards and another dozen stood by giving encouragement and drinking help-inducing beverages. My lanyard board is full again (though most of these will soon be headed to Chicago, Mo Ranch, and Connecticut--so I will again need a large turnout for Friday's workshop).

I have fought off the temptation to carry my little moleskin notebook around with me to jot things down until yesterday when I succumbed. You see, Monday evening I got an e-mail from a lovely
college-aged Erin fan who will be a senior counselor at a YMCA teen leadership camp in the northeast in the last week of July. They want one of their evening activities to be making Erin Lanyards. So I have a very short window to plan how to organize a large (165 person) lanyard workshop that will take place 1500 miles away (in Cooksville, Pennsylvania), without me. Can you see the To Do lists proliferating in my head?

At least when I grab a pen and start thinking through my list, I find myself in good company. I recently found this list in among a pile of papers that got hauled upstairs and stacked on my desk.

What is it? A quintessential Erin list from election night last November. Column 1 is the list of channel numbers and Column 2 is a list of the corresponding stations that were going to have election coverage. Column 3 lists when coverage begins. Column 4 lists when voting results first be shown. I'm not sure what column 5 is "?" and Column 6 is when coverage on that network ends. She kept the list beside her so she could channel surf for election news more efficiently.

So what about you? Do you list or not? What makes your lists special?


  1. I wish you could see the list I made from the notes I was furiously taking while on the phone with you yesterday! I am a huge list maker, and usually I have "lists within lists"... If I am going on a trip, I make a to do list, and under "Pack" I make a list of things I need to pack. For "drop of dog to vet", I then list everything she will need with her. I'm borderline compulsive with my list making! I am totally impressed by Erin's chart of station coverage of the election!

    Also, you might be able to find where we will be on a map easier if you type in Kutztown University. Kutztown is just southwest of Allentown (about 1 hr. 45 mins from Princeton University).

    I e-mailed some of the staff that I volunteer with and everyone is entirely ecstatic to be involved with this. I have sent them all this web address, so that they can get to know Erin a little better, and get a little understanding about what the lanyards are all about... of course, it will be explained in better detail when we get there.

    I'll e-mail you soon!

  2. I make lists. Kevin doesn't. He thinks my lists are silly.

    I am excited about this project! I was thinking about it - we could put together a pretty diverse order of beads, wire and findings through and have it shipped right to Kristen. I think it's soo neat that she is taking that project on. I bet the lanyards will turn out tres groovy!

  3. I am a notorious list maker who never remembers to bring my list with me when I need it...

  4. I CONFESS!!! I am a master list maker. I make lists of the lists I need to make and I, too, put things on the list that are already done so that I can triumphantly cross it off! If it's not on the list, chances are great that it will get forgotten and therefore, not done. Erin's chart/list is AWESOME. I am very into charts too... mostly chore charts :)

  5. i used to make lists, but i'm not currently doing so. i don't have a lot of little things to do, right now it's just big things "finish book chapter, write proposal, clean apartment, exercise"

    i am horrible about categorizing people. i'm a peace and social justice activist, but i do stereotype constantly in my own mind.

  6. I am of that special group that makes a list of things to do along with stuff I've just done so that I can have the satisfaction of crossing it off my list and seeing that I actually did it. I carry around a little notebook with me at all times and at work I keep 2 notepads and sticky notes so I can have multiple lists going at one time. You might think I'm crazy (and you would be right) but I like to refer to myself as an organized procrastinater.

  7. Erin is a girl after my own heart in so many ways. Her political coverage chart/list is great. I love lists and I also put items on them that I already accomplished so that I can enjoy the thrill of crossing them off.

    I not only use lists on a daily basis, but I save my notebooks of lists long after they are finished (well, not all of them). It is fun to go back and see what was on my to-do list 5 years ago. Now that is a scary admission, isn't it?! And I cringe at how many things keep reappearing (e.g., sort out my various retirement accounts).

    And I heartily support Kim's comment about being an organized procrastinator. That sure describes me at times.

    How does anyone survive without lists?


  8. Hello My List Sisters,

    I admit to being a lazy lister or losing the list at times which usually leaves me or someone near me in grief. I like to claim that I am exercising my brain muscle but, with old-timers disease creeping in, nothing is going to get done if I don't make a list. Excuse me while I go make a list before I forget what it was that I needed to do.


  9. The more I learn about your precious Erin the better I understand why Whitney loved her so. Such wisdom and grace in so tiny a package.

    Whitney is coming in from Belfast and will preach July 26 at FPC in Bryan, and the next week our family will be at MoRanch; if we can help by carrying supplies, lanyards, etc. out that way, we'll be glad to. ~Bonnie Wilkinson

  10. Erin's collection of dog photos is precious and I can see how she saw the possibilities in Teddy. I remember how you pointed out at one time that Teddy had improved- all in Erin's loving care. I love Erin's election night chart too.