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and aficionado of the to-do list
I like hanging out with interesting people. A quick wit, a solid understanding of more than one subject, and a desire to hear new ideas – these make a person interesting to me. In this profile, I’m introducing you to Caitlin, a lovely person I work with and have enjoyed getting to know as one of these interesting people.
Caitlin and I are not very close in age, but we share a love of reading and of certain kinds of reading, too. Let’s start there. We first met up in the reading bubble when discussing Anne Helen Petersen’s substack Culture Study which we both completely enjoy. Many a Monday morning has started off by me chasing her to her office with “Did you read…?” and her finishing my sentence with the topic and YES!
Unlike me, Caitlin doesn’t have a go-to genre. She is much more adventurous and reads fiction and poetry, enjoys a fresh take on a woman’s role in a story such as Circeand engages in “spurts of self-help” as well as fluff to balance the academic stuff she has to read for her classes. She is book-bosomed; in other words, she keeps a book with her at all times as a comfort item and for something to do while waiting, which she does a lot. She is, after all, a mom.
She became a reader, officially, in early elementary school. Both of Caitlin’s parents were teachers so she went to work with them every day. “The whole school knew me. I loved that feeling of community,” she remembered. Her 1st/2nd grade teacher had a rainforest treehouse built inside her classroom, and she used to let kids climb in there to read. How fortuitous, then, that this teacher’s husband served as the school’s librarian. “By the time I left 2nd grade I had no math skills,” Caitlin told me. “But I could type and read really well.”
These days Caitlin works as a Student Support and Content Specialist for the Montana Digital Academy after teaching for the first part of her career. (Of course.) In the office we get to talking about all kinds of things and it was here I learned about Caitlin’s Three Cups of Coffee practice, her use of the Eisenhower Matrix, and her very close brush with MultiLevel Marketing.Here’s the MLM story, in Caitlin’s own words.
I had a 2.5-year-old and a six-month old. I was working from home, teaching online, bookending my day with work. If the baby would let me get up, I would grade and answer emails. We would go to Mismo gymnastics to let the toddler run wild. I must have looked as tired as I felt because I got targeted by a mom with two older kids there. She also worked from home. We struck up a conversation. I feel like she was profiling me, biding her time, waiting to strike. She talked about how she was going to Palm Springs to this retreat that was paid for by her business. She was gonna get a whole week away, living by the pool, talking to her work friends. I was slobbering thinking about this, a hotel room to myself…oh my gosh, this sounds amazing.
“Who do you work for?”
“I work for myself.” I should have known then, but I didn’t know about MLMs.
Later we meet at a coffee shop, she buys me a latte…pro move. She opens her computer, she shows me these products…”All you have to do is connect them to your family and friends, and then get your friends and family to sell them too. Host a party if you want to.”
That’s when the red flag went up. At that moment, I came back into my body. I got that close…she had bought me coffee, after all.
Caitlin and her husband met in high school in Oregon, but actually knew each other going way back. Their mothers walked together every day before school, and their families had always been closely intertwined. She is younger than her husband, so after he finished college he came to Missoula with her while she earned her teaching credential. They have two children in elementary school.
If you chat with Caitlin in the summertime you might notice two tattoos on her arm: the first, a gingko leaf. “My sister and I got them together,” she told me. “It is a symbol of resilience, which was a really important trait to both of us at the time when we got them. She reminds me of my best self when I’m not being it.” She also has a dove on her foot, a tandem inking with her mom. “I’ve always gotten my tattoos with other people,” she said.
The other arm tattoo depicts two rosemary stalks posed in an X. When she picked this up, she and her husband were in New Mexico visiting in-laws. They all took their kids to a park and the dads watched the kids play while Caitlin and her sister-in-law went to find coffee. They came back with tattoos instead. “It was a time when I was in the throes of early, early kids and I felt like I wasn’t doing anything scary or exciting,” she said unironically.
Caitlin’s work space, if I may intrude, is the tidiest, cleanest work space in our entire office, nothing out of place. Our custodians don’t dust, yet no dust touches her cube. She has a walking treadmill and one day when I thought I might try it out while she was working from home, I needed some piece to make it function. She told me exactly, exactly, where to find that piece. She’s that person: the lover of office supply stores, the aficionado of the to-do list. My people. So when she told me about the Eisenhower Matrix, I was intrigued.
Eisenhower matrix: this idea, four squares, four things that you have to do if you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list. Things that you have to do, things that you can delegate, things that you can do later, and things you thought you had to do but you don’t have to. I use it when I have too much to do, braindump my mental load, then I use the matrix to organize.
I asked Caitlin how often she feels so overwhelmed she must use this tool. “Weekly,” she said.
Which brings me to the Three Cups of Coffee practice. Each morning, Caitlin drinks three cups of coffee to pull her into her day. Unsurprisingly, each cup has a purpose and a goal.
1st cup of coffee, me enjoying things that I like to do. Read substacks, read poetry, whatever I feel like.
2nd cup of coffee, get shit done. Planner for the week, grocery list, braindump, sort accordingly.
3rd cup of coffee, emotional support cup, drink it on the way to wherever I’m going.
I was so taken with this idea, as a fellow planner, that I wanted to try it out for myself – at least, the third cup of emotional support. I cannot generally drink three cups of coffee in a row, so I have taken to mixing up some hot chocolate for the road. And it has been an enjoyable addition to my morning.
Despite Caitlin’s sunny mood, clever wit and thoughtful approach to all things education, she has some dark predilections. She loves the expedition books, ending in tragedy or not – our reading resumes overlap in this area. But she also once suggested a Wondery podcast called Dr. Deathwhich had some of the gnarliest descriptions of medical malpractice I’ve ever heard and which forced me to hit the “stop” button more times than I’d like to admit.
So while I’d say tread with caution in Caitlin’s podcast recs zone, I’ll recommend her approaches to organization and coffee consumption as well as her adventuresome spirit related to her reading list and tattoos.
When you talk to Caitlin, you have the feeling she’s both completely grounded and down-to-earth, but also spends time dreaming about what could be. That’s good people to know.
I listened to this on my drive to Oregon and loved it!
Look it up. It’s a real term.
If you are unfamiliar with this world, you might be a) a guy and/or b) a woman who didn’t know anyone engaged with an MLM. I have actually been involved with TWO multilevel marketing companies - a cutesy stamping crafts outfit and Pampered Chef. And I don’t care what anyone says, I love Pampered Chef products. Okay, but you should listen to this podcast, The Dream, season 1, all about MLMs. You will learn some crazy shit.