Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Motivational’ Category

Let me begin by wishing all the dads, step-dads, and dad-substitutes out there a relaxing, love-filled Fathers’ Day. You deserve it. After all, it isn’t easy being the anchor of a family. Your responsibilities are almost endless.

Family.jpg

We depend on you to teach us positive core values like honesty, integrity, and courage. You’re often called upon to be the disciplinarian. How many of us have heard our mothers warn us to “Just wait until your father gets home.”?  That sentence alone served as punishment – and not just because we dreaded whatever actions you might take to correct our behavior. Worse was the knowledge that we had disappointed you.

Although my Daddy wasn’t one to spare the rod, so to speak, if that’s what it took to avoid spoiling the child, he rarely needed to resort to physical punishment. When he pulled his glasses away from the bridge of his nose to glare over them, that withering look felt more crushing than any blow he might deliver.

Being the youngest of three girls, I often wondered if my parents had been disappointed that I didn’t turn out to be the son that would carry the family name into the following generations.  Sometimes my dad jokingly lamented his fate of being outnumbered in a house full of women; that even our dog was female. More often I heard him declare that he didn’t care how many children he and Mother had as long as they were all girls. He said he didn’t want any child of his to go through what he’d experienced during World War II – the details of which he chose never to elaborate upon.

I don’t know whether I served as his son-substitute or if he thought it the easiest way to keep me out of my mother’s hair, but Daddy often included me as his little helper when he worked around the house. There’s no telling how many nails I handed him when he undertook paneling our basement ratskeller. While he worked, Daddy patiently answered the hundreds of questions I threw at him, many of which began with “why” or “how.”

After his successful hunting trips, I often helped Daddy clean game. To this day I think of skinning a squirrel or a rabbit as “taking his pajamas off.” Thanks, Dad. And thanks for always bringing home the birds so I could have my favorite birthday dinner: fried quail.

That said, I haven’t forgotten the time you put a raccoon on the rotisserie and when I asked what you were barbecuing, you replied, “Have you seen your dog lately?”  Funny, not funny. Okay, maybe a little bit funny.

Most of the time Daddy called me Peewee Johnson, but sometimes my name was Half-Pint. Maybe that’s why I so identified with the Ingalls family when I got old enough to read the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura’s daddy called her Half-Pint, too! In a way I guess I have my father to thank for my love of reading.

Oh, but when I became Janet Yvonne…look out!  I knew I’d done something awful to displease him. But I also knew it wouldn’t take long to get back into his good graces. He forgave easily.

I could list dozens of things my father taught me, but perhaps the most important is that girls can do anything boys can do. And, in his opinion anyway, they usually do it better.

In my teen years, while Mother discouraged me from creative pursuits, Daddy secretly informed me that I could choose any line of work that suited me. In a time when women’s career options were more limited than they are today, that seems revolutionary advice.

“Follow your heart, baby,” he would say. “Work isn’t work if it gives you joy.”

This is the man who left school after completing the eighth grade so he could help provide for his family. He thought it much more important for his sisters to have everything they needed so they could continue their schooling. Yet, with his limited formal education, my father mastered advanced mathematics by studying on his own. I recall a time when I shied away from enrolling in an algebra class. He shamed me into taking it saying, “If I can do trigonometry with my feeble brain, you can figure out algebra. Piece of cake!”

Sadly, my father passed away when he was only 56 years old. Neither of my children enjoyed growing up with the fantastic grandfather he was.  I still – and always will – miss him.

There are other dads I want to pay special tribute to today: my husband, my son, and my son-in-law. They each, in their own way, embody many of my father’s best attributes.

Dear hubby has helped me raise two remarkable adults. Even under the most trying circumstances we have supported each other through the challenges most parents face…and some that were extraordinarily difficult.

Our son’s fondest wish came true when he became father to a son of his own. The love between the two is palpably enormous. The patience this Dada exhibits with his child equals – and probably surpasses – that with which my father blessed me. It is a joy watching the two of them together.  Our grandson is fortunate to have a father so determined to be an integral part of the boy’s life.

3 Bettags

We could not have asked for a better father for our two beautiful, brilliant, and talented granddaughters than our wonderful son-in-law. Like my father, this man has taught his girls that there are no limits to what they can accomplish. He has partnered with our daughter to instill in their children positive core values and in conveying that anything less than one’s best effort is unacceptable.

According to data from the 2010 Census, 24.7 million children in the United States don’t live with their biological fathers. I pray that most of those kids have some kind of father figure in residence.

Yet a 2001 report from the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that 39% of students in grades 1 through 12 are “fatherless.”

That is sad. So, so sad.

What’s that saying?

Any Man

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

two people shaking hands

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Pexels.com

It all started with a knock on my door one sunny summer afternoon.

There on my front porch stood a young man…hardly more than a boy, really…who shyly stammered, “Can I m-m-m. Excuse me. Can I m-m-mow your yard for $20?”

“Sorry,” I replied. “My husband likes to do the mowing and trimming himself. Says it’s his summer exercise routine.”

The kid looked so crestfallen it almost broke my heart. “Do you do any other kinds of yard work?”

His demeanor brightened immediately. “F-f-f-for $20?”

“I was just thinking that my flower beds really need some attention. If you’ll help me pull weeds for an hour, I’ll pay you $20.”

“D-d-d-deal!” he exclaimed.

Since I didn’t know if he could tell the difference between a dandelion and a daisy, I put the boy to work on the brick mowing path. Everything growing there was a weed.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“M-m-m. Excuse me. Marcus.”

“Marcus, my name is Janet. Do you live nearby?”

“Yes’m. Next to the f-f-f-firehouse.”

He pointed north, in the general direction of Main Street. I knew just where he meant. A string of tiny, low-rent, minimally-maintained apartments that were likely built in the 1940s or 50s lined that section of the road.

We spent the next hour chatting and weeding. Marcus impressed me with his willingness to do whatever it took to earn the money he seemed to desperately need. When I handed him two ten dollar bills and a cold bottle of water, he asked, “C-c-c-can I come back next week?”

“Sure.”

man person school head

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

As the summer wore on, I learned a lot about my new friend. Marcus had just turned 16 years old the week before he first knocked on my door. He shared that little apartment with his grandmother. Neither his father nor his mother had stuck around long enough to see baby Marcus take his first steps as a toddler. And Maw, as he called her, was getting pretty old. Marcus worried that she might not live long enough to see him graduate from high school. He said he liked to cook and that he dreamed that someday he could attend culinary school and learn how to be a real chef.

Marcus was like a sponge. He absorbed every bit of knowledge he could about the vegetables, herbs, and flowers I grew in my gardens. I learned that his favorite meal was fried chicken with a mess of slow-cooked greens and mashed potatoes. When he found out that I write, he declared that maybe he would be a writer someday himself.

One day I harvested more turnip greens, tomatoes, and zucchinis than I had the time or patience to deal with right away, so I offered them to Marcus. His smile and the hug he gave me in exchange for the vegetables more than adequately expressed his gratitude.

“Th-th-th-excuse me. Th-thank you. There’s not much f-f-f-food at our house right now.”

His response made me wish I had fried chicken to send home with him, too. How, I wondered, could there be people going hungry in our town?

After that, I made a point of regularly offering produce from our garden and sometimes a few slices of leftover meatloaf or pork roast. I always cooked more than hubby and I could eat. Why shouldn’t Marcus and Maw benefit from our abundance?

agriculture basket beets bokeh

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Looking back, I realize I could have – no, SHOULD have – done more to help them.

By fall, Marcus could do most of the yard work unsupervised, but I had come to cherish the time we spent together so I often joined him at his labors just to enjoy his company. But the days were growing shorter. School and homework often kept him from having time to stop by looking for chores he could do to earn his $20.

When winter dropped several inches of heavy, wet snow during a particularly blustery day, I had suited up in layers of warm clothing and was trying to psych myself up to go out and shovel when Marcus knocked on the door.

“D-d-do you have a snow sh-sh-sh-shovel?”

“In the garage,” I answered. “But I’m short on cash, Marcus. I can’t pay you to shovel today.”

“M-m-m-my treat.” His grin shined whiter than the snow. “You-you-you. Excuse me. You too old to shovel.”

I would have felt insulted at the age comment had I not been so grateful for his help.

Winter turned to spring and spring into summer and Marcus came to help me with chores about once a week – sometimes more frequently. Early one bright summer Saturday, Marcus knocked on my door. When I answered, he pulled a red polo shirt from behind his back and held it in front of him. The logo of a nearby fast food restaurant punctuated his comment, “I-I-I g-g-got a j-j-j-job! A real j-j-j-job!”

“Congratulations, Marcus!” I hugged him. “And you’ll be working with food. That will be good experience when you go to culinary school.”

“C-c-c-costs a lot of money to go to school. C-c-can I still come and work on my days off?”

“Of course!”

Our friendship continued for several years. He invited me to his high school graduation. I couldn’t have been more pleased and honored than to watch him take that walk. Marcus proudly introduced me to his invalid grandmother.  I later learned that my young friend had pushed Maw over three miles in her wheelchair so she could attend the ceremony.

accomplishment ceremony education graduation

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

A couple of weeks ago, as we approached the Memorial Day weekend and headed to Kansas City to celebrate a grand-niece’s graduation, it dawned on me that it’s been almost two years since Marcus last knocked on my door. Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen him walking up Main Street to get to his fast-food job in a very long time, either.

Of the hundreds of questions I’d asked Marcus during dozens of conversations, how is it that I never thought to ask his last name? Or his Maw’s last name? How could I have not paid attention at his graduation to pick up that tidbit of information as the principal called it out while he crossed the stage to collect his diploma?

Short of knocking on every door in the apartment complex looking for Marcus or Maw, I know of no way to check up on my friend. Did Maw pass away, leaving him homeless? Had he flipped enough burgers, mowed enough lawns, pulled enough weeds, and raked enough leaves to pay for his tuition to culinary school?

I may never know.

But I do know this: if I ever win the lottery, I will somehow find a way to locate my young friend and make sure that he has all the money he needs to make his dreams come true. I will pay for a speech therapist to help Marcus overcome his stuttering so he never has to be embarrassed by it again…or say “I-I-I…excuse me.”

Marcus, if you happen to read this, please come knock on my door. I have a ton of yardwork that needs to be done and you know I’m getting too old to do it by myself.

NOTE: This blog post is based on a true story, with some fictional elements added to protect my friend’s identity and privacy. Only stock photos were used and the real Marcus is not depicted in any image.

Read Full Post »

Mother_v2

My late mother’s birthday fell on July 7. Daddy’s sister, Aunt Celia Ann, also had a birthday around that time, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t recall the exact date. In any case, these July birthdays prompted the creation of the original Army Green Birthday Cake.

I can’t remember who first had the idea, but my two older sisters and I decided to surprise Mother and Aunt Celia Ann with a memorable treat. Although I can’t recall my exact age at the time, I know I was young and eager to participate in any activity from which I wasn’t banned by my siblings. Happily, the army green birthday cake proved to be such an event.

Together, the three of us set about testing our baking, frosting, and cake decorating skills. The batter may have been chocolate…or maybe yellow…perhaps lemon? I’m not sure. The flavor seemed somewhat immaterial. The icing made this cake special.

I remember there being much discussion regarding how to tint the frosting. All we knew was that none of the options available in that little box of food coloring seemed special enough for our creation. I believe we thought lavender would be nice. Sadly, our version of that purplish hue too closely resembled grey and required adjustment. I don’t suppose any of us were well versed on how blue and red combine to make purple or, conversely, how green results when you mix yellow and blue.

Thus the experimentation began.

pexels-photo-951233.jpeg

I’m not sure how many combinations we tried before realizing that we’d better settle for that putrid olive drab before our frosting went from hideous to coyote ugly. (So nasty you would chew off your own paw to escape it.)

Certainly I was not the only sister who wanted to cry at that point, but we soldiered onward. We assembled the layers into a towering thing of beauty covered in army green icing. We hid the finished product in Mother’s aluminum cake cover, latched tight so there would be no peeking to ruin the surprise.

The next day, we loaded up the family station wagon and drove from Missouri to Colorado over the long Independence Day weekend to visit Aunt Celia Ann, Uncle Bill, Aunt Helen and all of my first cousins. Together we would celebrate those July birthdays in style. Mother packed a picnic basket and a cooler so we could drive straight through, saving time and money – both of which were no doubt in short supply.

With the whole family gathered, what a shock the unveiling of our masterpiece proved to be. I vaguely remember one of the cousins exclaiming, “It’s green!”

pexels-photo-48600.jpeg

 

And I’m pretty sure there was laughter…a lot of it.

But the only memory of the event really worth keeping is Mother’s reaction. Her voice conveyed sheer delight when she exclaimed, “Did you girls bake this cake for us all by yourselves? It looks wonderful!”

Thank you, Mother! In that moment you taught me an invaluable lesson. Even an army green birthday cake is beautiful when viewed through loving eyes.

Today is the 37th Mothers’ Day I’ve spent celebrating only the memory of my mom.  She passed away too young. Way too young.

Happy Mothers Day

Happy Heavenly Mothers’ Day 2018 to the amazing lady who, by her actions, taught me to be strong and independent; to love unconditionally; to be brave and unafraid to try new things…

And to appreciate all the army green birthday cakes life has to offer.

 

Read Full Post »

Every home cook has had some recipe not turn out as expected. At least I hope I’m not alone.

Some dishes that flop can’t be redeemed and it’s best to cut your losses, pitch the burnt chicken that wasn’t supposed to be Cajun-blackened, and order a pizza.

Interlaken, Berner Oberland, Switzerland

But if we get creative…and more than a little lucky…that “oops” can be salvaged or put to some other use. Got a little carried away salting the stew? No problem. Add more potatoes. Potatoes suck up salt. Did the rice stick to the bottom of the saucepan? Just leave about ½ inch layer everywhere it’s stuck. The fluffy white grains tend not to pick up a burned taste if they’re not in direct contact with their less fortunate friends.

There are things that can be done to at least make the product edible. If you can move past the initial upset and frustration, you might even find your kitchen malfunction amusing.

Case in Point:

One sunny Thanksgiving morning I felt excited that my daughter had volunteered to host the family feast. Instead of taking the time and effort to prepare the entire meal, my assignment seemed pretty simple. She only asked that I bake a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie to bring to the dessert table.

My recipe for pumpkin custard fills two 9-inch shells, so the previous day I baked up a couple of them along with my son-in-law’s favorite pecan pie. Although dear daughter hadn’t requested it, I decided it would be a nice touch if I took along some fresh whipped cream to dollop on top. (Because, of course, there weren’t enough calories in those pies already to put us all into a near-terminal food coma, right?)

Joyfully singing my favorite Thanksgiving hymn, We Gather Together, I pulled out my stand mixer, poured in a pint of heavy whipping cream, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a couple of tablespoons of sugar in the bowl and pushed “start.” I watched for a bit until the sugar and vanilla disappeared into the creamy whiteness before deciding I might as well unload the dishwasher while the mighty mixer did its thing.

By the time I finished that little chore and went to check on my mixer, the cream had gone from liquid through whipped and straight into butter.

whipped cream butter.png

Oops.

Well, it was still edible, so this was not an epic fail. I just found myself short on whipped cream and long on butter. I poured a tablespoon of honey and about a teaspoon of cinnamon in to the bowl and started the mixer on low speed. I watched it constantly and hit “STOP!” the instant everything had blended. Removing the soft honey butter from the mixing bowl, I shaped it into a flat oval and pressed a design on top with a cookie stamp. Then off it went to the fridge to chill.

Voilà! A disaster turned into a bonus.

On the way to the feast, hubby and I stopped at a convenience store and picked up a can of store-bought whipped cream. Not as fresh and not as impressive, but still capable of adding unnecessary calories to the pies.

When we arrived at dear daughter and son-in-law’s home bearing pies, whipped cream, and the mystery gift, I announced, “I hope you don’t mind. I knew you planned on baking those yummy yeast rolls, so I took the liberty of making some cinnamon-honey butter to go with them.”

“Oh, Mom!” she exclaimed. “You shouldn’t have gone to all that trouble, but I’m sure the kids will be thrilled.”

“It was literally no trouble at all,” I replied with a Cheshire cat grin.

Cheshire Cat Grin

My kitchen failure might have remained a secret had not sweet hubby found it necessary to announce to all present, “Yep. Your mother tried to make homemade whipped cream, but instead she made butter.”

Oh, well. It got him a good laugh, even if it was at my expense.

All’s well that ends well. The kids (and adults) really did love the “accidental butter” on their dinner rolls. Canned whipped cream served the purpose just fine. And everyone raved about how delicious the pies were.

If it is edible it’s not a failure, right?

Comment below to share your experiences turning kitchen disasters into edible non-failures.

Read Full Post »

pexels-photo-265903.jpegImagine, if you will, how entertaining our Easter celebration became in the company of people plagued by irrational fears.

It’s a wonder there was a meal on the table at all, since the hostess, Aunt Lydia, has magerirocophobia – an intense fear of cooking. Thank goodness her daughters, Cousin Emma and Cousin Stephanie, pitched in as best they could. What with Emma suffering from optophobia, opening her eyes was just too stressful, so she wasn’t allowed to do any chopping or slicing. And poor Stephanie, with her lipophobia, became somewhat hysterical because of her fear of the little bit of fat she saw on the Easter ham.

While the women busied themselves in the kitchen, Uncle Fred stayed curled up in fetal position in the darkest corner of the upstairs closet. Suffering from anthropophobia, his irrational fear of having company seemed to be getting the best of him. I can’t say I blame him, given the quirky people gathering in his home. (Which raises this question: Where do people live if they have domatophobia, a crazy dread of being inside houses?)

Mother seemed edgy all day. What with her syngenesophobia (fear of all relatives), the tic in her eye commenced every time the doorbell rang and more guests arrived. Fortunately, her terror didn’t prevent her from reminding Aunt Lydia that my brother, George, needed a special place set for him at a table for one. All of his utensils, napkin, and so forth had to be positioned directly in front of him. Because of his dextrophobia, objects – including human beings – situated to his right horrify him. Grandmother Jones would, of course, take her meal standing at head of the table. She certainly deserved the place of honor, but her cathisophobia left her petrified of sitting down.

Once dinner was served, the real fun began. My sister-in-law, Abby, wouldn’t allow any food on her plate. Her sitophobia made even the thought of eating far too alarming. Cousin Carl, seated next to her, never uttered a word throughout the meal. He’s deiphophobic, you know, so he’s afraid of large meals and dinner conversation. His twin sister, Camille, made up for his silence, though. She was on the phone the entire time. Her dread of losing cell phone contact, or nomophobia, seemed to be in high gear.

My nephew, George Jr., freaked out when Aunt Lydia put the platter of devilled eggs on the table. Poor lad has ovaphobia – an absurd aversion to eggs.  And his little brother, Devon, burst into frantic tears when he bit into an innocuous looking Easter Peep and discovered what it was made from. Who knew he had such a severe case of althaiophobia that the sugar-coated treat would trigger his fear of marshmallows?

After dinner, we gathered the youngsters for our annual Easter Egg Hunt. I felt so sorry for some of those children. Of course, ovaphobic George Jr., refused to participate in any way, shape, or form. And Emma’s adorable toddler, Maize, absolutely panicked when saw a certain egg nestled among the daffodils. Being porphyrophobic, she was scared to death because the offending ovum had been dyed purple.

I’m sure Grandpa Jones had good intentions when he arranged for a special visit from the Easter Bunny. He didn’t realize how many family members suffer from leporiphobia. For them, the experience brought to life their nightmares about being chased by evil mutant rabbits

Thank goodness, my personal paranoia didn’t set in until this morning when I stepped on my bathroom scale and had an attack of barophobia. Sometimes gravity scares the hell out of me.

But as Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated in his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

That would be phobophobia, in case you wondered.

Note: The people, places, and events in this story are purely fictional. No Peeps or bunnies were injured. Really.

Read Full Post »

It may not be true for millennials, but we Senior Citizens recall our parents admonishing us to get our elbows off the dinner table. As children, we never questioned that rule. Back then, failing to blindly obey might result in being sent to bed without supper.

But now that we’re grown, it’s a valid question, isn’t it? Why can’t we put our elbows on the table? Who made up that stupid rule, anyway?

Well, there are a few theories, one being that it originated with sailors who wrapped their arms around their plates to keep them from sliding off the table when they were riding out rough seas. That was fine and dandy when they were aboard ship, but landlubbers didn’t look favorably on seamen, who were considered rude, rowdy, and more than a little dangerous. So when sailors, out of habit, put their elbows on the table to guard their food it tipped off the locals to their occupation. Not wishing to associate with such rabble, the good folks either left the premises or challenged the seafarers to do so. Naturally, brawls often ensued, which made the innkeepers and pub owners unhappy. They, in turn, would then ban sailors from their establishments. Seamen soon learned they had to change their habits if they wanted a meal and a place to sleep while they were in port. Hence, they reminded each other, “Keep your elbows off the table.” That sounds to me like a plausible explanation, but other versions better account for the longevity of this rule of etiquette.

In medieval times, kings hosted feasts to honor visiting nobles. Everybody in the kingdom received invitations to attend. Royalty and honored guests were seated in comfortable chairs at what we now refer to as “the head table,” while folks of lower stature took their places on benches that flanked long tables. Packed in like sardines in a tin, they didn’t have room to rest their elbows while they ate without invading the space and disrupting the meals of the people on either side of them. Jostling a neighbor could result in violence and nobody wants to eat their dinner with swords and daggers flying around. Besides, guarding one’s food left the impression that one was starving and His Majesty did not look fondly on those who gave his honored guests the impression that his subjects were not well fed.

All these centuries later, it remains rude to interfere with one’s tablemates’ enjoyment of a meal. That means keeping those elbows off the table so you don’t crowd other diners. It also means you should obey other rules of mealtime propriety. In case you have forgotten, (or, sadly, were never taught), let’s review a couple of the big ones.

Your napkin should be placed in your lap as soon as you are seated and remain there when it isn’t in use until everyone at the table has finished eating and the entire party is ready to disband. If you must leave the table for any reason, the napkin should be placed in your chair after you excuse yourself.

And should the reason for interrupting your meal be a need to use the restroom, please refrain from announcing your destination.  Simply say, “Excuse me, I’ll be back in a few minutes. Please, continue eating while I’m away.” Seriously, the others probably don’t want to know where you’re going or think about what you’ll be doing.

This brings us to another point. Everything that detracts others’ comfort and enjoyment is a no-no. Don’t play with your utensils, tap your fingers, or touch your hair. And for heaven’s sake, don’t mess around with your cell phone.

Despite many restaurants’ practice of wrapping a fork and knife in a paper napkin secured by a self-adhesive paper band, that is not the proper placement of utensils. Long-standing tradition dictates that forks are situated to the left of the plate; knives and spoons to the right. They are arranged in order of usage from the outside in toward the plate. For example, the fork farthest to your left is typically the salad fork. When salad plates are cleared, salad forks should accompany them. The next in line is for eating your following course. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

By the way, proper placement of your cell phone is out of view…with the ringer silenced.

This last rule of etiquette is likely the most difficult to follow in our technology-mad times. And it shows.

A few weeks ago, dear hubby and I stopped at a popular restaurant for lunch. The place was busy, so we put our name on the list and retired to an alcove to wait. During those fifteen or so minutes, we began to observe not only the other customers waiting for tables, but also those already seated and within sight. Approximately 75% of our companions spent the entire time gazing at screens, making calls, checking emails, and God only knows what else. Sort of rude to the others who were chatting with each other to pass the time, don’t you think?

As if that weren’t bad enough, scanning the booths in view of the waiting area revealed at least one person at every table also staring blankly and thumbing at a smart phone – or worse yet, talking on their cells. Some were evidently having difficulty hearing the person on the other side of the call because they spoke loudly and often uttered phrases like, “Say that again. I have a lot of background noise here.”

Heaven forbid that people having pleasant mealtime conversations should interfere with their enjoyment of their mobile devices!

Wait. Isn’t that backwards?

I feel certain Emily Post is rolling over in her grave. I think Miss Manners would insist that way of thinking is quite the opposite of polite social conduct. If these refined ladies had been present in that restaurant, I suspect they would have been appalled.

I was.

I wanted to shout, “Hey, you! And I mean all of you. Put your phones away.”

“And get your elbows off the table!”

Read Full Post »

Surely I’m not the only person on the face of this earth who is plagued by tasks, chores, and projects they never seem to have time to accomplish. As a writer, I work from home…which means that little chores like planning meals, buying groceries, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and others too numerous to mention get woven into my work day. Sometimes it’s difficult to partition the time I need to spend on literary works-in-progress from homemaker responsibilities. This creates a problem I think all full-time employed people must face from time to time.

One day, after digging one too many times in my Lazy Susan cabinet looking for a can of diced tomatoes that I knew was hiding in there someplace, my frustration reached an all-time high. No, not just frustration…anger. Self-anger. And self-shaming. I launched into a veritable flood of negative self-talk, knowing full well that cussing my own hide wouldn’t do a blessed thing to solve the problem. Tomorrow, I told myself. Tomorrow I’m going to clean out that cabinet and reorganize it so I can find things for a change.

You guessed it! By the next day other, more pressing issues arose. If I didn’t do laundry and get some shirts ironed, dear hubby would have to go to work naked. Yes, I let it get that bad. So, off to the laundry room I scurried without a thought about the condition of my food storage cabinets. As I pulled towels from the dryer, a black bath sheet fell to the floor. When I picked it up, the thing had so much white lint attached that it looked like a polar bear. Glancing down, I realized that sweeping and mopping the laundry room seemed to be another “never have time for it” task. Tomorrow, I told myself, tomorrow I’ll take time to scrub this entire area until it shines.

Funny how tomorrow never comes, isn’t it?

A few days later, I sat down to update my calendar for important appointments I knew my feeble mind wouldn’t recall unless I wrote them down that instant. As I gazed at the blank squares, it occurred to me that there were lots of “tomorrows.” I just wasn’t making good use of them.

That’s when the idea struck me. I needed a prompt. Something to remind me to do all those things I never seemed to get around to. A list, perhaps?

I fired up my laptop, set up some columns in a document and started cataloging all the things that drove me crazy…but always when I didn’t have time right then to address them. Two pages later, the solution came to me.

I cut the list into small slips of paper…about the size of the fortunes that come in Chinese cookies…folded them, and put them in a jar. I vowed that at least once a week I would grab a random slip from the jar, stop what I was doing, and tackle whatever was written on it.

Since some of the projects would involve acquiring supplies, I figured Friday would be a good “Pick One Jar” day. That way, if gathering the materials I needed ate up all my available time, I would feel like I’d at least made a start. Then I could work on finishing them up over the weekend. If scheduling conflicts arose, I would pick first thing Saturday morning.

I was serious about this approach! In red ink, I wrote “Pick One” on every Friday square on my calendar. All set.

Some of the tasks, naturally, require fair weather. One simply cannot till the garden plots when temperatures are below zero and snow is falling. Those, I allow myself to stuff back into the jar. But that doesn’t give me a pass. I keep drawing until I come up with a chore that is do-able without Mother Nature’s cooperation.

As other “must-dos” occur to me, I’ll add them to the jar. That way I’m not actually procrastinating. I’m scheduling a task for a day when I have time to devote to it.

Wow! This system has already done wonders for my self-worth. I feel like the heaviness of the world has lifted from my shoulders.

I just wish the bathroom scale would reflect that as physical weight loss.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: