Procrastinator’s Days

Procrastinator’s Days

One of these days we gotta get organized …

A woman’s work is never done (something I often heard my mother say) …

Housework, housework, I love housework (sung sarcastically to the tune of “Pickles, Pickles, I like pickles,” a song I learned teaching children’s choir)

Over the Christmas holidays I decided to tackle some projects that have been niggling at me all year. I made progress in organizing our kitchen and am still working on that. Like a true procrastinator, I get sidetracked while doing projects. Finding one cherished item makes me go put it in a place where I will be able to find it, and when I go to that place, I find still more stuff that needs to be put away. This is why women never catch up…there is always more stuff to do than meets the eye. And sometimes you get sidetracked doing another project and forget to complete the original one. But I digress. (Ha.)

I kept feeling compelled to blog, so I finally gave in. Besides, I needed to sit for a while, I rationalized.

John is busy in our downstairs bedroom scrubbing the wall (we have some moisture problems that we need to address…meanwhile, the cinderblock walls have started to show signs of mildew, so he is hard at work with a scrub brush and some orange cleaner we have found that is a good all-purpose cleaner) as I write this. I was working on organizing the bookshelf in the kitchen, and I keep finding so many things we have put up in a hurry, thinking we would get around to reading them later. Well, guess what. Now some magazines have been sitting on those shelves for at least 2 years. I am tossing stuff in recycling right and left. I am filling a box for Goodwill with cookbooks I no longer use. This is such a freeing feeling! But I can take it only in small doses.

This morning I found my dad’s address book, which surprising had some fairly updated information. He had my, John’s, Daniel’s, and Julie’s cell phone numbers. He had Daniel’s first apartment address (only two residences behind) and Julie’s address in Spain. I found addresses and phone numbers for Helen’s (his wife’s) family, some living and some dead. I discovered obituaries for my uncle and cousin Clifford Blessing, my aunt Myrtle Blessing, my cousin Annie Fletcher, and my aunt Kate Couch. I found some photos of Daddy taken in 1979. He was quite a handsome man. Helen, in her beautiful handwriting, had written on the back: Walter Leonard 1979. It was like going through a family scrapbook. Funny how you find things tucked in odd places. Until 2015, this address book (with Hummel figurine-type drawings) had been used since the 1970s, when my aunt Euchie (Eunice Necessary) gave it to my parents as a Christmas gift.

On the top shelf of the bookshelf (the only one I’ve dusted so far) I found cookbooks from churches that have been special to me over the years: Broad Street United Methodist (inherited from my aunt Reb) and Lynn Garden Baptist in Kingsport and Crievewood Baptist Church in Nashville. I think I have one more church cookbook that John’s aunt Macon gave to us as a wedding present; it’s from First United Methodist Church in Savannah, TN, but I haven’t run across it yet.

I have found several recipes that I will never cook and decided to get unsentimental because my dad wrote some of them…if I save everything I find in his handwriting, I will not find a place for everything. One was for corn relish. If I recall correctly, it tasted sort of like rotten corn. You have to let it sit for 4 weeks after putting in all the ingredients. Maybe I better dig that recipe out and see if I can take a picture of it. No, it’s already in recycling. (I think perhaps I have confused it with pickled corn, which really did taste like rotten corn…Reb always kept several pints of it in her basement.)

This weekend I have been in the house for four days…work was called off on Friday due to ice, and the first time I got out was to go to church yesterday. For this long weekend I have chosen to spend my time as a gift: it’s Procrastinator’s Day(s)! I can do some things that I don’t have the chance to do in the normal crazy-busy schedule of my life while I am working full-time.

Today I have been catching up on correspondence, cleaning a little here and there, and enjoying having time to clean my stove, wash dishes, clean out the coffee maker, do a little laundry, and spot-clean in various places.

My mother used to save projects for summertime when she was out of school from her teaching job. She certainly kept me occupied, starting in elementary school (and paying me a nickel an hour, which I thought was a grand deal, for certain projects): mowing the lawn, washing windows, painting rooms inside our house, trimming around the trees in our yard with those old-fashioned scissor-like clippers (it’s a wonder I didn’t get carpal tunnel syndrome way back then), picking vegetables from our garden (with my dad) and helping Mommy can or freeze them, and helping with laundry. I don’t ever seem to have time for such projects at home unless I block out a weekend or take a few days of vacation (and who wants to do that with their vacation time?) to do such things. I’ve decided that I will just declare a Procrastinator’s Day several times a year and spend it doing mundane chores that I don’t especially enjoy doing but that need to be done. It’s about time to organize under the bathroom sinks and kitchen sink. Yikes. But for now I am concentrating on the kitchen. Then I will move to the bedroom, where I will clean my bedside table, which is spilling over with books and is quite dusty. Next up, clean the top of my and John’s chests of drawers. And then (the biggie) clean out the bookshelves in our bedroom. I have a small library down there and need to share some of those books with others. Some I will give to friends, and the rest to Goodwill.

Well, if I’m ever going to get anything done, I must get back to the kitchen. I’m encouraged to see some things starting to get into shape. Who knows, maybe I will even dust the living room (which I have done in the last 2 or 3 weeks). I could even get really organized like my boss and have an index card file with tasks written on each card, and rotate through the card file every quarter. Nah. Probably ain’t gonna happen. Besides, I can always save something to my Google drive and not have to waste time writing out cards.

Hasta luego!


My Bucket List

I heard Bob Cowsill being interviewed on Hippie 94.5 (my favorite radio station) on the way to work today, and he said that a bus tour (his last with the Cowsills was 43 years ago) is the last item on his Bucket List.

Hmmm, I wondered. Is it good when you’ve crossed off all the items on your Bucket List? I don’t think I’ve ever made a Bucket List, though I have certainly mulled about it. I would bet that my Bucket List has changed over time.

Right now, here are some things I want to do before I die. And when I cross off the last item, well, I think I’ll be adding to the list. Don’t want to tempt fate or whatever!

1. Go on a mission trip to Mexico. My church, Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, takes an annual trip to Puebla, Mexico. This is the one I want to participate in. One of its focuses is educating women. I believe the primary focus is “Give Ye Them to Eat” or something like that.

2. Travel to New England and do a historical tour with John.

3. Go to the Grand Canyon with John. I’ve seen it before but he hasn’t. I am ashamed to admit that we didn’t take our children to the Grand Canyon. Oh well. Life got busy. We did take other great and not-so-great trips.

4. Go on a hot-air balloon ride. Yes, this will challenge my fear of heights, but it just looks like so much fun.

5. Learn to paddle board.

6. Write a collection of stories, poems, or perhaps a book. Whether it gets published or not, well, we’ll see.

7. Continue practicing yoga and do as much exercise as I can to keep my body healthy. I believe in the power of exercise to relieve stress, and I’m hoping it will also ward off dementia, which runs in my family. I am planning to take a tai chi class at some point.

8. Walk outside in nature and appreciate the beauty every single day that I can.

9. Learn more about botany. I am already obsessed with identifying trees. Not so much their scientific names as their ordinary names and maybe a little about them.

10. Continue to read all kinds of books. Well, maybe not so many trashy novels, but balance is a good thing. 😀

11. Practice conversational Spanish and brush up on tenses besides present tense. Learn at least one new Spanish word each week.

12. Work toward more balance in life...have more fun, don’t continually work more hours than I have to (this has become a habit), bite my tongue when I need to but also speak up when I need to.

13. Find some joy in every day. And learn not to work so hard at my spiritual life. God loves me the way I am. Of course I can always do better, but I just need to chill and accept that there are seasons in the spiritual life, just as there are seasons in nature.

14. Do at least one random act of kindness a week.

Okay, these are enough items to keep me busy for the rest of my life, I think. I have some other ideas, but for now this is enough.

Perfection Is Overrated

For years I have been hesitant to hold any social gatherings at my house, thinking it’s such a wreck and so small that it doesn’t lend itself to an easy flow for traffic. Our former house, a bungalow near Centennial Park, was set up perfectly for parties, and we did quite a few (mostly kids’ birthday parties after we had children, but there was a day when we invited Sunday school classes over to our house for dinner parties, etc.). Our living room and dining room were huge; the rest of the house, not so much.

When we moved to our current house in 2004, I was drawn in by the wood paneling in the kitchen (takes me back to younger days), captivated by the arch between our living room and the dining room, loved the red flocked wallpaper look of the dining room (which we have never used as a dining room but as a multipurpose room…at one point it became our guest bedroom, so we blocked the arch with the china hutch…I never liked it that way, but it provided a little privacy for anyone unlucky enough to stay overnight at our house. We had a full house then with both our children at home and no guest bedroom. The guest bedroom morphed into John’s office for a couple of years, then back into a guest bedroom.)

This weekend we moved our china hutch back into its proper place in the dining room. We have a little bit of work to do in the dining room to make it look more like a dining room rather than just a room with random furniture placed about. I think the arch from the living room to that room will make us pay attention to the looks of the dining room, and eventually we’ll get it where we want it.

We had a game night on Sunday (it being a holiday weekend) and invited 3 couples over. One couple couldn’t come due to wanting to watch 2 football games. That turned out to be just as well, as our kitchen table seats only 6 comfortably.

Here are some signs that I am letting go of much of my perfectionism:

* I decided to take a chance and invite people to our house, knowing that it wouldn’t be quite like I wanted it to be, but realizing that if we didn’t start stepping out in courage and inviting people over, we would miss many opportunities for deeper relationships.
* I didn’t think through the menu very well, considering our dishes. I decided that chicken tortilla soup would be a good entree, and I didn’t have a whole lot of time available on Sunday to cook, considering that our choir sang for a 2:00 memorial service, and it was one of those occasions I felt I needed to be part of.
* As John and I scurried about the house, straightening up, dusting, vacuuming, etc., I realized the kitchen floor needed mopping. This was about an hour before guests were due to arrive. So I did a quick swipe of the kitchen floor (as John went around with a broom and worked on sticky spots).
* Our first guests arrived before I had finished setting the table. As I pulled out the dishes, I realized, to my horror, that we had only 5 matching plates but an overabundance of soup bowls. Also not enough matching silverware (we have a conglomeration of my stainless, my mom & dad’s stainless, and some other stainless collected over the years). Oh well, no big deal. Then there came the matter of glassware. We had two crystal glasses in our cabinet and four crystal glasses that almost matched in our china hutch. Again, I figured no big deal. At least they were the same color: clear.
* The first to arrive helped set the table, sort out the most matching silverware (from our dishwasher and the silverware drawer), and generally prepare the layout for our very formal (ha-ha) dinner.
* I realized later in the evening that I had asked one guest to bring an apricot cake, thinking that was her specialty, since I’d bought one at a cake walk at work. Then after conversation I realized that she had never made an apricot cake, and she probably wondered why in the world I asked her to bring one. (This communication took place by e-mail, so she didn’t ask me if she could bring another dessert.) Oh well, that was okay…I also had never made the soup that we served for dinner. It turned out to be a little bland, but it was passable. Guess I should forget about trying new, untested recipes (and adding my own twist) with dinner parties.
* John and I had just a few “words” before the party. He said, “This is why we don’t invite people to our house more often.” To which I replied, “I’m not bent out of shape; I’m just ‘focused’ on what we need to do.” We had our typical exchange of “do this,” both of us trying to be in charge. It was rather comical, in retrospect. After 32 1/2 years we still struggle over who’s the boss when it comes to certain situations. If I’d learn to bite my tongue and say “Yes, dear” (and I have done that on a few occasions lately), there would be less tension. But John also can say those words, even through gritted teeth. Enough about the intricacies of marital communication!
* Despite all the bobbles, I think everyone who came over had a good time. We played the original edition of Trivial Pursuit. I thought I would be on the winning team, joining two women with PhDs. At first we were ahead, getting the first wedge in our playing piece. But alas, the other team got the EASY questions AND luck was on their side. Next time we will get the box with the easy questions!
* I was amused by one guest who borders on OCD. Before we started playing, she wanted to rearrange all the cards in the boxes because they were turned every which way. (I told her she could come over and help me organize our house anytime.) We did get all the cards turned the same way (I guess the random turning of the cards before was just a sign of our family, of which three members have ADD), and life was good. I thought I would burst into laughter watching this same guest when someone on the other team put a wedge in the playing piece upside down (something that has bugged me greatly in the past). I was waiting to see how long it would be before she mentioned it. I think it drove her crazy for about 10 minutes before she finally said something. That was comical!
Now that we have our house somewhat in order (there’s always progress to be made), maybe we’ll start inviting folks over more often. It’s good for people to see how the other half lives…those who don’t have the trendiest furniture, decorations, and just barely manage to keep their heads above water when it comes to having a neat and tidy house. My motto for 2015 is “Never postpone joy.”

Things I’ve Learned from Anal People

I describe myself as a recovering perfectionist. I used to think being a perfectionist was a good thing. After all, this trait has come in handy as an editor. But alas, I have learned that as long as there are human beings involved in a process, there will be mistakes.

Once, when I was working with a really picky acquisitions editor at Thomas Nelson, I found a mistake on the first page of  a book I’d edited. The author had been difficult to work with, the book was running behind schedule, and endorsements came in at the last minute. I hurriedly proofread the endorsements and sent them on to the graphic designer. I did not discover the mistake (a misspelled word) until the book was printed and I got my copy.

My stomach flipped when I saw the error. I wondered how my editor would react, and then I decided that I might as well ‘fess up. I called her and apologized profusely. She surprised me by giving me grace. “Anne,” she said, “that just proves you’re human. We’ll correct it at reprint stage.” Whew. Survived that one.

An only child, I had a great desire to please my parents, and I often got blamed for whatever went wrong around the house. Thus I developed the traits of sensitivity and an unhealthy sense of responsibility when things go wrong. It has taken me most of my adult life to recover from this.

I didn’t really think about what it was like to live with a perfectionist until I read a book on relationships in my late 20s. “Perfectionists are miserable people,” the book said. “They have unrealistically high expectations of themselves, and they are hard to live with, because they often cannot accept imperfections in others.” Ouch!

That book started me thinking about how I tended to focus on the negatives in regard to my husband. In the early years of our marriage, it drove me crazy when he left his socks and underwear on the floor or hung clothes on the quilt rack or any handy corner. I spent a lot of energy fuming about that habit. I talked to him about it (quite nicely, I thought) and told him that it bothered me when he left his clothes everywhere. You see, I was raised to pick up after myself (to the point of obsession), make my bed every morning, and keep my room neat. I was a neat freak.

Then I married this lovable guy who grew up in a home with less demanding standards for neatness. After I called attention to his habit of leaving clothes everywhere, he tried…he really did…for a while to at least put dirty clothes in the hamper. But soon he was off doing something creative…and the clothes on the floor multiplied. Finally, after a week of seeing whether he would pick up after himself if I left the piles on the floor, I gave up and just started picking up the piles. There! I felt much better. (Update: The longer we’ve been married, the neater my husband has become, and the messier I’ve become. We’ve met somewhere in the middle.)

So what have I learned from anal people?

From my stepmother: I discovered how to cook green beans in a healthier way than the way I cooked them: use 1 beef bouillon cube instead of fatback or bacon. (Although I must say I prefer green beans cooked with a little bacon.) She also got me in the habit of rolling up the tub mat and standing it on end so it could drain and not get so much mildew. And I learned how to match all 4 corners on the towels when I hung them in the bathroom, as well as wipe up every drop of water spilled on the sink. Once, when I took the initiative to make my own coffee and didn’t quite get the lid screwed on the carafe, I witnessed a real hissy fit about my being a slovenly guest. I had tried to clean up after myself and thought I got the mess sopped up, but she found coffee grounds in the circles around the top of the carafe. Out came a Q-tip to clean up these misbehaving stray grounds. Meanwhile, I watched agape, wondering what difference this would make in 5 years. (I never again made coffee in her kitchen when she was home.)

From an anal boss: I learned to try my best and accept if I didn’t quite please him or her, because I never was very good at playing Battleship (the game where you can’t see your opponent’s gameboard and you try to guess where the other player’s ships are hidden). I also learned not to take the exercise of writing performance standards too seriously. The years I’ve obsessed over every word and set really high standards for myself haven’t seemed to produce much better results than other years when I wrote them in a rush.

Probably the best lesson I learned from an anal boss was to look for another job … because I was going to get fired if I didn’t. Turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I did not, as the associate department director said someone else had done, come back to thank him for firing me. I still think he’s a jerk. My direct supervisor, not so much. But it took years for me to forgive her and get over the blow to my ego. I questioned my editing ability. One time I ran into her at an event, and she casually told me that another department at LifeWay was looking for a good editor. I just looked at her, thinking, “What? If I wasn’t good enough for you, why would you wish me on someone else?” Maybe it made her feel better to tell me that. I don’t know.

From my mom: I learned that dirty dishes will wait til the next day. She did not teach me this; if she’d had her way, I would stay up late doing the dishes. I learned from my mother’s example that I did not want to be a teacher because that would mean sacrificing time with my family to grade papers at night. My mother was a workaholic. Most of my fun times were spent with my dad. So she taught me not to let my career consume me. (Or so I thought, until my son, Daniel, told me, in the heat of an argument, “You and your precious work!”)

From my dad: I picked up the habit of critiquing lots of meals I cook. Daddy used to taste something he’d cooked and make this little smacking noise as he analyzed it. He’d immediately point out some ingredient he could have used less or more of.  When I do the same, John says, “Okay, Walter,” sending me the message that I’m being just like my dad.

From an aunt and my mom, to whom I’m very thankful, I learned to speak and write grammatically correct sentences, because they pounced on every mistake I made. (My aunt was a principal with a master’s degree in reading; my mother was a 6th-grade schoolteacher. I also had an aunt who taught high school English. My love for literature is in my genes.)

I guess that’s enough for today. I have some funny tales about anal people in the recesses of my mind, but all I can think right now is that I’m grateful for some of the people who have been the biggest pains to deal with. They have made me stronger, prodded me to be creative and a little wily, and they have made me laugh (more than they know).