“Please sir,” replied Oliver, “I want some more.”

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It’s really no secret. It’s just not.

My family knows it.  Most of my friends know it. Mainly because I’ve talked about my trials and tribulations with it.  They know it’s one of my continual, enduring quests. A path that has not yet ended.  It’s always been on my to-do board. Always. And, of course, I have had more losses than wins with it, but the quest continues regardless of failures.  

I guess what keeps me going is the thought that my plan might actually work. It just might. 

Ever since I was a youngster, I have never thought that twenty-four hours was enough time in the day.  For some reason, my get-er-done list has always been longer than my available time.    Every morning for years, I start my day like a rocket heading to the moon.  I look at my list and I’m off to the races.  And every evening, the list is exactly the same length, with what seems like two new items replacing the one item I may have completed. 

I have tried rising earlier and staying up later. And though I did seem to have more time for awhile, eventually I ended up being too tired to complete anything successfully, happily, or coherently.

So after much pondering, I concocted one of the most glorious, crazy-funny plans to combat the dilemma of not having enough time in the day that I have ever concocted.  This plan is the type that has kept me way too engaged in activities that could have been considered monotonous or boring, but now I consider them whole-heartedly challenging.  

I call it my find-the-time plan.  And I have, indeed, found new, additional time with it.  In fact, one day I found nearly fifteen new minutes.  I recall spending those new minutes as if I were on the greatest of all holidays.  They were fleeting minutes, but they were fun.  I supposed it was just the idea that I nearly met the quest . . . of finding more time in a day.

How you may ask?

Well, the plan actually has two parts.  The first part is simple.  Well, it sounds simple.  Let’s double well that. Well, it is simple until and unless something goes wrong during execution, then it actually causes a loss of time.  But, in its origin, it is simple.  

Just do the ordinary faster!  Just do the ordinary . . . a lot faster!  

For many years, I made my son the same breakfast each morning.  Three eggs, scrambled.  Two pieces of bacon.  Two pieces of toast, buttered.  For the first few years, that particular breakfast took me ten to fifteen minutes to prepare.  I’d get to the kitchen, waltz around, get out the food, prepare it, dilly dally a bit, clean up a bit, and voila, it was fifteen minutes later.  

But as I started my find-the-time quest, I found that I could actually sail through this breakfast much, much faster.  Think Martha Stewart meets Usain Bolt. I learned to race to the kitchen,  crack those eggs while feeding the bread into the toaster. I flung bacon into the microwave, lathered butter on bread, supersonic scrambled those eggs, and tossed everything on a plate in record times. I found time that I had previously lost.  I was actually so amazed that I found this time that I really didn’t use the time I found too well. 

Doing the ordinary faster works great if there are no errors.  But the days that I burnt the toast, dropped the eggs, or flung the bacon on the floor by mistake actually took me more time to clean up and repair the damage than had I just leisurely made breakfast. 

So on to part two which is more failsafe, usually.

The second part to the plan is comically fun almost all of the time.  All I have to do is . . .double up.  Just double up on the regular and ordinary. Doing two unique things simultaneously saves a boatload of time . . . which fits so well in the find-the-time quest.

During find-the-time quest part two, I have learned to brush my teeth and make my bed . . . at the same time, a two minute save.  I have figured out how to dry my hair with two hair dryers instead of one, cutting a ten minute chore into five.  I clean my car while filling my gas tank. I think lots of us do this one!  Another two minute save.  When I take my shoes off, I make sure I am standing in my closet.  I only save a few seconds, but it’s still a save.  

I have dozens of double up wins and I also have a few double up losses.  If I lose, I give myself kudos for the attempt. 

My favorite moments are the times that I keep track of the double up minutes saved and it add up to nearly a half hour. What a bonus world to have thirty additional minutes in my day.  It’s magical. 

My find-the-time quest clearly is more trivial than earth shattering.  It’s definitely a personal day game that keeps my life in the groove.  

Yet, as trivial as it is, I have learned a great deal from it.  

I have learned that anything can be joyful. Really, just anything can be. Brush my teeth, make my bed, fun.  Scramble eggs at the speed of light, fling bacon frantically, fun.  Fritter away found time, fun.  

Such a simple quest has taught me that the mundane is only so if I let it be that way.   How I frame my life is how my life will be.  With a little effort, the ordinary, the normal, the usual becomes anything but. 

I pray this quest never ends!

Found a few minutes to be outside today. 🙂

This Life is the Best Life Ever

He turned to me and smiled.  It was a flash of a moment.  A quick grin.  In total, it probably lasted less than a second, and when it happened, I really didn’t think too much of it.  But, it was the same smile – the same welcome – the same hello – the same moment of family affection – that we have shared over the past 50+ years.

Throughout the day’s activities, I probably saw that same smile a hundred different times. . . when we loaded into the boat . . . when we jumped into the lake . . . when we prepared to eat . . .when we ate . . . when we cleaned . . . when we sat and talked . . .  when we drank . . . when we reloaded into the boat . . . when we watched fireworks.

I can honestly say that I can only recall a fraction of our topics of conversation.  We talked a lot, about a lot of great subjects.  But if pressed, I must admit that the specific details are more than a little bit blurry to me.  The smile, however, is etched clear as a bell in my mind.

And that is fascinating to me.

I find it interesting to think about what I retain in my memory and what I don’t.  It is a filing system that I have never really understood.  I have memories and the ability to remember, but I have no idea how it all comes together.

That part’s a blur.

I think I have a solid ability to memorize, which means I can actively place something in storage and bring it to the forefront when necessary.  That part isn’t random. It is intentional. Sooooooo comforting to know that the memory part of my mind is not just a vast wasteland!

I also have memories that are linked to sounds and smells and sights and tastes and touches.  Drinking lemonade brings out memories of my grandfather.  Carole King songs take me back to 8th grade backyard camp outs.  If I smell suntan lotion, I am time-warped back to every Florida vacation I ever took as a child.

My interest isn’t in the fact that there are sensory associations to my memory.  Moreover, I would like to know why these particular associations.  What clicked in my brain to forever link various everyday items with happenings in my past.

All I can say is  – interesting!

In addition, I have taken my fair share of general education courses targeting the memory topic. Somewhere in my educational background is a stream of knowledge on this very issue. I spent credit hours and clock hours of time reading books, listening to lectures, writing papers, and taking tests to expand my mind about what memories are.  The good news is that I can recall taking those classes.  The bad news is that the exact content is a little vague . . . until and unless I read my college notes as a refresher or I utilize that Scholar-Google for a little assistance.  My memory on memory is less than memorable.

I am the type of person who tends to have an imbalance in terms of positive/negative memories.  Like everyone else, I have had my fair share of not so pleasant circumstances in my life, but I only really remember the glass half full times.  Bad moments, hard moments, sad moments are in that great big filing system in the sky, but happy, crazy-funny, joyous moments are the easiest for me to recall.   I assume it is like that for everyone.  I know it is for me.

The 2018 July 4th weekend brought all kinds of moments into my life.

I will remember the outline of young Brooke sailing towards us on the paddle board in the dim of the early evening on the lake.

I will remember the laughter of Max and Cosi as they were pulled behind a slow-moving boat.

I will always see the gentle hand of Craig as he kindly moved a rope back and forth to ensure the safety of several young charges being towed behind the boat.

Without any trouble at all, I will hear the chatter coming from the cousin table – a group of nine lake-logged guys and gals, boys and girls whose ages ranged from 6 to 39 – as they sat outside together eating, talking, laughing, and bonding. And the chatter coming from the adult table – same activity a mere few feet away from the first group.

With all of these memories, I cannot recall any of the details sandwiched in between the moments. Many hours passed, so I know a lot more actually happened.  But I can barely recall exactly what we ate.  I have no idea what everyone was wearing, and I am quite sure I can’t remember who arrived first or departed last.

What I will remember of these times is much more stark and simple.

My daughter’s twinkling eyes . . .  my sister-in-law’s laugh . . .  my brother’s hug . . .  my cousin, Carl’s smile.

This life is the best life ever.

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Fireworks on the Lake

What’s In Your Wallet?

My husband is a very consistent type of guy. And for his four children plus me who know him well, we all know that he carries an odd conglomeration of whatnot everyday. All of the items fit comfortably within the corners of his pants pockets, and each of the them is practical as the day is long. None are overly expensive, and yet together they create more interest than he ever expected.

I, too, have a short list of items that I always carry. My grouping, however, is nowhere near as compact as his. In fact, mine can’t fit in a pocket and are instead kept in a dingy, yet rugged, ziplock bag, plopped in whatever purse I’m using. Mine aren’t near as purposeful and I am very uncertain about the message they generate. Still, I carry them.

His list is simple – a freshly laundered handkerchief for him and for sharing, a few dollars to buy him out of any monetary jam, a scrap of paper with an early morning minted ‘to-do’ list, and a pen. My list is a little more harebrained and non-sequitur-ish.  In no particular order, I carry a pocket-sized copy of the constitution of the United States, my first communion prayer book, a full rosary & a bracelet rosary, and one $2.00 bill.

If I sneeze or if someone else sneezes, I have no immediate particular solution. I’m like a dog chasing its tail, looking round and round for tissue somewhere, somehow.  I have witnessed my husband, on the other hand, reach into his pocket, pull out a crisply folded handkerchief, and use it for the save. In his line of work with patients, I am sure it is more than comforting to have him – without fail – carry an immediate solution to a potential germ crisis.

On the flip side of this coin, I may not be able to circumvent the common household sneeze, but I am able to quickly read the list of names of the Supreme Court justices in order – which happens to be part of the pocket constitution addendum, page 87, seventh edition. I can give guidance on the amendments, offer “Fascinating Facts about Six Founding Fathers,” and help if someone gets stuck reciting the Declaration of Independence. My mini-book is filled to the brim with great stuff to solve all constitutional crises.

However, if traveling on tollways or tipping valets or purchasing a food cart meal, it’s my husband who carries the right stuff. He’s absolutely correct that cash can quickly circumvents calamities. It just does. Need a five, he has a five. Need a ten, he has a ten. Need a twenty, he’s got it. He has all denominations and all combinations of cash and coins too.

He’s always cash rich and I’m always cash poor. Except when it comes to the two dollar bill. That’s my strength. Twenty dollars may cover costs, but a two dollar bill always buys a smile. The two dollar bill buys little, is used little, and is worth little.  But, it’s fun – which I believe is its sole circulation purpose.  No other paper denomination has such crazy-funny power.  And spending a twenty dollar bill is easy, but carrying and spending ten two dollar bills takes a little more courage and thought.  Just try it.  It’s not as simple as it sounds.

Moving on, having possessed my Saint Joseph Children’s Missal since 1964, it is showing severe signs of age. The spine is taped.  The pages are tilted.  And the cover is worn. But, the gentle message inside has the ability to keep me grounded. It’s not a matter of me reading it at a moment of need, just a matter of me being reminded that the world is still in front of me, that I have a group standing with me, and that there is nothing that is impossible when my God is with me.

Likewise is that little ‘to-do’ list that my husband carries. Threaded among the bullet points that remind him to run past the bank or pick up some grocery item are notes that remind him to follow his dreams, to think big and broad, to care for others, and to see the glass half full, not half empty. I only wish I had the fortitude to create and carry such a daily list. He’s got it. I don’t. Nuf’ said.

Then there’s his pen. The purpose of the pen is writing – and the majority of the time that’s what he does with it. But, I have seen him use it to pry things open, to clip something together, and to wedge something apart. He thinks he’s MacGyver.  Always has.  He sees a pen as a tool that happens to contain a little ink. Clogged sink – use the pen. Barefoot and a bug needs to be killed – use a pen. Burgers flaming out of control and spatula is missing – use a pen. There is no problem that the pen can’t solve with a little thought and ingenuity.  In the future, I am hoping to film his uses of the pen to create what I think would be one of the most viral YouTube videos this side of the Mississippi.

Me – my skills with a pen are limited to only those that include paper and writing. If I’m in need of an inventive solution to a difficult problem, I go for the rosary every time. In the short term, the pen might be more successful, but in the long run, the rosary – whole or decade version – may be the best choice.

In the end, the items that we collectively carry are only purposeful to us as individuals. He can’t use my rosary to pray his way out of a sudden sneeze and his handkerchief won’t help me understand the Bill of Rights.

I only hope that my tattered and nearly torn ziplock bag remains in tact for a few more decades. I gotta lot of trouble to explore and I may need its contents.

And I might add a pen for the just in case moments.

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Need a pen?  Or a two dollar bill?  Just ask us.

Magic Journeys

She asked me if I would like to play tea with such an earnest voice, I had to just say yes. I watched her run quickly to the next room and carefully removed the teapot from the shelf.  Once back in the kitchen, she climbed up to the sink and filled it with water.  My instructions were to sit on the floor.  In her mind – and then in  my mind – the room transformed into some other unknown place where she and I were drinking lemon flavored tea and eating biscuits (which looked suspiciously like water and jelly beans).  But to us – at that time – it was truly tea and biscuits.

Several hours later, after she and I had left that moment, and after she had left my home, I  took off for my daily run.  Tennis shoes – check.  Hair tie – check.  IPod and headphones – check, check.  My body was ready to go, but my mind was telling me that I was tired, that I didn’t have time, that the weather wasn’t the greatest, that I should just forget it and call it a day.  I was ready to turn around, give up on the exercise idea, head back into my house for a little “R & R” or maybe a lot of “R & R”.

Mindlessly, I flipped on my music and began listening to the Sherman Brothers tell me about a magical world . . . the world between awake and asleep, between real and pretend. Magic Journeys.   I watched a bird skim the sky overhead and fly beyond the treeline.  Slowly but steadily,  I was again transformed to another time and another place.  This time, however, it wasn’t sitting in a castle drinking tea and eating biscuits.

With my imagination at work – I began to picture myself as a quick and speedy.  I could see myself many moons prior, running as if nothing could stop me.  The more the music played, the more I imagined myself, not being tired, or unmotivated, but having that trail-blazing, never say stop exercising attitude.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that my mind was rewriting the moment.  I spent the next hour running what I thought was like the wind!  Not because I was, for I assure you that my speed right now is generally the same – somewhere between slow and slower, but it felt different.  And I finished.  And I smiled.

I have spend a great deal of time thinking about those two moments.  The focus, however, isn’t on the tea party or the run, rather it is on my imagination.

As a child, I recall using my imagination all of the time.  Cardboard boxes became castles.  The backyard soccer game became the Women’s World Cup.  I was Peggy Fleming when I put on ice-skates, and Carole King when I played the piano.  I directed orchestras, danced on American Bandstand, flew, had the best presidential acceptance speech, and walked down those fashion runways like a pro.

Children use imagination all the time.  The world encourages it.  But somewhere within my childhood, I packed up that imagination and headed for adulthood.

I admit that it might look crazy-funny for me to sit in a cardboard box, with my soccer ball, ice-skates, piano, baton, ballet shoes, wings, type-written speech, and platform shoes  – all day long.  And I am thankful that adulthood has taught me that I need to be a little more realistic that my five-year old self.

I suppose what I am trying to learn is which parts of imagination are behind me and which parts are still in front of me. Mark Twain tells me that I can’t depend on my eyes when my imagination is out of focus.  And Albert Einstein tells me that imagination is more important than knowledge.  For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire work, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution; and strictly speaking, it is a real factor in scientific research.

For the remainder of 2016, I am going to dust off my imagination.  I am going to look at it like one of the most versatile tools in my box and use it every change I get.  My approach isn’t going to be via the tea party model (however, I am not ruling anything out), but more towards the running/transformation model.

I want to look more at what can be than what is.  I want to see the potential rather than seeing the status.  I want to practice imagining all that can be – in all facets of my life – just to see what might happen.  I want to learn more about what happens when imagination is let loose.  What happens when I just unleash it and give it a go at all turns. I want to wonder more about everything, just to see the results.

I have no idea where this idea may take me.  I can only imagine.

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A recent imagination moment.