Friday, August 19, 2011


Here's how yesterday went for me:

I dropped Holly off at day camp – just two miles down the road – at 9:00. I came home, posted my daily blog entry (which I'd written the night before), made coffee, toasted a bagel, and drove Tim to his friend Will's house at 9:45. Then I headed for the supermarket. I'd promised to make cupcakes for Holly's last-day-of-camp luncheon, and the ones I'd made the night before were a disaster, so I had to buy some instead.

I was home by 11:00 and had time to make final revisions to two press releases I'd written the day before. Then at 12:00, back to Holly's day camp for the last-day reading ceremony at which each girl read her favorite piece she'd written that week.

Home in time to check emails; then I dropped Holly off at a friend's house at 2:00 and headed across town to pick Tim up at Will's house. Will's mother invited me to stay; she and two other moms were sitting by the pool snacking and chatting. I would have liked to, but with only one full work day left before we leave for vacation, I had to get home and meet some more deadlines.

Tim hadn't had lunch, so I helped him put a sandwich together and then headed out to pick up a friend's children at their day camp because medical conditions are preventing my friend from driving at the moment. I found the kids, brought them to their house, and headed back home.

Next, I contacted three sources for interviews related to the arts column I need to submit today. The topic of the column is 3D photography, and it turns out that artists who are interested in this kind of work really have a lot to say about it. I took notes as fast as I could, one eye on the clock, because I knew by 5 I had to start loading up the car to go to the transfer station.

When my phone calls were done, I headed out to the garage and started piling bags of trash and bins of recycling into the back of the car. When the car was full, I mounted one of our bikes on the bike rack; I told my sister I would deliver it to my parents' house so she could use it over the weekend. Next, on to the transfer station to unload all the trash and recycling. There I ran into the neighbor who has just started boarding cows at my parents' farm; he wanted to talk cows, so I listened to his theories about udder malfunctions and slaughter schedules while I threw trash bags into the compactor.

I was right on time to pick Holly up at her friend's house at 6:00. I loitered for a few minutes chatting with her friend's mother; then as we were leaving remembered that I was supposed to do a phone interview at 6:30 with an 11-year-old runner who plans to take part in the Chicago half-marathon next month. And Holly and I still had to drop off the bike at my parents' house. They weren't home, so we left the bike in the garage and the mail on the bench and hurried off, but halfway home, I remembered that the bike helmet was still on the seat next to me. Much to Holly's dismay, we doubled back to my parents' house and left the helmet.

The Chicago runner and his mother, both on speakerphone, called just as I was pulling into our garage. I rushed inside to start up my laptop so I could take notes. It's a good story; I'm looking forward to writing it up.

Once that call was over, I indulged in a rush of relief. All my scheduled events for the day were done; moreover, I'd left the house six different times for six different pre-scheduled drop-offs or pick-ups and hadn't forgotten or even been late for a single one. I'd also met a number of small but necessary work goals for the day: finished the press releases, done the interviews for my arts column and the marathon article.

So then I washed the dishes, put away food, and did the dreaded chore of removing mouse droppings from the cabinet under the sink. It seems every three or four days, I find enough down there to warrant a clean-up. I don't understand why, because there's no food under the sink and I never find evidence of mice anywhere else in the kitchen or the rest of the house. It's as if they wiggle their way through the hole near the drainpipe, wander into the cabinet for the sole purpose of pooping, and disappear again. My friend Sheila recently told me about a new mouse repellent she's very happy with; I'll have to put it on my To Do list for today to get to the hardware store where Sheila found it and buy some.

Ah yes, today's To Do list. Because every 24 hours, there's a new one. I managed to get through a lot yesterday, but today there are still more work assignments to complete, more errands to run, more household jobs to do. And yet yesterday felt like a particularly notable accomplishment; I was pleased with the way all the pieces had fit together – the six rides, the transfer station, moving the bike – and rather than feeling beleaguered by all that needed to be done, I was pleased that it had all turned out to be manageable and, more importantly, that I hadn't forgotten anyone anywhere.

When I was younger, before I had children, I honestly believed there were secrets, keys, to good organizational skills, and all I had to do was read the right book or attend the right lecture with the right expert and then I too would understand how to Be Organized. I even occasionally signed up for personal organization classes. Eventually I grew skeptical that there was any one answer, but these days I look around and feel a sense of accomplishment. It's not anything I learned from a book, and it's not anything I could write a book about either. It's not any particular key or slogan or trick or shortcut. It's your life. Meeting your obligations. Keeping track of it all.

And it turns out that experience really is the best possible teacher.

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