Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Cautionary Tale

As we in the United States check off our to-do lists in preparation for our Thanksgiving holiday, I offer this council:

Beware the Pitfalls of "The Mental List."

I was inspired by this bit of wisdom as I went about my day today. Even though I had no hard and fast scheduled appointments, the plan was to rise at 5:30 AM, so I could be freshly showered, bright-eyed, and ready to dive into my to-do list before the kiddos were even up. 

Two hours and four alarm resets later (as usual), I'm hurrying into my clothes, pulling my hair through a ball cap, and herding my kiddos through their usual start to the school day. Once they were off, it was time to get to that list.

Thing is, I never wrote it down. It started with two things, so I figured there was no need to waste the paper. Even I couldn't forget a measly two things: an errand, and cleaning the house.

So, I hopped in the truck and set out to complete that errand. Thirty minutes later, mission accomplished. I got back in the truck, and while it warmed up, I started thinking. All that was left was to go home and clean the house.

"Cleaning" for me always begins with vacuuming, which caused me to remember that first I'd have to finish the three loads of laundry piled up on the carpet before I could vacuum. "Laundry" was then added to the mental list. 

Because I have to pass my kitchen to get to the laundry room, I remembered the quickly ripening bananas on my counter that I wanted to mush up and bake into banana bread before they went all black and yucky. "Bake banana bread" was next added to the list. 

Also on that counter was a bill I needed to pay. "Pay bill" dully added to the mental list. 

Since I pay my bills in the office, I was reminded of the many teeny sheets of paper with lists scattered on my desk - and by "scattered" I mean, of course, set about in a totally meaningful and organized fashion. Anyway, three of those lists were Christmas wish lists. Which reminded me I still have Christmas shopping to do. And since I was already out, I figured I'd better work on that a while, too. "Christmas shopping" was then added to the mental list.

So, with the truck sufficiently warmed up, I put it in gear and zoomed off to the store to cross a few goodies off the 'ol Christmas lists. Forty-five minutes later, I exit the store with some lovely surprises for under the tree. I loaded them in the back of the truck, and headed for home so I could finish the rest of that mental list.

On the way home from shopping, I mentally ticked off what I purchased and tried to remember what else I still want to find. Oh! There is that one store in town I need to go get the thing for the person (Haha. You thought I was gonna give something away, didn't ya?), so I resolved to take the appropriate exit. In the meantime, my mind wandered off to calculate how much time I had left before the bus would arrive to drop off my little lovelies from school.

WHOOSH! I blew right by my exit. Crud. It took me 5 extra miles to get to the next exit and backtrack to where I wanted to be. Despite the unexpected detour, I ended up finding what I wanted and getting home in plenty of time to meet the bus. So I unloaded my finds, grabbed a bit of lunch, and told myself I'd start cleaning as soon as I finished eating, then get to the bus stop. 

Well, it's not very entertaining talking to oneself at lunch, so I brought my food into the office. That way, I could do some online shopping at the same time and tie up some loose ends that came up during the brick-and-mortar shopping.

So, I'm clicking along, price-checking, fiddling with codes (hmmm...which is worth more: the fifteen percent off, or the free shipping), finding new ideas with every click. I was feeling pretty good until I shifted the papers on my desk to find the one I'd scribbled a code onto. Instead, I found one upon which was scrawled, "Pay bill."

WHOOPS! The bill! I dashed back out to the kitchen, grabbed the bill from the counter, went back to the office, and paid the bill online. And then I heard the bus. 

Crud! My surprises were still setting out in plain sight, and there wasn't enough time to put them away. So I threw a blanket over them, closed the office doors, and crossed my fingers that the kiddos hadn't yet reached that search-the-house-for-anything-suspicious stage that presents itself at this time of year. Happily, they hadn't, and they dutifully stayed away from the office.

So while they headed to the kitchen for a snack, I managed to finish my last online purchase (for now). Then I commenced with the next items on my mental list: Laundry. Vacuum basement. More laundry. Vacuum upstairs. Even more laundry. Vacuum kitchen. Oh, crud! The bananas! 

So, I started to get the dry ingredients measured for the banana bread, when the washer buzzed. I moved clothes from washer to dryer, and put a few in a basket. I hauled the basket upstairs to hang the clothes, then came back to finish the banana bread. I added the rest of the dry ingredients. Wait a minute. Where's the sugar? I know I measured it...Oh, crud! I did flour for the sugar. Managing to fix that, I held part of it aside to be added after the bananas. I blended in the bananas. Then I put in the eggs and the rest of the dry mixture.

Now, if you are a baker, you know that when dry ingredients are added, you have to start the mixer out slow, right? Well, just before I hit the switch, I remembered that I still needed to fix a dish for my part of Thanksgiving at my sister-in-law's tomorrow. As I added that to my mental list for tomorrow, I flipped the switch all the way up to "beat."

POOF! I was blasted in the face by an explosion of flour, baking power, baking soda, sugar, and salt as the mixer jolted into turbo mode. I hurried to shut it off again, but the damage was already done: the counter was coated in white powder, and so was I. 

So, here I am a few hours later. I'm sitting in my clean house. My errand is mentally checked off. My purchases are safely tucked away. The bill is paid. The laundry is done. The banana bread is cooling. And I'm thinking about that dish I have to make tomorrow. It's a garden salad. That's all I have to do. 

I don't really need to write that down.

Do I?


  1. hi, I just found your site, days like this are so frustrating I love your upbeat view despite it all!

  2. Yeah, Court came over from my site to say hi! The "blogs i read" list serves its purpose!

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I truly loved this post because I always am so easily distracted in my "to-do lists" was funny reading it happening to someone else rather than feeling all chaotic from actually living it! :)


So, what's on your mind?