The plan was to write a blog post every week. Ha ha. I actually started two different posts since my last one: one was about our annual family vacation (the late comedian and TV personality Steve Allen was probably the first to say that tragedy plus time equals comedy, and the vacation is still in the “tragedy” phase of that equation, so give me some time), and the other was about a question our youngest child incessantly asks me. Then I got distracted by other things. This is part of my short attention span (example: I am already bored by this blog post, and I’m hoping there’s a payoff somewhere further down.) By the way, do you like how I casually mentioned the question that my daughter asks and didn’t explain what the question is? Foreshadowing for another post!
Anyway, I was saying something about my attention span. I am not the best multitasker. Is there such a thing as a unitasker? Google says yes. Then that’s me. I can do one thing at a time. No more, no less. (Actually, I can do less than one thing. Usually while sitting in front of the TV. Wait, does TV count as the one thing?) When I had a desk job, my main task was to be an editor. (Editor’s note: Get rid of all these parenthetical comments.) I would have liked to have spent about 80 percent of my time on the editing and the remaining 20 percent on all the ancillary stuff such as phone calls with authors, status reports, meetings, or chatting about the previous night’s episodes of “Seinfeld” and “Friends” with co-workers (it was that long ago). However, it was more like 20 percent of the job was editing and the other 80 was everything else. (I spent a lot of time talking about “Seinfeld” and “Friends.” Also, “Felicity.”) I struggled with the constant interruptions from email dings on my computer to phone calls from authors or people from other departments to the piles of papers that kept being added to my desk. If I could have been just a copy editor, I would have been much more effective.
Summer is a particular problem around the Dudley household. The plan was to work on the blog every morning before the kids rolled out of bed. But then I had to plan for the vacation. And then the garden needed planting and maintaining. And then there was other yard work. And then there was the actual vacation. And the whole month of July is Tour de France time, so I hunker down in front of the TV from 7 to 10 a.m. until the end of the month.
I am trying to look on the bright side of being a procrastinator. Sometimes, not doing something is the best (or cheapest) way to get something done. When we first moved into our current home, we tilled over some lawn to make a garden. After few years of stepping in mud every time we wanted a tomato, Jen suggested that I figure out a design plan that would keep our shoes dry. I thoughtfully contemplated this for a few months (mostly while watching TV) until my father-in-law mentioned that he had several hundred bricks that he was looking to get rid of from his yard. A lightbulb appeared above my head: “I’ve got it!” I told Jen. “I’ll build brick walkways in the garden!” Doing some quick mathematical calculations, I figured the donated bricks would cover about 30 feet of 3-foot-wide walkways, perfect for our garden.
The next month, after having finished all the bricklaying, I was about 20 feet short of my calculations. (Did I mention that I was an English major in college?) However, the word was out, and over the years, friends and neighbors looking to offload some bricks would call me with their offers. By the way, you can stop now; we have enough. I think I have spent a total of 5 dollars on bricks, mostly to buy random ones to fit the areas where my brickwork didn’t produce square walkways (again, see my college major for reference). Procrastination in action!
My three kids used to complain about the fact that all of our neighbors (i.e., two of them, but “two” means “all” in child speak) had swing sets/jungle gyms/death traps in their yards, and why didn’t we? Apparently, “Because your mother and I are cheapskates” was an answer that they wouldn’t accept. Eventually, though, one of our neighbors was getting rid of their jungle gym, so we inherited it. Procrastination! In action! For the 5 or 6 years that we had it, our wonderful children played on it a total of probably 20 times, while the neighbor kids practically lived there. I was constantly opening the back door to talk to them: “Guys, probably not a good idea to push your baby sister that high on the swing,” “Boys, I don’t think you should be on the tarp roof on top because it’s already starting to tear,” “Hey fellas, let’s not set the jungle gym on fire today, okay?” Etc.
This winter, I said to Jen, “I’m thinking of getting rid of the death trap in the yard.” “Which one?” she asked. (It’s that kind of yard.) And then I sat on my decision for several months. Instead of destroying it, or at least destroying it more than the neighbor kids already had, I waited. And waited. And guess what happened? Our neighbor, the one who originally gave it to us, wanted it back! He had a relative who was willing to fix it up. One Sunday morning, we took it apart, loaded it onto a trailer, and drove it over to the relative’s house. Pro! Crast! Ination! In action!
Now we have a square patch of dirt in our yard. Eventually, I will turn it into a gorgeous garden area, with an arch-topped grass path between two curving garden beds, utilizing landscape design pioneer Frederick Law Olmsted’s signature hourglass design to draw people in. I’m already lining up the plants that I will use: clematis, phlox, daisy. And do you know how I am going to prepare for adding this garden to the yard? By doing nothing. Somewhere, someone has an arch or trellis that is not being used, and they are thinking (or will be in the next 5 years): “I wonder if that guy who collects bricks has any use for this piece of junk?” (Procrastination! In! Action!)