new hobby

Last spring, when we were visiting the Veals in Atlanta, Mark stumbled upon a book about card tricks. It was then, he contends with a straight face and his usual unflappable demeanor, that his hobby found him. Sure, he shrugs, he could have taken up the plaster patching his wife was hinting at. He could have taken up running electrical outlets (another hobby cheered by his wife.). But, hey, those hobbies didn’t find him first. Slight of hand did and there is simply nothing he can do about it. His wife either, if you want to know.

As usual, my piece of humble pie comes shortly after holding forth on some concept or other. This time having hobbies actually benefit the family some way. And humble pie this week is served up in my own hobby finding me.

I had thought that my hobbies were decorating ad nauseum, taking walks, ignoring grocery shopping, etc. I was wrong. The hobby that has come to supplant all of these is… napping.

I am getting quite good at it. I can fall asleep within seconds. I can time them just for when I’m ready to come unhinged. OK, sometimes the unhinging does happen, but at least then I know enough to get myself into bed. The use of ativan in napping is a new perfection of the art that I am working on.

And how does my sweet spouse handle this? Does he roll his eyes at me? Does he ask exactly how this hobby benefits the chore list? Does he harangue? Does he even know how to harangue?

Perhaps you have guessed that the answer to all of this is no. He’s perfect. Nothing like showing me up yet again. Oh, and he does really cool card tricks while he’s being all understanding and empty the dishwasher-y.

Sigh. Makes me want to go take a nap.

the big rocks

rocksWhen I was working at Calvin, my wonderful boss sent around a powerful article about time management. Perhaps if you read the article at the end of this post, you’ll realize why I loved working for him.

Today, I had to take that article to heart yet again. I had to “empty my jar” and put the big rocks back in. This meant resigning from committees I actually like, canceling plans with people I’d really like to see. Slowing myself down.

This was really hard. But really necessary. And the casualty in all this down-sizing, I’m afraid, is none other than my pride.

I have always liked being busy. I over-schedule with a certain wicked glee at all I am “accomplishing.” Last night and this morning, though, my accomplishments got the best of me and I found that I was by no means a victor over the laws of nature.

So. Gulp. Back to the big rocks. I believe Mark and Zoe won’t mind.

Here’s the article:

In the middle of a seminar on time management, recalls Covey in his book First Things First, the lecturer said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” Reaching under the table, he pulled out a wide-mouthed gallon jar and set it on the table next to a platter covered with fist-sized rocks. “How many of these rocks do you think we can get in the jar?” he asked the audience.

After the students made their guesses, the seminar leader said, “Okay, let’s find out.” He put one rock in the jar, then another, then another–until no more rocks would fit. Then he asked, “Is the jar full?”

Everybody could see that not one more of the rocks would fit, so they said, “Yes.”

“Not so fast,” he cautioned. From under the table he lifted out a bucket of gravel, dumped it in the jar, and shook it. The gravel slid into all the little spaces left by the big rocks. Grinning, the seminar leader asked once more, “Is the jar full?”

A little wiser by now, the students responded, “Probably not.”

“Good,” the teacher said. Then he reached under the table to bring up a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar. While the students watched, the sand filled in the little spaces left by the rocks and gravel. Once more he looked at the class and said, “Now, is the jar full?”

“No,” everyone shouted back.

“Good!” said the seminar leader, who then grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it into the jar. He got something like a quart of water into that jar before he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the jar is now full. Can anybody tell me the lesson you can learn from this? What’s my point?”

An eager participant spoke up: “Well, there are gaps in your schedule. And if you really work at it, you can always fit more into your life.”

“No,” the leader said. “That’s not the point. The point is this: if I hadn’t put those big rocks in first, I would never have gotten them in.”


When I did chemotherapy five years ago, I discovered a fair bit about myself. Chief among those revelations? I have control issues.

I also discovered a fair bit about what happens when one person in the family is really sick. Things snowball, fall apart, fray at the edges. In other words, all the control issues in the world couldn’t stop Zoe from getting ear infection after ear infection. Couldn’t keep me from getting every side effect listed on the handouts. Couldn’t keep the “just one more freakin’ thing” from happening every time we turned around.

So perhaps that lack-of-control experience, which culminated in the swan dive I took off our garage steps (cringe if you remember), has made me a bit over-zealous in the control department with the chemo I’m doing now.

But only perhaps.

On Wednesday night, Daisy came in from the back yard and I noticed a small perfectly round circle of missing fur on her back. I went to bed.

As I lay there, that circle of missing fur started to bug me. So what did I do? Consult the internet. Not a wise thing to do since the Voice of Reason I married was out at a movie.

Looked like the old dog had gotten ringworm. Which is NOT A PARASITE (whew) but a fungus (yuck) and not contagious much unless you have a compromised immune system. Well, I’ve got one of those, I told myself, so I better kick this potential fungus out.

This meant calling the vet, the carpet cleaners, and alerting my cleaning lady (who is the bomb), and brainstorming potential people I could ask to take Daisy if she needed to be away from my during her fight against the fungus. After school I went the oncologist, picked up Zoe from her friend’s house, sped off to the vet–all while the calm Voice of Reason was in Kalamazoo having a much needed visit with his best friend.

By the time Mark got home, the house was ready for full attack the potential fungus mode. Including this icing on the cake: Daisy must wear a t-shirt so that I don’t accidentally touch the small spot (boarding not needed-whew). Though we won’t know what it actually is until Monday, this little fungi has no chance of survival.

The house is spotless down to every linen. The carpet is clean. Daisy is clothed.

And, oh that control, it does feel darn good sometimes. Daisy might not agree.daisy in shirt

Happy Labor Day, LofAHW!

workers_unite.jpgOn this Labor Day, let me send my cyber-greetings to the members of the LofAHW (Lovers of All Hard Work) Labor Union. Uncle Verne, his name besmirched by his brothers (one of whom is my father), began this labor union back on the farm after repeated accusations that he made himself scarce when there were chores to be done.

Founder and president, Uncle Verne graciously welcomed me into the LofAHW when, at the tender age of 17, I was required to paint the attic floor on my hands and knees in the heat of summer all on the grounds of “we’re all part of this family and we all pull our weight around here.” The LofAHW sprang to my aid, though their heartfelt negotiations fell on the deaf ears of the Management. The attic floor was painted well, but workers rights were trampled and I became a labor union member.

Though my sister has since joined the ranks of the LofAHW, our meetings are far too infrequent. Perhaps our labor union president is too busy toiling at his lake house or participating in “strunt” with his siblings. I can only imagine that he is using his time with the efficiency and honor that has come to exemplify the LofAHW.

Today, in honor of the LofAHW, I will leave my attic floor unpainted. What, Uncle Verne, will you be doing?