Divide And Conquer

11-10 Sedona

Divide and conquer… originally, used to describe a military technique that maintains control by dividing the masses. If they don’t band together, they are easier to manage. They don’t get together and rally against the ruler.

In my life, divide and conquer has come to mean dividing our resources so our to-do list doesn’t control us. Most recently, this thought came to mind when I over-booked our calendar. On the same day, we now have a Boy Scout camp out and putting up Christmas decorations at church. We also had a conflict with my older son’s band activities and our younger son’s doctor’s appointment. Divide and conquer.

I got to thinking – while our ‘to-do’ list is whimpering from our efforts, dividing our resources to manage it could have the opposite effect by bringing us to our knees.  The more things we don’t do as a family, the more memories we miss making as a family. Years from now, it means fewer things we can talk about that we all remember- because we experienced them together. Divide and conquer needs to be our last resort, not our go-to strategy.

This time of year feels like life has been put on “fast forward.” I guess my thoughts needed to go down this path as a reminder that less is more. Even as I write this, I feel a little guilty because I’ve declined to be a leader in Cub Scouts this year. Not because I don’t think it’s valuable, but because I have so little time- and I feel like I’ve over-spent it.

Unlike money, I can’t make more time.

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I appreciate you reading my random thoughts on life. I hope you have a peaceful Monday!

Bits of “Wisdom” I’ve Gained In Last 7 Days

Doing laundry *can* help settle the mind – but I still don’t recommend it

I wanted to write a post on Sunday to publish on Monday, but my thoughts bounced around like caffeinated squirrels.  (Judging by the activity level of ‘normal’ squirrels, I can only imagine ones on caffeine would be hard to follow.)

Writing didn’t happen because of many things:  anxiety over Monday’s dental appointment, not feeling good (after two weeks of tonsillitis), remembering things I have to do since school has started, and deadlines at work that put me on the computer for a couple hours Sunday night.  As I folded laundry, though, the idea came to me to write a post as scattered as what I feel – with the common thread of “wisdom” I encountered this past week.

Thank goodness I didn’t have to iron clothes to find peace!  (I don’t iron.  Ever.)

There has to be better therapy... like chocolate!
There has to be better therapy… like chocolate!

Sometimes it’s best not to try to understand

Conversation on the first day of school:

Me:  “Why don’t you just wear your sweat shorts and t-shirt to school since you have P.E. first hour?”

Older son:  “I’m not going to school looking like a slob.” (said with his ‘are-you-an-idiot?’ tone)

Me:  “You’d only have to change once, and you’d just have to wear gym clothes on the bus ride.”

Older son:  “And recess, too.”

I didn’t say anything else, but did laugh when he came out of his room wearing a different t-shirt and sweat shorts, which he planned to wear all day.  I do not claim to know what made these clothes not “slobby”.

Risk is Relative

Or is that, ‘relatives are risky’?  Oh, never mind.  Conversation with my dad after he spent many hours cursing at working on my computer:

Dad:  “I think your network card is bad.  A new one is $179, or they have a refurbished one for $22.”

Me:  “I’m not spending $179 on a 4-year-old computer.  But refurbished?  I don’t know… seems risky.”

Dad:  “You take a risk buying a new one, but the refurbished is only a $22 risk.”

Perhaps these principles of risk apply to other areas of life; something this risk-avoidant person needs to keep in mind.

My kids can be empathetic (if you’re covered in fur)

My older son put his cat on my lap while I worked at my desk.  Sammy didn’t want to be there so she headed toward the desk top.  She slipped and dug her claws into my thigh as she slid toward the floor.  I shrieked in pain and grabbed her by the scruff of the neck to pull her back onto my lap.

My son ran back into the room.  “What happened?”

“She slid down my thigh,” I said between clenched teeth.

“Oh, Sammy!  Are you okay?” He asked as he bent down to kiss the kitty.

Don’t worry about me.  The blood dries quickly and maybe scars aren’t forever.

Maybe they'd care if I "meowed"?
Maybe I’d get empathy (or sympathy) if I “meowed”?

What about you – what unexpected things have your discovered recently?

Oh, if you came here looking for some fiction, I’ve got a couple of ideas for a story to post later in the week.  I know, ideas aren’t the same as written stories, but I’ll work on that the next couple days 🙂

I Dream of Writing

If my paycheck depended on my writing output, I’d be standing in line with my application for unemployment benefits.  I haven’t written anything substantial in over a month.  My character development stories for novel #2 are in an indefinite holding pattern.  The storylines for that novel have been banished from my mind and are skeletons on paper patiently waiting for me to bring them to life.

They will have to wait longer.

I could lament my lack of progress and berate myself for not writing, but I won’t.  That is what I would have done two years ago, and all that would do is trigger an Oreo cookie eating binge and days of guilt over the indulgence.  Not that this has ever happened, mind you.

I choose to look at it differently.  My creativity isn’t dying on the vine; it’s merely stretching in different directions (out of necessity.)

I’m not writing fiction at the moment, but I am writing something, whether for scouts or a sporadic blog post.  (We won’t mention my even more infrequent blog post reading/commenting, okay?  I plan to do some catching up on that this weekend!)

Here are some of my creativity and/or writing credits this past week:

  • Researched and planned a picture game with 18 poisonous and non-poisonous plants and reptiles.  (The boys divided into two teams and tried to determine which ones were poisonous.)
  • Studied producers, consumers and decomposers (in nature – not politics) and prepared an exercise to test if the scouts understood the ecosystem.
  • I instructed the boys on how to build a worm habitat.  If the worms are still alive in two weeks, I’ll call it a success.
  • This evening I wrote a lengthy email to the Cub Scout Pack Trainer with my questions about the Webelos program.  I’m sure she will be ecstatic to read my latest work.  She may even ask me to autograph it.
  • I wrote two mildly entertaining blog posts.  (Okay, I exaggerated – I wrote two blog posts that may or may not have been a complete waste of time to read.)
I didn't see our earthworms smile...

Sure, I’m a little frustrated at the absence of fiction writing in my life right now.  I miss making stuff up.  I dream of writing; of having a couple hours to make a story.  But to keep my attitude from heading south for the winter, I’m choosing to look on the bright side – my accomplishments noted above .

That’s right, my glass is not just half full – it’s overflowing!

How do you cope with the ebb and flow of writing?  Do you go with it, or fight it?

I’m Back From Vacation, But I Need A Vacation (Or A Clone)

Last week was spring break.  The kids were at my mother-in-law’s house all week.  We had a camping trip, I worked two days, and then we were off to my mother-in-law’s house to spend a couple days there before making the five-hour drive back home.

I thought I was ready to begin this week, but I’ve changed my mind.  I expected a lull in the hectic times so I could get a jump on some writing, but I was mistaken.  My optimism desperately tries to poke through my frustration to convince me, “it’s just one more week and then life will slow down,” but I won’t let myself believe that lie (it’s the same one I’ve believed every week since the end of January.)

Since getting back home late Saturday afternoon, I’ve managed to sift through the stack of mail, wash and dry four loads of laundry, make a valiant attempt to catch up on blog-related stuff, buy the kids new shoes, go grocery shopping and watch a movie with the kids.  I even managed to force encourage my older son to read for 56 minutes to make up for the reading he did not get done during break.

Do you see any writing in that list?  Neither do I.

I checked my email last night and found out that my younger son’s T-Ball practices start today.  Yes, today.  I thought I had until April 2nd before that madness began, but again, I was wrong.  My older son has gymnastics classes twice this week (to make up for a missed class last week), I’ve got a big work project that may require extra hours to complete by Friday, and I’m preparing for a weekend retreat that I’m attending with a friend (I’m leaving from work on Friday afternoon – no time to go home first.)

I’m thinking I can pencil writing in for a quick date on Wednesday, but I hesitate to that because I’ll feel like such a cad when I have to cancel (again) at the last minute.  To my neglected writing, I will be a “wanna be” writer unable to keep promises made.  To me, I’ll be, well…the same thing.  I feel like I’m on a roller coaster, but I don’t know when it will slow enough for me to catch my breath before spiraling into the next loop.

I still believe that life takes precedence over writing, and that I will not impose stress-inducing, self-inflicted word or page count deadlines upon myself.  That being stated, I would like to finish the first draft of my second manuscript by year-end, so I can polish it up for a conference I hope to attend in spring of 2012.  At this rate, I won’t be ready for the 2014 conference.

I guess all I can do is sit back and hold on tight while life takes me on a ride.  And, when life isn’t looking, I’ll steal a few hours to finish my character research so I can begin my novel.  Yes, I’ll be as sneaky as a child snagging cookies from the cookie jar.

How do you fit in writing when life doesn’t want to cooperate?

Doing It All…And Getting Nothing Done

Last week, the local news aired a story about a man who drove his car into the side of a passing train.  According to witnesses, the lights were flashing and the guard arms were down, but the man couldn’t stop in time.  Why?  Because, also according to witnesses, the man was texting while driving.  His 4-year old son was in the car with him.   (Both were lucky to survive the crash.)I’m not going to comment or pass judgment on this incident.  I think we have all made mistakes and have overestimated our ability to (successfully) accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously – although, maybe not with this disastrous of a result.  (Am I the only one that has found milk in the cupboard and a cereal box in the fridge?)

I am saddened that we seem to have lost good sense and consideration for our own safety and that of our children and those around us.  We’ve armed ourselves with too many gadgets that fill up every waking minute of our lives.  We tout our multitasking abilities like a badge of honor.  It makes me wonder if this behavior could be a factor in the rise of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) diagnoses.  Could overstimulation in the environment contribute to such a diagnosis?  I don’t know…

Here’s an anecdotal story on the subject.  As a child, I could spend hours on any one task.  I didn’t have my days scheduled to the max or activities to go to every night of the week (one benefit of being an introverted child, I guess.)  When I was in college, I waitressed thirty-five hours a week, on top of my full course load.  To get studying in, I walked around with flashcards, I read textbooks while I ate dinner, I studied during commercials (on the few occasions that I did watch TV.)  The result?  It took me years before I could just eat – and I still eat faster than I should.  I get fidgety when I’m doing nothing because there’s so much to do.  But relaxing really is doing something – it recharges the brain and body.

Studies suggest that multitasking may not be a good thing.  Here’s a few articles I ran across:  Multitasking can cause neurological damage, Multitasking may not mean higher productivity, and Multitasking adversely affects brain’s learning.  Research studies validate the theory that we can’t do multiple tasks and do them well – something suffers.  But still, we try.

So, do you prefer to multitask to the max or tackle one thing at a time?  Or are you ambidextrous in your lifestyle?