I learned how to cut up a raw chicken 27 years ago by watching Martha Stewart on TV.
I spread waxed paper on the table and grabbed a kitchen knife,
The wrong kind, of course.
How was I to know the difference between a butcher knife, a paring knife, a steak knife, or any other kind of knife?
I watched Martha gracefully slice through the chicken,
Cutting easily through the bones
Without even getting any on her blouse.
I was a mess,
Hacking through the fowl thing like an untrained laborer cutting a log with a dull saw,
Chicken blood and muck spread all over me.
After the show was over and Martha declared her chicken a “good thing,”
My chicken didn’t look like her chicken.
My coffee table didn’t look like her kitchen counter.
And I didn’t look like Martha.
Then I cooked the chicken and cleaned up my mess.
I put on clean clothes and makeup and did my hair.
When my husband came home I served him the chicken,
And he loved it.
I felt like Martha Stewart.
Right at this moment, I have 39 work-related items on the list. Thirty-nine! There’s no way all of them can be done today or even this week. Yet there they are, staring at me, making me feel unproductive.
People have suggested that I prioritize the list. I try, but if I were any good at that, I’d be better at time management overall, wouldn’t I? Some have recommended elaborate time management systems that are arduous and end up being something else I have to manage – one more item on the list itself.
I’ve read books on time management and I have a brain full of tips for managing my list. My problem doesn’t seem to be with the theoretical knowledge of how to do this. Rather, my problem is in the execution.
The bottom line is that time is my most precious resource and, like most people, I have more to do than I have time to do it. There are home and family responsibilities that often jump ahead of the items on my work-related list. That’s a matter of priorities, for sure, but it doesn’t help me get that work list handled.
So I keep struggling with my unrealistic To Do list, adding two items for every one that I check off.
What are your ideas for managing this situation?
Mike breathed in a deep cleansing breath as the water he splashed on his face dripped slowly down his neck and chest. He stared into the mirror at the reflection of his light blue eyes.
They love those eyes, he thought. It gets ’em every time.
He smoothed his hair back, grabbed a towel to dry himself off, and moved quietly back into the bedroom, trying not to make a sound. The woman in the bed stirred as he pulled on his pants, but she didn’t wake. He continued to dress and tried to remember her name. While he was putting on his shoes, he considered leaving her a note until he was startled by her voice.
“Leaving so early?” she asked.
“Uh, yeah. I’ve got an early meeting. Wish I could stay, though.”
He walked over to her side of the bed and kissed her on the forehead, trying to avoid eye contact as he turned to walk away.
“I’ll call you,” he said, hoping she understood that he had no intention of calling. She didn’t say a thing.
As he walked out the door and down the street he thought, Was she number twenty-one or twenty-two? He couldn’t remember. It had been six months and either twenty-one or twenty-two women since his fiancé Jennifer had walked out on him. Most of it was a nightmarish blur. He moved through his life in a foggy daze, going from home to work to a bar, and then either home again to sleep alone or to some new woman’s home to share her bed for the night.
Mike checked the time on his phone and realized that if he went home to change, he’d be late for work. Work was the only thing in his life that had been going right lately. Not only shouldn’t he be late, but he didn’t want to be late, so he ran his fingers through his hair again, tucked in his shirt and pulled up the Uber app on his phone to get a ride to the office.
He arrived at the firm five minutes early. Within minutes of settling in at his desk, his friend and coworker Joe showed up at his door.
“Did you hear? You landed the Hofstedt account! Man, you are having a killer year!” Joe lifted his arm in a high five position and Mike stood, returning the gesture.
“Piece of cake, my friend. Piece of cake.”
“Well, I’m hoping some of your magic will rub off on me. Wanna grab a drink after work to celebrate?”
“Sure, why not?” Mike was planning to hit a bar later anyway.
Mercifully, the day passed quickly. One meeting led to another and another, and soon the work day was over.
Mike, Joe, and several other co-workers headed to the bar down the street. Mike’s mood was light and the woman from the night before and this morning was already forgotten.
Joe bought the first round. Mike bought the second. In-between jokes and work stories, Mike looked around the bar, trying to find number twenty-two, or twenty-three. He knew his striking good looks would make it easy. Even when he was a bit disheveled, he never seemed to have trouble finding a playmate for the night. Heck, it seemed like the women even liked him better that way.
He was laughing at one of Joe’s famous dumb jokes when he saw her.
She looked perfect, more beautiful than the last time he saw her. About five seconds later she turned and their eyes locked.
Mike gasped and held his breath. Jennifer smiled. Then she started walking toward him.
At first, he panicked. What would she say? What would he say? When she left six months ago, he never had the chance to say anything. She just left a note saying that she thought it was a mistake, and that was it. He never heard from her or saw her again. Until now.
It wasn’t for his lack of trying. He talked with her family and friends and work associates, but they had erected a wall of silence. No one would tell him anything. He could tell some of them felt sorry for him, but that didn’t matter. Jennifer was gone and they weren’t going to help him get her back.
She leaned in and spoke close to his ear to be heard above the noisy crowd.
“Hello to you. What has it been, six months?” He knew exactly how long it had been. Two hundred forty-seven days.
“You look good,” she said.
“Not as good as you.”
What followed was the first of several awkward silences punctuated by tortuous small talk. He wanted to apologize and beg her to come back, but all he could manage was to ask her to dinner and, to his great surprise, she agreed.
They went to a casual restaurant a few doors down. Within about 30 minutes, they both relaxed and seemed much more comfortable. She broached the subject of their breakup first.
“I’m really sorry I just disappeared on you. I know it must have been difficult, but I just couldn’t stay any longer.”
“It was hard. It still is,” Mike admitted, “but I understand. I’m just glad that we’re talking now.”
“Me, too. I’d forgotten how charming you are.” Mike smiled and he thought he saw her blush. He dared to let himself entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe, she’d come back to him. Maybe there wouldn’t have to be a number twenty-two or twenty-three. Maybe she really would be the last one.
Two hours later, they were at Mike’s house, clothes coming off, hands exploring once familiar territory. Just as they were about to consummate their reunion, Jennifer got up and walked quickly into the restroom without saying a word.
A few moments later, she came out and started gathering clothes.
“What’s wrong?” Mike asked, confused.
“I’m just not going to do this.”
“What? But why? I thought things were okay with us?”
Jennifer continued getting dressed.
Mike continued. “I said I was sorry. I said I’d never hit you again. You know that! I’m not the me guy I was before!”
“Oh, I know that,” Jennifer fired back. “My cousin works at your firm, remember? He’s told me all about the women and the drinking.”
Mike got out of bed, pulled on his underwear and walked over to her, getting down on one knee. “Please come back. I love you. I’ll never love anyone else. I need you in my life. I swear I’ll never raise a hand to you again. That guy is dead. Gone.”
Jennifer picked up her purse, took several steps toward the door, and stopped. She turned back toward Mike and said, “You said that before, but you…well, you know what happened. I loved you. I trusted you.”
“So why did you come back here with me? Why did you pretend that you had forgiven me?” Mike was both angry and devastated.
“I don’t know. I guess I got caught up remembering the good times, but it occurred to me that all of the good times are not worth any of the really bad times that inevitably come with you as a package deal.”
Now he was even angrier. He yelled back at her, “And that didn’t occur to you until we were about to have sex? Did it make you feel powerful to back out right at that moment, Bitch?” He regretted it as soon as he said it.
Jennifer just looked away and said, “I’m sorry.” She closed the door quietly behind her as she left.
Mike felt the anger being replaced rapidly by the pain he’d been fighting for the past six months. Then the thought hit him that sucked the air out of his lungs and drove a hole in his gut.
She left him again.
Fiction is my dream world. It’s creative and imaginative and free. It’s like my brain unleashed.
Non-fiction is very rewarding. I love taking my knowledge and expertise in certain areas and sharing it with people in the written form. I enjoy knowing that people will find my books and articles and solve a problem in their lives as they read them.
My only problem is that when I’m writing fiction, I miss non-fiction, and when I’m writing non-fiction, I start itching for the creativity of fiction. Yes, the grass is always greener in the other genre.
That’s why I jump back and forth. If I need a shot of creativity while I’m in the middle of a non-fiction project, I’ll write a short story or a poem to help satisfy that itch until I can work on a larger fiction project. If I’m in the middle of a fiction project, I’ll put together an informative article or a blog post to carry me through until my fiction project is finished. This way, I get the best of both worlds – creativity and helping people.
I know I’m fortunate. I have friends who only write non-fiction and others who only write fiction. I get to enjoy both!
Does anyone else notice that the grass is always greener in the other genre?
Ah, how good it feels to be writing again! I’ve spent the better part of the last year preparing for or recovering from one surgery or another – four in the past year. But now here I am with two knees and all of that surgery and recovery behind me.
My project list is very long. I just finished and published a learning unit on angles and triangles (Mathcraft Geometry: All About Angles), based on the game Minecraft. The next in line is my new book The Quick Guide to Learning through Video Games which will be accompanied by The Quick Guide to Learning through Minecraft. It looks like those will be finished and ready for release in February. I’m looking for beta readers and editing help. If you’re interested, please send me a message.
I’m also taking on new grant writing clients. This is the first time in well over a year that I’ve accepted new clients, so if you need help in this area – or you know someone who does – now is the time to jump aboard.
It definitely feels good to be back! What are you working on?