Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I am from time to time...on my better days...when I am not too tired, too overwhelmed or too lazy...a list maker. I will pull out a sheet of paper and transfer the thoughts that are as impatient as a class of first graders on "show and tell" day from my brain onto the sheet. It may be a short list of groceries needed, things to do, or items to research. But whatever it is...a coping mechanism, organizational tool or evidence of my type "A" is my version of Linus' security blanket.

Yesterday, I realized that this tendency has been transferred to the next generation. I was a bit surprised by this as I firmly believed that it would skip a generation. My grandmother? A list maker. My mother? Not so much. Both brilliant women...but two women with completely different ways of dealing with the world. But, on my e-mail yesterday afternoon was a Christmas list from my daughter. The date? October 20th.

I may not have taught my daughter everything that she will need to be successful in life, but one thing I have taught her is to think ahead. I refused to assist on assignments that were brought to me last minute. Any help or proofreading of assigned schoolwork had to be brought to me at least two days before it was due. This same applied to any friends of hers who wanted something looked over. Over the years, we ended up with various kids in high school and college who needed assistance with writing a term paper or an essay for class. In fact, one of them stayed in town for his freshman year of college and ended up out here a lot...which helped me deal with her being gone a bit easier. And other than one teacher, who changed part of the assignment for a term paper three days before it was due, I only spent one night in her academic career up late...and primarily because there were four of them out here...all desperate. I don't blame the kids for being disorganized as much so as that particular teacher.

So, thinking ahead has apparently become normal for her, and yesterday, that thinking ahead translated into the list I received. I won't say that this ability is completely consistent yet...but I do believe that will be.

There are people I know who hold what would translate to a Ph.D. in list making. I see them in the grocery stores all of the time. These are also the people who are in the grocery store with matching clothing and makeup on. At work, they have the latest Franklin-Covey planner or electronic version of such mapping out their time. These people are capable of managing their daughter's perfect wedding, volunteering 20 hours a week, and taking care of older family members without blinking. These are the people who will call you for an R.S.V.P. if you are too uncouth to bother to pick up a phone, are the ones that manage the lists of volunteers because it truly is no hardship to them, and are not easily deterred. I am not a member of this tribe.

There's another group on the other end of the spectrum that is doing well if they remember somebody's birthday, think to put the garbage can at the curb on pickup day, and also manage to take a shower all in one day. Lists might be made, but that will be the last time that they are actually read. These people keep Blockbuster in business paying late fees on movies that they don't recall renting but must have...because the cases are in the floorboard of their cars. The DVD is missing because it is still in the DVD player...but whatever. A trip to WalMart will net a bag of frozen chicken, three new lipsticks, a box of Fruity Pebbles and a pack of Dentyne. Never mind that the original purpose of the trip was to purchase toilet paper. This will not be remembered until the individual finds herself stranded on the toilet later in the day sans paper...and will then go..."oh, yeah..."

I am somewhere in the middle. I have found that the lists make my brain shut up so that I can actually be somewhat productive. I will write the grocery list, the things I need to accomplish when I get off from work (since my brain shuts off temporarily between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. every day before it revs back up for the night shift), and upcoming holidays or birthdays before I forget. I do keep a calendar on my desk at work, so I normally remember doctor and hair appointments or if I am supposed to be somewhere at some point in time.

Yesterday, I wrote a list of things I wanted to write about. It took me ten minutes. However, had I not done this, I would have wasted the entire day writing a line or two of each in my head and then willing myself to remember it. This is the equivalent of having your computer get loaded down with pop up ads. You'll be trying to pull up some information, and you'll get an invitation to try Netflix for free. To counteract this, I just stop and put it all on paper and then attempt to move on. Sometimes, it actually works.

I suppose that there are many kinds of lists that people lists, Christmas lists, or enemies lists. I know that for some of us, we have lists of wrongs done by others that we review from time to time to keep the pain fresh and raw. I have seen evidence of this from the lips of friends or family or by reading comments other people make on Facebook.

We all have our lists of changes that we would like to make, people we would like to find from our past, and dreams that we have for the future. But I think that the most important list is the one in the Book of Life. And hopefully, our name is on it.

My daughter's Christmas list gave her the opportunity to put items that she would like to have in a format that makes it possible for both of us to remember the current desires of her heart. There are items that range from a couple of DVD movies that she would like to own to a new coat. All appear to be worthy and within the realm of reality. The days of "a new baby sister" and later on "a new car" have been replaced by a practical offering from which to try to channel our limited resources devoted to gift giving this Christmas. Plus, her birthday is in anything we miss for Christmas we will hopefully be able to pick up at the after-Christmas sales.

As you go through the next week...try to think of the many lists that are either composed in your head or on paper. Think about easing up a bit if you are the type that is agitated if someone adds a sponteneity challenge to your schedule. If you are organizationally challenged...take some time to write down what you hope to accomplish and then put it somewhere you are likely to find it on the refrigerator or pinned to your jacket (just don't wash the jacket unless you remove the list first...been there...done that.) Later!

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