Getting Things Done

This morning, I might have yelled at both my husband and my 16-year-old daughter. Perhaps it was within 10 minutes of returning  from daily Mass.

Let’s back up. One of the reasons that I don’t write here as often as I like is because I’m Getting Things Done”® in real life. Like all moms, I’m busy with so many details of life and household-running that often, my great ideas—for me, in writing—often fall by the wayside. But I do get a lot done (and actually not via all of David Allen’s system, though I enjoy using his ® and a lot of his GTD ideas).

I was up this morning well before 4 a.m., courtesy perimenopause. I’ve learned to work around this, when I can’t get back to sleep, by Getting Things Done®, and hoping for a power nap in the afternoon. This early morning, here is what I did:

I prayed the “Office of Readings” on the Universalis App on my iPad (and some other prayers),

I opened the Kindle App and happily finished Persuasion. I keep forgetting to read it—I’ve been fitfully it for about three months now— but last night while I was driving, I asked my 13-year-old to read out loud for the last 10 minutes before we got home. She did such a great British accent for all the characters.  In particular, her wonderful Charles Musgrove has inspired us in one evening to make  “Have I not done well, mother?”  a Piccione family saying.

(Normally this early, I would have checked e-mail, but when I read the other day that Melissa Wiley is taking some early morning time to read classics, I thought, yes! and I’m so glad I did. But now I’m sad to be finished, and mulling my next Jane Austen read, or maybe I will, like her, tackle Middlemarch for the first time since college?)

I got dressed and went to the treadmill, hoping to get some training miles in since I’m signed up to do a half-marathon in both March and April, and after that will likely be starting my training for the Air Force Marathon in September. Getting Things Done®, running-wise. I did a quick 3.5 miles, woke up my high schooler, and headed to 6:30 a.m. Mass by myself.

I remember nodding along during the first reading, from James, especially:

“See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
For just as a body without a spirit is dead,
so also faith without works is dead.”

Yep. Getting Things Done.® That’s the way the world works. Thank you, James!

When I came home, I decided against a shower before driving teen and our carpool friend in to school, so I could put dinner in the crock pot.  I thought, it’s not like I’m going to be getting out of the minivan (famous last words, as we shall see). As I’m chopping vegetables for the crock-pot, I’m barking out questions to husband and teen about their schedules, things they need to Get Done® , and I end up yelling at both of them.

The details shall be lost to history, but suffice to say I was sorry for what I said, and at the same time still a wee bit annoyed because sometimes it feels like I’m the only one Getting Things Done® around here.

I apologized to teen (husband had since abandoned us for work), so as we drove in I called my husband.

(Now that I think about it, I called him using the bluetooth speaker that he purchased and put in the van for me, and taught me to use, so I guess I’m not the only one Getting Things Done®. )

I half-apologized by telling him I was sorry for being “too efficient,” but things do need to be done, after all! He smilingly said, “You know, I was thinking after you left that I can be frustrating, too.”

We both burst out laughing, and I thought, yes, you’re annoying when you’re spending time “being present” with people instead of Getting Things Done®. But I realized I’m glad for my Martha ways, and also glad that my husband (and others in my life) “choose the better part” by their “live in the moment” ways.

[[And so you might be thinking that this is going to be a reflection on the Mary/Martha, and how I need to be less like Martha and more like Mary. But it’s not.

I like Getting Things Done®, and I like being efficient, I just want to do so without yelling at my most beloved within 10 minutes of getting home from Mass. Is that too much to ask?

And—if you recall from Scripture (John 11)—it was Martha, NOT Mary, who came out to greet Jesus after Lazarus died (while Mary stayed behind), and tells him

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

And Martha, not her sister Mary, is the one who said to Jesus,

Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”

So, yeah, if being a Martha means I can have that kind of faith, I’ll stick with Martha.]]

Anyway, on the drive to school, the radio had a piece about why husbands & wives shouldn’t have different checking accounts, and an interesting in-van discussion ensued. I said I didn’t agree, necessarily, although in our family all the accounts are joint. The main thing was for the husband and wife to agree in general on how to spend money, and for both to know in general where money was held. I was happy to talk about my role as CFO of our family, since I love… all together now… Getting Things Done®.

“And it’s helpful that Dad and I basically have the same ideas of being frugal,” I said.

After a pregnant pause, the teen said, “Once, Daddy bought me a $6 bottle of water, and he wouldn’t let me keep the bottle because he didn’t want you to find out.”

More laughter ensued (it was a “special occasion,” she said), and I told her of course every once in a while a $6 water bottle could be fun, and better to tell me straight out, because I will find out. And next time, $1 for the bottle of water, and $5 for college.

But secretly, I laughed that the two of them are making happy subversive memories at my frugal expense. As Mr. Bennet (one of my least favorite characters in Pride & Prejudice, but he does get an awful lot of good lines), said, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

When we got to school, some larger vehicle (driven by a very nice but well-coiffed and cutely dressed mom, and me in my sweaty running gear, feeling jealous) was stuck in the drop-off driveway in the ice that had formed over yesterday’s slushy snow melt. We were several cars back, but after watching her try for a while, I told the teens, we need to get out and push that car. Me, Getting Things Done®, again.

So after retrieving the ice melt I had in the back of the minivan for just this purpose (and glad I had earlier this winter been Getting Things Done® by keeping the van well-stocked), another parent and I helped a group of teens push the vehicle into freedom.

I quipped to another mom in a car as I headed back to mine, “Well, that’s the last time I’ll come to drop-off in sweaty running clothes” which is actually a lie, because I undoubtedly will (but you have to picture me in wild hair, fleecy top, running capris, bare legs, and goofy low-boots I had thrown on. I was a fright).

As I drove home by myself, I pondered it all. Getting Things Done® and not getting things done, and being present, and laughing at one another, and how much I love my family and how different we all are and how much that drives me crazy.

I suddenly recalled a recent piece by Anna Nussbaum Keating in America magazine about the college “hook-up” culture, and how much I grieve for the young women (and yes, men, but mostly women) who think that getting ahead and hooking up while accruing money and prestige is normative. I truly feel heartsick to read these kinds of stories, and have so much to say but this is already getting long and I am nearing time when I need to go back to real life and Get Things Done®. This longish quote from it was powerful:

“In a detached environment, the message from the church sounds impossibly strange, and yet it is one worth remembering: It is not unambitious to want to have a good marriage or close friendships or to get along with one’s family or know one’s neighbors. It is, in fact, extremely ambitious. People do not accidentally have harmonious relationships, any more than they accidentally become secretary of state. They put in the hours, and their practices become their habits and their habits become their virtues and their virtues become their lives. (emphasis mine)”

Yes, what she said.

Just to clarify, having harmonious relationships doesn’t mean you have to be a mostly-at-home mom, like I am, or you have to be the Secretary of State (not that there’s anything wrong with that), or that you have to be married or single.

But it does mean you have to work, really work, on relationships—true relationships, not hook-ups—and be intentional and sacrificial and vulnerable. And you can’t just turn on that switch after years of acting a different way, though certainly time, therapy and prayer can help turn things around.

It means you have to be healthy emotionally and spiritually, or at least working on being those. It means sometimes you have to Get Things Done® and sometime you have to just be. It means a ton of grace and a ton of prayer (including Mass, with or without yelling afterwards), praying always, and it’s so, so worth it.

Deep thoughts for this topic, mostly to myself:

1.  Getting Things Done® is not all good, and it’s not all bad.

2. Yelling at your loved ones within 10 minutes of returning from Mass is NOT good.

3. Subterfuge is futile. The family CFO will find out about all extravagant purchases, even $6 water bottles made with cash, even if you destroy the evidence.

4.  “People do not accidentally have harmonious relationships, any more than they accidentally become secretary of state.”

5.  Practice makes perfect. Keep practicing.

(Linking up here with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature, not because I’ve written “short,” but because this post shares some of the books–Persuasion, Getting Things Done,  Scripture–that I’ve been reading.)

6 thoughts on “Getting Things Done”

  1. Oh, what a connection I feel with you, Nancy, after reading this post on Getting Things Done! God bless you for your honesty and your insight!! You bring healing to my soul today!!

  2. This was a great post. Just this morning I was also pretty grumpy about being the only one around here Getting Things Done. Since two of the four of us are 2 and 4, that really only meant I was frustrated with my husband for not Getting Things Done. And with myself, for having a few too many things on list of what I “needed” to Get Done. Thanks for sharing with us!

    1. Marie, yes! It is so normal for us as moms to have what I once heard someone call “the irritable monologue” about all we do. And yet at the same time I wanted to get across that is good to Get Things Done, especially if one is more a Martha personality. How to balance that, and inspiring others to Do Things, all infused with love, is the tricky part. Sometimes I get it wrong, and sometimes I get it right. But we keep on trying…

      Funny update: Joseph informs me that the water bottle was not $6 per, but something like a $6 or $8 multipack of 2 (so bottles for like $3 or $4 each), and teen recalls it was $6 for one bottle. I think it is a more humorous story as the $6 water bottle, so it’s likely that’s how it will be remembered in official family history.

  3. Love, love, love! Thanks for keeping it real, Nancy! I both laughed and cried reading this post. -Fellow member of Getting it done club.

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