The Art of Avoidance

Today’s guest post comes from Donna.

Last week, after months of good intentions, I finally emailed Dale and offered to do a guest blog. I asked for a deadline because I wanted to sound mature. That was August 2nd and he gave me until August 7th, so I’ve been working on it nonstop, on and off, since I got up this morning, today being August 7. Some of you may be wondering why I waited until the last minute, but the truth is I didn’t JUST start today! I started right away on August 2nd, the dragging my feet part.

On August 3rd I decided to clean out my dresser drawers to see if that might spark some creativity. Partway through I came across a two-piece swimming suit I’d forgotten about. Of course I tried it on to see if it still fit and when it did (relatively), I immediately applied sunscreen and went out on the patio to lay out. By now it was 3:00 and even though the sun’s rays aren’t as intense then, it was still very hot. I tried to distract myself from sweating by turning my dial to John Tesh’s Intelligence For Your Life Radio Show, and intermittently spraying myself with the garden hose. I decided you can learn a lot from John Tesh.

For example, did you know that if you’re late for a meeting you should make a quick apology and then drop it because if you continue to say you’re sorry you will be regarded as a wimp and your colleagues will blame you for everything bad that happens at work? And did you know that in order to lose belly fat, diet and exercise are ineffective? You must also eliminate stress from your life because once belly fat interacts with the stressors, they all multiply and fill up the space between your pelvis and ribs with flabby, dimply flesh, compromising the fit of bathing suits everywhere. Did you also know that if you are sun tanning and your lawn service arrives but you don’t realize it because your back is turned while you’re spraying yourself with the hose, the guy will only treat the front yard and leave a bill for the entire lawn? And if you call and complain about it they will send the guy back the next day to complete the job and he will leave a note that says, “Sorry about the confusion. I saw you were working on a tan and didn’t want to bother you.”

And so it continued. Each consecutive day I allowed myself to get sidetracked, figuring if I just gave it enough time, an intriguing post would incubate in my brain. I cleaned out my email inbox, deleting over 6000 items. I gave my outside house trim two coats of paint. I ordered window blinds. I worked in my classroom. I watched the Olympics and read several chapters of The Happiness Project. I got a manicure. I went to a local winery, out to dinner, and listened to live music. I went to the gym and walked with a friend. I tuned in to more John Tesh. I talked to my kids on the phone and got caught up on the Trail. I cooked, I snacked, I slept. I got a lot done and I had a great time!

But now here it is, late at night on the day of the deadline and my brain still hasn’t generated a fascinating blog topic. I’m fatigued and taxed. The boost of energy I was counting on to hurdle me to the finish line never showed up. Yikes! Now it’s just a few seconds away. So here goes …10…9… This is all I’ve got …8…7…Take it or leave it …6…5… Please don’t judge …4…3… I was born this way…2…1… Gulp!

How do you practice avoidance?

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123 thoughts on “The Art of Avoidance”

  1. Good morning. I tell myself that I need to get better organized so that I can get all of the things done that I think I should do. Also I tell myself that I need to decide what I should do first and what I shouldn’t do at all. Of course, I never do get organized. Well, actually I do mange to do a little planning and I’m sure I will start doing a better job of planning soon, right?

    Donna, you did a good job of writing about not writing. I think you should be able to stop putting things off if you will do some planning. Do as I say, not as I do.

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      1. If I feel that I am getting way too far behind on getting things done I will run around trying to get a lot of small messes cleanup. After a few hours or even a few minutes, I fall back into my old pattern of leaving more messes that will just sit there waiting to be cleaned up.

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        1. I’ve been looking over the list of spring chores I made up last fall, and darned if they aren’t fall chores, after all. ~Robert Brault

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  2. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    I did not seehear anything? Did you say/write something? I just am stupid and cheerful, avoiding nastines and conflict.

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  3. i have a friend who has been my friend since the summer between 5th and 6th grade. back then he showed up on my baseball team and we turned into the guy the other one wanted to play catch with before the game and sit next to on the bench and that kind of stuff. he was the kind of guy who always figured out what you wanted to do and he made sure that he helped get that done.
    we lost touch for a couple years and then i was playing cards for cigarette money and he helped me win enough to buy a pack in the student union at jr high and we renewed the friendship. he was the perfect friend in almost every way except that when he said he was going to do something he always found a way to not do it. i made him a partner on a big english project where there was a list of the books we read and the resources we used and the people we interviewed and when we were finishing it up i realied i had done it all, he wasnt there for any of it. he is the worlds greatest sheetrock guy ad can turn any room into a perfect rewalled presentation no matter what the challanges. if it is 100 year old plaster he has the right technique to match it if it is stucco from the 1960′s he has the correct bag or pigment to match the pink or baby blue they used at that time,but if you need him to come and help with a project in you basement he will make the appointment, organize the list of materials needed and do everything right up to the point when the job needs to be done then not show up. i remember one of y friends getting really angry that he had arranged to have justin come over and been stood up 2 or three times in a row and i commented that everyone has flaws and not howing up is justins.
    justin came to mind because in speech class we were required to give a talk on something for 5 minutes and that was going to be huge portion of our grade for the year. we all picked our topic and got our outlines ready and got a date from the teacher and quivered and quaked our ways through the speech on abraham lincolns life as a boy or the difference between chicken eggs and duck eggs or what ever we chose as a topic and each time justins name was called he came up with an excuse on why he didnt have it with him today. he did this for 4 or 5 weeks and the teacher who was suprisingly ok with it the first week and tolerent the second week was peeved the third week and angry the fourth week was threatening and insulting the fifth week was rebuffed the 6th week when justin came in with an ok speech on procrastination he had thrown together on the back of some piece of paper moments before the class so it would appear that he had prepared notes to read from. everyone but the teacher knew what was going on and he waltzed his way through the topic ans was wonderful at the question and answer session at the end and got the highest grade int he class for such a marvelous illustration of procrastination. oh the teacher apoligized for yelling and threatening when it was obiousy such a well thought out stratagy to make it a good lesson. procrastination can work when put off until all else is out the window and you have to just do it. good job donna. nice legs by the way.

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    1. Those aren’t my legs. I have a tan, remember?

      Great story about your friend, tim. Bet he could be my bosom buddy too. (If you saw me in my two-piece you’d know what I’m talking about.)

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  4. Nice job, Donna, but couldn’t you have treated us to a photo of you in that two-piece swimsuit spraying yourself with the garden hose?

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      1. A close friend of mine, quite beautiful and slender, occasionally comes to join me in the front yard for a few hours of tanning & talk. She has an odd habit of showing up, then stripping down to her black thong panties and push-up bra. I did inquire as to why she didn’t bother with a swimsuit, to which she replied, “It’s so private here – why bother?”

        A few weeks ago, a tree-trimming crew arrived while we were tanning. I asked them what it would cost to trim back a huge Hackberry which had grown to block my lake view. They kept looking at my friend, hemming & hawing, then told me $100. I’d had this job estimated a couple of times before and was given a $500 figure! Well, I was all over this ridiculously low bid but couldn’t help but notice that the job took them hours longer than it should have. To this day, I credit my near-naked girlfriend for the clear lake-view.

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    1. If the Mini-sota Donut Ice Cream can’t win by us voting every day, by God we’ll seek divine intervention.

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  5. My biggest problem is putting off paper work. I never get my files for paper work under control. I do have a system that sort of keeps me from completely losing it. I have a container where I put all the papers that are important or that I think are important. Every once in a while I go through the papers in that box and find there are some things that I can get rid of and some that need to be done right now.

    Also, I have a big pile of papers that I think I might want to keep and put in a file, but never will put in a file. I go through that pile and throw some of the stuff in it out every once in a while. So I am kind of an organized disorganized person when it comes to taking care of paper work.

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    1. Ditto. I like it how if I leave an “important papers” box alone for long enough, some of the deadlines for those papers expire and you can toss them. :|

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    2. I’ve noticed that putting important papers in a pile and then ignoring the pile feels better than putting them in a grocery bag and then ignoring the bag. Somehow, keeping important papers in a paper bag seems pathetic and silly, even though the papers are safer in the bag than when they sit in piles.

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        1. A paperweight that says “Unpaid Bills” would make me look organized. But a more accurate paperweight would say “Shit I’m Afraid to Toss.” Or actually, a series of such weights numbered one through ten would be better. To really get organized.

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      1. My organized friends and colleagues are fans of the 3-ring binder. I gave one a try but then I dropped it on my foot and it quickly became, “shit to toss”.

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        1. Really – there’s a club?! I remember you had one at the cabin.
          Hey, thanks for the handmade thank you card. It’s a keeper! And happy belated b-day!

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    3. My former supervisor put important papers in piles all over his office and ignored them. He no longer works here.

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  6. After an incredibly busy few weeks of thinking of all the things I would do if my life was my own, I have the morning to myself. I got up early and well-rested. I have done NOTHING but coffee and wander the house, open windows and watch birds or flowers and enjoy the cooler air. I’m ignoring a flat tire, spider webs, garden tasks, laundry, emails, grocery list, baking, and sewing. Well, now I have a list. Donna, great job of avoiding the first thing on your list!

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  7. Avoidance? Easy peasy. Just open a book, turn on the TV (or put in the DVD of a favorite movie), or, optimal method for me, read fanfiction online. That eats up three hours like nothing flat, as I found out last night when I should have been sleeping. Research is a fantastic way to not write. Food works, too–either going out to get something because I’m avoiding cooking (justified as “I’m hungry for “), or cooking to avoid something worse like cleaning. I’ve noticed a favorite method of crafters is to spend lots of time collecting materials and tools for the chosen craft (establishing a proper fabric, yarn or paper stash, stocking just the right power tools, arranging the workroom, etc.) then never QUITE getting around to doing something with them all. The secret to not getting anything done is knowing the right procrastination for the job.

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    1. There’s a “fill in the blank” missing from “I’m hungry for”, thanks to my putting it inside angle brackets. Fracking formatting, how does it work?

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    2. I often feel that I spend more time cleaning up my studio than I actually spend making things – but if I weren’t making things it wouldn’t get messy right????

      My wasband used this method with his tools. He spent so much time organizing the basement and then re-organizing the basement and then re-organizing the basement, but almost never built or fixed anything!

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    3. I’m a master at getting the craft books in front of me… Ask me how many unstarted or half-finished crafts, AND their books, I have.

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      1. Oh-oh. BiR I will pretend I did not see that post. I have been using you as my “one to be accountable to” in my head while I plan my pillow quilt for the fall. lol Of course, it is still all in my head. I haven’t even gathered pieces together or cleaned them for that project that is far in the distant mythical future.

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      2. My approach to this sort of thing, BiR, is to reclassify such books. Most people might think a “how to improve your basement” or The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Bierbaum are how-to books. They have that all wrong, they are works of fiction and should be enjoyed as such.

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  8. Thoroughly enjoyable, Donna. :) Or as my mom would say when I put off some essay or book report till the last minute, “Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?” I would write more right now, but I’m practicing avoidance.

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    1. I’ve heard that before! (insert Carlos joke here)
      Came across a quote you might appreciate, Steve:
      Procrastination is like masturbation. In the end you’ve just screwed yourself.

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  9. Oh, my house is never so clean as when I have a deadline to meet. Weeding is a great distraction, too. This reminds me, I have two, hour and a half workshops to give in Bismarck in late September at a state-wide conference for in-home service providers, and I haven’t started them yet. Thanks, Donna, now I can start to get anxious.

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    1. My house gets tidier as deadlines loom. I might, all of a sudden, put a clean, organized silverware drawer at the top of my list.

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    2. Cleaning my house would never make it on to a list of things to do while procrastinating! I am a little jealous of those who do it instead of whatever they are supposed to be doing. I’m with tim on this one: dust keeps.
      I’m not quite sure what else I do (while avoiding cleaning, for instance) because the time just flies while I’m doing it. Sleeping, reading, even sewing that quilt (as long as I’m really supposed to be doing something else.) Possibly playing sudoku or doing crosswords to keep my mind limber? That’s very important, you know. (If I needed to be quilting, then it would be procrastinated, too.)
      And I love the talk about papers (above)… My desk at school always starts looking so good in the fall. It doesn’t matter what technique I use, by October it reveals my true self to my students! However, somehow I do not ever lose their papers, just mine.

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      1. I only misplace things when I clean off my desk. I need to leave things be and then I will always be able to find what I look for.

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  10. Morning all. Wonderful post, Donna – and so true. When I’m in a groove, I can really whip through chores and NORMALLY I try to do the nasty stuff first to get it out of the way. But every now and then I can seriously avoid tasks that I don’t want to do. The absolutely best method I have is to start a new jigsaw puzzle. A puzzle on the table in the living room can keep me from almost anything – including healthy meals and a decent bedtime!

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        1. Indeed. A true procrastinator would do it more like I do: at the art fair on Saturday, I shopped for a gift for my friend who had had a birthday 3 days earlier. I have the gift in a pile of stuff to do…and I’m thinking seriously of boxing it up and getting it ready to mail one of these days – maybe before the weekend is over. And then I can set it out to go to the post office, where it will sit for a week or so before I get around to taking it the long trip to the Post Office.

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    1. You are all correct – procrastination is not my normal modus operandi. And it’s hard to recognize when I am procrastinating because, like Donna, there are plenty of other things that can get done at any given moment. But just ask the Teenager what happens when a new jigsaw puzzle comes out or I’m in the last few chapters of a book!

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        1. Slowly. Very slowly. I may have to find a movie version on DVD to get through it. I have to be careful when I’m reading… the book is so heavy I’m afraid that if I accidentally drop it, I might kill the cat!

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  11. my time waster is the laptop. i check emails for business and friends check the trail go to ebay in search of hats, do sports stuff find a topic of interest that will take me off to the e archives for the rest of the evening. crashing and burning after learning everything there is to know about how to steam the ribbon on a hat to make it smooth without taking away any of the color in the ribbon or making it too crispy to put put back on the hat. hours can be spent researching the ribbon options and there are companies to write trying to find the right source for ribbon that are a similar quality to those used in the 40′s. i have insider infor from a guy in saint paul who has stockples of ribbon stashed away but no knowledge of where to find more. i am waiting for someone to discover a pile of it in the attic of their dead grandmother the former hat queen of alistair hat company from lower bumforia colodado the hat capitol of the west form 1912 to 1933 where she put rolls of ribbon in the shed out back and it got buried by scads of saddle blankets and potato sacks never to be missed or noticed again until now…. but so far nothing. and then there is the art of tying flies for fly fishing ……so many sites to google so little time

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        1. How I wish I could be seeing the Synchro!

          We’ve got friends at the Olympics right now who are there primarily to see that (daughter is a synchro swimmer- and friend of the s&h).

          Don’t be dissing the synchro, it takes a lot of stamina (if you don’t believe me jump in the pool and try it)-it only looks easy because they are so good.

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      1. my daughter did syncronized swim. she got really mad when she saw a christmas card referrence to paint drying. im sorry stick you leg in the air a sport.

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  12. Top ten ways I avoid what I’m trying to avoid:
    10. Dusting
    9. Other puttering kinds of cleaning – i.e. pulling out the blender, etc. and wiping down the counter
    8. Reorganizing the laundry (or some other) shelves
    7. Super-glueing the pile of broken things that have accumulated
    6. Moving the furniture around
    5. Looking for change in the couch
    4. Finally getting around to the weeding
    3. Picking raspberries (unless picking raspberries is what I’m avoiding)
    2. Suddenly needing a trip to favorite thrift shop
    1. Checking to see if there are any new posts on TB

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  13. Morning–

    Good job there Donna. I thought John Tesh was a singer? He’s a motivational speaker too??
    Huh, have to go look that up.
    I see I’m like several others have mentioned; too busy checking FB and emails to actually do bookwork. And I can putz away in the shop for hours!

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    1. Huh? Wha’d I do?? Seriously, I don’t get it. What humorous award?

      Do you want to hear about the stick that went up my nose while I was cutting brush yesterday? I’m out in the field; dirty, sweaty, bleeding all over myself and stuffing soybean plant leaves up my nose.
      Now *that* was funny!

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        1. Ben, you spent what would have been an excellent Trail post on FB. Some people aren’t on FB and the rest of us wouildn’t mind reading it again. Flesh (!) it out a bit to whatever is Dale’s recommended word count and post it for US. Great story.

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        2. Ah- Krista, no, that’s not me.
          Brent Olson, who writes ‘Independently Speaking’ is a much better writer than I am. He used to farm and now he’s a writer and county commissioner. And we’re both bald. Balding… and farmers.

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        3. I thought all along Krista was cracking up because you called John Tesh a motivational speaker. That is funny!
          What are you crazy kids still doing up?

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        4. I’m a big fan of his. I first read his articles in farm magazines. A couple stick in my mind; but the one he wrote when he sold his hogs and rented out the farm– how he was no longer a farmer….well, that’s the one I cut out and still have on my desk. Powerful stuff there. And he handles it with a grace I can only hope to match when my time comes.

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  14. Like Sherrilee, I try to get the unpleasant chores out of the way first, with the goal of sitting down and reading a book. I’d like to avoid mowing the lawn if I could. It’s just plain hard work and I really dread it. I can work myself into a state of depression knowing that it must be done and I’m the one who must do it. :( So, I check e-mails, pay bills, check the blog, call my mom, check the weather forecast, re-organize the kitchen counter, clean the bathroom, start a load of laundry, hang clothes on the line to dry, pick tomatoes or basil or kale or chard, talk to my friend, take Pippin for a walk, re-check the e-mail and the blog and Facebook, put a load of clothes in the dryer and another one in the wash, file the paid bills, re-check the weather, and so on. Finally, when I’m totally ashamed of myself and despondent, I start the lawnmower – usually during the hottest part of the day. Once I’ve started, it’s hard to stop. Unless I fall down.

    Great job, Donna! That’s how to get ‘er done!

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    1. Krista, it sounds as though having to mow the lawn causes an amazing amount of work to get done. When I’m putting off one thing, I use the time-honored trail, FB and newspaper-reading stalls, not those many productive things you do.

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  15. You guys are outdoing yourselves today. Had to ignore ya’ll for a while, all this talk about cleaning, weeding, doing laundry and organizing made me feel anxious. If I’m not careful, I might succumb to the anxiety and actually tackle a project or two. But first I’ve gotta finish reading Shawn Colvin’s memoir, “Diamond in the Rough.”

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  16. One of many delicious discoveries I made by divorcing at 60 was the sheer pleasure of only having to clean up after ONE person! I’ve thought about writing a book for mature divorcees entitled, “Praise the Lord: I Have the Closets All to Myself!!!!” I’ve found that cooking for one, laundry for one, cleaning only my messes, etc. is a sweetly easy way to live. I also relish not having to be in any way accountable on a daily basis to another built-in human. If I feel like watching chick-flicks until 4AM, I do. Although I consistently keep the cottage picked-up, I rarely vacuum, scrub floors, or dust. Those “deep chores” are reserved only for company coming. This does present me with a chronic problem, however, and that is rarely inviting anyone over because I’d have to use too much energy to “company clean” the place. I’ve long since accepted that basically, I’m a sloth.

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    1. I’m getting a preview of your sweet life this weekend – the teenager is house/pet sitting for one of my co-workers. Of course I still have to deal w/ the dogs and the cats (did I mention that we added a new kitty to the mix a couple of weeks ago?)

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    2. That sounds good, but I’ve made a nasty discovery. The guy I live with is “myself,” and myself is an awful slob.

      And as for putting off cleaning chores, I made another sad discovery several years ago. If I began vacuuming the house, Katie would go to the front window and look out, knowing that a woman would be coming up the walk within minutes.

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  17. Man, I wish I was like so many of you who actually CLEANED and ORGANIZED while procrastinating. Me, I do nothing of importance while procrastinating, which is a lot of hours during the week. Like Tim, oops I mean tim, I can waste a lot of time on the laptop. I do have a fantastic, easy system for handling paperwork which has changed my life – but I still have a backlog of papers to work through and I still manage to procrastinate so it’s easy to get a little pile in my inbox and bills that are paid too close to the deadline for comfort, which reminds me I bet there’s a medical bill from my daughter’s kidney infection episode that needs to be paid, I wonder what I can do to avoid looking in there tonight? Maybe weed the garden – or more likely, go online, there must be some product online that can help me not procrastinate or help me get organized, right? Or, I could read all about how terrible Nishioka is or see how the rest of the baboons manage to procrastinate.

    OT – middle daughter, who has not been able to find a job for 4 years – got a job yesterday!!! It starts in late August and I’m crossing my fingers that nothing will happen to prevent it. She had an experience with a mom a few years ago, who had hired her to be the nanny for her two girls – and then changed her mind at the last minute.

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    1. Congratulations to middle daughter – has to be so disheartening to be out of work that long. Fingers crossed that this one sticks. :)

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      1. Thanks, Anna & PJ. I won’t be breathing easy until the job is well underway. It seems like she’s been jinxed.

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  18. OT PSA warning. Within two weeks, two separate female swimmers in northern MN lakes were attacked and bitten all over by enraged otters. Today, a week later, we read that a farmer in northern MN was charged by a deer and beat up badly before he did a wrestling maneuver and took it down. If you are out walking, fellow baboons, and you see a squirrel or chipmunk, don’t take your eyes off it.

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        1. Yeah, I guess my avoidance behavior does not include reading the paper. I found the stories…man, that is so weird.

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  19. Y’all are way to industrious when you are procrastinating. I procrastinate by daydreaming, thinking of lists (but not necessarily writing them down – that would require effort), playing with Daughter (her time as a kid is short, so enjoying that time is always a key priority…and an excellent justification for not weeding, cleaning, organizing, etc.). I’m also a putterer – I can putter with the best of them and fritter away an evening quite contentedly. Mostly, though, having a kid to play with, read to, assist with homework is an excellent rationalization for not doing stuff I need to do…

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    1. Oh, and thanks Donna for giving me something to putter through and giggle about today. Your writing discipline sounds much like mine (though you’d never catch me in a bikini…no one needs to see that much of me, including me).

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    2. Anna, playing with a kid, reading to one, and assisting with homework IS important work.
      I absolve you from any guilt you feel for doing that. Keep it up, the world will be a better place for it.

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      1. Oh heck, I don’t feel guilty at all about it. I sometimes wish I had a tidier house, more time to write, or more than 15 minutes at the end of the day to read, but guilt? Nah. I’ll soak up all the time i can with her while I can. :)

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    1. Holy carp – I can’t remember when I’ve seen two back-to-back You Tubes with more contrast…

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  20. All of you who CLAIM to know about procrastination but answered the blog question before noon….you’re pretenders, all of you.

    I have it on good authority that WordPress allows responses for two full weeks after a blog post appears. So I have some time to think about it before the deadline gets close. I’m sure I will have something original to say by tomorrow. Or the next day. Certainly before Monday.

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