How I Do All That I Do, Part One

I’m a busy girl. This has already been well-established. (If you’re new here: Hi, and welcome! Trust me. I’m busy.)

I am often asked “How do you do all that you do???” The person asking the question usually has a wide-eyed look and typically shakes her head in disbelief, most likely because she thinks I’m certifiably crazy for taking on as many things as I typically do.

The question makes me very uneasy because honestly–though I am proud of my own accomplishments–I am not the type of person to toot my own horn in the company of others. Still, I am always flattered and I smile, thank them for asking, and give them whatever short answer is on my mind at the time.

But let’s get down to brass tacks here. (Where did that saying come from, anyway? I’ll have to Google it.)

The people who ask me how I do all that I do usually follow up with, “I could never do what you do…” or some such nonsense. The truth is, any of you out there could do all that I do, any part thereof, or other activities that you don’t already do but might want to try.


I’m going to tell you, in this three-part series of blog posts that I came up with while mowing the grass. It’s where I do some of my best thinking, but more on that later.

How I Do All That I Do, Part One

1. I don’t have specific goals. I realize how utterly idiotic this sounds. It’s not that I don’t have goals at all; I just don’t aspire to do or be specific things. When I do make a goal, I keep it fluid. At first glance, all of the things I do don’t seem directly related. The fact is, everything I currently do was born out of my love of writing: that’s the connection. (Well, except for the group fitness classes.) Having flexible goals means that when a new opportunity comes my way–or better, if I create a new opportunity for myself–I feel good about running with it if it’s something that interests me. This may or may not be the reason that Jim gets a look of utter terror and–occasionally–mild annoyance on his face when I announce, “Guess what I’m gonna do??” Some people bring stray animals home. I bring home Grandiose Plans which more often than not eventually include a Crazy Phase.

2. I keep an open mind. Most skills, no matter what they are, have more than one application. With each new use of old skills, a person gains experience that will help him or her on the next challenge. That’s why I haven’t limited myself to words on a page. After all, I was a writer before I even knew what a blog was. Writing is my first love (after Jim and Ed O’Neill, of course), but I adore expressing my creative self in many different ways.

3. “I can’t” is not a normal part of my vocabulary. I’m not sure if it’s because I was brought up with parents who had high expectations or if it’s the “Go Big or Go Home” genes that I inherited from my mom (or a combination of both, or something else altogether), but I don’t look at opportunities and think, “I can’t do that.” I think, “What do I need to do in order to accomplish that?” LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER is a good example. I don’t have any theater experience unless you count elementary school in the mid-1970s, in which I had two major roles: Earth (yes, I played a planet) in a play about the solar system and Betsy Ross, in a play about the founding of our nation. That said (or typed), it only took about five minutes from the time I saw that Ann Imig was looking for Show Producers in other cities until I decided that I really, really, really wanted to do it. (I took an extra ten minutes after that before I emailed Ann to ask her some questions. I didn’t want to seem impulsive.) I knew that the show would get a huge response here in Chicago, that it would be great for the Chicago blogging community, and that it would be one of those fun types of challenges. I figured I’d learn along the way, and I was right. The show was great and I consider it to be one of the biggest accomplishments of my life thus far. Had I looked at the opportunity and thought, “I can’t do that,” I would have missed out on something fantastic. I can do anything I set my mind to, and so can you.

4. I have excellent mentors. It’s always interesting to me to hear a friend talk about “their mentor” in the singular, because I don’t rely on just one person for advice. I couldn’t even tell you how many mentors I have. Some of my mentors are good friends, some are only acquaintances, and some, of course, are family members. The reason I have so many is not because I’m worried about bothering one person too much; it’s because my mentors have very different skill sets and when I need help I speak with the person or people who have experiences that directly relate to my current project. I am always careful about how I ask for help, too. For example, I don’t call a friend/mentor up and say, “Can you tell me how to *insert task here*?” Instead, because it benefits me to try and figure it out as much as possible first, I think about it and when I call I say, “Here’s what my plan is. Do you think I’m headed in the right direction?” There’s a difference between asking for assistance and asking someone else to do all of the leg work on your behalf.

5. I am always thinking. My brain is churning constantly. I am thinking about my to-do lists, details, and new ideas at any given time. Mostly this works for me, but admittedly sometimes I hate it, because I don’t sleep well and I’m always coming up with ideas that spread my time and efforts out even thinner. I am a good problem-solver, though, and when you thrive on challenge, thinking is a good thing. I’ll have more on my thought process in Part Two.

Someone recently asked me why I keep myself so busy, if I thrive on all of the chaos. I wasn’t really sure how to answer her, because I’m not really sure which is more true: if I keep taking on new tasks because I thrive on being busy or because I believe strongly in the idea of Carpe diem. Remember the 1989 movie “Dead Poets Society”? Robin Williams’ character said, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” I don’t sit around and wait for things to happen: I am an active participant in my own destiny, whatever it is supposed to be.

So, the next time life presents a challenge to you or you see something that you think might be fun even though you have no idea where to start, I recommend thinking about it for a short spell and then jumping in, feet first. And if you need some guidance, I’m only an email away.

(By the way, getting down to brass tacks? I Googled it. Click here if you’re curious.)


  • Grandma W

    I’m glad you said to take a little time before jumping. But don’t wait to long because you may change your mind, and life goes by to fast. Sometimes thinking about doing something to long, may make a big difference in your life. At may age I do get involved in many things and think that I may live longer if Ikeep busy.
    Oh and Happy Mother’s Day to you.
    Grandma W

  • Heather

    I think this has excellent points, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for me- I do wonder how you keep track of everything and do everything and be everything but now I’m starting to see how you can manage it all. Can’t wait to see what else you come up with!

    Sidenote: I was Betsy Ross in my elem school play TOO! 🙂

  • As Cape Cod Turns

    Finally, the inner workings of ONE of my mentors. As a small “grass-hoppah”, I am eating this all up.

    Thanks for googling brass tacks, because I was about to 🙂

  • alisha

    love this post. can’t wait for the remaining parts!

    you are so right, though. the truth is that if you want something you usually can have it if you believe that you can.

    also, one of my favorite movies ever! “i sound my barbaric yawp!”

  • tracey

    I love that you love being that busy. I love it in spurts. Like right now? I love that the season of NOT being crazy busy is upon me. Hours of sitting in my garden or patio and free time… Ahhhh…. That is what makes me happy in the summer (though we do get busy, eventually).

    And then, come fall-spring? I need to get busier again so that I am not staring at the same walls every single day. 🙂

  • Colleen

    I absolutely love how you said, “I am an active participant in my own destiny, whatever it is supposed to be.”


    I’ma use that one!

  • Patty

    I really needed to read this post! It’s better than any motivational stuff I’ve been looking for these days. Thank for sharing and being amazing! xoxo