When your brain can’t multitask.

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When I was in Los Angeles recently to visit my elderly parents, one of the first things I did was work on a grocery list. I planned to go shopping later in the day.

Thick in the middle of peanut butter and canned pumpkin on my list, my dad sat down to give me directions to the supermarket. I couldn’t process what he was saying. At that moment, toilet paper and paper towels were my priority, not traffic lights and left turns.

     “Dad, hold on, let me finish the list before you give me directions.” 
“Well, it’s simple, Karen, you just…”
“Dad, give me a minute so I can pay attention.”
“I’ll draw you a map, Karen. If you turn right on Esplanade…”

My brain is OK with incoming information from multiple sources if the info is easily understood, like writing a reminder note, or hearing a funny story, or being asked if I want my coffee warmed up.

But for complex information, (and even directions around the block are complex for me), my brain can only handle one topic at a time.

My brain can’t multitask.

I can multitask physically, like when I make coffee at home. With my right hand, I pull the kitchen faucet hose extension over to the coffee maker to fill it. At the same time, I can open the drawer to pull out a coffee filter with my left hand, and plop it in the basket, without accidentally redirecting the faucet hose to the floor or my pants. (Usually. )

My brain can’t do that. It has folders for important information, and if the folder is closed, new data doesn’t get in.

     “DAD,” I finally said, “the folder in my head for directions is closed. Anything      you tell me now has nowhere to go.”

Then he understood.

If your brain is unable to multitask, a closed folder is a great visual.

My brain’s inability to multitask is the reason I haven’t posted here in awhile. I’ve had my Memoir Manuscript folder open, and not much else.

No  multitask for this manuscript.
My manuscript–all 86,000+ words of it!

Last week, after 20 years, I finished my manuscript.

My editor will have a red pen lollapalooza with it, I’m sure, but the bulk of the writing is done.

And now, I have to open some folders that have been lying dormant for too long.

The first folder, which I opened this morning, was Website Blogs. And here we are! I’ve been neglectful of this folder lately, so my very belated New Year’s Resolution is to open this folder and post monthly.

As soon as I hit “publish” here, another folder will open: Create and launch my quarterly Newsy Letter.

My Newsy Letter is how I’ll keep in touch with my email subscribers. Here’s what it will include:

  • One totally useless and possibly embarrassing fact about me.
  • A snippet from my memoir, and an update on my publishing journey. I want you to be the first to know when I get a book deal! (Notice I said “when,” not “if.” I’m working the positive thinking magic!)
  • Links to essays I’ve had published. Hopefully I’ll have some new ones out soon.
  • Books I’ve read, and upcoming authors to watch.
  • An inspirational quote.

My Newsy Letter will be a short page, four times per year. I promise it won’t overload your inbox. But if you don’t subscribe via email, you’ll miss out!

It’s so simple–just find the “Enter email” box, then, well, enter your email address. You don’t even need to have a brain folder open–it’s that simple. My 87-year-old dad has done it, and if he can, you can, too.

Speaking of my dad, once I opened the directions folder in my brain, he told me just how to get where I needed to go, and I didn’t get lost. One task completed at a time. That’s how I roll.

How do you roll? Can you multitask? If not, what folder do you have open today?

Promises to a Super Bowl fan from his non-fan wife.

Football

[I posted this two years ago, but tis the season, so here’s an update. BTW – I still still had to ask my husband who was playing this year!]

OK, right off the bat, er, pigskin, let me admit that I’m not a huge sports fan.

This is how out-of-touch I am with the Super Bowl scene: as I sat down to write this blog, I had to Google which teams were playing on Sunday. I know, I know, some of you are incredulous. I can’t explain how this has happened. And, yes, I am alive and breathing.

As a native of Pittsburgh, I would know if the Steelers were playing, but if not, I usually don’t pay attention. Anyway, in case you don’t already know, it’s the New England Patriots (again) and the Philadelphia Eagles. And it’s being played in Minneapolis. Don’t ask me why,  but they couldn’t have found a warmer place to toss around a ball?

There will be no big parties for us this year, so Michael won’t have a room full of guys to high-five at every touchdown, or discuss kneeling during the National Anthem, or analyze what happened to the Steelers this year (again.)

Michael will be watching the game with me. He’ll make a big fire in the fireplace, we’ll gather some snacks, leave any dishes left in the sink, and forget about returning phone calls. It will be a nice evening together, but I know I’m not the most thrilling Super Bowl companion.

So here are five promises I making to my husband to help maximize his viewing experience:

1. I promise to figure out which team is wearing what colors, right at the beginning of the game, so when the first big play happens, I don’t blurt out, “Now, which team is that?”

2. I promise that when Michael goes to the kitchen for another beer, I’ll pay attention to the game so when he comes back and asks what happened, I won’t have to answer, “I don’t know – I was looking at the screen but not watching the game.”

3.  I promise that when I fall asleep in the middle of the second half, I won’t be leaning against him on the couch, so he can get up easily when he needs another beer.

4. I promise that when a player doesn’t get right up from a tackle, I won’t gasp loudly and bring my hands up to my face and say things like, “I can’t look” and “I could never be a football wife.”

5. I promise to get in touch with my inner-sports fan for the evening. Even though I don’t get caught up in the Super Bowl hype, there really is a certain beauty when the receiver tears down the field, looks over his shoulder, reaches up and plucks the football from the air. I hate to make the comparison, but it’s as elegant as ballet.

And when the quarterback throws a perfect spiral right down the center of the field and nails the receiver in the gut – BAM – I get a little thrill even if I don’t know what the score is or who the team is.

The coolest to watch, though, is the way the players drag their toes across the turf when they complete a pass near the sidelines. I’m mesmerized–through every single instant replay.

I’ll do my best to make it a fun evening. I might just enjoy the action.

Hmmm. Maybe I am a fan after all?

On the twelfth day of Christmas…

A twelfth day's work- filled with joy and peace.
A twelfth day’s work.

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas. Unless yesterday was. I guess it depends on how you count.

After a party at our house last night, when the guests had left and the clean-up was done, Michael and I poured ourselves a drink and crashed on the living room couch.

As the fire in the fireplace ebbed, I admired the lit Christmas tree, the garland on the mantle, the manger on the end table, the little stuffed Santa’s helper with his bag of toys nestled in the chair.

“This year,” I told Michael, “I’m really going to miss these Christmas decorations.”

In previous years, by the time New Year’s Day rolled around, I was tired of all the holiday clutter, and couldn’t wait to pack it all up and drag the bins up to the attic. I couldn’t wait to restore order to my home.

In previous years, we’ve had a real tree, and by January 1, it practically begged us to put it out of its dry-needled misery. Once the tree was gone, all the other decorations made their exit, too.

This year we bought an artificial Christmas tree. As we discussed and planned the upcoming party—my husband’s annual post-holiday celebration for his staff—we decided to leave the tree in place, knowing the fake needles wouldn’t protest. We left all the other Christmas bling in place, too.

Last night, as I looked around, I was sad to think of the house without its festive dressing, but I didn’t know why.

Then it clicked.

I have a small box of ornaments labeled “Karen’s favorites,” and each year, I make sure they find a spot on the tree. This year, I decided to purge all seven Christmas bins of any item that I didn’t like or had no sentimental value. Then I bought some inexpensive gold bows and white ceramic snowflakes to hang in the dining room, since its peach wallpaper (a holdover from the previous owners) goes with red and green about as well as Santa goes with an Easter basket.

Everything was a favorite.

Today, when I got out the empty “Karen’s favorites” box, and looked at what needed to fit in there, I realized everything was a favorite:

The red velvet drum with gold brocade trim. Tiny drumsticks sit crossed on the top, the handles wrapped in gold thread. I made it when I was about eight, from a toilet paper tube and q-tips. It reminds me how much I enjoyed my artistic creativity, and how much my mother nurtured that in me.

The little girl and little boy on separate swings that my sister gave us on our first Christmas. Michael and I have a tradition of “hanging” each other.

The hand blown glass ball I bought years ago at a Dansk going-out-of business sale with my mom when she was visiting.

A plastic victorian house, a copper watering can, a cut glass snowflake. And these favorites, too.

Everything I kept and everything I added filled me with joy. That’s why I was sad to see it go.

By mid afternoon, when Mike and I finished packing the bins, parts of the house looked bare, but we moved our familiar furniture back into place, rehung pictures, and filled the voids. I was at peace.

Filling my life with joy, filling the voids with peace–not a bad way to end one year and start another.

I wish the same for you this year!