Half-Assed Multitasking for Dummies

Halfassed_multitaskingFunny but true story: The other morning I called my BBF while I was doing a quick tidying of the house.  I had miraculously remembered that we’d discussed going out for dinner, and the idea of not cooking — even at 7:12 a.m. — was enough to motivate me to pick up the phone.

She was driving her son to school, and together I think we put together about one coherent sentence until my BBF pulled up to drop him off and made this shocking confession:

“I’m actually a half-assed multitasker. Do you mind if I call you back in two minutes?”

That made me LOL all the way through unloading the dishwasher as I realized that I had been handed a genius blog title. As I schemed about what I’d say in the post, I unloaded the dishes, finished scrubbing the pots in the sink, and was on to drying them  – a perfect task to complete while yapping on the phone once my BBF called back (less risk of drowning your cell in a sink full of soapy water).

As we chatted, I finished patting down the pans and popped an English muffin in the toaster. The second we finished making our plans, the toasted went off as if on cue, I grabbed a fresh plate, and then… plopped my morning carb smack into a big smear of cold pasta sauce that decorated the dish.

Upon closer inspection of the items I’d just unloaded from the dishwasher, I realized that everything was caked with food and grime.

This wasn’t the first time I’d forgotten to run the wash before I unloaded it. In fact, I’ve done it twice now in the last few weeks, and that’s not all: I made a beautiful last BBQ dinner of the summer for my family, and then left the grill on all night to ensure it really is our last BBQ for a while, because who can ever remember to refill the propane? I’ve pulled out a load of wet laundry only to discover what I actually have is a handful of dry clothes splattered with blue washing detergent. And I routinely come home to partially made beds, milk that’s been left out on the counter all day, and open cabinets that may or may not have been filled with whatever was going in them. And of course pretty much every time I shop I leave the grocery store with $200 worth of goods… everything except the one thing I actually came in for.

While it’s obvious I could use a mental reboot, I’m not even sure that would even work any more.

And suddenly I realize that there’s nothing I’d like more than to be a half-assed multitasker. Beyond making me laugh, it also makes me feel better about the situation.

Modern life dictates that multitasking, which is supposedly worse than marijuana for your IQ, is a way of life nowadays. There’s literally no human way to get all the shit that needs to be done in a day accomplished UNLESS you attempt to do things simultaneously.

That said, study after study would tell you that if you try to do more than one thing at one time, your performance would undoubtedly suck. (That’s the clinical term, I’m pretty sure…)

And while there are exceptional outliers –David Strayer of the University of Utah’s psychology department calls them “supertaskers” — the bottom line is that even something as simple as talking on a cell phone and driving can make you just as blotto as if you’d downed a few drinks.

(Supertaskers are super rare, btw — if you think you might be one, just try this test from Stayer’s lab: http://psych.newcastle.edu.au/~ae273/GateKeeper/)

So what’s a half-assed multitasker to do, then? I do have a few suggestions I came up with while doing a load or six of laundry and simultaneously making breakfast (pouring bowls of cereal), lunch (PB & J), and dinner (crockpot beef stew):

Embrace your half-assedness: Once upon a time, I was a Type-A overachiever. And where did it get me? Have I won a Pulitzer Prize for writing? Solved climate changed? Cured cancer? Clearly none of the above, although I am blessed with an amazing family, have a nice place to live, a job I totally dig, and a bitch that comes when I call (sort of). We do what we can do, and remembering to be grateful for it is the least half-assed thing you can do.

Listen to the resistance: One of the reasons that some things we attempt to multi-task never truly get done is because there’s no spark on the back burner where we put them. So maybe there’s a task or two you can take off your plate and free your mind up, even just a little bit.

It’s OK to drop some balls: My BBF biz partner is a kick ass juggler. This is actually literal: the woman won the Gong Show — with a first-ever 10 from Rex Reed! — juggling and singing at the same time. Since then, everything the woman has ever done is the product of an incredible juggling act. (More on that in the weeks to come… we’re about to launch the latest, so check out www.facebook.com/findmeimyours) As a klutz with no hand-eye coordination, I’ve got some trepidation around having so many balls in the air. Thanks to my job, I’m learning to be OK with doing the best I can, knowing that I’ll drop a few balls here and there and rather than freak out, I just pick-them up and get back to it.

Half an ass is better than none: We certainly give other people points for trying — I can be pretty damn effusive seeing a sort-of made bed and the clothes picked up off the floor but jammed in drawers in my kids’ rooms, for example.

When in doubt, sit your ass down: When the frenzy that is multi-tasking really gets to you, there’s no shame in sitting one out. Go full-on teenager on everyone else’s ass by slamming your bedroom door, put on some soothing music (or none, depending on what soothes your aching keppie), and tune out the world, just for five minutes.

So if you see me unloading a washer full of dirty dishes or serving up beef stew that has no actual meat in it, just know that I’m indulging in a little half-assed multitasking. I’m no dummy, but sometimes the only way to move through a day is to do your best and leave the rest.

How to Give Till It Hurts Without Killing Yourself

fundraising pushes buttons

Does fundraising push all of your buttons?

Remember the ice bucket challenge?

It was a brutal tidal wave on social media of people dumping freezing cold water (or lukewarm marinara, depending on who you are and what your threshold for both pain and humor are) over their heads, all for a good cause (ALS).

In a move that I’m sure made me tremendously unpopular, I refused to take the ice bucket challenge bait.

It’s not because I’m not charitable or didn’t want to help fund a good cause, because I am and I do.

Thing is, I’ve been training to survive charitable fundraising stunts for well over a decade now, and I’ve got a few strategies to help you emerge from even the most intense times, including back to school, new sports teams, and general world crises (natural disasters, war, diseases, drought, etc.) I hate to toss the causes all in the same bucket (pun intended!), but the steady stream that’s pulled from your wallet, particularly through your children, is enough to make anyone’s heart turn to ice. 

So here are a few thoughts on how to give till it hurts… without killing yourself:

1) Spread the wealth: Just know that there are certain times of the year (like September and October), when you will be bombarded by urgent contribution asks. Instead of just throwing it down in a lump, think through what really has to happen when. If it’s an annual donation, you can pay it out over time in much smaller monthly installments, or all at once later in the year when you have less good causes knocking on your door.

2) Make deals with your friends: How many times have you ended up writing a big, phat check to cover what your kid hasn’t sold in cookie dough, wrapping paper, magazines, or other fundraising-ready yet completely annoying commodities? For me, the answer is every single time — which means I routinely have a freezer full of giant tubs of cookie dough, a closet stuffed with wrapping paper, and a stack of unread, unwanted magazines. This year, I’ve decided that for any friend who supports my kid now, I will support his/her kid for the fundraising task. I’d rather write a few checks for $20 a pop over time versus a $200 check in one fell swoop. And if you do the math, I’ll bet you’ll end up spending less while looking like a damn hero to your friends and their kids that are trying to “win” a $2 “prize” by selling $800 worth of goods.

3) Re-gifting is acceptable AND tax deductible: Back to the cookie dough — rather than ending up with a fat ass and an empty wallet, this year I’m going to donate the cookie dough and other food stuffs (i.e., Girl Scout cookies) to a local food bank. If you itemize what you give and the organization you give to is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, then you can write it off and feel good about paying it forward. (For more on this, check out what TurboTax sez.)

4) Decide what you value more now — time or money: This is a question I ask myself at the beginning of all fundraising seasons. Regardless of how old my kids are they still need my help when it comes to casing the neighborhood, setting up booths, or generally asking for donations. Out of laziness, I normally just write the check, but this fall, we’re doing some remodeling. And so, I am sitting down with my husband and strategizing how we can get our kids to their mandatory fundraising goals. (Working that shit out is where this blog post came from, for example.)

5) Never volunteer for event committees: This sounds harsh, but as a former event planner, I can tell you that pulling off fundraisers costs money. And whose pocket do the Dead Presidents normally come from? That’s right — the people planning the event. Now, I know you think you can get reimbursed for things and maybe you can BUT I guarantee you’ll be the one closing the silent auction, hanging out with the vendors at the end of the holiday crafts fair, or cleaning up the carnival. And when you do, you’ll end up buying whatever’s left.

6) Just say no: Yes, you can… C’mon, say it with me. NO. If I can be the only asshole in the world to not accept the ice bucket challenge, then you can say no to hosting a car wash, whipping up 19 trays of brownies for the bake sale, selling massive tins of popcorn that stain fingers and clog arteries, or writing a check that’s bigger than your mortgage, just because you’re asked.

This is not to say that supporting good causes is not important, but sometimes it is also the last straw when it comes to your financial health and sanity. Setting limits and not participating in every fundraiser that comes your way doesn’t make you an ice prince or princess; just a mere mortal with reasonable limitations.

So if you see me snacking from a giant tub of raw cookie dough that I have hidden in my purse, just know that I’m always strategizing about the best way to make fundraising work in my daily life. Charity doesn’t have to make your home life a living Hell, even if it does begin there.

Life’s a Bitch (And That’s a Good Thing!)

The best accessory EVER

The best accessory EVER

Have you ever had a week that makes you want to scream?

And by scream, I met let loose with a primal roar so intense it might strip the enamel off your teeth and shatter the eardrums of anyone in a 10-mile radius.

I just had one of those weeks recently. It started with lice and went downhill from there.

Every day had a new delight: a traffic ticket, a bounced check, a pinched nerve, a kid with the plague, the sudden-death of a cell phone… all smothered in more loads of laundry than imaginable. First world problems to the Nth degree.

The icing on the cake was a little blowback from the peanut gallery on the name of my blog — apparently the word BITCH’IN no longer holds its adorable ’80s connotation of something being exceptionally awesome.

If you buy the Law of Attraction, then what you put out is what you get back. At that point, my vibration was so low that I had to abandon the limbo pole and get on my belly to see the light.

Literally, laying flat on my back on the floor to sooth that pinched nerve, I got to thinking about the word BITCH and how it could possibly help me shift my attitude around.

It wasn’t going to be through bitching to the choir. After all, almost everyone I know has survived infestations and a whole lot worse.

It couldn’t be about yelling and screaming, even though that was my raw, go-to first impulse.

It wasn’t really about cursing, even though that is a quick release for anything that ever ails ya.

I had nobody to be a bitch to, as that wouldn’t help any of the people in the same boat as me. (If only I had my own red carpet critique show on E! Still mourning the loss of the Queen B of High Comedy, Joan Rivers…)

And so, after a little while, I got a grip, and headed off to continue organizing a room that serves as my office/storage facility/dumping ground for shit that has nowhere else to go. My husband has a vision of a man cave — one that I know will end up being a kid cave but let the man dream! — and so we are clearing and cleaning like crazy.

There, in the wreckage, I kept coming across photos: me with the closest things to abs I have ever had, the aftermath of giving birth, babies at the beach, the view from the bleachers, and loads of happy memories all along that same vein.

But when I really thought about it, I remembered that along with all the wonderful things also came a lot of hard times, too.

Childbirth is a bitch, working out is a bitch, wrangling children on the beach is a bitch, sitting on backless bleachers for hours is a bitch, and so it goes.

The Yin and Yang of it all means that the very things that we bitch about are also what makes life memorable. Delightful. And precious.

BITCH and BITCH’IN — two sides of the same story.

And honestly, I often can’t bear to listen to the news nowadays because BITCH isn’t even the word for life in the Middle East, Africa, and so many other parts around the globe. First world problems to the Nth degree don’t scratch the surface of the horrendous realities of life in disease and warn-torn places. But I do listen because it is a constant reminder for me to live in gratitude every single day.

So if you see me wearing my bitch’in necklace, just take it for what it is: a gentle reminder that life’s a bitch, and that’s a good thing.

Can We Talk…. About Losing Joan Rivers?

Joan & Melissa (image: LA Times)

Joan & Melissa (image: LA Times)

Joan Rivers is dead, and I am absolutely devastated.

This is something that I’m somewhat embarrassed about because it doesn’t make all that much logical sense.

It’s not like I knew her, or was ever in her presence — save the time I saw her throw it down during her “Can We Talk” phase circa 1982, when she gave everyone from Liz Taylor to Heidi Abromowitz (the tramp and “poster girl for herpes”) a kick in the ass with her heavy-duty silver-tipped tongue.

I have to admit she lost me somewhat in her fashionista stage of recent years. With all due respect to her QVC line — which in my opinion was amazing for business savvy of it, not so much the style — to Fashion Police, I rarely tuned in. Then again, when I did, the zingers were just as stunning as always (i.e., on Rihanna: “Why the green lips? It looks like she just [bleep] the Grinch. Talk about Christmas coming early.” And my personal favorite in recent history, on Lea Michele at the Teen Choice Awards: “She looks like a porn star. You know the kind of porn stars who aren’t the prettiest, so they do crazy stuff like amputee gang bangs?”).

But the thing that gets me about Joan (and I’m guess you, too), beyond the fact that she was the High Priestess of Bitch’in Humor, were the things that we knew about her that were the tough, yet so very relatable flip side of the funny coin: how her friend and mentor Johnny Carson repaid her “betrayal” of launching her own late night show by never speaking to her again. The suicide of her husband. The myriad times she was kicked to the curb for being a bawdy, brassy, bitchy babe. The ups and downs of her career, the need for constant reinvention, the all-consuming devotion she had to her work. (Best seen and understood in the 2010 documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Run, don’t walk, to rent, stream, watch, and enjoy.)

While the fact that she was a trailblazer for all women, and shared her triumphs and her devastating losses in a way that only a strong, X-chromosomal toting person can, it was in those touching, sweet moments that Joan felt not like some distant star, but quite literally like someone who could be, well, ours.

Our sister.

Our grandmother.

Our friend.

Our mother.

For me, it was her relationship with her daughter Melissa that got me. Having played it out so much in the public eye, you could see that the two had their moments but regardless, their devotion to each other was palpable. Touching and sweet, fiercely loyal, and underneath it all, sealed with genuine respect and deep, unconditional and unabiding love.

So true, so personal, and so much how I feel about my own mother.

We can be each other’s best friend and sometimes toughest critic, but we make each other laugh and remind one and other that no matter what, nothing is more valuable and more worth fighting for than family. If only we had our own show on E!…

So maybe that’s why when the horrible news first broke of the tragic outcome of Joan going in for a simple, outpatient endoscopy (indeed, she was scheduled to perform the following night), and ending up in a medically induced coma, I quickly fell into an obsessive habit of  Google searching every few hours for a glimmer of hope. 

And then came the PR-friendly statements from Melissa on her mom’s website, www.JoanRivers.com and social media, the last of which said:

“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers. She passed peacefully at 1:17pm surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother.

Cooper and I have found ourselves humbled by the outpouring of love, support, and prayers we have received from around the world. They have been heard and appreciated.

My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”

We will return, but we will never be the same. And when she is buried on Sunday, I will pause and send a loving prayer of support and comfort to her daughter, grandson, and all who loved her. And for Joan I fervently pray that Meryl Streep is there, crying in five different accents.

For you, my Bitch’in friends, here’s one from the vaults — the aforementioned “Can We Talk” era, before Joan had more plastic in her than the Mattel factory:


Copyright © 2012 - Trudi Roth. All Rights Reserved.