Whatever it was, they were having to follow a recipe.
At some point, my husband threw up his hands in frustration. “I can’t figure this out,” he said.
“What?” I asked. “You don’t have to figure it out. You have a recipe. Just follow the instructions.”
“I can’t follow instructions,” my husband replied.
“What do you mean, you can’t follow instructions? They’re instructions. You just follow them.”
“No. I can’t follow instructions.”
I turned to my father-in-law for support. He shook his head and said, “He’s right. We can’t follow instructions.”
I stood there, my mouth hanging open, smart-aleck remark frozen on my tongue, because I realized, they weren’t kidding.
For lo these many years, I have accepted this fact — my husband is not allowed to put together IKEA furniture, for instance — but I did not understand it.
Then I bought myself an organizer.
Last summer, I spent some time with my friend Elizabeth, who manages to keep house, work, homeschool her three kids AND cook dinner every night. Elizabeth has a great organizer. It’s a big, fat, spiral-bound calendar, and in it she keeps her work schedule, the kids’ schedules, bills that need to be paid, forms that need to be returned, etc., etc.
When I returned home, I surveyed my own organizer — a haphazardly stacked pile of papers on the kitchen counter — and I vowed to reform myself.
I had to search long and hard for the perfect organizer.
For starters, it was July.
I searched at the office supply store, but the day/week/month/millennium-at-a-glance calendars didn’t have enough space for notes. Plus they’re not cute.
I searched online, but was hesitant to buy anything I couldn’t flip through first.
And then, while digging through the sale bin at the bookstore, I found an organizer just like Elizabeth’s.
Spiral bound, so I could file bills and permission slips between the pages.
Weekly calendar on one page.
Room on the side for a to-do list.
Opposite page blank for notes.
And so, a year later, there’s my organizer — perched on top of a haphazardly stacked pile of papers on the kitchen counter.
The big blank pages for notes are still blank. Instead, I scribble notes on bits of scrap paper and stick them somewhere in the haphazardly stacked pile.
I try to write my to-do list in the space for a to-do list, but I can’t follow instructions. I just list all my tasks in the Monday box, in no particular order.
I can’t even write in a straight line. My notes to myself loop around, and off to the side, and way out in the margins. Each of my days is so crammed with messy handwriting that if I really need to get something done, I have to highlight it or circle it in red ink.
My organizer has become a great source of amusement to my daughter. She likes to illuminate my calendar entries, like some sort of modern-day monk.
For the Fourth of July, she drew me a flag — a much better use, really, for the blue highlighter and the red pen.