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Shifting priorities

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

~ John Lennon

I’m a bit of a procrastinator. I also underestimate the time it will take to complete just about any project I take on. Oh, and I’m also a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to anything that involves a creative project. All these things combined with my raging ADD make for some self-made moments of stress.

Of course, when I volunteer to paint a plate for my daughter’s fifth grade class (as I’ve done for the past several years), none of the aforementioned character flaws occur to me. I immediately agree to take on the project as if I were a normal person who would give myself plenty of time to complete it.

I started the project almost 2 full weeks after I picked up the plate. Thankfully, the kids in my daughter’s class finished their portion of the project (decorating their superhero rhinos) in just 2 days.

And since I really needed to get started on the planning stages of gutting and remodeling the master bathroom (another project I’ve been procrastinating), I decided the plate could wait another day while I went window shopping for a bathtub, bathroom cabinets, and tile.

Funny. I have over 1500 pictures stored on my iPhone. The vast majority of them I could delete and never think twice about it. If you follow me on twitter, you know I take pictures of some pretty dumb things.

But that picture?

That picture gets to me.

Not because of what’s pictured, but because right after I snapped it at the home store, my phone rang.

That phone call completely changed the course of my day, my week and the foreseeable future.

You see, that call was from my sister, Becky. She was calling me from her doctor’s office. It seems that the lump she discovered wasn’t nothing. It was breast cancer, and from what her doctor could see from the biopsy results, it was the fast growing, aggressive type. She was calm, which was a good thing because I could hear my mom in the background, who wasn’t so calm–not hysterical, mind you. None of us are the hysterical type–but I could hear the worry in her voice. Becky told me what she knew: She was on her way to meet with a surgeon followed by a meeting with an oncologist. She would call me back after those appointments.

Suddenly measuring bathtubs and vanities seemed like the most shallow and self-indulgent thing in the world. After sitting in my car for a few minutes staring into space I drove home, not exactly sure what I was supposed to do with myself while I waited for a phone call.

I started the plate.

Because when I’m faced with something I can’t control I find comfort in things I can, like transferring a bunch of rhinos onto a plate for a PTA fundraiser. Creating art–even recreating art–also clears my busy mind long enough to allow for prayers that resound in my heart and mind rather than the ones that seem to hit the ceiling and bounce back down.

By the time my phone rang again, I was calm. I felt like whatever update I was about hear would be good news. God didn’t tell me that, but I do believe he gave me His peace about it.

And it was good news. This time from my other sister, who relayed what the surgeon and the oncologist had told Becky. Surgery was required to remove a lump followed by chemo as a preventative measure. But the cancer was between Stage 1 and Stage 2. Survivable. Curable. Thank you, God.

Since I’d be spending Friday (the day the plate project was due) at the hospital with my mom and sisters, I pressed on with the project:

Even though I must admit it was beginning to get extremely tedious.

Did you know that when you paint a piece of pottery, they recommend THREE COATS of paint on everything? I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but those are some pretty tiny rhinos, and despite my SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS to the kids NOT to make their rhinos too detailed because I would have to shrink the size of their original artwork considerably, a few of them ignored my instructions. One boy in particular took them as a personal challenge and went so far as to tell my daughter that the superhero rhinos I had provided as examples were–get this–BORING!

And while I’m always up for a challenge, I’m also not inclined to be bested by a 5th grader, unless it’s in a game of Words with Friends.

So some rhinos won’t look exactly like the original representation:

Guess people will just have to guess what SCR stands for, huh?

In conclusion, I finished the plate. Past the deadline, of course. Which means I’ll have to take it to the pottery place myself instead of dropping it off with the PTA volunteer. But that’s hardly a first. Hopefully this will be a masterpiece once it’s fired in the kiln, but who knows?

back of plate

Front of plate

Sometimes you just have to call it done and get on to the things in life that really matter. Which, incidentally, are rarely ever things at all…

My sister right after surgery, who would kill me if she knew I was posting this picture on the Interwebs. Good thing my family doesn't know I have a blog. Snort!

Doing stuff

image courtesy of

Monday marked the first day of FREEEEEEDOOOOOOOM!!!! the kids going back to school after their week long spring break. It was nice to have everyone home last week, but I must confess that towards the end of the week all that togetherness was starting to harsh my mellow. Me likes my alone time.

Since it’s now officially springtime and whatnot, I decided it was high time to spruce up the front porch. I’ve been wanting to get some rocking chairs to put out there since we moved into this house. And since we’ve lived here for 8 or 9 years, I thought I would find some over the weekend, thereby missing the official 10 year procrastination mark. Besides, I figured I could enjoy my morning coffee out there for the next couple of weeks before temperatures and humidity rise to levels capable of melting my face off.

After two unsuccessful shopping ventures Friday and Saturday, I finally found two black arirondack rockers at Garden Ridge Pottery on Sunday afternoon. If y’all don’t have a Garden Ridge Pottery in your neighborhood, I suppose the best way to describe it would be Hobby Lobby meets Pier One meet Oriental Trading Company. Sort of. They sell furniture, plants, silk flowers, housewares and “miscellaneous”.


Once we got the chairs home, assembled and out on the porch, it became evident that the new addition didn’t really complete the look I was after. The term “putting lipstick on a pig” comes to mind.

The front door needed refinishing, the windows were dirty, the large pot of dirt out there needed filling and the impulse buy of two ferns from the grocery store needed to be hung. An ambitious project, but I was ready, willing and able to accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish on Monday. I went to bed Sunday night with every intention of getting to work on my project bright and early Monday (mid) morning.


That was before I woke up in-explicitly at midnight and couldn’t get back to sleep. I tried reading. That seemed to work until I turned off my book light, set down my kindle and shut my eyes. Wide awake again. I eventually got up and went to the couch, figuring I would fall asleep watching the television. Three and a half hours later, I was exhausted and a little perplexed why Animal Planet would devote a 30 minute time slot to Mike Tyson and his dream of pigeon racing. But I digress…


My point is (and I do have one), what I wanted to do was get the kids off to school and go back to bed. I was tired, grumpy and completely out of sorts. I didn’t feel like going to Walmart, buying hooks, potting soil and something to put in the pot of dirt. I didn’t feel like doing all that stuff I told myself I was going to do. And honestly, my world wasn’t going to come crashing down if I chose to go back to bed and leave all that stuff for another day.

But you know what?

I went to Walmart.

I refinished the door.

I potted a fern in the pot of dirt.

I hung the ferns.

I even dragged the spring wreath out of the garage.

I did all the things I set out to do. And yes, I was even more exhausted when all was said and done. But sometimes you have to suck it up and do the things you set out to do. You keep your promises and follow through with what you said you were going to do. Even if those promises are made to no one else but you.

Now, to get some flowers planted!

Sometimes especially then.

My first new visitor.

This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Goals, hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. To read more posts on the topic, please visit him at

God Work (by Billy Coffey)

Hey y’all! For those of you coming here expecting to read a post by Billy Coffey, I won’t disappoint you. Below you will find Billy’s first “official” regular Monday guest spot for Hey Look a Chicken originally posted on May 4, 2009. Much has happened with Billy’s writing career since I first stumbled on his blog almost a year ago. To read more about that, check out Part One of Billy’s interview with Linda Yezak today over at Author Culture In the meantime, here’s Billy Coffey circa May 2009:

I’m sitting at work, keys in hand, watching the clock. In nine minutes and thirty-seven seconds, I can go home and call it a day. Though what sort of day remains in question.

My life is no longer defined solely by job and spouse. Other things have been added to the mix over the years, things like children and blogs and columns, query letters and book proposals and deadlines. And as I was recently ambushed by a few college students who bound, gagged, and drug me into the modern world of Facebook, I now have something new to add to the list of What I Need To Keep Up With.

Keeps me busy, yes. But busy in a good way. Because I am doing what God wants me to do. God Work, I call it.

My job affords me the luxury of letting me roam about in relative freedom over fifty acres of a college campus and putting me in touch with a constant stream of people who are more than happy to share what’s going on in their lives. God has blessed me with three wonderful things: a loving family, the ability to hit a curveball, and a bartender’s ear. That middle one isn’t really relevant anymore, but the first and the last come in pretty handy. Writer’s block is something I’ve fought before, but rarely now. If I’m starving for something to write, I just stop what I’m doing and look around. Something or someone is bound to happen along.

Today that someone was katdish, who emailed me and said, “Hey, since you’re so lawesome and frigintastic, could you fill in on my blog occasionally so I can go live my life? Monkey sex pornographic cheese butler.”

Well, maybe she didn’t say that. I don’t remember.

But I do remember giving her an unqualified yes. Because katdish is pretty frigintastic herself.

Even more than that, though, was the fact that I saw this as more God Work. I want to write books, you see. And these days a publisher will pooh-pooh you away with a snorty guffaw if you don’t already have a pretty substantial audience. And since my own blog traffic is just a couple steps above sucktacular, I was looking for a way to attract more readers. To me, this was God saying Alrighty then, here you go. Don’t screw this one up.

The problem was that I had to sit down today and write something semi-coherent and quasi-brilliant. Which meant I didn’t have time to mess around with anyone. No talking, no visiting. I had more important things to take care of.

I had God Work to do.

So when the nice lady on the other side of campus began talking about what it was like cleaning out the closet of her recently deceased husband, I rushed through the conversation as politely as I could and said I’d pray for her.

And when one of the groundskeepers confessed that he was feeling terrible about a fight with his wife this morning over how much milk to put in his cereal, I said a quick it’ll-be-alright and left.

And when the phone rang and a friend began talking about his wife’s pregnancy, I said I’d call him back later.

Because I was busy.

Doing God Work.

Another quick glance at the clock. Four minutes and ten seconds to go.

My post is all typed up and ready to go. Mission accomplished. And it’s decent, if not good. I should feel great about getting all of that done. But I don’t. Not even a little.

Because I’ve just realized that I haven’t accomplished anything. Not the things that mattered, at least. Living a day isn’t simply a matter of crossing things off a To Do list. It’s more than that. I’ve bumbled my day by doing the thing I thought God wanted me to do rather than the things I knew He wanted me to do.

Those lofty ambitions we have, those dreams of things we believe will make us more suitable for God’s use than we are now, really don’t matter as much to Him as they do to us. Because while we’re busying ourselves by getting ready to do some good eventually, God’s tapping his foot because He knows we can do some good now. And it doesn’t have to be as moving as writing a bestseller or speaking to thousands. God’s more into little movements: bending an ear or lending a hand or lifting a burden.

That’s what He wanted me to do today. Pounding away on a keyboard wasn’t as important to Him as listening and helping and encouraging.

That’s God Work.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I have to say, I think reading my blog has richly enhanced Mr. Coffey’s vocabulary. So I just wanted to say, “You’re welcome.”