Chapter 9: I'm Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My "To Do" List

When Red's "crisis" began she went from her perfect world to one filled with chaos, and didn't know where to start. At the time, Black explained she needed to focus on only the most important things so Red's "pretty lists" had been ignored. As was most of the paper that had managed to pile up on her desk (and soon overflowed into piles on the floor).

P.S. – Red once thought that after she had "mastered" how to organize her paper it would mean the end of her paper mountains. But that was wishful thinking. Even years later, there are times when her paper seems to quickly grow from a manageable stack to overwhelming her desk, and sometimes even the floor. And if she mentions it to Black, usually receives a sarcastic comment suggesting she re-read the excerpt below.


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If one big list isn't the answer, what is? And where do I start? And what about everything that's lost somewhere in these mountains of paper? There's no way I can go through all these piles and organize everything into lists. It would take forever!


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Chill! Those mountains are causing you stress due to their mere presence. Those piles of paper represent unmade decisions and incomplete tasks. And as they grow, so does your stress level.


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No kidding!


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And if you let them keep growing, you will get to a point where you will have ignored everything for so long that trying to figure out what you really need to do will be such a major project that you will feel totally overwhelmed.


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Too late, I'm already there. Any chance I can wave a magic wand and make it all disappear? And start from a clean slate? And a clean desk? And clean floors?


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You and your magic wands! You have been watching too much Disney. If you want to start clean — throw everything away and start over.


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That's not an option! I know some things in these piles can continue to be ignored, but I also know there are things hiding in there that are important.


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If you can not throw the piles away you have no other option than to go through them. The good news is it is more important to know what you are ignoring than it is to actually deal with everything in the piles. Make it a two-prong attack.


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You have not seen these piles. Two-prong? Try twelve-prong.


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That is one of the things I hate about IM. You can keep interrupting me.

Remember when we were doing your expenses and you sorted things into "required" vs. "discretionary?" Well, you are going to do something very similar with these piles. Take a handful off the top and start sorting it into piles based on priority — immediate, this week, next week, next month, next lifetime. If your piles are similar to mine, there will be plenty of non-essential things, such as filing, reading (miscellaneous magazine or newspaper articles) and general correspondence (things with no deadlines). I would start separate piles for those.

Once you get that done, keep only the most important piles on your desk. Move everything else to the floor. Then you can focus on what is on your desk and start to put together your "To Do" list based on the priority of these papers. Obviously, if you have items that need to be done immediately, you may have to stop your sorting and handle them, but otherwise keep working.

If it makes you feel any better, I bet most of your piles will end up being things you can continue to ignore, or at least that are not important enough to earn a place on one of your beloved lists. In fact, I am sure that most of it will not even make it to your desk! Getting started is the hardest part, but it is something you can easily work on in 15-or 30-minute increments and make slow, but steady, progress. So get off IM and start.


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Are you done? Can I say something?


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Yes.


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Bye.

Chapter 18: Whine Or Lemonade? Your Choice

In the midst of Red’s financial crisis, when her focus seemed to be on every little penny, Black helped her look at money realistically and honestly (it only took Red 40+ years to do that). Black also made her see the need to be honest with yourself about what truly makes you happy. But the last thing Red ever expected was to learn that Black had paid for half a Ferrari engine without telling her (millionaire!) husband. Although she didn’t want to think about how much it cost, Red couldn’t help but wonder how important it must’ve been to her sister if she secretly paid for it herself. Especially given how “public” she was about her extensive (and expensive) handbag and shoe collections.

P.S. – Years later, Red still rolls her eyes when she thinks about the conversation. And even though she’s gotten over the shock, she still finds it sad that Black couldn’t talk about money with her husband. Especially because Black was the one that helped Red realize that whether you’re worth millions or living paycheck to paycheck, being able to have open, honest conversations about money is critical if you want a successful and happy partnership.



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What are you doing online?


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Checking e-mails before dinner. And you?


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Same same.


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Can I ask you a question?


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Chapter 15: I Need A Warning System

Typically, when Red asked Black questions, she received questions in return. Or flippant comments. When Red asked her about charity, and specifically Make-A-Wish, she got straight answers, and that alone got Red’s attention. Before this conversation, Red thought her sister’s involvement with Make-A-Wish was very generous, both of her time and her money, but attributed much of it to the fact she had surpluses of both in her life. But once Black made her realize that her involvement went back to her corporate life, years when she might have had spare money but was working ridiculous hours, Red gained a new respect for Black’s commitment. But when Black said how it had become her “reality check” on life, Red began to understand that we all need something to help us remember what’s genuinely important.

P.S. – Charity and helping others remain an important part of our lives (and, much to the chagrin of our accountants and attorneys, drive much of our work in the education and criminal justice worlds). Black’s long-time commitment to Make-A-Wish set an example for Red’s daughters when they were growing up, and made them aware of how important it is to not only appreciate what you have but to think of others. And whether it’s an ongoing commitment to a single organization, helping various charities throughout the year, celebrating targeted donation days (such as #GivingTuesday or World Wish Day), or when specific natural disasters or humanitarian needs require immediate aid, charitable giving (whether money or time) – can make all the difference. Not only to the recipient, but as Black pointed out to Red all those years ago, for yourself.



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I’m curious about something, though. As children, we were never exposed to charity, so what got you involved with Make-A-Wish? Even Natasha has asked me about Make-A-Wish, because she has seen the kids’ artwork at your house and recognizes the logo from seeing it on your race car.
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Chapter 10: So You Think Staying At Home Isn’t A Full-Time Job?

Even before Red’s husband was fired, she had a lot on her plate. But, in reality, probably no more than any other mom, daughter, and wife, who are often (or should that be “usually”) at the center of everything, with their lives being a combination of chauffeur, referee, nurse, cook, friend, and an assortment of other “hats”. And while it can be very rewarding and gratifying knowing that so many people count on you, it can also be overwhelming, not to mention just plain stressful.

P.S. – Even today, Black’s perspective on being a full-time mom (as a stepmom, she considered herself a part-time mom, although she knew that was an important role) still makes Red smile. And while years ago she might have wished she was just a little less needed, now that her girls are older, it makes her a little sad and very nostalgic.



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Another early morning?


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Yes! Now that I did the Sunday night review, I can see how you wake up on Monday mornings ready to tackle the week. Except today is Presidents’ Day and so Natasha’s home from school.


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Anything special planned?


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Why do I have to have something special planned? In fact, why do I have to be the one who does all the planning?


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Sorry I asked …
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