Note to readers: If you're not my mom, you probably want to skip this post entirely... it's long and photoless. There may be a few more like this one up my sleeve this week. Bear with me.
Whoot, whoot. That's the sound of me tooting my own horn. I'll admit it, I have been pretty proud about getting my handmade Christmas presents done and out the door early this year (United States Post Office, don't fail me now), but I also must admit that being prepared has not always been my strong suit.
For my most of my school experience - elementary through grad school - I found it impossible to start an assignment until the last possible moment. In high school, I often implemented a method passed on to me by my brother, whom one could call the king of procrastination (am I right, Peter?). He taught me a trick that allowed me to wait until the last minute - three or four o'clock in the morning on the day a paper was due - to write, edit, type, and print out school assignments at home. My Smith Corona word processor (remember those days before we had computers at home?) made quite a racket when it printed, and it took for-freaking-ever to print a single page, let alone a ten or twenty page paper. The sound of all that printing in the middle of the night would certainly have woken up my mother who would have been furious to know that I'd waited until the night before a paper was due to start it. But Peter showed me that if I threw a blanket over the word processor, taking care to provide just enough of a drape as to let the paper exit the machine smoothly, it would muffle the clacking sound to a degree that my parents would sleep soundly through it. I could wait until my parents were in bed to start working on an assignment, and if I worked through the wee hours of the morning, I could finish printing it before my parents woke. I must have been turning in really quality papers...
In college I was worse. With distractions galore (note to parents: think twice before letting your kids attend school in New York City), I not only waited until the last minute to work on assignments, I often had to come up with creative excuses to get deadline extensions. My favorite was a complicated story that I told my art history professor about how getting egged on Halloween made me unable to complete an assignment. I'm a bit ashamed of the lie - I got through a dozen Halloweens in the Bronx unegged, knock on wood - but really, the story was a work of art itself. Almost anything that allowed me to put off my inevitable work was fair game.
Once I became a teacher, it took me a solid three years to learn to plan my lessons a week in advance so as not to experience Black Sunday. You know, Black Sunday - when I'd sit on the living room floor, surrounded by teachers' guides and story books, plotting out exciting and stimulating activities while the rest of the city was at brunch, enjoying museums, and generally doing anything but work. I finally figured out that a little preparation every day during the week made for much happier weekends. Who knew?
The older I get, the more I realize that being prepared really has its benefits. I'm too tired to pull all-nighters, and too mature, I hope, to make up pathetic excuses for not coming through with things on time. This year, I started my handmade Christmas presents in earnest back in November, so this has been a pretty stress-free December for me. After last year's handmade holiday issues, that's saying a lot. Why did it take me three decades to figure this out?
All that being said, our Christmas cards still aren't in the mail.