Trial Balloon

Eve of Distraction

Posted at 1:03 PM on December 23, 2008 by Dale Connelly (33 Comments)

When things get busy, do you make lists?

A good list can help a person (like, say, a writer) be productive under pressure, keeping the focus on the things that need to be done, rather than a bunch of meaningless distractions.

Another nice thing about a list (as opposed to generating a big heavy block of text) is that a good list carries lots of information surrounded by white space, whereas a block of text requires appropriate grammar and other nuisances.

I'd like to be better with lists, but so far I haven't developed the discipline to:

A) Make the lists, and
B) Follow through to completion.
What I do instead is something like this:
A) Make the list.
B) Lose the list.
C) Spend the afternoon looking for the list.
D) Kill an hour reading the magazine I found during my search.
E) Re-create the list.
F) Dinnertime.
G) Talk about what it will take to do the things on the list.
H) Bedtime.
I) Wake up, look for list.

Today, Christmas Eve, my list is pretty simple.

A) Go to work. (Done!)
B) Get things ready for tomorrow.
C) Go home.
D) Clean stuff. Make it seem like we're always this tidy.
E) Greet Guests. Be sociable.
F) Help in the kitchen. Don't complain.
G) Dishes!
H) Attend candlelight service.
I) Stay Awake!
J) Don't let hot wax drip on fingers.
K) Last minute wrapping. Make it look like you care how it looks.

Actually that looks like a lot, doesn't it? I usually don't make it much past "D" on any list, but today I am ambitious and productive.

Today I've already made it to "E", which is this:

E) Finish Today's Blog.

Lists can make life simple! What's on YOUR list?

Comments (33)

A) Wake up to Radio Heartland (Everything else becomes easier).

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Posted by John | December 24, 2008 5:51 AM

The first on today’s list was to sleep in, but since a child has already needed a bath this morning and I know I won’t fall back asleep I will tackle what’s next, wrapping presents. I just have to remember where I hid them all.
As I made Swedish meatballs yesterday I thought with delight about tomorrow’s Dale Connelly Show. My happy musing was disturbed a little when my 5-year-old taste tester spat out a morsel because it had a green plant in it. An allusion to the parsley growing in our garden for the swallowtail butterflies last summer did nothing to change his mind. Before I could return to my reveries his older brother passed through the kitchen making the most interesting assortment of noises. “Jim Ed is the best actor, the best,” he declared, “ and if I don’t practice I won’t be the best.” I guess the radio show, old and new, is on all our minds here.
We’re always up for a new experiment, so yesterday we borrowed your idea Dale and made candle ice holders. Everyone was excited about the ice lanterns, except perhaps the meatballs who had to fight them for freezer space.
I look forward to hearing the radio guests on the 25th. I’ve had so much joy listening to the Dale Connelly Show in the mornings. Before the family awakes I tiptoe to the computer, put the headphones on, and if I miss the squeaky spots in the floorboards, snatch at least 5 minutes of serene listening before the earthquake of children begins. The cat is up at 5AM to remind me he’ll starve if I don’t jump out of bed to feed him. By 6AM he is ready for a snooze and jumps onto my lap. He prefers songs with a slow beat so my tapping foot doesn’t disturb his rest. I imagine this Thursday the cat and I won’t be the only ones to catch the start of the show, but I won’t begrudge the children my snippet of serenity. I know the program will enrich our family’s day. I will however have the volume turned up.

Posted by Karri in Maplewood | December 24, 2008 6:01 AM

Good morning fellow Heartland pals!

Posted by Sherrilee | December 24, 2008 6:20 AM

Morning everyone!

So my list...

a.) Get out of bed
b.) make Marjorie Johnson's Cream Wafers
c.) visit Grandma up at the nursing home
d.) last-minute groceries
e.) dinner, gifts, merry-making
f.) count blessings instead of sheep, fall asleep

You're right, Dale! It does sort of take the pressure off. A.) is proving to be the most daunting though, what with this guest bedroom being the approximate temperature of walk-in refrigerator on the Titanic. Thank god for my laptop!

Posted by Lora | December 24, 2008 6:31 AM

Thank you for the show, Dale. We just couldn't imagine morning without it, so it is with great relief and gratitude that we listen now to the new show. Love it, by the way. Also, very classy article you wrote for the Reader about Jim Ed. And yes, thanking you was on my list!

Posted by Michele | December 24, 2008 7:02 AM

My list is remarkably like yours, Dale, but we are also going to my sister's place in Savage tomorrow morning to be with my relatives and then back home in the evening to be here when my wife's relatives start arriving on Friday. YIKES!

One question: how do you manage to stay alert into the evening with your EARLY morning start? I'm a morning person too -- albeit not to your extreme -- and I always have to put NAP on my list or I'm wiped out by 9:00 PM or so. Do you sneak away for a nap or two during the day, or are you just young enough to go the distance without one . . . or is there some other trick (medications?) you use?

Posted by Don in Rochester | December 24, 2008 7:03 AM

Good morning!
I've tried "mental lists" but over the years this approach has become less and less successful! Now I make physical lists, mostly for shopping, trips, and entertaining (some of the latter items also strikingly similar to some of Dale's Christmas Eve list, especially the tidy-all-the-time part). Don't end up following them completely but at least I know what I didn't get done.

Thanks, Dale, for the great show.

Posted by Connie | December 24, 2008 7:06 AM

Don, the afternoon nap is a beautiful thing.
We should campaign for a North American Siesta.
Everyone would benefit, and it would make a lively night life so much more possible.

Thanks for the lists, everyone. There is some comfort in knowing that so many people are stressed to the max today! Keep 'em coming!

Posted by Dale Connelly | December 24, 2008 7:15 AM

I am an avid list maker, always have been. Here is a partial list of some of the lists I have made:
1. things to do today
2. plants to buy
3. plants to investigate and possibly buy someday
4. labors for Labor Day weekend
5. food to prepare for New Year's Eve party
6. cookies to bake
7. songs to add to my iPod
8. etc.

Today my list includes:
1. wake up even earlier than usual
2. dress in the dark and try not to wake up my hubby, who doesn't have to work today
3. drive quickly to work (made easier by surprising lack of traffic at 6am on Christmas Eve)
4. work all day (time off for making lists and commenting on Trial Balloon blog), hopefully leaving at least a little early
5. finish wrapping presents, realizing the I am probably not going to finish that last gift for my mom
6. figure out which presents go with us at which time and pack them accordingly
7. enjoy dinner, church and gifts with my in-laws this evening
8. sleep quick, get up, travel and repeat #7 my family

Sometimes, my lists stress me out...

Posted by Hallie | December 24, 2008 7:21 AM

I've thought for quite awhile now that lists are overrated. Many people only make them to feign productivity- like Lora. The thermostat is set at a mere 62 overnight. What a baby!
Your list, Dale, cracked me up! Ann Reed could write a great song with it.

Posted by Donna | December 24, 2008 8:06 AM

Yes to lists! -
Mine today is:
enjoying the morning show
making fruit soup
listening to audiobooks to distract my mind from . . .

Thanks again, Dale (and Mike) for your many gifts to us.

Posted by Claire Thoen | December 24, 2008 8:07 AM

I’m pausing in my apple pie making to send you a wish of cheer, Dale. A pang of sadness just went through the kitchen when you mentioned Jim Ed. My son said your voice sounded sad and I was thinking how hard it must be to not have a buddy beside you that did have for so long. So here’s wishing you happiness… (Oh my impossibly spelt name is pronounced with a long A and rhymes with berry).

Posted by Karri in Maplewood | December 24, 2008 8:16 AM

1) go out and buy shrimp for tonight's dinner of shrimp and cheese soup (a la Trim B's restaurant in Appleton WI)
2) Clean house
3) Keep daughters out of mom's way
4) Make limpa for my father-in-law

Thanks for the show and the music!


Posted by paul comeau | December 24, 2008 8:17 AM

today's list:
get up, milk goats, feed and water chickens and goats, bring in eggs, wash up, pasteurize milk, listen to RH (ALL DONE ALREADY!!)
then, on the more iffy side for today:
make cranberry relish, prep stuffing, and think about process for tomorrow and saturday's dinners.
tonight make biscuits and gravy for my 89 yr. old Mom and we'll take it to her (her request for dinner tonight) and spend some time talking about the Vikings (her fave). she can't travel anymore so we'll go to her in her room at the assisted living house nearby.
i like lists but i am an underachiever, so i am known to start the day with a light or even empty list and then add the things i do get done so that i can check them off. :-)

Posted by barb | December 24, 2008 8:19 AM

I'm not sure this list is comprehensive, but it's a start:

1) fill bird feeders
2) put out peanuts for squirrels
3) petsit for friends' cats
4) make raspberry jam
5) bake spritz
6) make candied walnuts
7) drop off gift certificate for hair stylist
8) water tree
9) wrap gifts
10) petsit again (one cat needs medication twice a day)
11) find the Christmas board game in the closet (at least I think it's in the closet)
12) check batteries in camera

Posted by Linda in St. Paul | December 24, 2008 8:19 AM

I too have lots of "to do" lists today but since I can only listen to Heartland Radio on the computer in the bedroom and much of my list involves activities in the other parts of my apartment I don't think I'll wipe out the list. Cooking in the bedroom just doesn't work very well.

Posted by Donna | December 24, 2008 8:27 AM

Dale - your list exercise may be helpful for me, as I can't seem to get motivated to get going. I'm a pastor, and this will be a busy day. But for now am enjoying your show and drinking coffee.
Here's my list:
1. get dressed
2. walk dogs
3. ponder memories of Christmas Eves past
4. finish preparation for Christmas Eve services
sublist: a.) practice story to tell at first service
b) write a prayer
c) say a prayer
d) ponder some more
e) finish writing meditation for second service
5. take a walk and remember the people and places that could use a dose of hope.
Perhaps you could play something funny. I am suddenly overwhelmed by my list and the weight of the season.

Posted by Mary | December 24, 2008 8:42 AM

Lists! I love lists. I have 3 lists going on the dining table right now: groceries from the co-op, what I need to do before Christmas, what I want to do over break... and then there's the long list of projects I just compiled at work as I cleaned my office... Lists keep me focused, productive, and happy as I cross things off (contributing to RH -- done!... writing the Christmas letter -- almost done... cleaning the house -- done! [except for the vacuuming which I probably will just not get around to...] The best thing of all is finding a year-old list and realizing you actually did get things done that you really wanted to do. I'm sure a social historian could get a wonderful glimpse of daily life from everyone's lists -- but the second best thing is crossing everything off and recycling the envelope on which you've been committing all your thoughts. Cheers everyone, and may your lists be completed.

Posted by Kris | December 24, 2008 8:49 AM

Merry Christmas to Dale and everyone out there in RH land! Dale, thanks so much for carrying the torch of this wonderful show - that's the best Christmas present ever!
My list today:
-get up, get coffee, get to work, boot up computer to RH, fill bird feeders at work -DONE!
-get some work done....we'll see about that one :-)
- go home early, wrap presents, fill bird feeders at home, play with dogs, make dinner, watch "It's a Wonderful Life", call faraway family members
- be grateful for so many things

Posted by Cathy | December 24, 2008 8:50 AM

Good Morning all! - The list that I keep is in my head, which usually works but what it can mean is that if I lose my list than I know I have lost my mind. Has happened on previous occasions - hope it will not happen today!

List: A. Turn on RH
B. Bake blonde brownies before rest of family wakes
C. Coffee
D. Listen to MPR classical side's broadcast from the UK.
E. Bake apricot tarts; bake prune tarts; do more baking
F. Bake some more.
H. Have fun with all the family that will be gathering here and staying overnight.
G. Attend Lessons and Carols at church.
H. EAT all the baked goods and other foods too.
I. Share our Christmas Eve dinner, sing, read from Luke Chapter Two. Be happy and thankful


Posted by Teri in Zimmerman | December 24, 2008 8:57 AM

Hi Dale!
This is Lisa, the recipient of the HD car radio that was thoroughly researched by Gary the Tech. I was pleasantly surprised by the gift and the method of delivery and very thankful to be able to continue listening to The Morning Show/Radio Heartland in the morning on my way to work. It just gets my day off to a good start.
You were wondering what the significance of the song Near the Cheese is for Gary and I. We are cheese-lovers (and Cheeseheads! Both originally from WI) and the song boasts cheesy puns of which we are fond. :-) Plus we are friends of Scott Yoho from The Autobody Experience. We enjoy all of their songs.
I've been streaming RH at work. I love being able to listen all day! Thank you!

Posted by Lisa | December 24, 2008 8:58 AM

Well, here's my list in progress:
let the dog out, feed the dog, let her out again
do laundry
have breakfast
watch dog drool on my knee
do more laundry
make buche de noel
wake son up
have son help clean after he eats
prep dinner
listen to son say he NEEDS to play wii. REALLY.
listen to son drum
make dinner
open presents
go to candlelight service, relax & enjoy the glorious music
give thanks for my family and friends!
Happy Holidays to our RH friends and especially to Dale and Mike who keep us going!

Posted by Amy in St Paul | December 24, 2008 8:58 AM

Here's my list:
1. Finish the book I was reading,"Alex and Me"...done
2. Take Daisy dog outside and play fetch...done..feed dog
3. Mail two already late packages, one to NYC, one to Oregon
4. buy coffee beans to include in above packages
4.Buy birdseed for the cardinal who arrived at dawn to find an empty feeder
6.Get wool socks for our California children who requested them!
7.Take the dog outside again. Try to get to dog park.
8. Tidy things around the house. Resist reading today's and yesterday's NY Times while doing this.
9. Go to Vespers at 4pm. Ask my husband to dress up a little even though it's his day off.
10. Take Daisy dog out. Feed dog.
11. Have dinner with gracious friends who are cooking delicious meal as I write this.
12. Approach the Christmas with gratitude

Posted by Kathie Krieger Cerra | December 24, 2008 9:31 AM

1. Get up and turn on RH. (Done)
2. Feed cats. (Done)
3. Feed Lee. (Done)
4. Brush cats. (Done)
5. Clean cat plates and Lee's plate. (Done)
6. Brush cats. (Done but never finished)
7. Get laundry out of dryer, placed there in between 3 and 4.
8. Iron clothes for today's trip.
9. Shower and clean up.
10. Get dressed.
11. Explain to cats they have to behave while I'm gone.
11a. Have them sign truce agreement.
11b. Empty cat pans before departure.
12. Catch bus to pick up pies.
13. Catch bus after pie pick up to go to friend's house so they can drive to the festivities.
14. Have great day.
14a. Tell everyone about RH.
15. Catch bus back home.
16. Arrive home and clean up loose fur after truce agreement was broken during the day.
17. Feed cats again.
18, 19, 20... Clean plates, cat pans, blah, blah, blah...
21. Hit the sack to get ready for another round tomorrow!

Posted by Lee in Los Angeles | December 24, 2008 9:33 AM

Speaking of traveling for the holidays, one of the gifts that went on the gift list after December 11 was an HD radio for the car. I am still working on that, but the more I listen to Radio Heartland, the more I am convinced it would be a good investment.

The morning back in October I heard that the Morning Show was going off of the air, I was so stunned I nearly had to pull over and give myself a chance to recover. I still miss Jim Ed, and of course, our morning commute has been missing somethig over the past two weeks. I hope for a partial remedy for that soon. Thanks Dale. And thanks for your leadership and commitment to this project. Happy Holidays to all.

Posted by Mark | December 24, 2008 10:27 AM

I looked up the article another listener referred to earlier. Dale wrote a short piece on Jim Ed at the city pages.

Very nice! What a wonderful career made out of a natural talent!

Posted by DanT | December 24, 2008 10:50 AM

My list goes like this:

* Rise (HD Clock radio wakes us to Dale's dulcet tones sharply at six)
* Shower/shave/eat
* Go to work
* Come home at noon
* Lunch
* Fuzzy here, could included napping
* Dress for church
* Church
* Traditional X-mas Eve dinner: everyone selects their current favorite food, salad to round it out
* Gotta put the yule log in the fire!
* Tuck the teenagers smugly in their beds
* Complete final gift wrapping and placement
* Enjoy a glass of port and some chocolate with my wife Julie, talking about the year that was and the year to come
* Sleeeeeeppp....

Looking forward to the guests, and the old holiday favorites and surprises on the DCS tomorrow. Happy Your Holiday Here!

Posted by Bill | December 24, 2008 11:30 AM

Hey Dale-
I missed it the first time around this morning, so muito obrigada for the Gal Costa Festa do Interior song! My heart is in Brasil with family and friends, but my body is glad to be missing the summer temps there. Feliz Natal!
Amy in St Paul

Posted by Amy in St Paul | December 24, 2008 11:42 AM

RH is keeping me going this week. The lists have gotten too long to manage so I ripped them up and recyled! Do I really need a skirt under the tree?

For some unknown reason given my schedule I decided to handmake cards this year. I can only do 10 or so a night so the dining room table hasn't been seen since the beginning of December. And I've had to be sure to put certain items away so the cats don't abscond with them. But it has actually been an artistic outlet, so that has been a plus.

HD radio is going on the wish list. I had been an avid Morning show listener but for some reason when you went to the Current I'd lose you somewhere between Prescott and Hastings on my morning commute. I was very happy to find the great mix of music continuing on RH in the office.


-work all day
-quick stop the drug store
-dinner with Mom at assisted living
-make appetizers for tomorrow's visits
-ok, maybe dig out the tree skirt

Merry Christmas everyone!

Posted by Doreen | December 24, 2008 11:53 AM

Apparently HAL is anxious for Christmas. He's about 4 minutes ahead of schedule. Must have gotten through his list very quickly this morning.

Posted by Fred in Alexandria | December 24, 2008 12:00 PM

Hey Dale,

My lists normally have numerous things that were unfinished from the day before so they span over long periods of time. Here's what my Christmas List looks like:

1) Find and purchase presents. (done)
2) Wrap presents. (done)
3) Crease the corners and add bows, I'm a perfectionist. (done)
4) Help mom make four batches of wreath cookies. (done)
5) Help mom make four batches of creme brulee. (done)
6) Watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" the animated version. (done)
7) Thank Dale for playing Death Cab for Cutie on last Friday's show. (finally done)
8) Request songs for The Dale Connelly Show: Anything off Sufjan Stevens Christmas album - especially "O Come O Come Emmanuel" or "Once In Royal David's City", also Josh Groban "O Holy Night." (done)
9) Wish everyone a Merry Christmas. (work in progress)
10) Get off the internet and get ready for church.

Posted by Hannah Trumm | December 24, 2008 1:05 PM

been listening since i got home from work around 6 pm tonight
wonderful playlist Dale! first time i've heard Rawhide on xmas eve
thank you , and Hal
oh, and since i don't do xmas, i have no lists, and it's great

Posted by shelley | December 24, 2008 7:51 PM

1. Make list

2. Revised list

3. Turn on computer, create spreadsheet of list, print out.

1a. Think of item that goes between 1 and 2, handwrite it on list.

4. Get tired, watch TV.

5. Now that you're behind on to-do list, decide what you can do today and put the rest on list for tomorrow.

6. Realize that you forgot to list mealtimes, so now you're hungry AND behind on your list.

7. Put more things on list for tomorrow.

Posted by Tim Goetsch | December 25, 2008 8:26 AM

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