Tag Archives: Elephants

The Elephant theory of time management

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a problem with my memory…I’ve read all sorts of books, like the one by that guy…you know him, he does that show on tv… Anyway, nothing works. As Chief Homemaker in the household, I’m the one who should be in charge of birthday card sending, shopping, insurance renewal and all those trivial little details, but no matter how many calendars we have (and we have LOTS of calendars), no matter how many things that go “beep” I program, I forget.

The theory of memory runs that the more ludicrous an image is, the more memorable it is. Some people advise taking a list of numbers: 1,2,3,4,5 and so one, and assigning a rhyming word to each one. One is bun, two is shoe and so on. If you have a list of things to do that day, you can assign one to each number and not only remember all the things, but get them in order. So, you have to go to the dentist, then buy stamps, then feed the dog? First, visualise a dentist trapped inside a giant hot dog bun. Second, a shoe wrapped in a string of stamps and three, flinging dog food tins to your dog, high up in the branches of a tree (three is tree, you see?).
That’s all well and good, I think. I used dentist as an example for number one because that was the example in the book I read about that method in. Years ago. I can still remember that dentist goes with number one, but can’t remember to use the memory sequence in everyday life.

Here’s another method that works, and I know it works, because it’s how Mrs Dim is so damn efficient: Elephants. Every month consists, more or less, of four weeks. So, visualise a line of four elephants. Each elephant is a week of our month. In that first week you have to sign the kids up for skating and book a holiday in Mexico. On the third of the month you have to visit the dentist. Elephant number one is on ice skates and wearing a sombrero. One of his tusks is throbbing red, like in a cartoon, and has a big number three painted beside it. Can you see it? Skates, sombrero, toothache, three. All the cues you need for that week, how cool is that?
Well, it would be if you have good visualisation skills. Mrs Dim does. Her elephants troop obediently by, wearing ridiculous outfits, carrying placards, painted with dates and times. Sometimes as many as twelve elephants in a row.
I have badly trained elephants. I can’t manage more than four, and those four are shy. Shy to the point of refusing to get close enough to see them. And they don’t walk in a neat line. They try to hide behind each other. Have you ever tried to put a sombrero on an elephant who’s trying to run away and hide?

But what do elephants have to do with our Canadian Adventure? Well, I’ve had to bring my elephants out of mothballs. They’ve been lying on a beach somewhere back in my subconscious for far too long while I worked from home because I had so many reminder devices in front of me. Sitting at the computer all day means the Outlook calender is only a click away. But now the New Age of Work has begun, and all of a sudden I’m out of the house. I need to remember what’s coming up, what I’m supposed to be organising or going to. Here’s how it looks in terms of elephants:

Elephant number one is wearing a smart mortarboard (That’s a hat that teachers used to wear) because the Weasels are in school this week. He’s got work boots on his front feet, because I’m at work this week. He’s got Ice skates on his back feet because it’s the last week of Weasel Skating lessons.

Elephant number two is just wearing the mortarboard and the workboots. Easy week, work and school.

Elephant number three is exciting. He’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt, because it’s Spring Break for the Weasels, and I associate Spring Break with Hawaiian shirts. The shirt has an odd pattern for a Hawaiian shirt – there are nine Maple Leaves on it, because on the ninth of March we’ll have been in Canada for one year. Wow. He’s got work boots on, but instead of a mortarboard, he’s wearing a chef’s hat. The Elder Weasels are going on a cookery course. He’s got a nasty exterior head brace on his tusks because the Weasels will also be visiting the Orthodontist that week. (The cynical me wanted to have the elephant handing over wads of cash, but that could be ANYTHING…) Finally, he’s humming the song “YMCA” because that’s the entertainment for Tiniest Weasel that week – the YMCA childcare facility.

Elephant number four is wearing the mortarboard and workboots, looking at number three and counting his blessings.

Number five – yes, the first time in my life I’ve tried to keep five elephants in a row, and it’s tricky – is carrying a suitcase and wearing shades. He has a party hat on his head with the number nine on it, because Middle Weasel will turn nine while we’re on holiday.

They’re fairly non-specific elephants. I’m not trying to incorporate too many dates or any times. I want to get the poor pachyderms used to parading for me and wearing their silly outfits without embarrassment before I ask them to do anything harder. Memory is a muscle, it says in a  book by some bloke. Like any muscle, it needs exercise to become stronger. Believe me, keeping five elephants in line will have your memory muscles bulging in no time.

Buying the Canadian Dream

Sometimes, when you’re young, you do something that goes in a direction you’re not expecting. Like when you’re explaining how you’re going to ride this tray down the stairs, and you just put your foot on it, to show it slides and…WHOOOSH! You’re rocketing down the stairs, nearly balanced on one foot and suddenly very concerned about how you’re going to stop. That, in metaphorical terms, was this weekend.

It was always going to be busy. Tiniest Weasel was turning six, and we had a party planned. That was scheduled for Sunday, the day of her birthday (and, coincidentally, Valentine’s Day). Saturday was going to consist of light shopping, healthy walks and generally recovering from watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony the night before. So the first part of Saturday went well, with slow starts for everyone, phone calls made and Mrs Dim and Eldest Weasel hitting the shops before lunch. But then things started to slide a little, because we decided to visit a couple of houses. We’re in the market for a new house, after all, so when we saw these two properties were available for viewing, it made sense. Loading up the weasels and Moose, we zipped over to the first one, planning to catch the second one immediately after and then go for a walk on the Mountain. The first house was a bust, being too small and too expensive, although it was in a nice location. The second one was further away, but much more reasonably priced. It was old too, by Canadian standards, maybe as old as seventy years. The refurbishing had done a great job of the entrace floor and the upstairs, but the basement was still bveing worked on. That, and the odd visible sign that woodwork outside needed replacing, seemed to put off a lot of the viewers. I liked it, and Mrs Dim was looking thoughtful The layout inside is odd, but that’s the way the current owners did things, it doesn’t mean you have to keep it that way. So we talked it over as we drove on to the Mountain.

Releasing balloons on Burnaby mountain

Me, weasels and Moose releasing balloons. Mrs Dim is behind the camera

We were there to release a balloon for our friend Candy’s daughter Tali, a beautiful girl who had sadly died just a few days before. Candy and her friends were releasing their balloons in the UK on THEIR Saturday, and though we couldn’t be there, we wanted to take part in spirit. Middle Weasel also wanted to release a balloon for Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Luge Competitior who died on Friday. As we released the balloons, she said she hoped Tali would be happy in heaven and that Nodar could continue his career. Sometimes kids can give you some much-needed perspective on the important things in life, even when they’re tiny weasels the rest of the time.

When we got back we called our Realtor, Frank. We haven’t been a lot of use to him, setting such vague parameters for our ideal house that it was difficult for him to pin anything down. Now we had a solid prospect for him, he became a dynamo. Within minutes, we were agreeing to arrange a building survey for the following morning. I changed into my tux, because we were going out to a Murder Mystery Evening across the street, and Mrs Dim made phone calls. We arrived a bit late, and I had to make a few more calls during the evening (missing at least one vital clue. I accused Mrs Dim of the murder anyway. She seems the type. Trained killer, you know.) By the time we got back to our own house, we were on for a busy Sunday.

Tiny Weasel came with me in my car to collect a couple of friends on the way to the party, while Mrs Dim took the other weasels direct to the party location to install the cake and check the arrangements (because I made them, and could therefore have booked the wrong place, the wrong month or for eighty kids instead of eight. These are, so it seems, important details to get right.) Once I’d delivered my set of partygoers and made sure the other parents were happy to stay with Mrs Dim, I hopped back in the car and zipped over to the Prospective House (trying not to think of it as the New House yet…) to meet the Building Inspector and Frank. The news was pretty good, at least in the verbal report, with a lot of work that COULD be done, but nothing so pressing it would prevent anyone living in the place while they did the jobs. I brought Frank back to the Rental House and we met Mrs Dim and the Weasels, then talked House-y business for a while. First time I’ve made lunch for a Realtor… By the time Frank left, we’d decided to put an offer in on the house. We’d signed papers. Putting an offer in on a house we hadn’t even seen 36 hours before. Crazy? Not as crazy as the speed of real estate over here. Before the weasels were in their pyjamas we’d heard back from the owners. We were the only people making an offer. Did we want to change our offer at all? We did, and minutes later we had the verbal assurance that we had the house. In under forty eight hours we had gone from viewing to owning.

Now, don’t ask me about completion, title deeds, mortgage arrangements and so on. That’s all by-the-by. Important, oh yes, but by-the-by for now. We have a great house, a new hobby (fixing stuff, mending stuff, painting stuff…) and a packed schedule for at least the next three months. In the next post I’ll talk about the Elephants Theory of Time Management, but for now, I have to go, my head is spinning again.