Figuring out how to do it all…

Hello friends and fellow bloggers, especially those from the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by Thank you to all who made such kind and encouraging comments on last week’s blog, “Goodnight Stress.” I am happy to report that this week has been much better, but it has been busy. Busy, busy, busy. That’s why I thought this week I would use the short story “Upstairs and Downstairs” from Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel. I think the introductory passage of the story best sums up what I would like to talk about today:

“Owl’s house had an upstairs and a downstairs. There were twenty steps on the stairway. Some of the time Owl was upstairs in his bedroom. At other times Owl was downstairs in his living room. When Owl was downstairs, he said, ‘I wonder how my upstairs is?’ When Owl was upstairs, he said, ‘I wonder how my downstairs is getting along? I am always missing one place or the other. There must be a way,’ said Owl, ‘to be upstairs and to be downstairs at the same time.’ ‘Perhaps if I run very, very fast, I can be in both places at once.’”

From there, the story gets more hilarious as Owl attempts to race faster and faster up and down the stairs in his attempt to be in both places. He eventually exhausts himself and ends up sitting on the middle step in the stairs because “it was a place right in the middle.”


Reflections: In this story, Arnold Lobel beautifully captures the childlike desire of wanting everything at once. Of course, young children are usually caught between positives: “I want to do this and this!” Or as Owl put it, “I am always missing one place or the other.”

As adults, I think we tend to feel caught between negatives, “I have to clean the house, I have to meet a client, I have to write a brief…how am I going to get it all done!?” Or, a little more positively, we feel caught between a negative and a positive: “I really should be preparing for my hearing this afternoon, but it’s so much more fun to write my blog….” 

If you have not figured it out yet from my talk of clients and briefs, in addition to launching my writing career this past summer, I decided to start my own law practice. In many ways, this career move has been fun and exciting. I get to make my own schedule, I don’t have a boss, I have time to take my dog on long hikes and write, and I get to choose what area of law I work in. There are of course risks as well; first and foremost is I need to make enough money to pay off my student loans.

Like Owl, I’ve had moments recently when I feel like I’m running at high speeds between obligations but never quite achieving success in any of them. I realize now that when I decided to open up my own practice, I also decided to become a secretary and an accountant (both of which are much harder than being a lawyer). Likewise, I now know that when I decided to write a book, I also decided to become a blogger, a tweeter, a marketer, an editor, and a researcher.

I have not figured out the secret to successfully balancing my many obligations, but I do know I need to remember that, like Owl, I am caught between two positives: I love writing, and I love being a lawyer. I don’t particularly like figuring out all my billing or trying to make sense of the children’s book market. But, I think the key to my middle-step solution is realizing that big, happy things often have little, negative things that come along with them. As long as I learn to avoid Owl’s mistake of needlessly running around like crazy, I should be fine.

That’s all for this week. I leave you with a bit of advice that I’m going to follow as soon as I post this because I really do need to prepare for that hearing: take a deeeeeeeep breath everyone and use the big, happy things to motivate you to take care of those nagging, little things. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog today. Feel free to share some of your Owl-like tendencies: what are the things in your life that make you wish you could be in ten places at once? 

16 thoughts on “Figuring out how to do it all…

    • Glad you enjoyed, Robin, and thanks for commenting! I’m finding using children’s books as inspiration for my blog to be a great way remind myself of things I already know but often forget 🙂

  1. There is always something pushing or pulling you, so it is good to have a plan when the tugging seems to pull you apart. It is a rare day when there is nothing you “should” be doing.

  2. I love the story, Owl at Home, and your terrific connection to it-seems like a good writing lesson with mentor text for students who feel too busy, too. I tend to do the things I love, and sneak in the little bits I don’t. You haven’t read all my posts this past year, but I moved last fall, had an estate sale, got my old house of 34 years ready & sold it. Including that previous time, and since, I’ve dealt with many, many people to repair some things in my new place and with my husband’s medical things, then business stuff. I actually love people, but am very tired of “directing” them and making what seem like important decisions. I’m ready to make little ones, like should I put the trash out tonight or in the am (te he). Sigh, maybe someday. If you can find one, it sounds like you need an all-purpose assistant to “do” some of those things you don’t want to do, then you can concentrate on the favorite things, those “raindrops on roses”!

    • Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment, Linda. I too believe there is an enormous amount of comfort in only having little decisions to make, and it sounds like you deserve a little decision vacation after the year you’ve had! And yes to the assistant- it’s my #1 business goal….well, maybe #2 after paying student loans 🙂

  3. Lots of good luck on the challenges you are taking on. I do feel that have lots of choices to make. I’m not racing like I used to but multi-tasking comes with the territory.

    • Multi-tasking is the key to everything! I’ve never appreciated my mother’s superhuman ability to multi-task until I tried starting my own business. I think of her all the time while I’m trying to get organized- she was a stay-at-home mom who ran her own technical writing business out of the home. Amazing!

  4. I have read this story many times to eager little listeners. I enjoyed reading how you used it as a springboard for some reflective thought. It made me think of this familiar story in a new way.

    • Thanks for the comment and kind words, Kim! My blog has been an excuse to go back and re-read childhood favorites. I had forgotten how much I loved Owl at Home as a child and am enjoying discovering new reasons to love the stories as an adult. Every one has a message that adults can appreciate- I just need to resist the temptation to use Arnold Lobel stories for my blog every week! 🙂

  5. Busy and in between choices (both pleasure and duty) you have still remembered the importance of breathing and keeping the happy things in front. I hope that you will use more Arnold Lobel in your posts.

    • Thanks for the kind comment! I can almost guarantee I will use Arnold Lobel again. I’ve already used him twice, so I’m trying to space them out a little. It’s hard though. Every one of his stories has such a wonderful lesson for adults as well- can’t get enough of them!

  6. I’ve never read any Arnold Lobel – which I’m now going to remedy. Thank you for the reminder not to get bogged down in all the little negatives…sometimes it is so difficult to see the forest for the trees… great blog post Kate/Jane!

    • Alli, I’m so excited for you to read Arnold Lobel!! Wow, the holidays can’t come close enough, so we can talk about them. You are going to love them. They are so genius. It’s so hard to not use one of his stories every week.

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