In accepting The George Burns award for surprising achievement in not dying, I recognize it is a trifle premature. The year is not yet over, but I thank you all for your optimistic projections of a future in which I hope to be a living participant.

Thank you George Burns, for leading the parade to Longevity. Betty White may yet show you up! I think there’s a chance she will live forever. But then, I thought you’d never die either.

Thank you, thank you. Thank you all. No flowers, please, cash only.

George Burns Award

The five-minute project that ate Chicago

“Wait a moment,” says I, twiddling with something on the computer. “This will just take a minute.”

My husband’s eyebrow rises. The right eyebrow. The eyebrow I fear. That eyebrow says “A minute? Really?”

I look up, peer at the eyebrow. “Okay, five minutes. Tops, half an hour.”

“Uh huh,” he says. Cynicism drips from his tone. He racks up The Magnificent Seven and settles down for a good two hours of favorite movie viewing. Just in case, he has Tombstone set to go as the second feature.

“It will just take a few moments,” I declare, stubbornly. “I’m nearly done.”

The hands of the clock have crept around past midnight, then one, two and are heading to three. I’m not quite done. Yet.

Why does this keep happening? It looks so simple. All I had to do was set up the background.


Pick a photo to use for the background. Enlarge it to the size it needs to be and sometimes, it doesn’t even need to be enlarged. If necessary, expand the canvas. Do some creative filtering to soften and lighten it to superimpose the text and have the text be legible.

Type out the text in a separate document. Cut and paste the text into the text box. Format the text. Mess around with it to make it do whatever I planned — wave, like a flag? flow like a river? fade into infinity? Whatever. Save it.

Check to make sure it’s readable, not too pixellated. Make sure I copied all the text and didn’t leave something behind. Save often. Save, save, save because if you make a mistake, Marilyn, you do NOT want to go back and start from scratch.


The text doesn’t fit. The font doesn’t display properly. The background is too busy, too dark, too … too. It’s much too grainy. It’s not grainy enough. Needs more fog. Needs less fog because I can’t even tell what the picture is anymore. I don’t like it. Why am I bothering? My husband is turning off the television and going to bed without me. But I can’t quit now!. I am so close!

It reminds me of art projects in college … there you are. Twenty-seven cups of coffee to the wind. The sun is rising and the glue won’t dry.

Now, we don’t use glue, but it’s three in the morning. My five-minute project ate not only Chicago, but the better part of an entire day. Since it isn’t finished and I’m so stubborn I simply will not let it go, it’s going to eat a big chunk of tomorrow, too.

96-Sunrise and Sunset-EmilyDickenson

Doomed. By my pickiness, unwillingness to compromise. Refusal to throw in the towel.

Do your projects eat your days? Consume your weekends? Is there some kind of cosmic law that says all projects which look simple on the face of it have a lurking monster with tentacles just beneath? They will reach out and drag you under … and it will just take another five minutes!