Under pressure

Jan 28

I have always been good  on the fly.  Or at the very least I had this skill well-honed by the time I was in junior high and high school because I did all of my summer reading assignments in between my birthday (August 15) and the first day of school. Productivity increases for me as the deadline approaches. In college, almost all of my papers were written in the last four hours they were due (even if they were due at eight in the morning.) I studied on the way to class.

My college roommates will tell you that this is not a good strategy for most people, and I agree.

The trend continued as I became an adult.  I clean like a banshee before people come over. As a history teacher, I wrote lesson plans days or weeks in advance and planned my units.  Inevitably, three or four days in I would begin re-writing my plans to follow the interests of my students and would end up finalizing my plan as the students walked in the door, rendering my work done in the weeks ahead moot. I have a love/hate relationship with my snooze button. Either I work well under pressure or I’m a procrastinator.

One of my college roommates’ favorite memories of me in college is from my sophomore year; I was enrolled in COM135, which was basically a class designed to teach public speaking skills.  My class met every Tuesday from 4:00pm-6:40pm.  On “speech days”, when we were delivering speeches, the teacher would write the numbers one through twenty-six on the chalkboard (there were twenty-six students in the class.) As we came in the door, each student would write his/her name on the board next to one of the numbers and that would be the order in which we delivered our prepared speeches.

The week after spring break, I strolled in to class thinking that there had been no homework.  I had a backpack that contained a spiral notebook, some grains of sand leftover from spring break, and not much else.  I sat down at a desk, looked up, and saw that the entire chalkboard was filled with names and numbers.  The only empty slots were 1., 2., and 3.  Panicky, I jumped up and wrote my name next to number three.  I went back to my seat, turned to the girl behind me, noticed she had a poster rolled up under her desk and said, “What’s your poster for?” with an air of fake nonchalance.

She answered, “Oh, it’s my visual aide for the speech today.”

“Crap,” I said with a grimace, “I had no idea there was a speech.  What are the parameters?”

“It’s a sales speech.  You have to sell something, it has to be exactly ninety to one-hundred twenty seconds or you automatically fail, and you have to have a visual aide,” she replied while giving me a wide eyed look of sympathy and solidarity.

Crap, I thought. “Right,” I said and turned around.  Okay, I said to myself, I’d better start with the visual aide.  I picked up my near-empty backpack and rifled through it as our teacher started class.  It was uncharacteristically empty since it had been my beach bag the week before.  I looked down at what I was wearing, and landed on my shoes.  I was wearing the classic black shoes of 1999: they were clogs with a giant sole that was two to three inches thick; I think the brand was Steve Madden. As the unlucky students who came in last and signed up next to numbers one and two delivered their speeches, I frantically planned my speech in my head.  There was no time to make notes.  As I slid out of my seat to begin my speech, I asked the girl behind me: “Will you give me a wink-nod signal when I get to ninety seconds, please?”

She nodded and whispered, “Good luck.”

I walked up to the front, took a deep breath, nodded to the teacher to start the time, took off my shoes, put one on the table in front of me and held the other one, and began to sell my shoe while standing there in my socks.  I pointed out the low price point, and how black matches everything. I spoke for a while about how the awkwardly large sole was perfect for trekking across Cook Field in the spring: I could sink two inches into the grass and mud and my socks would not get wet. I kept going on the merits and value of this darn shoe until the girl behind me winked, and I ended by saying every girl at Miami should have these shoes to complete their Miami experience.  Afterwards, I sunk to my seat in relief that it was over.  I hoped I didn’t tank my grade in the class. I got home after class and told my roommates; they laughed at me.

The following week we got our grades for our sales speeches, and I opened the critique from my instructor with trepidation.  I can still paraphrase the teacher’s comments because I was so surprised: Jennifer, you were so relaxed, calm and funny during this speech. It was a marked improvement on your stage presence and connection to the audience. It was great that you didn’t use notes any notes.  The simplicity of your shoe as the visual aide was an excellent choice.

And so my life choices are confirmed: I work best under pressure.  I came home after class and told my roommates, and they laughed at me (again.)

What’s with all this talk of procrastination, you say?  Here’s the connection: at the beginning of January Brad and I sat down for one of our semi-regular “state of the family” conversations.  In talking things over, we decided to take our sweet neighbor’s offer for Greta to join her Girl Scout troop.  They do lots of field trips, activities and service.  It’s good for her to expand her social circle and for her to have a series of opportunities to work hard to learn new things. (Please don’t bring up the politics of Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts; I’m aware of the arguments for and against and we’ve made the decision for now.) So, Greta is a Girl Scout; her first meeting was in early January. So far she loves it.

Has anyone guessed where this is going?  Greta joined at start of cookie season. The sales from cookies will allow her troop to have a bunch of adventures together in the coming months: gymnastics, ice cream shop, volunteering, art museum, and an overnight at the aquarium.  Too fun, right?

We are woefully short of our cookie goal to do our share of sponsoring these events, so we are operating on the fly at the eleventh hour.

In a perfect world, Greta would go door-to-door and market the cookies herself.  We would hit you up personally. She actually does have a sales personality, I think, so this is a missed opportunity.  I know this because Greta regularly talks this mama in circles and sells me on her ideas.  Since we (mostly Brad and I — she’s too young to own this process) procrastinated, we don’t have the capacity to personalize her sales.  What we can do, however, is promise to either hand deliver your cookies with a smile, or send you a thank you note in the mail if we can’t get to you. This is the best we can do in our season right now, and the cool thing is this: if we have to choose between personalized sales or personalized gratitude, its more authentic to our family values to emphasize the gratitude.  So that’s our plan.

If you want to support Greta in this endeavor, you can do this in two ways:

  • Send me an email (andersonfamilyzoo AT gmail DOT com) with your order and send me money via check or PayPal.
  • Go to Greta’s Digital Cookie website here, and place your order online (there are options for free local delivery or shipping.)

There are eight types of cookies; pictures and descriptions are here (link).

  • Savannah Smiles $4 (crisp, zesty, lemon cookies)
  • Trefoils $4 (traditional shortbread cookies)
  • Do-Si-Dos $4 (peanut butter sandwich cookies)
  • Samoas $4 (chewy caramel and chocolate)
  • Tagalongs $4 (chocolate covered peanut butter and cookie)
  • Thin Mints $4 (crisp wafer covered in chocolate)
  • Girl Scout S’mores $5 (chocolate, marshmallow, graham cookie)
  • Toffee-tastic $5 (gluten free cookie with chunks of toffee)

Greta is offering two ways to donate cookies if you don’t want to eat them yourself or gift them to your community. You can donate via the website to the Girl Scout large scale effort, or you can put a note with your order asking us to personally donate your cookies. As a family, we will be purchasing boxes of Girl Scout Cookies to give away to my friends (and stranger-friends) in my chemo room.  Greta and I would love to give lots of oncology patients free cookies!  I plan on taking her with me for this and hope it will be a memorable act of kindness us to share.  We are grateful for your purchase and/or your donation if you would like to contribute to this effort!

Thanks so much for reading through to the end of this lengthy entry.  I hope to write an update about our life soon.  I am typing from the chemo chair today: three weeks go by fast!  I caught some kind of a cold or sickness last week, so I lost most of my good days again — bummer.  I continue to feel loved and challenged by the grace and kindness that is extended to us.

Here’s to life under pressure and making the most of every day!


  1. Jane Powell /

    ???cookie ???season ??? Only in America! Good luck with the fun (d) raising, Greta.
    I was a girl guide and I loved it. I’m sure Greta will too.
    Jane x

  2. I would love to order a few boxes for you to share at Oncology, but I live out of town
    When you get my order will you just know to keep them for that use
    In order to make the order my credit card has to have my home address, which is not close to you !

    • Jen Anderson /

      Hi Sharon, I’ll send you an email in the next 24-48 hours with some clear step-by-step directions. Thank you so much!

  3. Cindy Mitchell /

    Glad to see you typing and not dosing off due to the Benedryl. I would be sleeping..Greta is going to love being in Girl Scout.. I was one in my younger days. About 55 years ago.. lol . Time flies when we are having fun.. My husband gets cookies from guys at work.. When our grand daughters were in Girl Scouts, we both would order cookies and the following year when it was time to get order again. We would have about 10 boxes left in the freezer.. Greta will do awesome.. Have fun and enjoy all those cookies.. Prayers that all is going well with you.. Take care Jen.. Sending hugs…

    • Jen Anderson /

      Cindy, I powered through the Benadryl zonk today because I had to get stuff done before I “go under”! It was hard but I persevered. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  4. Conni Carlson /

    Jen, We will order Samoa’s, Tag-alongside and thin mints. Didn’t see Greta’s website? Let me know where to send the check.
    Email is Conni-carlson3@cinci.rr.com

    • Jen Anderson /

      Hi Connie — Thank you so much! I will send you an email and/or link in the next 24-48 hours.

  5. Jennie Williams /

    Please share my cookies with your friends in the chemo room (did not see a place for a note). What a great idea! Good luck to Greta!
    Jennie Williams
    Newnan, GA

    • Jen Anderson /

      Thank you Jennie. I love the stranger-friend love — so incredible.

  6. Valerie Weiss /

    I’m grateful to you for sharing both the marvelous story of your speech improvisation, and the need for help with Girl Scout cookie sales. We’ve never met, but your family has become very dear to my heart as I’ve read your posts over the years… Prayers continue to come your way from Virginia!

  7. Janet Ross /

    How I loved this blog! You are indeed a creative, can-do family and it’s an inspiration and encouragement to read your stories on how you Do Today Well. I’m probably a bit tech-challenged to be able to order cookies this way, but since reading this entry a few minutes ago, I’ve talked with my daughter on the phone and she will take care of the nitty-gritty to order cookies for both of us from Greta. Continued prayers for you and your family!

    • Jen Anderson /

      This is so kind Janet — I admire your perseverance to support Greta. Thank you so much!

  8. I was a Brownie for my 1st grade year and remember clearly the cookie sales. I sent you an e-mail with my request (e-mail name is same as my blog name). Also? We’ve had a few sales events like this as band parents because I am a procrastinator and apparently so are a few of my own kids!

  9. Melissa /

    Happy to buy cookies! I can pick up cookies from your mom at Christ. We used to work together on 5 south. I continue to pray for healing and peace. God bless you.
    Melissa Dwyer