Advent, Gilbreth-Style

I’ve always been something of a Gilbreth geek. As a middle-schooler, I read Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes so often that to this day I can name the 12 Gilbreth children in order. I even like the movie–both versions, the 1950 movie so true to the book and the 2003 movie that shares little besides a name with the original.

cheaper by the dozen vintage coverFrank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr. and his wife Lillian were known as motion-study specialists. As consultants, they’d visit factories and places of work, observe (and film) employees as they did their jobs, and find ways to refine tasks so that these manual laborers could accomplish more in the same amount of time. In Cheaper by the Dozen, one of the scenes I remember best involved Frank Sr. timing, to the second, self-care tasks such as bathing and toothbrushing. (With 12 kids and one bathroom, this did seem reasonable to me. Besides, the mental image was hilarious.)

belles on their toes vintage coverMy practical (and, let’s face it, lazy) side definitely approves of finding faster ways to do things. And right now, I am deeply grateful for my fascination with economy of motion.

I’m hobbling my way through Advent. Two days before Thanksgiving, my doctor put my left foot in a boot to reverse a split in a tendon. My feet have been aching for more than two years. I’ve had cortisone shots, worn Ace bandages (stylish!), lived on Advil, bought new shoes and spent hundreds of dollars on custom orthotics that make me feel like I’m walking on concrete. None of this helped, and when I went back to the doctor two weeks ago begging to be sent to physical therapy, he told me I had to have an MRI first. I’m glad for that, because it showed that there’s a real problem, though I wish it hadn’t taken two years to get it.

das bootHopefully, wearing this boot for the next 4 weeks will allow the tendon to heal on its own (the split is vertical; he described it as “putting your finger through a ribbon.”) I’m also hoping I don’t wind up, down the road, in a boot on my right foot, because I won’t be able to drive at that point!

Wearing this boot definitely slows me down. We live in a split-level house (stairs everywhere!) so that’s a challenge. Getting in and out of the car is a challenge; this foot takes up a lot more space than it used to, and it doesn’t bend. All in all, I have to move a lot more deliberately.

This means that I try even harder than before never to leave a room empty-handed, to remember all the things I need to gather up when I’m in one part of the house so I don’t have to go back there too many more times, figure out ways to do some jobs while sitting down, and work to reduce the number of steps (as in footsteps) in any given task.

I could really use some Gilbreths around here right now.

chicken parm oven bakedBut I’m finding that it’s good to be intentional about what I do, even when we’re only talking about baking the chicken breasts instead of frying them for last night’s chicken parmesan.

In a season that’s all about mindfulness, I’m in the right place. I have to be mindful about every little action, even the tiny ones like stepping out my front door and turning to close the door behind me (I almost fell yesterday, doing that simple thing, because I didn’t think about which foot needed to leave the house first).

My motto, this Advent, comes from Sunday’s Gospel: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from … the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. … Be vigilant at all times.”

Good advice, both for my foot and for my soul.

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13 thoughts on “Advent, Gilbreth-Style

  1. Sorry to hear you’re being slowed down, but you picked a good season for it! I hope the treatment works. I totally get foot pain, and will probably be having a surgery in the new year.

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    1. Actually, my mindset is surprising even to me! Maybe it’s the time of year, but mindfulness is definitely a welcome thing right now. Thanks for visiting!

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      1. Ha! I had broken my foot five days before meeting you and didn’t find out it was an actual fracture until late that November! So, very much the “I’m sure it’s nothing,and I don’t have time for the doctor” thing, with which you yourself may be familiar.

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  2. Sorry to hear this, but hopefully this will take care of the pain and you won’t need surgery! Hope you heel quickly and your family does a good job taking care of you.

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