Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

Nala was out of Milk Bones the other day, but the store only had large ones instead of the medium size I normally buy. It couldn’t possibly matter, I thought, and grabbed a box.

At the next scheduled treat time, probably seven seconds later, I gave one to her, but had to convince her to take it. Same flavor, just bigger size. Much bigger size.

I watched that sweet, dainty girl stare at me like she was the opposite of Oliver Twist. “Please, Mom, can I have some less?”


She reluctantly trudged up the stairs to her treat-eating place, the floor of our bedroom, and dropped it. She looked at it. She looked at me. She looked at it again.

I took the hint and broke it in half for her. She looked at the halves. She looked at me. She looked at the halves again.


The only other thing I could do to help her was to eat it myself, but I have my limits.

I went back to work at my desk ten feet away. My back was to her but I heard her plop down on the floor near the broken treat, letting loose with a world-weary sigh.

After about fifteen minutes, I heard her pawing at one of the halves, and then crunching. She had broken one of the halves in half and could now chew it up.


It dawned on me here that she wasn’t just being fussy; she was protecting her aging and not particularly strong teeth. (She had to have a bunch pulled some time back because, I’ve come to learn, greyhounds tend to have bad teeth. Who knew? If you look at that first photo you can see her hillbilly smile.)

As she chomped, methodically powering through her dilemma, it occurred to me that she and I were both protecting ourselves, doing battle with the same demon, albeit in different forms.

I was at my desk trying to muster the courage to face my own big problem, afraid of what would happen when I committed to the enormous bites that stared back at me. I was pretty sure, like Nala, I would likely choke.

As they say in the time management biz, when faced with a huge project, you’ve got to eat your elephant one bite at a time. Or as Ann Lamott says, bird by bird. Or as Nala says, crunch by dainty crunch.

I took it all to heart.

Nala could have walked away from that treat on the floor, but no, she wanted it. Just like I can walk away from these opportunities that are right there for me to pick up. But do I want to? How much do I want them? What level of anxiety can I really handle? What am I really afraid of … the work or the potential for failure? Or admitting my bite was too big?

I’ll be working through these questions for the next couple of months, which in doggy-months is four boxes of medium-sized Milk Bones. I’ll let you know what I decide.

But in the meantime, do you have any advice about facing your fears or making a big decision? How do you decide when the potential prize outweighs the potential pitfalls? How do you know if you’re THISCLOSE to biting off more than you can chew? 




27 thoughts on “Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

  1. I didn’t know Nala was a greyhound (or part, I can’t tell from the pictures). Yes, I brush Koda’s teeth daily.

    It always helps me to break down the big task into parts. As you said, bird by bird. I find that if I do that and I can’t get a piece done without sacrificing something (usually my sanity) that I’m THIS CLOSE to going over the edge.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. We were told she’s part greyhound, but if you google pictures of potcake dogs, they all look like her. She was my son’s “boonie” dog when he was stationed in Guam. She came to us when she was five.

      “Bird by bird” is my mantra for so many things! If I say it to writers, they immediately know what I mean. Others, I have to explain.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. I do that, too, Mark. If a project seems too big and scary to take on, I find a part of it that’s small and manageable, or hanging on the edge, to start with. Simply finishing any small part can be enough to encourage you to continue on.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I feel that, Mark! it’s always so tempting just to go back to bed. Surely everything will be easier if you don’t do it, right?? Or just promise yourself you only have to do it for 5 minutes. By the time you start, it may not look so insurmountable.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, boy, do I ever know what you mean. I’ve always–or at least since What About Bob was released–told myself, “Baby steps,” whenever I’ve been involved in a project (usually a novel, but sometimes a daunting legal brief) that seemed far too large to take on. But from now on, I will certainly think, “Dog biscuits!” instead. Thanks for that, Becky! And I know you will get through this, my dear. And that I’ll love reading the end result when you do.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. OMG, I’m in love with Nala. I feel for her. We have to break up our Pogo’s treats too. And love the analogy, Becky. When I’m faced with a daunting writing task, I do the 15 minutes a day technique, where I at least write that long. 9 out of 10 times, it grows, but if that’s all I accomplish, I give myself credit for it.

    In terms of big decisions, I try to remind myself that agonizing as it is to come to them, there’s such great relief on the other side

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Such great advice here, doggy-derived and otherwise! I do the 15 Minute Baby Step Method(R)(TM(SM) (which I just now branded!) where I combine baby steps with a “you can do pretty much anything for 15 minutes” approach that, as Ellen says, often leads to a longer time investment. For me, the decision to START is always the hardest. Once I’m going, the momentum often takes me away. (Isn’t that one of the laws of physics?) Thanks for the great post, Becky! Nala is ADORBS and hugs as you go in for your own Milk Bone bites!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Starting the big project(s) won’t be my biggest problem. (I think.) Making decisions about the big project(s) is proving to be my albatross. Your concept is the same way I exercise … I can be on the treadmill for 15 min … I can do 10 reps of anything … I already have my yoga clothes on, may as well stretch …

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Two things–You can do repeat delivery at Petco and have them come at your convenience. Oo buy the Milk Bone soft and chewy chicken or filet in a small size in a resealable bag and my dog loves them.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It seems you knew long ago the correct way to solve a dilemma! I learned that from my grandmother who not only raised me from 2.5 years old but also became my mom and dad, my sister, my teacher, my co-worker, my mentor, and, best of all, became my best friend! Those who say forget the past and live for the future never had much of a past to remember!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Once I was much older, I saw a lot of the teachings she tried to instill in me. Of course, much of that was in my teens and, naturally, I knew everything! Now I know better (that I didn’t know diddly back then) and I can appreciate the efforts she made to provide knowledge for me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s