The Best Plan Is No Plan At All (Sometimes)

There are places where a plan is helpful. For instance, Disney World. You’re an idiot if you don’t get FastPasses in advance. Also, Costco, especially if you send your husband and you’d prefer him not to return home with a lifetime supply of canned Stagg Chili.

Some plans are foolish. Have you ever met a woman whose birth plan went as intended? I assure you, preeclampsia, an emergency c-section, rusty pipe syndrome, and a visit from a social worker because my postpartum emotions weren’t “typical” weren’t included in my power point presentation.

Other plans are made to be broken. You should definitely pack snacks and a stroller for your trip to the zoo even though you will buy cotton candy and carry a kid. You should also make a plan to keep your baby and toddler occupied in the airport bathroom even though one or both of them will touch the floor behind the toilet.

A year ago, I said yes to a job after ten years of stay-at-home motherhood with no plan at all. It worked out (mostly) and was a valuable lesson in the importance of saying yes (occasionally), but in hindsight, it was a wild series of very much unplanned events… and the best, smartest, most wonderful thing I’ve ever done besides buying a Casper mattress.

I just returned home from the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop in Dayton, OH. I registered for the esteemed humor writing conference on a whim (i.e. with no plan at all), which my husband did not find funny at all. I made up for it by covering my kitchen in extra-large, bright yellow sticky notes before I left with detailed written instructions on how to keep the kids alive for four days and four nights without me.

My notes included practical tips like “How To Pack A School Lunch In 37 Simple Steps,” helpful warning signs like “Do NOT run out of frozen pancakes!” and inspirational lines like “You are smart and capable! You can do it!”

My meticulous preparation on the home front meant I arrived in Ohio with no plan at all. What did I want out of the conference besides a break from loading the dishwasher and a plateful of bacon at the breakfast buffet? I scrutinized the schedule, analyzed the pros and cons of each session, made careful and calculated choices, and then proceeded to change my mind at every. single. turn.

With no plan in place, I told a few jokes in front of a crowd and discovered funny on paper and funny out loud are not the same thing, I learned that Mexican food is an unfortunate lunch choice before said joke-telling (note to future-self!), I witnessed female comic genius, and I wrote the essay that just might be the first chapter of my book. Turns out, the best plan is no plan at all (sometimes).

My to-hell-with-a-plan strategy in Ohio paid off. At home, the opposite was also true. My meticulous web of sticky notes kept the kids alive, if not bathed. My husband did NOT go to Costco in my absence, which was an unexpected surprise and relief, but he did purchase Brawny paper towels instead of Bounty, and I could not have predicted or prevented this reckless act of brand-irresponsibility even with all the careful planning in the world.

 

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School Valentines: A Journey Through Time

Preschool

“Let’s use glitter paint to put your precious handprint on 25 mason jars. We’ll fill them with homemade, organic dried fruit and nut-free granola and wrap them in cellophane and raffia.”

Budget: A mortgage payment

Time frame: A weekend

Kindergarten

“If you write your name on each of these 25 personalized “You Rule!” Valentines I ordered online (with corresponding rulers wrapped in grosgrain ribbon), I’ll give you a cookie and thirty minutes of Paw Patrol on my iPad.”

Budget: $100

Time frame: 2 weeks

1st -4th Grade

“If you’re not going to write your name on these 25 flipping SpongeBob temporary tattoo Valentines ALL BY YOURSELF, then you will have no Valentines. NONE. ZERO. ZILCH!

Budget: $6 (plus tax)

Time frame: Anywhere between four weeks and an eternity

5th Grade

“Let’s make 25 Valentines together! I downloaded these cute ‘Wishing you a Pug-Tastic Valentine’s Day’ cards from Etsy. I—I mean, we—can glue them on heart-themed craft paper, and I—I mean, we—can attach these adorable pencils with emoji eraser toppers I bought on the back. And it’s totally okay if you want to play video games while I assemble everything…”

...because my little boy is growing up and he’s going to middle school next year and FOR THE LOVE this is my last shot at doing a Valentine’s Day craft for—I mean, with—my firstborn baby.

Budget: Unlimited

Time frame: However long it takes to hold on to this fleeting ritual of childhood

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