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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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Mensches and Elves: Surviving the Mental Load of Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas…One Year at a Time

Anyone else out there holding together the mental load of celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas? It’s hard. I get it.

It’s not just that there are latkes and gingerbread houses to make, mensches and elves to move around, and gifts that require a spreadsheet and an arsenal of color-coded wrapping paper to keep organized. It’s also that Hanukkah is a moving target.

She has the power to show up early, late, or any time in between. She’s ruthless and an annual reminder that we have control over absolutely nothing.

If you want to survive the war of attrition that is Hanukkah (at least from a calendar perspective), you need to understand what you’re up against. Where Hanukkah falls during the holiday season can make or break—or tear to shreds—your holiday spirit and sanity.

It’s a crapshoot every year, but there’s one thing I know for sure. No matter which one we get—The Mindblower, The Marathon, or the Sneak Attack—we will always have eight nights of candle wax to scrape off the menorah in the end.

The Mindblower. Otherwise known as Thankgivukkah. This holiday mashup seems like a good idea on Pinterest, but does anyone really want to do holiday and back to school shopping at the same time? Does anyone want to make a challurkey (challah shaped like a turkey) or cook fusion food recipes like Maneschewitz-brined roast turkey and sweet potato noodle kugel? Does anyone ever want to drink Maneschewitz and eat noodle kugel? The answer to all of these questions is no. The early arrival of Hanukkah ruins Thanksgiving and is a bitch to spell, and in conclusion, may we never hear the expression “Gobble Tov!” again…at least until 2070 when this holiday fender bender is forced upon us again.

The Marathon. Or, the middle place. When Hanukkah falls after Thanksgiving and before Christmas, you’ll have some breathing room, but don’t be fooled by the runner’s high you get a few miles in. By the eighth night of Hanukkah, when you realize the behemoth of Christmas is imminent, you might cramp up, puke, or pee in your pants a little bit. As my Weight Watchers coach used to say, “if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” You need laser sharp focus, endurance, fortitude, and crap loads of wine (not Maneschewitz) to survive the relentless middle place.

The Sneak Attack. This is when Christmas and Hanukkah overlap. It’s a good idea in theory, but in execution? Not so much. Last year, when the first night of Hanukkah fell on Christmas Eve, I naively thought I’d killed two birds with one stone— Happy Christmakkah!—and I was an idiot. Do you know what happens after Christmas Eve, the first night of Hanukkah, and Christmas morning when your house is trashed, your hands are covered in wrapping paper cuts, the dishwasher is on its seventh load of the day, and your kids are swinging from the chandelier with chocolate gelt and candy canes dripping out of their mouths? Seven more goddamned nights of Hanukkah. Be careful what you wish for.

2017 has given us The Marathon. I hope your present on this first night of Hanukkah in the murky middle place of December is a comfy pair of new running shoes because you’re going need them.

Happy Hanukkah! Good luck!

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