Friday, November 15, 2013

Stressgiving to Thanksgiving Week 3: No More Surprises

We've all been there.

The house, after hours of screaming at the kids and alternating between rum and water, is finally clean. The table, after daydreaming over Pinterest and stocking up on clearance WalMart decor in January, is perfectly set. The guests, after rearranging times and places and potluck responsibilities, have all confirmed their attendance. You've put on makeup and your kids are wearing full, complete, clean outfits.

And then. It happens.

SURPRISE.......

the weather chucks a few feet of snow on the roads.
the power goes out. It comes back on. It goes back out. It comes back on. For now.
the dog pukes up his dinner and then, after returning from his backyard banishment, tracks mud all over the house.
the cat walks in the sink full of turkey gizzards and then walks all over the table and plates.
the kid poops in the toilet seconds before the first guest arrives.
the toilet clogs seconds after the first guest arrives.
the sweater you painstakingly chose for the night lands itself in a bowl full of gravy.
the fire alarms start screaming because the oven sucks like that.
the guest in charge of vegetables forgets to bring a dish.
the best goblet ever meets its doom on the kitchen floor.
the kids decide now would be a good time to really want Mommy.
the turkey is burned on the outside and raw on the inside.
the words "food poisoning" are mentioned.
the kids' table becomes a moving food truck, complete with a ride-along mini-chef.
the dog pees out of excitement or fear, at this point who cares.

All of your best-laid plans, annihilated by lovely, wonderful surprises.

It happens so frequently, I find myself actually planning for the worst. How awful is that. From the get-go, I plan not only the cleaning schedule, meal, and seating arrangements, but also what to do when the cleaning schedule fails, the food falls apart, and the seating arrangements end in huffy family members....

I essentially expect myself to do double-duty. Twice the work. Plan for best-case and then plan for the surprises. How exhausting is that? I know some of you do the same thing. It's exhausting....and frankly, ridiculous.

So here's my thought. Enough with the double-planning. No more nail-biting, last-minute trips to the store, or freaking out about the amount of food to prepare, or worrying about who sits where or what guests bring or don't bring. You can't control surprises any more than you can control people. Shit happens, as do crappy attitudes and flaky mindsets.

The point is to be happy. Everyone, including the host, deserves to be happy. This means learning how to roll with the punches. This means relinquishing control. This means letting go. This means learning to embrace the unexpected. All things I. Am. Terrible. At.

....which is why I think the Good Lord gave me a few surprises this week....each of them unexpected, but oh-so incredible.


1. It was Veteran's Day and I left work early to spend it with Aaron. I started my long trek home and the snow began to fall.
Gut reaction:
Well isn't this just great. Of course it would unseasonably snow on the one day I want to get home early. 
No More Surprises:
It was gorgeous. The snow didn't impact my commute in the least and by the time I got home, Aaron and I literally got to sit there and stare at the snow fall. It was the best afternoon I can remember.


2. My kid came home from school and had a huge, fat, overflowing take-home folder.
Gut reaction:
Dammit. That's a TON of homework and I really don't feel like dealing with it. 
No More Surprises: 
The kids in Anya's class had written a stack of letters to me and Aaron for Veteran's Day. It was so beautiful I literally cried. Not the panicky, weird cry of a woman in need of rum, but the sweet, astounded cry of someone who's just been swept off her feet.



3. I had the remarkable opportunity to get in bed before 11PM and within moments of grabbing my latest edition of Better Homes and Gardens, I felt the annoying prods of cat paws on my stomach.
Gut reaction: 
Great. Now she's going to come barge into my magazine, or sit on my head, or somehow shoot her hair into my eyeball like a projectile missile of pain. 
No More Surprises:
She curled up behind my magazine, with her head poking out, and purred. She was warm and fluffy and perfectly behaved. Not a single hair flew into my eye.



I'm well aware my initial reactions are often trigger-happy, exaggerated representations of the panic I feel when I don't have control of a situation. It could be something as huge as a promotion-worthy project at work or it could be something as tiny as cat versus magazine. No matter the topic, I find myself jumping to worst-case scenarios more frequently than best-case scenarios. It's a flaw of mine....and I need to work on it. What better time than the holidays!

No more surprises, only opportunities. Opportunities to make it the most memorable, most crazy, most innovative, most creative holiday there's ever been.

The weather chucks a few feet of snow on the roads? Tell everyone to stay home and go outside to make a snowman.
The power goes out. It comes back on. It goes back out. It comes back on. For now? Candles = sexy.
The dog pukes up his dinner and then, after returning from his backyard banishment, tracks mud all over the house? Great excuse to use your dusty Swiffer Wet Jet because let's face it, your cleaning spree didn't include actually washing the floors. 
The cat walks in the sink full of turkey gizzards and then walks all over the table and plates? Mismatched, country-chic table linens and platters are so in right now. 
The kid poops in the toilet seconds before the first guest arrives? Hey hey! The kid is pooping in the toilet!
The toilet clogs seconds after the first guest arrives? Better now than during dinner!
The sweater you painstakingly chose for the night lands itself in a bowl full of gravy? Chance to give your man a sneak-peak at some skin while you change clothes :) I know I'm not the only one who loves those nights following a house full of people where the two of you simultaneously remember how delicious it is to be the only ones actually living there!
The fire alarms start screaming because the oven sucks like that? Hey hey! The fire alarms work!
The guest in charge of vegetables forgets to bring a dish? Who likes vegetables anyways. 
The best goblet ever meets its doom on the kitchen floor? Another chance to do the deep-cleaning you undoubtedly skipped while trying to make the whole house somewhat presentable.
The kids decide now would be a good time to really want Mommy? Take two minutes to enjoy your kids. You will soon be begging them to come home for the holidays.
The turkey is burned on the outside and raw on the inside? Microwaves are glorious boxes of delicious innovation. 
The words "food poisoning" are mentioned? Sounds like someone just volunteered to cook the turkey next year! SCORE!
The kids' table becomes a moving food truck, complete with a ride-along mini-chef? A child's memories inspire their dreams. Keep them safe, but for the sake of childhood bliss, let 'em keep on rollin'.
The dog pees out of excitement or fear, at this point who cares? You do, because as much as your dog annoys you, he is your wubby bubs and he should get the chance to enjoy the holiday, too. Treats all around.

Jump to best-case with me. I want to know...

What are the worst surprises you've encountered during the holidays?


Jen
jen@jenniferludwigsen.com


6 comments:

  1. I will say this is why I tend to go places. As much as you would love everything to be perfect the best memories are the not so perfect things which happen. I saw run with the imperfections and make them memories.

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    1. I agree! I shoot for Normal Rockwell and end up with "The Scream" by Edvard Munch. I am excited about making new memories this year and not focusing on the negatives! Thanks so much for reading :)

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  2. I couldn't agree with you more on this. As newlyweds, I feel like we're under such stress to make sure we see everybody on the holidays. So we'll literally be driving clear across town for lunch and dinner on Thanksgiving to see his family and to be with my family. I guess because we don't have kids and our own nuclear little family yet.. (don't fur-babies count) some family members would take it so personally if we didn't attend these things. I love what you said about not focusing on the negatives. This is something that these holidays will greatly test because unfortunately, I do not have the best relationship with all of my in-law's. I want to take these opportunities to make it the best we can and do it with a smile on my face for my husband. I could go on for days but yes, holiday anxiety is already setting in. Just a bit.. lol!

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    1. Absolutely Christine - I am so lucky because my family is always very understanding once I lay down the law. I tend to be the one who gets a little too sensitive or imagines undertones that really aren't there...almost like my fears materialize simply because I believe in them! And you know what, fur-babies totally count. Just because your family doesn't include children doesn't mean you're not entitled to the same courtesies all families should give each other. It's HARD to fly all over heck and back. Sometimes it's so hard, it outweighs the enjoyment of actually seeing people. I think you're on the right track by starting early with your positive thinking. Fulfill the obligations that are important to you and your man, but then create something special for just the two of you to share. It gives you something to look forward to!

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  3. This sounds like most Thanksgivings! And I'm with you - I'm working on changing my reaction to one of praise! Have a wonderful holiday.

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    1. Thank you so much Michelle. I hope you have a wonderful holiday as well!

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