Strategic Spontaneity II

As posted in September, my husband and I committed to individual dates with our grandchildren. We’d intended to do this twice a year with each child.  But, with five grandchildren, and another making his debut any minute, we needed to step it up.  So, we finally enjoyed our first date with our second grandchild.  Coordinating around runny noses, holidays, work, school, and family time becomes more challenging as they grow.

Our date with “Tinkerbell”, granddaughter number two, age five, was even less spontaneous than our date with “Katie“, granddaughter number one.  Tink wanted to do everything we did with her sister — only, with amusement rides.  One thing we hadn’t thought about: 5:30-7:30 p.m. in January is a lot darker than 5:30-7:30 in August.  Also: 5:30-7:30 p.m. in January is a lot colder than 5:30-7:30 in August.  So, our repeat environment seemed a bit dreary in comparison to the first.

To add to this dismal atmosphere, once we found a vacant table in the Mall of America food court, a maintenance man had a seizure. Our five-year old granddaughter sat with her mouth gaping open as my husband rushed to assist the fallen, convulsing man and I dashed to the nearest concession for assistance in calling the mall emergency line.  Once we and Tink were assured he’d be okay, our cold food didn’t seem very appetizing, so we whisked her off to Nickelodeon Universe.  There, we would have to have fun in a hurry.  We only had time for three rides.

Since Minnesota time moves according to the thickness of molasses — teenage amusement ride attendees move much slower in January.  By the time we got on and off the Merry-Go-Round, we only had time for one more ride.  Tink’s selection: the Hot Air Balloons.  We thought we remembered the entrance location.  We didn’t.  Grandparent’s minds work slower in January, too.  We walked the perimeter of the indoor park one and a half times before we found it — at the hour we should have taken her home.

While we stood in line, I asked if she’d like both of us to ride with her or just Papa, since I joined her on the Merry Go Round.  “Just Papa,” she said.  “Otherwise, who’s going to take pictures?”

The attendant had a broken foot. Oh no!  The good news: the ride held approximately 20 big and little people.  The bad news: Tink and Grandpa were  customers 21 and 22.  After 12 and a half excruciatingly slow rotations, they boarded.

Tink had a funny incident descending the American Girl Doll escalator before, so I was happy for her uneventful ride with Grandpa.

After 12 and a half more flights around the pole and 25 blurry pictures, we swept Tink off to the nearest escalator to the ice cream concession.  No time to ask what dessert she preferred.

As we enjoyed our sweets, a little girl, about seven, sat beside Tink.   Obviously, a serious dance competitor or child beauty contestant  in her short sequined dress and giant bow, the girl polished a small trophy, hoping to win Tink’s adulation.  Unsuccessful, she batted her false eyelashes — the ones below her blue eyeshadow, and above cheeks of rouge.

“Oh, brother,” I thought, “Tink’s parents are going to kill us if Tink decides she needs make-up or false anything.”

Luckily, Tink’s half of a mint ice cream chocolate cookie sandwich won her adulation instead.

Even though we knew it was late, we couldn’t forego the dollar store sibling gifts.  Tink selected a bottle top necklace kit for sibling number one, a paint set for her younger sister, miniature dinosaurs for her toddler brother, and Tinkerbell coloring pages for herself.  She even found Valentine candy for her parents.  (Coincidentally — Tink’s favorites.)

As we drove her home, I thought about how Tink had rarely been anywhere without a sibling.  I’m sure it seemed weird, riding alone in the dark back seat with Grandpa and Grandma up front, so I turned and mouthed “I love you” with each passing mile — amidst insincere, giggly protests.

We thought Grandpa and I would be grounded for missing Tink’s curfew by an hour, but her parents were surprisingly calm.  The whole family swarmed us as Tink proudly distributed her gifts.

Tink and Katie hugged — an atypical occurrence. “Do you like your present?” Tink asked.

“I LOVE it,” Katie gushed.

Tink beamed. Grandpa beamed. Grandma beamed.

Hmmm…Strategic spontaneity still works — even when it’s a repeat performance in the dark.

Critique session attitude

Sometimes when I have a new manuscript critiqued, I envision myself pushing a boulder up a hill. Making headway depends upon my attitude more than what others say.

If I don’t bring humility, open to revision suggestions, defensiveness can make me let go of the boulder.  It squashes me like Wile E. Coyote and I lift my head only to watch my boulder roll back down the hill.  Smoke trails out my ears as I stomp down to push again — by myself.  Sometimes I even curse the boulder and threaten to leave it — which is a good idea when my attitude is bad.

If I go to a critique session ready to accept the gifts of advice and encouragement, other hands help me push.  It becomes a community project.  Humility begets progress — sometimes inches — sometimes miles — but the boulder keeps moving upward.  The journey grows sweeter and the view looks better when shared with friends.

Whatever boulder you’re pushing — don’t try going it alone.  It’s lonely in the valley — not to mention, exhausting.

Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. ~ John Piper


Now is the season to change our Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda blues to Do-I-Did-I-Did-I’ve-Done-‘N-Did-That-Too (sung to the tune of Doo-Wah-Diddy by Manfred Man, of course).

For instance, I wanted to listen more and talk less in 2012. (Part of the whole “love better” goal.)

  • I shoulda. Listening isn’t rocket science.
  • I coulda, if I’d have just shut my pie hole.
  • I woulda, with a little discipline.

I just could not shut up for the life of me.  Obviously, I need to go to Wal-Mart for the Ears of Steel DVD.

A friend told me a story that offers the motivation to remedy my verbal diarrhea problem, but I hadn’t listened well, she doesn’t answer my calls (since I never let her talk), and I can’t find the story on the Internet.  Nonetheless, I’m going to share my flawed, paraphrased  understanding of her story, because it inspires me and I hope it will inspire you.

Once upon a time a female reporter enjoyed the prestigious honor of sitting between two extraordinary men at a banquet.  On her left was the most interesting man she had ever met.  He fascinated her with colorful stories of African safaris, world leaders he had influenced, and global events he had affected. Despite this man’s astounding accomplishments, her favorite dinner companion was on her right — for he was most interested — in her.

The man on her left:                                              The man on her right:

On a similar note, years ago I asked an author friend, “How can I become a better writer?”

Her answer? “Write.”

I expected something more philosophical and complex, like: “Climb a mountain, jump out of an airplane, walk in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, contemplate the pyramids, then pat your head while making circles on your belly.”

“Write” is so simple, yet so hard.  I just cannot shut off my distracted mind for the life of me.  A typical morning at my desk:  “Did I forget to shave one leg?  Oh look, the neighbor’s on our front yard, bringing his adorable dog to leave a present. I’ll have to bring our adorable grandson and his potty chair (without the ‘catch receptacle’) to the neighbor’s yard to return the favor. Ouch! What’s that on my chin — a cactus sticker?…”

Sigh. It’d be easy to become discouraged.  But, my wise, successful friends stand as beacons of light. My Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda defeats of 2012 can be changed to Do-I-Did-I-Did-I’ve-Done-‘N-Did-That-Too victories in 2013 via profoundly simple solutions.  Hence, my annual to-do list looks just like a best-selling book cover/Julia Roberts movie title — only the list has different words — in different order — and there’s no one around here who looks like Julia Roberts.  Here it is: Drumroll please.


See. What’d I say?

In my hopeful zeal, I’ve even added a sublist — items that should improve my prospects of accomplishing the first list.  This list looks more like orders from Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) in Karate Kid:

Shut Up

Sugar Regret and Rationalization

Sugar Regret or Sugar Rationalization? It’s all in the way you look at it.

Okay, I’m still recuperating from my New Year’s Eve Christmas cookie/candy clean-up tradition.  I awoke January 1, 2012 with a sugar hangover — a Pepto Bismol nightmare — not the visions of dancing sugar plums I’d aspired and clung to.

You may be wondering — why do I insist on consuming so much junk food every December 31st?

  • Because I wants it. I needs it.  I likes sugar and chocolate, My Precious.
  • And, doggone it, I worked hard to make those Christmas delicacies.
  • Wasting is wrong.  My dad said so.  There are starving children in Bangladesh — and my mom taught me that cream cheese won’t keep well in the mail, so we can’t mail homemade Oreos to them.
  • And, there’s usually a positive outcome.  For instance, snacking now seems disdainful; hence, keeping my New Year’s resolution of moderation has been easy — at least for the first day or two.
  • Celery and carrots now makes me salivate.
  • Starting the new year with a clean fridge and a clean slate — no problem. My husband and I just pack the leftover leftover cookies and candy and give them to someone else.  They thank us for our generosity.  We smile, inwardly congratulating ourselves for our superhuman willpower, and wait at least a week before we ask if they have any snacks they don’t want.

Don’t knock our New Year’s Eve Christmas cookie/candy clean-up tradition until you try it.  And, by the way, can we stop by your house?  We have some Christmas treats to give you.