In Tranquility by Tuesday (out two weeks from tomorrow!) each chapter has a main rule, and then a bonus strategy. The bonus strategy in the chapter on “Rule #5: Create a back-up slot” is to “Make back-up plans.”
I was reminded of the importance of that little bonus rule this past week. On Saturday afternoon, I was hosting 50 people on behalf of one of my kids’ schools — a nice, outdoor party on the patio. My older three kids would direct parking. I hired someone new to babysit the little guy, as I’m trying to expand my roster, and I figured it would be a good occasion for a new sitter, as I would be home if something went wrong.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way. The new sitter needed to cancel on Friday, which had me going through my back-up list (many of whom I already knew were unavailable, which is why I’d hired someone new…) Ultimately, my parents agreed to drive out from New Jersey. So, phew. The party went forward as planned…because there were back-up possibilities!
It was actually party #2 of the weekend, as we hosted the newly minted 13-year-old’s birthday party on Friday night. I hired a video game truck to park in our driveway, and the boys were set. We did the same thing last year and, with a year of experience under my belt, I had the kids sing happy birthday and eat the cake and snacks first. Once the kids went in the truck they weren’t coming out! I think one child left to go to the bathroom in the entirety of two hours.
Anyway, it was a very full week between travel (to Springfield, Missouri for a speech, necessitating two flights each way as I couldn’t fly direct…) and the parties, and gearing up for a book launch in two weeks. (Speaking of which…I’d love more publicity opportunities — if you listen to any popular podcasts, please suggest me as a guest to the hosts! And if you read any publications regularly, or listen to any radio programs, or watch any shows that cover such matters, you could suggest they cover me or the book too. People do pay attention to reader/listener mail.)
Here’s how I did this week:
Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime. Mixed. I did not land in Springfield, Missouri, until close to 11 p.m. eastern time on Monday, which meant an 11 p.m. bedtime was not going to happen. But I did make it in bed by 11 p.m…. central time. On Friday night the game truck was here until 10:30 p.m., and the kids didn’t all get picked up until 10:40 or so…but I did make 11:15! When I’m tired, I am very efficient at getting to bed. Then one other night I was chatting with my husband and we blew through the bedtime. Sunday night was also a little later as the kids don’t have school Monday and Tuesday this week (for Rosh Hashanah). If I don’t have to wake up at 6:30 a.m., I don’t have to be in bed at 11 p.m. But I was asleep by 11:15 p.m. so we’re talking pretty close. The point of giving yourself a bedtime is to get in bed at that time…unless you have a good reason not to. The nights I stayed up later at least there was a reason.
Rule #2: Plan on Fridays. Between more upcoming work travel and the kids being off school, plus needing to do random long personal projects (like my business taxes and getting the kids’ passport forms filled out), I knew I needed to figure this week out. But I planned on Friday and now I feel like I have a reasonable sense of where the time needs to go. It doesn’t feel so overwhelming when I make a plan.
Rule #3: Move by 3 p.m. Does walking through airports and Costco count? If so, I did pretty well. If not, then nope (though I did run a few times). I swam with my 2-year-old and, alas, last week’s happy swim class was not repeated. He screamed the whole time through this one.
Rule #4: Three times a week is a habit. I did run three times this week, which I am proud of, since after the brutal half-marathon last weekend, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about running. I did short runs on Wednesday and Thursday. Then Jane and I did our once-a-month long run together on Saturday. By “long” I only mean 5 miles, but I managed to run these quite a bit faster than the half marathon pace and the miles didn’t feel painful.
I only practiced the piano once, but we did sort of have three family meals. We ate together on Wednesday night (breakfast for dinner for the kids; a Korean-inspired meal kit for my husband and me). Then we all sat together while my 13-year-old opened his presents at Saturday lunch (not everyone was eating but whatever). And then Sunday night I wanted to do family dinner, and some faction started to lobby for going out to eat, but I couldn’t find a reservation for 7 at any of our favorite places until 7:45 p.m., which would have been a nightmare with the 2-year-old, and so my husband said he’d stay home with him, but we had so much leftover food in the house from the party that I announced we were all going to stay home and eat here. We had a nice family dinner with shrimp fajitas (we had two shrimp platters that never even got opened, plus an abundance of garden red peppers), leftover tomato pie from the party that I supplemented with extra mozzarella, breadsticks made out of leftover pizza dough from Friday…I feel like I should get an award from The Frugal Girl on this one! (For avoiding food waste.)
Rule #5: Create a back-up slot. I’ve been scheduling podcast interviews on the hour (sometimes every hour in a row for a while). I do this even when people say their podcasts will take less time. Usually I wind up with some open space, but when something goes wrong (as it sometimes does) then it’s not going to throw everything off to have 10 minutes of tech problems.
Another place I was glad I had some extra space (if not a ton…): On Monday I left the house at 1:40 p.m. for a 3:39 p.m. flight. My map app said it would only take 30 minutes to get to the airport. Since I check in online, don’t check bags, and have TSA pre-check, this seemed like an abundance of time. Then some construction started on I-76 while I was en route so they blocked two lanes and it took me an hour and 10 minutes to get to the airport. I still made it fine (I was in the gate area 5 minutes before boarding) but that open space turned out to be wise.
Rule #6: One big adventure, one little adventure. I guess going to Springfield could be an adventure? The folks I spoke to were lovely. But I wasn’t there that long! So I’ll designate my 50 person outdoor party as this past week’s official Big Adventure. Since we haven’t hosted that many people in this new house, I had to think through things like what could serve as an outdoor trash can, how many tables and chairs we had, plus serving dishes and where they were (still in boxes, as it turned out…). But the good news is now I’ve done it, and I know how to park 25-30 cars without angering the neighbors. So I can do it again….but probably not immediately.
As for little adventures, I think I’ll choose my Sunday night interview with BBC Radio. I got a message from a producer on Sunday afternoon and since our planned Big Adventure to go watch the migrating birds somewhere didn’t really happen between kid activities, kid resistance, and the rain, I said yes. It was a segment on working from home. They’re a little feisty over at BBC radio — I was on with someone else who said everyone needed to get back to the office, and then they had a listener call in and say what was all this about productivity, no one who works in an office produces anything anyway! Live radio is always an adventure.
Rule #7: Take one night for you. I went to choir practice on Thursday night. We started working on Faure’s Requiem, which we’ll sing for All Saints Sunday in November. I’m really looking forward to that one.
Rule #8: Batch the little things. Not terribly well. We had to shop for two parties, and we wound up making multiple trips (partly because when you need ice, it’s best to get it an hour before, but I wasn’t going to risk not having food until then…) However, I did manage to get 80% of our party food at Costco, so that’s batching things in a way! Shrimp platters (too many, as it turned out), veggie platter, a few desserts, plus they sell a cheese board with four kinds of cheeses. I bought grapes and a giant bag of mixed nuts and we were pretty much set! Costco for the win.
Rule #9: Effortful before effortless. On my four plane flights, I read a handful of decluttering and organization books. I also read through Good Housekeeping and Better Homes & Gardens before bed. I’m a big fan of low-effort effortful fun.
How was your week?
Photo: Party dessert tray, put together from various Costco offerings…