Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It's all about control, baby!

The Flylady has a holiday control journal that by golly looks an awful lot like the kinds of things I have in my binder. Check it out: Holiday Control Journal (first link on the left opens the PDF).

Skip down to about page 9. See what she’s doing there? This same approach works whether you’re working on something small (like, say, a birthday party for your goofy husband) or something ginormous (like early retirement, debt elimination, getting a new career, having your mother-in-law over).

What do I need or want? List it out. Don’t worry about having the whole list, a perfect list, every single thing you could ever possibly want or need in exactly the right order. Just get it down!

Go back up to page 7. This is where what is on the list is getting put into action in a proper order. Rather than becoming overwhelmed with all the list items, they’re broken out into bite-sized chunks spread out over many days or weeks, months or even years.

Check out page 10. Beautiful. No forgetting all about those stupid brussel sprouts your mother-in-law adores. Recipes follow. Shopping list. Gift giving / making guide. Shipping. Traveling. All together in a single place – in my binder, I’d put it in one of the numbered tabs as it’s own little project.

The one thing I do that I don’t see here is to actually schedule time for each activity in the calendar. So I’d take this and say, Hmm, so, ‘several weeks’ ahead of time I want to have the kids make their own wrapping paper

Flip to my calendar, which is of course in the same binder. Back up a few weeks from Wrapping Day. Let’s call it…December 4.


Make it an appointment. On December 4, which I note is an ‘early release day’, I now have an appointment with my children shortly after they get home. A fifteen-twenty minute break in my day to get out the supplies, provide instruction, and turn them loose on the project. (And since my craft closet is at least mostly-partially organized, I can lay my hands on the paper, paints, aprons and brushes with my eyes closed. Which is how I prefer to approach the craft closet anyway, lest I become distracted by yarn stash.)

It might feel a little obsessive-compulsive, but I personally find it avoids all kinds of freaked out behavior when I sit down with my calendar and schedule things out. The more on top of it I am with my calendar, the better off I am. Nothing causes me to hyperventilate like realizing that somehow I thought I could get twenty-seven hour-long tasks done, during a work week, the week before Thanksgiving.

But if I’m scheduling them as they occur to me – it becomes real obvious, real fast. The month at a glance gets crowded – the minute I’m turning my binder sideways so I can use all of a day’s block on the month calendar for ‘notes’, a reality check is in order. And if I’m looking at a single day’s page and getting high from the ink fumes, it’s definitely time to drop back and regroup.

And hey – tell you something else. It’s OK to say, “No.”


“No. This year, I’m not going to be making that layered salmon puff pastry thing that takes fourteen hours and an encyclopedia’s worth of cussing.”

“No. I can’t bring meat pies for eighty people to the parent-teacher association meeting.”

“No. I’m not going to attempt to make my own ribbons using recycled shopping bags and Sharpies in assorted festive colors. I’m going to buy the damned things at WalMart. Ho ho ho, people.”

Just because you did these things last year, or every year for the last forty-seven thousand years, does not mean that you have some kind of sainted obligation to do them forever.

As long as you get it out there right away rather than waiting until the last second to meltdown on people, they’ll get over it. Honest. I can’t tell you how often I say ‘no’ to everybody from the ‘luncheon coordinator’ at school to yes, even my favorite charities. They don’t mind. I say ‘yes’ a lot, too. They’d rather I say ‘no’ right up front than say ‘sure, ok, fine, no problem’ and then turn into a weeping basket case two days before they need it.

And by the way: those who don’t get over it? Those who are more interested in what they can get from you than your sanity and stability? The ones who will make your life a living hell, cold shoulder you, carry on about how you’ve let the ENTIRE WORLD DOWN by SELFISHLY REFUSING to {insert demand on your time and energy and wallet here}?

Ummmm…question? You’re letting them run (ruin) your life because…? The problem, friends, is theirs. Not yours.

True friends and family, those who really love you, are more interested in seeing you than your precious little pecan pies, and would rather have a holiday full of love and laughter with you over KFC takeout than have you locked in your bathroom sobbing hysterically because there are {gasp, shock, horror!} lumps in your homemade gravy! Or because {oooooh, the drama of it all!} you forgot to put ribbons on the staircase!

Even $DEITY will forgive you the sacrilege of not having Martha-ized your holidays. I know this because I have a burning bush in my backyard which speaks to me regularly. “Tama,” the Burning Bush said recently. “Behold! I shall not smite My children for not making themselves crazy people this holiday season. And while I have your attention, would you mind making a few dozen cherry pies for the Angel-Sinner convention we’re having next week…?”

Hmm. Memo to me: Need fire extinguisher for bush in backyard…


NeedleTart said...

Funny! Just last week DH said that as I get older I seem to be getting more anal-retentive (and there IS a hyphen, people!) because I made a list of all the meals we had last Passover and everything we ate for the (three weeks) of the fall holidays. It's so much easier if you write down that great meal you had, so you can do it again next year.

Anonymous said...

I just came across you blog from Chez Harlot, and I have to say, I LOVE this post. I try so hard to be organized, but somehow my life continually frays into a frantic state of disarray.

The joys of a 4 year old, a hubby in med school, a full time job and an all consuming hobby (that'd be the knitting).