Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Plan with Rigidity, Execute with Flexibility?

A few months ago, my husband had the opportunity to serve at the Boise LDS temple re-dedication.  He was part of the Spanish translation team for the broadcast of the re-dedicatory services.  He spent all three services (or sessions, as they’re known in Mormon-ese) in the basement of the temple, in a small utility room, the only place where the microphone wouldn’t pick up extraneous noises from the broadcast equipment and crew, who were also set up in the basement. Between translating at each session, my hubby got to chat with the security personnel who were charged with keeping things running smoothly.

The LDS prophet, President Thomas Spencer Monson, was at the temple that day and my hubby got to speak with the director of the prophet’s personal security detail.   President Monson’s frequent travels take him all over the world, and apparently, he creates quite a stir wherever he goes--stopping spontaneously en route, to visit at hospitals, homes of members, or to just greet interested passersby.  This behavior requires “on the fly” changes in security plans.

The director commented to my husband that, “We have learned to plan with rigidity and execute with flexibility.”

I have been thinking about that a lot lately.  I started out this school year with high ideals and intricate plans—and they have largely fallen by the wayside (again.)  It’s hard not to beat myself up about this—but I think I (and many others) underestimate just how much “life” happens to throw off the best laid homeschool academic plans.  When I first noticed this, I thought I just needed to plan better, be more rigid, demand more out of every minute: HERE IS MY PLAN AND BY GOLLY, WE WILL STICK WITH IT!
But it never works.  Ever.  So I keep trying, and keep getting frustrated when things go awry.


Because I’m a slow learner, I recently bought myself The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia.  It sounded awesome, and I loved its set up. “Use me,” it seemed to say, “and all your scheduling and planning issues will be solved! With me, you will reach your goals, your children will be studious and focused, you’ll have a clean house, and maybe even lose ten pounds!”

I thought for days how I was going to organize our hours, days, weeks, and months using this planner.  I spent several hours last week working up THIS week’s schedule for my two older kids.  I sat down with them and went over the plan.  I even made a meal plan for the entire week.  I was pumped, the kids were pumped.  We had a PLAN! We were going to ROCK next week!


Nothing has gone according to plan.  NO-THING.  The night before this awesome plan was going to work it’s magic, the dishwasher broke and flooded the kitchen from UNDER the wood floors.  The sub-flooring was soaked, the wood floor was warped, and there was water under the house.  Oh, and I had two days’ worth of dirty dishes that weren’t getting done.  The water had to be shut off, along with the electricity in the kitchen so we could fix the dishwasher.  We had no kitchen, and no water for 24 hours.  And then, when the water was turned back on, it came in one temperature: scalding. (I’ve heard of people having no running water, or no hot water---but no cold water????) I couldn’t shower or bathe my kids, or even work on Mount Dishmore because the water was TOO hot,unless we filled up the sink and tub and waited around for an hour or two---which just DIDN’T JIVE with my schedule…

(Keeping it real, folks. Really real. This is what my kitchen looks like when I fall behind on dishes—and don’t have a dishwasher. Or cold water to counterbalance the boiling water from the faucet.)

Okay, so the world’s tiniest violins are playing for me—really, this was just a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, but it THREW my schedule—my PLAN!—out the window on the very first day.  Sigh.

I had also forgotten to include in my plan the fact that we had dentist appointments and a book club meeting on the first day.  AND, I didn’t account for a last minute change in schedule to my kids’ piano lessons.  My eight year old missed her dance class. Oh, and I misplaced the meal plan, which included my grocery list.

I was in the depths of despair until the mailman arrived with a package from my best friend from childhood, full of paper for school and art projects AND three notebooks we wrote back and forth in throughout the ninth grade.


The note enclosed said: “I included some ‘historical texts’ you might enjoy!” (Thanks, Cathi! I love you!)

So, all was not lost—I may not have had the perfect “DAY ONE OF THE NEW REGIME” but this made up for it!  I was ready to attack the rest of the week (oh, and my dishwasher and water issues were resolved that evening—a definite morale boost!) We also took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese so I didn’t have to cook and the kids could eat pizza, slurp soda, and generally run amok.

Day 2 was spent partying and dancing the Samba at our homeschool co-op (which was ON THE PLANNER! Woohoo!), resurrecting the house, and catching up on dishes and laundry. And showers.


It is now Day 3 of my grand weekly plan---and while I tried to start the day with optimism and a degree of grace, I have already yelled at my six year old for not doing his language arts worksheet, threatened to turn a timer on for the big kids who are dilly-dallying instead of working on math, and abandoned school for the 8 year old entirely for the day. I let the kids eat Girl Scout cookies for lunch. And the baby is careening around the house in nothing but a diaper, a runny nose, and two stuffed unicorns under her arm, shouting “Twilight Sparkle! Twilight Sparkle! Twilight Sparkle!”


Okay, that IS pretty cute.

But back to today. The lesson in all of this, I suppose, is that while I managed to plan with rigidity, I also tried to execute with rigidity.  This has merely resulted in a stress headache. And an alarming lack of Thin Mints.

My day—MY LIFE—seems to go better when I PLAN with flexibility.  I have often been told by my Type A husband and friends that I fly by the seat of my pants. My lifestyle makes them a little crazy. Even my religion touts order as the ideal. And I admire that, I do.  I aspire to it.  But, maybe my sense of order---as disordered as it feels to others, is still order. It works for me, until I start looking around at how other people are ordering their lives and I think, “Hmm. They seem so put together, maybe I should try a different method!”  It’s comparison, of course, which doesn’t do anyone any good—unless perhaps one is shopping for a new dishwasher.

The truth is, I’m pretty put together when I do things my way. My way takes a lot of big swoops and nosedives. I sort of catapult through life.  To mix metaphors: I’ll never be accused of missing the forest for the trees.  My house is cleaner, my kids and I are happier, we get more accomplished, when I’m NOT trying to adhere to a rigid, intricate plan.  If I make a rigid plan, I feel the pressure to execute it in the same manner.  And no matter how many times I tell myself “execute flexibly” it just doesn’t happen, because I’ve set up the expectations with my “plan with rigidity” mindset.

So, again, I’m going back to flying by my seat. Over the forest. The view is great up here!


  1. LOVE that view...I am sooooo there with you!!!
    Great post. Thanks for the smiles :)

  2. Do you have any idea how much I love this post. Right down to the Twilight Sparkle!

    It makes me miss you. Fly dear Marissa!

    1. I miss you too, Ann! I am waiting for the day when you write about Mina doing her own "Twilight Sparkle!" I love you!

  3. I'm amazed and awed by what you can do even with your organized chaos. Seriously, however you do things it works and getting things accomplished is gravy!