Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Guest Post: Kristi's Five Fantastical Lessons on Life

Today's guest post is by Kristi, Meg's totally awesome sister-in-law. She lives in Texas and is a computer programmer, but she's also an awesome chef, a sci-fi fan, and a mom to a very cute toddler. She and Megan sometimes post recipes on Sisters-in-Long, although not lately (probably Megan's fault for being lazy about taking food pictures). Enjoy! 

I had this fantastic opportunity to stay home with my baby for the first few months of her life, and I loved absolutely every minute. I’ve worked consistently since I was fourteen, so a chance to set my own schedule, have all the laundry clean at the same time, and to take a nap every day was sort of like a home-run for me. Then, suddenly and without warning (pause for dramatic effect), two horrible things happened! I had to return to work AND my child stopped sleeping for 20 hours a day.

As you may imagine, the inevitable happened – gone was the closet of clean laundry, gone were the carefully sculpted meals with coordinating desserts, gone were the (it must be said) naps. Let’s all take a moment of silence for the downfall of my beloved naps. …. Very quickly, I had to learn to adapt to my increased time constraints in order to avoid drowning in my husband’s dirty socks. I’m actually kidding about the dirty socks -he rarely wears socks. The following are five lessons I learned the hard way that are applicable to all of us, regardless of where we are in our lives:

1. Plan to Fail
I know people generally plan in order to succeed, but one day, you’re going to be [sick|cold|tired|busy|bored|angry|sad|hungry|purple|allergic to everything|late|the other kind of late|generally unwilling to keep calm and carry on]. It is going to happen. In these moments of weakness, we tend to blow budgets on conveniences, fall behind on housework, and generally don’t function as we might otherwise. The key is to prepare for these times of need. Do the laundry before you need it. Keep a stack of paper plates and silverware in case of “If I have to do dishes, I will have to start kicking people” moments. Hide chocolate in places no one else in the family will look (like the bottom of a box of feminine products). When you cook, try to think of ways to use leftovers to reduce your kitchen time – our chicken fajita leftovers go into a jar of curry for Indian food the next night. Leftover roasted chicken becomes chicken salad. This tip leads directly into the next:

2. The Freezer is your Best Friend
I know you thought it was that friend you’ve been through hail and high water with, but you are completely wrong. Can your friend have dinner on your table in about fifteen minutes? Probably not. Your freezer, however, is there for you in your time of greatest need. Keep at least two freezer meals on hand, and it will actually be faster than making a run to the nearest fast food place. For my family, it’s frozen turkey meatballs for spaghetti and delicious breakfast sausage for ‘breakfast for dinner’. I don’t plan to make either of these meals, but I know that any given day is going to turn into a nightmare, so it’s good to know that the freezer has my back. Also, ice cream.

3. Nobody cares if your House is Dirty 
And if they do care, you shouldn’t care about them. I’m serious. Take them off the Christmas card list, defriend them on Facebook, and otherwise pretend they don’t exist. Very rarely are all of the rooms in my house clean simultaneously. They get cleaned, yes, but on a rotating schedule. For some people, this is a sign of failure, a sign that the world is ending. To those people, I have this to say: stop. Just stop. Take a deep, relaxing breath, and let go of your 1950’s photo-opportunity home. If it is making you ill to get it, if your children are being ignored in pursuit of magazine cleanliness – let it go. Housework is important, but let’s all be a little more Zen about it. If you are able to successfully juggle all of your commitments AND keep a spotless home, well, shut up – no one likes you anyway and we all talk about you behind your back.

4. Be Honest with Yourself 
I have an ‘Almost No Crafts’ policy. People are sometimes taken aback by this. I’ll go to a church or social function with crafts, and I will often refuse to participate and opt to sit around and chat and do nothing. The reason is simple – if it isn’t a craft I can finish in a short time span, I KNOW I will never finish it. Ever. It will sit in a closet and fill me with guilt and anger and hatred, and I will rue the sight of pom poms and pipe cleaners and reclaimed toilet paper rolls. I derive no joy from the craft itself and frustration from incomplete ones – so I rarely, rarely craft. In so doing, I have freed myself from a needless time suck and sore spot in my life – Pinterest be darned.

We all have things like this in our life. Maybe it’s starting a reorganization project you know you won’t finish, or redoing a bathroom. Perhaps it’s an exercise class you rarely attend, vegetables you buy because they are healthy but you hate, or sending Christmas cards to the people you stopped caring about in Item 3. Be honest – if something isn’t adding value to your life, and more especially if it’s costing money, time, or happy thoughts, let it go. 

5. Opportunity Cost is Still Cost
We all need peace. People who don’t find peace generally end up on the evening news, and not in positive stories. In an accounting class, we learned about opportunity cost – the value/cost you miss out on by doing something else. If you have chocolate cake instead of ice cream, that delicious bowl of frozen goodness was your opportunity cost. If you decide to take a nap instead of going out with your friends, the fun bonding time with your girlfriends was the opportunity cost. Get it?

 If you start looking at your life in terms of opportunity cost, you can become better equipped to make decisions. Yes – that home-cooked kale vegan something or other meal would be healthier for your family than meatballs and spaghetti, but if you’ve had a horrible day or are generally tired, think about the opportunity cost. Kale (which I love btw) or extra time to read stories with your toddler? Maybe the toddler time will add more value to your life. Kale (I really do love it, I’m not lying) or non-relaxing time watching crap on television? Maybe the kale (still loving it) is a better use of your time.

 I can’t tell you what’s more important for yourself, but if you take a minute to think about the opportunity cost of your daily activities, you’ll do a better job of getting some of that much-needed peace and making sure your life is filled with value-added activities.

So, there you have it. Five lessons I learned quickly when life sort of threw me in the blender. When all else fails, just emulate the British and Keep Calm and Carry On. Also, ice cream.

1 comment:

A said...

THIS! All of this. You have always been the wisest person I know, through hail and high water (it never occurred to me that we've literally been through hail and high water together... what does it mean that life wanted to turn us into a folk adage?). Thank you for reminding me to laugh, reset, bounce an accordion of sticky notes until everything makes sense, and just enjoy what IS instead of fretting about what isn't. I love, love, love you!