Make plans to have a backup plan ready

AROUND TOWN

AMY ROSEN

Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t have a global positioning system device (GPS) to tell me where to go. My husband and I rely on our own innate sense of direction to find our way, and when we plan to explore unfamiliar territory, we use a map. As we all know, sometimes the bestlaid plans don’t work out the way we expect them to— even when a GPS is involved — and that’s when Plan B has to come into play.

My only experience with GPS systems has been as a passenger in other people’s cars. In all instances we ended up not listening to our female GPS guide, who I pictured as a modern-day Sacagawea, and we ended up asking someone else for directions — thus Plan B.

Being easily distracted, I found myself drawn to the female voice being emitted from the box. It might have been my imagination, but every time we didn’t follow her directions, she began to sound just a tad distressed as she said “recalculating.” As the number of times that we ignored her directions increased, I imagined that her “recalculating” began to sound more and more annoyed, maybe even a bit frazzled at times.

As a person who has been known to become emotionally attached to inanimate objects, such as cars (I always feel bad saying goodbye to my old car when I get a new one and thank it for keeping me safe), I started to empathize with the voice. I imagined that if I were the voice in the box, it would sound somewhat different if my charges decided to ignore me.

Mine would sound something like, “Hey, don’t you know how to follow directions?” or “You know, you’re very rude! After all the time I spent calculating a reasonable route for you to follow, you have the nerve to ignore me? What am I, chopped liver? Don’t you think I have better things to do than invest all my time and energy into taking care of you and you choose to ignore me? ME? After all I do for you?”

Then it dawned on me. Those words sounded mighty familiar. I’ve said some of those words (or very similar words) myself on occasion — perhaps to my very own family. I realized that I, too, recalculate, probably even more often than Sacagawea, over the years. No wonder I related to her. The plans I have in my head never seem to work out the way I expect them to when others get involved. I used to call it being flexible, but now I go around saying “recalculating.”

For instance, I could have a nice dinner planned for my family of five, and now that they are no longer babies and quite independent, more often than not someone will have other plans, my husband will be working late, and I’ll have to recalculate my menu or leftovers will be aplenty.

Other times someone will invite a friend or two (or three or four) to stay for dinner and I’ll have to recalculate my recipes to stretch things.

I’ve learned to check in with all family members around 4 or 5 p.m. to find out how many people will be home for dinner, and I start calculating from that point on. I always make sure I buy enough for an army.

Then there have been times when I would have a vision of what my day with my family was going to be like, and my children would have other ideas that didn’t include their parents — time to recalculate.

Very often my teenager (or one of their friends) would need a ride or help with a situation, or just want to talk, and, priding myself on being a mom everyone can count on, I would stop whatever I was doing, putting my own plans and concerns aside, and help them out.

It’s always my pleasure to be there for them, but later on I have to recalculate whatever I had planned or was working on. (Incidentally, I always thought every parent was self-sacrificing like that, but as the years progressed and I watched three children grow up and lots of friends come and go [mostly in my car], I’ve recalculated my opinion on that matter as well — but I’ll leave that issue for another column on another day).

Illness is a huge “recalculator” stimulus. No school, no work, no fun plans, recalculate — call the doctor, get the meds, stay home and nurse them all (or myself) back to health.

Snowstorms can cause major recalculations that include anything from delayed openings to a state of emergency when everyone has to stay home.

Expecting company? If you’re like me, you may have thought your house was nice and organized when you went to sleep, but wake up in the morning and RECALCULATE — bathrooms don’t look the same and the laundry has somehow piled up again and everyone’s “stuff” has somehow ended up on your kitchen counters.

I can go on, but that’s just life, and I’ve never been good at calculations anyway. I’d rather go with the flow and see where it takes me.

I believe life is a series of ups and downs with lots of nice days in between and, try as we might, we can’t always control what may come our way.

John Lennon put it nicely in his song “Beautiful Boy” when he sang, “Life is just what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Learn to adapt and have a nice trip!

Amy Rosen is a staff writer with Greater Media Newspapers. She may be reached by email at arosen@gmnews.com.