If Not 'All Great in ’08' – How About 'Just Fine in ‘09'?

Jackie Gingrich Cushman
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Posted: Dec 28, 2008 12:00 AM
If Not 'All Great in ’08' – How About 'Just Fine in ‘09'?

"Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out."—Basketball Coach John Wooden

Many people are glad that 2008 is ending. It’s been a long year of campaigns and financial crisis. I’ve quit watching the news and opening my 401k statements. I figure that neither of them will help me make the best of what I’ve got.

The start of a new year allows us to reevaluate what we want to do, where we want to spend our time and how we will measure our success. Taking time now to think through what worked last year, and what did not, will provide us with a playbook of items to continue, and of items to change.

Our Christmas night dinner reminded me of the importance of a few key items that are helping frame my strategy for the New Year.

It helps to have the right tools. I made scalloped potatoes for the first time. A bit chancy perhaps, serving my guests a dish that I had never made before, but I forged on. Santa thoughtfully gave me a mandolin (the cutting tool for vegetables, not the instrument). Having never used one before, I was not sure if it would really be helpful. But after slicing the first potato, I was singing Santa’s praises. There is no possible way that I could slice the potatoes as quickly, or as thinly as the mandolin does. While you might not want to pay the extra money for the right tool – sometimes it really does make a difference.

If things don’t turn out right, do the best you can with what you have. After leaving the potatoes in the oven for the called for hour and 15 minutes, I pulled them out. The potatoes were cooked all the way through, but the black areas between the top layers of the potato slices showed where it was burned. Since it was just a thin layer of milk – I simply pulled the burned milk layer off, and left the potatoes. It must have tasted satisfactory, because by the end of the meal, the casserole dish had been scraped clean by our guests.

Planning and preparation are important – but the spirit of the event is the key. While we all have the image of a perfect gathering in our minds, every event has something that goes wrong. It just does. Whether it is losing a recipe or spilling red wine on the family heirloom tablecloth, things go wrong. Well, both happened during our Christmas dinner. A quick Internet search turned up the corn pudding recipe, which must have been satisfactory, as there were multiple helpings from several guests. Despite my assurances to the guest who spilled the red wine that is was no big deal and she should not worry, she wound up taking it home to be cleaned (she is a lawyer and a better debater that I). Proving that I have learned something from my husband (a fun host makes a fun party), I didn’t let either event bother me, and was able to stay joyful and focused on the fun of having friends and family over rather than worried about the little mishaps (unlike the year I flipped over spilling the chocolate sauce – glad to know I’m improving).

Finally, everything takes longer than you think. Instead of sitting down at 6:30, as originally planned, we didn’t sit down and begin the blessing until 7:30. Even though we had calculated the time needed to cook dinner, it just took longer than anticipated. I have found this to be true in all that I do – everything takes more time and more effort than I originally thought. The lesson: Don’t get discouraged when life's events don’t go as you planned, just remember that sometimes it takes longer than you think and keep working towards your goal.

I hope that, while 2008 might not have been all great, that 2009 will be just fine. Remember to get the tools you need, do the best with what you have, keep a joyful spirit, and be persistent; everything takes longer than you think.