Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

The Dinner That Almost Wasn’t: Finding Alternative Routes

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You have a favorite route to work—the fastest, easiest way, a way you could almost drive in your sleep. And then it happens. You’re moving along, assuming once again you’re going to arrive in the nick of time, and traffic stops. Halts. Backs up. What? No! This can’t be!

We all live in familiar patterns. A police officer once told me how drivers thwarted from their normal routes by roadblocks can become confused, even belligerent. “But this is the way I go!” In spite of the presence of a traffic officer, some try to navigate around the barriers—even if the road ahead is obviously made impassable by an accident, a parade, or maybe flooding. “This is the way I go!”

When I heard the officer’s story, I chuckled, confident that I would not be that person. In a city there are always other ways to go. But I might not know where the other streets lead. I might become lost. I might find myself in a place I’ve never visited. I might have an unexpected experience. “No, Officer, this is the way I go!”

Have you ever driven a different route, purposely avoiding a publicized construction zone, and then felt triumphant? You won! You prevailed! As much as we cling to the familiar, confronting an unfamiliar situation stimulates your brain and gives you a sense of accomplishment, of power. You suddenly remember that you’re intelligent and in charge of your life. Our family had the same experience.

The day was Christmas, and the final members had just arrived after a long, horrific drive over highways tortured by extreme winds. Along the route, soft snow from shoulder drifts had been whipped into ice that appeared without warning in unpredictable spots. Small cars were blown sideways as high profile vehicles struggled—often unsuccessfully—not to topple off the side of the road. Escaping unharmed felt like a gift. We hugged our arriving family members with enthusiasm and a sigh of relief.

With the children anxiously eyeing the presents beneath the tree, we agreed to unwrap our treasures before we progressed from appetizers to creating a glorious Christmas meal. Love and joy. Peace and plenty. Every detail was planned. The pies were in the fridge. The chicken thighs were thawed and arranged in the roasting pan. Dinner would be a feat of exquisite organization—and not too soon. Everyone was hungry.

Then the power went out.

What? On Christmas Day? No power? What about dinner?

For a moment, we stared at one another. Someone called the power company only to learn that the outage was almost statewide. No quick reprieve. What to do? While family members cooked chicken in skillets on our woodstove in the basement, others tended potatoes on a camp stove on the deck. Adults and children alike did what needed to be done. We created the salad we had planned. Everyone laughed. And when the meal was done—complete with sauces, we congratulated one another that the food was unexpectedly delicious. We felt resourceful and smart. And the power returned just in time to make the welcome meal easier to see.

As we begin a new year, it’s a great time to recall that the nature of life is to surprise us—sometimes with shortcuts, sometimes with obstacles. And there’s more than one way to do almost anything. We have only to set aside our fears, our patterns, our fervent desire to have life be NICE. Then we’ll see alternatives we never noticed before. Our Christmas dinner did more than fill our stomachs with delicious food; it brought our family closer, entertained us, and made us proud to be intelligent and in charge of our own fates. May your new year do the same for you.

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