I felt like that kid from Home Alone; you know, the one on the front cover with his hands clapped to the side of his face yelling “AHHHHHH!!!!!” Of course, I stayed cool and cheerful on the outside, while horses went their own way, kids ignored directions, and my lesson plan disintegrated into ashes.


If you don’t know this about me already, I am in control. I didn’t say I’m a control freak; no, I am ACTUALLY in control. Of everything. All the time. I am over-prepared for any eventuality. Planning is power, people.


So today, when kids let go of their reins (when I asked them to hold them), when they went left (when I asked for right), when horses stopped (when they should go) and took off trotting (when we wanted halt), I was the Home Alone kid. I mean, really, horses and kids…how did I ever think I would be completely in control?


All ended well today, and there were lots of smiling faces, but I left feeling less than great about the outcome. Naturally, I had to come home and shovel horse manure so that I could think about it.


I have been talking with lots of folks lately who are discouraged because they feel like something is off the rails: family illness, work projects, personal finances, health, children. Sometimes, we just can’t get the train back on the track, and the problems seem to get bigger and more chaotic, or at the very least, keep us spinning uncomfortably with no end in sight.


Nine 200lb wagon-loads later, I think I have some ideas for all of us.


Get Back to Basics: I had to remind myself quite a few times today to simplify, simplify, simplify. I marry myself to the complex ideas I have in my head for a project. I have very good reasons why these ideas are right and good. But you know what? No matter how good they are, they’re not going to work if I don’t have the basics under control. For my students today, it was truly as simple as “sit up straight, focus on where you’re going and breathe.” It doesn’t matter that we did so much more last week, today needed to be simpler. Sometimes, despite the chaos around us, we need to sit up straight, focus on where we want to go and breathe.” No good comes of staying in the center of the tornado, spiraling away with it.


Get an Objective Perspective: There are loads of people out there smarter than me. After the lesson, I walked around and chatted with the volunteers who helped in the class, with my mentor, and I even chatted with my husband when I got home. Every single person had something unique to add. Again, sometimes it is important to drop our precious control and ask for help, or just someone else’s spin on a problem. It’s like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”: phone a friend. The only skin your friend has in the game is making you happy. That’s pretty fantastic.


Get Information: Look over the problem or the project…is there a critical piece of information you might be missing? After class, we began getting texts and emails from parents explaining late nights with no sleep, medication issues, forgotten breakfasts….it was an a-ha moment. It would have been nice to know that ahead of time, but sometimes we can only see things in retrospect. If things are really off the rails, write everything down, step back, and look at it with a critical eye. Ask: what’s missing here?


Get Creative: Unique problems require unique solutions, right? Well, when I sat down with my mentor and began brainstorming possible fixes for next week, she suggested something completely outrageous. It was so crazy that I immediately thought of 14 reasons why it wouldn’t work. I started to list them off, and she looked at me, gave a sly smile, and evil-y waggled her eyebrows. I suddenly understood: it was time to get creative. You see, it’s that control thing again…I have a plan. We will WORK the plan and the plan WILL work. Until it doesn’t. The more I thought about her insane idea and her waggly eyebrows, the more it dawned on me that this may be the exact solution we need. Very few things are so precious that they cannot be improved with a little creativity. Sometimes letting go and going off the wall are the very things that are required to get the project back on track.


Let’s be real. I know that every problem, project, hurt, or bad situation cannot be solved overnight with a 4 step method. As Pollyanna-ish as I tend to be, even I know that life can hand us some pretty big problems that aren’t easily fixed.


So, if all else fails, sometimes we just need to :


Grab a Nice Vodka Drink

Grab a Good Night’s Sleep and

Get Back to Work the next day.


And if you’d like to come shovel manure with me to get some perspective, we’ve got plenty. Trust me; it works.