Should Auld Reflections Be Forgot?

I’m a wee bit addicted to the online Scrabble-type games Wordscraper and Words with Friends. The other day I arranged the letters of bursae, hit “Play,” and was awarded with 33 points, which initially seemed respectable. But then! A new feature called Hindsight popped up unsolicited to unhelpfully point out that I had missed the opportunity to play a more lucrative word—bruxes—for 65 points. Given that the my B and E were occupied in bursae and therefore no longer available to participate in bruxes on my next turn, I wondered why Hindsight felt the need to speak up.

Hindsight continues to haunt my games. Jades was worth 34 points, but jambes would have scored 48. Eve earned me 7 points, but guess what? Ajee would have brought 13. Wanly was worth 40 points, but knawel? Fifty-nine. (What’s a knawel?)

Sometimes hindsight can be a bit of a know-it-all. A useless know-it-all.

Of course, Words with Friends aside, hindsight and I are old acquaintances. It drops in regularly to explain what might have been handled differently.  For example, recently I made the two-ingredient pancakes that are lauded on Pinterest. In hindsight, I should have foreseen obvious: that egg and banana “pancakes” would bear no resemblance to pancakes at all but might more accurately be considered banana omelets. Disgusting banana omelets, because is there any other kind?

In hindsight, I should have known not to answer the question “Mom, what’s under there?” with “Under where?” And I don’t do that anymore unless I want to send Sonny and Ace into homonym-induced hilarity that will render them unable to stand.

Hindsight offers up the perfect combination of words after the opportunity to utter them has passed. O hindsight’s wisdom, where wert though as I stood there stammering?

Hindsight has pointed out that not every unreasonable demand needs to be met with resistance—sometimes it’s harmless to concede. And because hindsight is a mysterious animal, it has also pointed out that speaking up is sometimes preferable to being still. (If foresight could show up more regularly to help me discriminate between the two situations before I react, that would be great, because I too often confuse them.)

Hindsight whispers that some moments were more important than they seemed at the time and ought to have been treated accordingly.

So hindsight’s lessons are useful, and I hope to lure them with me into next year. No banana omelets at my house in 2015, and by extrapolation, no black-bean sugar-free cookies. (Avoided that one in time. Whew.)  In general, I hope to give foresight a chance to speak more often so that hindsight won’t need to hover around sighing and shaking its head at me.

Other times, though, hindsight is as useless as the belated revelation that knawel would have been the optimal word to play. It drums up regrets after one has done one’s best; and perhaps the choice that was made wasn’t the worst choice at all. Maybe not as good as knawel, but still good enough.

So don’t let any worthless regrets crash your New Year’s Eve party. Tomorrow is a new year.

Enjoy it.

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Have Yourself a Simple Little Christmas

Last month I happened upon an article with the approximate title of “Twenty Parenting Hacks That Will Make Your Life Simpler.” Ever seeking a simpler life, I plunged in.

Hack #1: “Wash Legos in a laundry bag in the washing machine.” (Because evidently Legos should be washed once a week. Who gets to decide these things?) My admiration for whomever had come up with this ingenious (although undoubtedly noisy) method to purify Legos was overshadowed by a burning question: How is washing Legos in a laundry bag simpler than not washing Legos, which is what I do now?

I did not finish the article.

December brought an onslaught of other not-simple ideas masquerading as simple. “Thirty Hassle-Free Elf on the Shelf Ideas! Each simple idea takes less than five minutes to set up.” Wouldn’t leaving the Elf on the Shelf on the shelf, per his moniker, be even more hassle-free—if one doesn’t bar him from one’s home entirely, which, let’s face it, is the most hassle-free approach of all? Many families enjoy Elf on the Shelf, but let’s not pretend that having to pose that creature every evening lends simplicity to one’s season.

Nor does twisting napkins into Christmas tree shapes, suggested as a “simple” way to set one’s table. Festive? Yes. Simpler than a folding a napkin into a rectangle? No. Same goes for the six “simple” ways to decorate one’s car for Christmas. Really? Decorate my car? Hanging ornaments from the rear-view mirror is not complicated, but whoever decided that cars should be decorated was not thinking simply.

Still, I have found a few ways to keep the Christmas season a little simpler. Here are a few of my attempts.

(Note: It may seem that one or two of these endeavors are driven more by laziness or incompetence than by a noble quest for simplicity. Let’s just blur those lines, shall we? Potato, potahto . . .)

  • Believed that Sonny was already booked on the morning of the Christmas recital and therefore did not sign him up to participate. Was wrong about him being booked, a discovery that came too late for the sign-up deadline. Not preparing for a recital during an already busy season: simpler than preparing for a recital.
  • Tried a new recipe wherein “Batter may be soft” was a shameless understatement. Poured the batter into a 9×13 pan and offered it to the oven. Renovating would-be cookies into (mediocre) bars: simpler than making a new batch of cookies.
  • Resisted the fleeting urge to rearrange the ornaments after the tree decorating session. Yes, five of the six striped glass bulbs are clumped up together, nearly touching each other, instead of spaced evenly around the branches. Yes, the Nutcracker and the straw angel are both facing the tree trunk. But so what? The kids who decorated this tree are convinced it is “the best tree EVER, and perfect.” Besides, in a few years Sonny and Ace will decorate the tree more conventionally, or they won’t want to help decorate it at all, and I will feel nostalgic. Letting the decorators’ style remain: simpler than trying to refine the tree.
  • Accepted Ace’s offer to wrap presents. The result, many meters of tape later, is a pile of gifts that look like a five-year-old wrapped them. Martha Stewart would recoil and avert her eyes, but the recipients won’t mind. And the five-year-old is proud of having helped. Allowing a volunteer to wrap the presents: easier than doing it oneself (assuming an ample supply of tape).
  • Avoid irritating “Christmas” songs. Yes, music is a matter of taste, so I won’t specify any titles, but some of these songs are plain creepy (cough“BabyIt’sColdOutside”cough). At least one is a carol of self pity that has nothing to do with the Christmas season itself (“Last Christmas,” I’m looking at you.) And have you ever suffered through an hours-long earworm of “Wonderful Christmastime,” a song that is annoying even on its first pass through your head? So if you encounter a woman with her hands over her ears humming loudly to drown out the loudspeaker’s rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” that woman might be me. Listening to meaningful music or just enjoying the silence: simpler (among other things) than suffering through “Santa Baby” and its ilk.
  • Trying to remember that Christmas will preval despite missed recitals, imperfect food, ideal plans (as defined by me) going awry, and too-high expectations of myself and others. It will triumph despite unmet goals and hangry kids . . . and cranky grownups. It will go on despite commercialism. These things are not what Christmas is all about. And I’m so glad.