Planning Ahead


I have recently become completely submerged in plans for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah celebration. I am pretty sure that I’m driving her crazy, and the rest of my family along with her, because they audibly groan every time I mention these plans at the dinner table. Somehow, it seems to me, the topic always winds its way back to the Bat Mitzvah. Did I mention that it’s still more than three months away? I admit to having poked fun at my mother-in-law who was similarly obsessed with planning her recent “milestone birthday and anniversary” party. I guess I will have to apologize to her, now that I finally understand the compulsion to plan.

It’s not about having every last detail organized, and it’s not about controlling every aspect of the weekend, despite what others may assume. It’s really about savoring the sensation of having something joyous to plan. When there is a happy occasion on your calendar, when you having something to look forward to in the (relatively) near future, the drudgery of daily work seems bearable. My here and now is already pretty fabulous, and I make a point of telling my kids to enjoy the present. But thinking about December, imagining how wonderful it will be, is slightly more fabulous. I am deeply grateful for the planning itself, which entices my mind to such fanciful journeys into the future.

No less than three generous and lively people I know were recently diagnosed with grave illnesses. These sobering reminders of the importance of living for today also goad me to live for tomorrow. If I plan to celebrate in December, and I plan for these brave friends to celebrate with me, maybe I can tweak God’s conscience into ensuring that together we will reach that happy occasion.



Tree Hugger’s Lament

These are adult ambrosia beetles, and they have infested my favorite tree.

Worse yet, they have infested my children’s favorite tree.“The ONLY tree in our yard that we can climb,” my children are quick to point out to me when I tell them that the Japanese maple tree is being removed next week. They are not comforted by the arborist’s assessment of the surrounding trees – a gorgeous water oak among them—which have not yet been infested.They do not care that the arborist’s team will spray the yard to ward off these awful creatures and rid the water oak of its dead branches, which threaten to fall on them whenever they play under it on a windy day.

The truth is I am sorely disappointed to lose the tree.In my mind’s eye, and in several family photos, it sprawls above the heads of my children, its red leaves ablaze in summer and early fall, turning an earthy brown until shed in early winter.In my yard, however, it stands forlorn, its branches desiccated and half denuded of leaves, its trunk covered with spidery trails of beetle dung.

“The yard will look so empty,” my husband says wistfully, when he hears the arborist’s plan.I glance out the window, but it is almost dark, and I can hardly see the bare branch which served as a harbinger of the tree’s demise.Could we have saved it, if we had realized sooner?My husband gives voice to the very question that plagued me all afternoon, since the moment the arborist scraped the roots of my favorite tree with his shoe, scattering the dusty beetle dung and shaking his head sadly.“It’s a good thing you called in time to save the other trees,” he told me kindly.I looked up at the sky through the canopy of oak leaves, trying to find the good in losing the maple, wondering if the beetles had drunk their fill of ambrosia.