“Plans Change,” column for Sept. 20, 2016

If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. Old people used to say that when I was a child. I never knew what it meant, but I do now. I said it myself this morning.

I’ve been making plans _ both good and bad _ for most of my life, only to see them fall apart. It has happened so often you might think I’d have learned not to bother planning at all.

If you think that, think again.

I keep making plans, partly because it’s fun, but mainly because a lot of things worth doing won’t get done without a plan for doing them. Also, it gives God a reason to laugh.

Take this past week. I flew home on Monday after three days in Montana, visiting my youngest and his family. It was a great visit. I was tired, but happy, ready to start checking off a long list of things I needed to do before leaving again a week later for some speaking engagements in Redding, Calif.

What was on the list? Usual stuff. Get my hair done. Go to the doc for a check-up. Float in the pool with my husband. Have lunch with my friend Linda. Write a column and finish working on the talks I’d be giving. Unpack, do laundry, repack … all good things.

Then, Monday night, my husband yelled from the garage: “You gotta come see this!”

I hate it when he says that. It’s almost never good. And sure enough, our water heater was leaking.

Picture a 50-gallon sieve.

He shut off the water and gas. It kept leaking. We stood there watching it drip, scratching our heads, the way you do when you don’t know what else to do.

Finally, we piled towels around it to soak up the water and started making phone calls.

And so it began.

I spoke to our home warranty company. They sent a plumber the next morning, who said, in effect, “Whoa. It’s bad.”

The leak had soaked into the walls. In the garage. And the kitchen. And the dining room. Not only did we need a new water heater. We needed “water removal specialists.”

I spoke to our insurance agent, who sent a team from Stanley Steemer to rip out soggy sheet rock and set up giant turbine fans to dry the wet walls. It sounded like a fleet of fighter jets preparing for take off.

We considered moving to a motel. Intead, we wore ear plugs. We couldn’t hear the doorbell, the phone, the TV or each other. It was like a silent retreat, without the silence.

Also, no hot water meant no taking showers or running the dishwasher or doing laundry.

Luckily, after two days, the plumber set up a new water heater temporarily, to give us hot water while the work is being done. Then he’ll do a final installation. I might kiss him.

The “drying phase” lasted five days. And nights. Then the guys from Stanley Steemer took away the turbines, hallelujah, and told us to call a contractor.

We did. He’s coming soon to give us an estimate on the repairs. I’m hoping the work will start the day I leave for Redding, and end before I get back.

Meanwhile, I’ve checked off a few things on my long list. I have two days to finish it up. The important stuff will get done, the rest won’t matter.

Maybe I should have that carved on my tombstone?

This morning we awoke to two glorious gifts: Silence and hot water. My husband, bless him, brought me coffee, and set it on the nightstand. It’s a lovely way to wake up, sipping coffee and being thankful.

I had big plans for the day and was almost ready to get started. But as I reached for the coffee cup, it slipped from my hand and bounced across the floor.

And coffee rained about the bedroom to the far ends of the Earth, sloshing a power strip, splashing across my desk and dripping off my nose.


Somedays I think I was born just to keep God in stitches.


  1. Shirley M Franklin says

    When someone tells my sister, “Cheer up, it could be worse”, she says, it will get worse! For me it got worse in 2002 – In April I had major surgery, August 1st there was a serious fire in my condo (it took 11 months for reconstruction), and a couple of weeks later I was in an auto accident. I don’t recall that I was telling Him my plans, but early in 2002 I did write myself a memo expressing the realization that I was happier than I had been in many years, and my life seemed to have more meaning. Then wham! it was turned upside down. But through it all, He was with me and there were many blessings during the year following the fire.

  2. Oh my God ! Last lines made me laugh as I did the same. I wanted to read just in my bed room and brought a cup of milk close to key board. And it did not go in my belly from the cup but it went into buttons of kjey board and on the table even some drops in the carpet. My husband heard it but did not leave his cell phone and chair. I had to clean everything myself and he reminded me ,stay downstairs and leave computer alone and it should not be upstairs . thank God you got new water heater and all is well. Hope your foot is better as well. Love you and your column.

  3. You keep me smiling. Thanks for the uplifting spirit!

  4. Chris Christopher says

    Well, coffee on the rug I just had cleaned and on me, water from upstairs bathroom filling light fixture and rendering plaster ceiling and walls wet and smelly – fortunate to get a plumber to see about it, plus about 3 hrs on the phone with comcast (I could have gladly shared this with anyone in need of conversation). Is there something in the air?? Well, after all, Scarlett, tomorrow’s another day!

  5. Kate Sciacca says

    Hmmm…. Similar thing happened to my oldest, and he lives in that garden spot of southern Nevada…. The hump over the bump…. Pahrump! The house flooding gremlin must be running around down there… Keeps those turbo-engine fans busy! ? Sure hope they don’t head north ?

  6. Looking forward to seeing you in Redding tomorrow night!! The last time I saw you I was with my mother and mother-in-law at the Cascade Theater. Now they are both gone and I am coming with a friend of 45 years who is a huge fan as well. Safe travels!!

  7. Marion Ingber says

    And we thank you for keeping us in the mix! Let the laughter continue.

  8. Marcia Bacher says

    Redding is God’s gift to people trying to drive to Oregon and Washington in the Winter. We spent four days there in December…in a wonderful motel that accepted pets. We were moving to Washington, in the middle of December, like crazy people! I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Redding.

  9. Wow!! Somehow our friend ,Sharon Randall, always speaks what I need to hear.
    We have had that kind of week too. As we get more mature you learn to roll with it.
    Thanks for letting us know we are all in the same “leaking ” boat !!!

  10. Debra Capell says

    Plans? Nothing major. One day at a time is my motto! Not envying you one bit!

  11. The first line of this column made me laugh out loud. You always make me smile and laugh, and sometimes cry. And like Darlene above, I just love your attitude. Keep up the excellent work.

  12. I have always known that God had a sense of humor, and I am thankful he does. At times I think I can hear him chuckle.

  13. Oh, my! I thought these things only happened to me. I stopped making plans about midway through raising my two granddaughters (I still have roughly eight years remaining) when I realized there would be no “golden years” for my husband and me. Now I just take each moment as God hands it to me lest He decide to give me a starring role in His latest comedy show.

    I’m happy to hear you’ve got hot water again, and just in time to clean up the coffee. God’s timing is always perfect.

  14. This column reminds me of Judith Viorst’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Just remind yourself, “Some days are like that. Even in Australia.” I just love your attitude and know you took all of this in stride.

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