The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes best laid plans should be discarded.

best laid plansWe spent yesterday with our oldest grandson. Liam, seven, had another day off from school, so my husband and I bopped down to Ohio to spend it with him.

Last month we had the pleasure of spending a day with Liam, too, and as part of it we spent hours at the Museum of Natural History on University Circle, where we bought a family membership so we could enjoy it every time we’re in town. Of course that meant another trip this week because, well, we’d missed the dinosaurs! And if you have a seven year old in your family, you know you never want to miss the dinosaurs.

Of course, we made plans. Why wouldn’t we?

Once on University Circle as planned the day progressed from dinosaurs and space rocks to the museum’s next door neighbor, the Cleveland Museum of Art. I can only say that this is a most spectacular art museum. Liam thought so, too. There are fascinating interactive exhibits as you enter, and Liam plunked down in front of one, a potters’ wheel, where he was able to sculpt, glaze and emboss his own creation–on screen–transfixed for thirty minutes. The other exhibits were equally riveting, including finding secret passages (Liam’s own invention) between the Egyptian and African exhibits. We spent happy hours just viewing a tiny portion of what was available.

And then, life happened. Luckily we paid attention.

Past lunch time, we went outside to head back to the garage and home. Best laid plans, remember? Liam had a different idea. The day was beautiful and the trees across the street in the park were turning colors. So off we went to explore. We bought hot dogs from a cart, eating them on a bench and watching passersby, until Liam went to investigate. His sharp seven year old eyes immediately noticed a tag on one of the trees. It was tiny, tree-colored, and way over his head, but he found it. Of course while we mulled over the reason for its existence, we had a treasure hunt for more and found them. Maybe someone at the Cleveland Botanical Garden had tagged the trees many years before? Since it was right across the park, off we went to see.

Thoughts of tree tags disappeared as inside we explored the glass house–like none anywhere and absolutely amazing–watched a volunteer feed a fly to a chameleon perched in a tree and a tortoise chow down on salad. Then through the Costa Rican exhibit where we were mobbed by gorgeous butterflies, and finally outside in the gardens, where Liam immediately spotted signs to a children’s area.

An hour later, exhausted and satisfied, we found our car and drove home. Five hours of fascination for child and adults alike, and most of it because we ignored our plan for the day and just did what “the spirit say do.”

Does this have anything to do with writing?

Did you think this was a blog about the joys of visiting Cleveland? It could be, but I thought about our day with Liam this morning as I sat down to work on my new book. This story has seen more incarnations than the Dalai Lama. Characters have died, been resurrected, and then killed off again. Every bio I wrote at the beginning has to be tossed because now, everyone has a different past. Names have changed. Plot elements have disappeared and new ones inserted.

And still, despite my proposal being accepted by my publisher, this is still not exactly the story I want to tell. I’ve made one big change in the past week, but there’s another in the book’s future.

A book proposal is a “best laid plan,” and mine is no exception. But sometimes novelists need to be led astray, to explore whatever looks like fun, to change directions. Sometimes we even need to find that solving one mystery (tree tags) isn’t as important as exploring the new places our quest might take us.

So you know what I’ll be doing this week. I’m so close to finding what I need, but still too far away. I’ll be looking hard, changing directions once again and simply wandering.

Is there something in your life that calls out for a day or two of just seeing what’s ahead?

How about deviating from your best laid plans? Or following your nose to better possibilities? If you don’t know where to start, try your own local museums. A walk through an unfamiliar neighborhood. Dinner at a restaurant with a cuisine you’ve never tried. A treasure hunt. Most of all, just see what’s out there waiting for you.

I’d love to hear your story.


  1. Jane Goodhand Dougherty on October 20, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    25 years ago two college friends took the train from Washington DC to Spokane, WA. The train arrived at 2AM and since it was 75 miles south to my home, we stayed the night in a hotel. The plan the next morning was to drive to my home for a week of visiting. One friend saw a sign that said we were less than 100 miles from the Canadian border, and the next thing we knew we were off to Canada. From that first trip we have continued traveling for 25 years. In the beginning I would meet them at the airport and ask if we should go left or right and off we went to either California or Canada. One gal had MS and eventually our trips had to have more structure but until her death we tried to be as spontaneous as possible. We travel with an old fashioned paper map and are always on the lookout for interesting side trips and adventures.

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