Therapy for a Control Freak: California 2017

control, control freak, grocery planning, last minute trip, letting go, list making, lists, planner, planning, relax, responsibility, routines, schedules, scheduling, structure, vacation, vacation planning

They always say, the first step to fixing a problem is admitting or accepting that there is a problem in the first place.  I am publicly acknowledging that I am a control freak and at times (too many times) this has created more stress in my life than I really needed. 

I really like predictability, schedules, routines, structure and lists.  Lists, how I love thee.  Grocery lists, , to do lists, planners, calendars, wall calendars.  I don’t just love the look of them, we use them!  We have 6 months of desk calendar sheets hung in our mud room.  I have found this is the best place to help everyone know and understand the complex inter-workings of 5 individual schedules.  Marcus, our oldest, has gotten into the habit of checking the calendar first before he asks to do something with friends.

So this is not about planners and schedules, but I could go on and on about them.  It is really about how an opportunity to travel and check items off family dream boards helped me Let Go of some of my need for predictability.

In June, my brother-in-law texted my husband saying that we (all 5 of us) should spend the weekend with him and his family, in California.  Check that, actually he said- “There are flights for you on Wednesday to LAX, we can do Disney and Universal, you are a teacher (Thang) and you have nothing going on, why not?”  Well, my list of why not’s was huge and included money, time off from work, sports, money, money, and did I mention money.  Big trips that involve all 5 of us require time, budgeting and planning.  We are working very hard to be mindful of our spending habits as well as paying down our debt.  We have numerous responsibilities and commitments at work and within athletic teams that we are teaching our boys to honor.  Flying to California last minute sounds fun and exciting, but the practical part of my brain, the need for control, structure and predictability part of my brain was having a fit. 

“It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all…”

Do you recognize these lyrics?  This song played on repeat in my head, over and over again after we booked our tickets for California.  Let it go.  Let go of the fear that work would say no to a last minute family vacation (I work at a wonderful place and have amazing managers who understand me.)  Let go of the fear of letting down my employer.  My brother-in-law gifted the flight for all 5 of us as well as 4 nights hotel stay.  Let go of the fear of spending too much money. We did not charge a single thing while we were in California.  We shifted a few things, realigned priorities a bit, and paid cash.  Let go of the fear of flying with a peanut allergy.  Let go of the fear of traveling with Celiac’s Disease.

When we decided that yes, we were going to go we had about a day and a half to get organized.  This included packing for 5, getting all extra, last minute travel necessities, communicating with all teams and organizations that expect us to be around, and working 11am-8pm the day before our flight leaves from MSP at 6:30AM.  Yeah, that was an early morning.  

Let it go. It if funny how some distance makes everything seem small.  I created distance in my mind to routine, predictability and structure.  I focused on meeting basic needs and making sure that we were all safe.  Lists and snacks were the key to this trip. 


One for the boys: what to pack including the number of shorts and t shirts, a book, a small toy/game, your gadget, it’s charger and your nigh-nigh (the name we have always called our security blankets).  One for travel: flight info, TSA pre-check, boarding passes, Epi-Pen (we brought 4; Mason carried a set and I carried a set).  And one for Thang and I, what to pack so we would only need to check and pay for 2 bags.  Lists work.  We didn’t forget anything at home nor did anyone run out of underwear.  I over-packed, but I always do.  I never know what I might need to wear and I am a sweater.  I sweat a lot. We were in Southern California, it was suppose to be between 80-90 degrees every day and we were going to be outside.  Pit stains are the worst.  I would rather have packed too much than need to wear pit stained clothes, just saying.


When Thang and I travel, we always pack snacks.  Between my gluten allergy, Mason’s peanut allergy, and the fact that we are all hard wired for 5 small meals a day, we have to pack our own snacks.  Everyone had their own gallon sized Ziploc bag with snacks.  Each of the boy’s bags were identical as I have learned long ago that everything has be equal.  This bag was breakfast on the flight, snacks for the car ride from the airport to our hotel in LA traffic, and the answer to  “I’m hungry, what’s for supper?” when supper is hours away.


It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small.  Lists and snacks were what I focused on.  I kept things small, controlled what I can  in a new environment, with a family that lives on a completely different schedule than we do.  I kept things small and so we could enjoy every moment of Universal Studios.  When I got a headache from the Minions ride-no problem, I had ibuprofen in my bag because it was on my list.  Because I kept things small I was able to appreciate swimming in the ocean for the first time and watching our boys dive in and out of the surf for hours.  When the boys were hungry-no problem, we had pretzels in our bag.  I kept things small and mentioned to the flight attendant that we have a peanut allergy in our family as we boarded the plane.  She then spoke to the rows in front of us as well as behind us before we took off and mentioned that someone in this section had a peanut allergy and asked everyone to please refrain from eating nuts during the flight.  I can only control what I can control.  Let it go.

I will be the first to admit that it wasn’t perfect.  We were so happy to get home and eat dinner at 6 pm versus 9 pm.  I will admit the wheels fell off  the bus for me when I ran out of Gluten Free snacks and I wasn’t willing to pay $4 for a Lara Bar in the hotel shop.  But we survived, actually we more than just survived.  We had fun in the sun and made memories that will last a lifetime.  Sometimes, we need to live outside our comfort zone, outside of our routine.  If we keep our fears at a distance, everything will seem small.

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