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Plans change...

I had big plans this weekend. I was going to pack a lunch, load up the family, and we were going to head into the mountains to see the changing aspen leaves and -mAkE mEmOrIEs-. Because as a mom, Coloradian, and someone who's been stuck in the house entirely too long, that's just what you do. And we did it! Lunch in the cooler, snacks and water bottles easily accessible, masks for everyone, and out the door on time! I knew we were in for about a 90-minute drive, which with a 5-month-old isn't ideal, but I knew we could do it. Once on the road, I started the GPS and while I-70 always gets a little jammed up in a few spots we were looking at almost an hour delay! Not going to work. The baby wouldn't sleep that long, the 7-year-old didn't bring that many books to read, and I surely didn't pack enough snacks for myself (the husband is a trooper, he would have been fine). So we quickly changed courses. We would still see aspens, still have a picnic lunch, and still have a playground for the 7-year-old, just in a different town up another highway. Great! Until there was a 45-minute delay that direction too! So, on to our last resort. There would be few golden aspens to see and there was no playground, but we would still be outdoors, lunch would still be eaten on a blanket, and remember, it's about -mAkIng mEmOrIEs- after all! After not being able to find a parking spot and having to park too far away for my liking, unloading our lives into the stroller, and playing frogger to get across a busy street, I was a bit irritated but we were there. Outdoors. Doing that memory thing. As we were walking to our picnic spot I hadn't quite settled into it all yet, still irritated about the walk, bummed we weren't at our original destination 2,000 feet higher up, trying to finagle the mask + sunglasses thing, and we saw a group of people gathered on the trail. Come on people, COVID. And then we saw it too. A little elk family in the marshy area, maybe 15 feet from us, eating their lunch. And then it dawned on me, even though it wasn't as originally planned, we did it. We might not have checked all of the boxes for the day but there was the experience, there were the memories, and that was really the box that needed to be checked. We live in the suburbs, raccoons and foxes are pretty crazy for us to see, so seeing those elk grazing that close up was amazing. We stopped, took a breath, took some pictures, and let the marvel sink in. If we had gotten to our original destination we would have had a nice day. All of the boxes would have been checked and we would have gone home happy. But since it didn't go as planned (twice) we ended up having an experience that wasn't on our list and one that would have been improbable at our original spot. Being able to (uncharacteristically) change plans on the fly paid off. Realistically, it was just another day, no real lesson needed to be found. But the unexpected gift of seeing those elk so close up reminded me that even though you have a plan that you've prepared for, plans change. And change again. And sometimes again and again. So while you might have prepared for a day in the mountains or a career in sales, the literal and figurative roads very well might take you in other directions. What really matters is the ability to make changes on the fly, allow yourself a bit to feel bummed about the planned path not working out, and then finding the beauty in your new situation.

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