Hell froze over last week.

I wasn’t one of the two winners of the $588 million Powerball jackpot, which floored no one but me. My bags were mentally packed. (Or my bags were in the literal trash, as I planned to buy new ones with my winnings or, rather, have one of my future staff members buy très chère ones and then pack the few worthy items in them that I would have kept from my old life for transfer to my new, much, much richer life. And then, yes, I would have begrudgingly given a bunch of requisite money to charity, too.)

As it turns out, however, I hit a different kind of jackpot when I got the happy surprise of having an elusive, last-minute week off. Well, I was off if you don’t count the fact that I still had to care full time for my 1-year-old Peony, and full time and a half for my 4-year-old Petunia (despite the fact that she’s in preschool four days a week). So I blotted my lottery-losing tears with my worthless $8 Powerball ticket and did something I thought it would take an army of Martha Stewart clones or icicles on the devil’s goatee to do: my to-do list.

Tackling a to-do list is eminently simpler than it sounds. You experience night terrors and break out in a cold sweat, desperately wanting to cross items off the list, but more often than not the laziness is so deeply embedded in your soul that you just kind of innately know you don’t have the required motivation to earn the right to the aforementioned cross-off. Plus, the longer some items have been on the to-do list, the less likely they are to ever actually leave the list. Especially if they require anything that includes a trip to the hardware store, a phone call to a company with a wait time that involves Muzak, or Scotch tape when you just know your dispenser is empty and buying a refill is on your to-do list.

I eased into my list by creating a book in iPhoto from our family’s trip to Disney World earlier this fall. It was a task that should have taken a couple of hours at the most, but there’s just a finite number of ways to creatively use pictures of a 4-year-old who reached the apex of happiness every time a princess so much as farted and a 1-year-old who always stared at the camera with an expression that could only possibly mean, “Remind me again why you thought I would enjoy this vacation if you refused to let me nap and then made me stay up for inhumanely late dinner reservations with cartoon characters who were suspiciously silent even though I saw them singing in no less than three parades and two live shows earlier in the day.”

After that, I started and then completed Peony’s baby scrapbook. That is when I decided I should and would, at long last, complete Petunia’s book, too, mostly so that when my daughters eventually compare them, I can’t be accused of playing favorites, à la my mother, who seems to have absentmindedly tackled mine in the time it took her to prepare a packet of Lipton Cup-a-Soup, as opposed to my sister’s, which appears to have been crafted as painstakingly and meticulously as the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.

Homemade snow globes weren’t actually on my to-do list, but then I clicked on a Facebook post, which led to a Pinterest wall that directed me to a site that inspired me to Google homemade snow globes, which I decided my kids had to have this winter. They looked so simple. And so cheap.

Four days, eight stores, nine hot-glue-gun scars and a mid-three-digit sum of money later, the homemade snow globes are now languishing among a chess set and a half-empty bottle of red wine atop the bar in our living room, mostly because no one has looked at them since their unveiling. If I could fit them in my kids’ baby scrapbooks or design tattoos of them and then forcibly apply them to each child, I would, just so they know the lengths to which I went to make them feel as if they were raised by Michelangelo, not Thomas Lipton.

I prepared an herbed white bean and sausage stew (which required nearly 24 hours, not two, at a gentle simmer), pumpkin swirl bread (the swirl looked innocent enough in the picture; in real life, it was nearly my undoing), Guinness quick bread and baked chicken and mascarpone. I also bought holiday gifts for my entire family, cleaned out and reorganized more than half the rooms in my house and took Peony to the playground every day.

A Powerball victory might have allowed me freedom from my to-do list (or at least the snow globes), but a week off made me appreciate the prospect of going back to work more than I ever thought possible. Which is kind of like its own jackpot — just with a lot less money.

 

More at www.meredithcarroll.com.

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