Peacekeeper?

My family knows the answer is always the same.  When the question is, “What do you want for Christmas?” my answer is, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”  Every time.

Then my daughters roll their eyes and my husband smirks and they think it’s just me being difficult.  Who, me?  Because of this, they accuse me of being hard to buy for.  Go figure.  Why don’t they know that I would be thrilled with some small item that comes from their heart – a cozy sweater, a pretty scarf, or a book I might enjoy?

But the answer I give, which my kids think is flippant, is honestly, truly, sincerely, what I would LOVE for Christmas.

And when I say, “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” I am not even talking about the whole world and all people.  Oh, that would be great, but it might be too big a bite all at one time.  I think we could simply start with our little corner of it.  How about peace in the home?  Peace in the office?  Peace in the neighborhood?  What about good will toward family?  Good will toward co-workers or customers?  Good will toward people we meet in restaurants or stores or libraries or other theaters?ornaments

Now, if some family members or former co-workers are reading this you might be tempted to say, “Really?!  Who ARE you?!”  And it might be followed closely by, “Aren’t you the one who could launch a verbal nuclear attack that could start World War III?”

Yes, in fact, I am that person.  Or maybe I was that person.  But none of us in our 50’s is really the same person we were in our 20’s or even our 30’s.  Are we?  Sometimes we mellow a bit, and sometimes we learn to think more about the consequences of our behavior before we act – sometimes.

I happened to have been born into a fairly large family where peace and good will were not something we felt towards one another every day.  For a time in my formative years, they were rare commodities.   It is possible that those early years formed my cynical and skeptical nature – qualities that served me well as a journalist and in some difficult board meetings over the years.  But there is more than one side to every person, and I suspect that if we dig a little deeper each of us seeks some comfort and longs for peace.

Siblings that get along?  This is hard stuff.  It’s definitely hard in childhood and occasionally even harder in adulthood.  So now, when discussions turn to politics and religion (where I am very much the black sheep in my family) and start to become acrimonious, I walk away.  Not always, and maybe not often enough.  But it’s a start.  And once in a while after a gathering my husband actually congratulates me for keeping my mouth shut.  Peace on earth.

With difficult people and situations in the workplace, I try very hard to be tactful while still being honest.  This is sometimes challenging, and I will never be a “yes man,” but diplomacy is something I have worked hard to learn over many years.  Good will toward men.

This does not mean that I am giving up on my firmly held opinions.  It simply means that I have reconsidered the necessity of vocalizing them in just that way at just that time.  Maybe there is something more important than making my point to people who are never going to agree with me anyway.

Remember back in the ‘90’s when the in-vogue saying was “what would Jesus do?”  It’s worth reflecting on as we get ready to celebrate his birthday, and I am pretty certain there were many times he bit his tongue.  Maybe not until it turned blue, like mine sometimes does, but I don’t think he always needed to put a fine point on every argument.

This is a huge challenge for my hot-tempered self.  But you see, sometimes with age comes a little bit of wisdom.  And I have realized that peace deserves to be treasured, and we can still care deeply for one another even when we disagree.

That’s a gift worth giving.

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Thankfulness

Gratitude.  Appreciation.  It’s so nice that we set aside a day in this great country to give thanks, and one of the truly great things about Thanksgiving is that it is inclusive.  We can all share in this holiday, regardless of race or religion.  We can all be grateful for something or someone.

So this Thanksgiving I am giving thanks for all of the people who have made my life richer for simply having known them.  I have learned so much from so many, and for that I am truly grateful.

For my husband, who makes me want to be a better person every day, I am thankful.

Two of my greatest blessings.

Two of my greatest blessings.

For my children who challenge and inspire me, and have filled me with more love than I ever knew possible, I am thankful.

For so many friends, the old and the new, who have listened, shared, comforted, cared, and laughed wildly with, I am thankful.

For my mother, who as an almost 84-year old demonstrates daily what it means to grow old gracefully while fighting it every step of the way, I am thankful.

For my siblings, nieces and nephews, aunt, uncle, cousins, and in-laws; because the older we get the more we realize that extended family is truly a gift, I am thankful.

There are definitely things that I don’t have in life.  I will never be wealthy and may never be able to do all of the things I would like to do.  But there are so many things I have and so many things I can do.

For a job, despite the pitfalls and problems that sometimes come with it, I am thankful.

For a home that is comfortable and cozy, I am thankful.

For food on our table, I am thankful.

For my family’s health, I am thankful.

For time to give back to my community, I am thankful.

For talent to create and (a little bit of) patience to make things work, I am thankful.

And because time is too fleeting, I am truly thankful for all of the good days, and even the bad days.

For all of my family and my friends, I wish you blessings too numerous to count.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Driver’s Seat

With both daughters off again on their own life journeys, the past few weeks have left me emotional and philosophical.  Coupled with some real world car trouble, it’s no wonder I have been in a bit of a funk.  The metaphor has not been lost:  a broken down car at the same time that life seems to have stalled.

Clutch failure on a manual transmission renders the vehicle immovable and the driver helpless.  I hate that feeling more than anything – helplessness.  It may be the greatest irony of all that driving has always given me a feeling of independence.  In my car, behind the wheel, I have control and can go where I like when I choose.  That is really one of the joys of driving; a feeling that you as the driver are in charge.  Who doesn’t like to be in control?  Don’t we really want to steer in our own direction?  I hate it when the detours of life disrupt my route, and these most recent weeks have caused me to hit some roadblocks.

Thankfully, I have had a vehicle to drive while my car awaits ordered parts and ultimate repair.  It’s a nice little car that belongs to our daughter.  We plan to sell it for her since her year abroad means she’ll need the money more than the car.  But it isn’t sold yet, so I’m driving it.  My first order of business was to clean it up.  It wasn’t horrible, but as a busy college student she never spent much time cleaning it.   So a little carpet cleaner on the upholstery and floor mats, a dust-free dashboard, and shiny windows have made a huge difference.  I am not a neat freak in the housekeeping department, but I do love a clean car.

In my car, and in my life, I like to see where I’m going.  I like a certain sense of order no matter what direction I’m headed.  That may be the real problem right now.  I seem to have found some potholes that have required swerving.  I need to get back on the road, but which one?  I do not want to be that driver who fails to signal turns or is consistently in the wrong lane.  Still a mom, but without kids, this autumn trip finds me on strange roads with no map or GPS; struggling to plan my route.

My kids college logos are the ONLY stickers ever allowed on my car.

My kids college logos are the ONLY stickers ever allowed on my car.

Like a car that’s lost its clutch, I can’t seem to get it in gear.  I really thought that by now I would have at least been up to speed on some things.  Since this is my second fall with no kids at home, and since I am armed with a list of projects, I thought this would have been prime time to set the cruise control and start racking up some productive miles.  That has not been the case.  Some days it’s hard to get out of the driveway.

In a few more days I hope to be back in my own driver’s seat.  It is very shallow, but I love my car.  It’s a fun little micro-van with a zoom-zoom engine, super tight turning radius, and hugs the road nicely when driving.  Even faced with a major repair bill, I still look forward to getting back into that vehicle.  Then, maybe I can really get on with the journey.  It is time to shift into high gear and hear that little engine hum.

Now if I could just figure out where I’m going….

Such Sweet Sorrow

Parting is.

We took our eldest to the airport, seeing her off on a 3,500 mile journey as she prepares to begin a twelve month Master’s degree program in London.  We expect her to make a brief trip home at Christmas.  But we have learned that the person who leaves is never quite the same as the person who comes back.

We loved her before she was born.  We were thrilled to have our first baby – a perfect little girl.  hbw toddlerShe grew into a precocious toddler who learned to speak at an early age and who charmed family and friends with her sweet smile and friendly nature.  Always at ease around people, she had to wear a harness and leash in malls so she wouldn’t walk off with someone else.  On her first day of preschool at age three she pronounced it fun, but quickly added she couldn’t understand why “some kids cried.”  Imagine our surprise at kindergarten open house when she introduced us to almost everyone in the building:  other pupils, several teachers, and some of the office staff.  In middle school she joined the band and then told us about it afterwards.  When she started college 250 miles from home I wept as we drove away.  She shed a few tears, but was quickly about the business of building new friendships and making her own life in a new city.

Now, our family home is simply a repository for her; a wayside stop.  We are the temporary keepers of her possessions while she goes off to explore her new and much larger world.

To say we are incredibly proud of this young woman is an understatement.  She is smart, caring, and outgoing.  She has a history of working hard at the things she loves best.  Often, she has achieved a level of excellence far beyond our expectations.   She is brave and strong.

Helping our girls grow into poised, productive, young women has been a labor of enormous love.  hbw wvuWe tried so hard to have the right conversations about the right topics at the right times.  We tried to balance structure and silliness to provide both stability and outlets for creativity.  They earned the freedom to make their own choices and chase their own dreams.  And so they chase…

From birth your child is never really “yours.”  You set many examples (for better or worse) and you learn from each other – parents and child.  But each one is born with an individual personality and immediately begins the process of learning to leave.  First they learn to walk and talk and then they make airline reservations.  Maybe not quite that quickly, but it seems like it.

We hugged and cried at the airport.

Sorrow at this parting?  Certainly.  Because we will miss her.

Sweet?  Very.  Because growing up and out is her birthright.  This is part of the evolving parent-child relationship and the fulfillment of what we, and she, have worked for over the past 22 years.  She is no longer our precocious toddler.  This is her time to fly.