Monday, December 31, 2012

It Can't Be Over. It's the 7th Day of Christmas!

Christmas wasn’t what I imagined this year.  In fact there were a few events that if it were possible, I would ask to do over but on the other hand there were a couple of things that worked out perfectly.  One of the perfect things happened to be an unexpected event that made me want to stop the clock and freeze time.
My grandgirls came to stay with us on December 7th.   We weren’t expecting them until December 21 and I would be lying to you if I didn’t admit that at first I was completely overwhelmed.   When they arrived, Christmas preparations were barely underway and things were busy at work with a lot of year-end activities.  It’s been nearly 8 years since I had to juggle the working mom schedule but it didn’t take long for me to get a schedule figured out.   Lucky for me after a week of rearranging and scheduling, our workplace day care center kicked off a winter camp program so the girls got to come to work with me every day. 

There were some week days that I was completely exhausted after getting them fed, bathed and ready for the next day but on the weekends it was incredible to have plenty of time to bake cookies, go ice skating, go Christmas shopping, volunteer, have tea parties, sing carols, read stories, play games and watch movies. My youngest granddaughter loves Gidget!   Can you imagine?   Every day really was a holiday – just like the words that Karen Carpenter sang.

I just took my son, his wife and the girls to the airport and I’m back home completely overwhelmed with an empty and silent house. While the girls were here everything was always out of place, something was being broken or spilled or someone was needing help with something but the for the past three weeks the house has been full of joy, excitement and enthusiasm.  In the evenings we would sit together in “the talking room” (my living room which has no television) and simply enjoy family times, telling the Christmas story nightly.  The mornings were so special. Nothing can take the place of a waking up to a child’s hand gently reaching for your face in the early hours of the morning just checking to see if you are awake.

Today my heart aches from having to say goodbye to such precious moments and at the moment it is too hard to think about much of anything else.  I am reminded that there is joy in being able to recognize precious moments when they happen and they happened a lot this Christmas.

May 2013 be filled with more wonderful moments with friends and family. Happy New Year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Silent Night

Going caroling has always been a Christmas tradition for me and tonight I’d like to share a story about a very special song and why it's so meaningful.
Several years ago I joined together with a few singer friends and we set out to go caroling and visiting a list of senior citizens living in our community.  We’d visited five or so houses when we arrived at our last address.  As we knocked on the door of this house an elderly woman opened the front door and invited us in.   We stepped inside a darkened living room and the woman quickly explained that her husband, who was lying on a bed in the middle of the room, was on hospice care.  She went on to say that Silent Night had always been his favorite Christmas song and while he might not open his eyes she was sure that he would be able to hear us if we were to sing it for him.

I was a bit emotional as I started to sing and I could hear my voice cracking but as our small group continued to sing, the song became more ethereal as we sang the words, “sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”   By the time we finished the song silent tears were streaming down our faces.  The man’s wife began to weep as she thanked us for our visit.    

As we opened the door to leave we realized that it had been snowing and there was already a dusting of snow on the walkway.  The night sky was a beautiful midnight blue which was lighted by the snowfall.  Somehow the snow was muffling outside noises turning a busy weeknight into a silent night.  As I drove home I couldn’t stop thinking the last visit and the dying man.  It was hard to sleep that night. 

Early the next morning as I was getting ready for work the phone rang.  It was one of the carolers from my group calling to tell me that the man we’d visited had died just a few hours after our visit.

Since that night, Silent Night has held a very special place in my heart.   

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Still Catching Up

It has taken me a little time to get back to blogging after my Thanksgiving trip to Zimbabwe.   I returned to U.S. and went straight to work on November 29th and I've been in overdrive ever since.  

Thanksgiving weekend is usually when our family does all of our decorating, shopping and other holiday preparations so being away during that time put me a bit off schedule.  
Zimbabwe - A group from the seminar
The trip to Zimbabwe was a very emotional trip.  It was amazing to have the opportunity be a part of an incredible program and to have the chance to introduce the idea of corporate volunteerism in Zimbabwe but during the course of the seminar we heard about so many areas of need.  It wasn't just hearing about issues of poverty, health and human rights, but in some instances, emotionally I struggled with coming face-to-face with AIDS orphans and poverty.  

It took me a couple of weeks to process the things I saw and experienced and to get to a point that I could speak about some of these things without crying.  Since then many of my friends have been helping me think of ways to help and their suggestions and input has been helpful. 

In the coming weeks I hope to post photos and tell more stories but for now it is nice to share some holiday happenings.  

Our grandgirls arrived early!
The girls and I have been busy baking cookies, bell-ringing for Salvation Army, going to Christmas gatherings and making memories.  
During the coming week they are going to a winter camp, going to the Shakespeare Tavern for a performance of A Christmas Carol and working at the local food bank.  It's really been fun to have them with us as we celebrate the season. 
Like the rest of the country, we were so saddened by Friday's tragic eventsI must admit that I was challenged by trying to figure out how to discuss the tragedy with the girls but at the same time my heart was heavy for a community that was suffering with so many losses.  Last night we decided to light candles last night and say prayers for the victims.  
We did a lot more hugging and snuggling this weekend and will continue to join our country in prayer for the families of the victims.

Friday, November 16, 2012

It's Time!

I'm nervous, excited and almost ready.

Shots and vaccine card - check

Passport - check 

Anti-malaria pills - check

High-powered bug spray - check

Clothing treated with bug spray as recommended by the travel clinic doctor - check 

PowerPoint presentations complete - check

Talking points ready - check

Thumbdrive loaded - check 

Converter ready - check 

Suitcase pack ,,,,TBD (as in "to be done")

Errands run (like picking up the new pair of glasses that I need for this trip, going to the bank, etc.)  TBD

So this time tomorrow I will be well on my way to Amsterdam, Nairobi, Lusaka, eventually making my way to Harare.  I've got my iPad and I'll be listening to Christmas music whenever possible so that I'm doing my part to kick off the holiday season

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Vacations Are the Best

It was wonderful to spend time in Mexico!   I’ve wanted to travel in Mexico for years but my husband was not the least bit interested.  

Last spring during an airfare sale, my son and I decided to make plans.  It’s always amused me that whenever I ask my husband about doing something, he can be less than enthusiastic but if I just go ahead and make plans, he is always 100% on board.  I love that about him.  Now I can't wait to go back!
At certain moments it was hard to sit back and enjoy the moment.  Hurricane Sandy was on my mind and because of my role at work there were some relief effort planning that needed to be done. What did we ever do before the internet, Skype, Blackberries and iPhones? 
Breakfast fresh from the tree
 There were a few times I felt guilty about relaxing in such a beautiful place when so many people in the northeast were, and still are struggling.
Snorkeling just a few feet away from my hammock!
This weekend has been a whirlwind as I prepare for my trip to Zimbabwe – lots of shots, meds and bug spray.   
Vacation is over
There may be a gap in my posts but I can promise you I will have plenty to share when I get back.   I’m taking my iPad so maybe I’ll get a post in before the end of the month. 

Happy Thanksgiving to blog friends in the U.S. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Passion versus Perfection

As I’ve gotten older I’ve decided that being a passionate person is far better than being a perfectionist.  

 Once you accept the fact that you're not perfect, then you develop some confidence.  ~Rosalynn Carter

In my working environment perfection matters…and in the industry I work in it is a given that there are no margin for errors.  My job on the other hand is an unusual job within the industry and in the line of work that I do passion matters.   Recently I’ve been confronted with a couple of situations where a work product may have been perfect and the outcome was good, but if the task had been completed with passion the outcome would have been stupendous.  
Thank you U.S. for this beautiful photo of the passion flower - my favorite!

A few years back someone in observing me and my hobbies commented that I was a bit obsessive.  I confess that since my forties, I haven’t just gardened, I started a garden club.  I didn’t just take a ballet class, I took ballet 3 days a week, helped with a pre-school ballet class and performed in 2 recitals (odd for a woman in her 40s I know but it was fun)!  Oh there are lots more examples of my passions but In 2003 I was very lucky when our managing partner asked me to take a role with our firm leading volunteerism. Volunteering is something that I’ve always been passionate about and I’m often one of those people that just can’t watch the news and hear of catastrophic disasters without organizing a drive or an effort to support those affected.   In raising my family I made sure each of my children served as a volunteer in some way.  I’m recalling the time my daughter was excited to help with a Habitat build until she got there and realized that we were on the insulation team and it was 96 degrees that day.   All I can say is that my passion for helping others and really making a difference in my community, locally and beyond must have been obvious in the workplace as I was singled out to take on an incredible role which has changed my life in so many ways. 

As the person who organizes volunteer efforts I can tell you that passion makes a difference.  Recently we had one person passionately wanting to assist victims of human trafficking and I was able to connect him with several very meaningful opportunities. Over the course of a year he represented several clients who’d been through some horrific experiences.  This person assisted each client with an intense passion and through these experiences has since moved into an international position because of his passion for assisting victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. 

One of our volunteers loves children, even going so far as to go back to school to get a degree in early childhood education.  She serves in a number of volunteer roles working with children and last summer ultimately performed one of the most selfless acts I’ve heard of in years by actually crossing the U.S. Mexico border in an area known for conflict in an effort to help some children in distress. She ultimately won a national award for her extraordinary efforts.

As a passionate person, I’m inspired by other passionate people.

Here’s what I’ve learned.  It isn’t that perfectionist aren’t passionate people but I’ve observed that when a person pursues an issue with a passion, perfection will follow.  Passion brings with it energy, creativity, problem-tunities and often some amazing results.

As I age I’m prepared to begin to sag, droop, and potentially lose things but the one thing that I hope I can hold on to is my passion.