Road Trip

Tomorrow, January 1, 2014, I’ll be in the car starting a 3 day drive to south Florida. I’m going for work, not for vacation, but I chose to drive so that I could bring my dog (and more stuff). I just finished loading my luggage into the car. Maybe the “more stuff” aspect was a mistake?

In high school, I took road trips to visit colleges, or to visit friends in other places. During college, road trips were about coming to/going from school, or to relieve boredom. One winter, a friend and I decided on a last minute drive to DC for a protest march. After the 7 hour drive, a few hours sleep, and an all day march in the cold, we turned around and drove back.

After college graduation, I drove cross country with a friend from Baltimore to San Francisco. We took our time stopping to see the sights including the corvette museum (KY), Graceland, old town Albuquerque, the Grand Canyon, and the meteor crater (AZ). I’ve driven cross country by myself a few times, too. Once on I-10 in Texas a car flew past me like I standing still. When I looked down at my speedometer, it read 105mph.

Now that I’m over 40, long days in the car aren’t so much fun. My back hurts, my legs go numb, and if I have anything to drink, I know to start thinking about a pit stop because I have 20 minutes until I’ll need a restroom. Of course, I can plug my phone into the car and use hands free calling. I can also plug my ipod into the car and listen to music commercial free. Neither of those options was available during my last road trip. Plus my car gets better gas mileage these days. Fewer fill ups frees up money for my hotel upgrade since I’m no longer willing to crash at cheap flea bags.

The one thing I am looking forward to is a little down time. It has been a busy year, and there is nothing like hours of endless highway to review the highlights of the past 12 months, and set new goals for 2014. Happy New Year!

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The Season of Giving

Christmas shopping is done. Gifts are wrapped. Now we wait, with anticipation, for the unwrapping. I start shopping early (August) because I take time and carefully consider each person on my list. The kids are easy so I usually save them for last, but because it is important for me to get everyone something they will really appreciate, I find the entire holiday shopping experience a bit stressful.

“It’s the thought that counts,” right? But that is exactly my point. I want my gift to demonstrate the level of thought.

The Santa side of Christmas thrives on the multitude of options available to elicit the trademark joyous expressions on the faces of small children Christmas morning. An oversized stuffed animal, legos, a life like doll, or in the case of my nephew this year-those roller skate sneakers. I opted not for the plain gray generic pair, but instead went with Heely’s designed like a red race car. They even have headlights that light up. It doesn’t matter that he is five and those shoes cost more than any pair I’ve ever bought for myself, or that he will outgrow them in 6 months. I know on Christmas morning when he opens that box that I will have given him the greatest present EVER, at least until he opens the next one…

“Tis better to give than to receive” is easy to believe in when the kids are so happy.

Recreating the same joy and excitement for adults is nearly impossible. With my mom, I knew if she cried, that was a good thing. Even though I would have preferred a smile, tears were her genuine form of emotional expression. Dad, always quiet and serene, still reveals his truest opinion about a gift by his actions. The longer he hangs onto it without setting it aside, the closer I’ve come to success. My brother always has a snarky comment for each gift he opens (except the ones from his wife), but never achieving the same awestruck reaction from grown ups as I do with kids is disappointing for me-especially because I’ve put in four times the effort to find the adults something they might appreciate. Should I give up my quest and get gift cards for everyone?

“We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” The Harry Potter series shares a lot of universal truths.

I don’t want to gift like a hack. Bah humbug to the safe/generic present. This year, like every year I remind myself that the non-Santa side of this holiday is about the birth of Jesus. We share gifts in recognition for the gift we (Christians) were given by the birth of God’s son, and since nothing I can buy in a store is going to top the gift of life, my gift giving should simply strive to reflect the love I feel for those receiving (even if they aren’t jumping up and down with joy).

True expressions of love in whatever form are the only gifts that really matter. Merry Christmas to all.

Fireflies

I’ve been thinking a lot about fireflies. Like most children, I chased after them on warm summer nights collecting them carefully in between my cupped palms and placing them in a jar which I kept by my bed. When I woke up in the morning, they were always dead. You would think I’d figure out that trapping them in a jar makes for an unhappy ending, but I’m impulsively possessive. Logic takes a vacation when it comes to something I covet. THIS time will be different, I tell myself. THIS time the fireflies will be alive and happy to see me when I wake up.

I’m not sure exactly what age I stopped chasing fireflies, but I’d guess it was around the same time I started chasing boys. Funny how I made the same mistakes. I was pretty good at capturing them, but once they were mine, I held on too tight, and woke up disappointed. Any guesses on how long it took me to realize the problem and take steps to correct it? The light bulb came on last week. Thirty years of self sabotage. Okay, that is not fair, I’ve recognized the problem for at least ten years, but the voice in my head always offered the false assurance, THIS time will be different.

I heard that voice again last weekend as I stared into beautiful blue eyes that sparkled with light like a firefly. Instantly, I was transported to a field in early summer feeling warm, safe, and happy. I smile now thinking about the time we spent together and a familiar voice whispers in my head, THIS time might REALLY be different, but I know better. THIS time, I call out the flaws in my past logic, and tread cautiously with an eye toward survival for both of us. If this relationship gets messed up, I promise myself it won’t be because I trapped him until he couldn’t breathe. THIS one will fly freely as I calmly enjoy each moment, and if I remember correctly, when you are patient and trusting, the firefly comes to you.