Great Expectations

They sneak up on us. They get even the best of us.

Great expectations.

And no, I’m not taking about the novel by Charles Dickens. I’m talking about what we expect of ourselves, our families and the general holiday season. This year everyone will be happy. This year everyone will be ecstatic with their gifts. No one will be sick. No one will have travel problems. No one will forget something terribly important, like Uncle Fester’s present, the rolls still in the oven or the lines for the Christmas eve drama.

This year, you think, will be different. This year it will snow at the right time, bringing atmosphere but not treacherous driving conditions. This year you’re going to hit a home run worthy of jewelry store commercials with your gift. This year you’ll make all of the holiday events you’ve always wanted to attend and enjoy every one. This year the cat will leave the tree alone and the dogs will not ingest tinsel. This year you’ll take the family picture and everyone’s eyes will be open and you will all look like you’re enjoying the exercise… and each other.

This year it will be perfect.

Or maybe not. Who knew she was kidding when she said she wanted oven mitts for Christmas?

I’m no soothsayer, but I suspect you won’t have the perfect Christmas. Mainly because there’s never been one. That is, if your expectation is for everything to go according to your best plans, for no detours, no slip-ups, no unexpected thing to mar your heavenly peace.

Holding to hopes and dreams is a fine thing but they have to be held lightly. If you hold tightly to your expectation that things must be one certain way then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and unhappiness. Things happen. Germs spread. Gift givers cannot read minds. Cats cannot resist reaching for the star(s).

So enjoy this holiday season in the best way you are able. You may decide to cut back on some commitments. You may decide that it’s the year for trying new things. Whatever you do and however you celebrate, hold it lightly. Hold to your hopes and dreams but leave room for the serendipity of the unexpected. Sometimes it’s the things you didn’t plan that become the memories you treasure most.

Or, in the cases of the germs… maybe not.



Red, white and pretty cool

I’ll say it upfront. You’re going to have to bear with me today. I just voted.

I get this way every four years with a milder case every two. I look around at the patchwork mix of people around me as we wait in line to vote… young, old, young families with proud children in tow, skin of every shade. And I think what we’re doing is pretty cool.

I know our country has serious issues and challenges. I know keeping the election  process fair and just in an every changing world of technology and finance is a task that requires both wisdom and vigilance. Like any good relationship, our voting process requires ongoing evaluation, attention and care. I know our country has serious issues and challenges, not the least of which is a paralyzing partisanship.

But you know what guys? I just voted.

I didn’t have to walk seventy-five miles to cast my ballot. If I hadn’t already been out in the car, I could have walked… roughly ¬†a mile. No one was shooting at me. No one is going to come and carry me off in the night because I voted.

Guys, I just voted. For the president of the United States. And my state Agriculture Commissioner. And my local judges. And a host of others. I voted.

I’m a student of American history, particularly Revolutionary War history. Reading books like 1776 and the fine John Adams biography (as well as watching the DVD series) reminds me that as this country was founded, they were pretty much making it up as they went along. No one had ever trusted the people enough to put the fate of a nation in their hands. Sometimes we have responded with brilliance and wisdom and sometimes we’ve dropped the ball. But we have the power to vote.

And yes, I know in those early days “the people” meant white guys. But even those white guys put into into place the mechanism for change so that when we knew better, we could do better.

Guys, I just voted.

And in my book, that’s pretty cool.