HAPPY BIRTHDAY GAIL: A GIFT OF PEACE
“When I first met Gail, I was impressed by her friendliness, her outgoing nature, and how she always was so funny, kind and generous.” –Mark, my husband.
“Gail is always so friendly, and she always takes care of everyone.” –Joel, my son.
“I love Gail. She is so much fun.” –Skip, my neighbor.
The reviews are in, and they are all five stars. Gail is all these things, and so much more.
Gail will celebrate her 58th birthday on Wednesday, February 21st. She doesn’t care that I divulged her age. She is proud of it; we all know age is a gift. She is planning a giant 60th birthday party already. Gail, Suzanne and I will leave for our annual trip west a week after that. We will celebrate in high style there—high in the Rocky Mountains. We probably won’t tell you many details about how we celebrated, though. Those are privileged secrets.
Gail is six years older than me, and ten years older than Suzanne. She is the Big Sister Extraordinaire, the acting matriarch of our family now. She had big shoes to fill, and she is filling them like no one else could. She stepped into them in her usual grace, striding into her new role that she didn’t want, didn’t sign up for, but was heaped upon her.
Whoo has the best big sister in the world? Suzanne and I do!
Gail has always accepted whatever is laid at her feet. No matter how small or how great, she tackles any challenge with an “I got this” attitude, long before “I got this” became a frequently used catchphrase by women of lesser strength—like me.
So, because she is my sister, and because there are stories to tell, I am going to share a few. I have already shared my earliest memories of her working non-stop. If, like most children, my earliest memories are recalled from around age four, Gail would have been ten. She was already a small-scale Swiss Army Knife, helping Mom with all those tasks that must be performed for a large family: child care, cooking, cleaning, laundry and on and on. Mom used to tell the story of Gail waking up from a nap, still drowsy with eyes half-shut and walking by Mom changing the latest baby—it could have been me or my next older brother, or maybe even Suzanne—and she picked up the dirty cloth diaper as if on cue, taking it to the diaper pail while still waking up. She didn’t need to be told; she knew.
It only intensified from there. She picked up her pace and productivity, knocking out all that needed to be done without question or complaint.
She continues to knock it all out, and usually knocks it out of the park. Gail does nothing halfway. If a job is to be done, it is to be done right.
When she managed the Pizza Hut in Osborne, Suzanne worked for her for a time. Suzanne confirmed that she did indeed run a tight ship. She posted a sign that read: IF YOU HAVE TIME TO LEAN, YOU HAVE TIME TO CLEAN.
Gail works hard, spins those plates I spoke of earlier. If one plate is done spinning, she throws another up in its place. She runs on more horsepower and cylinders than any of us dream of possessing.
Every time I hear the term “elbow grease,” I think of Gail. As a young child who was learning that our language is filled with non-literal terms that don’t really mean what they say, I recall exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard that term, and of course, who said it: Gail.
I was standing beside, or perhaps behind her as she washed dishes at the kitchen sink—an automatic dishwasher was unheard of; our parents had seven human ones. She said something about scrubbing a dirty pan with elbow grease. I remember looking at her elbow to see if there was any grease on it, or coming out of it. I asked her if there was, and she said, yes, it did indeed have grease inside it, and that is what she was using to get the dishes clean.
I have never forgotten that, and I think of it every time I hear “elbow grease.” So, as I was trolling eBay for her birthday gifts, I came upon this Rosie gift:
Even though this effectively spoils the surprise for this small part of her gift bag of goodies, I had to include the picture of the small bar of soap in her bag.
Mom and Dad had studio pictures taken of each of us around one year of age, and they hung on their living room wall. As a child, Gail said she thought the reason her hair stood up on top is because she was sitting up on a stool.
Gail does show kindness and empathy, but ultimately, she helps you get through whatever brings you down with a get over it/toughlove approach, even from a very young age as demonstrated here with me:
If I stopped here, and you didn’t know Gail, you would think she was all business. As we all know, all work and no play makes Rosie, Gail, or any other woman a dull girl, so I must tell you also how much fun she carries with her, and brings to anyone in her midst.
My earliest memories of Gail having fun are not necessarily good ones, at least not for her anyway. I recall waking up at 2 a.m. early one Monday morning to the sound of Dad’s stern voice—it was only stern in such circumstances—when Gail arrived home from a Sunday “afternoon” at the lake with her friends at this hour.
She was grounded for I don’t know how long, and then Suzanne reminded me that as soon as she was released from house arrest, she committed a similar crime, and she was grounded again.
Not that it matters, but just for the record, Suzanne and I were never grounded.
From these earlier episodes of misbehavior grew a matured and more responsible sense of fun within Gail. I wasn’t part of the train trip from Denver to Las Vegas that Gail and Suzanne went on with a handful of other thrill seekers, but I wish I had been. I don’t know where I was or what kept me from this excursion, but if I had been able, I am sure I would have signed up too.
Apparently, the train staff didn’t anticipate that many thrill-seekers on one trip, so extreme measures were necessary: On one stop, one male patron—I would call him a gentleman, but apparently he was not—had to be removed from the train for disorderly behavior. While he was not initially part of Gail and Suzanne’s group, he apparently knew how to have fun, and was indeed having fun with their group. Unlike Gail though, he apparently did not learn how to have mature and responsible fun.
When Gail’s second daughter got married in Hawaii about seven years ago, Gail realized a long-held dream: she zip-lined. I, being less adventuresome, will likely never do this. Nor will I bungee jump, like she has also done. She is fearless, compared to me.
When my husband and I were dating, he had a four month long out-of-town project in Osborne when Gail lived there. His evenings were destined to be monotonous and boring as he stared at four motel room walls—until Gail reached out. She invited him to join her bowling league, invited her to dinner at her home and always treated him like family.
One of his unique tastes is for anchovies on his pizza. While not a topping she had listed on her menu, and not typically kept in stock (and not eaten by typical people), she made an exception for him. She always had anchovies available for him when he wanted them on his pizza.
Now, it’s time to get down to business.
IT happened again. I can’t put a name on IT, because it is so unspeakable. We all know what IT is.
How can this happen again? When is this going to stop? How can one person have so much evil inside them? What can we do?
The easy answer is to think that since it happened far away from us, happened to people we likely didn’t know, is to say our prayers for the victims and go on our way. That’s what most of us have been doing all along—myself included. It’s a good start, but we must do more.
The hard answer is to take a look at ourselves. Find any small or large seeds of discontent in ourselves and find a way to turn them around. We all want peace in our families, our communities our country; our world. But we have to have it in ourselves first. We can’t give away something we don’t have.
“But I’m just one person, my actions don’t really matter,” you may think. I often think this too.
But they do. They create ripples, good or bad. And those ripples are far-reaching; we have no idea how far they can spread.
Consistently, it has been found that the people who perpetrate these heinous crimes have been ostracized from their peers; they have been set apart in a negative way.
The innate need to belong to the human group cannot be denied, no matter how much we may want to–myself included. I find myself wanting to hole up alone more as I age. But I need people. Just like everyone else. Without that connection, we wither as humans, we cannot become the people we were meant to be.
So, back to what can I do? I can reach out, and you can too. We can do something as simple as smile at a stranger, or something as complex as forgive an enemy, even if they think they did nothing wrong. Forgive them in your heart, bless them, and let it go. Roll your eyes if you have to; that’s how I get through it sometimes. Forgiveness is really about freeing ourselves, not the other guy. Letting go frees up a lot of space in our hearts and souls to be filled with good things like peace and positivity. Try to see the conflict from their perspective. Remember, often times, there ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy, there’s only you and me, and we just disagree.
I can’t take any more of this, and I hope you can’t either. I am searching for ways to crank it up at least a notch; to find a means to share more peace and positivity. It is in me, and I need to get it out.
It’s in you, too. I hope you find your unique ways to get it out there, because we all need it now more than ever. We all need to share our gifts of peace, whatever they are.
Start within. Find those seeds of discontent, and weed them out before they grow any bigger. Forgive, and if you can’t forget, then bless them and send them good vibes. Smile more. Say thank you. Tell someone you not only love them, but you like them too. Say your prayers, whatever they are.
Speaking of prayers, I must use this platform to spread one of the most timeless ones, one that, if we all simply followed it, we may never have to say not again again.
I have written about The Letter our mother left, and I will likely write about it again. She asked us to live our lives by the prayer of Saint Francis, commonly known as The Peace Prayer.
Along with The Letter, she left seven prayer cards, one for each of her children. Per her written instructions, they were handed to each of us by the priest at their funeral in front of 500-plus people.
Given that, and in light of this week’s tragedy, I’m having a little trouble feeling that I don’t need to do a little more than I am already doing. I want to say that I was trying my best, but I can do more. I have put it just below my bathroom mirror, so that it stares at me every day until I say that prayer at least once daily. And then I must do something about it.
This is heavy stuff, especially after Gail’s birthday tribute. However, Gail has a birthday gift request for you: She has a Facebook group called Mom’s Message–Instrument of Peace (click on about tab) that she started many years ago. ( If you had previously joined, somehow, Facebook zeroed out the membership, so please re-join.) Go to it, and consider joining to further Mom’s message of peace, if you haven’t already. Then, figure out what you can do. Figure out what gifts of peace you can offer those in your life. Also, if you are on board, and you are reading this through Facebook, consider reposting this blog on your page.
And, in honor of Gail, never forget this:
Happy Birthday Gail. Here’s a toast to peace.
It’s time we put some elbow grease on this problem. And don’t forget the ripple effect–what you and I do matters, so let’s do something good.
WE CAN DO IT!