Notes from Jan

Common Ground Isn’t so Common

September 18, 2019

The debate started on the way to church, leaving one grandchild sobbing,  the other determined to stand her ground.

“We will NOT serve Mama and Daddy’s anniversary dinner in the tree house, Poco!”

“You always have to have everything your way, Maggie.  Mama’d love  dinner up there.  She told me so.”

Sometimes too practical, I added, ” That’s a really creative idea, Poco, but by the time you’re serving the meal, it’ll be dusk when mosquitos anticipate their dinner on a hot, humid evening. Maggie fired her final shot, “I care more about my parents’ health!” (We’ve received warnings about the equine encephalitis bearing mosquito in Massachusetts.)

Between sobs, Poco let it be known, she didn’t want to kill her parents, just serve them dinner in the treehouse.

I kept driving, wishing Jud was along for this ride.

He excelled at finding common ground.

Once settled in church, I opened my purse, took out markers and two pieces of paper, suggesting each make an  anniversary card for their parents. I wedged myself  between them, grabbed my pen and notebook to take sermon notes.  Someone had to appear holy.

They remained busy during much of the service, with occasional glances at each other’s work.  Turns out they were calmly competing to see who could write the most words, sometimes including complaints to their parents about each other.

The whole scenario reminded me of married life and the small stuff that tends to trip us up.

Somewhere between church and home, the girls reached a compromise.  They’d serve the appetizers in the treehouse and dinner inside the house.

Once home, Poco swept and cleaned the treehouse like her parent’s lives depended on it.  Maggie began assembling ingredients, while I stood by awaiting orders from the chef,  whose title Poco resented.

“Maggie, why to you always get to be in charge and  all I get to do is serve?”

(Well, that’s an ongoing debate in many a marriage.)

Before long, Poco stood on a stool, stirring a sauce, while I followed Maggie’s directives.

Come to think of it, that may have been my biggest contribution, since I prefer to be in charge.  I’m too much like a sign I read somewhere,  “Sorry!! I don’t take orders.  I barely take suggestions.”

” Momo, I need  you  to cut up the root vegetables for roasting. Also, please chop a whole onion, and mince 4 cloves of garlic.”

I chopped and minced.

After a while, Maggie looked over at me and asked, “Are the onions making you cry, Momo?”

Well, let her think it’s the onions.  More like overwhelming awe at watching two aproned saints in process,  sharing love’s labors to produce a feast instead of perpetuate a feud.

What began with a compromise on the treehouse ended with chocolate mousse at the dining room table and a new card, produced by both of them.  Since their parents were celebrating their 14th anniversary, each daughter wrote 7 reasons they loved their parents.  As they wrote, I overhead them talking:

“I love Mommy and Daddy for making me.”(Poco, age 8)

After a moment to reflect, Maggie, age 12, reacted with,”Ewww!”

She’s at that age.

Soon they’ll both be older and wiser about love and life but I hope they never outgrow a willingness to hunt common ground,  sacred soil where love thrives.






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  • Reply Karen September 18, 2019 at 8:41 am

    I love how you saw married life in these 2 young ones’ argument and compromise. And oh! did I laugh when I got to Maggie’s “Ewww!”

  • Reply Mark Taylor September 18, 2019 at 8:43 am

    How come iIalways get misty-eyed when I read your mini-essays?!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 19, 2019 at 10:09 am

      Life’s sprinkled with “onion” moments.
      Soul cleansers.

  • Reply Sabine Sile-Eglite September 18, 2019 at 9:36 am

    I almost never comment, but this was such a beautiful and insightful reflection, so perfectly told, that I had to! Thank you!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 19, 2019 at 10:10 am

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Sabine. You encouraged me.

  • Reply Dale September 18, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Thanks Jan, there is good news and bad news with precocious grandchildren. At our end, we still have to smile at “potty” humor, but are hoping for better days. 🙂 If we listen, sometimes we can hear our wisdom returning in the form of real life conversations with the grandchildren.

    Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 19, 2019 at 10:13 am

      Grateful to still be around to get another shot at listening better and longer than I did with their parents.

  • Reply Myrna September 18, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Thanks for a peek inside your life with your sweet granddaugters…… prompting laughter and tears. Priceless!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 19, 2019 at 10:14 am

      They go together like peanut butter and jelly, these opposites. Yet, what would real life be without laughter and tears.

  • Reply Becky Manseau Barnett September 18, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    One of my absolute favorite things about the esteemed (and tender and kind) Dr. Jud Carlberg…his propensity for finding common ground. Thank you for sharing this beautiful moment, Jan!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 19, 2019 at 10:18 am

      As one mentored by Jud, dear Becky, you’d know well his gift for seeking common ground.

  • Reply Alyssa Arnold September 18, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    Jan, I thoroughly enjoyed this story! Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 19, 2019 at 10:21 am

      Good to hear from you, all the way from Utah. Happy the story added some joy to your day.

  • Reply wendy lane September 21, 2019 at 10:54 am

    Oh my goodness this is beyond precious!!! Made my eyes water <3 This made me think about how different Sherri and Nicholas are, and how very far they have come in being able to move past those differences and love and work together. 🙂 And with a new grandaughter – it will be fun to watch Sam and Olivia grow up together as siblings who I know will be very different. They're already so different and Livi's only 3 months old! Haha! Love you Jan!!

  • Reply Jeri October 16, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Delightful and chock full of wisdom! Love these moments you share, Jan. Keep reminding us of these God moments playing out in the ordinary.

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