Happy Holidays

Good morning, children.

It’s the first full week of December 2011, and I slipped out of bed without waking your mother and came down to my office to write.

It is my favorite time to do that. It’s a time when the whole world seems to be sleeping except for me, and I love the stillness of that; like I have some well-kept secret.

I made a cup of coffee, which is now in hand, and Bruno is curled up under my desk as I write. When I let him out this morning, I smelled a hint of snow in the air, and you all know that makes me smile. As Cary Grant said, “You must always have holly in your heart.”

As I have always told you it is the days before Christmas that I enjoy the most; anticipation being the absolute spice of life.

Wasn’t Thanksgiving wonderful? Grandma Bea, with the incredible results of her operation, now has a pair of new knees and was walking around and working the kitchen like a champ. Giana, now a year old, was walking around too; she is nothing but adorable.

It was so nice to have your uncle make the trip in from Michigan, too, wasn’t it? His family seems to enjoy getting back together with us so much, and look how well his kids are doing in school!

I’m pretty sure Dante will be engaged by this time next year. His girlfriend and he seem to be “oblivious to everything / bump into the furniture” in love. That is so nice to see.

I write today to simply remind you to count your blessings and also to thank you for the ones you have given to me, as this holiday season endures.

You are so fortunate to have generous, loving grandparents that are more than just “alive” -- they are integral, enjoyable parts of your life, and their constant adoration of you and your children is the stuff that dreams are made of.

You collectively have created nine grandchildren for your mother and I to love, and may God bless the miracle that grows inside Shanna right now that will round out that group and give us our tenth this coming February.

Girls, each of your husbands maintain solid jobs and you all live in comfortable homes. Boys, the two of you are performing handsomely at school and each of you maintain a reputation that Mom and I are proud of.

Someday you’ll know the pride in reviewing report cards that say, “A pleasure to have in class” over and over. Thanks, too, for pitching in at home and making life so easy for Mom and I to navigate. So many blessings!

If you think I ever considered for a moment that I would have all this family by the age of 50, you’d be kidding yourself. But as I look upon you all gathered at the table every Sunday, I can’t imagine a life without it.

With Sam being a generation younger than all of you, the link between him and your children is another source of great comfort to me. He sometimes reminds me of Gulliver as he takes charge of all of these little nieces and nephews, but he is fully unaware that this bounty will be his absolute source of pleasure and love someday when Mom and I have long since passed and you kids have moved into the “senior” roles. See how symmetrically odd life can be?

It was quite a year, and we all know that the challenges continue. Money is always tight. Cars break down. Kids battle colds and childhood challenges. Everyone feels tired, worn down, exhausted, but man, have a look around.

There are folks out there who are bearing crosses of monumental size. Not that we haven’t come through some of those ourselves; battles with cancer, illness and unemployment among them, but here we are today -- solid and together. That is worth so, so much.

So many of my essays revolve around the importance of family and the greater importance of keeping life simple so that it can be properly managed, but I don’t think that is really a secret anymore.

Randy Gaddo, one of my colleagues at Northstar Publications, writes a monthly article called “LBWA,” which stands for “Leadership By Wandering Around.” Back when Randy and I were young upstarts, this theory was considered cutting edge, and employed the notion of getting out of your chair or leadership desk and visiting the field or the production floor at the plant.

It meant getting your hands dirty so that you could experience the things that were happening and learn more than just what you “heard.” When managers see and feel and are confronted with problems, they take a more active part in resolving them.

I hope you kids have come to see that this very theory is where we get our strength as a family.

When we have our weekly Sunday dinners, inevitably one of you has something going on in his or her life that needs to be resolved. By meeting with your family every week and coming forward with your problems, you get to hear some alternative opinions.

But even more than that, you get to hear that your brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents all have had to deal with similar problems over the years and have found their way out of rising waters to higher ground.

You suddenly feel not so alone, and talking things out and getting it out on the table helps you reveal that maybe this isn’t all that bad. Be it quarreling couples, troublesome kids, missed payments, loss of spirit, loss of direction; guys, we have all been there at one time or another.

By shouldering the troubled times together, I think it takes the sting and loneliness out of working out the shark-infested waters of life.

You can’t imagine the thrill I get when one has a problem and the other has the solution. Like someone’s car broke down, but someone else at the table will be on vacation all week and doesn’t need his car so the other can use it until their car is fixed. Instantly solved problems with family-strength solutions; what could be better?

So as we press ahead to 2012, keep hold of that principle. We are better together; stronger, more capable, more resilient, more likely to succeed. If I leave a legacy at all in this life, make sure this example stays in place.

As I turn to my family of readership, I advise much the same. Be there for each other. Find patterns and methods and ways in 2012 that reinforce that kind of working interdependence. It will ensure that every holiday to come is a happy one.

Wishing all of you the best this season, from my family to yours!

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.