Family, Relationships

Close Quarters

crowded-house-pau-casals

My university made the announcement that all buildings will be closed starting tomorrow. Some students still live on campus, some international students have not been able to get home. “Essential services,” as we call them now, will remain functional. Grab-and-go meals in a few dining halls. Campus security. A couple of residence halls. The rest of campus shuttered. All of us that can telework are doing so.

In the span of a week, an entire faculty has figured out, more or less, how to teach online — a skill some sizable percentage has been resisting for a decade.

Today I went into my building for the first time since March 10. With a gloved left hand and a “clean” right, I navigated to my office to collect my ergonomic keyboard and a standing desk floor mat. My partner and son have assembled a plywood contraption on casters that will work for me to stand at home. This small condo is quickly shrinking, and it’s good to have a place to work that isn’t the dining table. Especially now that we’re eating three meals a day there.

Continue reading “Close Quarters”

activism, prayer, spirit

The First Principle of All Existence is Utter Dependence

Santiago Mauro Mora

The discipline of gratitude reminds us how utterly dependent we are on the people and world around us for everything that matters. From this flows an ethic of gratitude that obligates us to create a future that justifies an increasing sense of gratitude from the human family as a whole. The ethic of gratitude demands that we nurture the world that nurtures us in return. It is our duty to foster the kind of environment that we want to take in, and therefore become.

– Galen Guengerich, “The Heart of Our Faith”

May gratitude carry us over the rocky places. May we remember to say thanks for the smallest gestures. For the simplest nourishment. For the hand. The comfort. The roof. The healthy parts.

Thanks to the fighters. The ones who take on the dangerous work. Who excavate the hidden graves. Conduct research on hunger, violence, trauma. Share their findings, speak the names, guide our practices. The eco-warriors. The anarchists. The witnesses holding vigil at the pipeline, at the refugee camp, at the courthouse. The cash bail activists, the public defenders, the protestors, the disruptors.

Continue reading “The First Principle of All Existence is Utter Dependence”

Living in the Moment, Purpose

Wonders Small and Large

Joan_Miró_1920_Horse_Pipe_and_Red_Flower-1026x640.jpg

Today is a day you send back in time. Your younger self needs a hint, however fleeting, that this day waits for her. She won’t know you’ve hand a hand in whatever traces across her skin. She won’t even know you’re here watching over. Even so, today and the other days like it twine their slender threads around her. Lift her gently from the vortex of whatever drain she’s circling. Help her break the surface.

When she’s found her breath and feet again, she’ll call it luck. Or coincidence. She’ll credit a friend’s arrival, a passage on a new page, lyrics she’s never heard just so. The meds. Her own grit. She won’t know you’ve transported the snapshot complete with its texture, its scent and fizz, to shiver through her senses. She’ll never know, not until later. Until now.

You’re okay with her ignorance. You only need her to stay alive for a little while longer. To reach you. Continue reading “Wonders Small and Large”

Career, Relationships

Day Anew

So many sweet successes, each alone more than enough.

Today, a group of emerging higher ed superstars wrapped up our yearlong Leadership Legacy program. Before the university president’s speech, before certificates and applause and cake, participants shared the ideas for change we’d launched into existence. It thrilled me to describe an alumni mentor initiative that’s now charging forward, with current PhD students paired with graduates. This program aims to retain and support the success of underrepresented students (first-generation and students of color) by offering a connection with graduates from similar backgrounds.

Continue reading “Day Anew”

Choices, Mindfulness

From To-Do to Done

Eero Saarinen list
Eero Saarinen’s list of Aline Bernstein’s good qualities, ca. 1954.

Every day I wake up to a checklist panting in my face. Every day for my entire adult life. I never considered questioning it. Bottomless need? Multiplying demands? Expect only this, nothing less, certainly nothing different. Tasks on the to-do list comprise a responsible life.

Wake up and get to work, Smirk.

Oi vey, what a wretched way to start each day.

Continue reading “From To-Do to Done”

body, Living in the Moment

Days of Miracle and Wonder

steampunk eye

Less than 24 hours ago, Jasmine was checking my vitals and Jolly upping the saline. Sexy Surgeon had autographed my left knee in purple marker. An unscheduled emergency bumped my mundane procedure to the bottom of the queue, so I was the last patient of the day. A little after 5:00pm, the two nurses heard the buzz, flipped up the side rails, and wheeled my gurney toward operating room. On the way, Jolly grabbed two warm blankets and apologized as she unfolded them over me. “The room is a little chilly.”

“You should use a word other than ‘chilly,'” I slur, “when someone has been fasting for 18 hours.” Jasmine grinned and kicked open the door.

Less than 24 hours ago, drifting in a fog of anesthesia, I offered up my torn meniscus to the doc and his team.

Less than 15 minutes ago, I walked the dog around the neighborhood.

It was a slow walk, sure, and a low dose of Percocet smoothed the way.  Yet there I hobbled, pooch patiently ambling at my side.  Just a blink earlier, I was lounging in pre-op, rehashing family lore with my mom. They had yet to jab my joint open debride the meniscus with a pair of miniature tools that clearly need more oblique names than “the biter” and “the shaver.”

Medicine is magical and magical is art

This is a terrifying time to be alive. It’s hard to ignore disasters both present and imminent, and impossible to quiet the urgency for action in so many corners of the world.  Innovation births drone warfare and the venom of dictators screaming instantly into our pockets. We celebrate each new decade by inventing a thousand novel ways to die.

Also, this is a time of marvels. Someone found their way through the call of hunger and greed. Someone tinkered and played and eventually conjured up arthroscopy. Now we head home from the operating theater with absolute faith in the next dance.

The way we look to us all

Even knowing the work ahead, even wide awake to the call to clean up these messes and respond to the surging need of our neighbors on this planet, I’m grateful.

These are the days of miracle and wonder

It’s a blessing to be alive on this bit of rock in this moment in the story.

The dog is pretty happy about it too.


Lyrics: Paul Simon’s Boy in the Bubble

Image: Roleplayers Guild: The Relics

Brain, Change, Living in the Moment, Mindfulness

100 Blessings

Spring-Rain

In Jewish tradition, a person should recite 100 berakhot every day.  That’s 100 blessings.

So you are not Jewish.  Or you are.  And you think maybe a blessing is something like prayer.  Or gratitude.  Maybe it’s different too.  Maybe it’s noticing the azalea bush at the foot of the stairs and the way its blossoms began as thin green threads and now, after their full explosion, rest like a grandmother’s hands against damp leaves.

Maybe it’s also praising the rain.  Continue reading “100 Blessings”

Family, Friends, Home

For This

Kulturgeschichte / Essen / Belle Epoque

For more than one of the eleven around the table, the year left bruises. For more than one, tears choke the blessing. Words that begin as thanks are threaded with veins of dense and nameless matter.

Loss is a removal that adds weight.

Chuckles accompany each small confession. We are older now. Pleasure hits the tongue in the bitter spots too. Years distill gratitude to its sharpest potency.

We round the corner and my turn is seventh. I say that I most often describe myself as a single mother. I say this is inaccurate because a tribe holds my son and me. We are not doing this on our own, we never have been alone. I say that family is like a story. It ends up looking entirely different than what we expect and somehow ends up looking exactly as it should.


Image credit: Otto Günther, Am Tagelöhnertisch (1875)

 

Children, Creativity

Cornsilk and Cloak

vampire intense
Karate class runs late and we stumble through the door 30 minutes before bedtime. Homework still needs attention, as do dinner and shower and lunches for tomorrow. It is into this briar patch of demands that Bug announces he’s changed his mind.

“I do want to wear a costume to the Monster Bash.” Continue reading “Cornsilk and Cloak”

Family, Home, Mindfulness, Things I Can

84. Things I Can Snap: The Family Photo

. . . and they found a certain contentment, living more or less happily ever after, which is what “now” is while one’s in it.

From Robert Coover’s “The Frog Prince”

I lay flat on the stained carpet, felled by a muscle spasm with diamond-tipped talons. My boy, stung pink with sun, is sprawled across a twist of sheets and pillows. He has been complaining about a stomach ache. “I just don’t feel good,” he keeps repeating while he looks at me with a mix of longing and irritation.

Beside us, Noodle mopes in her crate. All the pacing and fussing and nosing  to spur one of us to action had the opposite effect, and now she sighs heavily and frequently while staring right at us.

A pillow props up my knees up and I grit my teeth against waves of pain as I read. We’ve just begun The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which we’ve inexplicably overlooked during the previous eight years of literary peregrination. Bug sips from a cup of seltzer water and kicks the blanket further down the bed.

Right in the middle of Edmund’s box of Turkish Delight, Bug turns and reaches across me. Scootching his hand under my shoulder, he inches me closer to his mattress. Then he leans in and plants a slow, soft kiss on my cheek. I see a smile ease loose across his face as he lets me go and flops back onto his bed.

“It’s all three of us right here,” he says. “Wouldn’t this be a perfect family portrait?”

I put my finger in the page, close the book against my chest, and look around.

My boy, the dog, a home, this night.

One story, one kiss.

Our perfect family.