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.

 

community, Family, Things I Can

76. Things I Can Lead: This Pack

warthog-family

I sit cross-legged on the path and fold Noodle into my lap. A little boy who was stroking her with such a soft touch continues. Two others — younger, toddlers — step closer. One with a mop of curls squats in front of her and stares with the focus of a hypnotist. Unwavering, he peers along the length of her snout and into her steady eyes. She is so still. He ventures a touch, two fingers on the side of her head. She barely blinks. He steps closer and touches her flank. “Ga-ggie,” he says.

“Yes,” his dad smiles. “She’s a nice doggie.”

This is enough for the small one. He steps back and considers Noodle from a safe distance. His brother keeps that rhythm along her back, as regular as a metronome, as soothing as surf. Noodle’s fur drifts and settles, blanketing my black work trousers. She shifts ever so slightly and surrenders her weight to my belly. I feel her exhale. The third boy — another toddler — stands at his daddy’s shin. He grins and squeals then shoves a finger up his nose.

Behind me, Bug snaps off his rollerblades and tosses his helmet in the grass. I hear a basketball. Voices.

It is nearing dusk. Neighborhood moms call to summon their stray men home for dinner. I dump Noodle back onto the trail. She gives passive resistance a shot but her dead weight is more pliable than she thinks. Soon she falls into step beside me.

Bug is trotting around the blacktop in his socks, his blonde surfer hair flopping. Another boy passes him a basketball and Bug shoots then passes it back. I circle the park a few times watching while the boy’s dad stands and texts from center court. The duo abandons the game and strolls back and forth across the pavement. Bug trails a long stick. His companion holds the ball tucked beneath his arm. Their heads are bent together in a conspiracy of murmurs. They walk the length of the court at least six times over, six times back.

“Hey you,” I call. Noodle and I cut across the grass. Bug scratches his pooch under her chin and shoves his feet back into his skates. I chat with dad and boy. I’ve never seen them here before, although they live a block over from us. We talk schools and child care and pizza. Tomorrow, they kick off a week-long hiking trip in the Monongahela National Forest.

“I’m going to play on the playground equipment,” Bug says, rolling away. I love that he calls it that. Playground equipment. “Okay,” I shout after him. “But not in your blades.”

“I’ll take them off,” he hollers back. When the dad and I make our way over, I see helmet, wrist guards, socks, and wheels lying in a heap at the bottom of the slide. Bug is up high, straddling the outside of a suspended tunnel. His buddy is swinging from a bar. A third has joined them, a preschooler.

The small one points to Noodle. “Is she curly too?” He asks.

“Curly?”

“Yeah,” he poofs his arms around him. “Fluffy. Like that.”

I shrug. “She sure sheds a lot. You know how I know when she’s been sneaking up on the couch?”

Bug grins from his perch. “She can’t fool us!” He cries.

“She’s tricky,” I shake my head in disapproval and glare at Noodle who is straining, straining to play with the kids. “Fur all over the sofa!”

The preschooler stomps a foot. “My bro-zher is the smartest of all!” He declares.

“Are you sure? I think you’re the smartest of all.”

“No my bro-zer is! He teached me math. See?” He holds up two fingers on one hand and two on the other. “One -two-free-four.

Bug is swaying way up high. “Do you know how to do squares? You know the square root of 100 is 10?”

The one from the basketball court swings then plants his feet. “I can divide.”

Then it’s time to go home. A mom collects her mini math whiz. Hiker dad answers a text from home. “Dinnertime, buddy,” he says. He and his boy wander off in the direction of the townhouses. Bug clambers down and slips mulched socks over filthy feet. Buckles, helmet, wrist guards, off we go. Noodle trots along beside us.

“So that boy goes to your school, huh? Did you know him from school?”

“No,” Bug says. “He’s in first grade.”

“You just met him today?”

“Yeah.”

I picture them again, whispering as they strode off together like they’d been buddies since kindergarten.

“You know what? That’s a really cool talent,” I say. “You find friends everywhere you go.”

Bug shrugs but I see he’s sort of smiling.

What a marvel.

To my right, this clickety-rolling kiddo who enters every setting as if the place has been waiting for him to arrive. He strikes up a conversation. He jump-starts a game. He conjures up companions, assuming friendship is a given.

To my left, Noodle the Wonder Dog, a magnet for toddlers ready to face their fears. A touchstone for kids who still believe that contact with a fellow earthling is the high point of any day.

And me in the middle, a mama leading this bold pack out into the world.

This force, small yet mighty.

My family.
 

.

 

Outdoors

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

With two plastic bags for gloves, you make another grab for the beast. She is not even halfway across the blacktop. Cars roar past seeking the good parking spots.

The thing hops like a frog but has bone-snapping jaws. She is bigger than a beach ball and twice as slippery. Who knew such creatures still inhabited this place? 

She snarls and flaps her leathery mitts before twisting airborne out of your reach. The rain sheets down in the flash of your hazard lights. Her fury has backed her now to the curb — the wrong direction entirely. You go in again. Again.

You stopped for this. Without a poncho or a plan, you planted yourself between this creature and her ruin. Turtles are supposed to take the long view but this one must have decided to go rogue. Here you are pushing back that inevitable day when the only animals left are in pet stores and Aesop’s Fables, and your only reward is a thorough bruising

She was safe and you were gone before I had a chance to speak for her. For me too. It’s never enough but here it is: Thank you.