Category Archives: Reflections

On loss, grief and sticks and stones

When I was in first grade, my best friend died. I wasn’t old enough to understand what caused her death, only to feel the loss and the gap that her absence created. She wasn’t at her desk at school. She wasn’t on the playground. We didn’t walk home together. She wasn’t riding her bike in the church parking lot after we finished our homework. She was just … gone. This was my first introduction to grief. I learned quickly that people grieve very differently.

Grief can make people sad, angry, mean, depressed, dejected, isolated, frustrated. Grief can make people withdraw from others, or reach out to others for support. Grief can lead to kindness and compassion. Grief you can lead to rejection and hurt.

I had never had much to do with my best friend’s older sister. She was seven years older than we were. For the most part, she just ignored us. That is until after her sister died. Then she noticed me. And that noticing, I understand now, created great pain for her that, unfortunately, for me, led her to be mean.

She wasn’t physically abusive, but she was physically, intimidating and aggressive. She was verbally abusive. Almost every day after school, she would wait for me as I walked to my grandmother’s house. She would taunt me and yell at me. I tried leaving school quickly. I tried dawdling after school and walking home slowly hoping she’d get tired of waiting for me and just go home. I tried walking different routes to my grandmother’s house, but grandma’s house was literally one block from school, and there weren’t that many options. I simply could not avoid her.

Often I would reach my grandmother’s house, red faced, and crying. Finally, I shared with my grandmother what was happening. She talked with me about sadness and loss. She talked with me about the pain my friend’s sister was feeling. She told me that my friend’s sister didn’t really mean that she wished I was dead instead of her sister. She just truly missed her sister. I missed her too. At the end of our talk, my grandmother said that the next time she confronted me, I should say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words can never hurt me.” I knew that was not true. Her words did hurt. But it felt strong and powerful to say. I just hoped she didn’t want to hurt me enough that she would physically hurt me, I also hoped that maybe we could support each other through our shared loss.

As expected, the next day, she and two of her friends intercepted me as I took my most circuitous route to grandma’s after school. The three of them blocked my path. She taunted me with wishing I was dead. I stood up, strong and straight, my lip, quivering, my eyes filling with tears, and I used the phrase my grandma had given me, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words can never hurt me.” She was surprised. I’d never talked back to her before. She and her friends turned and walked away, leaving me there with tears streaming down my face. For the first time I wasn’t afraid of her. Although I was still crying, I was proud of myself for standing up and speaking.

I ran the rest of the way to grandma’s house and told her what happened. She hugged me and told me she was proud of me. She gave me a Kleenex to blow my nose.

That was the last day my friend’s sister confronted me on my way home from school. It took several weeks before I trusted that it was over, but she went back to ignoring me, and pretending I didn’t exist. I much preferred that reaction.

I would like to say that we became friends over the common loss, we shared, but our age difference, our experience differences, and the nature of our grief kept that from happening.

I mourned the loss of my friend for the rest of the school year, acutely feeling her absence every day. Then the activities of summer drew my attention and my grief became less acute. When school started the next year, I was in a different classroom, and there wasn’t an empty desk. My friend’s sister had moved up to high school. There were no obvious reminders of her, but I did still think of her.

My six year old self learned about the pain of loss and the grief of absence. She learned that grief brings out different things in different people. She learned to stand up for herself a little. She learned that words hurt, even if we claim they don’t.

On self-isolation, asking for support, kitty snuggles, and mental health in the rough moments

Sometimes I get in my own way. I don’t ask for what I need. I feel that I need to tough out situations on my own. I don’t want to bother anyone. All are my mistakes. Writing my last post about sadness as I heal from injury was really difficult for me and some thing I needed to do for several weeks. I don’t like to inconvenience people. I don’t like to make waves. I’m more comfortable with people offering help than asking for it.

What I realized was that my strategy was one of self isolation which exacerbated the feelings of helplessness, loneliness, sadness, frustration, boredom, and depression I was already feeling.

Kitty snuggles always help!

My thinking went something like. “This is a rough time of year for many people. So much loss. So much pain. Do I really need to add to that for anyone?” Or “This is such a special, happy, joyous time for many people. Do I really need to bring them down with my concerns?” Or “Other people are so much worse off than I am. Do I really have a right to complain?” There are fallacies in all 3 of these views that responses from family and friends after reading my last blog helped my articulate.

The first fallacy is about not wanting to make someone else’s situation harder. The reality is that when we share our sorrows we feel understood and seen. We reaffirm important connections; we allow people to share their moments as well – reciprocal disclosure and all that. When we share the load, it’s much lighter for everyone.

The second fallacy – bringing people down when they’re up is equally misguided. People like to show care. Compassion and helping someone in a time of need helps us feel good about ourselves. Side note: Crying is cathartic. Crying with someone else, even moreso. And after someone has heard our pain, our loss, our sadness, the joy in their lives will be there for them to return to.

In many ways, the third message is the most insidious. It leads both to guilt and to undervaluing our own experiences. Repeat after me: “My troubles are not in competition with anyone else’s. Comparison separates rather then unites us. My feelings, my emotions, and experiences are valid. I am worthy of compassion.”

Perhaps, most importantly, no matter how much they love you, no one can read your mind. If you can’t express your needs, they are less likely to be met. So, reach out. Phone a friend or family member. Ask for the support you need. Ask! You may be surprised who responds, and how much better you feel.

If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to someone you know, call a crisis center near you or call 988. It’s a free call to help you get support with mental health issues. Similar to 911, 988 is dedicated to anyone in need of mental health assistance.

If someone hasn’t told you lately, you are important. You matter. The world is a better place because of the gifts you bring to it. You are precious. You are unique. You are loved. Happy holidays!

I Hope You Dance! I Will!

Dance has permeated my life. Even before I went to my first ballet class when I was 5, I loved to dance. I still do. My favorite emoji is the dancing woman.💃💃💃 I use it regularly to express joy. I guess that sums it up. For me, dance is joy.

My children inherited their passion for dance from me, and while they far exceeded my abilities as a dancer, they grew up dancing with me. From standing on my feet while I waltzed them around the room to a fusion of swing, jitterbug, and disco that we did to anything with a beat, joy with my children has always included dance.

When we came home from my second Fulbright trip to Russia in the summer of 2001, Alyssa and I were so wound up we couldn’t sleep, so we danced around the family room to Safri Duo’s – The Bongo Song

and Culture Beat’s – Crying in the Rain – which we fell in love with during my first Fulbright in Russia.

We spent over an hour laughing and spinning until we were finally tired enough to go to sleep at about 4 am. Alyssa was 8.

Our last song that night was from our first train trip from Moscow to Kazan, Robert Miles – Children https://youtu.be/z9b09Ljnh0k

While dancing gives me joy, watching my children dance feeds my soul. Dance metaphors have filled my children’s lives and my own. Both were competitive dancers for years and nothing gave me greater joy than watching them dance.

I wanted to sing Lee Ann Womack’s – I Hope You Dance to them in honor of their high school graduations, but I knew I’d never get through it. In addition to being a dancer, I’m a crier. I cry when I’m happy; I cry when I’m sad; I cry when I’m frustrated; I cry when I find something touching. I particularly get choked up by the lines “Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens… When you get a choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance!” I want my children to live their lives dancing.

Lee Ann Womack – I Hope You Dance

As most of you know if you’ve read earlier posts, I’m going through a rough moment. I had surgery for a partially detached retina and my right leg is in a brace and I’m using crutches until I can get my knee checked out once the gas bubble in my eye dissipates. I heard this song the other day, and as she often does, Pink nailed it! “One thing I’m never going to do is throw away my dancing shoes… We’ve already wasted enough time… I’m never gonna not dance again. So let the music play till the end.

Pink – Never Gonna Not Dance Again

Shattering the cartilage under my knee didn’t stop me from dancing. Breaking both my wrists in a freak dancing accident didn’t stop me from dancing. A partially detached retina and sore knee will not stop me from dancing. I will dance again. Dance, for me, is joy!

A Love Letter to My Sweetie for Being AWESOME!!!

This is a love letter to my sweetie, my amazing partner Andrew. During this trying time, while working 10-12 hour days, he has also been my full time caregiver. In addition to being loving, compassionate, and kind, he is incredibly inventive. Because of the balance issues caused by my eye surgery, knee immobilization, and crutches, I am not especially coordinated (I see everything in 2 dimensions and as if one eye is under water, so I end up feeling off balance, dizzy, and nauseous most of the time, whether my eye is open or closed.), I can’t do many things for myself at the moment. So Andrew finds solutions to help me be as independent as possible.

He got a lift for the toilet seat so I could save my good knee. He concocted a shower strategy that involved a storage tub, a pillow in a garbage bag, sleeved in a t-shirt that I can, with help, sit on in the bath. Because my favorite way to relax is to take baths (and we tried a strategy the other night that was a little scary), he went to the store and purchased a precisely cut oak plank to sit across the back of the tub so I could more easily and safely lift myself in and out of the water. It was genius.

He helps me get dressed. He brings me what I need to wash my face, brush my teeth, get ready for my day or for bed. He prepares my office chair or the couch (doubling seat cushions so I sit higher and can more easily get up and down) so I don’t have to spend all my time in bed.

He also cooks almost all our meals, from 3 meat tacos to Fattoush salad to hummus, veggies and zatar chips, he regularly makes creative and delicious dishes that feed my soul and my body. He brings me Starbucks beverages, chocolate, and flowers to lift my spirits.

I’m getting more mobile, or at least more used to viewing the world in 2 dimensions. My knee hurts less (a sign that I may have strained or pulled rather than seriously damaging things – fingers crossed). I’ve been able to sleep a bit more. The first two weeks pain woke me (and as a result, Andrew, every 2 hours). Last night I slept 5 hours, then 3 more. Andrew got 7 hours total. Two days in the last week, I got up by myself, washed my face and brushed my teeth.

I have to be honest, I have not always handled this situation with the grace I’d like. I cry regularly. I am bored and sometimes frustrated. But through it all, I am grateful.

Ten years ago Andrew was Stefan’s backup when I broke both my wrists in a dancing accident. I was unable to do anything for 3 months, then had to learn how to use my hands again and rebuild my strength. With love and compassion, Andrew helped care for me. He made me feel safe to need care and support. He nurtured and protected me. Now, 10 years later, Andrew is my full time caregiver as I get through this strange moment. I could not ask for a better, more loving partner. I am grateful for you. I am grateful to you, my love!

Adventures in aging: Part 3 – Seriously?! There’s more?!

Apparently the universe was not done giving me the “slow down” messages with simply a detached retina and sore knee that can’t be assessed, let alone fixed, until after my retina heals. So, … at least eight weeks.

The night of my surgery, I stumbled in the bathroom twice in succession, heard a loud pop both times in my right knee (the sore one), felt excruciating pain, and to cut to the chase, had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. I feel oddly embarrassed by this. I think prior to this week I’ve been in the ER only a handful of times in my life, usually for someone else, but only once before in an ambulance.

The 911 response team was wonderful. They immediately gave me IV pain meds that took the edge off. “They won’t stop the pain”, the paramedic said. “They’ll just make you care less.” The EMTs apologized for the fact that they actually had to get me on the gurney and into the ambulance and to the hospital. And all this was going to hurt… A lot… It did.

Ambulance maintenance clearly does not include shocks. I felt every bump along the way. The EMT gave me a little more pain medication in route.

Apparently fentanyl derivatives make me very talkative. The EMT kept asking me questions and I kept answering them. I babbled the whole way. It only occurred to me later that this was a distraction strategy – keeping my mind on something other than the pain. He asked about my career – directing forensics at St. Olaf College immediately after earning my PhD, helping create the precursors to what become the School of Public Health at UNR, serving as the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication and starting the Wichita State University Hunger Awareness Initiative, teaching judges around the world, traveling with my children, my amazing partner Andrew, and on and on. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone so much of the story of my life in one 20 minute moment. And through it all, I reaffirmed for myself how wonderful my life is except for this weird moment… and, you know, some other weird moments,… but those are different stories. Apparently even when I’m on drugs I recognize how privileged and blessed I am.

We picked the hospital we did because it was in my insurance network and I’d had a very positive experience there earlier in the week when my retina partially detached (see parts 1&2 in this series). Andrew also called in advance to make sure they had people available to address my injuries. They told us they had people on call who could take care of me, if necessary.

We and the hospital staff differed vastly in our understandings of what “care” meant. For us that meant figure out what’s going on with my knee and get a plan to fix it. For them it meant “If it ain’t broke we don’t fix it”, a literal quotation from my attending physician. They did, however give me great IV pain meds, so I was able to relax a bit.

Andrew followed the ambulance in his car. At the hospital the ambulance went in one entrance and the EMTs directed Andrew to park in a nearby lot. “They’ll let you in back as soon as you get in. Don’t worry we’ll take good care of her.” And they did. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ to the 911 response team. The ER staff were a mixed bag. I asked for Andrew from the time I got into a bed in the ER. They made him wait an hour and a half in the waiting room until they allowed him back with me.

When we got to the hospital Andrew called my daughter Alyssa. I hadn’t been able to reach her. Alyssa came immediately and they let her back with me.

They did a really nifty set of x-rays in the bed. I didn’t have to move my sore knee much or turn my head. It was pretty snappy. I knew that I hadn’t broken anything. I hadn’t actually fallen. So it had to be soft tissue damage. But x-rays are the ER go to.

What I should have remembered from Alyssa’s experience shredding her knee was that emergency rooms, although they tell you they have orthopedic specialists and surgeons on call, don’t call them to the ER except to set bones. When I say I should have remembered that ERs don’t treat soft tissue injuries, what I mean is that 10 years ago when Alyssa destroyed her knee, severing her ACL, MCL, tore meniscus, and severely bruised her knee, they sent her home with no wrap, no brace, and no crutches because her leg wasn’t broken. When we went to the doctor the next day and found out the extent of her injuries, I was livid. I assumed Alyssa’s experience was just bad care. I didn’t realize it was ER practice not to do anything with soft tissue injuries.

With Alyssa’s insistence, they did finally decide to give me pain meds, the sling that I wear from my thigh to my ankle, and a pair of crutches. They then wished me the best of luck in finding a referral as they didn’t have one to give me. Not sure how any of that means orthopedic surgeons on call… or care… But there you go…

Reflections:

1. I’m really not sure what I should have done when I hurt myself that badly at night. The pain was unbearable. I definitely needed some serious pain meds and I am not clear what the alternative to the ER might have been.

2. I need a clear understanding of what services are provided in the ER. Maybe we all do. It’s important to know that they don’t deal with soft tissue injuries, no matter how painful they are. In the words of my attending physician “We treat blood and bones.” Neither were my issue. In the ER, they x-ray. Because the same ER had done CT scans with and without contrast and ultrasounds earlier in the week, I expected more.

3. It’s very important to have an advocate. My daughter made things happen quickly once she arrived.

4. In all situations, assertiveness and perseverance are important in getting your needs met. It was very difficult to get the health providers to come down to my level so I could actually see them. Since having had my retina reattachment surgery earlier that day I could not lift my head nor could I lie anywhere but on my right side, eyes parallel to the floor. I repeatedly asked the same doctor and nurse to sit down so I could see them when they talked to me. That actually helped them stop treating me like I wasn’t really a person and facilitated communication. I’m glad I was assertive about that.

5. It helps to have a professional that you can call for back up support. I am incredibly grateful to one of my ex students who is a well respected doctor and has worked in the Las Vegas medical community. She talked with me on the phone while I was in the ER, clarified my expectations, and helped me strategize.

6. Even though I didn’t get what I hoped for, a diagnosis and a plan for treatment for my knee, I did get what I actually needed in that moment. I got pain medication, a brace, and crutches. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

On Solitude and Connection

I sit next to a lovely window on the last day of my writing retreat pondering the snow blowing sideways as the wind carries it drifting across the yard. Someone in the other side of the house where I’m staying strums a guitar slowly. It’s lovely. There were children in that side of the house this morning, running up and down stairs, laughing at times, voices serious at times. There was music, “Hello darkness, my old friend; I’ve come to talk with you again,” mellow and folksy, soothing. There were the sounds of cooking and a family, not a biological family, I don’t think, but a community of selected family sharing breakfast before they took off to do chores on the farm in the falling snow. I sat in my dining room, just on the far side of the shared kitchen door enjoying my solitude and also enjoying the sounds of their community. These disparate moments, their community, my solitude led me to reflect on the importance of connection and aloneness. Not loneliness, but the need I sometimes feel to be alone, to feel my own rhythms, to do things in my own time, not influenced by the rhythms and time of others. Their time together seemed so effortless, so comfortable. My seclusion felt the same.

I learned during my 3-month writing retreat in Florence, Italy, that my creativity is best fed with time away from not only those I love, but basically everyone. I did make two wonderful friends during that time, Emma, a sculptor, and Iris, a barista at the coffee shop I frequented, but our friendships were mostly bounded by Emma’s shop and Iris’s restaurant. When working on my time, my days developed a cadence, a pattern that they rarely have at home in my “normal” life. I rose whenever I awoke, usually around 8 am when construction started on the apartment building across the way. I drew for a while, journaled for a while, walked to a new area of the city, shopped for lunch, returned home, worked on projects until I was ready for dinner and then cooked for myself or chose a restaurant nearby. My evenings were free-form. I strolled the city looking for street art or listened to buskers. I took cooking, pasta making, or wine tasting classes. I often bought a gelato or a cappuccino (or both) before walking back home to read for a while before sleep. Sometimes I went to museums or art exhibits. Sometimes I took short trips outside the city on truffle hunting expeditions or olive oil and cheese tastings. But mostly, I spent my days strolling Florence and soaking in the inspiration it so freely provided. I discovered a taste for Negroni and aperitivo (gin and olives, two things I’d never had a taste for).                                                               

And I wrote. Thirty blog posts in three months. I outlined two books and drafted chapters for each. It was one of the most personally and professionally productive times of my life. Professional productivity is usually something else for me. I never have trouble meeting deadlines for academic presentations, journal articles, or book chapters, although my model typically involves finishing everything in the 11th hour. I’m not a procrastinator, per se, I just process for a long time, then write under pressure. My personal writing is different. Something, like the snow outside, triggers a memory, a thought, an idea, and I write.

Writing, for me, is part of this, but not the whole picture. I live life fully, with activity, passion, engagement, and energy. Often those things are driven by other people and events, often to a beat not my own. I work at the tempo demanded in the moment. I adapt. On writing retreats, I nurture my own pace. I find my own rhythm.

I guess my message is this. We all need connection and aloneness, time to engage outwardly and time to reflect inwardly, and time to create. On this snowy afternoon, I am content to sit by this window, let these words flow from my fingers, and simply be in the moment. Tomorrow I return to the rhythm of my family, of the reality of four people coordinating their lives together. I will miss this solitude. I will return gratefully to the hustle and bustle of my day-to-day life, until the pull for solitude draws me on to my next writing retreat.

Forgiveness and Anticipatory Hope

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” – Oprah Winfrey https://chopracentermeditation.com/ *

I don’t hold grudges. I don’t harbor resentments. For much of my life I simply forgave and forgot any transgressions against me – to the point that one night, over dinner, my best friend and my ex-husband recounted all the negative things that had happened to me since they’d known me. When they recounted the events, I knew they had happened, of course. I just didn’t value them enough to remember them. I might not even have been able to recount them without their prompting.

What I do hold onto is what I call anticipatory hope. Anticipatory hope is my belief that the bad, the negative, the hurtful, the lack in my past could have been different, if people had made different choices. Because I believe these alternative choices were possible then, I believe they remain possible in the present and in the future.  

In a recent conversation with my daughter about an upcoming event we were both dreading, she was lamenting all the negative things she expected. I was trying to lift her spirits talking about how this time things might be different. Alyssa paused, looked me full in the eyes and said, “That’s your problem, Mom. You always look on the bright side. You always believe people can be better, that they will be better. When they don’t, when they act like they always act, you feel let down and hurt. That’s the downside to you always having this anticipatory hope thing. It’s exhausting. You’re not realistic.”

Alyssa in her blunt, no-nonsense way had really hit on something. I’ve always viewed my anticipatory hope as a strength. It helps me be optimistic, remain positive in difficult moments, see possibilities.

Because I believe that anything is possible, that anyone is capable of making a different choice at any moment, it is hard for me to release those in my life who repeatedly choose to be other than who they have the capacity to be – to be honest, those who are damaging to me. More importantly, I hope they will treat me differently than they chose to treat me in the past.

When I first heard the meditation at the opening of this post, it was as if I had been punched in the stomach. Sometimes truths are so profound that when confronted with them, they change something immediately and fundamentally. Sometimes they are the catalyst for a more gradual transformation. For me, this truth was both.

I listen to these meditations to help me sleep. After hearing this statement, I knew there would be no sleep that night.

I turned to my journals for insight and realized I had been writing about the same issues for 1, 5, 10, even 20 years! My anticipatory hope made it impossible for me to let go, to move on.

I believed I had forgiven. But in the same way that holding grudges, harboring resentments, not forgiving, keeps us from releasing the past and moving forward, anticipatory hope does the same. Because I held onto anticipatory hope, I had not released those I needed to release.

I am still a work in progress. Releasing the “what could be” is hard. It’s a desired future we hope for. It holds us bound to the past, hauling the weight of the past into the present and the future. Releasing that burden. Releasing those who are not who we wish they were (which, to be honest, is not their job in the first place) is true forgiveness. And, in the long term, a gift to them and to me.

* 21 Days of Meditation – Finding Hope in Uncertain Times

Reflections on Remembering and Forgiveness: Part 1

My approach to life has always been to accept that people do their best, to forgive and forget. I don’t hold grudges. I am incredibly optimistic and positive. I live my life in joy. I also try to see different perspectives, to understand standpoints, constraints, limitations others face, points of view. I don’t generally take things personally (even when they are).  I have taken this philosophy so far as to mindfully forget painful events in my life. Most recently, I forgot the face of the man who robbed my son and me at gunpoint because in that moment I realized that I was a threat to him if I could identify him. I forgot because it was safer to do so. I have approached many events in my life this way. If it is not safe to remember, I forget. I had no idea how strong this ability had become.

My best friend and my ex-husband used to marvel at my ability to forget. They said they held my hurts for me, remembered for me. I remember one evening,  after the three of us had enjoyed dinner together, we sat in the living room and they recounted all the wrongs people had done me in the time they’d known me. I was awed that they remembered. I was surprised that they cared about these things. None of the events they recounted were strange to me. I knew they had happened. I had simply chosen not to remember them, not to let them impact my life, at least not consciously.

My strategy has been to try to keep the lessons, but leave behind the emotion, especially the pain, to forget the details. In my work over the last year on healthy relationships, a culmination of over 20 years of work, I have learned that my strategy has at times crippled me. When I forget the details, the lesson is weaker. I am now working to embrace the details, keep the lessons, and forgive.

Here is my problem: When I forget, I remain positive. I remain optimistic about possibilities. I seek to understand the other. When I forget, it is easy to forgive. But, when I remember, the lessons have more weight behind them, are easier to sustain, have a stronger foundation. When I remember, it is sometimes harder to remain positive, optimistic, to forgive.

I am struggling with forgiveness in this. I don’t want to hold grudges, but I do need to keep appropriate boundaries. Forgiveness, to me, implies understanding, that “it’s ok”; forgiveness opens the possibility of a reconnection later, for second, third, maybe fourth chances.

In some cases, that simply cannot be.

As I try to embrace mindful remembrance without emotion so that lessons will have strength, I struggle also with forgiveness and separation. We all make mistakes. We all learn. We all grow. No one is perfect. But at times, doors do need to be closed and bridges do need to be burned.

I am trying to find the balance.

Musings on time, this week in my family’s history, and growth

Three years ago this week, my daughter Alyssa shredded her knee, severing her ACL, MCL, tearing her meniscus, and bruising everything above and below her kneecap. Through hard months of waiting, finishing the semester on crutches and a motorized scooter, surgery, PT, recovery, learning how to bear weight, learning how to dance, she persevered. Today she is again an amazing dancer. She is lovely and graceful, strong and passionate. Today she is a college graduate off on her own. So much has changed in 3 years.

Two years ago this week, I fell on the steps of Elliott Hall the building where I work at Wichita State University. I tripped and sprawled on the steps on my newly healed wrists. I sacrificed my right ankle, which I badly bruised, to keep from landing fully on my hands and arms, but it hurt. It really hurt. I sat on the steps and cried, injured and afraid. I was too shaken to move as one colleague walked around me on the narrow steps, the contents of my purse and computer case strewn all over the landing. Her disregard hurt worse than the fall, her ignoring me as I cried on the steps. The Elliott School’s administrative assistant Bill, the lifeblood of the ESC, came to my rescue. I was finally able to recover my cell phone, and I called him, crying, to come help me. He did. He picked up all my stuff, helped me stand, using my elbows, so he wouldn’t hurt my wrists, and helped me to my office. Today I am at the two-thirds point of an amazing yearlong sabbatical, three months of which I spent on a writing retreat in Florence, Italy. Today my wrists are healed and I can again do hot yoga. Today I am contemplating what I want to do with the next phase of my life. So much has changed in 2 years.

Six weeks ago this week, my son and I were robbed at gunpoint by a young man who kicked open our locked front door.  That day I had pink highlights put in my long blonde hair. For me hair is a toy. I’d worked on my website: http://DrDeborah.co with my friend Davis.  It’s still a work in progress, but that was a watershed day. I was happy and content. Then I was scared and threatened. Today, I have magenta and purple highlights in my long blonde hair thanks to the talented Jessica, and my son Stefan and I have moved into a new apartment, a lovely apartment. We are moving on with our lives. So much has changed in six weeks.

Time is an interesting thing. In the middle of rough moments it seems to stop, then drags so slowly when it finally begins to move again. In the beautiful, life affirming moments, time often moves so quickly. Time, as the cliché says, also heals.

This week has led me to reflect on the past, something I don’t do often, to examine the path that got me, that got my son and daughter, to where we are today. These events are simply a small part of our journeys.

I believe we have a choice about how we view the happenings in our lives. We can choose to view things as crises or adventures. As I reflect back on those three events and the emotions they raised, the ups and downs of negotiating them, I recognize our choices. None of us would describe ourselves as victims. We simply do not view things as crises. We are optimists. We do what needs to be done. We deal with what needs to be dealt with and we move forward. We learn and grow from our experiences.

We are stronger, as are my wrists, because of these events. We see the world differently than we did before, because of the events of this week over the last three years. I am inspired by the words of Anne Lamott on Facebook. Yesterday she wrote , “Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things”. I am inspired by Japanese Kintsugi pottery, the art of reassembling, of repairing, broken pottery with gold. We are each like a precious piece of pottery. The world tosses us about, breaks, chips, and often shatters us. We reassemble ourselves , often with the help of those who love us. We are remade, more unique, more different, more precious than we were before.

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Image of Kintsugi Pottery taken from: http://lakesidepottery.com/Pages/kintsugi-repairing-ceramic-with-gold-and-lacquer-better-than-new.htm

A Love Letter to Las Vegas – <3

As you know, dear reader, I am FINALLY in Las Vegas visiting my wonderful daughter Alyssa. I fell in love with Vegas several years ago when I spent 6 weeks here after my dancer daughter shredded her knee. Surgery had to wait until after the semester, so we lived in the other wing of her dorm in a double room. This gave me plenty of space to work on my WSU classes with the help of wonderful colleagues, like my friend Glyn, and students with whom I skyped and phoned. It also allowed me to stay close to my girlie in case she needed me.

Looking back, it was a truly amazing time. Las Vegas is absolutely beautiful in the spring. While it took me several weeks to realize it, I fell completely in love with the campus, with all the green spaces and nature paths filled with wild, desert flowers. I loved the clarity of the early morning air, the way the breezes caressed my skin and blew my hair, before the sun turned too hot. The wild flowers inspired me. I started photographing them on my phone, posting them to social media as a way of staying connected with friends and family. Based on the encouragement of my friend Pam, I ultimately turned some of these photographs into a calendar that I gave to friends and family for Christmas.

I trolled the campus each morning, sometimes running the steps outside the Thomas and Mack Center, listening to music on my iPod. I fell in love with a sky blue Lotus Elise often parked near the campus desert garden. I was tempted to leave a note to let the owner know how much I appreciated that car. I never did. I still look for it when I’m back on campus. Since Alyssa’s graduation, I don’t have an excuse to troll campus any more. I miss that.

I got comfortable with the shops near the university, especially those on Maryland Parkway. I frequented Einstein’s Bagels. I’d often stop there near the end of my 1 ½ hour walk to pick up yummy breakfast for Alyssa to start her day. We could eat healthy on fresh fruit and veggie drinks, or enjoy bagels with eggs, meat and cheese, or bagels with plain or flavored cream cheese. Alyssa’s favorite was strawberry cream cheese. We also found a car wash and nail salon I still visit whenever I come to town.

I remember with gratitude her teachers, especially those in the dance department at UNLV. They recommended surgeons and physical therapists, encouraged her to safely push the limits of her physical capacity. They told her she would get better, that she would dance again. Their support was priceless.

Alyssa’s and my pattern this trip is different now that she’s graduated from UNLV. She works as a concierge at Monte Carlo Resort. Each morning I get up, take Greyson, her Australian Shepherd, for a walk. This year, it is the bush and tree flowers that are just starting to bloom that speak to me. They are quiet, gentle. I photograph them.

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Each morning, I hang out with Alyssa before she has to go to work. I drive her to work and get on with my day. I do something useful, get the oil changed in her car, fill her tank with gas or get her car washed. I get a mani/pedi (no, it’s not ALL about doing things for my daughter). Then I find a Starbucks to write.

As I settle in with my iced chai latte with soy each day, I have a feeling about what I’m going to write. Rarely (never actually), do I write what I think I will. I write whatever comes out, whatever inspires me in the moment. This post was not what I had planned for today, but it is what I wrote.

As I reflect, I guess my message today, dear reader, is that life happens in the little day-to-day moments as well as when I have to rise to the occasion to deal with whatever challenges face me. Life happens when the beauty of a flower stops me short. Life happens when I pause from what I’m doing to listen for my daughter’s voice. Life happens as I run the steps at the Thomas and Mack Center or take Alyssa’s puppy for a walk. Life happens as my favorite song leads me to move faster on my morning walk, or an unexpected song triggers a memory. Life comes when the conversation of those next to me in Starbucks demands my attention.

I found beauty as my daughter healed from a traumatic, painful injury. I found beauty in flowers and the feeling of sunshine on my shoulders, a soft breeze on my neck. I fell in love with where I was. I fell in love with Las Vegas! I wish for you the same. Fall in love with your day! I’m off to finish mine.

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