Snow Dog.

Lois is a snow dog. You can see the change come over her with every flake floating to the ground. Lois sleeps on a gray day, barely getting up to get a drink of water or to change positions on the sofa. But when the snow starts she changes. Her ears perk up first. Then she lifts her head and starts looking around. Looking out the window. Pacing. Looking at me. Pacing some more. Like a child home from school due to bad weather, this child wants to go build herself a snowman.

Today I was gratefully home from work because of ice and snow. I say gratefully because work has been especially nerve-wracking lately – but that’s a subject for another post. So I was grateful for this gift of a whole snowy day for just me and my dog. Hubby went to work. Being from Buffalo and owning a car with built-in traction control, this was business as usual for him.

But today I was free. Free all morning to write, listen to the radio, drink coffee, and watch the sleet fall down like needles then the snow float down like feathers. Lois was fine all morning, but as the ground grew covered, she grew restless. It’s like she knows now there is enough snow on the ground to be worthwhile. Enough to go play.

And so we walked. And as we climbed a small hill in the road, I looked ahead to a strange sight. About 30 robins sat in the middle of the road, dipping their heads forward to sip the melted ice which lay in puddles before them. A few would fly up and swoop down and around so they looked like bats. And yes, they were all robin red-breast birds. You see one as a prelude to Spring. What does seeing 30 mean? It was magical. Lois took off chasing them, determined to make one of them her lunch. Straining against her leash, threatening to pull my arm out of its socket.

But the birds would just alight awhile and then come to rest again, a little further down the road. Sipping the melted ice. Flitting about in the gray steel-colored air, their breasts as red against the snow as a Beefeater’s coat. Red and gray. They would never touch down behind us, always in front, so it was like we were chasing them. I crunched along in the snow, the only sound except for the birds calling out to one another with playful voices. It has been so silent this winter. Hearing the sound of birds now again reminded me of Spring’s approach.

And Lois played. Rolling in the snow on her back, tongue hanging out, the top half of her going one way, the bottom half the other. Like she’s doing the twist lying down. Then she jumps up, shakes herself off, gives me a sparkling grin and wags her tail as if to say, “Can I go again Mommy?” Her favorite thing is to roll on her back down a hill. She’ll start at the top then twist herself all the way down. Then run up and do it all over again. Like 10 times in a row. Sliding down the playground slide in reverse.

In her eyes I see nothing but pure happiness as she chases the birds, follows a scent trail, slides down the hill. Leaping and bounding through the snow. She has a look in her eyes like she’s remembering something. Like she has Alzheimer’s, but for one brief shining moment she remembers everything. The dawning crosses her face and I see it. “I remember this,” she seems to say. And it makes me melancholy because I wonder what her dog memories are. She has happy memories of chasing birds, running through the snow, rolling on her back. Was it while she was alone? With no home? Or did she run with a pack and it was ruined when that dog attacked her but now she’s remembering her younger, better days. When all dogs were nice to one another and everything was free for the taking and the only important thing you had to do that day was roll in the snow? Did she have another family? Did they play with her in the snow too? Does she miss them sometimes?

Or maybe dogs don’t have memories. Maybe they just live for the moment and the expression I’m seeing is one of pure unadulterated joy at this moment, right here, right now. Who knows? But I do know I hope we get to do it all again tomorrow…

Steal This Meme.

I liked the idea of this – and the opportunity to post a lot of memories in one fell swoop. I might even expand on some of them at a later date (good brainstorming exercise). Found the meme at this website.

Here are the rules: Bold the things you’ve done and post on your blog!

1. Started your own blog – I started *3* (pats self on back) – this one, edible cville (Charlottesville food), and escape cville (travel stories).

2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than you can afford to charity – Yes, to Animal Friends because of our doggie daughter Lois (we adopted her there, she’d been a shelter dog for a YEAR – had been adopted and then returned. Their loss, our gain).

7. Been to Disneyland – I lived in Orange County when I was 5, so we went there every weekend. We even have Super 8 home movies of it circa 1973. Very Brady Bunch.

8. Climbed a mountain – Just Humpback, here in Nelson County. Once with my grandfather, and once with a college boyfriend. Now I want to go back with my husband.

9. Held a praying mantis – I held a tarantula in the 4th grade on a school field trip. Very tickly.

10. Sang a solo – Does karaoke count? I sang Lynrd Skynrd’s “Gimme 3 Steps” after much encouragement and many Jameson’s neat. Forgot about the 3-minute intro but was applauded after. That same night my husband sang “Big Bottoms” from Spinal Tap. You should’ve seen everyone’s face. It was HIGH-sterical.

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris – My husband flew me there for a few days after a conference he had in Belgium. We were still in the early stages of dating then, and it was magical. After that trip I knew he was something else.

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch


15. Adopted a child – Our doggie daughter, Miss Lois, in 2007.

16. Had food poisoning – Oh lord, I’d rather forget this. Once in Las Vegas and once on a trip to view potential houses in Charlottesville (before we moved here). Both times were ugly. I crawled into the CVS and bought saltines and Gatorade. The cashier actually said, “So, how’re you doin’ today?” I just looked at her.

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables – I used to grow habaneros. Now I grow tomatoes and herbs, and I’d like to branch out and try salad greens.

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France – We never made it to the Louvre, oddly enough.

20. Slept on an overnight train – I took the train to Miami from Richmond, VA while in college after a BAD breakup. Then rented a car and drove to the Florida Keys. Stayed a week and felt my icy exterior just melting off. It was beautiful. It was February and snowing when I left Richmond, 85 degrees when I stepped off the train. Got drunk in the dining car on the way and talked with a guy who was a citizen of Monaco. Imagine.

21. Had a pillow fight – Has anyone NOT done this? It was the main event at slumber parties when I was 11 and 12.

22. Hitchhiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill – Oh no, never. ;0)

24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping – My sister, her friend and I went to Virginia Beach as teenagers and bribed the caretaker’s son of a Howard Johnson’s motel to open up the pool. He thought he had died and gone to heaven.

27. Run a Marathon – No, but I’d like to. My mother did. Whenever I run, I miss her.

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse


30. Watched a sunrise or sunset – Many, many times. Most recently in Punta Cana. My husband and I were there for his cousin’s wedding, and on the last day we forced ourselves out of bed to view it and take pictures. It was breathtaking. And I am blessed because the sun sets in my kitchen window every day.

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person – My husband was born and raised in Buffalo, so yes. He has a picture of me all bundled up for winter, holding a cup of coffee, standing in front of the falls, grinning. It’s in a frame on his desk at work and I think it’s the best picture of me that’s ever been taken – trust me, there aren’t that many good ones.

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors – I keep looking for our Irish or Scottish ancestry, so I’m going to say yes. I lived in Scotland for a time, traveling to Ireland for four glorious days. I love both countries and feel an affinity for both.

35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied – Right now. I’m trying to live in a state of gratefulness always. You’re only “poor” if you find yourself wanting.

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangeo’s David – I saw a copy in Florence, Italy in the Piazza della Signoria, on the day we were married. It was stunning and surreal. I’ll never forget it.

41. Sung karaoke – See #10.

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa


45. Walked on a beach by moonlight – Many times in the Outer Banks. As a teenager with my friends, as a young woman alone when I needed a weekend away, and now with my husband.

46. Been transported in an ambulance – A college boyfriend and I were in a major accident on I-95 headed to Washington, DC on November 2, 1992. The car flipped 4 times, but miraculously we walked away from it. My purse ended up 50 yards down the road. The door to the car was ripped off by a van of Marines traveling to Woodbridge. I remember the EMT wanted to cut off my bra to check for collarbone injuries but I wouldn’t let him because I’d just bought it. We lay on our gurnies for 4 hours because another accident was brought in just after us. Those people died. I remember feeling so fortunate.

47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing – Yes, with work friends in 1999. We spent 8 hours off the coast of Cape Hatteras. I caught two 20-pound tuna, and a 10-pound mahi-mahi. It was fantastic. Later that week we were caught in a Nor’Easter which was awesome to see but very frightening.

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris – Lines were too long 🙂 And who wants to wait in a line on a beautiful June day in PARIS?

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain – My husband, on our first date – or at least I like to think we did.

53. Played in the mud – Hasn’t everyone unless you’re a stick up the rear milquetoast?

54. Gone to a drive-in theater – All the time in my ’67 Rambler with the Mickey Mouse mitten we used as a car door opener. I miss drive-ins. You’d hear crickets, hear the tinny sound of the movie (usually a bad one) and eat stale popcorn. Total summer.

55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma – I donated blood ONCE. They told it it wouldn’t hurt. It did. Like a sonnafabitch.

65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check – At least one a week from the time I was 20 until I was 25.

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy – I have so many of these it’s sad. I even have the magenta tricycle I owned when I was 4! It has my name on the seat written in fingernail polish. Used to love seeing my nephews ride around on its creaky wheels when they were little.

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial – Yes, many times because I used to live in Alexandria. It’s magical at night.

71. Eaten Caviar – Oh, I heart caviar so much. Especially if I’m eating it while sitting in Bally’s in Las Vegas at their Sterling Brunch. Sipping Perrier Jouet champagne. Sigh. If you go, sit in Hugo’s section. He’s waited tables there for 30 years and is very chatty and generous with the champagne…

78. Pieced a quilt

79. Stood in Times Square – Many times, but haven’t been in 5 years. I’m overdue. Love the surreal ambience all those lights give off. A mini-Tokyo.

80. Toured the Everglades

81. Been fired from a job – Um, yeah. When I was 19 and working as a secretary at a law firm. I caught bronchitis, missed a week of work, and the mean ol’ senior partner who used to hobble around the office on a cane because of his gout (who gets GOUT in this day and age?) told me to not bother coming back.

82. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London – Was in London this past June, but missed this.

83. Broken a bone

84. Been on a speeding motorcycle – Yes. With my husband on his Triumph. It’s awesome. I love it.

85. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

86. Published a book – I want to. Very badly.

87. Visited the Vatican – We ate at a basement Trattoria less than a stone’s throw from the Vatican. But we had arrived late at night by train, and were leaving early the next morning, so we missed it. Next time.

88. Bought a brand new car – Um, duh.

89. Walked in Jerusalem

90. Had your picture in the newspaper – When I was 11 my sister, mother, and I had our hair cut. For the first time, and the first time in 12 years for my mother. Over 80 inches of hair disappeared. Not only did we make the paper, we made the local news.

91. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve
92. Visited the White House

93. Killed and prepared an animal for eating – Just fish. On that deep sea fishing trip (see #48).

94. Had chickenpox – Yep. As a kid. I just remember it being really scratchy.

95. Saved someone’s life

96. Sat on a jury – Almost. I was called in, waited several hours and then was released. A current prisoner was suing the jail, but his lawyer wasn’t ready. It was nice to get most of the day off from work, with pay. I read a lot.

97. Met someone famous – Once in college a professor had a crush on me and gave me the opportunity to sit next to Joyce Carol Oates for a dinner at Randolph Macon College. I was thrilled, then later so scared I totally chickened out. I think I was afraid more of what this professor would expect of me after.

98. Joined a book club

99. Lost a loved one – Too many. My grandmother and great aunt just this year. My other grandmother in 1999. And my mother in 2001.

100. Had a baby – Too painful a topic for me…

101. Seen the Alamo in person
102. Swam in the Great Salt Lake


103. Been involved in a law suit – LOLOLOL!
Well, almost…

104. Owned a cell phone – Um, yes. What year was this meme written?

105. Been stung by a bee – I was stung by a hornet on the VERY FIRST DAY I arrived at my first full-time paying teacher assignment at Matoaca High School. I was unpacking my trunk when I felt a burning on my arm. I should’ve taken it as a sign…

Yoga.

So I had the weirdest dream last week. In it I was walking through a huge gym, scoping out yoga classes. Like Goldilocks I proclaimed one to be too fast, one too easy, one too crowded. I walked into the last class available, determined to make it work. I rolled out my mat and got into Warrior Two.

That’s when I heard something strange – a voice gravelly and excited, like Louis Armstrong on crack:

“Okay, now get into that yangatanga pose! Okay, now do that pose where you stick out your leeeeeeeg! All right! Nice work yoga MAStuhs! Now throw up your arms and pretend like you just crossed the finish line. Yeeaaaaaaah!”

What in the world? I got out of the pose and looked over my shoulder. To find TRACY MORGAN teaching the class. Are you kidding? The loud and hysterically funny star of 30 Rock? The star who insisted he and Jenna could cure their staff of the flu by going shopping? Bryan frikkin’ Fellows? He can’t teach yoga! He can barely sit still! I started to protest loudly to everyone around me, to anyone who would listen. But they just kept yoga-ing, calm serene faces, flinging their bodies about, acting like nothing was wrong. They gave me dirty looks for even remotely suggesting this scenario might be just a little “off”. I woke up howling with laughter. Obviously something is telling me I need to relax. Just a teeny tiny bit, right?

I’ve been a pretty devout follower of yoga off and on for 6 years. Lately it’s been “off” but obviously from this dream it’s time to start looking for a class. I love yoga. Simple Hatha or Vinyasa please though, that Bikram stuff is for hothouse flowers (I mean who wants to sweat it out in a 100-degree room?) and I’m sorry, but Ashtanga is fake yoga. Invented by an AMERICAN and way too competitive. They missed the whole point. Madonna and the rest of the celebrity Kabbalah crowd might enjoy showing off, but not me.

Yoga isn’t about bragging on how flexible you are. Yoga is about getting quiet and being with yourself. It’s about breathing. Really breathing, slow and steady and with consciousness and awareness. Meditating. Really examining what kind of person you are and what makes you tick. Maybe for the first time in your life. Understanding exactly who you are physically, but also emotionally, mentally. What are your strengths and can you learn to respect them? What are your limitations and can you learn to love them? All of these things are revealed little by little the more you practice.

I started doing yoga and meditation at my cousin’s suggestion. She’s an instructor in Richmond and still the best, most nurturing teacher I’ve ever had. Along with pigeon pose and sun salutations she always included a bit of meditation at the end – an introduction to focus and breath awareness. It was she who taught me that something as simple as breathing is the foundation for everything else. What the body begins, the mind will follow. Yoga is about understanding your body’s strengths and limits. She helped me understand while my back might not be at all flexible today, it would be with time. If it was supposed to. Where you are in the pose *right now* is where you’re supposed to be.

That’s another thing about yoga – it teaches you to be in the moment. When you’re doing a sitting forward bend frustrated because your hand can only reach your knee, it helps to focus and breathe and keep telling yourself, “It’s okay. I’m not competing. This is my body and what it can do right now. And that’s all right.” When you’re trying to meditate and your mind is racing with all the things you have to do when you get home, you become aware of your racing mind. You slow yourself down by just trying to focus on breathing in and breathing out. Something so simple, yet so challenging in this crazy world.

Learning these things helped me in so many other aspects of my life, particularly in dealing with people who don’t share my outlook or who are negative. I breathe and am in the moment. I allow them to be assholes 😉 and it’s okay. Because it’s where they are right now. Okay, that might be a little trite. But true. Yoga and meditation not only help with the big things (Who am I and why am I here?) but they also help with the small stuff like dealing with uncomfortable situations. Yoga helped me get through 10 years of teaching English to middle schoolers. When stuff got so bad I wanted to cry, I could hear my cousin’s voice telling me to “Just breathe.” It really helped.

At one point in my teaching career meditation gave me the gift of the “teaching moment”. Something so rare and yet so precious, where all the planets align and the kids are into you and what you are trying to do and you can actually SEE them learning. It always brought a chill to the back of my neck. Hairs back there would raise up like I’d just heard a wolf’s howl. So cool. In this instance the kids were acting up – it was the class before lunch, 11 football players out of 25, so this class was usually bouncing off the walls. I was reading to them from a book where a hippy kid was meditating in the desert (Jerry Spinelli’s Star Girl – wonderful book btw). A kid asked, “What’s meditation? Can we try it?” I laughed. Yeah right. I could just *see* the pandemonium of trying to get 25 kids to learn to meditate. Then I took a breath. Why not?

I had the class get comfortable and close their eyes. Then I talked them through a simple meditation exercise – one where you basically start at your toes, relax them, then your feet, relax them, working your way up the body until you reach the top of your head. All the while telling the class to breathe. There were some snickers, a few clowns peeping, poking their friends, but to my amazement most of the class took the exercise seriously. I peeped myself (always on “Teacher Watch”) and was stunned to see the kids relaxing. Slowing their breathing down, really concentrating on the moment.

I felt bad for not giving them enough credit. I thought they wanted to try meditation as a way to kill class time, and here they were really trying to meditate. Enjoying it. A thought occurred to me then. How filled are the days of these students? How often are they told to hurry, to pay attention, to focus. To everything around them except themselves. And it’s never quiet. Their days are filled with teachers screaming, parents screaming, screaming coaches and the screaming noise of Grand Theft Auto IV or Halo. This might be the first moment they’ve had EVER to be aware and quiet inside. To be with themselves if only for a few minutes.

My thoughts were confirmed when I talked with them about how they felt now and gathered their thoughts about the exercise. One of my ADHD kids, loveable, but nonetheless a pain in my neck more often than not, said, “My shoulder doesn’t hurt anymore. And I feel soooooo calm,” which sent the class into hysterics because this boy was NEVER calm. Others agreed, saying that pain or stiffness they had had was no longer there. One kid said he fell asleep. Others said they enjoyed the chance to slow down. Another asked if we could do this every day. Lightbulb moment. Yeah, you know what? It would be a good thing to do every day.

So why don’t I do it every day? Thinking back on this memory, I shake my head and wonder why. Why don’t we all take enough time to be good to ourselves every day? It’s such a gift, but so often it’s just seen as another chore. So much done for others and not enough for ourselves. No time to reflect, to be in the moment. And every week I don’t go to a class or meditate I can actually FEEL myself tensing up more and more. Like I’m holding my breath. Or I’m a coiled spring ready to explode. Or a racehorse at the starting gate. Yoga relieves this. I relax, and let go of everything I’ve held in all week. It has been many weeks since my last class, almost a year now. That’s a lot of breath holding. Why am I holding my breath? Maybe that dream was trying to tell me something.

So what *did* that dream mean? Maybe I need to relax my standards a bit, explore and try new things. Give people a chance and quit trying to tell them how to do it because they’re doing it wrong. There’s no one right way to do yoga or meditation anyway. And DOING it on a regular basis is more important than how. Even so, I know if I stumbled upon ol’ Tracy Morgan’s class in real life the only thing I’d be doing is cracking up laughing. Which is not necessarily a bad thing…

Praise Song For the Day.

What a day. I was crying from the moment Nancy Pelosi spoke, to the time Reverend Lowery gave his benediction. Crying, wiping my tears away with my wooly scarf. Huddling in the chilly hallway with most of the faculty and students here at the school because the network in the lecture rooms was down. Every word was poetic, beautiful, and it spoke to me of what is possible. Even Obama’s stumble when Roberts screwed up the oath spoke to me of his humanity. Of his humility.

Most of all, I loved Elizabeth Alexander’s poem. Just maybe not the delivery. To me, when I read these words I hear Obama’s voice. Triumphant. Confident. Assuring. That said, I’m not sure I could’ve read it any better in front of 500 gazillion people. The poem is wonderful, reminding me both of Nikki Giovanni’s

Praise song for the day.

by Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer consider the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; Words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by “first do no harm,” or “take no more than you need.”

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.

Running.

I had the crappiest Christmas ever. Did that get your attention? Let me back up. Okay, it was far from the crappiest. The fact that phrase is even coming out of my mouth makes me think of some spoiled tween crying in her lipgloss because she didn’t get the High School Musical doll she wanted. It wasn’t *that* bad, just felt that bad.

Believe me, I am truly blessed. With a loving husband, an adoring dog, a warm house. A car that runs. And the ability to run. Which is maybe why the holidays felt so shitty. Because I was running. I never stopped running. I’m the kind of person who likes to BREATHE, to stop and notice things, the chickadee outside my window, the smell of burning wood coming out a chimney.

But the whole month of December I was running. And not in a good way. Not in a way where I felt I was growing stronger with every step. We got an offer on the old Pittsburgh house (FINALLY) and so most of Christmas week was spent trying to find a notary who was still working, in addition to running to the store to buy and make all of the things I thought I should buy and make because the holiday says you’re supposed to. Then run BACK to the store when I remembered more things I thought I needed.

This year my husband and I both ran frantically because we got the offer on the house 12/2, the prospective owners wanted the inspection and all the improvements done by the closing on 12/31, then decided to move it up a week to 12/23. Huh? All month I felt like a kid watching one of those penny machines where you put your money in and turn the wheel – faster and faster to see the guy on the bicycle with the really big front wheel. Circa 1905. Maybe if you turn the crank fast enough he’ll crash. I wasn’t in this life. I was just watching myself going Christmas crazy in a movie. Every time I looked in a mirror I looked like something out of “Baby Jane” only worse.

I ran to work and back too, keeping late hours in order to “Part the Red Sea” before all the faculty left for their holidays. Why is *this* the time when all your bosses want miracles? Just because the Christ child is born we all have to perform virgin births by the Monday before Christmas? All of a sudden they desperately need their reimbursement money when the receipts for these conference trips have been lying crumpled in their pockets for months. Now they need the money, and right away. So they can run too. Run to the store for things nobody needs. Because the holiday deems it so.

The holidays deem that we run. Run to get a tree. Run to put up lights. Curse the whole time when the lights don’t work or the extension cord isn’t long enough. Run to buy another extension cord. Run to decorate that overpriced tree or what’s the point, because you’ll just have to take it all down again. Before January 5th I hear, or it’s bad luck the whole year. Who comes up with this shit anyway?

Run to wrap everything too. As a kid I remember wrapping gifts in the back seat of our family car on the way to Grandma’s. It was a race to see whether we’d arrive with beautifully stacked arrangements of be-ribboned presents, or just a bunch of white boxes with the price tags still on them.

“Who are these gifts for anyway Momma?” I asked once, pulling tape strips off the dispenser as fast as my pudgy little hands could go.

“Why, they’re yours dear.”

Wait a minute. You mean, I’m running, rushing to wrap my own damn gifts before we get to Grandma’s? Huh? Why? What is all this protocol for anyway? Who is it for? What are we trying to prove?

Trust me, I know the only person making me run is myself. I can hear you out there, I really can. As Artie Lange says, “Waaaaaaaah!” You got on offer on your house – “Waaaaaaaah!” You’ve got a job – “Waaaaaaaaah!” You’ve got a house to decorate and money to buy lights and gifts – “Waaaaaaah!” Trust me, I know I’m whining. Because I’m just so tired of running. Of running when there is no POINT. No purpose. No sort of meaning to the run itself. What am I trying to prove and who am I proving it to? It’s almost as if I’ve set myself up in this race to present the perfect Thomas Kinkade Christmas scene and no matter how hard I “run” I still can never win. It won’t ever be good enough. Or perfect enough. And even if it was, what do I win in this race? Nothing.

And you can only run so far in this kind of race before your mind, body, or both give out. For me it happened while decorating the tree. I broke my favorite ornament. Smashed into a gazillion pieces. I broke it and it was like I hit the wall during a marathon. Everything stopped. I was running to get the tree decorated before Christmas Eve. If it’s not done by Christmas Eve, it doesn’t count, you see. Not in perfect Christmasland.

I was tying it to a branch extra tight because I didn’t want it to break. And in my carefulness, I was careless. It slipped through my fingers and was just gone. Shattered in a milisecond. A beautiful sphere created out of hand-blown Czech glass bought at Neiman Marcus when I was young and single and could blow that kind of money on something so extraordinarily beautiful. It was a foolish purchase, extravagant, completely illogical. And I didn’t care. I just loved looking at it. Thin as an eggshell. Big as a grapefruit – so big you had to hold it in two hands. And etched all over with tiny triangles and flowers. I had just gotten my first adult paying job and that year wanted a grownup, fancy tree. This ornament represented what I thought was something really refined, and really classy. Like I had finally arrived. And now it was gone. An hour later I was still brushing its fine powdery shards off my face.

When it happened, I just swept up the pieces. It is, after all, just a thing. Just a piece of glass I used to cherish bringing out each year and feel proud I could have on my tree. And I do still have a picture of it at the top of this entry. And the memory of buying it, feeling proud that I could. But people change. I know things don’t make you who you are. I didn’t know that at 22.

But breaking something I *thought* was so precious made me stop running. And think. It made me realize when you run with no purpose, you lose things. You break things. Not to get too corny, but you forget things too, and they slip through your fingers.

My friend Melissa has been encouraging me to run recently. But with purpose. She has a beautiful daughter named Sara with CHARGE Syndrome and wants to develop a way to raise money through running – for research and to help those families who can’t afford the expensive lifetime care these children need. I’m helping her brainstorm some things. I write a little (sheepish grin) and I used to work in development. It’s exciting, and feels right, but scary too because the form is there, but no image yet. Like connecting dots to a picture you can’t see.

Talking with Melissa made me think of The Harvey Family, and Ruby’s Run. You want to see some running with purpose? Go look at this slideshow from the 2008 Ruby’s Run event, held each November. Look at the earnestness and pride on these children’s faces. The steadfastness and joy in their running. It gave me back something I had broken. It made me wish I had taken all the money I spent on ornaments and lights and god knows what other crap and just given it to these kids. It made me want to bake a huge plate of cookies and wait at the finish line. It made me want to do all that and more for Sara. Now that’s some Christmas running I could get into.

Looking at the images made me feel alive again. The pointlessness was gone. The lack of purpose vanished. The whinyness was gone. Get off your ass Libby. Rather than complaining about how things are, change how you react to them. Do something. Real running *is* work. Purposeless running just feels like it.

Remembering the Harveys.

It’s a new year, a new day full of sun, the icy wind has died down, and all of us have new hopes for change and dreams and wishes for what we’d like to have or to get better or to improve with the new year. But I hope everyone takes just a minute today to embrace and be grateful for all the blessings that surround us. We are truly blessed. And we were truly truly blessed to have known the Harveys. Take a minute to remember the Harveys today. Remember Bryan, Kathryn, Stella, and Ruby. Remember their joy, their music, the laughter they brought to everyone they came into contact with. In Bryan’s words, “Remember me well.”

And if you find yourself ever in a car winding down a country road with the wind blowing through your hair, I find listening to “Rocking Chair” an excellent way to remember him well. PEACE.