Tuesday, October 25, 2011

golden pumpkins

We spent the weekend in Boise with two of our grand-children, ages 1 and almost 3 (oh--and their parents!). Children know how to live abundantly. I have missed Gabe moving to Arizona; when he lived with us, he was a daily reminder of that full-life approach to living. Now, when I make David's sandwich in the morning, I miss Gabe's comment on my swirl of mustard, "It's a G!" I miss his excitement for the little things in life. This weekend reminded me of how children's approach to life can help me live more abundantly.

We are just going into the house. Bailey hugs our legs and announces: "My birthday is in one month!" Of all the first things to say, that was hers. I wish I were so excited about my upcoming birthday. I want to feel excited about the adventure of being another number--and not just older.

At dinner, Bailey and Ryker had a game they'd play. He'd watch her. She'd watch him. Then she'd let out a belly laugh--not because something was funny, just to laugh. And Ryker would laugh, hard. His was genuine. He was delighted with his sister and her laugh. I need to laugh more. And laugh hard. Sometimes just for the sake of laughing. (I just remembered this: David had heard that laughter lowers blood pressure. Once on the way to a physical, he made himself laugh over and over again. Finally he started laughing for real, thinking about what other drivers must think of this guy, alone in a car next to them at the stop light, guffawing away. His blood pressure was lower!)

Bailey wanted to show us how she could ride her bike but didn't want to put on her helmet, so she had to ride in the garage (family rule). Both cars were in the garage, so essentially she was just riding around and around one of the cars--and doing a pretty good job of it. She never hit either car once. She kept shouting, "Watch me, Grandma." Once I hid behind the fender of the car so that as she rode around, I would surprise her. She loved the surprise--and then we had to play the same game over and over, with me "hiding" at different corners of the car. Sometimes she even told me where to "hide." Each time, she seemed surprised that I was there. I need to take more joy in the repetitive aspects of life. There are so many after all. I shouldn't get so well-now-that-isn't-a-surprise-is-it about life. Keeping it fun is important.

We visited a pumpkin patch on Saturday. The place was more like an old-fashioned amusement park than farm, although there was that, too. There were tractors pulling barrels-made-into-seats around the grounds. There were animals to feed ("It tickles my hand!) and bales of hay to climb. Ryker wanted to carry every pumpkin he saw. Bailey had to swing on the swing (everything seemed to be made out of farm implements of some kind). When her turn came, she kept repeating, "This is so fun. This is so fun." The swing just went in a circle, but Bailey sat very still, her eyes looking out the side to her left, both hands gripping the chains. It was as though she was focused on the moment, on soaking in all the sensations of swinging out and around, instead of all the whirling visuals going past. She focused. I'm afraid that too often, I don't. I have so many things to do and so many places to be and so many people to do things for that I don't just focus and enjoy  small moments for the joy they could be.

We took a hay ride (big wagon hooked to a tractor--fun!) out to the pumpkin fields. Ryker would have taken any pumpkin he could get his hands on, but Bailey wanted a "golden" pumpkin. So we stayed on the ride while others got off, and families who'd found their perfect pumpkins got on. We waited past the fields with the BIG pumpkins.  At the last stop, we saw the fields with little pumpkins. We jumped down to look for golden pumpkins. I was skeptical. Yes, I'd read the sign about all the varieties of pumpkins and the varied colors, but here? We wandered around, and, sure enough, there were two small golden pumpkins. Just the right size for little hands.  Even when they might not seem possible, a dream is important. I need to think of golden pumpkins more.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

making cookies

I love making cookies. I love the measuring and the mixing and the dropping by spoonfuls in rows on the shiny cookie sheet. I love the different textures: the fine grains of the white sugar, the moist chunkiness of the brown, the dusty connection of the flour, and the creamy smoothness of the butter. I love the different smells: the Christmas-season scent of vanilla, the exotic aroma of cinnamon, and the romance of  chocolate. I love, love, love the results! I love the sweet-smelling house, warm and cozy. I love that everyone comes into the kitchen to taste and talk. I love the happy faces, the chubby cheeks smeared with chocolate, and mouths talking rapidly while hands wave half-eaten cookies as punctuation. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I have recently spent a lot of time with a friend whose husband has cancer. Their family has lived for a year with intense hope and faith. In June, they were told they had a miracle: remission, even though the cancer had been stage 4 in four places. A surgery to remove the remaining tumor--and their life would be back to what it was before: marathons, camping, snowmobiling--fun. But two months later, the cancer was back. And now, just a few weeks after that horrible news, the doctors say it's everywhere.

I heard, somewhere, that grief feels like wearing a heavy coat. I found this page that uses a number of similes, including that one, to try to explain grief.

I have a picture book titled Through the Mickle Woods. In it, a king grieves the death of his wife. His journey through that grief reminds us that our lives are made of all the things that happen to us and through us--both the sweet and the sad. Sometimes it's hard to remember that when the sad is so present.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

root canal(s) or is it roots canal?

About six weeks ago, I went to my dentist. At my cleaning earlier in the year, I thought he had said that I had cavity to fill; when I got there, he said--instead-- I needed a crown. Great.  His work on the crown irritated the tooth so that for a week my face ached. When I went back in for the permanent crown, I told him of my discomfort. He said that sometimes happened with crowns--and if it continued, I would probably need to have a root canal. Wonderful. Well, last week, when the pain of the tooth had progressed so that it woke me up at night or prevented me from going to sleep at all, I decided I had waited long enough. I went in to see my dentist. He took an x-ray and decided that the roots were tricky enough to warrant an endodontist--which is where I found myself today, for what they said would be a one-hour appointment. It took twice that long because they found four roots instead of the usual three and one of them was "tricky." Lucky me. And then, when the tooth had the temporary filling in, the doctor looked at the final x-rays and wasn't happy with one root. So they took out the filling, drilled and rototilled and burned something all over again before putting in another temporary filling. I like perfectionists in some situations. After two hours I wasn't sure how I was feeling about this one.

 I don't like dentists. I don't mean the people, who seem genuinely kind and compassionate. The idea of dentists. That's my problem. I get anxious just thinking about going to them, anticipating the pain, the vulnerability: sit down, lean back, tip your chair back so your head gets all the blood, open your mouth. Then there are the sounds: high-pitched drills and ones that sound like jack-hammers. There are scraping sounds and watery sounds. The tools look like something from a torture chamber, and the burning smell? What is going on in my mouth? I hear vocabulary I don't understand: C5 (is that like C4--an explosive?), B-something, and tools with increasingly large numbers--I need a 20, now I need a 30, give me a 35. I could see--when I opened my eyes once--in the reflection in the machine (microscope?) over my face that what felt like roto-tilling actually was rototilling. I closed my eyes again for the rest of the procedure.

Instead of gas (because I was teaching right after I left the office), I opted for the headphones as a distraction. I listened to Josh Grobin. Soothing. I had the sound up loud enough that the assistant had to pull the ear piece off to ask me a question before they began. But, apparently, not loud enough. When the drill started, I couldn't hear the music at all. Everything was the sound of the drill. There would be a pause in the drilling--Grobin singing "You're still you"--and back to drilling. At times I chuckled over the irony of the words and my situation, but when the drill was loudest and my nervousness was increasing, I found myself striving, hard, to hear the music behind the drill. It came to me that that is a good approach for trying times in our lives: try really hard to hear the music instead of the drill. The music was there, but it took will and focus to hear it. I can do that.