THUNDERligh


As the sun approached the horizon the sky turned a beautiful shade of orange with a generous spread of grey clouds. I was hoping that there would be no rain this evening. I had my camera and was looking forward to getting some great photographs but mostly I needed to complete my run. Running and photography were dear to me and I was never too far from doing either. I picked up the pace on the first leg of my evening 5k. As I passed the mile marker I heard the crack of thunder. I was startled but continued without missing a beat. I could hear the voice of my high school science teacher warning me to find shelter. I knew better but I picked up the pacing certain I could finish before it started to rain. Sweat was starting to bead over my forehead. It felt great to be out in the cool of the Florida fall. forgetting the threat of rain was easy as I lost myself in the energy of the music in my head. I returned to reality long enough for my phone to remind me that I was behind the pace of my last run.

As I increased the pace I could feel the increase in my heart rate and the comforting wetness in my shirt. Even the slight dryness in my mouth was reassuring. I swallowed just enough spit to moisten my throat. It was just enough to allow me to maintain my pace without excessive dryness. I continued at a good clip passing many the walkers and feeling great in my return to pace since I had had such a long lay off. I quickly was lost in rhythm of my heart beat and became singularly focused on the heart foot connection. I felt great. I no longer felt the pace. I was brought back to reality when my phone beeped alerting me that I had covered 2 kilometers and that my pace had exceeded my last run. It was a gratifying reminder. but I had felt the pace. Conformation was always welcomed but I lost focus and slowed for the next 4oo meters. Again my phone alerted me to pick up the pace. This is what I loved about technology. I had coded this app myself and had not shared it with anyone. It was my own private coach. We were doing a great job. I had given the app a personality and named her Shelly. It was a fitting place to be thinking of her. This is where we meet. Six months ago I had lost myself in my run and she was delivered to my memory in one long chain. I had been thinking of doing this for as long as I could think. It was a magical experience without any magic.

I felt a sharp jolt to my right shoulder and immediately became weak and lost all control of my body. I fell to the ground and could not move. As I laid there, on my stomach, I felt like there were flames on my back. I could smell the fumes of burning polyester. The was a hot spot under my stomach, it was my phone. The heat was intense, but I was not able to move. I smelled the burning of flesh and tried to move, but no movement happened. In my head I was struggling to get up, but in reality I could not moved a muscle. It felt like a lifetime, but I finally recovered to pulled myself onto all fours. As I looked down I noticed the melted phone and my ripped running shorts.

As I removed my shirt it felt as if I had also pulled off a layer of skin. I could feel the stiffness in the remains of the shirt. As my shirt slipped over my head the swell of cauterized flesh became overwhelming. The resulting nausea was powerful and exhaustive and I vomited copious amounts of greenish fluid. On the ground it looked like mossy stagnant water and the back of my throat felt as bad as it looked. The pain moved from being sharp to an intense burning and the world around me faded to grayish-blackness. The next sounds I heard were the alarm bells of a hospital monitor.

TRAUMA


The coffee was much too hot and the air was much too cold, but she was perfectly happy with the world. The room was loud, but it seems she did not notice. As I tried to pass her I tipped her table with my backpack, and spilled coffee into her lap. As I frantically gestured to the barrister for assistance I notice that she had not moved an inch. No assistance was forthcoming. The shop was full and all behind the counter were busy supplying the assembled masses their morning dose of caffeine. I retrieved my sweater from my backpack and in the process spilled my headphones and various cables unto the floor. I tried to mop the steaming liquid from her legs and shorts. She did not move. It seemed as if she had not noticed that I was trying to get her attention. I tried to get her gaze, all to no effect.

I was immediately transported to my time on the inpatient psychiatric unit. There I was introduced to catatonia, and this was it. I was surprised and scared by what I was seeing. I was snapped back to reality as a baby started to cry. I looked around only to notice that the cry was coming from the floor next to her. It was a baby boy or I assumed so from the blue clothes. His crying snapped her awake and she shouted at me for spilling her coffee. I was startled, but happy to see her aroused. I hugged her in relief, but she did not share my emotion. I apologized as she picked up the baby and consoled him. Only them did she notice that the coffee had spilled into her lap. She was not bothered and continued to cradle the now quite baby. Her demeanor changed to a concerned loving mother and I was impressed by the rapid change.

As I sat I wondered what she was thinking while she was in that haze.
“Was I out long?” she asked.
“No, you were not, it was only about 3 minutes.”
“Thanks for getting the spilled coffee. Sometimes I am helpless.”
“What do you mean?”

Maybe I should have left it there, but my curiosity got the best of me. As she started to talk I was being drawn into a deeper more complex puzzle. She had delivered her son twelve months earlier by cesarean section, which was her first surgical experience. It was not planned, but she was having a complicated labor and her doctor suggested that a cesarean section would be safe for her and baby. Her had a long reassuring discussion with her Anesthesiologist and was comfortable with the plan. But the experience was more challenging.

As she talked the color went out of her lips and face. Her experience of the spinal was clouded by the coldness of the room and the warmth of her nurse’s hands. She was happy to be able to watch and she remembered the mirror. She watched as her prince as plucked from the warmth of her body to the cold of the world. She saw her stomach open and admired the hands of her surgeon. She watched to make sure all the layers were closed. While she watch her view started to get cloudy and her chest felt heavy. She quickly became aware of the beeping over her shoulder. She started to feel the approaching nausea and caught a glimpse of the heart monitor as the number fell slowly from 35 to less than 30. As her vision continued to get darker she could hear a sudden piercing sound and then blackness. She then awoke to the bright lights of the operating room and returned to watching her doctor close all the layers of her abdomen. It was all over and she was happy for it. Her prince was safe and warm in her arms.

“All I could think of for the next day was how beautiful he was,” she said.

I shook my head in understanding and lost all the questions I was contemplating. As she continued I notice that the baby had fallen asleep with his little fingers wrapped around mommy’s pinky. She did not seem as comfortable as he was and as she continued to speak I understood why. Her birthing experience was not as she had expected. For the first 48 hours she was great, but then she started to have moments of “haze” when she just could not remember or hear people around her. The first time it happened she was being taught how to breast feed by the lactation consultant. She was in a “haze” and did not hear the instructions being given to her. She continued to ask her consultant to repeat.

Her husband had returned to work and had not noticed anything different about his wife. He was an active duty soldier and was deployed less than 36 hours after the birth of his first son. She still could feel his hug and kisses, but he had not returned home. Her life was forever changed.

She had become a widow of war and trapped by the trauma of her berthing experience. I listened, but there was no word of comfort that came to mind. I was shocked by her story and lost in her grief.

LET THEM FLY.


As a parent I believe that there is no greater task than making sure your children are successful. The obvious next question must be asked, what is your definition of success? I would define success as “knowing what you don’t know”, simply I need them to be self-aware. I have a philosophy about how to get them there. Many disagree with me, but I have my parents to thank for their great example. One of the great things my parents did was the gentle subliminal push toward and appreciation of education as the route to achievement. I remember the extra lessons in grade school, and going to the clinic with my mother. I remember helping sterilize the supplies in her delivery bag. What I don’t remember is any discussion of college or which college or even getting better grades.

My parents were very generous with opportunity. They allowed my brothers and I the freedom to decide our interests. Expectations were high but were not overtly discussed. We were required to read aloud at daily devotion. We were not allowed to work outside of the home. Our only responsibility was to complete chores and go to school. We filled our down time by dreaming of the world that could be and taking control of what was around us. We learned to cook, hand wash and iron our clothes. I learned to tailor and one brother learned upholstery. We learned to manage our money, by managing our daily school money. This collection of activities may not seem very significant, but my brothers and I have extraordinarily similar outlook on the world. We believe that our children must be allowed the chance to attain the highest pinnacle of education because they can, not because they must. We believe that our responsibility to our children is paramount and no one comes before them. We may live far apart, but would give the same general answer to 9 out of 10 questions.

We learned from out parents that living the example is more important that showing it. We saw our parents reading and watching the news. We saw their drive to continue their education. We watched them solve problems creatively. They allowed us to explore the world freely but the boundaries were clear.

My view of the world is shaped by my family. My parents and grandparents created an outlook on the world that as given us a never give in attitude. I want to give my girls that same attitude. I will never clip their wings. I will allow them to fly. I will always be there to catch them if needed. I will be supportive. I will provide the means for them to have a platform for success. I will always support my girls, because they are equal to the challenge no matter what it may be.

I thank my village for giving me the strength to allow my princesses to fly.

THE GIFT OF WORDS


There is a time and place for everything is a saying that is banded about often. For me, Sunday morning is a time for words and words are key to opening the world. I learned my appreciation for words from my father and grandfather. Both read a lot and gave me the desire to read. The power of words are in their ability to transport. Unlike any other medium words are all-powerful. They transport both in time and place. How far we get transported is determined by our willingness to grasp the full meaning of the words we encounter. There is no short cut to getting to full understanding. All understanding comes via a dictionary. I had to learn that the hard way. I wanted to get the words without putting in the dictionary time. I resisted examining the meaning of unfamiliar words. My resistance stifled the growth of my vocabulary. Over time I have come to the understanding that a dictionary is an essential tool. I now check my dictionary as often as I can and am the better for it.

Sunday morning is my special day. Sunday morning is my newspaper day. Getting the Sunday paper and reading for hours is my joy. The importance of reading cannot be underestimated. I want to read for fun and encourage all to do the same. Sitting in a comfortable chair with a coffee and the Sunday New York Times makes my weekend. The feel of the paper between my fingers. The sounds and pictures created in my mind are always a joy. Giving that joy to my children is my goal.
Giving the love of words to our children is the most vital gift. We must give them that gift without reservation and allow them to express themselves. They will surprise and delight us. I love words because they have opened the world to me. They bring the outside in and the inside out. They transport and uplift. They transform and elevate. Giving the power of words transmits great expectations and challenges the receiver to greatness.

Let us challenge the children in our life with meaningful words. The love of words will open to them the broad expanses of life’s possibilities.