Saturday, April 14, 2012

To the moon.

"Sometimes I sits and thinks. 
And sometimes I just sits."

~ Satchel Paige, baseball legend

Yesterday evening, the kids were at a sleepover. Harry had a prior commitment so I had the evening all to myself. On a Friday, no less.

What to do with myself? Go out? Stay in? Meet a friend somewhere? Take a nap? What?

I decided that I needed simplicity. That translated to an evening at home alone. But even with simplicity I wanted some kind of cherry to put on top of it so I called one of my favorite restaurants, Murphy's in the Virginia Highlands, and ordered my favorite thing off of their menu for take out. And this did feel like a cherry on top because Murphy's is not the kind of restaurant that you go to for take out; it's a date-night place where you order full-bodied reds and ask the sommelier dumb questions while waiting for your table. But me? I walked in there with flip-flops, ratty, hole-filled jeans and a soft t-shirt that smells exactly like the BHE to get the very decadent "Murphy's Burger" with a side salad -- to go. (If they'd had a way for me to get that full-bodied red wine in a to-go cup you'd better believe I would have.)

Anyways.  I came on home with my fancy hamburger and sat on a blanket placed on the floor of my sunroom (sure did) where I enjoyed every single bite of it. Cooked perfectly to my liking with just the right amount of pinkish-cool in the center. All of this at a sunset picnic for myself. Yay. 

Now what? I asked myself.

Watch television? Write something? Read something? Do some work? What?

Instead of any of those things, I decided to tip toe just outside of my front door and sit on my front steps with a lovely glass of full-bodied red wine from my own kitchen.  Surely did. Sounds kind of crazy, I know, considering how unseasonably cool it has been for the last few evenings. But for whatever reason I felt lulled there. To my front porch. To sit and think. Or just sit. And so. With the door cracked so the I could hear the phone ring or maybe just out of habit since I have kids, I slung a blanket over my shoulders (which interestingly also held my husband's scent) and pulled my knees into my chest like some sort of teenager waiting for a boy.

There were stars in the sky. I wondered when the last time was that I even noticed them, those stars. I watched them quietly twinkling and imagined them all as points of light in my life. Just like those constellations up there, I wanted to make myself aware of how they all sparkled. And so I recapped moments from the last few weeks.

First I thought about this medical student I've advised named Kevin S. I smiled as I recalled the day he walked right up to me outside of CVS pharmacy in Emory Village and said, "Hi Dr. Manning. My name is Kevin and I really hope we get to work together soon." And then he told me that he would try very hard to get on my team at some point and said it like he meant it. I was flattered by his words, and told him I'd look forward to it.

Now. It doesn't always work out for us to get the exact team we request, but in this instance it eventually worked out. Kevin had a great month on my team and I grew to know him quite well. And seeing as he is a wonderful, kind soul, I am better for it.

Well. A couple of weeks ago, Kevin called me and told me he wanted me to meet his parents. Quite similar to the way he said he'd like to work together outside of CVS. And just like then, I told him I'd look forward to that, too.

Early one morning, I met Kevin and his parents at this very coffee shop that happens to be only a few feet away from the very place I first met him outside of CVS pharmacy. And I learned in that moment exactly why he his so kind and gracious and full of light. We laughed and talked and listened to one another. I learned more about his family and his parents and that was great. Really great, in fact. It was one of those twinkling stars in the constellation of my life.

A police car went by with lights on but no sirens. Wasn't sure what that was about. Looked up at the trees and then back to the twinkling stars.

My mind wandered to earlier that afternoon when I picked up Zachary from aftercare and Mr. B, one of the amazing educators who works with the kids there (and who blogs), said to me, "Hey! I have a question about your blog." And, y'all know me, I get all giddy whenever that happens so he had me at "hey" and "blog." Anyways, he then asked about how I decide what to write about, so I told him that I've come to realize that there's always something to write about. Plus I just need to write so even if that means turning off the television or rambling (like now) I just do it because I must. But I also told him that writing makes me pay more attention to the extraordinary pieces of ordinary moments. He nodded because he got that--he truly did.

Next he showed me this awesome picture that his daughter had drawn earlier that day of a teacher that looked curiously like him demanding that a class be quiet. And we laughed out loud at the number of exclamation points she used. And even though talking about kids and families in the lobby at aftercare seems really ordinary, I think we both recognized that indeed it is also extraordinary.

Yes, it is.

That breeze felt good on my face out there. The blanket was just the right amount of warm and cozy. And my full bodied red was making me feel mellow. I tucked my feet in to let the blanket cover my flip-flops, too, and rearranged the cover so that just the stem of my wine glass would peek out for my lips.

A wild and crazy night, I tell ya.

My mind drifted to thoughts of Harry and the kids. I inhaled that blanket and his weathered t-shirt and smiled at how powerful scents are at evoking memories of places and people.  I imagined this recent image of Harry trying to teach Isaiah how to do a military salute.

And it made me think of all of the things he does that they wish to emulate. Like. . .Harry regularly buys me flowers from the grocery store because I truly love flowers. And without fail, those boys pick a flower or two for me each and ever time they play outdoors. Or they tell me when I look pretty or smell good or even if I'm doing a good job at mommy-ing because this is something that their Daddy does.

I hope they know how to receive all that love in return based upon what the see me doing in response to theirs.


Cars driving by, cool breeze on my face, a runner glanced in my direction wondering what this woman is doing sitting out on her front porch in the dark. Just as I was wondering what the hell he was doing running without reflective gear in the dark.


Next I thought about my friend Kris R. Part of me was sitting outside because she is all the way in Uganda and a little part of me wanted to connect to her especially. Connect with those same constellations and that same vast sky that we share. Unlike me, my friend Kris has the move-to-Africa gene, but that's not important. What IS important is that she is just hours to days into fostering-slash-adopting a sweet little girl. This makes their party of five a party of six. This has always been a dream for her. . .living there, giving there, loving there. . .and extending her family in some way through adoption. And it's happening. It's really happening!

I am so happy for her family. And especially her.

Another runner ran by. What are these people doing out here so late? Probably wondering what I'm doing out there looking them. I wonder if they thought I was waiting for a boy. Or a pizza guy? Hmm.

Stars still twinkling. Then I thought of Thursday. Thursday is one of my favorite work days of the week because I get to work in the clinic with some of my favorite residents but also because it's usually my day to chat with my Grady bestie Lesley M. We have a committee meeting together on those days, so that always spills into some wonderful girlfriend time.

Clinic was awesome. The residents were great and the patients were even greater. I even gave this super funny Grady elder double high fives -- one "up high" and another "down low"-- upon his request since he had quit smoking. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

And then our Thursday committee meeting got canceled which meant that Lesley M. and I just sat in her office and laughed and talked and chatted and connected. I was so glad, too, because I kind of needed that. I had just received this composite evaluation from some of my students that was mostly glowing but that also had one rather tough-bordering-on-hurtful comment. I loved how she listened to me and helped me process it some more. I sorted through what parts could help me grow and what parts to just stick on a post-it note in my mind for later or even never. She didn't have much advice. Instead she paid attention and nodded and asked a few questions which were good questions that I needed to think about.

Then we laughed some more and talked about some other completely unrelated-to-work things like husbands washing dishes (or not) and six year-old kids getting onto kayaks. I needed that part, too.

At the end of that time together I received a text message from a medical student asking if I had time to talk. Something about that text alarmed me and I did have time to talk so I left Grady right then and there and met that student late that afternoon. What I found out was that this had nothing to do with school or grades or residency applications at all. This student was sad about a loved one nearing the end of life and was feeling suffocated by pain and helplessness. I sat and listened and paid attention and nodded. And like Lesley, I didn't have much advice, either. I asked for the student to tell me all about their loved one and what made the person so very special. That part led to smiles and even laughter. Which was good. Very good.

That same Thursday even included a small group session with SG Beta at my home that evening. We talked all about residency plans and boards and whatever else was on their minds. That part was wonderful, too.

Funny. Those meetings and that tough-bordering-on-hurtful comment reminded me of who I am as a clinician educator. I'm imperfect, yes, but I am also someone that a student who isn't even in my small group could feel comfortable reaching out towards at such a difficult time. And that another student who isn't even in my small group would want to meet his parents on an early Saturday morning. Also one that allows students in my small group to feel relaxed enough to take off their shoes in my home on a Thursday night.

I put all of that on a post-it note, too.

I stared at the sky some more. Then I looked for the moon. For some reason I couldn't find it from where I was sitting but looking for it did remind me of something else. Something good, actually.

My former Grady doctor-sister-friend, the Infectious Disease profesora in Pittsburgh, sent me a random text message on the very day that I had received that evaluation form with the comment that troubled my waters. And you know? She had no idea that it wasn't the best day for me but for whatever reason that random text message was simple and affirming:

"Love you, man."

To which I typed back, "You more, man. All the way to the moon."

To which she replied, "To the moon and back."

all the way to this.

No. She didn't even know how much I needed that upload at that moment. But I did so I was glad.

And last night I was even gladder that looking for that moon made me think of it again.

Congratulating the profesora after she'd given an awesome lecture, 4/2011.

After all of that thinking, I just sat there. Sat there gazing mindlessly at the star-filled, moonless sky and the occasional car or ambulance driving down the street. Just sitting. Watching a group of bike riders with lights on their helmets passing me by and more runners, too. But this time just watching them and that's it. No thinking much about what or why or where they were running or biking.

Just sitting. That's it.

And that part was very good, too.

Sometimes I sits and thinks. And sometimes? I just sits.

Last night, I did a little of both.  And it was ordinary and extraordinary and necessary and good.

Happy Sabado.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .a little Billy Idol. (Sorry, I've been on a bit of an 80's Brit invasion kick!)


  1. You are such an inspiration! I just ran across your blog last weekend. I was looking for info on Grady, as I am hoping to get back into nursing. Sort of a long story~ but just wanted you to know your blog is awesome and I hope I am fortunate enough to run into educators such as yourself! Reflection is so powerful!

  2. Lovely, lovely post. I'm going to carry parts of it around with me to ponder, especially the part about trying to just sit once in a while. I thinks to much, which often leads to worrying too much.
    I always feel like a kid in a candy store with alone time. TV shows piling up on the DVR? One of my 200 unread books?? A bath? A nap? A chore? A project? Etc.

    The next time this quandry presents itself, I'm opening a nice bottle of red, grabbing a blanket and sitting on the stoop to stare at the stars. Thank you for that.

    Thanks also for the peek inside your heart and your home - your men folk are adorable - the picture of the salute is perfect.

    I hear you about the one negative comment. I have issues with negative feedback, it's a childhood issue I still wrangle. You took it like a champ, and turned it into something to learn from, even if the lesson is you can't please everyone.

    Happy Sabado to you too. We love each other to the moon and back here too. To infinity and beyond.

  3. Sounds like a wonderful night. Everyone (moms included) needs a night like that from time to time. I'm glad you didn't let the negative comment muddy your waters too much. I guess it wouldn't be life if it was perfect, but knowing how to focus on the positive while still taking what you can from negative moments is what makes it happy, I think. And you're a happy and beautiful person!! Happy Saturday!

  4. Sounds like you made wonderful use of your time alone. Have you every heard of a prayer practice called the Examen? It is inspired by Ignatian spirituality and is practiced by an order of Catholic priests known as the Jesuits. (Society of Jesus)and by many other people. It is the practice of mentally going through the previous day and looking for where you experienced good or God or pain and praying about that. Google Examen and you will have a better explanation than I can give. This is a long way of saying I think that is just what you did!

  5. You sure do a lot of beautiful thinking while you're doing a whole lot of nothing! I'll second Anonymous above that you are an inspiration, and I always come here, read a bit and leave a better person.

    So, thank you for that! And I hope the rest of your weekend is as peaceful as your evening!

  6. Anon -- Welcome! And thank you so much for those kind words. I am inspired just knowing you were reading and that you stumbled upon this blog and stayed. There are no accidents.

    Mel -- Yes! The stoop date for one was really great! And the best part is that I did still get a little time to watch some television. I rewatched a movie called The Quiz Show on HBO which I loved just as much the second time around. Thanks for your kind words.

    Stace -- We do need those nights, don't we? Yep, it wouldn't be life if it was all sunshine. Like Frankie Beverly said so eloquently, "Joy and pain are like sunshine and rain." That song also says, "Where there's the flowers--there's the sun and the rain. . .oh and it's wonderful. . .they're both one and the same." (That is soooo on my mental iPod now!!) Here you go:

    Mary Alice -- It turns out that I have heard of Examen. This wonderful woman who reads my blog named Mary Alice taught me of it a few months back. :) I just went back to read about it again. I think it's a beautiful thing that I will try doing with more intention--thanks!

    Elizabeth -- You know how I feel about you. I hope that you, Sophie and your men all savor your weekend, too. By the way, I loved your post about talking to people with disabilities. Awesome.

  7. It sounds like you do have the BHE and he may just be the BFE too. Praying that on your silver anniversary you too are surrounded by family and friends and dancing.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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