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In the blink of an eye

Some thoughts, the morning after.

The police car flew past me last night with lights flashing and sirens blaring. I had the vantage point of sitting in the cross traffic. I watched cars pull over, many pulled from their distracted thoughts of a baseball game or dinner plans or the events of the day. It was life as usual as they made their way through the last minutes of the commute hour. The police car sped down the street and, as is my habit, I said a quiet prayer for the safety of the officer and all those involved before returning to my own distracted thoughts of routine life. I looked at the clock. I was running late for the meeting with my Guide Dogs for the Blind Puppy Club. I would need to move quickly when I pulled into the parking lot. I shuffled in with another puppy raiser. Pleasantries were exchanged as we caught up on the details of each other’s lives and puppies.

During the meeting, my friend’s phone went off. It was her daughter texting her, telling her of a shooting at the Walmart just on the other side of the freeway from where we sat. The same Walmart I have been inside. The same Walmart where we have socialized the puppies. The same Walmart that shares a parking lot with our “usual post-meeting Starbucks.” The same Walmart that suddenly became the scene of a horrific crime. The same Walmart that police vehicles had sped to just 45 minutes prior.

As she shared the news coming from her daughter’s text messages, each of us began sharing our individual sitings of the police vehicles that sped past our cars as we made our way to the meeting. “There was an active shooter at Walmart.” I watched the faces of those around the table as we each tried to process another act of senseless violence. “People were down.”  Though no one said it aloud, I doubt I was the only one pondering the possibility of a terror attack; the Halloween terror attack in New York still fresh and unsettling. “The shooter or shooters were on the run. They are considered armed and dangerous.”

He…She…They…? As they often are during the moments, hours, or even days following random violence, immediate details were sketchy. But, somebody was on the run, not far from where we all sat and in the direct vicinity of where we had planned on going next. I checked my phone for an update as we made plans to change the location of our customary Starbucks run.

As we left the building, I felt the adrenaline coursing through my veins, pushing me to walk a little faster. I decided my pup would wait to relieve until we reached the Starbucks further away. I didn’t need to be standing in a well-lit parking lot just up the road from an active crime scene.

As I crossed the traffic to enter the freeway on-ramp, I looked to my right. Could I see the lights of the emergency vehicles in the Walmart parking lot? I was trying to put pieces together. Those same emergency vehicles sped through traffic not even 2 hours earlier. The first-responders rushing to “serve and protect.”  The drivers, like myself, yielding to the lights and sirens. No one expecting the tragedy that had unfolded in the blink of an eye.

No one awoke yesterday thinking they were walking into the day that would change everything, but 3 people didn’t return home from their Walmart trip last night. The day before, 8 people didn’t finish their trip on a pedestrian pathway in New York. Last month, 58 people were killed and another 546 shot while attending a concert. In the blink of an eye, life changed forever.

No one awoke yesterday thinking they were walking into the day that would change everything, but roughly 4,600 people in the United States were diagnosed with cancer. Yesterday, an average of 121 Americans took their lives and countless others did their best to simply make it through their day, hiding the pain of their own struggles behind a false smile. Globally, an estimated 151,600 people died and another 360,000 were born. All in the blink of an eye.

Life changes. It moves forward. But, life is so often dictated by the events that happen in the blink of an eye. Last night, before I let the veil of sleep consume me, I thought about the people whose lives were forever changed during the course of the day: those that won’t return home; those left behind; those scarred by events that they never anticipated when they awoke; those just doing their best to make it through another day with every ounce of their being; and those feeling vulnerable to life’s blinks. Quietly, I prayed for them, for their friends and family, and for our world.

Then, I prayed that I am placed in the path of someone whose life I might help make better because change can come in just the blink of an eye.




Are you LOL?

This morning, as I headed out the door to the dentist (yet again!), C locked the door behind me. For a moment, I reflected on the increased ease I have in my schedule. No longer are my days dictated by naps, diaper changes, or babysitters. Though still in the throes of motherhood, I’ve loosened my grip on the reins considerably.  I can direct the girls to finish their lessons without me, fix their own dinners, and turn off the lights when they head up to bed long after I’m asleep. With every step towards the empty nest years, they assume more responsibility and I am granted more freedom to rediscover who I am and plot the course for my next chapter.

One of my favorite excavation tools is books. I collect them like a child collects seashells at the shore. I also believe they are among the most personal gifts I give. I am not faithful to one genre, though I do tend to favor books that carry an inspirational message, be they fiction or non-fiction. Amazon loves me. No, they love my credit card.  Last year, around this time, I was shopping Amazon for journals for my girl’s Christmas stockings. I looked first for A’s; I wanted something with writing prompts but not heavy or deep. Playful. I wanted playful prompts for my reluctant writer, who happens to be a perfectionist. That’s when I discovered the author, Keri Smith, and her series of playful, inspiring journals.

The first journal placed in my cart was, Wreck This Journal: To Create Is To Destroy. It begins with a warning that, “during the process of this book you will get dirty. You may find yourself covered in paint, or any other number of foreign substances. You will get wet…You may grieve the perfect state that you found this book in….” She dedicated it “perfecectionists all over the world.”  The directed activities are “outside the box” play. For example, “Collect your pocket lint. Glue it here.” and “Doodle on the top of: the cover, the title page, the instructions, the copyright page. Fold down the corners of your favorite page.” and “Drip something here. (ink, paint, tea) Close the book to make a print.” Smith’s fun activities, which are afforded ample room on the pages to fulfill, encourage the perfectionist to let go and simply have fun. Though barely touched, I am still encouraging my young, beautiful, analytical perfectionist to play her way through it, and she is learning the only thing shared between perfection and play is the letter p.

The next journal added to my cart would be for my energetic, bouncy C; How to be an Explorer of the World: Portable Art Life Museum. The back cover states, “At any given moment, no matter where you are, there are hundreds of things around you that are interesting and worth documenting.” Smith’s activities encourage self discovery through observation. She directs her reader to observe and map out the cracks in a street, notice and record color by collecting paint chips and to glue them to the preceding page, and to study the language of trees by collecting various pieces fallen from a tree and playing with them in different arrangements. She wants her reader to not just look at the world around them but to see the world through different lenses. For the writer and world traveler that lives within C, Smith’s book offered a reminder to never see the world through “stale eyes” no matter where you are in the world.

The last I stumbled upon, Living Out Loud: Activities to Fuel a Creative Life , was added to my cart for me, and another copy for my sister. In it, Smith writes,” Play is the most important element is discovering who your are. Play will lead you right into you deepest desires.” And, I love to play. Hidden in the pages are ideas that I have found in other books, but these are wrapped in play and encouraging words. On page 48, she shares “Ten Things I’ve Learned From Women” before encouraging her reader to make their own list. On page 68, she teaches the reader how to make a smudge stick and on 69 directs the reader to “write a letter to yourself in the future…five, ten, or twenty years from today.” My copy is marked with Post-it tabs and is scribbled in throughout. It’s fun. It’s inspiring. It’s my reminder to LOL, Live Out Loud.

How do you remind yourself to live out loud every day?

For more on Keri Smith’s fun journals, visit this link to start you on your exploration:

Amazon.com: Keri Smith Boxed Set (9780399536557): Keri Smith: Books