Well, Blow Me Down

When the wind blows, my nerves soon will rock. And tighten. And snap like a cheap guitar string.

My apologies to Mother Goose. But if she had to live through our last few rounds of Colorado gusters, she’d rewrite her nursery rhyme, too.

I should be used to this by now, I suppose. I mean, I lived for almost 10 years in Kansas where the term “blow season” is part of the vocabulary. For a month or two, winds out there kick up to a level that steals homework, slams doors and sends roof shingles dancing down the street like the stars of a movie musical.

But I never expected to see it out here. Not this strong for this long.

Ok, sure, Colorado weather can produce anything. We’re the sampler pack of seasons: try out all four in 24 hours for one low price. Want a sudden blizzard in the middle of Spring Break and then dry streets and sidewalks by morning? No problem!

It all comes through here. But it rarely stays. Most of the time, weather’s a guest, not a tenant.

But for these last few weeks, Kansas-level wind seems to have taken out a long-term lease. By now, we all know the script.

And each time the hours-long rumble and roar resumes, I feel every muscle start to clench. Will this be the one that breaks a tree limb? Or knocks down the new fence? Or drops a Kansas farmhouse in the yard, complete with Toto, too?

It’s not just what the wind does, you see. It’s the anxiety from what it could do.

In that sense, I suppose we’ve all been blowin’ in the wind for a long time now.

We like to think that we know how our lives will go. Every child gets asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Every job interview asks “Where do you see yourself in five years?” We want to see the future as just like the past, only with better toys.

If the last two years did nothing else, they blew that notion out of our heads with the force of an afternoon  gale. Everything has changed and changed and changed again, from the everyday (“Hire somebody three states away who works remotely? Sure!”) to the glamorous. (“Will Smith did WHAT??”)

When change becomes that visible, that constant , that weird, we start waiting for the other shoe to drop. Only to realize we’re living below a Crocs factory.

We don’t know what will happen. We never really did. And we don’t like being reminded of that. We invoke the Golden Age of Normal, forgetting that “normal” is something we create, a sign that we’ve gotten used to things.

But when disruptions keep coming – worse, when we know disruptions could come without warning and probably will – it becomes impossible to get used to anything. We watch. We wait. And we look outside to see what the wind blew down this time.

Sooner or later, we’ll find a new pattern. We always do.  But I hope we don’t also settle back into our old habits and assumptions. We don’t need to live life at high anxiety but we do need to notice the world around us.  We need to remember how quickly it can change … and how quickly we can. We’re not in control, but we can adapt.

It might not be a breeze. But it certainly doesn’t have to be dis-gust-ing.  

Garden of Discovery

As Heather and I watched, Missy’s paintbrush reached for spring colors. Pink. Green. Light blue.

It had been a while since she’d worked with her acrylics, but her style hadn’t changed. One piece of paper might have just a few spots of color. Another would hold multi-hued streaks, suggesting her mood but not anything concrete.

But on some – as always – her streaks and whorls began to take shape. This time, the swirls of pink and shapes of green couldn’t be anything else.

Missy had painted a rose. Her mom’s favorite flower, still growing around the yard long after she’d gone.

It couldn’t have fit better. Especially since Valerie had left in one April … and Heather and I had arrived in another.


Eleven years ago, we moved in with Missy.

I’ll say it louder: ELEVEN YEARS AGO, WE MOVED …

Oh, I know you heard me. It just hadn’t quite sunk in for me yet.

If you’re new here, Missy is my wife’s developmentally disabled aunt. She’s also the frequent star of these columns by popular demand. We became an indelible part of each other’s lives in 2011 when Heather and I moved in to become her guardians and caregivers.

At the time, none of the three of us had any idea what we were getting into. We still don’t. But it’s been an amazing adventure finding out.

I’ll admit it. When we first came, my mind was mostly full of challenges. We’d never even been parents, never mind tried something like this. Missy and Heather knew each other well – they’d pretty much grown up together – but I was a newer quantity, mostly remembered from holidays and brief visits.

I wasn’t wrong. There were challenges waiting. But so much more waited for all of us as well.

Like bedtime reading sessions where she’d cheer the destruction of Voldemort and ask with worry about Gandalf.

Or visits to a downtown festival where Missy seemed to recognize and wave to everyone. “Hi, you!”

Not to mention summer softball games, morning and afternoon cups of tea, and occasional ambushes with a well-thrown stuffed animal.

We’d begun to learn each other. as surely as we were learning Missy’s vocabulary. (“Book = book or purse,  “up, up,” = “I need help with something” and  “Uh-oh!” ALWAYS means “Look what sneaky thing I did now!”) Even more, we were growing into each other like the best families do.

Or like roses for that matter.

A little wild sometimes. Not without thorns. But a lot hardier than anyone would guess, with a beauty that keeps popping up season after season.


We’re framing the rose. It’ll stay something for Missy to be proud of. And for all of us to remember by.

After all, roses should be celebrated.

I hope you celebrate your own, thorns and all. Sure, roses are demanding. Even exhausting at times. They require a lot of care and attention to help them flourish.

But when the beauty comes … well, it’s just blooming wonderful.

Clocking Out

Once again, it’s time for the timeless. At least for this season.

Yes, baseball has finally returned with all its glorious rituals. The crack of the bat. The sounds of the organ. Even that slight bit of hope beating in the hearts of all Colorado Rockies fans … and destined to last all of three innings.

But it’s not about winning, right? (At least, not if you live in the Denver area.) Like any good show, it’s about stepping outside of normal life for a while. You leave behind a hurried world and enter a reality that works to its own rhythm, where outs matter more than hours. It’s a place where time doesn’t run out, only chances.

But that may change in 2023.

Next year, for the first time, Major League Baseball may add a pitch clock.

“It is something that remains high on the priority list of ownership,” commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN. “We have a great game, but historically, I think the game was a little crisper the way it moved along.”  

One could argue that maybe less off-the-field drama and fewer lockouts would do more to bring fans back to the game. But hey, that would be petty.

It’s not an unambiguous argument. Pitch clocks have been part of the minor leagues for a few years now (typically giving the pitcher 20 seconds to make his delivery) and when first introduced, they did shave about 11 minutes off the game. But as Baseball America notes, that didn’t last. Even with the attempt to push the pace, the time crept back up again … in fact, Double-A and Triple-A games are now 12 minutes longer than they were before the pitch clock was introduced.

Pretty crisp, huh?

Mind you, I’m not a total curmudgeon. Baseball has been tinkering with itself since the very start. It’s altered the pitch count, the strike zone, the lineups, the gear. Most of the changes have become second nature by now. Some remain controversial, like the now-universal designated hitter or instant replay. (Everyone who believed replay would cause less arguing about an umpire’s calls has never watched an NFL game.)

But the object should always be to make a better game. Not just a faster one.

No, baseball doesn’t have the relentless march of a rigorously timed (and just as long) NFL football game. It’s a different game with a different lesson. Football is about seizing the moment before it slips away from you, making use of your time … and possibly staring in despair when you realize there’s some situations you just can’t come back from.

Baseball teaches hope.

Any at-bat may be the one that turns it around. Any pitch may be the one that snuffs a rally. No matter the deficit, if there’s even one out left, there’s a chance – a forlorn chance, maybe, but a chance. And every fan, at some point, has seen that chance fulfilled.

It’s a more patient view of life. One where things take as long as they take. Where you can always look for another opportunity and strive to make up for past mistakes.

That sort of forgiving outlook doesn’t have to stay between the white lines. It’s a kinder way to live with each other. And with ourselves, too.

Baseball, like life, happens best when it’s not pushed. Let the story tell itself again, with all its quirks and curiosities. On the field and off, leave room for hope to happen.

And with that, I’ll wind up.

I might even do it in less than 20 seconds.  

Please Look After …

A dear friend called me the other day to discuss Paddington Bear.

Now, even for a certified geek like me, children’s literature doesn’t come up in the conversation very often. I haven’t set aside time to chat about Babar on Mondays, or Dr. Seuss on alternate weekends or Peter Rabbit over tea. (The fact that Richard Scarry came up in the same week is completely coincidental.)

No, this one got started as many conversations do these days, with something seen on the internet. My friend had been scrolling through social media and noticed a post about Paddington’s origins … one with a drawing to show him (like so much else these days) in Ukrainian colors.

“Do you know the story?” she asked.

I did, in fact. For those who don’t, I’ll be quick.

The stories focus on a young bear – one who walks, talks and dresses like humans, naturally – who’s found alone in Paddington railway station and adopted. A new arrival from “darkest Peru,” he bears a tag reading: “Please Look After This Bear. Thank You.”

The character itself came from two elements. One was a teddy bear alone on a shelf in a shop near Paddington Station, which Bond saw one Christmas Eve. But the other piece – one that’s recently been recirculated online – came from displaced children he’d seen during World War II. The story varies as to whether the children were London evacuees or newly arrived Jewish refugees, and maybe Bond himself wasn’t sure which. The key detail remains the same: the lives of the young, uprooted by the battles of their elders.

Why does that matter now? Because those battles seem to be uprooting more forcefully than ever.

There’s never been a time in our memory when the lives and livelihood of the young haven’t been in danger somewhere. (I wish I could say otherwise.) But the war in Ukraine has put it on a horrifying scale. UNICEF recently estimated that every minute, 55 children have fled Ukraine for elsewhere. That’s roughly one child every second.

“This refugee crisis is, in terms of speed and scale, unprecedented since the Second World War,” UNICEF spokesman James Elder told the press in Geneva, “and is showing no signs of slowing down.”

That’s a staggering thought to hold in the mind. So most of us don’t.

I don’t mean that we don’t care, or that we’re not capable of holding more than one crisis in our minds at a time. But we do get easily distracted. I mean, many of us just spent a week going back and forth about one man slapping another at the Academy Awards. There’s always something new on the radar, screaming for just a few minutes of our attention, and the minutes add up.

Add in the day-to-day concerns that we all have and … well, anything beyond the immediate tends to fall away.

But for some, the immediate is all they have.

We need to see. We need to remember.  

None of us are Superman, able to fly into a war zone and pluck the innocent from danger in a single bound. But anything we can do, we should, even if that something is just to keep reminding the people who can do more.

We’re here to help each other. However we can. Wherever we can. And whether that reach is across the street or around the world, to one person or a flood of children, it matters.

It doesn’t take a hero. But we do have to see the bear and read the tag. It reads much the same as it did then:

Please Look After Each Other.

Thank You.