On the Roll Again

Missy beamed a 500-watt smile as we strolled through a warm Colorado afternoon. Every neighbor got a wave. Every dog earned an eagerly pointing finger. And every block, the rolling of her wheelchair made its soft song against the pavement.

Rumble, rumble, rumble.

Heather and I don’t break the chair out often. Even with the challenges that our ward Missy has – a developmental disability and cerebral palsy, for the record – she usually gets around pretty well as long as she has someone or something to balance on. But when she’s got a long way to go, then it’s time for us to get rolling. And since Missy just got a brand new chair with great new tires, she’s been more eager than ever to hit the road.

Rumble, rumble, rumble.

Yes, it doesn’t get better than … what was that?

Rumble, rumble, rumble … plink.

I turned around.

A shiny screw looked back at me from the sidewalk.

Now, friends and family have often accused me of having a screw loose. But it’s usually not this literal.  Which meant … 

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” 

Sure enough. The brand new wheelchair had shed a brand new part, a small fastening in the right wheel. An easy fix, and a quick check found everything else still secure. But as we continued the journey, I mentally kicked myself for half a block. 

You see, I thought I had noticed the slightest wobble in that wheel a day or two before. But the major fastenings had all looked good when I tested them, so it seemed like a worry over nothing.

Instead, it became a reminder of the two-part lesson we all get again and again: 

1) Little things matter, and can easily become bigger things. 

2) Trust your intuition – or at least give it a hearing. 

The first part is something that every homeowner learns sooner or later as the First Law of Maintenance. But the second is a little trickier. After all, we live in a world that shouts for our attention constantly, most of the time adding more anxiety than information. To survive, we have to filter – and we don’t always do a great job of it, often picking the stuff that fits the easy answers we’ve already reached. 

But somewhere in the rush we have to pause. To think. And to listen for the things we may have noticed in the background. After all, that’s what good intuition is – unconsciously putting together facts you didn’t know you had to reach a conscious conclusion. 

Is the gut always right? Of course not. Sometimes a worry is just a worry. But we have to step back to be sure. To trust the “wait a moment,” dial down the pressure and take the time to see things clearly.

It’s not easy. But it’s essential. 

And when you get everything screwed down tight, it’s amazing how easily you can get rolling again. 

Just ask Missy. We should be rumbling by any minute now.

Remember to wave.

Over the Line

When I first got glasses at age 16, I rediscovered the world. Trees actually had leaves. Lawns revealed their individual blades of grass. Details that had been fuzzy became laser-sharp.

“Wow,” I wondered. “How long have I been missing all this?”

When I last got glasses about two months ago, I discovered … a line. Floating at the lower edge of my vision. Fuzzy and sharp were now a matter of range, position and minor frustration.

“Wow,” I wondered. “How long will I be fumbling with all this?”

Yes, I’ve officially entered Bifocal Country. And in the process, I’ve decided that Ben Franklin’s greatest achievement wasn’t his stove or his electrical experiments – it was his ability to juggle two visual frames of reference at once without going insane.

“WE, THE PEOPLE OF … Hold on, Madison, I have to re-angle this … the blasted paper’s too large to see all at once …”

Teaching my eyes when to dance over and under the line has not exactly been a graceful tango. But somewhere along the line (pardon the phrase), the music clicked. Reflexes adjusted. And that border between far-lenses and near-lenses that had been so annoying became … well, not exactly invisible. But normal, even sometimes forgettable.

That shouldn’t surprise me, I suppose. People get used to anything if it goes on long enough. That’s helpful in a world of situations, from minor eye annoyances to surviving the London Blitz.

But often as not, it’s one of our major problems, too.

We have an ability to edit that would make Hollywood jealous. And boy, do we. Sometimes it’s just a failure to see the everyday with fresh eyes, mentally blurring out a house or tree we’ve walked past a thousand times before. More often, though, we remove the uncomfortable. Not consciously, but by letting it become “normal.”
It might be someone holding a cardboard sign on the side of the road. Or a school shooting headline. Or one more story about those still vulnerable to the virus and its latest mutations. Things that once might have been a punch to the heart – and now, for many, become a moment’s attention and a shake of the head if they’re acknowledged at all.

I know. We’ve all got to survive and find a way to keep going in an often broken world. But we also have to do it without becoming numb. Pain ignored is only pain deferred – it’s not a solution.

Anyone who’s done home repair knows this. It’s easy to ignore a minor drip, a bit of wear, one of the hundred small warning signs around the house that say “fix me.” It becomes background noise … until the day that all that missed maintenance adds up to big problems and bigger repair bills.

Or take our own bodies. The repeated ache that’s “probably no big deal,” the odd lump that “I should get checked out sometime.” We’re busy and everything basically works, right? Until one day it doesn’t, and something that could have been caught early has life-changing consequences.

A person. A home. A society. All need attention. Not obsession or frantic worry, but awareness. An ability to feel and notice pain and then address the cause.

It isn’t easy, Worthwhile things often aren’t. But if we can look beyond our own moment, we can see what needs doing. Maybe even see our way forward to something better.

It’s a matter of focus.

Because unlike bifocals, some lines shouldn’t be overlooked.

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.

A Sweet Reminder

I came home to find Blake celebrating. This was not a good sign.

It’s not that I mind dogs being happy. When you have an 85-pound English Labrador, sudden happiness for the smallest of reasons is part of the package. (“Mom woke up! AGAIN! Come on, let’s go downstairs NOW!”)

So yeah, happy is OK. But when Big Blake is outright ecstatic, there’s only one possible reason. He’d gotten away with something, and something had tasted GOOD.

Sure enough. A pillowcase on the floor. The one that held Missy’s leftover Halloween candy. The one that suddenly held a lot less Halloween candy than it used to.

“BLAKE!!!”

Did you know you can hit Warp 7 when driving to the vet?

Yes, all is now well. Expensively well, but well. The dog with the iron stomach who has survived eating everything from baby wipes to grapes can now add “Halloween chocolate” to the list. (For those who don’t know, chocolate is poisonous to dogs, but the combination of a big dog and cheap milk chocolate is more survivable than most – though you still want a vet to make him throw it up FAST.)  He’s gassy now, but basically OK.

I’d like to say he’s learned a lesson. But I know better. Blake has a one-track mind when it comes to anything edible – or semi-edible, or inedible but enticing – and very little in the way of common sense, even at the canine level.

No, the lessons worth learning are for the humans. About keeping the dog on the radar. (I’d closed the bedroom door where he usually sleeps, forgetting that he was quietly napping on the living room couch.) About keeping candy on the radar, especially when Missy has a habit of leaving it around despite reminders.  And especially about vigilance in the ordinary tasks, so that the extraordinary ones become less necessary.

That’s a good lesson to remember with a country, as well as a canine.

Veterans Day has returned. It’s a time when we hold parades, say a few extra thank-you’s, and write or read long commentaries about how we need to remember the needs of our men and women in uniform throughout the year, and not just once every 365 days. Maybe a headline somewhere throws out a reminder of reforms needed at the VA hospitals, or homeless vets, or the thousand other things that need attending to.

It’s important. All of it. But there’s something just as important that we need to understand.

America isn’t just something to protect. It’s something to build, every day. And the job of making an America that is worth protecting is too big to be borne by our veterans alone.

It requires every single one of us.

I don’t mean that we all need to grab the nearest American flag and march down the street every day at noon, singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the top of our lungs. Displays are easy.

The real need is to pay attention. And act on what we see.

Every single one of us is “the government.” It’s our job to see to the tasks that keep the country going and make it better. To vote. To learn. To pay attention to what’s being done by those acting in our name and hold them to account when necessary – even when they’re on “my team.” To pay attention to our neighbors and their needs, so that we can make a world that’s better for all of us and not just the people who are most like ourselves.

It’s a constant duty.  Most worthwhile jobs are. And it only takes a little inattention to make it all break down. To let fear drive out judgment. To let apathy tolerate “the way things are done.” To let cheering on a team – however hateful or corrupt – replace holding up a country.

it just takes a moment. And as we keep learning, correcting the mistake is always more expensive than preventing it in the first place.

Thank our veterans. And then take your turn. Shoulder your share of the work. Like a bag of candy, a country should not be left unminded.

Because if you do, it’s sure to go to the dogs.

Speaking Volumes

Each year, there’s something truly amazing about Banned Books Week.

OK, that probably marks me as a certified Grade-A geek. No big deal. Considering that my personal mountain range of books is about as extensive as Smaug’s dragon-hoard of gold (and about as poorly organized), it might be just a wee bit obvious that the printed word is important to me. And the electronic word. And sometimes the barely-legible handwritten word as well.

And so, when it comes time to remember the Battles of the Library Shelves I pay attention. And when the annual observance is over and … well, in the books for another year, I always have to shake my head in wonder.

Dragons don’t understand burglars. And bookworms don’t understand the effort to ban.

First of  all, there’s the sheer audacity of the idea. Ever since childhood, I’ve been able to spend entire ages of human history in a library, trying to decide what I should be reading. The idea that someone who’s never met me could make that choice for me – in the negative – is laughable. Parents, OK, but strangers?

Then, there’s the unintended comedy that often arises. Among the many well-known challenged books (Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Harry Potter series) is the extremely innocuous picture book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Why? Because the author, Bill Martin, happened to have the same name as the writer of a book on Marxism and the challengers couldn’t tell the difference. Two Bill Martins – what are the odds?

Let’s add a dash of futility to the mix. I mean, how many people argue with a librarian and live to tell the tale?

But finally – and a little sadly – I sometimes wonder if the book challengers are trying to capture an unoccupied hill.

If a book isn’t read, it barely matters whether it’s challenged or not.

Right now, the average American reads for pleasure for about 16 minutes a day. That’s a number to dim the fire of any dragon. And it’s one that baffles me just a little.

It could be because of how busy we keep ourselves – except that many of us regularly devote a three-hour stretch of time to the week’s football game.

It could be because reading requires active concentration on an extended narrative – but if anything, Americans have proven they can passionately absorb and debate lengthy story arcs across the latest streaming TV series or movie franchise.

We could blame those darned kids and their need to see everything on a screen – but according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, it’s mostly seniors who have been spending more time watching TV, movies or streaming video, while younger age groups have either stayed about the same or fallen.

Whatever the reason, it’s time to turn the page.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here. (You ARE reading this, right?) But reading is possibly the greatest pastime we’ve ever created. With a moment’s effort, you’ve established a telepathic bond, experiencing the thoughts of an author who may be separated by thousands of miles and hundreds of years. You can step inside the head of another person in a way that other media still struggle to recreate, experiencing walks of life vastly different from your own – or finding someone who’s walked your path, understands your struggles, and can reassure you that you’re not alone.

It might be a paperback close to hand. It might be an entire library on a tablet. Heck, my dad devoured bookcases worth of audiobooks on his daily drive to and from Golden for 40 years. The form doesn’t matter – the power is the same.

And if you’re one of the ones struggling to find even a few minutes of reading time– take heart.  With a book, every little bit adds up. Sixteen minutes a day can often finish a book in a month, aside from the real doorstoppers. (And as we’ve seen with Harry Potter, the doorstoppers sometimes get finished faster.)

So yes, the situation could be better. But the treasures still await. The battles are still worth fighting. The power to read remains precious.

Precious enough for some people to try to limit it.

Don’t let anyone do that.

Including yourself.

Just for Kicks

If Paul Bunyan had a dog, he would probably be a lot like Big Blake.

For those just joining us, Blake is our English Labrador of heroic proportions. Say the word “food” and he becomes an irresistible force. Say the word “vet” and he becomes an immovable object. Like a furry giraffe, he can steal leftovers straight out of the kitchen sink; like a canine billy goat, he has consumed everything from aluminum foil to baby wipes and lived to tell the tale.

And at night, it seems, he can kick with a speed and power worthy of Babe the Big Blue Ox.

My wife Heather has been the most frequent witness to these Leg Strikes of Unusual Velocity. This is due to a combination of two simple facts:

1) No matter where Blake the Mighty lies on the bed, his feet are invariably pointed in her direction.

2) I have apparently inherited from my father the ability to sleep through nearly anything, including the blows and lashings of a domesticated earthquake.

Still, I haven’t been entirely oblivious. ( A phrase that could apply to many a husband on many an issue, now that I think of it.) This has been going on for a few months and has become, as the King of Siam liked to say, a puzzlement to ourselves and our veterinarian.

We know it’s not a seizure, because we can wake him instantly from it.

It doesn’t seem to be simple doggy dreams, based on the length and the frequency.

Lab tests so far haven’t shown anything dangerous.

Medicines have slowed the episodes down – a little – without stopping them and even a surreptitious video from Heather’s phone has yielded no clues.

And of course, Blake’s wondrous gifts have yet to include the ability to speak English, so he can’t give us any direct hints as to whether this is the Labrador version of a senior moment, or a reaction to arthritis stiffness, or secret instructions from his masters on the moons of Pluto.

And so, the nightly screenings of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” meets “Chariots of Fire” continue. As do the bruises on Heather’s legs. And our general mystification.

On reflection, I suspect I’ve got a lot of company.

I don’t mean the regular bouts of Canine Kung Fu. (Though if anyone knows where I can get a cheap set of catcher’s shin guards, Heather would really appreciate it.) But the feeling of trying to understand an uncomfortable situation with few or no clues is something that most of us have experienced far too often. Especially when it involves someone we love.

It’s the feeling every parent has had when a young child is sick and can’t explain the symptoms.

It’s the feeling anyone with a nonverbal friend or relative has had when trying to figure out “What’s wrong?” from scattered clues.

It’s the feeling just about anyone has when staring at the news of an increasingly chaotic world and asking “Why?” without response.

It feels helpless. Even frightening. But in the midst of it, all of us are doing one thing right.

We’re paying attention.

Maybe we won’t solve the problem right away, or at all. But if we’re even trying to struggle or understand, then our attention is where it needs to be. On the ones we love. On the ones that hurt. On the problems that need solving and the people who need help.

We’re not turning away or making it someone else’s problem.

We’re taking it into our heart.

That’s where it starts.

And so, our own Saga of Big Blake continues. And with enough love, and attention, and bruise ointment, maybe this particular piece of the world’s problems will finally yield to us.

And that’s nothing to kick about.

Looking In

In the wake of an attack, normality can be the strangest thing of all.

When the first reports came out of London, my heart sank. This seemed to have the earmarks of a scene that we’d witnessed many times in different forms – the public spectacle, the first word of fatalities, the wait for information that would link this all to terrorism. The chaos had begun again and I waited to see the next familiar steps of the dance.

And then someone turned down the music.

I don’t mean that the attacks near Parliament completely fell off the radar screen. But for an American, unless you were looking for more accounts, they seemed to get quickly pushed to the background. By Saturday,  if you did a quick drive-by of online news and social media, it’d be easy for someone on this side of the Atlantic to miss that anything had happened at all.

Why?

The distance? France was farther and #prayforparis remained an online trend for days in 2015.

The low number of casualties? It’s true that this produced (thankfully) few deaths – no bombs in the crowd, no mass shootings or falling buildings to endanger more lives.

The most likely explanation, my reporter brain suspects, is that there’s only so much media oxygen to consume and most of America’s was being tied up in the Congressional health-care drama as the Republican proposals came to a screeching halt. What was left seemed to be consumed by the intelligence hearings. That sort of follow-the-leader isn’t uncommon, especially when local stakes are high and newsroom budgets are thin.

But when even the social media ripples are few (outside of English friends and sources, of course),  that suggests that much of the audience has moved on, too.

This either suggests something very good or very bad.

On the one hand it could mean that, like the English during the Blitz of World War II, we’ve finally become good at carrying on normal life in the face of those trying to disrupt it, that we’ve gained some perspective about how to sort out the severe from the sad. I’d like to think that, I really would.

But it’s also possible that there are just too many alarms on the bridge. When crises seem to fill the headlines, when every story demands your attention (with or without justification), how easy is it to become numb to one more alert? At what point are there too many things to invest your heart in any given one?

At what point do people, do countries, say “Forget the rest of the world, I’ve got my own problems?”

It’s easy to do. Problems need to be attended to, whether it’s a fight to make sure your family is cared for, or a struggle to address or prevent national calamities. Attention can’t be everywhere and priorities have to be made.

But when eyes turn too far inward, when our neighbor’s problems become invisible in the face of our own, we become less of an “us” and more of a crowd of scattered “me’s.” Worse, we miss the chances for shared strength that can come as we reach for each other and face down our mutual problems as one.

We don’t need to be traumatized by every new peal of the bell. That way lies fatigue and madness. But we can’t close the door and pull the shades either. Care for self and care for others need not be exclusive from one another. Should not be. Cannot be.

Be someone’s helping hand. Be someone’s neighbor. Even if all you can offer is attention and sympathy, pay it. It spends well.

Together, we can build a “normal” worth having.

The Kitchen-Table Journalist

I think I’m becoming a rumor.

That’s usually my wife’s job. When we lived in Kansas, Heather got out of the house so rarely that she said people would decide I was making her up – or that I had quietly buried her in the backyard, between the rosebush and the rabbit warren.

Now it’s my turn.

It’s been the same cause both times: Heather’s chronic health issues. Sometimes she hurts so intensely that she needs me close by for even basic things. Sometimes Missy has a cold or something else that keeps her out of her day program, and Heather lacks the strength to deal with her by herself for a long period of time.

Either way, it means it’s once again to discover those three prominent words of the modern workplace: “Work From Home.” Sometimes for days at a time.

I’m lucky. I know that. Between cell phones and the Internet, being a home-based reporter is easier than it’s ever been.  And I’ve got a lot of company. According to the Census Bureau, almost 10 percent of Americans work at home at least one day a week; almost 4.5 percent work the majority of their week that way.

If the scholars are right, it’s even good for me. One study out of Stanford of a Chinese travel agency found that telecommuters were more productive, were sick less often and had less turnover. The main drawback was they also got promoted less often.

I can believe the productivity gains. When your desk is the kitchen table, you feel a pressure to justify every minute, to make sure your boss knows that you’re not just curled up with a soap opera and a can of Coke. And since you’re in familiar surroundings, able to attend to domestic needs as they occur, that surely doesn’t hurt.

But there’s a less obvious downside, too. When you work from home, it gets increasingly difficult to tell which one is which.

I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about. Ideally, home’s supposed to be the place where you get away from work, where the problems of projects, deadlines and office drama can be replaced with the problems of chores, bills and family drama. And among all that, it’s the chance to recharge, to be with the people you’re doing it all for, to get back in touch with the world of pets, paints and bedtime stories.

But when the workplace becomes the homeplace, the boundaries disappear. The outside stress comes in, by invitation. And you begin to understand what the Flash felt like as you dash between the roles of employee, spouse, parent and sickroom attendant. Often at the same time.

Put it this way. Human cloning can’t come fast enough.

Don’t get me wrong. Telecommuting is convenient and I wouldn’t turn it down for the world. But it’s also exhausting. Work from home is no disguised vacation day. Sometimes it even makes you long for the comparative sanity of the office, where you’re only one thing to one person.

And yet, even as it creates a strange marriage of two worlds, it also makes it possible to keep those worlds going.

When I first started out, at The Garden City Telegram, I had a similar stretch of time where Heather’s needs would often call me home. Back then, my answer was to work an unholy number of hours when I was at the newsroom, to trade off against the times I wasn’t there.

This is better. Not perfect, but better.

And better still will be the day when my worlds no longer need to collide. When Heather is again well enough to throw me out of the house. When my co-workers can stop listing my appearances with those of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster and my boss can actually see me in the flesh.

I wonder if I’ll need a name tag?

A Moment’s Attention

I came down the basement steps into a sea of garbage.

“Oh, Blake …”

When a 70-pound dog shreds two bags of trash, the results can be pretty spectacular. Especially when you’ve just cleaned the kitchen the day before. I sighed and set myself to picking up torn cardboard and old yogurt cups, faded rose heads and used Clorox wipes, aged contai…

Wait a minute. Clorox wipes?

Uh-oh.

“Honey, he eats wipes!” my wife Heather said when I relayed the damage. True; it had been just a couple of years before when he’d gotten into my sister-in-law’s baby wipes, briefly turning himself into the world’s most disgusting Kleenex box when her husband had to eventually pull them from the other end.

Off to the vet.

“Oh, Blake …”

That was the main theme. But the counterpoint in my head was just as energetic.

“Scott, you idiot …”

See, I was the reason those trash bags were down there. Two checks of Heather’s had gone missing during the cleanup; I’d brought the bags down so I could see if they’d been thrown away by mistake. Thankfully, I hadn’t been that clueless … not then, anyway. But I’d forgotten to tell Heather the bags were still there when I scrambled off to another round of flood coverage at the newspaper.

Which meant she had no reason not to put Blake in the basement as usual while taking Missy bowling.

Oh, Scott.

He’s OK, as it turns out. But a moment’s inattention almost proved very costly indeed.

We all know stories like that one. The lumberjack whose dropped cigarette sparked the great Yellowstone fire of the 1980s. The girl paying more attention to her text messages than her walking, who stepped into an open New York manhole. From the famous to the mundane, there’s plenty of examples where distraction had quick consequences.

Thankfully, the opposite is true, too. Attention can pay off big.

A lot of us found that out over the last several days.

Three years ago, the city of Longmont changed its flood map. The methods had gotten better; so had the tools. And on the new map, it was quickly obvious how much more of the city would be inundated in a so-called “100-year flood.”

Hint: a lot. But you knew that already.

It would have been easy to ignore, to say that the disaster was too unlikely, the measures too costly. By definition, that sort of disaster has only a 1 percent chance of happening in any year; other needs could have easily been seen as more pressing.

But someone – probably several someones – saw the consequence of a miscalculation. And began setting up new flood control measures.

It wasn’t perfect. Had “The Flood” come two or three years later, it would have found the city even more ready, with two major bridges over the St. Vrain replaced and maybe another stretch of Left Hand Creek done.

But I visited a lot of flood-stricken neighborhoods after the water hit. And I heard a lot of people sound the same chorus: the work that had already been done  kept a bad disaster from being worse.

“Whoever decided to OK that plan is well deserving of some major congratulations.,” one neighbor told me.

Focus pays off.

We’ve seen that since the flood hit, too. Most days, this city can be … shall we say, argumentative? While not necessarily a bad thing – it does mean people are getting a chance to say their say – it can also put a lot of grit in the gears when it comes time to take action. Any action.

But for at least five days, this area was almost supernaturally focused. A threat had come that didn’t care about sides or factions, and it found all of us ready to step up and meet it. And boy, did we.

Now that’s attention.

Distractions will happen. Mistakes will happen. We’re human. But if we can remember what attention saved and what focus allowed us to battle – well, maybe we haven’t stopped doing the amazing yet.

Sometimes the cheapest thing to pay is attention.

And I have the vet bills to prove it.