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.

Using Your Head

I’ve been a baseball fan for years. But somehow, I had never seen the Canseco Bounce. 

If you just said “Huh?”, you owe it to yourself to start the New Year right. Go to YouTube. Look up the words Canseco, Ball and Head. And don’t drink anything while you’re watching. 

What you’ll see is a 1993 clip of outfielder Jose Canseco going back for a fly ball in deep right field … a fly ball that hits him on top of the head and bounces OVER the wall for a home run.

“Look at this!” the announcer laughs as it gets replayed over and over and over again. “Boink!! And it’s out of here!” 

I made the belated discovery through a book I got for Christmas on 50 memorable baseball moments. (Thanks, Mom!) And while many of the other entries had more significance, drama or heart, this one keeps coming back and making me chuckle. 

First, because Canseco clearly isn’t hurt. (Lasting injury is never funny.) In fact, he’s even smiling. 

Second, because the moment is just so Looney Tunes. You could put it in the middle of a Rowan Atkinson or Jim Carrey movie without alteration – especially since the ball only clears the wall *because* of the head bounce. Way to go, Mr. Bean! 

Third and most of all, because I suspect we’ve all been there. You know what I mean: those moments where you’re trying to do the right thing and somehow manage to make matters hilariously worse. 

Having spent a fair chunk of my life in newspapers and amateur theatre – two highly public arenas – I’ve had my share of misplaced fly balls. Like writing a headline about the discovery of a “Viking horde” in Britain instead of a “Viking hoard.” (No, England did not get invaded.) Or walking on stage with a ringing cell phone in my pocket. Or for that matter, walking *off* stage and into the orchestra pit in the middle of a solo. 

But it doesn’t have to be in front of a mass audience or on the JumboTron to have an impact. Most of us are quite capable of replaying those moments endlessly, right behind our own eyeballs.

And so, besides starting the New Year with a harmless laugh, I hope this also starts us with a few reminders.

First: give yourself grace.

We’re not going to win all the time – even if we judge the fly ball perfectly. One of my favorite Star Trek quotes (geek alert!) says simply that “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.” And we will commit mistakes. Holding yourself to a standard of perfection is a good way to break yourself; forgiving yourself for falling short helps you forgive others, too.

Next, learn from what happened. Laugh if you can. Tell it on yourself afterward if you like. After all, you’re going to remember it anyway – if you can make it a story, you can take out a lot of the sting and maybe even create a rueful smile. “I’m never going to do THAT again …”

And most importantly, get back in the game. There are a lot of innings left to play. Mark the moment, but don’t stay stuck in it. That’s sometimes easier said than done, I know, especially with bigger goofs that take a while to deal with. (As I said, lasting injury is never funny.)  Take the time you need. Reach out to someone if you can. And then, when you’re ready, play ball.

That kind of focus and mindfulness is a great way to keep your head in the game.

One way or another.

Getting Tick-Tocked Off

Is this the year we finally lock the clock?

I know, I’m an optimist. (Hey, it comes with being a Colorado Rockies fan.)  Twice a year, we go through the whole “spring forward, fall back” ritual. Each time I keep hoping it’ll be the last. And every year, I keep getting disappointed.

I know I’ve got company. Oh, the argument about how to end Daylight Saving Time goes on and on, between the Standard Time folks who want to wake up to morning light and the Daylight Time ones who want to push back the night as far as possible. But if the debate goes on long enough, it always ends on the same point: “I don’t care where they set it as long as they quit moving the clock around!”

Well, it just might happen this time. There’s a bill …

Yeah, yeah, I hear the groans. There’ve been bills before. This one, however, wants to take the initiative – a ballot initiative, that is. State senators Ray Scott and Jeff Bridges and State Rep. Cathy Kipp have introduced a measure that, if adopted, would ask Coloradans to vote on whether to stay on Standard Time permanently. In other words, to “fall back” and stay back.

Why not permanent Daylight Time? Because federal law doesn’t allow it. A state can either do the biannual flip-flop or it can stay on Standard Time, but anything else requires an act of Congress. And if you’ve seen Congress’s ability to work together lately … yeah.

Still. Think about it.

No more confused pets wondering why feeding time has suddenly changed.

Fewer drowsy drivers in the early spring, boosting the accident totals.

No fumbling with the microwave and stove clocks, trying to remember (again) how to reset them.

We’d even get a slightly better utility bill out of it. Studies have shown that year-round standard time would lower heating and cooling costs, especially in the fall near the end of DST. (Lighting costs, which have become much lower in these days of LEDs, would barely tick upward in comparison.)

It makes sense. And therefore it’s probably doomed.

Still, one can hope. After all, if these last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that time is what we make of it.

Sometimes we barely notice it pass. (“How did she get to be a high school senior already?”) Sometimes it seems to drag forever. (“Welcome to March 57th, 2020.”) We measure time for our convenience, to keep some consistency as we move through the cycles of the world, but it’s our attention and our activities that define it.

So yes, we grumble in annoyance when a little of that consistency gets jerked away. But the bigger question isn’t where we set the clock … it’s how we fill the time. What are we doing to give that time meaning?

That doesn’t have to mean writing the Great American Novel or filling our days with constant activity. But there should be something that brings a little light into existence, and not just because of a time change. It might be reaching out to a neighbor. Or taking joy in something you love, whether it’s a book or a garden patch. It could mean creating, conversing, walking, or simply finding a quiet moment to just be.

The efficiency expert Frank Gilbreth was once asked why he wanted to save time  – what was it for? His response, recounted in Cheaper by the Dozen, was simple:

“For work, if you love that best … For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure. … For mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.”

Whatever time we’re given, let’s use it well.

And if it can stop jumping around while we’re trying to use it, so much the better.