Dr. Bean, Dolphins and Dancing With the Stars

My granddaughter’s birthday is tomorrow, she will be five. How this is possible, so quickly, I do not know. I remember when my kids were babies, while I enjoyed them at least half of the time, the other half of the time I thought, A. “How long until nap time?” B. “When is it socially acceptable to put this kid to bed?”  C. “Will I get to sleep in until 5 am tomorrow, or will we play the, it’s-still-dark-go-back-to-sleep game for an hour?”  And D. “When will they ever go to school?!?”  Some wise person once said of the 0-5 years, “the days are long but the years are short.” As a mom of adult children, I swear that this is true.

But I digress, this isn’t about me and my love of “free time,” of which there is none, with little ones in the house. Rather, it is about our girl, Bean, She was named for her string bean-like appearance on her mother’s first ultrasound picture. She quickly became “baby Bean,” and has carried the moniker quite successfully ever since, except for that short-lived assertion of independence when she demanded that we all refer to her as “Chloe Madison,” instead of her God-given, or at least Mama and Noni given handle, Bean. She has had a successful career as Dr. Bean, and has treated stuffed animals, her babies, and most enjoyably, Noni and Papa. This has become, by far, our favorite game. This is how it goes. Someone (Papa or me), lies prostrate on the couch, a position that is rare in and of itself with a pre-schooler in the house, and even less frequently encouraged by said pre-schooler. At this point, Dr. Bean comes to my bedside to assess me, removes my real stethoscope from around her neck, and laying it on my stomach, demands that I  breathe. She then moves to the appropriate field for auscultation, and pronounces my lungs “good.” She looks in my ears, and in my mouth and declares that she will write a “scription to take to the medication store.” Now, this part is crucial if we are feeling extra lazy that day. She will either march back to her desk, bang on an old keyboard, answer a defunct cellphone with a curt, but believable, ” yes! This IS Dr. Bean, ” scribble on a post-it note and then demand that the infirmed fetch it and be on their way. OR, she might do a more thorough assessment if vague symptoms present themselves. “my pinky toe hurts,” I might complain, or “my elbow is itchy.” This will buy the indolent grandparent a few more minutes with her feet up, but eventually, as all medical professionals do when faced with an obvious milker of the system, she will sigh, and in her most professional voice, assert that I am fine. “Now, go home and let the next patient lie down.”

We have called her Dr. Bean since the age of two, when she received her first kit, thus she has already spent half her life caring for others and it seems that the good doctor is starting to show signs of caregiver fatigue. She has wondered on occasion, if this a profession that she will stick with for her whole life and upon meeting an emergency room physician while visiting  her mother at work, and after having exchanged professional pleasantries, Dr. Bean announced that perhaps she might choose another career path. “It’s either that, or I might become a dolphin, I’m not sure which one will work out,” she said seriously.  He was kind enough to nod solemnly, as if he too, while in the throes of med school had nearly tossed it all out and dove in the ocean, never to be seen or heard from again. The last time she saw him, while visiting her mother at work again, he nodded respectfully,  one healthcare professional to another, and said, “Hello, Dr. Bean.” “I don’t think I’m going to be a doctor anymore, it’s not working out,” she announced.  “Ahhh, dolphin then?” Bean nodded, but her mother and I know the truth; Bean clings to us like a baby monkey to his mother even in a shallow pool. Swimming unaided in an ocean for a lifetime,  is an unlikely scenario, at least for her.

You have to hand it to the girl though, she has dreams. Dolphin fantasy aside, she is now entertaining thoughts of a career in the dancing industry. Her plan is to be on Dancing With the Stars, as one of the professionals of course, not one of the stars. To that end, she has just entered her third year of dance. This career choice, although not likely either,  is still looking much more promising than the dolphin avenue.

She will do something interesting though, mark my words. She is plucky, spunky and as colorful as the season she was born in. She can be a challenge but she is always a pleasure. A lover of people, conversation, and babies, she never sits still and she rarely stops talking. She is the type of child who hugs you when you surprise her with a piece of gum. She is as sweet as she is sassy, She knows what is right and tells those who don’t know, how to do things. She is smart, and a natural leader. Future dolphin? maybe not, but this girl is destined to be great, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her Noni! Happy Birthday,  Bean

Horses are Love

My daughter lost her horse yesterday. From the time that she got the first frantic call that he was sick, until he was gone, only a little more than 24 hours had passed. It was sudden and unexpected, he was in the prime of his life. Everything possible was done to save him and ease his pain, and if love alone could have done it, he would be fine now. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be. A tragedy with no faults, no one to blame.

Her love of horses started early, actually, she was born with it, although we didn’t become aware of it until she could talk. From then on, that’s all we ever heard about. We indulged her when we could, pointing them out as we flew past fields in the car, her little neck strained to raise her head above the car seat to catch a glimpse of beauty. We bought her horse books and movies and read and watched them together endlessly. Her father let her climb on his back every night and transformed into a “bucking bronco.” She would clutch his shirt and hold on until they would both fall laughing into her bed and I scolded him for getting her “all riled up before bed.” She would line up the kitchen chairs and loop ropes over them for reigns. My door frames nearly always had a broom or a stick lodged in them for her to jump over, and outside, she pretended to trot and canter around in endless circles. A work friend, and fellow horse lover, gave her an old saddle when she was about four, and from that time on, my couch cushion was always on the floor, and that old saddle on the arm rest.

She begged to ride, and although I called everwhere, it was hard to find a stable that would allow a preschooler to take lessons. Eventually, at the age of four, she was given the opportunity and has never stopped, all through her school years and into adulthood. Through many broken bones, surgeries and several concussions, at least one of which gave her amnesia for two days and a poor memory for months, she never stopped. My Mother-in-law admonished me after her second serious fall. She wanted me to stop her from riding because of the obvious danger. I told her that this was her passion and her joy, and as a mother, I could never take those things away from her. I could only pray for safety, which I did, every time she rode. Eventually, we went to a different facility, with safer horses and the injuries ceased, but the life lessons didn’t.

Now at 26, the obsession never having waned, she has seen many horses come and go. All have had a lesson to teach, some more painful than others. Some have taught patience, some courage, one, how to pick yourself up after a fall. Others have shown love and forgiveness. All have taught dedication, physical and mental toughness and how to work hard. She has loved them all, but none more than Sam.

Sam was a dark bay thoroughbred with a small star on his head, who had done a little racing in his first few years, with limited success. He really wasn’t the competitive type, maybe because he had a different reason for existing. My daughter acquired him at the age of 18, after a friend spotted him for sale at a barn she was riding at. He was only a few weeks off the track but was not high-strung or anxious. He was not a show-off and didn’t prance around nervously.  She was immediately drawn to his kindness and gentleness. Scraping up the money to buy him, although in college at the time, was a risk, but he was worth it.

He was a patient life coach and confidant. He saw her through hard times and never judged. He sensed when she was pregnant before she even knew for sure herself.  He sniffed her belly one day and was extra gentleman-like instead of being frisky from not having been ridden recently. He was patient and sweet with Chloe, her daughter and allowed little hands to poke at him and would bend his head down so that she could brush his face. IMG_1028

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

This passage in the Bible is one of my favorites. It came to mind when I thought of Sam, and of horses everywhere. If you substituted the word love for the name of a horse, in this case Sam, it would make perfect sense, at least to horse lovers. Horses are patient and kind, they do not envy or boast or are prideful. They do not dishonor, they are not-self seeking or easily angered. They keep no record of wrongs and do not delight in evil. Most of all, horses always protect, always trust, always hope and always persevere. They do these things for us, frail and weak humans that we are. They allow us to boss them around, although ten times our size. They let us borrow their freedom and allow us to soar through the air with them. They let us cry on their necks and are patient with us when we are learning. Horses are love. Is it any wonder that we love them back? Even people like me, not exactly “horse people,” can appreciate the beauty, majesty and humbleness that is a horse.

One of the last times that my daughter went to the barn, she brought her four-year old daughter with her to ride. Sam patiently endured her little boots digging into his back and no doubt too tight hold on the reigns. He was completely trustworthy and would never have allowed her to fall off his back, if he could help it. What he wouldn’t do though, was go where Chloe tried to steer him. Instead he followed my daughter, everywhere she walked in the arena, much to Chloe’s dismay. “Mama!! I want to steer him!! Make him stop following you!!!” He wouldn’t though. He loved her as much as she loved him, and although he would follow her anywhere, this time he went first, to Heaven. Because as any horse lover knows, Heaven would not be Heaven without horses there. Someday she will follow him, I’m sure he will be waiting at the gate for her. IMG_1029Addendum: After reading this, my daughter, ever the proud mother, would like to clarify that Sam was actually a decent racehorse, and actually did make some money. My apologies to Sam and his mother!


“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

My husband and I went to church two nights ago, and I must admit I really didn’t feel like going. It was a Saturday night, and although we are fortunate enough to have a Saturday night service, in addition to a Sunday morning service at our church, I was tired from a busy day at work. As a nurse, I have worked every other weekend for decades, so Saturday is just another work day for me, and since I had already walked over five miles in an eight-hour shift (Thank you for counting my steps Fitbit!), I really just wanted to sit on the couch and eat Cheezits. Anyway, he wanted to go, so we went, mainly because weariness trumps guilt, in my book, as the lesser of two evils. Like a trip to the gym, I never leave church feeling like it was a waste of time or that I wished I hadn’t bothered. This time was no exception as the message was just what I needed to get back on the blogging wagon.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
– Charles Dickens

For those of you who have read my blog from the beginning, you may have noticed that I have been a bit lackadaisical this summer. Gone are the twice weekly, or at least weekly published Spunkynoni rants, anecdotes or commentaries to be replaced with mental notes, half-finished drafts and slips of paper with cryptic words on them, meant to be future blogging ideas. Phrases such as, “youngest”, “Bean and the red balloon” or “sweater, sweatshirt, dress, skirt”, hastily jotted down on a scrap of paper and shoved into my nurse’s scrub pants or saved on my phone. Most weeks, this is about as far as I’ve gotten. Writer’s block? I really don’t know about that. I don’t yet consider myself a writer, although that is my dream. I consider blogging, or at least mine, to be an online diary, or a sort of diarrhea of my mind, which for whatever reason, some people read.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:38 NIV

The newlywed period of writing a blog had worn off and the river of entries had slowed to a trickle by the end of summer. Never an overachiever, more a “just-getting-by” sort of person, I lacked the mental toughness and discipline to sit down and type, inspired or not. I felt guilty about it at times, but easily shrugged it off with the thought that there really was no reason to feel badly about it, after all, it’s just an outlet for me and a way to express myself, not a profession or a gift to anyone else.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. ” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sitting in church last Saturday night, tired, craving a salty snack and a little annoyed at my husband for a real or imagined offense that I can’t even remember now, I listened to the Pastor’s message with growing excitement and enthusiasm. It is a testament to the talent of my Pastor, and to clergy everywhere, or maybe it is simply God’s doing, that the sermon, at times feels like it was written just for me. This night he spoke of doing for others, each as we can, with what ever we have to give. He stressed the importance of not waiting until a huge act of generosity could be delivered, such as large sums of money being donated after a lottery win, and that giving to others sometimes does not even mean money at all. Quite often, it is the gift of time that is more precious than gold. He went on to say that we all have God-given talents and gifts. Some have money, some have musical abilities, some are good listeners, some can do no more than pray for others. Each gift is meant to be given away, not hoarded. He said he wished he could line up the congregation and tell each person what their gift was, that was meant to be shared, but that was not something he had the ability to do. I don’t think he had to though. I think each person there may have had a thought as to what they could give away. A few may have thought of money, after all my church is also a homeless shelter, and money is always in short, or nonexistent supply. But, some may have thought about a lonely person they could visit, or a struggling family they could buy a few items, or someone to add to theit prayer list.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

Me? I thought about writing. I don’t know if the words I type have any effect on anyone, except maybe my mother. But I believe that if God put this desire in my heart to write, there must be a purpose to it, and maybe someone, aside from Mom (LOL!!) might benefit from it. If that is the case, than the least I can do, is to put some effort into it. That means, weekly (gulp!!) entries. As my saintly (and overly referenced) mother always said to my sisters and me when we balked at housework or homework when we were little, “you don’t have to want to, you just have to do it.” I do want to. As is the case with a trip to the gym or sometimes church, writing for me is one of the things, that after I’ve done some mental foot stomps and whining, I always love. I come away from all three, feeling happy, satisfied and even a bit proud of myself. strengthening body, spirit and mind is not always an easy task but all are necessary for growth, and for me, happiness. The best of all though, is to find your gift within, whatever that is, and give it away because when your hands are empty from giving, you will have the ability to reach out and grab the Joy that God is handing you.

“Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy.”
– Buddha

P.S. By weekly posts, I mean that in the broadest sense, so please don’t hold me accountable. Actually, scratch that, if you have read all the way down to this point, you deserve the right to harass me a little! Thank you and God bless, dear reader!