Lost and Found

Lost and Found Sign

Last Sunday evening, while making final preparations for my class the next morning, I realized my textbook was nowhere to be found.  I rifled through my deep school bag, pawed through my second work bag, opened boxes in my closets, and sat scratching my head trying to figure out what happened.  I had gone through it in recent weeks, so I knew it had to be around.  And while it was clear a continued search would be on the agenda for my arrival at the office the next morning, I still wrote a large reminder sign to do just that, and slipped in into my cart.

Open Textbook

The next morning, I found my textbook, along with several other handouts and documents I had recently stored for the first class session, in a vertical file on top of a shelf.  I had recently made copies of these same saved documents after searching for them unsuccessfully.

Sometimes you are too organized for your own good.

Earlier that week, I was on my way to lunch with members of my department.  As we left my building, I dropped my tiny purse, which held a wad of cash, my driver’s license, and my cell phone.  While casually swinging it over my shoulder, the contents flew out, splatting on the floor of the foyer.  We all had a brief chuckle as I gathered up the items and stuffed them back into the purse.  A few seconds later, as we exited the building, the same thing happened again.  I stepped on the errant twenty dollar bills that fluttered on the side walk, then mopped them up with the heel of my hand as my colleague retrieved my phone.  This time I clutched my phone in my hand as we walked to the restaurant.

About three hours later, at home and changing purses, I discovered that  my driver’s license was gone.  Holding the tiny purse (which was really more of a change purse with a long strap),  I shook it forcefully over the bed, jammed my hand inside, crabbing with my fingertips.  Nothing.  Anxiety mounting, I leaned over the bed, overturned my  gym bag,  swept the contents from my other purse, and pushed everything around until the entire area was covered with a layer of miscellaneous items.  But no license.

Drivers License Image

Not ever having lost my driver’s license, I was now entering problem-solving mode, trying to figure out what I needed to do to replace it.  I was also re-working my schedule for the rest of the day,  moping that my workout would have to be abandoned.

I then texted my colleague who had helped me gather up the spilled contents earlier, just in case the license had ended up with her.  She wrote back moments later to say  she had pulled her car over and emptied the contents of her own purse and found nothing.

Talk about kindness.

It was now time to backtrack.   (Remember in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” when Pee Wee reports his missing bike to the police officer, and she counsels him to retrace his steps?  That’s when he realizes that Frances is the culprit in stealing the souped-up  two-wheeler.)

I ran down to the foyer of my building.  Nothing.   I turned to go back upstairs to call the restaurant in case it had been turned in — but decided to take a chance and walk outside.    I walked the few steps on the sidewalk to the spot where everything had fall from my purse.  As I bent down to look underneath the shrubbery, there sat my license, face up, with my sober-looking photo staring back at me.  My sigh of relief was so great that it blew the needles off one of the shrubs.  It is still bald today.  I think the groundskeeper is befuddled.

Sometimes the universe gives you a second chance.

And there was indeed another time She offered a reprieve.  Earlier in the summer, a blinding rain storm started as a work meeting was drawing to a close.  We called the meeting early, as I had to dash home to check the windows in my living room, which had leaked during a previous storm.  The repair worked was scheduled for later that week, and I had been silently praying for a drought all this time.  I arrived home to find the windows dry, virtually untouched by the rain.  I blew a sigh of relief, strong enough to knock over and break a lamp.  Then I reached for my purse to call my colleagues to alert them I was on my way back to school to re-convene our meeting.

Cell Phone

No cell phone.  I had left it on a chair in the conference room.  As mild panic set in, I turned on my computer to email a secretary in the office down the hall from the conference room to ask her to retrieve my phone until I returned to campus.  Then I jumped in my car, speeding back to campus, honking my horn and shouting at other motorists to get out of my way.

I ran into the conference room, heaving, and pulled the chair out.  There sat my phone, right where I’d left it.  The secretary had not yet seen my email.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief, knocking the white board from the opposite wall, sending it crashing to the floor.  I quickly exited the room, closing the door.

Phew Cartoon Face

Things don’t always work out so tidily, though.  We know this.  Our possessions take on different forms of value — their meaning and importance shifts under certain circumstances, especially when we lose them, or are threatened with their potential loss.  Had I indeed lost my textbook, driver’s license, and phone, I could have replaced them with relative ease.

I continuously lose umbrellas, for some reason – leaving them in restaurants or other sites, only to replace them or take my chances with the rain.  My latest effort to manage this affliction, in my inimitably fastidious manner, is to have an umbrella for my office, my home, and my car.  Har-dee-har-har.  Take that, Mother Nature.

I can’t seem to hang on to hoop earrings, particularly in the winter.  I blame this on turtle neck sweaters and scarves, which snatch them right out of my ears.  I have several singletons.

Like everyone, I have lost possessions that held great value to me — what some would term sentimental.  But that word implies a romantic, even simpering quality to the valued object.  I’d suggest that many personal possessions are cherished for what they represent:  accomplishments, important events in our lives, or connections with people dear to us.  Those losses, while still manageable, of course, leave a gap – a hollow that we cover over.

I lost my college ring many years ago while swimming in Lake Michigan.  I lost a stack of photographs of my brothers and sisters taken during a family reunion several years ago.

Cartoon of Worried Woman

About two months ago I lost a key chain that I have referenced in this blog.  A good friend gave me two versions of it, to commemorate  the passing of my sister Liz, when she knew my siblings and I were travelling to Florida to dedicate a tree in her memory.  One chain was for me to keep, and the other was to hang on the tree.  I so enjoyed having that chain with me all the time, as it was symbolic of my sister, but also of the kindness of this friend.  She had also stayed in touch with me long-distance during the trip, I think, because she knew it was painful.

It took me all this time to finally tell my friend about having lost the chain.  I think the temporary losses of these other objects prompted me to do so.  I felt compelled to tell her because of the meaning embedded in her gesture.

When I told her, there was no judgment.  She did wonder aloud whether there were some other forces operating around this loss.  That was all.

Possession lost.  Possessions found.  We move on.

Friends and loved ones are the cushion for losses of all kinds.  That’s what to hang on to, with both hands, gently but firmly.


So … what have you lost and found?

Can’tcha See I’m Only Two?

White House Gates

In case you missed the news late last week, there was some commotion at the White House.  The story hit the news Friday morning on several internet sites.

Thursday evening, August 7, reporters gathered in anticipation of a news conference on the deteriorating situation in northern Iraq.  As they waited for a possible appearance by President Obama, a male toddler managed to push his way through the White House gates, getting the full attention of Secret Service personnel, who instantly  established a security lockdown and took the toddler into custody for what was later humorously referred to as a “time out.”  The child was returned to his parents shortly after agents realized his level of language development made an interrogation impossible.

This incident is another in a string of security breaches at the home of the Commander in Chief.  Just last May a man stripped naked when personnel would not allow him entry, and a federal employee was arrested after blending in with a Secret Service motorcade at a security checkpoint .  One of the more widely publicized violations, of course, took place in 2009 when Machaele and Tareq Salahi (no longer married) breezed past two security checkpoints during a state dinner,  making it all the way to the receiving line where they were able to shake hands with the President.  While they claimed to have been invited to the event that honored the prime minister of India, their names were not on the guest list.  (USA Today News)

The little guy who stuffed his two-year old self through those gates last week and skipped across the lawn is, as far as we know, the youngest barrier-scofflaw to date.  No information was provided about whether  the Secret Service were forced to give chase, but if they were, I’ll bet they had special appreciation for their workout routines that evening.   (Developmental fact:  you are at your highest rate of physical activity at the age of two.)

We’re glad he’s safe, and that no one was hurt, right?  His family is likely grateful that their identity was not splattered across television screens, and no video was posted to go viral.  But they do have an especially cool family story to share at holidays now.

I say, then, it is once again time for a piggy-back song to memorialize this event — to honor a happy ending, and to recognize that classic universal quality of the 2 year-old:  curiosity.  I offer the following ode to the Mystery Boy, with a respectful nod to Magic!, the Canadian reggae fusion band whose hit song, “Rude,” is currently number one on the Billboard pop chart.   Sing along if you know it!

                    Don’tcha Know I’m Only Two?  (sung to the tune of “Rude,”    by Magic!)

White Male Toddler with Bandana

Strolled with my parents last Thursday night down Pennsylvania Avenue.  Stopped at the White House, saw all those lights – had to get me a close view.

White House - Night Image

Pulled at the gate with all of my might, tryin’a get inside there, ‘cuz this is the House of our President, yeah.

Secret Service Agent

Can I come inside Secret Service dudes?  Say yes, say yes, ‘cu’z I wanna go.  You said I’ll never lay a foot in this bungalow – give it up now, kid, that’s it – you better go.

Black Male Toddler

Why y’all gotta be such prudes?  Can’tcha see I’m only two?  Why you in such a bad mood?

I’m gonna get in there anyway (get in that House) …  I’ll be in there by 9 today (get in that House) …  Gonna party the night away (get in that House) … Gonna meet the First Family!

Obama First Family

Why y’all got be such prudes?

Male Toddler with Painted Face

I gotta do this — your rules are harsh, so I gotta break ’em.  Gonna squeeze my way right through these bars and launch my stealthy run … And I shall find my way to the very edge of the South Lawn … I shall keep you at bay … you ain’t trained to catch a kid my age.

Can I come inside Secret Service dudes?  Say yes, say yes, ‘cuz I wanna go .  You said I’ll never lay a foot in this bungalow – give it up now, kid, that’s it — you better go.

Why y’all gotta be such prudes?  Can’tcha see I’m only two?  Why you in such a bad mood?

I’m gonna get in there anyway (get in that House) … I’ll be there by 9 today (get in that House) … Gonna party the night away (get in that House) … Gonna meet the First Family!

Why y’all gotta be such prudes?


So, dear readers, you know what time it is.  What barriers did  you breach in your childhood?



Better Late Than Never

Woman Smiling Eyes Closed Head Tilted

Dear Readers,

As promised, in my July 22 essay, “Promises, Promises, ” I pledged to redeem my neglected Smile Meditation experiment originally discussed back in April.  In the July 22 essay, I promised to conduct the two-week experiment not carried out in the spring, and to share my results upon its completion.

So here we go.  For two weeks, from July 22 until August 14, I sat in daily morning smiling meditation.  This is what happened, and here’s what I learned.

My plan was to start the day with a very short period of still, quiet smiling meditation.  My goal was to do this early in the morning, before 9am.  Having always been a morning person, I surmised that this would be a successful venture, at least in terms of the time frame.  I have attempted quiet meditation in the past, so this effort wasn’t completely novel.

I gave myself miles of leeway.  I figured if I could log at least 5 minutes of quiet meditation, I wasn’t doing half-bad.  It’s not my nature to sit still.  In my world, 5 is better than 0.    A helpful reference from past efforts is Five Good Minutes, by Jeffrey Brantely and Wendy Millstine.  This book was made for those of us who need some scaffolding for quiet.  (My mother used to refer to me as a “giddy” child.)   Yes, for some of us, quiet will just have to be a learned behavior.

And, as someone admittedly still more in “doing” than in “being,” I thought this could be perhaps the start of a gradual, long-term effort to be quiet, at least for a few moments — and at the start of the day — rather than the exhausted, droopy-eyed inertia ones feels at the end of the day.

In this case, my goal was to not miss a day, even if the daily efforts at meditation differed.  I even made a “Smile Meditation” sign on an index card and taped it to the bathroom mirror as a motivation point.

It was relatively easy to sit in a cushy chair and close my eyes.  Only over a couple of days did I begin letting my body relax, so that my weight dropped into the chair.    This took several days.  (It has taken me years to realize, for example, that I have fooled myself into thinking I’m pretty relaxed during a visit to my dentist.  Feigning composure, I sit in the chair with my legs crossed at the ankle and my hands on the arm rests.  Reality:  my shoulders are hunched forward, my legs are suspended six inches above the chair, and my fingers grip the arm rest as the blood drains from every finger. )

Still, I tried to keep my eyes closed and just focus my attention on my breathing and, more difficult, on smiling.  My meditation times typically alternated from five to six minutes, although on two occasions I sat for ten minutes (this is terribly loser-ly, but remember — I was a giddy kid).  The most challenging part of the meditation:  to sustain the smile during the quiet time.  My mind wandered in a multitude of directions, and I had to work to return to smiling.

chocolate chip cookies

My friend Nicki offered a very helpful metaphor in a comment on my July 22 post — she suggested I imagine the smile that comes over your face when smelling freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.  That scaffolding was a huge help, and I made an effort to employ it each morning.   Think about her visual cue for a moment:  this kind of smile is a reflection of quiet joy, followed by a deep sigh of contentment.   Take another look at the photograph of the woman at the start of this essay.  She appears so relaxed and at ease, no?  And Nicki’s suggestion quickly brought to mind the way we look when we have that lovely sensory sensation of a wonderful aroma.  This led me to consider other aromatic references that might assist my cause.  And oh, there were so many …


Fresh oranges …


Steaming coffee …


A beautiful blossoming lilac bush …

The visual images were necessary to the effort required to sustain a smile during these short quiet moments.  So, I can safely say that I felt satisfied in my having set aside these minute sessions of quiet each morning for the two weeks.

But … and isn’t there always a “but” in these experiments?

Five minutes is barely enough time to exhale, much less to center oneself and be thoughtful and reflective.  Five or six minutes feels like dabbling, rather than committing.  Yet, it is a start.  This isn’t completely new to me, yet I am still stunned by how difficult it is to just be quiet.

Be quiet.

And smile on top of that?

So here’s what I’m  thinking after these two weeks.  You have to start somewhere.  But the smile component is something altogether different.  It is different because it implies attitude.  It implies point of view.   Perspective.  Choice.

Yikes.  If you choose to smile as you meditate/settle down/quiet yourself, you are suggesting that things are generally OK.


That’s a commitment.  With the inclusion of the smile, you are surmising that perhaps things are unfolding in a way that is generally good.

And that’s a commitment.   With the smile, you are saying, “I choose to believe that the universe is  OK, that things are happening in a balanced way, and that I choose to believe the best things about the universe and all it has to offer.”

This is the “attitude is everything” argument.    That’s what I think I took from my two weeks of Smile Meditation.  The kernel of the idea, not new – but certainly thought-provoking — is that we choose our attitude about life and all that we experience.

That, of course, implies personal responsibility and accountability, too.   Ouch.

But the smile also implies optimism.  And I like that, even though it bumps up against my personal experience and my tendency toward a noir perspective on life.  The smile challenges that bent.  Perspective begets reflection.  Reflection nudges choice.  The smile directly influences attitude.

I’ll continue this effort, gradually adding a few moments each day — this has become a long-term effort on reflection and my own zeitgeist .   It’s a beginning.

I’d like to conclude with a lovely photograph of Audrey Hepburn, the quintessential actress and former UNICEF Ambassador — a gifted woman of  personal conviction and dedication to important ideals.  Look at this photograph.  If you’re interested in joining me in my Smile Meditation Journey, focus on this look of quiet joy and contentment.  Isn’t she lover-ly?

Audrey Hepburn Mid Life

It’s your turn, now.  How do you quiet yourself?   What do you think about the role of the smile in our general take on the Universe?