Archive for May, 2011

The dwarf Korean lilacs are in bloom outside my sleeping porch. They perfume the air as we clean the gutters, slip into the hot tub, or take a break to read under the twirling ceiling fan. Although I directed the builders at the very last minute to attach a porch off the master bedroom, we don’t actually sleep there, like true Southerners might have done in pre-AC days. But we do rest there, on our zero-gravity chairs, and smell the lilacs.

Lilacs bloomed outside my bedroom window when I was a girl, my foster mother Nell would mound them in mason jars on the kitchen table. She had a beautiful smile, and the best sense of humor. At some point in my young life, I decided it was my mission to make her laugh. Her husband Jim, made me doll houses out of Popsicle sticks, and together they created a home. A home full of love and laughter. And although Nell didn’t drive, because in those days women rarely did, I felt as if anything was possible.

I planted lilacs outside our home in NJ, in Nell’s honor. Every morning, a Great Blue Heron would swoop out over them toward the river to fish for breakfast. And I brought pressed lilacs to the 9/11 widow two houses away who’s husband, Michael Patrick Tucker, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. Our little borough lost 13 people on that day. As I stood at the memorial weeks later, I remember thinking, “How can I put this into words?” There were no words.

Which is why I enjoyed reading this article at NPR’s website, about the ambivalence of hearing about the death of the BinLaden. “…because terrorism partakes of both crime and war, it is perfectly natural, and perhaps legitimate, to have both of these attitudes towards Osama bin Laden: to think that we had to disable him, and to think that he deserved to die.”


If a Harvard professor of Philosophy thinks it’s perfectly legitimate to rejoice in someone’s death while still thinking he was a sorry old man, probably sick in so many different ways; and that each person’s death diminishes me, to semi-quote John Donne, leaves me feeling hopeful. And thinking I may have to take a philosophy book out on my porch, and shut off the news of the day.

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So this is what happens when I go to a blogging symposium and actually listen to the speakers. I start a New Blog! Big thanks to Denise Stewart for her fun and outstanding opening and to Marijean Jaggers who has almost convinced me to start Twittering, almost.

I’m reading a new book at the recommendation of my BFF from MA, Lee. The Zen of Listening ‘Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction’ by Rebecca Shafir is a smart and important read. She advises us to forget about our own personal self-interests and past insults, and step into the story, or “movie,” of the speaker’s life. She quotes Gandhi, “Three fourths of the miseries and misunderstandings of the world will disappear if we step in the shoes of our adversaries and understand their viewpoint.” Think about it, how often are you talking with someone only to notice their attention drift off – to their buzzing phone or the next person coming in the door – and wonder if it’s them or something you said, or maybe didn’t say fast enough?

Last week, I attended a hospital-sponsored lecture on patient safety. The speaker, Sorrel, is the mother of an 18 month old girl named Josie King who was admitted to Hopkins in 2001. The baby was treated for burns and moved from the PICU to a step-down unit and within 24 hours of being released when she suddenly died. Well, actually Sorrel had told two nurses that last day she thought Josie “…looked strange.” And she was dismissed by these nurses and told “…not to worry,” her vitals were just fine and to give her ice chips. Then when one doctor canceled an order for a drug, another walked in to give Josie the shot.

98,000 people die every year due to medical errors, and the one common thread that runs through their stories is, “They didn’t listen.” I was moved by Sorrel King and her foundation:¬†http://www.josieking.org/

I asked my friend Lee, what do you do with someone who never stops talking long enough to listen? She said, “That’s another chapter.”

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