Sunday, December 16, 2012

St Sebastian Tattoo Step 3

So, this picture was also added to FB.  It is the first picture taken after the third visit at Have Fun Be Lucky for my tattoo.  Final step planned for January 5.  There is a building unfinished off to the left (around on the back of my calf) and there are some touch-ups to be done.  Much credit goes to Emily for all her work and the entire creative process since our first discussion last February.

The tattoo now has a well defined shaded cloud area that cuts the light post and the addition of color, but what is mostly gray (with some sepia tones) gives the entire tattoo a "darker" appearance.

I like that in general.  Martyrdom is not a happy subject although saintliness is.  And, having someone chained to a lamppost with two arrows through him is not a happy subject either.  The symbolism is all positive.  This creates an interesting contrast.

This is a good weekend for contrasts.  The tragedy in Connecticut at a societal level versus all things good at a personal level.  The readings in the Catholic church this weekend were about shouting for joy and rejoicing in the Lord, followed by questions John the Baptist on "what should we do"?  Certainly and uncertainty?  Joy and bewilderment.  Our priest even worked the  question of "what should we do" into how people might cope with the tragedy in Connecticut--asking what we can do to heal.  As individuals.  As a nation.  As a church.

Life is full of contrasts.  This is simply another weekend in which they are clearer than ever. And another weekend at the end of which I hope for signs of the brighter rather than the darker moving ahead into the future.  Another weekend during which I ponder, the country ponders, and the world ponders.  And a weekend at the end of which I hope that contrasting visions of how to solve the problem can be brought together in a meaningful way with compromise where necessary to make the world a better place and a safe place for all who care.  However, I am not confident that will occur.  I'm not even sure I'm hopeful that will occur.  I know it is possible, but I have seen little evidence to suggest that it is probable.

Do I lose hope?  No--being an eternal optimist.  Yet another contrast.  Such is life.   

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What I found in my 7:26 pace on Saturday?

Saturday, four days ago, I went out with a plan to run a 7:37 pace for 13.1 miles on a foggy morning.  (The fog wasn't planned--just the state of the world.)  I wanted to see if I could keep that pace by myself in a non-race setting so that if, four months from now, a friend wanted to pace just under 1:40 for the half marathon that will be run a week before Boston I'd be able to help.  I learned a lot on Saturday morning.  First, after nearly 4 years of very serious running (and a total of seven since my return to fitness), I still can't pace very steadily.  Second, left to my own devices, even in a non-race setting, I probably need to slow down a little to get on pace.  Third, running in the fog is a lot of fun. There was a point at which I literally could not even see the lights on the other side of Lake Montebello (at least the long way across the lake) as I ran around.

I also learned that after a run like that my legs would still feel heavy two days later, but were just fine three days later as some friends and I enjoyed a wonderful track workout yesterday morning.  And one of my friends enjoyed banana bread--using my recipe--after the run.

It just so happens that last week, I was also engaged in conversation with a rabbi who is working on an introduction to a book featuring the writings of a dear friend and colleague who passed away two years ago.  In conversation with the rabbi I mentioned my interest in bib numbers, race times, and paces and spiritual meaning of them.  She introduced me to gematria which also has to do with numbers and spirituality.

It occurred to me that in my long list of other things to do this fall, despite running several very meaningful races, I had not blogged much about spirituality and numbers.

So, in the spirit of the red thread, I believe that one reason I crossed paths with this rabbi was to bring me back to my own spirituality.  And, I thought about the pace I ran over the weekend. It was faster than what I expected.  Of course, fundamentally that means it was different from what I expected.  And, when things turn out differently than what I expect, I tend to look for meaning.

So, I looked for something using the numbers in 7:26.  Something unexpected.  A reminder of something important.

I found Wisdom 7:2-6.  (So, I kept the colon where it was and just added a dash.)  First, it was useful as it led me to read the background of the Book of Wisdom.  At least on the Catholic page, it focuses on the "profound knowledge" and "intense devotion" of the writer who brought God's word to light.  Here are the verses preceded by "And in my mother’s womb I was molded into flesh":

in a ten-month period—body and blood,from the seed of a man, and the pleasure that accompanies marriage. 
And I too, when born, inhaled the common air,and fell upon the kindred earth;wailing, I uttered that first sound common to all. 
In swaddling clothes and with constant care I was nurtured. 
For no king has any different origin or birth; 
one is the entry into life for all, and in one same way they leave it. 

First of all, the ten-month period doesn't reflect a misunderstanding of human gestation. The interpretation is lunar months.

Second, why do I value these verses?  Well, it is a reminder to me.  I run fast--but I am no different from anyone else.  I have opportunities fall into my lap--but I am no different from anyone else.  I work intensely--but I am no different from anyone else.  I work long hours--but I am no different.  At the end of the day, I came into the world and will depart like everyone else.  At the end of the day, I am subjected to the same forces, the same laws of nature, the same everything as everyone else. And when all is said and done if there is a hereafter that involves judgment, I will be judged just like everyone else.  Recognizing that, I, just like everyone else, need to make the decision as to what I will respect, what I will follow, what I accept as the rules and morals that guide my life and then to live by them and bring out the best in myself and in others based on those principles.  It is not what people see or what the world values that matters.  It is that I am a part of something bigger, that there are values set by a power greater than any human, and that I respond to and am guided by those that is important.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Red Thread

I was asked to write some thoughts about a colleague who passed away in January 2011.  The person asking for my thoughts about my wonderful colleague who was taken from the world much too soon and completely by surprise to all concerned described the request as an effort to help her to write a "red thread" chapter for a book that otherwise will focus on my colleague's writings.  Of course, referring to Alison simply as a colleague sounds so distant and shallow.  She was actually a very good friend and that is more meaningful than "colleague" alone ever could be.

More importantly, I had to look up what "red thread" meant. I honestly don't recall hearing this expression before.  Googling, I found the following website:

It describes a red thread as "connecting those who are destined to meet".  No matter when or where.

The website also offers a thought on brining human systems into order.

This is an interesting way of thinking about Alison.  Someone who knew so many people from so many different walks of life for different reasons.  Someone who meant different things to different people but had, I suspect, one thing in common in all cases--her willingness to listen, her willingness to be supportive, and her expectation that each of us would be willing to challenge ourselves in the same way and to the same degree she challenged herself.

It is interesting how a simple two word phrase can get a person thinking.  And thinking deeply about the importance of one relationship that is now only a memory (albeit one that remains alive in so many ways) and the importance of all relationships that include support, listening, and challenges.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Persistent Pathological Perfectionism

Today's blog is just a thought for pondering.

This is a phrase I have come up with to describe a state in which a person always waits for things to be "just right" before saying something to someone or taking an action.  For at least part of my life, I have suffered from this.  I have learned over the years that, in life, there is rarely a time that is just right for anything.  If a person waits for the perfect moment to ask another if they are interested--the opportunity is likely to pass.  If a couple waits for the time that is perfect to have kids--they may end up with none.  If a person waits for the perfect time to start a new project, the project not only will never be completed, it will not likely get started.  If a person waits for the perfect time for a new job, they may stay in an old one forever, even if it is no longer providing the fulfillment it once did.  And so on.

If you will excuse the double negative, that does not mean that there are not times that are definitely wrong.  There can be wrong times to ask of someone else's romantic interest. There can be wrong times to have kids.  There can be wrong times to start new projects.  There are wrong times to look for a new job.  These are just examples (the romantic interest and decisions about kids are both long done in my case) but hopefully they are clear.

Sometimes I have to realize that the time is right even if it is not perfect.  The conditions are right even if they are not ideal.  Perhaps that is a part of maturing as I am more adept at these now than I was years ago.

One other part of maturing, perhaps, is that I have to be vulnerable.  Vulnerable to failure.  Vulnerable to struggle.  Vulnerable to the fact that things may not work out.  (Which, in reality, if what I am looking at involves more than one person is always a possibility even if I think that the time is perfect.)

Initiating something means taking a chance.  Taking a chance will never happen if a person suffers from persistent pathological perfectionism.  Taking a chance can lead to wonderful, exciting, enriching, fulfilling outcomes when a person does.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Ambiguity can sometimes be a very hard thing to deal with.  It makes my life difficult.  It makes me struggle.  It leaves me with no easy answers.

And yet for many of the same reasons, ambiguity can be a great thing.  Things that are hard to deal with make me stronger when I get through them.  Things that are difficult are there to be struggled with.  Struggle helps to define our lives as many of the best things are things that are had to struggle through.  Having no easy answers makes me think and think hard--which I enjoy.  I don't always come up with insightful or incredible answers.  

Ambiguity has much variability.  Sometimes the thinking is not for a matter or moments or hours but weeks, months, or even years to sort through something.  Sometimes the ambiguity is only a small amount and at first glance after which something becomes perfectly clear.  In other cases, there really is an ambiguity that lasts nearly forever.

I thought of ambiguity yesterday after my run.  It was an example of short ambiguity, thankfully.  It is interesting to ponder why there was any ambiguity on  day when I ran what will be listed as my fastest half marathon to date and on a day on which I brought home a trophy for being the first co-ed relay team?  Both of those are very happy things.  And for both of those unambiguous things, I am grateful.

The first ambiguity I think about was with my running--despite the positive outcome.  Did I go out too fast?  Did I think about it too much and look at my watch too much rather than just running what felt like the right pace (particularly slower at the start) and see what happened?  It may have been my best race but it didn't feel like a great race?  What lessons were there to learn even on the day when I had the best time I'd ever had at that particular distance?  How did I reach the finish line at my best pace despite feeling an incredible struggle in the middle and toward the end of the race?  How had my minor GI issue in the middle of the week affected my race performance? Had it affected my race at all?  What did it mean that I needed so much fluid after the race to feel balanced?

I always have to remind myself that on any given day we have to take what comes when we get our opportunity to run.  And to paraphrase my friend after the race, "All I can do is give the best effort on a given day."  And, in that, there was no ambiguity.  I did what I could.  It may not have been the smartest, most strategic, most satisfying race, but it was my best effort.

The team name indicates ambiguity.  The team name was "Who's the Mentor?"  A play on the fact that my teammate has mentored me about working with men in residential rehabilitation programs and who has mentored me about running.  And the fact that I have mentored her about public health professional issues and at least served as an one example of someone who has managed 20+ years of marriage with three amazing children for she and her husband who just got married back in September.  Perhaps an even more apt name for the team would have been "Who's the Bigger Mentor?"  Because clearly each of us has made an impact on the life of the other in the way the friends and colleagues can.  The opportunity to see how any two people interact can be an incredible revelation into how people teach each other and how people learn from each other.  Student and advisor.  Child and parent.  Husband and wife.  The ambiguity of the roles is an exciting and an amazing part of life.

The interesting thing about yesterday's vulnerability is that it was short lasting.  I can turn it into analysis.  I can learn some lessons and move on.  I can write about it and let it go.  Writing is often good for setting my mind free of an issue.

It is not spiritual ambiguity or ethical ambiguity or any of the really difficult things to deal with.

Instead, yesterday's ambiguity is something that was just a reminder of the many times and ways in whichI can learn lessons.  The many ways in which there is ambiguity.

The many ways that I struggle with self-criticism.

The many ways that I have grown and continue to grow as I understand what I have to offer and what my limits are.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Imagining Opportunity

I can't believe that it has been over three weeks since I have made an entry in this blog.  But I feel compelled to write.

The past month has been busy.  One reason has been a four week Coursera class that I managed.  That was one opportunity that has turned out to be a lot different than what I imagined, but it has been a great one nevertheless.  There is a lot to be taught and a lot to be learned from interacting with as many as 20,000 people in an online class in a four week time period.

The past month has also been busy with slightly longer FB entries as I have tried for the past three weeks to come up with something truly new to be thankful for.  Today, I wrote that I was thankful for my imagination.  I commented that imagining possibilites (or opportunities in the heading for this entry) is at least half of what is necessary to make them come true.

Certainly, without the ability to imagine new opportunities, I would need to rely on someone else to create them.  I have clearly benefitted over time from other people creating opportunities for me. And I am sure I will continue to do so.  But as my career matures, I have had to learn to imagine and create more opportunities for myself and to sometimes be the one who either creates opportunities for others or at least helps others to imagine opportunities they might bring to reality. .

There are also many times that I imagine things that will never come to pass.  Part of maturing is learning how to separate those that are likely to be a reality from those that are not more quickly and to pursue only those that are likely to become reality.

As a final thought this morning, I'll share a quick example of finding opportunity where none may have been apparent and creating what may be a new opportunity.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to mentor or at least share insights gained through years of personal and professional experience with many over time.  In addition to the standard mentoring of graduate advisees and sharing life lessons with younger runners, this has been largely facilitated by my undergraduate institution (Penn State) with numerous formal mentoring programs.  The last person I was formally linked with has now graduated from Penn State, although we stay in touch.  Of course, I remain open to other opportunities Penn State may create.

After a race last week, I reached out to someone I had watched and heard make a brief speech in the post-race ceremony.  The post-race ceremony was mostly about distracted driving issues. Why?  This was the Fourth Annual Heather Hurd 5K, organized in honor of a young woman with so much ahead of her who was taken from this world much too early in an accident caused by a distracted driver.  The topic of distracted driving had already led to one opportunity for mentorship of a master's student last year.

The race raises money for a book scholarship at Harford Community College.  The prior recipient was the one whose speech caught my attention as she mentioned what she is interested in studying and it is close enough to my own interests that afterwards I got in touch and offered to share insights on health promotion and public health as she plans the her early career around these topics.  Would I ever have thought when I left to race on a Saturday morning that I would come home with a new opportunity to give back professionally?  Probably not.  But part of imagining opportunities is being ready to imagine them at any time and in any place where they might present themselves.

Perhaps it will only be a single conversation with someone looking ahead to graduate school.  But I know from my own experience that even a single conversation can sometimes help to shape a person's outlook on professional life and the opportunities that life presents (in other words, the opportunities a person imagines).  Thus, regardless of whether there is just a single conversation or we stay in touch, sharing of professional insights and the issues of work/life balance has the potential to make a real difference in where a person turns next.

As I imagine possibilities ahead (in parenting, my profession, and my running) I'd like to close with some congratulations and a wish.  First, a public congratulations to the Hurd family for a great event.  Second, a public congratulations to the previous winner of the scholarship from money raised by the race.  I am sure that regardless of any insight I may provide you will have a great career ahead, although I hope that my insight may help.  And a public wish that my mentoring will help those who I am asked to mentor or have the serendipitous opportunity to mentor in the future.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Today's Catholic Church Readings and the Weather

On this day, I find myself a continental distance away from my family.  They are home.  I am at a professional conference.  In some ways, I wish it had been easier to back out of the commitments that I have this week.  But it is not really simple or possible to pull back from a variety of reservations and there are professional expectations.  And other than provide camaraderie, I'm not sure what I could do at home.  At least this way, when I get home, I'l be able to help as a well rested person who has not stressed quite as much during the week.  Still, I can only say "not stressed as much" as I will be stressed here wondering what will happen to my family.  In short, with a house with some history of basement flooding and many large trees both around the house and in the neighborhood, I worry that this storm could be a real disaster.

As such, I take some solace from today's Catholic church Gospel reading.  The reading is from the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 10, veres 46-52.  The story is of a blind man who asks for pity, and when Jesus asks what he wants, he says " see."  Jesus restores his sight based on his faith.

This is a week in which I will need a lot of faith.  I am just hoping that my faith and my family's faith an be as strong as the blind man in the Gospel reading.  If it is, this may be a messy week with implications for a long time to come, but we will persevere and come through.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Yesterday at church, the opening song played by the worship band in which I play electric bass every Sunday was called "The Stand".  We didn't play the whole song as written.  We repeated the chorus five times over with the music building, starting a whole step below the key in which it was written and ending in the key in which it was written--modulating after three repetitions and then repeating twice more.  It was a very fun song to play.  The bass part was nice but easy.  And I could actually look up and smile while just playing almost without thinking.  I felt God's joy in my playing. It was good.

Then, the priest made a number of comments during the homily.  Of course, he addressed the readings.  But, as importantly on this particular day, he also addressed the fact that the confirmandi, i.e. the class of mostly 9th graders who will be confirmed in June if all goes well, were attending the mass.

He told them to listen to what he said, but more importantly to watch what he (and all the other adults in the congregation) did, and how he acted, and how he made choices in life to see what being Catholic really meant.

In other words--he challenged the teens to consider what the church stands for.  It was a nice way to tie back to the opening song.

And it was a nice way for me to tie back to a week away and to look forward.  It was only by some stroke of luck or by some divine intervention (I like to believe the latter) that I made it from landing at Dullest at 6:32 to being in my home by 8:35, and able to take my two younger boys to Sunday school by 9:15 and to be ready to take my class of third graders on a neighborhood service project as well.  It was such a good way to feel that maybe God was smiling down and saying, "See, I answered your prayer to get home quickly and be with your class so you can serve."

All for God's glory. That is what I try to stand for.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Short Thought of the Day

There is a song that we sometimes sing in church, especially when the "traditional" contemporary choir is playing.  The song goes "Take the Word of God with you as you go."  There are other words of course.  But these words speak to me in the context of last Sunday's readings.  And I do try to take the Word of God with me (both in terms of the messages of the Bible and taking Jesus with me) wherever I go.  I have felt the joy of God this week in my actions with colleagues and in the beauty of the land and in my running.  I look forward to the joy of God in my family on Sunday. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

International Travel Haiku

Cramped on plane.  Jet-lagged.
Concentration difficult.
Extra sleep.  Missed run.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Short Reflection on Sunday's Readings that I Missed

Sunday's readings in the Catholic church included Wis 7:7-11, Heb 4:12-13, and Mk 10:17-30. As I read over them and pondered them while running, the book of wisdom reading focuses on how prudence and the wisdom that often accompanies prudence can lead to great things in a way that nothing else does.  And where does wisdom come from?  Building on the foundation of what God has set as the path for men to follow.

The second reading makes two basic points.  We are never outside the domain of God and the word of God is all powerful.  All powerful in how it shapes our wisdom.  All powerful in its ability to lead us to good things.  All powerful in its ability to lead us to everlasting life.

And that last point is critical in the third reading.  After Jesus recites the commandments, he tells of giving up everything and following him.  Following his word.  It is the Gospel story about how it is easier for a camel to pass through they eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.  The only way to everlasting life is by following the word of God.  That provides us with the keys to wisdom.

From a basic interpretation of how the elements fit together liturgically there was not much challenge to this one.  The challenge is to find the way to make it central to the way that I lead my life every day.  

Monday, October 15, 2012


Here I sit at 5:13 AM in Durban, South Africa.  It is 11:13 PM back home on a Sunday.  This Sunday, I missed church as I was in flight.  The closest I came was the service being held in the airport at Dulles at the time that I was getting ready to leave on the first of three flights that got me here.

I will look at the readings during this week.  That is easy enough.

But last night, I was taken aback by a song I heard on the television.  Many hotels have a menu of services.  When I flipped to that channel, I had to stop.  What I heard was an orchestral version of a song that our worship band at my church performs often.  It is called “Here I am to Worship”.  The lyrics in the chorus include “Here I am to Worship/Here I am to bow down/Here I am to say that you’re my God”.

And when I wonder “What am I doing in Durban?  Why do I have to come so far for a meeting?  Why do the bunch of people who are meeting have to come so far?”  The last question in reference to the fact that we actually have people here from Sydney, Australia as well.  I know when I hear “Here I am to Worship.”  That is exactly why I am here.

And it fits so well with having watched Chariots of Fire on the flight on the way over.  Eric Liddell was both a great runner and a great missionary.  He commented that he feels God’s pleasure when he runs fast.  I don’t run like him but have written previously about feeling God’s please when I run as fast as I can with friends.  I also feel God’s pleasure when I do my work on a project through the university as well as I can to help provide more information for decision makers to try to make the world a better place.  Reading Atlas Shrugged on the flight, the song also helped to remind me of my purpose.  To bring glory to God through my actions. 

The reminders of God always come in interesting forms that I never anticipate.  A movie on the flight here.  An orchestral version of a song that could have been a part of any mass and while my family was at mass.  A book by Any Rand.  It’s all a part of my interestingly interwoven life with one purpose.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blessings on a Sunday

First, I can't believe it has been almost two weeks since my last entry.  I think I will try to write shorter entries rather than none at all.

Second Today was a day in transit for me and a day to think a lot about running that I am doing and running that I have not done.  Both are important.

Running that I did not do-I did not participate in the Baltimore Running Festival this year.  As my three kids pile more and more on Saturday activities (particularly with how early ice hockey can be), I'll probably have to choose one--or at most two--weekends in the fall to participate in races.  At least after September.  The past three years I had taken part in the Baltimore running festival.  This year I did not. And this year was the most perfect weather of them all with lots of people I know getting either their fastest times ever in general or at the very least their fastest times at the Baltimore Running Festival. Definitely makes me think about making this one of my fall Saturdays for "not just very early morning running" next year.

In terms of running that I am doing, I am doing a lot of very early morning running on Saturdays at this point.   We have reached a point in the year where trail running at 6 AM is downright dangerous. So, my main running partner and I have taken to running urban/suburban street courses.  What is interesting and what demonstrates just how blessed I have been through all my hard work is how much my running has changed in two years.  A little over two years ago, I ran the Philadelphia ING Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in September and was on a flight so South Africa later that day. That was the beginning of a very difficult month long period of final preparation for the Baltimore Marathon 2010 as my legs completely tightened up after what was an all out effort.  I later promised a friend who is a much more senior runner that I would not race so far and fly such long distances again.  There is a risk of embolism in an airplane.  The risk goes up after running.

Here I sit two years later, and I went out and ran just under 12 miles with my best matched running partner and we ran at a pace on average faster than the pace I raced at two years ago.  Today, my legs are a little stiff after 17+ hours on a plane but it just from the plane ride.  Not from the run.

I am blessed to be able to improve what I do, to have good friends to improve with, and to set an example of what hard work can do for my boys.  Interestingly, I think all thee already get it, but it doesn't hurt to continue to show them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Thoughts on the Homily from September 30

Yesterday's mass at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Towson was a very nice mass musically--or at least I thought so. I didn't poll the remainder of the worship band, but the songs were all good songs for the bass (which I play) and my bass playing skills continue to improve--but remain way less than perfect.  In any case, the songs were good and seemed to fit with the meaning of the mass in a way that is as good as it gets most times.

During the mass, the readings included one from the Book of Numbers that mentions Eldad and Medad (which was also the subject of a classic homily by Fr. Hank), a reading from the letter of James, and a well known reading from the Gospel of Mark.

Of all the things that Fr. Sam talked about in the homily, there were some big points that I'd like to quickly comment on.

First, Fr. Sam reminded us that God still speaks--and it is important for us to listen and act like we do listen.

Second, Fr. Sam commented on the possibility of the corrupting influence of wealth--although stating that not everyone who is wealthy is corrupt.

Third, both the reading from Numbers and the gospel reading talked about calling into question who was speaking God's word.  Fr. Sam reminded us that we are all called on to speak God's word.  Some of us struggle with God's word.  I don't take any credit for having necessarily good insight into God's word, but I do struggle with, ask questions about, and share my thoughts on how God's word relates to me in this blog.  Is that what the Bible and my faith calls me to do?  Well, it's clear that would not necessarily have been anticipated when the Bible was written, but I don't think it is a bad interpretation.

Finally, the part of yesterday's Gospel that many would recognize was where Jesus called on people to cut off their hands or feet or pluck out their eyes if thy caused sin.  Fr. Sam pointed out that this was not meant literally but was meant to be a form of teaching that could be interpreted as "get rid of whatever keeps you from 'getting it'."  Where "getting it" is God's word.  I'm sure there are other interpretations of this particular reading, but this is a very cool one.  (And, I suppose, a very modern one.)  The main point of our faith is "to get it" in this interpretation (and then, of course, act on it) and whatever keeps us from getting it should be out of our lives.  Seems simple enough.  Once we get it, we can speak it.  Getting it reminds us to listen for God's voice in today's word.  And getting it can occur regardless of how much wealth we have or can provide us with an indication of how to use our wealth in a way consisten with God's words.     

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

In the past few weeks I have done some tempo runs with friends--tempo runs are sustained high speed.  We have run the streets of East Baltimore and both times two specific runners have been clearly ahead of me starting some time in the third mile or sooner.  The first time, I motivated myself along.  The second time, I had two friends who helped keep me going as strong as I could.  Better run the second time.

In all the 5K's I've run recently, I have never had someone to run with virtually the whole time.  Today, at the starting line, I was with three other gentlemen from Back on My Feet and knew that there would be several others from Back on My Feet out on the course cheering us on.  Two of us had visions of running about the same time.  (We had similar recent personal bests.  I call mine a recent personal best as there was a time when I was 17 that I could run a lot faster but that almost counts as "someone else".   At this point in my life after 6.5 years of being back into fitness, I should just focus on the recen times.)  In any case, we went out.  One gentleman (who admittedly had worked last night and had not kept up with his running so much recently) fell behind early.  One gentleman went out fast (after having already done a distance run this morning) and pulled away in the first mile running a sub-6 but later burned out (his words) so that at about the 1.8 mile point the other two of us passed him.

The remaining gentleman and I ran the first mile just together at 6:15 pace.  Then we hung through the second mile together.  Every once in a while one of us would pull ahead slightly and then we would regroup.  I don't recall the time that was shouted out at exactly the 2 mile marker, but I know that we were running very consistent with our first mile.  It was interesting as my GPS watch and the course matched up exactly for mile 1 and almost exactly for mile 2.  Mile 3 on the course seemed a bit long and I pulled away slightly.  Ended up ahead of the guy I ran the race with by 4 seconds.  I would hardly say I "beat" him as it wasn't about winning or losing at that point.  It was just about pushing myself to my own limits (20:00.2 for the official time but I honestly thought I had broken 20 minutes on my watch) and seeing how well teaming up to run with someone else would help me and help him.  It helped us both amazingly.  Pacing together and not wanting to let the other person get too far away and encouraging each other throughout made a huge difference.

I hope to run with someone who runs my exact pace in a future race.  Two of the other three runners I began with asked if I'd be running either the Baltimore or Philly marathon this year.  Unfortunately, no and no.  As I've discussed before to prioritize in my life, I have chosen to step away from marathon running until Boston next year.  But, next time there is a Back on My Feet 5K or any other even where I see Road Runner, Michael, or Ryan, I'll know who to team up with to try to have more than one of us set a new personal best.  Running with a little help from friends is such a gift.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Last Two Elements of My Second Personal Vision Board

Now to finish my discussion of my second person vision board.  Having discussed my friends' wedding day extensively and noting that one of the entries was actually entitled wedding music brings me to the last two elements of the personal vision board I am imagining.  The first is music itself.  It has been an important part of my life from the time I liked to imitate Buddy Holly as a kid (and had a few of my classmates since along as Kevin Frick and the Ladybugs rather than Buddy Holly and the Crickets) to playing bass in the church's worship band (which, being at a Catholic church, led a protestant minister to refer to St Pius X as a reformed Catholic church).  I figure since the vision board includes a mockingjay, I could have musical notes coming from the bird's beak.  One option would be just four notes--much like Rue used in the first book.  A nice tip of the hat to popular culture.

The second option would be a tie in with strengthening marriage and strengthening family more generally.  Inside my parent's wedding rings and inside mine and Sherry's are the letters "ILYMTTY".  For anyone old enough to recall the the Spiral Staircase song these letters are from the main part of refrain from an old song, "I Love You More Today than Yesterday".  And of course, logically, if you can say that every day the next line follows, "But not as much as tomorrow."  This is a wonderful aspiration for marriage.  It is also a wonderful aspiration for family.  And not that I don't already love my sons for all I'm worth but each day brings a new way of expressing and talking about the love I have for my family members.  The opportunities for growth and diversification of the ways we show our love are endless.

So the alternative option would be to have the notes of the words that go with ILYMTTY as the notes coming from the mockingjay.

Much like my first permanent personal vision board, i.e., my tattoo, this would be more like a mural than a single picture.  That is fine.  It is my way of connecting the dots in my life and thinking about things.  It is a series of symbols that characterize me.  As one of my colleagues who has now seen my tattoo commented about it, he said it was odd but me.

Not sure what I'll blog about next but life always seems to provide me with more than enough to ponder and comment on for all who are interested in sharing my world.   

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Last Few Thoughts on Friends' Wedding

A few final thoughts on my friends' wedding last weekend...

First, during the procession into the church, it was very touching to see the groom pushing his father's wheelchair into the church.  I had not known that the groom's father was in a wheel chair.  Anyone in the groom's family could have wheeled his father in.  But it was yes another sign of the giving of self and completely being there for others and not focusing only on one's own needs even on the wedding day.

Second, the couple has asked two of their guests to read the prayers of the faithful.  In asking for a prayer for a particular set of individuals, one reader become incredibly emotional.  Obviously even being asked to read this particular set of names was a big deal, although I did not know what the connection was.  The other person who had been asked stepped up and took over reading the rest of the intentions.  A sign of being there for another without question.

Third, at the receipt of the Eucharist in the Catholic church, for years there has been a practice of having individuals other than the priest helping to distribute Eucharist.  I have never been to a Catholic wedding mass at which the bride and groom assisted in the distribution of the Eucharist--in this case the wine that is the Blood of Christ.  Another sign of giving themselves and connecting with the congregation of guests.

Fourth, the bride after the Eucharist played Pachabel's Canon in D on piano in a duet with the violin player.  I was amazed that she could do this.  This was a great example of putting all of herself (and a talent I was unaware she had) into the experience of her wedding.

Finally, the table at which I sat was a table dominated by people tied to Back on My Feet.  An organization that both the bride and groom have participated in and which the bride has helped to make a huge difference in Baltimore.  An organization of individuals who give of themselves to lift the lives of others.

So, in summary, a wedding day that began with bringing together a large group to celebrate an aspect of life giving experience (running and meeting others), with a mass whose readings made me think of humility, perseverance and being open to the grace of God, with music that was uplifting and focused on humility and justice while representing the diversity of musical heritage in the Catholic church, with other acts of being there for others and giving of self throughout.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wedding Music

The songs for the mass on Saturday were also amazingly fitting.  The refrain for the opening song that was entitled come to the waters was, "Come to the waters, flowing clear/...where new life abounds/Live by the spirit, do not fear/God is here, love surrounds".  A total reliance on God.

The responsorial psalm was from Psalms 116 with the title God is Near.   It is a beautiful song that I know how to sing along to with a response of "I will take the cup of life, I will call God's name all my days."  Again, a complete reliance on God.  Interestingly enough being completely reliant on God was exactly what the priest who says the mass I most frequently attend at St. Pius X talked about in his homily on Sunday.

The Alleluia was sung as Halle Halle Halle!  It was an uplifting and inspiring version that brought percussion into the music for the first time.  It was incredible.

For the offertory we sung A Place at the Table.  This is one that I had not heard before but I was amazed at how fitting it was as it talked about welcoming everyone to the table (something that Jackie and Patrick do quite consistently in their real life behaviors) and bringing about justice and joy.  The work each does for social justice speaks for itself if you know the two of them.

The communion song was We are Called which I knew well enough to sing along to for the most part.  The refrain again emphasizing justice and walking humbly with God.  Another reflection, much like the first reading from Micah, of the need to live humbly.

The closing song was also one I had not heard before--The Canticle of the Turning.  (I am familiar with a song called a Canticle but that is the Canticle of the Sun).  In any case, it was a cool song because the music was different in tempo and rhythm from much of what else is sung at most masses I've ever attended.  The link I've given above gives it a bit of an Irish feel.  The way it was played at mass with a violin made it feel a little more like country.

The instrumentation throughout included several very strong voices, piano, organ, violin, guitar, bass, and drum.

The music was another uplifting part of this celebration of the start of what will be a wonderful marriage.  So much of the music focused on reliance on God, humility, and justice.  More great messages.  The music also reflecting the wonderful variety of diversity of music that is part of the Catholic heritage at this point just added to the celebratory atmosphere of the mass.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Three Well Chosen Readings

Each Catholic wedding has the potential to be a unique experience.  At least among people I know, the bride and groom working with the priest who will celebrate the wedding mass have a chance to choose the readings.  A Catholic mass typically includes one reading from the Old Testament, one reading from the New Testament that is not part of the Gospel, and a Gospel reading.  Each couple has many reasons for choosing the readings they do.  Each couple is at a unique point in their lives in terms of their understanding of their faith and their understanding of themselves.  The choice of readings was guided by both for me and Sherry 20+ years ago when we planned our wedding.  We were just two people of an age we now refer to as "kids" (22 at the time we were married) who had attended mass regularly, had some exposure to what was called CCD at the time (Sherry having more than me), and had been involved in the campus ministry while in college.  At Jackie and Patrick's wedding (at a slightly later point in their lives with a different background in exposure to and working with their faith) the choices were clearly inspired by their understanding of themselves and their faith.  And, as I am clearly one who thinks about how the words I am hearing from the Bible relate to the current day (myself or, in this case, those whose wedding is being celebrated) I projected from the readings onto my own life experiences and the lives of the two beautiful individuals getting married.

The first reading was Micah 6:6-8
With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow before God most high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old? 
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with myriad streams of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my crime,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 
You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.
I have never known Jackie and Patrick to be anything but humble.  Quiet--not necessarily.  Shy--definitely not.  But wonderful examples of humility before everyone and focused so much on the lives of others.  Giving not to be noticed but because it is right and it all comes from their hearts.

The second reading was from the letter to the Hebrews (12:1-3)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us 
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. 
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
As I heard this one, I looked around at the packed chapel on Loyola's campus (where Jackie and Patrick had met, gotten engaged, and were getting married) where they were surrounded by a cloud of witnesses as two people whose eyes are truly fixed on Jesus.  Running races (both figuratively and literally) is something they do a lot and endurance (whether the opposition of sinners as mentioned in the reading or, more, in a running race) is an important part of their lives.

Finally, the Gospel reading was Luke 24: 13-35, the story of the Road to Emmaus.  I won't copy and paste the whole thing (it is a long reading) but there is a link above.  It mentions that the disciples were walking a distance of seven miles when they came upon the person they did not recognize as Jesus at first.  In the reading, they ended up walking seven miles to Emmaus and seven miles back--14 miles or just over the distance of a half marathon.  Yes, my brain actually went to thinking about how it was like an "out and back" course that the two disciples ended up walking.  What else did I think about?  Jackie conducts many of the orientations for community members who want to be new participants in Back on My Feet.  I remember that she told us to try to remember to say hello to as many people as possible when out on our runs.  Just to be polite.  Just to try to brighten people's day.  Whether the person was homeless, outside a shelter of some sort, at a bus stop, or at Health Care for the Homeless.  There are many popular stories about how a person might come to meet Jesus or someone representative of the qualities of Jesus in a modern setting and overlook that person.  This is where I connected the story.  When we are out running with Back on My Feet, we never know who we will meet on the road.  We never know what type of difference we might make for the people we meet or what type of difference they may make for us.  We never know who might be able to demonstrate for us and share with us the grace of God.  In fact, we never know anywhere in our lives when we will come upon a sign from God or the second coming of Jesus himself.  Yet we should always be open to it.  And the disciples, once they realized that they had seen Jesus, did the second half of their "course" quickly and shared all the news when they returned.  Again, so closely similar to the experience of many runners who share stories about what they saw, who they experienced, and how they felt when they get back from a run.  And this relates to Jackie and Patrick not only because a half marathon distance is something with which they both are familiar but also because I know that they live their lives in a way that shows they are always open to receiving God's grace.  To welcoming a stranger.  To extending hospitality to a stranger.  To listening.  To relating.  And to sharing stories of the little things and most important things in life.

Their three readings were well chosen for them.  And their three readings served as a reminder for me. Of how incredible my two friends are.  And of the importance of living a life of humility, perseverance, and openness to the grace of God every day.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

An Amazing Wedding

Yesterday was an amazing day for my friends Jackie and Patrick.  It will take me more than one blog entry to write about everything that I observed and connected with on their wedding day.  I'll outline what I want to comment on here and then take however many days I need to get through it all.  The fact that this will all be about a wedding will then lead into my last entry for my personal vision board.  Sometimes it amazes me just how much aspects of my life intertwine.

I'll comment most fully on how the day began.  The day began with a run.  I know that some people may find this totally crazy.  Who starts their wedding day with a run?  A run at 6 AM in downtown Baltimore.  A run with 100+ friends.  A run in which out of town family is invited to attend the run rather than sleeping in on the wedding day--and many of them came.  It was incredible.  It shows how important running is to both of my friends.  It shows how much family embraces the fact that running is important to both of my friends.  And it shows just how much the two of them have helped in building up the community of Back on My Feet (running to help with part of recovery) in Baltimore and how that entire community embraces them.  It shows how their love of others, their kindness, their helpfulness, their generosity even overflows into their running.  It was also the second time I had met Jackie's father after running.  It was nice to then be able to meet him after the wedding in the receiving line to show that Jackie's academic advisor does not always look totally winded and sweaty. I haven't run downtown on a Saturday morning with Back on My Feet in quite some time.  I forgot that one of the most exciting things about running as part of a community is the chance to meet new people almost every time I am out there.

The things I would like to comment on from the wedding and reception include: seeing Patrick helping his father (who was in a wheelchair) into the chapel; the appropriateness of each of the three readings--they fit perfectly for the two of them representing what I have seen in their lives from my Augustinian prayer life perspective; the appropriateness of all the songs they chose and the ease with which I could sing along with several of them; the wonderful music that drew on instruments including the piano, violin, guitar, bass, and drums in ways that made the mass come alive in ways that I have not seen at other Catholic masses; the fact that Jackie and Patrick served as extraordinary Eucharistic ministers sharing the Blood of Christ with everyone who received communion; the fact that Jackie played the piano part of Pachabel's Canon in D as part of a duet after communion; and the band at the reception.

So many wonderful moments yesterday.  For them.  For everyone they brought together. For the community of friends and family.  A wedding planned down to each amazing detail.  A ceremony that I hope others will also remember as representing the couple for whom we were celebrating the beginning of their married life in a way that seemed as close to perfect as I could imagine.

Today will be another wonderful celebration of life--teaching third grade students in St. Pius X's religious education program about the importance of community (including our faith community), having lunch with my parents for a belated celebration of my middle son's 13th birthday, playing bass at mass, and catching up on some work. 

Embracing Franciscan Spirituality

First a very short entry this morning.  On Friday I was driving in the area of Baltimore on Madison approaching Fallsway.  As I was watching the road, I saw a rat running from the south side of Madison to the north side.  Without hesitation, I hit the brakes so I did not run it over.  When I pondered what the meaning of this might be and posted a comment on Facebook the director of the religious education program at St. Pius X had the best comment--that I was embracing Franciscan spirituality.

As I have mentioned, Franciscan focuses on the here and now.  Its other focus on reality focuses on nature.  A love of all of nature.  Rats are a part of nature too.  And I suppose it does show a respect for all life by choosing not to purposefully running over a creature that (at least at that moment) was minding its own business.

If nothing else, it gave me some interesting things to think about when it comes to how my spirituality is lived out in the rest of my life.   

Friday, September 21, 2012

Telling the People You Love that You Love Them

Over the next three days I will celebrate a beginning and an ending.  Two stories of love.

Tomorrow, my advisee, fellow runner, and friend Jackie will marry Patrick.  I've known Jackie for a little over a year and Patrick for a little less time.  They are two wonderful people.  Two giving people.  Two smiling people.  Two amazing people.   Two people who think so much of others.  Tomorrow we celebrate their promise of love for each other.  I am confident that it will be a long marriage and last through the challenges that all couples face as life goes on.  We celebrate a beginning.

On Monday, the woman who raised the girl that I have come to know as "my oldest son's girlfriend" will be celebrated in a memorial service.  She last her battle with breast cancer and its complications.  I never met her in person.  But I get the sense from listening to Kelsey and from seeing how Kelsey turned out to be such a wonderful and amazing person that her grandmother must have been incredibly loving.  Incredibly caring,  Incredibly strong.  We celebrate a life lived on Monday.  An ending.  People coming together to share grief of what is still in some ways a beginning--the beginning of the challenges of life without the person.  In this case, a grandmother who will be remembered in many kind ways.

Life is full of contrasts.  I could look to Ecclesiastes as a reminder of this.  Of course, while I can look to scripture for a guide, there is really no need to go beyond personal experience.  I know there are ups and downs.  I know there are good times and hard times.  I know there are wonderful times and sad times.  I know there are times I cry tears of joy and times I cry tears of sorrow.  I know that both the beginning and the ending that I will be involved in celebrating mark experiences of love.  A love being promised.  A love being celebrated.

And the beginning and ending celebrations of love remind me of how important it is to share feelings of love--or really appreciation in general--with those around you.  Because of life's unpredictability the promises we make can be ended in ways that always seem too soon after the fact.  It's a good reason not to forget to share the fact of my love with those whom I do love.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Short Thought for the Day

The end of my post yesterday discussing how I would add a call for concentration that is similar to the strength and endurance shown by St. Sebastian was useful as a focal point for me yesterday in my running yesterday (6.25 miles in 42:15 which is faster than I ran a local 10K race last spring) and today (6x1/2 mile with each run in less than 3 minutes), and my work yesterday (focused and got a lot done).

After a great morning, all I have to say is the refrain of a song that we play in the worship band at our church sometimes:

"Praise the Lord with all your heart,
with all your mind and soul; 
with all your strength give praise."

So, once again today, I give everything to God and I lift my heart to the Lord in praise of a wonderful life and a wonderful day.

Enough said.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another Day Pondering Franciscan Versus Augustinian Running

Today, I plan to do a tempo workout on the track.  For my non-running friends, a tempo workout is where I try to maintain over several miles (this morning it will be 6.25 miles--or 25 time around a local high school track) a pace at which I won't be carrying on a conversation.  In fact, the pace will be faster than I ran the one 10K (6.2 miles so 0.05 miles shorter) I ran this spring.  It is in an effort to get ready for a half marathon race in two months.

This type of workout I suppose should at least be easier than a similar distance on a treadmill, although at the Y they at least have treadmills with individual TV screens.  Where at the track all I will have to look at is the track in the relative darkness.  Some I know who have done similar workouts talk about how this type of workout is as much mental as it is physical.

On the mental side, there will be many temptations to just let my mind wander--to be Augustinian.  Imagining.  Thinking ahead.  Just letting my mind ponder everything other than what I'm supposed to be doing.  To wonder rather than to notice.

What I need is a very Franciscan run.  In the moment.  Taking notice of everything as I go along.  And taking notice just for the sake of taking notice.  Taking notice so that I can ponder later.  Keeping track of what I feel.  Keeping track of my breathing.  Keeping track of my time.  Just taking it all in.  

In my prayer life, my approach, as I have mentioned before, tends to be much more Augustinian.  So, today will be a physical test--can I run 6.25 miles in less than 43:45? Today will be a mental test--can I concentrate on just one thing for 43:45.  The mental test will hopefully translate into something spiritual and something work-related.  That is an interesting juxtaposition.  But I am almost always multi-tasking.  And sometimes it is a challenge for me to spend 43:45 on just about anything.  Maybe I should just take 43:45 and meditate over something related to my religion.  Maybe I should break my day into 43:45 segments and just concentrate on one thing for that amount of time.  Always ready to move onto the next item of business, but focusing on just one thing at a time.

With my tattoo of St. Sebastian, I have been inspired to look up prayers that focus on St. Sebastian.  One I found in multiple places is below:
Dear Commander at the Roman Emperor's court, you chose to be a soldier of Christ and dared to spread faith in the King of Kings---for which you were condemned to die. Your body, however, proved athletically strong and the executing arrows extremely weak. So another means to kill you was chosen and you gave your life to the Lord. May athletes be always as strong in their faith as their Patron Saint so clearly has been. Amen.
I would add to that "May I concentrate on my faith as much as my Patron Saint has been strong in his faith and as much as my Patron Saint's body was strong."  This is an interesting prayer of intercession.  It is, in part, asking for the Patron saint's intercession by addressing him.  I know there is much controversy over whether saints can intercede for people.  If we place that issue aside, this is much more a prayer of asking God to help me be like a saint whose life story I admire.

We'll see how I do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Imitation, Innovation, and My Second Personal Vision Board

I have talked about numerous parts of what would be my second personal vision board--bread, the golden apple, the cornucopia.  There are three parts that remain.  I was not sure when I would get back to it, but I heard a story while driving to pick up my 13 year old from boychoir last night that inspired me to bring it out now.  

The program is a program that I hear on the local public radio station.  The program is called The Story.  The stories are long discussion format like some other public radio programs.  But the discussion is usually between the host and one person at a time.  There is no call in.  And each night there is usually a theme.  I'm not sure what the overall theme was last night, but at the conclusion of the program they were reflecting on some feedback they had received on a story about plagiarism.  Being a college professor and serving on or as chair of numerous academic committee, I think about plagiarism a lot.  It, for obvious reasons, has many very negative connotations.

However, the discussion about the piece on plagiarism also spent some time reviewing the concept of imitation in general.  And they closed with a thought for which I hav found a link that attributes it to jazz trumpet player Clark Terry: that the learning cycles can be summarized in three words: Imitate. Assimilate.  Innovate.  

That is a pretty cool thought.  The key is that the first step really is imitation.  Of course, I must begin by saying that this does not in any way, shape, or form excuse plagiarism.  But there are lots of ways in which I have imitated.  Prayer.  Lecturing style.  Overall approach to research. Playing bass.  Writing music.  Parenting.  The list goes on.  The key is that I have learned from others and whether I imitate consciously or subconsciously, I know that a lot of what I have done over time is to take the best of what I have observed and tried to make it mine.  It is just that I don't have to put in a footnote when I imitate through my parenting.

The assimilation.  Going along with the prayer theme, it is taking the ideas and making them an ingrained part of my way of living.  Taking the teaching, it is making an approach to leading a lecture or helping others to develop their faith (in Sunday school) or professional opinion of economic or cost-effectiveness (in my day job) a part of what I always do.  Yes, I am imitating at first because I learned from my teachers from elementary school to graduate school what are some of the best ways to present information.  However, I then assimilate and make each part a part of me.

Finally, I innovate.  Once I am comfortable using whatever the approach is in writing, playing, parenting, teaching, or praying (or anything else that I have learned from others), then I begin to make up my own themes.  I change things a bit.  I experiment.  I try things on for size.  Eventually, what was a shadow of what my mentors had done and then became an integrated part of my persona becomes truly mine as I find ways to bring it alive that are unique to my interest.

Now, unlike my love of the kitchen that could be usefully summarized in bread or my love of teaching that could be usefully summarized in a golden apple or the abundance with which I have been blessed that could be summarized with a cornucopia, it is not so obvious how one would summarize the learning process that is encapsulated by the three words: imitate, assimilate, innovate.  

However, I draw on The Hunger Games for some inspiration here.  Perhaps that is just a function of what I read this summer, and I certainly would not have been able to call on this image before this summer, but I like the mockingjay.  Why?  Well, think of the third book.  It is when Katniss who has really been led into things earlier on and has tried to imitate (listening to Haymitch) and then assimilated (taking what Haymitch said and acting on her own decisions) truly comes into her own and innovates.  It also fits quite well with a description of the mockingjay that appeared in the second book, Catching Fire on pages 91 and 92 of the hardback version.  I will close with that as I imagine having a mockingjay sitting atop the cornucopia on my virtual vision board.

“The jabberjays were mutations, genetically enhanced make birds created by the capitol as weapons to spy on rebels in the districts.  They could remember and repeat long passages on human speech, so they were sent into rebel areas to capture our words and return them to the Capital.  The rebels caught on and turned them against the Capitol by sending them home loaded with lies.  When this was discovered, the jabberjays were left to die.  In a few years they became extinct in the wild, but not before they had mated with female mockingbirds, creating an entirely new species.

 “But mockingjays were never a weapon,” said Madge.  “They’re just songbirds.  Right?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” I said.  But it’s not true.  A mockingbird is just a songbird.  A mockingjay is a creature the Capitol never intended to exist.  They hadn’t counted on the highly controlled jabberjay having the brains to adapt to the wild, to pass on its genetic doe, to thrive in a new form.  They hadn’t anticipated its will to live.

Now, as I trudge through the snow, I see the mockingjays hopping about on branches as they pick up on other birds’ melodies, replicate them, and then transform them into something new.  As always, they remind me of Rue.  I think of the dream I had the last night on the train, where I followed her in mockingjay form.  I wish I could have stayed asleep just a bit longer and found out where she was trying to take me.