Nothing more obvious


“There would seem to be nothing

more obvious, more tangible and palpable than the present moment. 

And yet, it eludes us completely. 

All of the sadness of life lies in that fact.”  

~Milan Kundera  



Dead or alive

The women found a small green snake, no thicker than a shoestring. Lifeless ruby red eyes stared out at the brave woman who picked it up. Its tiny mouth dropped open as it dangled over either side of a stick.

“It’s alive!” I screamed and leapt out of the way.

What could have been a squished piece of pasta and sent me flying through the air with a save-yourself-attitude turned out to be a harmless garden snake. I am sure it did not inspire confidence in those who were my responsibility.

Earlier in the year, the same panicked flight reaction overtook me when I was by the river with my boys.

“Watch out,” Daddy Longlegs said.

It was like someone hit my funny bone and I moved reflexively, without thought or hesitation. It was totally automatic, I jumped back and then looked.  

The sleek head of a snake was raised out of the water, swimming directly towards Baby Brother, who sat swinging his feet over the rocks. 

As quickly as I jumped back, I jumped forward, grabbed the child and pulled him to safety. Afterwards, I felt no small amount of disbelief at how I cleared the area and momentarily left the wee-man behind.

When there is a fire, I am not the one who is running towards the smoke. Not at first, anyways. 

I am in a state of self-discovery, trying to work on my strengths and weaknesses. Courage is not one of my strong suits but it is within me, deep down, and each time I find myself in a state of flight or fight, I check in with an honest curiosity.

And in review of both cases, it was the damned snake and a natural, God-given fear to get out of the way when one is heading in my direction.

Alive or dead.

Museum Tour

“The next tour is at 2:00,” the man said. 

The man sat on the other side of a glass counter. His name badge bore the honorable title of Manager, a job he took most seriously. Only the upper half of his body was visible, he was a slender man with small forearms that were covered with dark hair. His thin fingers danced over the keyboard as he worked through screens. 

“And you can prepay for that tour now.” 

Stepping forward, the woman rested her forearm on the counter. She led a group of women from several blocks away for a long promised historical tour. She too was slight with a magnificent bun on top of her head, adding several inches of height. 

“We were told the tour started at 1:00,” she said, summoning her queen energy.  

Her heart started to accelerate as she wondered if she wrote the time down wrong. It would not have been the first time. She was no stranger to nerves or numbers misbehaving.   

The man pursed his lips and made a hmm…ing sound as he stared at the glowing screen. 

“When I called last week, the person said they would waive the fees,” the woman said. 

“Oh,” the man chortled, really,” he said with a tone that made it a statement, not a question. 

The woman felt the slow creep of disappointment begin to build. He was not understanding, she was not paying for the tour that was starting in ten minutes. 

“We were told it would be covered,” the woman repeated.

Four women stood behind her with eight eyes, watching her every move. They were used to let-downs and empty promises, things just not working out and the other shoe dropping, always. 

It was already over. 

“Let’s go,” one woman whispered. 

The man behind the counter said, “I’m sorry, there is no note of that here.” 

Disappointment crashed in around the group, powerful enough to wash them out the door and down the path, but expected and in that, the crush was manageable. 

Except their leader wasn’t budging.

Brought out by the noise, a tall, red headed man emerged from a backroom.

“My group is here, right on time,” he announced with a smile. 

“We spoke last week, right?” he asked as an afterthought.

“Yes, thank you,” the woman said.

“Y’all head over to the house and I’ll get everything unlocked.” 

The woman flashed him the smile she saved for special occasions, like this one, when the nerdy knight with a lanyard saved the day and the museum tour. 

Do as I say

“We’re hot,” Little Legs said.

He was the self-appointed representative of the brothers now. Not that his sibling was fighting it.

Baby Brother was fine with the arrangement, provided he got exactly what he wanted, all the time.

Little Legs sailed past me on the swing.

“See how high I can go. I don’t like to be pushed by you,” he said.

Baby Brother sat motionless on his swing and yelled, “Push me, why are you not pushing me?”

“Sorry, sorry, I was…”

“Push me,” Baby Brother demanded.

He did not appreciate my scientific endeavors. I was leaned over examining an unusual ant hill shaped like a dog’s ear. I flicked the lump over with a stick and three, tiny red ants scurried out. I expected a hundred to run out and felt a little disappointed.

While I try to avoid causing suffering, I am also curious about the world around me. I hoped the ants would dig a new hill-house quickly and felt remorse about my momentary lack of regard for their well-being. I tried to justify it by thinking what’s a homeless ant matter, anyways?

I reflected on a hike we had taken the previous day. Baby Brother discovered a bright yellow creature with a thousand legs wiggling its way across the path.

“Look!” he said, crouching next to it.

“I’m going to squish it,” Little Legs declared.

He pulled his leg up and prepared to stomp when I said, “No, don’t! It’s just trying to get home. We don’t want to intentionally hurt anything.”

“Why?” he asked.

There wasn’t enough time to explain all the reasons.

“For starters, it can feel pain,” I said.

“How do you know?”

“And it wasn’t causing any harm to you. And we just don’t go around squashing and stomping on things.”  

Only flicking and flipping, I felt with a twinge of guilt at my do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do-parenting as I write and remember.

It’s a process to keep the balance of motherhood with personhood, being a teacher of little humans and a student of life, staying in the present and still processing the past, while planning for the future.  

All I know is that for all my mistakes and shortcomings, I am doing my best and that is enough.

People Pleasing

Little Legs was tasked with getting the popsicles.

“What color do you want?” he asked Baby Brother.

“I want blue,” Baby Brother said.

“And what color do you want?” he asked me.

“Red, please,” I said.

“Ok, ok,” Little Legs said, making a mental note.

He pulled open the freezer, rummaged around and extracted three specially selected-to-order treats.

Baby Brother got orange, I got white, and Little Legs got blue in a fair-enough-nobody-gets-what-they-want type of way.

“Thank you,” I said.

I cut the tops off each one and tried mine.

It was coconut, which was a problem because I hate coconut. Strong language for a popsicle flavor, I know.

“Do you like it?” Little Legs asked. 

His face turned up towards mine, as a sunflower to the sun, he was hungry for my reaction. I was left with a quandary, to tell the truth or say something to not cause any pain or discomfort.

People-pleasing was learned early in my life; only recently have I started the process of stopping and asking myself for honesty and finding that the truth is the best answer.

“No, I don’t care for that flavor, but I appreciate that you picked this out for me.”

He took it in stride, proving that people of all ages can handle disappointment.

“You get what you get,” Little Legs said.

Baby Brother said, “And you don’t throw a fit.”  

They waited a long time to dish that one up and I, too, could handle it.

Chicken Milk

A woman tried to convince me a chicken can be milked. 

“And much like a cat, chickens can’t produce much, but it’s definitely drinkable,” she explained. 

I shook my head. A potent potable that never made it as an answer on Jeopardy? I remained skeptical of the possibility. 

“Are you calling my granny a liar?” the woman asked.

“No, I would never call your granny a liar. However…”

“My granny would never lie to me,” the woman explained.

“Well, I’m not one to point out the obvious, but…”

Again, there was no finishing. 

Another woman chimed in the results of a google search, “It’s right here. A tutorial on how to milk a chicken.” 

I watched the evidence that was supposed to bring the argument to a close. The video was of a little girl catching her pet chicken, holding a jar underneath of it, and giving it a “little hug” as she described the squeeze that produced a few tablespoons of a white liquid. 

“I’ve plucked a lot of chickens and I’ve never seen a nipple,” the Googler said. 

“Could she have been lying about other things?” Granny’s granddaughter wondered.  

We believe the stories from our elders, or we want to believe them. They are rich with our history, morals and life lessons. This lesson was more abstract, perhaps in the use of discretion and not believing every single thing that comes from the mouth of an ornery old lady.


Tiny Town has many attractions and is usually filled with a mess of kids running in every direction. Caretakers lean against the walls and sit on benches, watching their wards and scrolling through their phones. There is an effort to not be too involved but also not too far away in case there’s trouble.

There is a large, plastic tree in the center of the village around which the rest of the town is arranged. The post office is next to the grocery store with plastic fruits and vegetables, gummy from the grungy hands of the “shoppers”, there is a music room with drum sticks that work best on a sibling’s head, a workshop without any tools and a medical clinic with a rubber hammer and a plastic stethoscope and syringe.

I only had eyes for my boys as they raced from place to place. One eye for each boy when they separated into different areas and then reunited. They held hands and ran together into the medical clinic. Immediately, they became the Blond Boy Doctor Team and I was the patient in need of serious medical attention.

“Sit,” Baby Brother said and patted the examination table. 

“Ok, but no shots today,” I tried to bargain.  

He gave me a knowing nod as though to say, the doctor knows best, and you are definitely getting shots. 

“I check you out,” Baby Brother said.

He gently tapped my shoulder with the rubber reflex hammer and nodded while his brother prepared the plastic syringe. 

“Time for your medicine,” Little Legs explained. 

“You need band-aide?” Baby Brother asked.  

Already at their tender ages of 2 and 4, they have excellent bedside manners, I thought, and they are so handsome. 

My reflection was cut short when a mangy haired boy, a full head taller than Little Legs, stomped into the clinic. I first noticed the biker boots, two sizes too big, black and scuffed, tied with rainbow laces. He wore purple galaxy pants and a plain black t-shirt. 

He held out a pair of plastic forceps and began his reign of terror, pinching in the air like a crab out of the water and then locking onto my shirt and stomach. 

“Stop it,” I said.

He pinched me again. 

I screamed, naturally, and ran out of the clinic with the heathen child still attached via pinchers. What could I do? I didn’t want to put my hands on the crab-boy but he was trying to hurt me. 

“Stop it, kid. You are hurting me,” I said. 

Still, no caregiver in sight. Was this boy here on his own? What did he want from me? What would he do to someone smaller than him if he was willing to take on a full grown woman? 

Hello, was anyone going to help me with this wild child?

Little Legs and Baby Brother had seen enough, they stepped into action. 

Little Legs gave the kid a chest bump which sent the boy flying to the side, while Baby Brother wrapped himself around my legs as a buffer. When the boy came back, Little Legs was waiting. He gave his best dinosaur roar and held up his claw hands as a warning. This time, the boy left for good. 

The Brothers were victorious. 

I do not endorse any kind of fighting or physical interventions, we don’t spank or curse or even yell, for the most part. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of how they jumped to protect me with the leg wrap and dinosaur approach.

They are my sweeties, medical providers and heroes, and it’s all in a single day’s work for them.

Sun Puddles

Sunlight broke through the tall trees in warm yellow splashes on the shadowy path. Two blonde boys ran ahead of their dark mother, their feet pounded the ground with each step. They had yet to master the art of walking lightly.

Birds chirped at them, unseen from the bushes. Leaves rustled on the ground, disturbed by an invisible something slithering away from the stompers.

“Got another one,” Big Boy said.  

Little Boy followed behind his brother, carefully stepping in his same steps.  

They hopped from one spot of light to the next.

“We’re jumping on the sun puddles.”

Their mother shook her head and laughed, “Sun puddles?”

Another day and another discovery, she hoped there would be no end to the delight her children found in life. Yet, she knew it would happen as they came to understand their world better; she accepted that that was the natural order of things.

No parent wants their child to be a Lost Boy refusing or unable to grow up.   

Her hope was that as they grew into young men, they still saw the wonder in the world and every so often took the time to jump right in the middle of a big, splashy sun puddle.

Baby Chicks

While driving on a sunny morning, I looked off to the side of the road. A rusty pile of farm equipment and tall weeds nearly obscured the view of a lively chicken coop. Red and brown hens hopped around and pecked the dirt floor of their fenced-in enclosure.

“I spy chickens.” 

“Where?” two passengers asked in unison.

I was their tour guide on the road of life, pointing out things of interest and breaking the silence with my voice. 

“Over there, you missed them, too bad.”

Like any good tour guide, I teased my patrons. I knew there would be no tip offered at the conclusion of our ride, other than something about remembering to bring snacks at pick-up. Good snacks. Not the healthy kind. No carrots. 

Their tips felt more like directives but I was willing to take anything they were giving out. And the teasing felt warranted. 

“Can you still see them?” 

“See what?” 

The passengers had forgotten what we were looking at through the debris.

“Chickens,” I reminded them.

“Oh, chickens,” Little Legs said. 

“Chickens,” Baby Brother echoed. 

“Yes, chickens. Would you like to raise chickens? You would have to start eating more eggs to make it worthwhile.” 

“Eat baby chickens?” Little Legs asked. The pitch of his voice raised with his level of concern about the request. 

He caught me off guard. Of course, they are baby chickens (sort of) but I had stopped making the association of food from its source, of seeing food for something that one must grow and raise, harvest and kill. 

I was forced to recognize the realness of the chicken and its eggs and felt a fresh sense of compassion for our feathered friends. 

Will I still have a fried egg with my pancakes? Yes, but it will be with a greater appreciation for its gooey, golden goodness. 

And we will have more meat-free nights during the week. Beans are the magical fruit, after all.

No problems today.

The weeds are not a problem.

The whining that someone isn’t sharing with someone else is not a problem.

The itching on my arms from pulling the weeds, that are still not a problem, is not a problem.

I was channeling a spiritual guide/motivational speaker who said something like, “Stop bothering yourself with problems that aren’t problems.”

He explained that the things that we put energy into are only problems if we think they are problems.

One of the examples he gave was the rain.  I can notice it is raining, grab an umbrella and go about my day. Or I can say, “Oh no, it is raining. I hate rain.”  

See how much extra energy went into the second reaction? I decided the rain was a problem and then the rain became a problem instead of a necessary part of the water cycle.

I decided that morning I was going to ascend to a new level of awareness and not have any problems. Hakuna Matada, right?

My intention was set and things were going according to plan until I looked up from my growing pile of not-problems and suddenly saw some problems.

Hitting one’s little brother with a rake is a problem.

Throwing a shovel at one’s big brother is a problem.

Dealing with the hitter and the thrower without getting hurt is a problem.

I still have a lot of work to get to the point where I stop “bothering myself” but in the meantime, I can be present while noticing and disarming the problems.

The Dog

Coco ran away, again.

Of course, it was right before we were preparing to leave for a doctor’s appointment. We couldn’t be late, and we couldn’t leave with the dog’s whereabouts unknown. It was a true dilemma. (Dilemma: a situation in which a choice must be made between two alternatives, also a word that I can barely spell without spellchecker.)

“Let’s drive around and see if we can find her,” I said.

“Load up, boys. We have a naughty dog to find.”

I put on a calm front, like it was no big deal, while inside I felt my blood pressure start to go up as my window of tolerance began to close. Everything was not fine, and that dang dog was going to make us late.

We took a loop through the neighborhood with all the windows down, shouting, “Coco” on repeat.  

“We have to go, guys. We can drive by the house one more time and then we have to call it,” I said.

As we cruised past the house, lo and behold (a phrase meaning: look), Coco had reappeared on the porch, shiny and black with her pink tongue hanging out of her mouth, panting from her freedom run.

“She’s back, she’s back,” Little Legs said.

Baby Brother screamed, “Coco!”

“Well, there she is, I am so mad at that dog,” I thought out loud, feeling the irritation as a pressure in my chest.

“Why are you mad, Momma? She came back?”

She did come back, I nodded my head, took a deep breath and checked in with myself.

I wasn’t mad.

I was scared that she was going to get hurt by another dog or run over by a car and then would have to deal with the aftermath by taking her to the vet or explaining death to my boys. I was inconvenienced that she was missing, and I was frustrated by my own poor time management.

Using a minute of mindfulness helped me to breathe and make the headspace to see the truth of the situation.

It wasn’t the dog.  

It was never about the dog.