Friday, November 14, 2014

In Your Wildest Dreams

I woke up this morning exhausted. You know the feeling. You’re relieved to discover that you’re really in your bed, and all the drama surrounding you a moment ago is vaporizing. In my case, being on unemployment for several months (reality), I felt really good to be working (dream). I reported to the hospital floor, got report on my patients, and then made my way to the medication cart to begin getting their pills ready. And it went downhill from there. There were no medicine cups to put the pills in, only a few crumpled coffee-filter sort of paper things crammed in the corner of one of the drawers. It turned out that some of the pills were missing, and then some of my patients! I had really tried to get a head start to make sure everybody got good care, but instead, I found myself alone in a long, shiny-floored corridor with blue walls.

At that moment a dog snout shoved my arm. I opened my eyes. No corridor, no medication cart, just my warm dog who wanted to go outside (reality). And who maybe had sensed my frustration. Gratefully I hauled myself out of bed and let him out.

I shouldn’t complain, but why stop now? That dream wasn’t as bad as some of the others. I’m sure you’ve had those dreams where your foot doesn’t reach the brake pedal of your car and you can’t stop!

Or the running dream. A few nights ago I found myself on a medieval farm, like a TV movie. I decided to hide because I knew I’d stand out with my 21st century jeans and hair. I also realized that anybody I encountered was probably going to speak a different language, Middle English if I were lucky. There were some barns nearby, so I ran toward one of them. I could hear my sneakers plibbing loudly on the hard ground. I smelled the muskiness of cattle or horses. I kept running and running, then feeling the splintery wood along the outside of the barn before slipping inside to figure out my next move. The dog woke me up out of that dream, too.

What about basement and tunnel dreams? Have you ever had those? I don’t even want to talk about those.

But there’s another kind of dream, the floating kind. I’m usually in a room with other people, and we can all levitate ourselves to the ceiling. It’s always pretty easy, just a matter of concentrating and feeling the release as our bodies float up. Upon awakening one morning after a particularly realistic floating dream, I KNEW I could really do it. I’ve watched Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson enough to know about alternate universes. I KNEW it could be done if I could just find the spot in my brain to focus the energy. I’ve never told this to another living soul until now, but I tried to float: I went into the living room and stood there. And concentrated. I directed my mind’s eye inward and … I … concentrated …

Nothing happened.

I must have done something wrong because I KNEW I could rise up. It just didn’t happen, though, and I felt betrayed by the cosmos. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted. The businesses of the day crowded in, smothering the magical moment, but the secret belief remained that I could float up if I really tried.

That was a while ago. Since then I went on to attempt a few things that I’d wanted to do for years, remembering that saying about what we would do if we knew we could not fail. The first time I’d heard that, I was shocked to realize that I’d been living my life wordlessly expecting my projects to go limp. In the past several months, imagining the hands of the clock turning ominously faster, I began mustering the nerve to leap forward. And succeeding! I’m not failing! Good things are happening because I’m making them happen!

It’s very scary to take risks, even when they feel right. But you can expect your dreams to become real when you concentrate your energy on your goal and lunge for it.
Maybe I’ll see you on the ceiling!

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Even though she knew she was dying, my mother’s last year was one of her happiest. She lived in a small apartment on Downing Street with tall windows. She slept a lot that last year. Many times I came to visit and found her snoring peacefully across her bed in the living room, bathed in sunlight. One of the things that added significantly to her sense of security was the knowledge that the police and fire stations were just a few blocks away. Although she always phoned me for medical emergencies, I often redirected her to call the 911 guys because their response time was quicker than mine would have been. They were stronger than me, too. When she became so weak that she slid down onto the the floor, they treated her with respect when they helped her back up, often joking with her and flattering her as if she were their mother. When her oxygen condenser shut off late one night during a power outage, she called me in a wheezing panic, too frightened to remember how to hook up her portable oxygen tank. I called 911 for her, and within a very few minutes she was back to normal. More than once a police officer willingly went to do a safety check on her at my request when I was unable to drop by.

Although she had friends, caregivers, and family, there was no one on this earth who could have done for her what they did that last year of her life, and I will be grateful till the end of mine.

Unfortunately, budget cuts now threaten the ability of these members of public safety services to provide this kind of personalized attention. State funding reductions have left police officer and firefighter positions unfilled and equipment replacement delayed. Although a few years ago the city received a non-renewable SAFER grant – Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response – it is due to expire early next year, and Piqua will likely lose six of its firefighters. Statistics show that communities with a decrease in crew size experience an increase in loss of life and property. Few people are aware that Piqua has the highest rate of forcible rape in the nation for a city our size, according to City Manager Gary Huff, and ranks abnormally low in police staffing. Having more police officers patrolling the streets would mean higher visibility and greater availability to protect citizens against crime. Adequate staffing also improves a department’s ability to conduct timely investigations and lessens the demand for overtime. Strong police presence improves the local economy because people feel safer going out.

Tuesday is Election Day. Piqua citizens will have the opportunity to vote FOR the Police and Fire Public Safety Levy, improving emergency services to the community. The levy asks for a 0.25% increase: one fourth of one percent, equal to twenty-five cents out of every hundred dollars, to be collected only from citizens earning at least $30,000 annually; social security, pensions, military pay, and public assistance will remain unaffected. Voting for the Public Safety Levy means that for less than the cost of a Netflix or Hulu subscription, you can count on getting life-saving help when you really need it the most.

And make your mother happy, too.

To learn more, check out City Manager Gary Huff’s blog at