I survived Small Animal Medicine. My sanity, on the other hand …

My first small animal medicine rotation is almost done. Currently, I’m seated at the large oval table in the conference room that has become my own personal batcave for the past 13 days. Gathered around me are small groups discussing the relative possibility of lily toxicity in the cat in ER and the differentials for cluster seizures in a two-year-old dog. Both conversations would be thoroughly valuable information for me, but two straight weeks of eleven hour days with my mind constantly revving like the engine of a sports car with an overcompensating middle aged man behind the wheel have left me utterly spent. The fount of knowledge is still flowing, but my brain bucket is full. So instead, I sit here, waiting for my patient’s owner to arrive and take him home. Sitting and waiting feels good for a change. Grades haven’t been finalized yet, so I should at least present the illusion of being productive. Perhaps if I school my face into a studious and suitably serious expression (as is appropriate when reading scientific literature or writing out problem lists for patients and doing Important Things), perhaps no one will notice I’m actually composing flippant haikus (I may not be able to do simple math at this stage of mental exhaustion, but I can still count to five and seven) instead of the latest study on the effect of radioactive iodine therapy on glomerular filtration rate.

 

The theme of SAM A:
Lymphoma does what it wants,
Killing three-year-olds
 
“Who wants the old Lab?”
“Oh, I’ll take it!” cries Megan.
She loves the sad ones.
 
Sleep deprivation
I’m sorry, what did you say?
Cannot brain today
 
Cancer everywhere
Medicine, oncology
Same thing at this rate
 
I miss Candy Crush
And free time and sanity
Is this block done yet?
 
Cyto rounds, a bore
Want to sleep in this dark room
Motion sickness, barf
 
Nope nopity nope
No brain power left to think
Just call it a day
 
Food Fridays are great
Getting fatter by the bite
Exercise? No thanks
 
Is there life outside
This Soviet submarine?
Hah, not anymore
 
Laundry and dishes
Are those still even a thing?
No chores done on SAM
 
Diarrhea flows
Maybe it is IBD
Oh wait, it’s cancer

My rather ridiculous, yet entirely valid, excuse for being late

I straightened my aching back after heaving another shovelful of snow over my shoulder. My eyes met Sport’s, who kept watch at the top of the flight of steps, regal save for the dusting of powder on his nose. I’d like to think that, should I slip on the inch of ice coating the steep, uneven stone stairs, he would run to the neighbors’ and sound the alarm (“What’s that, boy? Timmy fell down the well?” Ruff! Ruff! “No, Megan’s unconscious and bleeding profusely at the bottom of the stairs!”). Previous experience shows that to be a delusion; the last time I had an icy mishap and ended up flat on my back, he stood over my face and drooled, wondering why we had stopped and when we were going to continue our walk.

I glanced at my watch. 7:30 am – still enough time to change my cold, wet socks and get to class. A sudden woof! disrupted the early morning hush. Woof! There it was again, deep and emphatic and … mischievous, even. I turned to see Sport, my 11-year old, arthritic, crotchety, sullen Sport, play bowing and leaping into the deep snow, joyously inviting me to follow suit. My laughter joined his exuberant barking as I chased him through the yard, ruffled his fur, and playfully pushed him away when I caught him. He zoomed (well, zoom is a relative term for a man of his age and distinction) back and forth on the narrow cleared path, bowing and barking and jumping at me like a puppy.

“I have to leave! You’re going to make me late,” I managed between giggles as he nibbled the edge of my jacket (the ultimate sign of excitement for him). To which he replied, “Woof!” and launched into a snow bank with reckless abandon.

I considered whether to fetch my errant canine and corral him into the house so I could leave for school or to throw responsibility to the biting winter wind and romp in the snow with my best friend; the debate was short-lived. Should I be late to class? No, but would I regret it? Next year, next month, even tomorrow, would I regret not having savored this moment, this rare spark of youthful exuberance and joy? Most certainly.  I may have paid a small fortune for the information in class, but I can’t put a price on that perfect, if ever so brief, moment of uninhibited joy we shared that morning as we laughed, barked, chased, and embraced in the pristine white drifts of snow.

White was the Color of my True Love’s Hair

Lounging in the grass, errant twigs poking into my back through the blanket I had laid out, I gazed into the tangle of branches overhead. Spotty sunlight filtered through the leaves, peppering the ground with bright freckles. Plump purple berries dislodged by the breeze littered the grass, awaiting hungry critters to carry off their seeds and sow new life in distant corners of the neighborhood. Sport stood out stark white and regal against the green and brown. He quickly cast off this dignified aura by unceremoniously flopping and rolling about, grinding himself jubilantly into the fruit-covered earth, wriggling on his old, arthritic back like a dog of many fewer years. His sudden playful display brought a smile as I drank in the spectacle, lovingly storing it away for future enjoyment in less happy times when he would no longer be at my side. He righted himself, shaking off the leaves lodged in the voluminous fur of his hindquarters, and I choked on my amused laughter. Purple. My dog was purple. I gaped at the sight, his coat that moments ago gleamed pristine as fresh snow, now stained with a vibrant amethyst hue. My eyes narrowed into slits as I glared at my Crayola canine, who clearly knew just what he had done, his eyes displaying his smug satisfaction at having undone all the labors of yesterday’s bath.

A Girl and her Dogs

After nine months of forcibly implanting so much knowledge into my brain that my body began to physically reject additional information, I returned home to New Hampshire to recuperate. Thinking I could not possibly have any more to learn within the scope of the earthly sphere, a metaphorical “no vacancy” sign was stamped on my forehead.

Back home, the shelties swarmed around me like a pack of hungry wolves cornering a baby moose (thankfully, they wanted cuddles rather than blood. On second thought, I’m not so sure about Toby; he’s a devious little scoundrel). Lounging on the sofa, attempting to relax, my efforts proved futile. Instead of escaping the constant squawking of lecturers bombarding my ears, I simply traded those droning voices for the ceaseless din of five barking dogs. However, I stopped trying to tune them out (unlike during class time) because I realized they had far more important things to teach me than the serum biochemical pattern of a diabetic cat or how to pass a crop tube in a chicken. To pay homage to a poster hanging in middle school classrooms around the country, everything I need to know I learned from my dogs.

From Jason: Out of brains, brawn, and beauty, two out of three isn’t all that bad.

Jason

From Tuukka: Whenever anyone says, “What’s one more?”, the answer is this: one more is fifteen solid minutes of wailing and gnashing of puppy teeth interspersed with plaintive barking and whining, magically appearing puddles with tiny wet paw prints leading away from them, late nights and early mornings spent on potty watch in the yard wearing your pajamas, arbitrating disputes between baby and big brothers and sisters, spending more money puppy-proofing your house than you spent building it, and countless scars on your toes from surprisingly powerful jaws armed with needle-sharp weapons. One more is also giggling at puppy antics, rubbing a warm, pink belly, having a warm neck from a little body perched across your shoulders, swelling with pride as a naive little baby learns to sit, and cradling a fuzzy little sleeping creature so freakin’ adorable you could just vomit rainbows.

Image

From Toby: Nice guys finish last because little guys bowl them over and steal their dried chicken feet (or, you know,money or whatever it is humans are after these days).

Toby

 

From Kaleigh: From puppyhood until I left home, we had a rocky relationship. I would say love-hate, but without the love. I came back two years later and reluctantly admitted that I kind of sort of maybe just a little liked her. Sometimes, you just need to give a girl time to grow up a little to really appreciate her (or tolerate her, as it may be).

966492_10151480866848791_1959234661_o

 

From Hannah: To pursue my dream of becoming a vet, I had to leave my baby girl and return to a dog no longer my own. I died a little inside when she refused to go on a walk with me, looking longingly back at my mom standing in the driveway, obviously wishing it was her on the other end of the leash instead of me. You can’t have it all, but sometimes the sacrifice is worth it. It hurts to have lost her, but I wouldn’t trade my career or education for anything.

Hannah

And, most importantly, from Sport: Disregarding creaky joints and aching bones, he recklessly raced around the backyard, bounding back and forth and barking for the sheer joy of it. Even if your outside belies your old age, you can still be young at heart.

Sport

A Chip on my Shoulder and a Bun in the Oven

My dear friends and family (and others for whom I hold slightly less affection), I regret to tell you that Reality and I are experiencing some relationship problems and are no longer on speaking terms. He threatened to leave me after finding evidence that I had been flirting with Insanity. I promised him it was over, but, one night after dinner, he accused me of continuing the affair. As he stormed out, he shouted, “If you honestly thought pickle juice would be a good marinade for fish, you have already effectively divorced Reality!”

Several weeks later, I was, at the risk of being indelicate, several weeks late. But who was the father? With no way of knowing, I decided to cover all the bases and name the child after both candidates. What title can one give to an entity that is either a painful reminder of what was once a beautiful relationship with Reality, now irreparably broken, or the life-altering result of a wild and passionate entanglement with Insanity? There is only one thing that embodies both those sentiments. In the midst of all this sadness, in several months I will have the joy of introducing the world to my child, little baby Vet School.

P.S. Gifts may be sent to my address in Saint Paul.

The Best-laid Plans

            “But why is it green?” is never a phrase you expect to blurt out upon peeking in the oven to check on the progress of your flatbread (a flatbread which, incidentally, did not contain any ingredients of the particularly alarming emerald shade of the finished product).

            My experimental baked goods may not turn out as planned, but at least my life has. It would be hard for it not to, seeing as I only had one plan: veterinary medicine (well, two if you count eloping with Kiefer Sutherland and starting a Sheltie farm in Scotland). Be it a defense mechanism against potential disappointment or just single-mindedness, I never make plans for the future. What if I set goals and have aspirations beyond my career? Tonight showed me what awaits the best-laid plans: catastrophic failure of a completely unanticipated and inexplicable nature.

            Had I planned on having being in love, God forbid even married, by the age of twenty-five, imagine my would-have-been dismay that, at twenty-three, I have yet to be in a single romantic relationship (and no, those two dates sophomore year of high school don’t count, nor does my passionate love affair with the two kilogram bag of French cocoa powder recently purchased on Amazon). Or if I had foreseen owning my own place? How disappointed I would be to find myself still paying far too much rent and not at liberty to adorn the front lawn with plaster squirrels and gnomes!

            Besides the all-consuming goal of getting into, and now surviving, vet school, I have not set a single goal in recent memory. Maybe I’m just so focused on my vocation that I lost sight of everything else. Perhaps I don’t want to put forth the effort to strive for new, exciting, challenging, and frightening things. It could be I just don’t want to have a dream to compare to reality when all is said and done. Had I expected a crisp, nicely browned flatbread for dinner tonight, how much more dismayed would I have been at the sight of the gummy, green, scrambled-egg like sheet that emerged from the oven? Is it better to have no expectations and no results that come up short (no risk, no letdown, but also no reward) or to dream big, try hard, and risk ending up with a disappointing reality? Of course, you could succeed … but that’s about as likely as a spontaneously green loaf of bread.

 

Update: Rummaging in the kitchen for a glass of water before bed, my eyes alit on the leftovers (aftermath?) of tonight’s ill-fated dinner. Teal. It is now electric teal. Dear God, what have I brought into this world?

Fifty Shades of Beige

            Despite the fascinating nature of my life as detailed in this chronicle (the italics denote sarcasm, by the way), it may be surprising to you to learn that my life is, in fact, replete with thoroughly boring and uneventful happenings (at least to me. I have been informed that vet students have different standards for “usual” though). Years from now, all this will be published as my autobiography: Fifty Shades of Beige (alternatively, A Series of Unremarkable Events). In an effort to inject some drama, I present to you the following vignette, a snippet of my life in the style of a short horror film.

 

            “Could you grab a laundry basket from my room?” my mother asks from the living room.

            “Go up there … alone?”

            With trepidation, I climb the stairs, startling as the seventh one creaks under my foot. My hand hesitates above the doorknob to the bedroom. There’s nothing in there, of course. Right? As I reach for the knob, the door drifts open of its own accord with a drawn out squeak. Drafty windows, I guess. Padding into the room, I survey the surroundings in search of the requested basket. Despite the neat piles of miscellanea piled in corners, the room has an empty feel to it, an almost palpable hush hanging in the air. With a wary glance over my shoulder, I grab the first basket I see and start to hurry out of the eerie room, when suddenly my eyes alight on a particular object on the nightstand. Morbid curiosity piqued, I reach out to examine it. As I recognize the mystery object as a book, I withdraw my hand as if burned.

            “No …” The hoarse whisper grows into a shout. “No!”

            Raking my eyes with my fingernails, I flee from the scene, horrified. That night I rocked myself to sleep, trying to forget what I had seen: proof that my mother (my mother) is reading Fifty Shades of Gray.

            Days later and miles away at my grandmother’s house, I feel a premonitory tingle as the hair on the back of my neck stands at attention. The evil presence from the house has followed me! Whipping my head side to side, I see nothing. No spooks or ghosts lurking in corners. Wait, someone is coming! Two sets of footsteps approach, and my stomach knots in fear. My mother and grandmother step into the light of the kitchen, and I let out a relieved sigh. Until …

            “I just finished the second one, now I need to get the third,” my mother says, no doubt referencing the aforementioned evil tome. Only one thing could possibly be more horrifying than such a thing in my mother’s possession.

            My grandmother replies, “I have that one on the shelf over there.”

            “Oh God, why?!” I cry as I fall to my knees, eyes cast upward and arms outstretched to the heavens. “Whyyyyyyy?” Gray may have fifty shades, but my horror at the thought of that book (I use that term loosely, as I consider it the literary equivalent of a stillborn mongoose with a particularly gruesome birth defect) in the hands of my sweet, lovely grandmother has a million hues.

Cough Syrup

Meticulously putting the final touches on the one hundredth bubble of the one millionth scantron sheet of the semester, I carefully planned my obligatory “end of semester, woo we made it!” facebook status update. A perfect snippet of a song began to ring in my ears: “one more spoon of cough syrup down.” The verse echoed in my head, now empty after having dumped all previous contents out and classifying them as A, B, C, or D. Such is the dual nature of vet school: one invests countless hours learning detailed, complex information (some of which may actually have relevance to the world outside our cave of a lecture hall), appreciating the scope and implications of this new knowledge, anticipating how it will serve a purpose in practice, and then, finally, all those intricate details and rich concepts are chucked into a trash compacter, compressed into a tiny cube, and unceremoniously tossed out like refuse, leaving only the residue of a number 2 pencil in one hundred circular bubbles (which, I note onerously, are normally oblong. Every ten exams or so, they switch to round ones just to irritate me and disrupt my focus).

After putting to paper, “That got me thinking about the dual nature of vet school,” I promptly rethought my life choices. No, not veterinary medicine! Publishing that sentence! I realized that my narrative voice had unwittingly morphed into Carrie Bradshaw and that this was rapidly devolving into the graduate school version of Sex and the City (though the vet school version is closer to “Only One Sex in this City, and it’s Female”). In fact, that embarrassingly trite, voiceover-style transition is the only life choice that does not hold up upon examination. For most of the semester, the better part of our class has been mired in a cloud of “only x number of lectures/exams/semesters until the end of today/this semester/vet school.” I wholeheartedly participated in this, which is why another chunk of my training biting the dust as I dropped my exam sheet onto the pile at the front of the room (looking back only to shoot the professor a dirty look for being cruel enough to think that my brain could differentiate ascaris and toxascaris by the final day of the year) prompted the sentiment of “one more spoon of cough syrup down.” Because vet school is like pulling teeth (which, incidentally, is actually about as much fun to do as to have done), a total chore, a necessary hurdle between you and your “real” life as a veterinarian. Right? Then, for the first time in too long, I stopped and thought. Why didn’t I feel relief? Why weren’t my shoulders lighter after having some of the load taken off? Why had my enthusiasm for my perfectly apt facebook status suddenly waned?

My mouth must have hung open as the cogs turned and the gears gradually clicked into place. My palm met my forehead with a comical slap. What an idiot I’ve been! An ungrateful, whining, unappreciative dipshit. Two years ago, what would I have given to be standing right there, in the atrium of the College of Veterinary Medicine, having just completed the first half of my second year? Anything. And now? Now I can hardly be bothered to go to lecture, can’t get through a full day without some complaint (or two or three … or seventeen). Why didn’t I just stop, reflect, and remember: I love this. I love everything about this – the learning, the challenge, the camaraderie, the stress, the boredom, the clay sculptures of strangulating pedunculated lipomas and necrotic intestines! Risking another horribly trite sentence, I could not see the forest for the trees. So enmeshed in the drudgery of the everyday routine and caught up in the surrounding current of negativity, I forgot that this was not a trial, but an incredible privilege. So there you have it, the dual nature of veterinary school. From the inside, at least after three semesters, you want out, frantically clawing at the almost tangible prison bars of the lecture hall like a pissed off cat at the door of a carrier. From the outside, when you stop long enough to step away from your pig-headed self, you can remember why you wanted in in the first place, into this grand adventure, singular opportunity, and particular honor, one marked not by trophies or medals, but by cat scratches, vomit stains, dog hair, and hundreds of tiny, penciled-in circles.

So, one more spoon of cough syrup down? Not unless it’s Nyquil, in which case, that sounds about right for vet school: it may knock you flat on your ass, but at least you’ll be happy as you hit the ground.

In which an old acquaintence comes to call

After spending the afternoon rearranging my nine loaves of bread in the freezer to make room for the new ones I planned on acquiring on tomorrow’s grocery outing, I felt an unfamiliar urge to be productive. Two hours after sitting down to study intensely for the remainder of Friday night (and about twenty minutes into actually studying, damn you reddit!), I wandered onto Facebook and saw a post from my dad. Left to his own devices for the entire weekend, his primitive hunter-gatherer instincts kicked into overdrive, which led him to the hunting grounds of the local bakery. His prey stood no chance – cheddar jalapeno bread, Thanksgiving stuffing bread, classic honey whole wheat loaf (for health’s sake, of course), double fist-sized pumpkin chocolate chip muffin, and cranberry white chocolate chip square (which, by the size, would more appropriately be described as a small storage box filled with sugar and flour). Alert the CDC about this breaking epidemiological discovery – bread addiction is apparently genetic. Thousands are at risk for carbohydrate overindulgence and sandwich toxicity!

As I smiled and laughed, my giggles caught in my throat. Ah, the homesickness has arrived, perfectly in concert with the end of daylight savings time and the onset of another long, dark winter far from family. Another unfortunate aspect of my inheritance less enjoyable than a bread fixation – anxiety, depression, self-loathing – has crept up on my these past few weeks. As the sun sets earlier and earlier, my state of mind sinks alongside it.

Owing to a diet with more leafy greens than the Jolly Green Giant’s underwear drawer and fruitier than a Broadway leading man (not that there’s anything wrong with that …), I have hardly been sick a day in the past several years. In the past month, I’ve been plagued by nausea, headaches, and various unspecific little miseries. Frustrated and befuddled, I eventually arrived at the conclusion that I had contracted lepto from the mice infesting my kitchen cupboards. Liver and kidney failure were sure to follow, but at least that would excuse me from taking the neuropathology exam. Sitting in class one day, I took stock of the state of my body: shoulders tensed, stomach in knots, and mind in turmoil over … over what, I asked myself?

Nothing. My head was spinning and my brain was wrung out because of absolutely nothing. I was anxious for no reason at all.

Anxious.

Shit.

At that moment, it was clear that lepto was not to blame for my malaise, but it would have been preferable to this particular culprit. Anxiety, my old nemesis. After years of battling panic attacks, vague yet terribly uncomfortable uneasiness at almost every moment of the day, and various and prolonged gastrointestinal illnesses (all psychogenic, of course), I thought I had recovered and learned to cope. After spending high school on medication and in therapy, I finally found relief during college. Or so I thought. In hindsight, the anxiety never left; it disguised itself as a nasty little eating disorder that persisted at some level for, well, come to think of it, until a few months ago. Since I had evicted my anxiety from its new home, it decided to pop up in its old stomping grounds – dizziness, nausea, tenseness, racing thoughts, agitation.

So now it’s clear – if this pattern holds, I will never be free. Once I conquer one manifestation of my anxiety, it will occupy another niche, take another form, one that I don’t even recognize as my old foe. It will forever evade my efforts to banish it from my life.

However, there is always hope, because knowledge is power. I know my enemy better now, and I know where it hides in the corners of my mind. Knowing what’s behind my mysterious symptoms makes them a little more bearable, less worrying (although those damn  mice probably gave me something or other). If I know who I’m fighting, I have faith I can win.

Days ago, I got up, completed my morning routine, ate breakfast, and even suited up to take the dog for a walk. When it came time to leave the house and go to class, all I had to do was put on real pants (as opposed to my designated dog walking pants. The biggest chore of my day is imprisoning my legs in any fabric other than flannel or fleece). And I didn’t. I just … couldn’t. My bag was packed, my keys were waiting by the door, I was ready to leave. But I couldn’t. For no reason whatsoever, I was paralyzed, had run smack into an invisible brick wall of I can’t (or maybe just I won’t). I didn’t necessarily want to stay home or do anything else; my willpower, my motivation, my everything had suddenly and inexplicably been sucked from my body as if into a black hole of apathy. I knew that I would regret skipping class, that I would be plagued with anxiety over what I missed and self-loathing that I was so lazy and weak-willed that I couldn’t even put on a damn pair of pants and walk out the door. But I still chose not to. And I hated myself for it, tore myself to shreds all day. Why hadn’t I just gone to school? It was a half mile walk that would have saved me a full day of self loathing, worry, and regret.

There was no reason. That’s the point, the point of anxiety. Its greatest weapon is nothing at all.

With only two hours of classes today, I was sorely tempted to repeat my mistake. Only now I know who I’m up against, what it’s fighting with, and how to beat it. How does one conquer nothing? With something, of course. Anything. Anything at all. When that familiar mental paralysis hit, I wanted to succumb to it, but I told myself: just move, do something, anything, no matter how small. So I put on a pair of jeans. It was the hardest thing I did today, but as soon as the denim took the place of flannel, I felt empowered, unencumbered, liberated (odd, seeing as the rare occasions when I put on real clothes instead of pajamas usually have the opposite effect). It was a small victory, but served as proof of concept: I can win. If I keep moving, keep doing, and learn from my past stumbles, I can heal.
There may not be hope for a full recovery, but the prognosis seems less dim after pouring our my heart and mind to my family and to you readers. Oh, and after buying two new loaves of half priced bread this morning. What can I say? Like father, like daughter.

Walk Wok

The Universe is once again messing with me, but this time I think she’s apologizing for years of mischief with serendipitous series of events. At the gym for the first time in months and deliriously excited to awaken my muscles from their mid-semester slumber (although my sitting muscles have become quite conditioned), I began to pedal on my favorite elliptical machine, the one located in front of a sunny window that overlooks a picturesque meadow outside. Perfection. I switched on my ipod, anticipating gorgeous, rich sound to emit from my new headphones (so what if I can’t afford to eat for a week, I can hear God through those things!). Nothing. After a brief moment of confusion and denial, my brain eventually rumbled to the conclusion that the battery was dead. The prospect of a silent workout made me want to drop to my knees, look up to the heavens, and let out a guttural scream. This can’t be happening! My much-anticipated, perfect workout spoiled by a dead battery!

It was at this moment that the Universe decided to intervene. A sudden sound to my right caught my attention (and activated the reflex to turn my head via the caudal colliculus – just in case Mom is reading and wants to make sure I’m getting my money’s worth in tuition). It was a lunchtime zumba class. A slow smile crept across my face. No silent workout, then. Oh, Universe, you sneaky girl!

How often do we curse unfortunate events, whether as insignificant as an unreliable ipod or as devastating as loss of a job, without knowing how it changed our lives down the line? Had I attempted to listen to my own music, I would have been rather annoyed as the zumba music (“Too loud!” cried the little old man on the stationary bike) drowned it out. What a fortunate misfortune!

Running late enough not to be able to go on a full walk with Sport before submitting myself to nine hours of confinement in a windowless cell (aka vet school), but not so late as to justify not walking him at all (and subjecting myself to that face. I’d rather introduce my elbow to the corner of a table before I had to deal with the guilt of saying no to that face), I decided to take a different, shorter route. This deviation in our routine perturbed me to no end, and confused my poor, habituated dog; our morning walk takes the route along the park, past the house that sells flowers, up the deceptively steep hill, and down Squirrel Lane (as I’ve dubbed the delightfully rodent-infested block). In the evening, we go up the long, slow hill, across the magical crosswalk (clearly something out of Harry Potter, as it seems to be invisible to anyone behind the wheel of a motor vehicle), and down the street with a disproportionate number of tomato gardens. This is just how it goes. Every day. No exceptions.

Except this morning. I felt hassled as I took a new turn past the park. I felt a tug on the leash as Sport turned the usual way and gave me a quizzical look. His eyes lit up as he realized that we were going somewhere NEW! New smells! New leaves! New places to pee! I grinned as he trotted merrily beside me, purposely eschewing the sidewalk just so we could tromp through the ankle-deep piles of leaves that mirrored the glowing reds and yellows of the sunrise we were now facing. I no longer cared about disrupting my ingrained routine, being late for 8 am epidemiology, or even – hey, is that a box of free stuff on the sidewalk? My inner cheapskate snapped to attention (just as “new” makes Sport’s eyes light up, “free” does the same for mine) as I made a beeline for the pile of miscellanea. I surveyed the treasures: a suitcase with a note indicating a broken zipper, a Trader Joe’s shopping bag filled to the brim with knock-off Tupperware, and (be still my stingy heart) a wok! Oh, Universe, how did you know? It’s just what I wanted! Caring even less about the quizzical stares from passersby than my abysmal performance on last week’s repro exam (appropriate that it was that subject, because I got screwed), I strutted through the neighborhood with a leash in one hand and my large, cast-iron prize clutched proudly in the other. I think even Sport may have been judging me just a bit at that point.

So, today’s lesson is that life’s little disturbances and disappointments can turn into something beautiful:  a walk by the light of sunrise down an unexpectedly beautiful tree-lined street luminous with fall grandeur, a memory to cherish of an old dog with a young heart stomping through leaves with eyes aglow and mouth joyfully agape, or the most precious gift of all: free cookware.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.