Cool Job Alert: what fun it’s been these past few days! The hospital’s all decked out for the holidays, with spiffy, shiny things all over the place.

Dirk Nowitzki, player extraordinaire for the Dallas Mavericks, spent yesterday with us. He didn’t say so, but I’m quite sure that shoving around Shaquille O’Neal and Lebron James is easier than navigating the hallways of Children’s Medical Center after cooped-up families caught a glimpse of him.

And it was kinda hard to hide him, although we tried our best… Dude is XXXX-Large. Seven feet tall! Wow. That’s just a smidge taller than me. Like, take me, then stand a 3-year-old on top of my head, and you’d be close.

The only things bigger than his body were his heart and his smile. He was really genuine, and had a great time visiting the kids. One little boy in the ICU pulled down his dinosaur-shaped oxygen mask and yelled out loud when Dirk walked into his room. Dirk just burst out laughing, too, and chatted with him for several minutes. I thought his mom was going to have a heart attack, too. (The boy’s, not Dirk’s. I don’t know what Dirk’s mom was up to yesterday.) For a bit, I was worried that the mom would keel over, and we’d only have tiny little defibrillator paddles that wouldn’t work on her. But she recovered nicely, and spent the next few minutes smiling and taking cell-phone pictures.

He also brought a bunch of really cool gifts for the kids, none of whom really want to be in the hospital at the holidays, when their friends are all out of school and playing Nintendo and eating Chex Mix and hunting for hidden presents. One of my favorite things about my job is that I get to see people who are especially successful — and healthy — give back to those less fortunate and less healthy. (Wanna see pix? http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=521885388#!/album.php?aid=246680&id=73102498136)

Speaking of basketball, saw on the news today that police squirted pepper spray on shoppers at a local mall who were lined up at midnight to get the new Air Jordan shoes. Well, they didn’t squirt them because they lined up — that would be crazy. They squirted them after they rushed the doors of the mall and broke the glass doors out. The crush trapped a child caught against the doors.

Now, I just have to wonder, can’t people find something better to do with their kids on Christmas Eve Eve than stand in the cold at a mall with a zillion other people, waiting for a new pair of basketball shoes to go on sale? Or anything else to go on sale, for that matter. Maybe if they were releasing a new cure for diabetes or something, but stuff? C’mon.

How about spending that time with Monopoly and drinking hot cocoa? “Despicable Me” and cookies? Reading a good book? Coloring? We really are stuff-driven.

I’m not being judgmental, because we fall into that mode, too. It’s hard not to. We have to seek out ways to remind ourselves what really matters. I was really touched recently by a story from a friend at work (hi, Jamie!), who told me about working at her church’s toy store for the first time this year. She explained how her heart broke as she watched a woman trying to decide between the coat her daughter needed and the Pillow Pet she wanted.

D and I try to reset our “me meters” throughout the year, not just at the holidays. But today we took an early-morning shift at a local agency where needy families could get some presents and food. The real gifts exchanged, though, were the ones the families gave us: a renewed sense of how lucky we are, a warmth that we might’ve made a tiny little difference, and a reminder not only of how large the difference is between the haves and the have-nots, but of the thinness of the line between them.

I hope every one of those families wakes up tomorrow and feels love, warmth and happiness wash over them.

I was also privileged yesterday to be part of a remarkable moment. Our youngest and smallest heart recipient is a sweetie named Keegan, who got his heart three years ago when he was just 7 days old and weighed only 5 pounds.) But for one baby to receive a heart, it means another family had to lose theirs.

Yesterday, Keegan’s family met, for the first time, the incredible parents who, wracked by grief during a time of unimaginable pain , were unselfish enough to offer up their son’s heart to another. The boys were born on the same day, so one family said goodbye to their beloved 7-day-old on the same day as the other received the ultimate gift of life.

I told our Children’s writer who was there (hi, Heather) not to spill my secret, that this hard-bitten, crusty old journalist was red-eyed, red-nosed and sniffly when these families met. And it wasn’t cold in the house, but for some reason, I had chills. She promised not to tell.

The love between these families who had never met left me deeply humbled.

WFAA’s Gary Reaves was there, too, and his story is scheduled to run at 10 p.m. tonight. Those of you in Dallas, I’m thinking you really don’t want to miss this one.

On a lighter note… We were at the groomer the other day, dropping off Chase. An older gentleman was in front of us, holding two tiny little yapper dogs. At least, I think they were dogs; they were bouncing around so much I couldn’t really tell. So when we entered with Chase and his two cousins, these little furballs went completely whack-job. (I don’t think it was much of a leap, though, to tell the truth.) They were barking and yipping and yapping and twisting into little pretzel shapes and bouncing off the walls, floor and the guy’s ankles.

So the guy picks them up, one in each arm, cradling them like little bouncy footballs. This merely served to incite them more, until the man and the little yapsters were just one big writhing ball of fur, bad toupee and arms/legs/paws. (Imagine the Tasmanian Devil cartoon.)

Then the guy’s cell phone rings. So I figure, guess he’ll miss that call. Bummer.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Boy, was I wrong!

The guy actually answers the phone. He can’t be heard over the dogs, though, so he has to yell. Now we have this crazy tornado of activity, plus ear-splitting, high-decibel yelling. My favorite was the part where he screamed, “No, not yet. I’m at Petco! PETCO! PETCOOO! I’M TAKING THE DOGS FOR A BATH. NO, I’M AT PETCO!!!!! WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

Like whoever was on the other end couldn’t figure that out? He was either at Petco, or had stepped into the middle of the prep room for the Westminster Dog Show.

So, just for those of you who don’t know me very well… If I’m at Petco, or anywhere else where my hands are full, you’re going to get my voice mail, so just be ready for it.

We left Chase there with what I thought were instructions to give him a bath, then comb him out and trim the hair on his stomach and legs. I thought I specifically said, three times, “Don’t trim the beautiful silky hair on his back, where it goes from black to gold. Just the bottom.”

However, when we went back to pick him up, I realized that I apparently had inadvertently left there with these instructions: “OK, give him a bath, then take some sharp clippers and shave down as close to his skin as you possibly can, all over. Be sure to cut off all of that beautiful silky hair on his back. Then get some duct tape and rip off all of the rest of the hair you can find, except for around his ears, so he’ll look really weird and freeze to death at the same time.”

Luckily for the groomer people, it was very close to Christmas, and I was afraid Santa was watching. I’ve already got a lot of “naughty” making up to do, so I didn’t go all smackdown on them.

Man, he looks pretty odd. I mean, he IS odd, but now he looks that way, too. Poor little dude. I’m afraid even his new girlfriend (hi, Peggy!) won’t love him anymore. But I do. And there does seem to be a little less hair in the house…

Well, I’ve got to bolt. Thanks for listening, as always. Merry Christmas to those to celebrate it, happy holidays to those who celebrate other days, and happy winter solstice to those who celebrate the natural world. Love to all.

About wordsmith1313

Now: Somewhat retired, although I don't do it very well. Formerly senior director of Communications and Marketing for the Dallas Zoo. Journalist. EMT. Writer. Breast cancer survivor. I love to travel, and will always return from a trip with a new friend or two. Those fortuitous meetings bring velvet to the rough edges of life.
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1 Response to Holidaze

  1. Sharon says:

    Thanks to you, Laurie – ending my 2010 laughing (as usual) at your wonderful blog! Were your ears burning today? Lunch with sweet Jessica and even sweeter Reed today (along with a really long table of your News/PA buddies and Susie) – all in agreement that we miss you terribly AND you’re one of the best writers out there! Happy 2011!

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