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fran's journal

united flight attendant saved my life

This banyan tree at Wailuku River State Park is easily 500 years old, maybe much more. That one tree has formed a grove - all attached, all one tree, but when I threw up my hands in sheer glory, I was standing in a clearing between the root-joined trees that was a hundred or so feet in diameter. It was the holiest ground I've ever stood on. I'm glad I connected with that energy on that particular day.

A few hours later, I was on an airplane headed to Houston. I couldn't sleep well throughout that night flight, and about two hours outside of Houston I began to be very uncomfortable. When the flight attendants came around with morning juices, I told one of them that I was having trouble breathing. He brought me a tank of oxygen. With the mask on my face, I began to feel much better.

Another attendant came by and asked if I'd like to be checked by paramedics when we landed. "No, I'm breathing just fine now." You see, I knew a paramedic visit would mean nobody else could get off the plane until the "problem" had been handled. I didn't want anyone to miss a flight because of me - and I had only an hour layover before my flight home.

She came back a few minutes later. "The pilot says we'll be arriving 15 minutes early. Are you sure you don't want to see a paramedic?"

"No, really." I took two deep breaths. "I'm doing okay now." 

A few minutes later she was back. "May I take your pulse?" I lifted my arm. Within seconds she had both her hands on mine. "If you've had trouble on this big plane," she said, "you won't enjoy the next flight. It's on what we in the industry call a Barbie Doll plane – it's real skinny and bounces all over the place." Before I could object (again), she said, "Honey, I'd feel a whole lot better if you let me call the paramedics. Would you do it just for me? Please?"

So I said yes.

Turns out my pulse was bouncing between 174 and 90, back up to 128, 70, 163, 35. And the EKG looked like an earthquake had hit. 

That flight attendant had figured out exactly how to get me to do what she felt was necessary. She saved my life. I don't know her name, but she was on United Flight 252 Honolulu to Houston on January 26/27 (overnight). If you know any of the crew on that flight, please pass the word on. Better yet, please share this post with anyone you know – the word is bound to get to her eventually.

I have to go take a nap now. I'll be back sometime to tell you the rest of the story.

sunday, february 1, 2015


loving - brrr -

what is


Years ago, when I was a junior at Trinity College in Vermont, I took a drama class. The professor, Hugh Cronister, told us on the very first day that the big old drafty gym where this particular class met tended to be hotter than you-know-where on warm days and colder than Dante’s version of the same place during the winter.

"I don’t want to hear a single complaint from anyone in this class," he said. "There is nothing I can do about it and nothing you can do about it, so we will simply go about our business ignoring the sweat or the goose bumps. Got it?"

We all nodded, but just to prove he really meant it, he continued, "If I hear a single complaint from you, you will lose one point for that day."

The next time we met, the gym was sweltering. Class started, and one student grumped about the temp. Sure to his word, Cronister walked over to his notebook, looked at the student, and made a mark in the book.

Nobody, to the best of my recall, ever complained about the gym environment again throughout that semester. At least, not within hearing range of Hugh Cronister.

Now, here we are in the middle of a Georgia cold spell that I might have laughed about when I lived in Vermont. "You call 15 degrees cold? Ha!"

Well, yes, I do call 15 degrees cold, particularly since the houses here in the south are built to withstand the heat, but not anything close to frigid.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

A lot of things.

  1. When it’s cold, a deadline is still a deadline. Put on another layer and slip on your wrist warmers so your hands don’t freeze to the keyboard. Then, write.

  2. There’s nothing, short of a complete home remodel, that will prevent the drafts. I’ve already caulked and done every DIY thing I could think of. So, move the laptop to a different table in a different corner. Then, write.

  3. Nobody’s going to give me a demerit if I wait a little later to start my writing on a cold morning, but those characters of mine clamor around in my head, and if I don’t get what they’re saying written down, I’m liable to forget it. That may not be a demerit, but it feels like one. So, write.

This all sort of reminds me of Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is. As I understand it, she moved to the windiest town in some state out west. She spent ten years complaining about the wind (like she was going to stop it????) before she woke up, decided to love whatever she couldn’t change, and came up with four questions that could change anyone’s life.

So, I’ve decided that Georgia isn’t Antarctica, and "cold" is a relative term; that I can change the way I react to the cold, and my writing will progress (or not) depending on those reactions; and that I know, deep inside me, how losing myself in my writing generates an inner fire.

Now, who cares if it’s cold? 

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