Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Notre Dame Cathedral

Dear Landlady,
Sorry for the delay in writing but Paris is just too much fun!  This week we spent a good bit of our time touring the Notre Dame Cathedral, which, as you probably know, is one of the best known cathedrals in all the world. Such architecture! So different from that feeding trough that we found the Christ child in oh so many years ago...

And we had the good fortune to meet some fellow astronomers.  So colorful.  They hail from Mumbai where they dwell within a Zoroastrian community.  Turns out there was some confusion when they were purchasing their tickets online to return home from their tour of Rome.  Somehow they wrote 'Paris' instead of 'Parsi.'  They thought the question had to do with their religious identity, not their flight destination.  Can you imagine?  So a simple spelling error compounded by a misunderstanding caused quite the mix up.  As you know, wars have been started over less!  But the Parsis have been delightful companions for us.

Of course there was an awkward moment when #3 blurted out that he didn't quite understand how they could possibly have been able to type, never mind purchase tickets online since it's quite obvious to everyone present that their arms are only painted on.  Oh my, dear landlady, there was such a cumbersome silence at that point, but the Zoroastrians were kind enough to eventually find the humor in the situation. I'm going to have a word with #3 when we get back to the hotel. 
Will write more tomorrow.  We're off to see the famous Notre Dame bells.  I hope the vibration does not knock us off of our nonexistent feet. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Are we there yet?

Dearest Landlady,
Just a quick update on our trip so far.  We were quite excited (and a wee bit anxious) while waiting to board our plane to New York.  It's been several years since our trip to Ireland and we truly hoped we would be allowed to sit together.   Here we are waiting patiently while watching our plane being prepared for take off.

Once on board we were delighted to meet up with our old friend Santa Claus. It seems he has "gone commercial" as he is now hawking carbonated beverages.  But it was delightful to spend some time with him again.  Such a happy fellow!

So here we are in New York.  Your friends Karen and Elizabeth (who have now become our dear friends) gave us a delightful ride on our luggage.  What a hoot!  But I guess you would have had to be here to realize just how hilarious this was.  Speaking of which, we miss you....

Well, after boarding yet another flight we finally made it to "Gay Paree" as they used to say in the late 1800's!  That's how long it's been since, while en route to the Holy Land one December, we made a bit of a detour.  Those were happy times!  But we digress....It's a joy to touch down on Parisian soil at last.  Here we are checking out all the brochures.  So much to see! So little time!

Here we are arriving in our room.  What a lovely view!
But after such a long journey we were experiencing some significant jet lag. The only place we wanted to see at this point was our bed, with the mint on the pillow (which we shared.)  Tomorrow the adventure begins!  Good night dear Landlady. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bon Voyage

When I arrived home tonight I saw that the wise men had been quite busy.  Bags were packed and by the door. They were so intent on peering at this map that they didn't even notice my entrance.
Me: Excuse me....What are you doing?
Wiseman #2:  Oh hello, dear landlady.  We are planning out our itinerary for our arrival in Paris.
Me:  Really?  You are going to Paris?  When?
Wiseman #3:  We leave tonight.
Me:  What?  Let me see the invitation.
Wiseman #1:  Well, that would be difficult as we told a wee lie to your dog Lucy. 
Wiseman #3:  Yes, we apologize, but we could not wait for you to return so we told her there was a treat inside of the envelope for her.  And knowing the high level of gullibility that your dog possesses, she jumped up onto our bed and ripped it open.  Fortunately we were able to read the invitation before Lucy devoured it along with the envelope.  You really should do something about that dog's lack of manners!
Me:  Well, you set her up.  Anyway, do I need to take you to the airport?
Wiseman #2:  That won't be necessary as a limo is being sent for us.
Me:  What?  This is all too much to take in.  And you all seem remarkably calm.
Wiseman #3:  You forget, dear landlady, that we are seasoned travelers who have followed stars to a manger in a field outside an obscure village.  Travel is in our blood.
Me:  Then why are you studying that map so intently?  Can't you just follow the stars in Paris?
Wiseman #1: Obviously you have not been to Paris of late.  The city suffers from high levels of air particle pollution and it would be impossible to navigate by stars.  Hence, the map!
Wiseman #2:  Enough of this chit chat!  We must get ready! 
Me:  Well, how will I know you are ok?
Wiseman #1:  we will text you.
Me:  Really?  with no arms?
Wiseman #1:  (icy stare)....cruelty is not becoming dear landlady.
Me:  I know. I apologize.  It's just that I'm going to miss you on Thanksgiving. 
Wiseman #3:  Knowing how attached you are to our royal-highness-ness, we left you a prayer and some selfies.
Me:  Selfies?  I really want to ask how you could possibly take a selfie but I know you will think it cruel so I'm just going to wish you safe journeys and bon voyage!

You've Got Mail Wiseguys!

Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Fifthwheelian, there slept three very wee wise men.  Nothing disturbed their slumber for months on end until one day the landlady received a letter addressed to their royal highnesses.  What should she do?  They looked so peaceful in their very ornate, very large bed.  There they lay, with their pinecone comforter to keep them toasty, while Mary and her precious baby gazed fondly from their rather over-the-top headboard. 
But this correspondence might be very important.
  So she crept up beside them and said, "Hey, wiseguys! wake up!  You've got mail!" And so the sleepyheads returned to reality, looking like they had overslept, which of course they had.
wise man #1:  oh my!  what an intriguing piece of correspondence!
I see the plane and the flag of France!
wise man #2:  and I see Viva la France!
wise man #3:  good grief!  I see nothing but blur.  I must need glasses!
me:  yes, it is quite blurry. let me bring it closer.

wise man #3:  Ah much better.  Yes, it's definitely from France.
And oh, look!  It's marked "personal."
me:  I noticed that so I didn't open it.  But I have to go to work now.
wise man #1:  what? you can't just leave us with this mystery. 
We have no arms!  who will open it?
me:  I'll open it when I get home!  I must go or I'll be late.
Have a great day!



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chronic unhappiness

"7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People" by Tamara Star. When I saw this headline on Huffington Post this morning I just had to click it! (to read the article click here.)  Tamara goes into more detail on the site but here are the 7 habits she describes:

1) Your default belief is that life is hard.
2) You believe most people can't be trusted.
3)  You focus on what's wrong with the world vs. what's right.
4)  You compare yourself to others and harbor jealousy.
5)  You strive to control your life.
6)  You consider your future with worry and fear.
7)  You fill your conversation with gossip and complaints.

Know anyone who fits all 7?  how about 5?  3?  how about yourself?  I see several that I know quite intimately. And even if none of these apply to you, being around someone who lives these mantras can be draining and exhausting.

One of the things I've learned working as a hospice chaplain is that even though someone may have spent a large portion of their life viewing the world through several pairs of these skewed glasses, by the time they receive a hospice referral and we have had an opportunity to talk about their impending death, most of these beliefs have been allowed to fade into the background, seen to be not as important to keep holding onto, or even viewed with some humor. When faced with death, many begin to see more clearly or at least get a new prescription for their glasses.  Let's not wait until then to change our unhappiness habits.

unhappy sunflower taken from

Thursday, July 24, 2014

72 Labors of Perpetual Care

So my CPE experience ended two months ago and I've been waiting to see how all that I learned (or unlearned) while at Evergreen will play out in my life.  I'm not quite ready to talk about it in detail.  I'm just letting it seep into the cracks and crevices of my very being.  But I will share the meditation I penned for our biweekly IDG meeting at hospice as it grew as a result of my CPE experience. 

One of the books that our CPE supervisor taught from in weekly Didactic sessions was "How Then Shall We Live" by Wayne Muller.  It's a great book.  We're reading through it in our Lectio Group.  Everyone is enjoying it immensely.  Thanks Delmas!

The following writing is my response/interpretation of a reading from the “How Shall I Live, Knowing I Shall Die” section of Wayne Muller’s 1996 book, “How Then Shall we Live.”  Names in the story have been changed for privacy.

The 72 labors of perpetual care
July 23, 2014

There is an old Buddhist prayer that monks recite before meals that begins with this line: "First 72 labors brought us this food.  We should know how it comes to us.”  Their point being that we should become more aware of all the connections in our life.  Do you ever think about such labors in regards to your own food?  In light of this prayer let’s consider my morning latte which is something I take for granted on a daily basis.  How many people did it take for it to get to me?  I’m not exactly sure but here goes: the Farmer who prepared the field, the planter, the picker, processor, roaster, miller, exporter, importer, dock workers, ship workers, truckers, packagers, grinders, brewers, cup manufacturers, coffee machine makers, the coffee stand owner and of course, the Baristas.  That’s just 18 labors that I know of and that’s without even discussing the milk!
What would my life be like if I remembered all these connections?  How much more grateful would I be for this latte that sits in front of me? And how much more would I enjoy the latte knowing how much I have received?  Did you know that gratefulness slows time down?
Over the past 2 weeks I’ve had several conversations with people in which the idea of giving and receiving was mentioned. Everyone agreed that giving was a lot easier than receiving.   For all of us here at this table today, we know how to give.  It’s probably why we went into hospice work.  We love to give.  But many of us struggle with receiving.  We almost bristle at the idea of receiving.  Why is that?  I think it’s because we easily forget reality.  And that reality is that we constantly rely on others for our well-being (and for our lattes.) 

This was made very evident this week at the office when our co-worker, Lina, quite suddenly became very ill.  How frightening that was.  And yet she was not alone.  Her experience did not occur in a vacuum.  Everyone gathered around her.  Everyone felt her pain and her fear.  And just as those 18 labors connected me to my morning latte how much more were we all connected to Lina and one another?  911 was called.  EMT’s arrived.  Rhonda took blood pressure & monitored vitals.  Kristen lay on the floor with her. Doug managed the phones and Julie rode to the hospital with her.  Doctors and nurses cared for her.  Maggie kept us posted as to her status.  Her family gathered around her.  Technicians took x-rays and MRI’s and CAT scans.  All those connections.  All that love. 
You could feel the tension amongst those of us waiting here in the office as we continued working while wondering how Lina was doing. I was thrilled when Julie called looking for a ride back to the office from the hospital for then I too became one of the 72 labors!   We were connected in our humanity.  And it served as a good reminder of what our patients experience from us as caregivers.

What we forget to remember is that “we are in the perpetual care of others.”[1] I looked up the definition of “perpetual.”  It means “never ending or changing, occurring repeatedly, so frequent as to seem endless and uninterrupted.”   We are not independent. We are in the perpetual care of one another.  We are interdependent.  We are givers and we are receivers.  We can’t be one without the other.  Perhaps in giving we heal ourselves and in receiving we heal others. Or maybe it’s the other way around?  

I invite you to pause today to think through the 72 or 32 or 18 labors of something or someone you take for granted.  Maybe it’s the water coming out of your tap, or the road you drove into work on today or the medication that keeps a loved one well.  Whatever it is, remember that we have much to be grateful for within all of our daily connections, no matter how mundane they may appear.  Let us give thanks for the opportunity to give to one another and to receive from one another.  May we continue to offer perpetual care for one another, for ourselves, and for our patients.  And may Lina recover completely from her vertigo.   Amen

[1] How Then Shall We Live, Muller, p. 227


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Overcoming fear

Tomorrow is the start of a new adventure - Clinical Pastoral Education at Evergreen Health in Kirkland.  I've worked as a hospice chaplain for almost a year and a half now and  I see the need for more education, more self-awareness, and more diversity, all of which I know I will encounter in the next 12 weeks.  My major concern right now is getting to the hospital from my daughter's house in Snohomish.  You see, I have a fear of heights and freeway overpasses.  You might think, what's the big deal?  But if you are one of the countless people who walk around with any sort of anxiety issue, you know this is no small matter.

Over 10 years ago I hit my head and suffered major inner ear damage which brought on long term vertigo.  Tasks I had taken for granted suddenly turned into impossibilities.  Driving was at the top of the list.  For weeks I refused to drive but I had responsibilities and finally got behind the wheel.  I was beyond terrified as I feared losing control of my car.  At one point while crossing the Tacoma Narrows bridge I experienced my first panic attack.  My breathing became shallow, my heart rate raised and I involuntarily removed my foot from the gas pedal and came to a stop.  I would not recommend doing this.  It makes other drivers extremely irritated. 

After that incident I began limiting my life.  I came up with all sorts of rules about what I could not do.  No driving on bridges, no driving over water, no driving at night, no driving in the rain.  The list was endless. 

But my doctor told me that my inner ear would eventually compensate for the damage from the fall.  It would take years but he was right.  Unfortunately my brain didn't get the message regarding all my rules.  I accepted the fears as reality.

Over the last two years I've made remarkable progress thanks to my spiritual director.  I now drive on freeways, drive at night in rain and can cross a bridge, as long as it's on the water.  However, two fears remain that I have not faced yet.  Heights and overpasses. 

So what does this have to do with CPE?  Well, the easiest route to take is over a very tall freeway overpass that connects the 522 to the 405. Am I going to tackle it on my first day?  No, as I have other fears to contend with such as the fear of sleeping in and being late.  So I am leaving earlier and taking another route.  But in the midst of all this I have come up with some strategies to use when I decide to take the quickest route. 

I found this quote that says "The only thing standing between where you are and where you want to be is your fear."  I replaced "fear" with the "fear of overpasses" as I need to literally cross that bridge to get to the hospital!  So I decided to do The Work on my fears.

Here's words to say as I approach my fear (bridge): 
I look forward to crossing this overpass.  Each time will be easier than the last.
I am thankful that my body wants to protect me from harm.  It's doing it's job, but I'm not in Danger, I'm in Discomfort!
I know that this panic attack will end.

Here's to overcoming this fear which will allow me to concentrate on my yet undiscovered fears of CPE!!!