Monday, September 30, 2013


Some of our hospice patients have a long time to wrap their minds around the idea of death and make peace with it.    Others thought they were in good health a month ago and will be dead at the end of the week.    And way too many of those are younger than I am, younger even than my little sister.    One in particular stands out in my memory.   Christy was tougher than her name suggested and she did not want a chaplain visit.   The nurses told me that she and her Significant Other fought all the time, although they did not fight in front of me.    He was frustrated and she was angry.    She had been healthy and fit until very recently, and now she was bald and misshapen and unable to stand or walk without assistance.    She declined quickly and one day her boyfriend told me to come over to the house, “and we'll see what she will do.”    Christy was wary when I walked in and simply said, “so you're the chaplain.”    I told her I was, and that it was my job to be whatever support I could to her. I told her that this whole disease process sucked, and that I wasn't there to defend God or shove him down her throat.  I was simply there to be someone she could talk to, or not, and happy to do anything else she could think of that might be helpful.  Christy smiled and said, “I like you,” and I knew that I'd been given a gift.  Later I wondered how often I do not fully appreciate similar gifts,  gifts of acceptance or recognition or even friendship, simply because they are offered by people who are not dying. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Another Week

Another busy week.    I spent the first few days in Tustin, Michigan, a place I'd never heard of, at a conference on crisis intervention.    It was interesting on many levels.     The evening program began with a piper in a small inside room -- not a good idea, I thought my eardrums were going to burst, and I LIKE bagpipes.    But the food was great and there was a bonfire every night (with too many private conversations, but still), and I love those.    Those are my feet in the fire photo -- the bottom of one of my shoes started to melt and smoke, just a warning to the rest of you!

I am a believer in the process of crisis intervention, so the conference was useful in that sense.    But, as always, for me the lessons often come from the negatives, so it was especially interesting to experience, again, a crisis of identification with chaplaincy in general.    I was one of the few new attendees, so I had a chance to observe the lack of hospitality and welcome, and the judgment of different ideas.    For one thing, there was a lot more talking about what good and helpful listeners we are than there was good and helpful listening.    Old ideas were encouraged and repeated ad nauseum, while new ideas were not discussed and were even censored.   And although most people were not actively unfriendly, they hung together in their like-minded groups and did not include 'outsiders' in their conversations.     I am not easy to know, so I don't blame anyone for lack of warmth, but it was a good reminder to me of how I want to behave when there are new people on my turf.  The conference lodging was in a beautiful setting though, and fortunately I am content to spend my hours alone or just listening, so it was all good.  And in the crowd of well over 100 people, I met three women who were genuinely friendly, and one of them actually made an effort to connect with me and that made all the difference.   (and she referred to me as THIN, so how could I not like her?!)   It was a good reminder that one person's small efforts can change an entire experience for another, and deep down, I think, we all want to cause that change.   

Back home it was back to my job and more work on painting my porch.     The painting goes slowly because there are so many railings and surfaces, and because I need to time my work around the letter carrier's schedule because the surface can't be walked on or touched for hours after it is applied.    
And at home I've again been able to practice my CW (Morse Code) again, and am horrified at how my skills began to slip with just three days away.  I want to start practicing more frequently but struggle to fit it in just once a day.   There are so many things on my To Do list, and so few actually seem to get done.

As I've said before, another thing I need to get serious about is creating a walking routine.  I've gained five pounds (not good) so I have plenty of incentive, but it's been hard to get started again.   My current excuse is that my back went into some kind of spasm a couple of weeks ago, before I got to my fishing trip, and I am still babying it for no reason at all because babying doesn't help.    The spasms strike without warning so my avoidance of exercise is irrational.   There's no excuse; laziness is just my fall-back position, and exercise is probably exactly what my back needs.

We had a very scary event this week when one of my grandkids got a woodchip in his eye and spent many anxious hours in the emergency room.   A playground accident -- a little girl was chasing him and threw a handful of wood chips at him.   I told him I had come prepared to lecture him about safety glasses until I heard the story, and he said that maybe he needs safety glasses for recess.    The result, a cut on his eye, has been painful, but the doctors don't think his blurry vision will be permanent, and we are all grateful for that.  The next day he wanted to go to school after a follow-up doctor's appointment and I drove him there.   He looked around my cluttered back seat and said, 'Grandma, would you like me to help you organize your car some day soon when I have time?'    Clearly his eyesight is still good enough to see my mess.    Add to list -- clean the car. 

I had a radio meeting this week where we practiced emergency communications, passing messages through half a dozen people.    It was a lot of fun.   To my relief, I didn't mess up although I was the newest member and the only first-timer,  and I learned quite a bit.    
This week also brought a work-retreat for some of our volunteers.   Because of my experiences at the conference, I changed the retreat theme from Gratitude to Hospitality.   I wouldn't want any of our patients or families to feel like they weren't welcome, and I saw first hand that well intentioned people don't always know how to be hospitable.   Too, I want to take some time to welcome and affirm our volunteers by showing some hospitality myself.    We did a variety of reflection and crafts, and made silver boxes filled with reminders to be gentle and hospitable with themselves and others.

And I celebrated another wedding.   A small and very warm gathering, a lovely couple.    The bride's daughter sang before the ceremony and there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Maybe more noteworthy, I turned another Bride down.    I met with her and her fiance and gave them a price but they hadn't signed a contract or given me a retainer because they wanted to think about it.  A couple of weeks later they asked me to marry them and I said I would, and they were going to send the retainer later.    A week or so after that, still no retainer, she asked me my price again and I told her again (which I promise you, is less than half my competition's).  She got snippy in a series of emails and lied to me about what I had agreed to do, but of course I had taken notes of the conversation.   I finally wished her well and told her that she has more than a year to plan and I was sure she'd find an officiant she could trust and be happy with.  It was funny, because almost every other bride has simply said that money was tight and I always drop my fee, but it really annoyed me that she accused me of changing the price on her.   I didn't answer her final emails saying she was "just kidding," "a girl can try, can't she?," and that she "really liked" me.    I felt a little rude, but decided it would be bad karma for both of us for me to do that wedding.  

Tomorrow I will (hopefully) finish the first coat of paint on my porch.    I've had to keep a clear path because of the mail carrier,  but tonight I will paint myself into the house and hope it's dry enough to walk on by morning!   The wood is soaking in the stain like crazy, so I might need to buy another gallon, but I  hope not.    Partly because paint is expansive but, let's face it, mostly because I do not enjoy or do a good job at painting.       I will be glad when this job is done!  
(note:  so of course it rained during the night after I finished the first coat.    Poop diddle.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Temperature's Dropping

It's been a fun and happy weekend.    I so rarely have weekend plans that this weekend was a special bonus, with things to do from Thursday on -- I even had to turn down an invitation for lunch because I had too much to do.  What a happy dilemma!      I attended my first Search and Rescue membership meeting this week and learned a little about emergency first aid in the field.    The big training sessions are still ahead of me and I am both excited and anxious.    

Friday was the friend's surprise 40th birthday party, and that was a lot of fun.   Our piper friend played happy birthday on the bagpipes and the 'birthday boy' danced a jig.    The weather was perfect but just cool enough to justify a fire, and so it was the best of all worlds: interesting people, great food, and a fire.   

The next day was a local chili and salsa cook off and I wandered with a group of friends through town, tasting dozens of different versions of each.    Those little tiny cups added up and made a satisfying lunch, although none held more than a teaspoon!
The rest of the day was spent in jelly making.   We picked grapes, made juice, boiled and jarred and sealed about 40 jars of grape jelly.   I went back and forth between the chilly outdoors and the steamy kitchen so I was never bored.    The process took all day but in the end we were satisfied and proud of ourselves for sure.   But this morning, it looks like none of the jars set into jelly!     I am so frustrated and not at all sure where we went wrong.  :(      We did all the gel tests we could think of and it sure looked like we were on target, but today all I have to show for a dozen hours of work (and a lot of clean up) is a counter-top covered with jars of grape syrup.

It looks like today will be another beautiful day.    This morning I played a board game that my granddaughter invented.    The kids are always creating things and it is always fun.
This afternoon I have a two hour drive to the site of a 2 1/2 day conference.   But before I leave, the Grands have placed a hopeful order for Grandma Cookies.    And although their parents told them they could wait until I get back, I just happen to have some cookie dough in the freezer and will bake that up before I leave.   It is so nice to be wanted, and very special that they named their favorite cookie after me!
The conference I will be attending is about crisis intervention, and I am hoping to hone my chaplain skills.   Part of my role is to provide support for staff who have responded to crisis situations, both at the hospice and in the search and rescue group.  It is important to me to be as well trained as possible, so I take advantage of as many training opportunities as I can afford.    I won't know anyone at the conference and don't know the area, so it will all be new.    I am a shy person by nature, so it is good for me to push my envelope a little.    And the conference is being held on the grounds of a nature center of some kind, so I am hoping to take advantage of the hiking trails.   I will take my fishing rod, too, just in case!

Friday, September 20, 2013

September Is Flying By

Nothing remarkable is going on in my life and I suspect that's a good thing!    I am (slowly) getting the porch painted, at least as  high as I can reach on my step ladder, which turns out NOT to be high enough.    Going to have to think that one through for a little bit.
I've been noticing some cute license plates around town and thought they were worth sharing.   I've never had a vanity plate, or ever even considered one.   I am just not that clever!

One of the nice new nurses at work gave me a pear from her father's tree this week and, rather than wait til it was fully ripe, I sliced it, browned the slices in a pan,  sprinkled them with sugar and rosemary, and ate them for breakfast.    One of my favorite fruit treats! 

Another friend has a surprise 40th birthday party tonight.   Ah, to be 40 again, although I wouldn't want to be any younger than that!    He is a target shooting buddy, so I packed up bunch of bullets in a little candy jar.   I hope he likes it!   (I would!)
I also channelled my best preschool skills and made him a card.    I guess you can see why Hallmark hasn't called me in to work for them.   Better keep my day job.

I have a million studying, sewing and exercising projects on my list for the next month.    I hope I will do at least one or two of them.    I am not a very demanding person, of myself or anyone else, and sometimes my lackadaisical attitude ends of causing me a lot of last minute work.   I'm hoping the onset of cooler weather will inspire me to start checking things off that list!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

September Weekend

My friend and I finished power washing my front porch this week.    The good news is that it's ready to paint.   That is also the bad news, of course.    The reward for a job well done always seems to be more work!    My friend did most of the work but took one short break while I 'manned' the water wand, and I plan to use that fact to reinvent my memory so that I will remember this as a day that I was the one who worked the hardest.    I'm counting on his being too polite to argue if the subject comes up.

During that break we enjoyed my blueberry galette. With ice cream, of course.   -- I made it in a pie pan this time because the last time it leaked all over the cookie sheet!   I'm not sure it's still a galette when it's nestled in a pie pan, but labels don't count for much when it comes to desserts.
We also took down the old antenna and put up another.   My friend absolutely hated the one in the frame, although it worked well enough.   The new one is so unobtrusive that you can barely see it in this photo.    A final 'fix' will go up when the better quality ladder line arrives. 
I got my new call sign this week -- I am now officially NO8U.    Not the call of my dreams, I guess,   partly because there aren't that many available in this category but mostly because I'm just not clever about what kind of call to pick.    The new sign is still a little awkward to use because of its new-ness, but it is the "2x1" (2 letters, 1 number and 1 letter) that I wanted (although a friend has admonished me that size doesn't matter).     I know I will quickly adjust to it, as I did to the others.   This is my 3rd call sign since March, and I plan to stick with it for that reason alone.   Maybe I'll even get it embroidered on a fleece or something!    Or maybe I'll work it into another crafting project.   Hmmmmm.

And, at long last,  this was my fly fishing weekend.   I met with several Fly Girls at Gates Au Sable in Grayling, Michigan --- what a lovely place, with rooms that have a second door that opens right up onto the river, helpful staff and a great restaurant.     

And, while lots of groups claim to welcome and mentor their members, the Fly Girls really are a remarkable and very supportive group of women, and I always have a good time at their events.   Even so, I was especially happy that my brother decided to meet me on this trip and fish with me there.   The best of both worlds, I had the companionship of the other women for dinners and evenings around the fire, and spent a day wading the river with my Bro.    As usual for me, I didn't catch anything but my own shoulder and an assortment of debris, but I had a wonderful time all the same.

Monday, September 9, 2013

So Very Lucky

People know, when they enter Hospice, that their time is limited, and they react in a variety of ways. Most times, when I visit a couple, the spouse will be fluttering around, trying to be useful, or will withdraw from the room to be out of my way. The patient will want to talk about themselves and what they've done, and will often refuse to talk at all about anything significant. A lot of people put a lot of effort into acting as though absolutely nothing has changed. 

This couple was different. Although my visit was expected, I felt as though I were intruding on a sacred, private moment. Their faces were peaceful and calm, and they sat looking into each others eyes as if there wasn't a moment to waste. Even as we talked they could barely look away from one another, as if memorizing the features of their loved one's face. Only a few days later, after he died, I called the wife to express my condolences. I told her how precious I had found their appreciation of the other. I know, she said. I miss him so much but I can't stop thinking, I am so very lucky.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Projects - a series of half starts

Another busy week.   I have been slacking in my sewing projects, so I never seem to get to link to the 'unfinished object' blogs lately, but I have plenty of my own style of UFOs!    I don't know why I feel like I have nothing to do so often when it always sounds like I'm doing plenty.   On the other hand, so much of what I 'do' doesn't quite get done.  

This week a friend began the messy process of power-washing my peeling front porch. Of course, it didn't go smoothly.   The machine broke, requiring unexpected runs to the hardware store and occasional warnings to cover my ears to avoid hearing Language.  Once he got it started, I helped for about 3 minutes but mostly stayed inside and made iced tea.   We eventually ran out of time to finish -- in fact, we didn't even have time to eat the supper I'd prepared.   We/He got quite a bit done -- there is still more to do, but I've been putting this project off for three years so I think I've made good progress (no thanks to me), and it looks like this item on my To-Do list is going to get done this year!    I have the new stain/paint purchased and ready to go as soon as we can finish peeling off the rest of the old paint from the railings and I get the porch area sanded.

We also started, and ran out out of time to finish, my 2 meter antenna.   Again, I mostly watched and poured tea.   Actually, I did try to help.   First I tried to throw the line up over the limb in my tree but it turns out I can't throw worth beans, even though my friend made a beautiful weighted monkey's fist that can soar like an eagle in the right hands.
The antenna project was another comedy of errors -- the ladder line I purchased was the wrong stuff --- I will never buy again from Palmetto Antennas in Louisiana!  If you are looking for amateur radio equipment, AVOID THEM!!!   I only used them because the reputable dealers were out of the line I needed.   The invoice claimed to be exactly what I ordered, but they sent me an inferior and cheaper product, and did not respond to my complaints in any way, shape or form.   We are using the inferior line for now because it's been hard to schedule help and I need to get something up, but it will need to be replaced, likely before winter.   Frustrating.    The crummy line broke several times and had to be stripped and resoldered, making a fairly simple project a lot longer and more tedious than it should have been.   I guess the good news is that I found a distributor that I will NEVER use again.    All data is good data.    And then the angle from the tree branch to the house was tight enough to pull my loop of copper wire into a column, so we improvised by building it into a frame.    My friend denies all knowledge of it and absolutely refused to sign his work, but I thought it was a pretty nifty fix.    
Anyway, we again ran out of time, so the antenna is up but needs some tweaking before I can set up my station, and it will be a little while before my helper or I have any free time.    Work sure gets in the way! 

This is one of my Wedding Weekends, and I was privileged to act as the wedding officiant yesterday for a lovely couple.   As with all my couples, I wish them great joy together.    They had the prettiest flower girls and cutest little ring bearer!   THIS project was actually completed, and their wedding went off without a hitch.  :)
Today was the occasion of my first Search and Rescue field training.   I was scared to death but also eager to go, because we had a Call Out for a missing person a few days earlier and my team leader suggested that I not come because I hadn't been trained and would only be in the way.    That hurt, but I knew it was true so I stayed home.   The last things any command structure needs is to be diverted from its task by someone who needs to be coddled through the process.    So field training was my chance to prove myself ready to participate.    We were advised that the search drill would take place in a wilderness area where there is a lot of water, and that we would be out for at least 4 hours.   This was my first time out so I had to pretty much guess what to pack and how to dress.   I knew that long sleeves were in order, and my boots, and I treated all my clothing with bug-stuff because I am a Big Bug Sissy.    I packed water and my compass and a hat, my radio, pencil and paper and other sundries,  and - most of all - I left my whiny inner self behind as best I could.    I hoped I wouldn't end up being too high maintenance as I packed up and drove to our staging area.    When I arrived, we did a little training on GPS before we were told that field work had been cancelled because of thunderstorms in the area.    Everyone else was glad to have their Saturday back, but I was BUMMED!   Even more bummed after I drove the 30 miles home and the skies had completely cleared up.   

But the good news is that now my weekend has gained a few unexpected hours.     I hope I use them to full advantage!  :)   I already spent one of them listening to my grandchildren, so it's been another good start.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day

A lazy Labor Day for me.   I've been so lucky the last few days, my son and his wife have called me over for casual suppers, with grilled corn, bits of bread and veggies and cheese.   Lovely little meals where I got to enjoy their company AND didn't need to provide for myself.  (Although I did scoot back home after dinner last night and made Lava Cakes to carry back over, a quick treat we all love!) Their little family begins its back-to-school schedule tomorrow, and they will all be busy from now on, so I'm glad we had this bit of end-of-summer time.   

I harvested my red potato plants today -- this has been a bumper year (for me) for potatoes, much better than last year with the couple of little guys I harvested then.   My son's family and I will each have enough for several meals, so I am thrilled!  :)

Frankly, it was a chilly and mostly boring day over all.   And with no legitimate (or fun) distractions, no excuse for not getting a LOT done.   But I did finally do a little work in the dreaded basement (sigh) and ran a few errands, so I can't really complain.    I would far rather have been out having ridiculous fun, but it was nice to check a few things off my endless list.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the wedding show I worked this weekend had a photo booth and I finally got a photo that might have been perfect for my ID card -- I'm kicking myself for already sending the other one off in the mail!    I'm sure the gal in charge of making the tags would have appreciated getting this one.  
The kids go back to school tomorrow, if they haven't already in your part of the world.    It's just another day for me, but I think it's a great idea for all of us to go learn something!    I can't wait to see what new lesson are waiting out there for me.  :)