Into the Unknown

Each day as I made my way into the hospital, I had to pass through the tent at the one entrance that was not blocked, along with everyone else who came into the building. It was like something out of a disaster movie. Every time, the chorus of a song from Frozen 2 came to mind, and I could hear Elsa belting out, “Into the unknoooown …” The campus felt like a completely different place from just a couple of weeks prior. This was the tent where hospital concierges, who used to assist visitors in the now-deserted waiting areas, had to screen everyone coming in for symptoms of COVID-19. They were exposed to more people each day than pretty much anyone working there. The same changes that put them on the front lines left me feeling sidelined. Chaplains were being asked by medical staff to limit our visits only to those most urgent, so we wouldn’t be more potential carriers of the virus from one unit to another. With testing so limited and results so slow, we just couldn’t know for sure how many of our patients were contagious, and Personal Protective Equipment was being closely guarded, anticipating growing numbers of confirmed COVID-19 patients at some future time.

A large white tent with lights inside is shown outside a brick hospital building. A sandwich board sign advises that there is no visitation allowed due to COVID-19.

In late March and early April, more and more often I was told by nurses or doctors that I couldn’t go in to patient rooms where I was called, because the person was a PUI, Patient Under Investigation, meaning they met some criteria for virus exposure, even if we didn’t have test results for them. Sometimes that meant standing helplessly outside the door while I could hear a mother wailing for her dying child inside the room. Other times it meant having to tell the family waiting outside the hospital that I could pray for their loved one from outside the negative pressure door, but like them, I would not be allowed to hold his hand as he died. This was not the case for chaplains everywhere. My seminary classmate and friend Will Runyon is a hospital chaplain in Albany, Georgia, site of one of the worst COVID-19 death rates in the country. I knew that Will had been suiting up in PPE and holding the hands of affected patients, ministering directly to them, being there for them when their families couldn’t be. In the online chaplain groups I was part of, others argued that the only responsible way to do our job right now was tele-chaplaincy from home. I told one of my colleagues, “I don’t know how to be a chaplain during this thing.” And the next day, I was told that I wouldn’t have the choice to be one.  Continue reading “Into the Unknown”

Becoming Into Another Decade

A lot has happened since the first day of 2010. That’s true for the world at large, of course, and probably true in any of our individual lives. I’m a sucker for new beginnings, and for nice round numbers ending in zero, so despite a pretty tough 2019, I find myself very hopeful as we face the beginning of a new year and a new decade tomorrow. It would be easy to look back at the last ten years and see all the things that haven’t turned out as I had hoped or planned. As a type 4 on the enneagram, I am someone who makes great big beautiful plans and goals on a regular basis, and regularly finds myself shocked and embarrassed when I am unable to bring them to fruition. (Hey, remember when I was going to do 40 new things for my 40th birthday? Yeah, let’s try to forget.) But rather than wallowing in my losses and failures (we 4s looove to wallow), I’d like to look back gratefully at all the things I was able to become in the 2010s, and (maybe in a later post) dream hopefully of some things I’d like to become in the 2020s.

In the past decade, I have become:  Continue reading “Becoming Into Another Decade”

3. Do Back-to-School Shopping for a Child in Need

(This post is part of my year-long series 40 New Things at 40.)

I love shopping for school supplies. As a child, I looked forward to it every year. If I close my eyes, I can still clearly picture my very first school bag, bright red with silver buckles, emblazoned with the logo of the 1981 movie version of the musical Annie. (It looked kind of like this, except I don’t remember the main image being cartoon Annie and Sandy.) It helped me through the difficult first day of kindergarten, when I was homesick and missed my mom and a mean boy told me I had a fat belly. Pretty much every year, I would get a new backpack (except when my grandparents got my brother and me L.L. Bean backpacks, which lasted and lasted) and a colorful assortment of notebooks, folders (I still miss my Trapper Keeper), pencils, erasers, and other supplies. When I grew up, I looked forward to going back-to-school shopping with my own kids. Continue reading “3. Do Back-to-School Shopping for a Child in Need”

On No Longer Being “Young”

It’s been way too long since I’ve written here. A lot has changed in my life in the past few months. When I started this blog a few years ago, the tagline read, “A single thirtysomething hospital chaplain learning (and unlearning) about life, death, God, myself, and other things along the way.” The “single” part changed in a big way when I got engaged last August, and in an even bigger way when I got married and became a stepmom to two young boys in March. Those changes (and others) have made it difficult to find time to write, but today I must. This is the day I lose another part of the tagline. As of today, I am no longer “thirtysomething.” And officially, according to one group that has meant a lot to me over the years, today I no longer qualify as “young.” The above photo was taken on my honeymoon, when I took a drink from the Fountain of Youth. Obviously it didn’t work. Continue reading “On No Longer Being “Young””

This Body of Dust

If you ever feel like you don’t have enough insecurities about your body, try looking through some bridal magazines. And then go to a store and try on dresses like the ones in those magazines. Look in the mirror and notice that your body looks so different in the dresses from those women in the magazines that you might as well be two different species. Voilà! Instant body insecurities! It sure worked for me, anyway. It doesn’t help that while cleaning out my closet the other day, I came across a picture of me from the time just over a decade ago when, for about a year, I was as close as I will ever come to my ideal weight. That picture tortured me maybe even more than the pictures of models in magazines. My eyes filled with tears looking at it as I thought, That’s the body I want to get married in. Why couldn’t I have had my wedding then?! I obsessed about how much better that body would look in my wedding dress (and my wedding night lingerie) and in all the hundreds of photos that will be taken of me on that day. But instead, I will get hundreds of photos of this body I have now, the one that is regrettably far from ideal. Continue reading “This Body of Dust”

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Stepchildren

In a little over three months, I will officially be a stepmom. I have loved my fiancé’s two little boys since pretty much the day I met them, six months into my relationship with their dad, and the thought that I will now be part of their lives forever is both wonderful and daunting. How do I help raise two kids who are not “mine,” and whose first few years I missed? Will the day come when they scream at me, “You’re not my real mom!” after I try to tell them to do something they don’t want to do? Can I parent them as part of a quartet (mom and stepdad, dad and stepmom) without one or all of us ending up completely frustrated and confused? Continue reading “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Stepchildren”

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

Like millions of other people, I’ve spent the past few months obsessed with the soundtrack to the Broadway musical Hamilton. If you’re not familiar with the play, it dramatizes the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, telling the story through modern American musical styles. It is brilliant and funny and moving. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to it, and I still cry every time. Before he puts young Hamilton in charge of a battalion of soldiers to fight a crucial Revolutionary War battle, General George Washington sings words of paternal wisdom and caution: Continue reading “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”

Thank You, Star Wars

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We came into the world in the same year, within weeks of each other. So many of my childhood memories are tied to you. Every Christmas, there were Star Wars action figures under the tree. My little brother and I played in a grove of trees we dubbed the Ewok Forest. And I didn’t give him piggyback rides, but Tauntaun rides. When my dad drove our minivan through a Kentucky snow storm at night, the flakes coming toward the windshield looked to me exactly like the stars whooshing by as Han Solo took the Millennium Falcon to light speed. I never outgrew you, as evidenced by the photo of me hugging Chewbacca (after waiting in a very long line) on my 34th birthday. But it wasn’t until this week, as I watched “The Force Awakens” with my boyfriend’s two sons for the first time, that I started to understand how much I learned from you, how much you shaped who I am. And I just wanted to say thanks. Continue reading “Thank You, Star Wars”

Depression Doesn’t Care That You’re Happy

I’ve written quite a bit here about my experiences with depression. It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a long time now. And yet, some days it can still catch me off guard and knock me down before I know what’s happened. I’ve had a few of those days lately. It’s hard to explain to people who’ve never been depressed. If they notice that I seem down or if I tell them I’m sad, the first thing they ask is, “What happened?” And in most cases, that would be a reasonable question to ask. But in this case, in my case, there really is no reason. Or rather, the reason I’m depressed is that I have depression. Continue reading “Depression Doesn’t Care That You’re Happy”

37 in Pictures

June 5th is my birthday. A lot has happened since the last time I celebrated another year of life. There have been some challenging moments, to be sure. I continue learning how to navigate through episodes of depression and anxiety attacks. I’ve experienced disappointments both personal and professional. But as I look back on the last year, the positives far outnumber the negatives. I think it’s safe to say that 37 really has been one of my best years yet! Continue reading “37 in Pictures”