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”

Losing the “Single” (part 2)

(If you missed part 1, you can catch up here.)

After being single for the first 21 years of my adult life, will I still be me when I get married?

That’s the question I asked at the end of my previous post, and it’s an important one. I love my fiancé and I’m very, very happy when I think of being his wife. I also know that life will be very, very different for me a few months from now. And that’s a bit frightening, to be honest. I know without a doubt, no matter how happily married I am, that there will be days when I miss my single life. Continue reading “Losing the “Single” (part 2)”

Extremis: A Netflix documentary on end of life issues

extremisThis week, a short documentary premiered on Netflix. In less than half an hour, Extremis follows several different patients and their families facing end of life decisions, as well as the doctors caring for them. These people were very brave in allowing the film crew to capture such intimate and heart wrenching moments. Everybody dies. We all know that on an intellectual level, but for most of us it doesn’t become real until we are faced with the undeniable fact that we or someone we love is dying. And with the medical technology available in 21st century hospitals, death can often be postponed. The documentary raises many questions, but perhaps the most crucial one is, What counts as life for you? Continue reading “Extremis: A Netflix documentary on end of life issues”

S is for Self-Care

(This post is part of my ongoing series ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy.)

You’ve probably heard the saying that doctors make the worst patients. I’m here to testify that in many cases, caregivers are the very worst at taking care of ourselves. It took me years as a chaplain to learn how important it was to care for myself so that I could care for other people. And still sometimes I let it slide. Prioritizing self-care is hard for a lot of us. We live in a society that encourages and praises workaholism, so when we speak up for own need for days off from work, for example, we risk falling behind or being seen as less dedicated than our peers who happily take on extra hours.  Continue reading “S is for Self-Care”

“I’m Sorry for Your Loss, and Congratulations.”

FullSizeRender 10On Tuesday morning, my boyfriend’s mother died. No warning, no easily determinable cause of death. She just up and died. He and his family were in shock. So I went with him to stay at his sister’s house, while the whole family tried to absorb this news and begin adjusting to their new normal. Time seemed to slow down. The grief in the house was palpable. On Wednesday morning, I sat with Will and his family around the kitchen table as his sister Ginny read us the obituary she was writing. And that evening, Will, his sisters, and their father spoke with the funeral director to plan their mother’s service. A few minutes later, Will invited me to take a walk with him down to the dock on Lake Murray, where he asked me to marry him.  Continue reading ““I’m Sorry for Your Loss, and Congratulations.””

R is for Ready

(This post is part of my continuing series ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy.)

Not long ago, my boyfriend and I took his two sons to a local waterpark, on one of the Saturdays I didn’t have to work. It was a fun day, and I felt quite relaxed as we floated down the Lazy River on inner tubes. But just then, I heard a familiar beeping, and I wasn’t so relaxed anymore. It took me a moment to locate the source of the sound. It was not, as my mind had instantaneously concluded, coming from the pager I carry at work in the hospital. Rather one of the nearby water slides used a very similar tone to let the person working at the top of the slide know that it was safe to send the next rider down. Once I figured that out, I breathed a sigh of relief. Still, after nine years of responding to all kinds of emergency calls that begin with that sound, I had a Pavlovian response to it every single time, a small rush of adrenaline. Some subconscious part of my brain has learned that when I hear that sound, I have to immediately be ready for anything.  Continue reading “R is for Ready”

The Beginning of Empathy

It has been a terrible week for all of us in the U.S., to varying degrees. We couldn’t catch our collective breath before we had another public tragedy to grieve, and another, and another. I lamented on Twitter that in addition to sick days, our jobs should give us “crushing sadness for the state of our society” days, because I honestly felt such despair and powerlessness that it was hard to get out of bed. And I realized that I say that as someone speaking from a place of privilege. I wasn’t directly impacted by the murders I saw on the news this week, except that I try to practice empathy. It’s messy and I certainly haven’t mastered it, but I keep trying. What I’ve seen lately is a whole lot of people who seemingly have lost the ability or willingness to imagine the world from someone else’s perspective. Empathy is one of the tools God has given us to help in the hard work of loving our neighbors as ourselves. But it isn’t enough on its own. Imagining what someone else thinks and feels is fine, but God also gave us the gift of story. And if we want anything to change, I think it begins with simply listening.  Continue reading “The Beginning of Empathy”

Looking for the Helpers

loveneverfailsIt’s been a week since Orlando. It’s been a year since Charleston. Anniversaries of tragedies can resurface all the feelings of shock, anger, and grief that we initially felt. The grief of public tragedies lately has been overwhelming for me. Through the combination of clinical depression, a deep sense of empathy, and a vivid imagination, I get stuck imagining myself over and over in the place of the victims when I hear the horror stories in the news. I had to stop listening for a while. But still again and again my mind returns to the Pulse nightclub a week ago, and Mother Emanuel AME church a year ago. The only thing that makes it bearable for me is to do what Fred Rogers said his mother taught him to do when he saw horrible things on the news: “Look for the helpers.”  Continue reading “Looking for the Helpers”

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”