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”

Living in Imaginary Worlds

Recently I discovered and fell in love with a podcast called Imaginary Worlds. Host Eric Molinsky explores many of the fictional worlds we know from pop culture, but often with a unique and very intelligent spin. It was his five-part series on Star Wars that hooked me (which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows my lifelong devotion to that franchise), and made me think about the movies and expanded universe in new ways. In one episode, historians and Star Wars scholars discussed the cultural/political factors in 1977 that led to the original movie becoming such a phenomenon. Subsequent episodes delved into the “Han shot first” controversy from an ethical standpoint, asked whether the Empire saw itself as evil or was taking what it saw as reasonable steps to bring order to a chaotic galaxy, featured a rabbi who compared the Star Wars expanded universe to the rabbinic commentary on the Torah called midrash, and debated whether “Slave Leia” could be seen as a symbol of female empowerment or was a misogynistic wrong turn in the character’s journey best left forgotten. I listened to those episodes multiple times, then went back and listened to every episode since the podcast began in 2014. It got me thinking about how much of my time is spent in imaginary worlds, not just when I lose myself in fiction, but when I do my job as a chaplain. Continue reading “Living in Imaginary Worlds”

What to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving (If You Have to Say Something)

Recently I shared on Facebook a great piece from BuzzFeed, “What You Say to Someone Who’s Grieving vs. What They Hear.” While I liked what it had to say about how our well-intentioned platitudes can actually be hurtful, some of my friends found it discouraging. Their (very valid) point was that there were no positive alternatives offered, nothing like, “Say this instead.” One friend suggested that, since I work with grieving people every day as a hospital chaplain, I should write a list of better things to say to them. I hesitated, because every situation and every grieving person is different, and I don’t want to give anyone the impression that there are magic words that will make the hurt go away. There just aren’t. But as I thought about it, I did come up with at least a few guidelines and suggestions for words that, in most cases, I believe will help more than they hurt. With a subject as messy as grief, that’s the best I can do. So, here we go. Continue reading “What to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving (If You Have to Say Something)”

Happiness: It’s Not Just for Skinny People

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I have a confession to make. This isn’t easy, but I need to say it. Even with all the wonderful things that have been happening in my life this year — and there are a lot of them — I still struggle with feelings of failure. And I know exactly why. As much as I actively fight against it for other people, as much as I give lip service to body positivity, I am still chained to the lie that being overweight means I am not as good as people who are thin. When I look at the picture of me above, the first things I see are my doughy arms and my double chin, and I feel a deep sense of shame. Continue reading “Happiness: It’s Not Just for Skinny People”

Where I Come From and Where I’m Going

In just a few days, I’ll be leaving home and heading home. It might sound confusing.  Charleston, South Carolina is the place I have lived for more than seven years now — longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my adult life. I love it here. I have a job and a church family and a house and a dog and neighbors and friends, and I love them all. This is home. And this weekend, I’ll drive back to the place I called home for the first half of my life – Harlan, Kentucky.   

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Harlan is a special place. There are numerous Bluegrass songs about my hometown (like You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive), a National Geographic Channel reality show, an Oscar-winning documentary, and the recent FX series Justified (which definitely offered a more drama-filled version of the town than real life). But for me none of that matters as much as the history I have there. Continue reading “Where I Come From and Where I’m Going”

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”

May the Stigma End

There’s not much of May left, so I’m getting this in just under the wire! May is Mental Health Awareness month, signed into recognition by President Obama in 2013. I’ve written quite a bit about my own struggle with mental health here, and in my recently-released book, I touched on how growing up in a family affected by major depression eventually contributed to my calling as a hospital chaplain. Continue reading “May the Stigma End”

I Picked the Wrong Week to Quit (or “A Perfect Example of Eucatastrophe”)

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Things have been great lately. Really, really great. It’s not an overstatement to say that 2015 has so far been one of the best years of my life. I’m watching my dreams come true, literally. You can almost see it on my face in this picture from my first author event. Since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to be an author, and now I am one. I’ve written a book that I can hold in my hands, and it feels wonderful. People are buying this book and reading it and telling me in social media comments, emails, and old-fashioned handwritten letters how much it means to them.

We had a fantastic party this month at The Charleston Museum to celebrate the print release of the book, and it was everything I had dreamed it would be. Continue reading “I Picked the Wrong Week to Quit (or “A Perfect Example of Eucatastrophe”)”

L is for . . .

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

I’ve gone back and forth about which L word fits best with my experience as a chaplain. Most of the other letters were pretty straightforward; one word jumped quickly to mind. But with L, there were two. Part of me thought, it has to be Loss. That’s something I certainly see plenty of in the hospital. In one shift, I may see people lose a spouse, a child, a limb, the ability to walk or talk, the hopes and dreams they had for the future they were certain was theirs, the will to continue living. It isn’t easy to witness those things, and they do come. Continue reading “L is for . . .”

How We Brake Ourselves

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It was a beautiful day for a bike ride on Seabrook Island. Our church women’s retreat, which I’ve attended for several years now, always includes several optional activities on Saturday afternoon. One of them is usually a group bike ride along the trails of Seabrook and Kiawah Islands. We were a small group this year, just four of us, and almost as soon as we started the ride, I could tell something was wrong. Continue reading “How We Brake Ourselves”