T is for Trauma

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

There are not many places you’ll still see a pager in 2018, but the hospital where I work is one of them. I have the small black beeper clipped to my lapel or in my pocket (if I’m lucky enough to find an outfit with pockets that day) at all times when on duty. The tones of my hospital pager are as familiar to me as . . . well, as any sound you’ve heard almost daily for over ten years. I always set mine to “Pleasing Alert” and that particular series of beeps is the most pleasing of all the options, it’s true. There are some times, though, when the Pleasing Alert is not what I hear. If the beeps instead are jarring, tapping out the same rhythm that in Morse Code means “S-O-S,” then I know that this is a trauma call. Continue reading “T is for Trauma”

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4. Be the Tooth Fairy

(This post is part of my yearlong series, 40 New Things at 40.)

Some people have asked me for the complete list of my #40newthingsat40, but I didn’t make one in advance. I had some ideas written down before I started, but others I knew would be new experiences that would arise organically because of all the recent changes in my life. One of those happened when my 7-year-old stepson lost a tooth. He was wiggling and pulling at it all evening, and when he brushed his teeth that night, it pretty quickly fell out. He immediately started wondering what the Tooth Fairy would leave him.  Continue reading “4. Be the Tooth Fairy”

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)”

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”

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”

D is for Death

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(This is the fourth in my series, ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy. Read other posts in the series here.)

“He then greeted Death as an old friend and went with him gladly, departing this life as equals.”

Sometimes I forget how different my perspective is from that of most “normal” people. Then my roommate asks me, “How was work last night?” I reply, “Not too bad. Just two deaths and a trauma.” She laughs and I look at her quizzically. “Sorry,” she says, “but you’re the only person I know who would call two deaths in one shift ‘not too bad.’ Your job is so weird.” I guess she has a point. Working in a hospital, encountering death on such a routine basis, is more than a little weird. Continue reading “D is for Death”

I’m Hard to Shock Anymore (Even When I Get Asked for a Lap Dance)

I won’t say I’ve heard it all, but as a hospital chaplain, I hear a lot.  There are things people say in the midst of crisis that they wouldn’t say otherwise.  Things that a few years ago would have made me blush or left me speechless, I now take in stride.  When I was called to the room of an elderly patient who was actively dying, I found his children and grandchildren gathered around the bed.  I expressed my sympathies, listened to their stories about him, and at their request prayed for a peaceful passing for him at the right time, as well as comfort and strength for his family.  Before leaving, I asked, “Is there anything else I can do?”  The patient’s grandson, a few years younger than me, asked, “I don’t guess you do lap dances, do you?”  His mother used his full name as she smacked him in the back of the head, looking at me apologetically.  “What?” he said.  “Not for me, for Grandpa!  You never know what might help.” Continue reading “I’m Hard to Shock Anymore (Even When I Get Asked for a Lap Dance)”