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”

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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”

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.””

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”

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”

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 . . .”

Advent Conspiracy Week 4: Love All

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It’s hard to believe, but we’re coming to the end of Advent already. And that brings us to the hardest part of Advent Conspiracy. Man, I thought Spend Less was tough. But here we are at the final theme, Love All. Really, all?? “Love some” I can handle. Even “love most” would probably be doable. But “all,” everybody – surely that’s going too far! Some people just make it so hard to love them. I met one of them a few weeks ago in the parking lot of a Lowe’s home improvement store. Continue reading “Advent Conspiracy Week 4: Love All”