5. Get DNA Tested

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

There are some things that still make me feel like I am living in the future. The fact that I can spit into a test tube and some scientist in a lab can use it to examine my DNA is one of those things. Last year, I got my test kit from 23 and Me, one of a few different options in the DNA testing market now. Full disclosure: I chose them because my husband gained a perfectly delightful cousin through DNA testing, whose story was so compelling that 23 and Me turned it into a promotional video (which was filmed on our wedding day, but cousin Jordan still managed to make it to the reception). I wondered if my own DNA results would reveal anything surprising about my ancestry. Continue reading “5. Get DNA Tested”

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””

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”

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”

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 Case for Chaplaincy

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Have you ever met someone who thought that what you do for a living was a waste of resources? Someone who questioned whether your job should even exist? It’s not all that uncommon for me. Some people just don’t get why having hospital chaplains on staff is a justifiable expense, especially in a public hospital like ours, with no religious affiliation. “Those visits should be taken care of by local clergy,” they often say, or, “Lots of patients these days aren’t religious and don’t have any use for chaplains.” Others suggest that nurses could be trained to provide spiritual care, since they spend so much time with patients anyway. This all results from a fundamental misunderstanding of who chaplains are and what we do. One of the reasons I started this blog and wrote my first book was to clear up some of those misconceptions.  Continue reading “The Case for Chaplaincy”

Q is for Quiet

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

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Working in a hospital is sometimes enough to make you superstitious (though, like Michael Scott, I try to be only a little stitious). Full moons really do seem to bring out more of the crazy stuff. If someone mentions that we haven’t had a gunshot wound all day, ER staff members would bet that one will arrive within the hour. And whatever you do, don’t say anything to the effect of, “It sure is quiet around here.” In my book, I tell the story of how I got on a nurse’s bad side by jinxing her shift with the Q word. Continue reading “Q is for Quiet”

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”

P is for Prayer

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

“Why do we look down?” I asked my grandmother one Sunday after prayer time in church. “Isn’t God up in heaven? How come we don’t pray looking up?” My childhood question was a sincere one, but I don’t worry so much now about the right posture for praying. As a hospital chaplain, I have seen and participated in countless forms of prayer. I no longer think that God would be more likely to hear us if we looked in the right direction. Anytime we pray — and I believe we all do, whether or not we call it prayer — we are somehow looking for, reaching out for God.  Continue reading “P is for Prayer”

O is for Operation

Dr. James Patrick Kinney performing early anesthesia procedure at Sisters of Charity Hospital, Buffalo, NY

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

Did you ever play that board game as a kid, the one where you had to use the little tweezers to reach into the tiny, metal-lined spaces of the cartoon man’s body to remove the little bucket of “Water on the Knee” or the very literal “Butterflies in the Stomach”? It made me a nervous wreck, and my hands would shake as I anticipated the inevitable Bzzzzz when the tweezers made contact with the metal. I was terrible at the Operation board game, so I suppose it’s a good thing I never wanted to become a surgeon. But I do spend a lot of time near the operating room at our hospital. Continue reading “O is for Operation”