Posted in Moving forward, Randomness

Unretired.

Kindred Hospice Staff

When I tell people I retired from hospice, the atmosphere changes around us. Things get quiet, more somber, and they invariably say thank you. But it’s not like that. Hospice is the best place I’ve ever worked. You hear, ‘You have to be a special kind of person to work in hospice.’ And when it comes to those doing patient care, I would have to agree. It’s definitely not for everyone. I’ve seen quality staff members come and go in a matter of months, some of them walking off the job leaving us and their patients high and dry saying, ‘I can’t do this.’ I’ve seen tears of sorrow and frustration as well as the ‘aha’ moments that make it all worthwhile. The ups and downs of this job in this hurricane-prone area are abundant. I will be the first to admit that not all hospices are created equal, but mine set the bar quite high.

The hospice care team consists of a Medical Director, a registered nurse, a social worker, a spiritual advisor, and a CNA. It is an interdisciplinary team, and they are remarkable. These special people go into patients’ homes, with all the dynamics you can imagine, and they go above and beyond. It’s not easy. Sometimes a patient’s family members are in denial. “Don’t tell my husband you’re with hospice.” Sometimes they are demanding and high maintenance. “I need at least six more packs of wipes!” But sometimes the patient is alone.

I worked in the office coordinating care alongside my Manager of Patient Care, a veritable dynamo in her own right. I learned about a level of compassion and empathy I’d not seen before. I was amazed at the number of staff who had lost a child of their own now working in hospice. I became accustomed to the quirky humor that comes out of nowhere adding a macabre levity to the scene. These people are different, but in a way that slowly and permanently endears you to them in a most profound way, and they would do everything in their power to fulfill a patient’s end-of-life dream.

This job can burn anyone out even if you are that special kind of person. And that’s not taking away from anyone who tried it and chose to work elsewhere. I’ve worked with people who have been with hospice 25, 30 years. To me they’re angels on this earth doing God’s work in an atmosphere where sadness and grief can be the tenor of the day. At any time of day or night, any one of the care team will stand a bedside vigil while someone takes their last breath. There may be family members present with questions to be answered. Or there may be no one, with only our hospice team member there with them so they’re not alone at the end. These people will attend funerals, send cards, and check up on the family in the ensuing days.

So many don’t understand the hospice philosophy: “At the center of hospice is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain free, with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.

Having hospice doesn’t mean you’re going to die in a week or a month. There are certain criteria to be met before one can even be admitted to hospice care. And you don’t have to be in a hospital or facility. You can be home where you’re most comfortable and the care comes to you. It can go on for many, many months or even years, depending on the case.

If you have a problem, you’re covered. Any issues are covered, and it’s such a relief. It has taken a lot of grief out of our life…Don’t look at hospice as a last-ditch effort; they are there and can help well before the end. ~Larry, Kindred Hospice patient

My manager asked if I would be interested in coming back part-time to help her. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.

Posted in Randomness

High Flight

I miss it

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor ever eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God
.

By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Posted in Thoughts

The unexpected gift of 9/11.

Ground Zero

September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were and what we were doing when the towers came down. I personally remember being at work prepping for a day of hearings when someone came in and said a plane had hit one of the World Trade Centers. We all jumped up, went to another room, and then watched in horrified silence as the morning unfolded, barely wanting to believe what our own eyes and ears were telling us.

Know what else I remember? I remember the days, weeks, and months post 9/11 and the feeling in the air in the communities around us, in the media. We suddenly seemed kinder, not so quick to cut that car off in traffic or perhaps allowing someone to get in front of us in the checkout. Whatever else our enemies were hoping for when they planned this attack, what they least expected was what actually happened. Instead of an America divided, we were an America united regardless of race, religion, or gender. We weren’t left or right. We were united Americans, and we were proud of it.

They say never forget. But I think outside of the anniversary of that day, most of us do forget. We forget the visual, we forget the fear, and we forget the enemy. Now the enemy is us. Less than 20 years later, what we are now is unrecognizable to just a generation ago. And I miss it. I feel almost guilty because of the horrific catalyst that led to that feeling, but I do. It surprises me to say it, but eventually, we felt good. Perhaps ‘good’ is the wrong word. But we felt changed. We all had each others’ backs. We talked to each other, seemed to trust each other. We were all going through the same thing.

So here we are, 19 years later, unrecognizable as the same country. Regardless of where you think the blame lies, ask yourself, in the end – and I have to say, this may well be the beginning of the end – are any of the reasons for this division so important? What should and will matter is love given and received. That is the measure of a life. How did we treat each other, our families, siblings, friends? Right, left, or middle, in the end, is it really going to matter which side we were on politically?

Stop for a moment and think. What if another 9/11 happened today? What if one of your family or close friends were caught in the tragedy? What if your neighbor or co-worker or even the homeless guy on the corner – what if they simply and suddenly didn’t exist? Would you have regrets?

I think that was the unexpected gift of 9/11. We didn’t want any regrets. We didn’t want any what-ifs. We checked in with our loved ones, expressed concern to strangers, and offered our help. We were united, all of us. My hope and prayer for today is that we can look past the outside cacophony of noise that is being shoved down our throats and remember. Remember the ultimate sacrifice of so many who lost their lives that day. Those heroes didn’t ask the victims where they stood politically. They didn’t discriminate against race or religion or gender choice when they risked their own lives to save theirs. The worst possible disgrace would be if that tragedy was for naught.

Remember that day, and then remember the gift of that day. And be kind.

Divide and conquer: to make a group of people disagree and fight with one another so that they will not join together against one. ~Miriam Webster

Posted in Randomness

Being from Michigan, I couldn’t resist. I swear this is a real thing. Thank you, Ms. Carmen.

The 9 Stages Of ‘Goodbye’ You’ll Only Understand If You’re From The Midwest

If it doesn’t take you a full hour, you’re doing it wrong.

Megan Carmen Apr 29, 2019 Bowling Green State University 3M

The 9 Stages Of 'Goodbye' You'll Only Understand If You're From The Midwest

Everyone from California to Maine says goodbye, but only us Center State people truly know that goodbye means nothing unless it’s a true Midwestern adios. Whether its Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house or just a chit chat with a long time friend, goodbye’s are a special tradition here and they require several sections to properly portray your exit.

So, folks, without further ado, here are the nine stages of the true Midwestern Goodbye.

1. The “welp”

The beginning of every good ol’ Midwestern goodbye starts with the stand and welp. This means you know you have to leave, but you’re not getting out of there anytime soon. The welp only functions as a signal for others that you must begin the process of leaving.

2. The hugs

The next step in saying goodbye is the hugs. Everyone gets one, be it grandma, grandpa, your weird uncle, all the babies, even the dog gets a goodbye hug. This is by far the lengthy step, because a Midwestern hug is a whole different breed of long drawn out hug.

3. The walk to the door

Once everyone has gotten a goodbye squeeze, the walk begins. Every Midwesterner knows that no matter how many steps away the door is, it will take no less than 20 minutes to get there during the stages of a goodbye. You have to talk about how good the food was or when you plan to see each other next, no matter the subject, the walk to the door always takes a hot minute.

4. The doorway chat

Getting to the door is hard, but don’t even get me started on the mid-doorway chat. This conversation has literally nothing to do with anything and most of the time involves a lot of belly laughs. This conversation can range anywhere from five minutes to 45 minutes. We really hope you went to the bathroom before you tried to leave because if not, you start the goodbye process from square one all over again.

5. The “we really should be going”

This simple statement signals that you must end the doorway conversation and begin the descent to the car.

6. The second round of hugs

Once the first hour has elapsed and the sun is setting, the second round of hugs begins. This time, there is less talking but significantly more back patting and side swaying. This time, the goal is solely to get out the door and you really have your eye on the prize… the doorknob.

7. The hand on the doorknob

Almost there, the knob is in hand, BUT WAIT, there’s another conversation to go still, you can’t leave until someone says “goodbye” in a weird voice and sparks more laughter or your dad and uncle starting doing that thing where they quote movies until they laugh so hard they cry. At this point, at least an hour has passed and you’ve moved 10 feet.

8. The slow open conversation

As you make your way down to the driveway, there is yet another conversation about whatever may arise. Who knows what time it is at this point, all you know is that it’s been at least long enough to digest the huge Midwestern meal you just ate, and it’s time for a snack.

9. The window wave

Once you’ve FINALLY made it out of the house and into your car, you can fully expect that Midwestern hospitality window wave as you pull away. The only correct response to your grandma’s porch light flickering wave is a series of honks to let them know that you truly care about the traditional goodbye.

Posted in Randomness, Thoughts

Richmond

8 E. Broad St.

Richmond, Virginia, May 30, 2020. I drove with Meg to her latest travel gig then planned on a flight home on Sunday. She’d found a beautiful studio in the historic district of downtown Richmond, second floor of a building circa 1870 with 12′ ceilings and tall windows, hardwood floors and updated everything. I loved it for her! She was actually born in Richmond, though she left at only three months old. Still, we joked about her coming back to her birthplace and learning all about the area.

We had the landlords for dinner Friday night and had a great time. Later that evening, we found ourselves with front row seats to the first night of protests after the killing of George Floyd (*Note, this Wiki article on Mr. Floyd has interestingly removed any previous mention of him holding a pistol to the belly of a pregnant woman he assaulted.) At first I was rather impressed with how organized and peaceful it all seemed. Meg and I were hanging out our windows listening to the cadence of chants and watching history being made. People were shouting, cars were honking, but it was peaceful. The next night, though, what began peacefully in the evening hours, became something entirely different as midnight approached. There was a palpable change in the atmosphere. An ugly mood seemed to take over where the peaceful protesting left off. Suddenly I was nervous about having our windows open, and I proceeded to darken our room so we couldn’t be seen.

Photo by Steve Helber

Police in SWAT gear quietly moved in and blocked a cross street between Broad and Grace, mostly watching and waiting as if alerted to something we weren’t aware of yet. Helicopters hovered over the city, and there was an eerie almost movie-set quality to the scene. A GRTC bus had been set ablaze along with a RiteAid store. A block over, dumpsters were ignited and tear gas was deployed. The pawn shop below us became a target, and thugs attempted to break in from both the front where it was caged and the back where it had a steel vault-type door. I saw several cops come running after them, one had his rifle drawn. They were chased away, but only temporarily.

The tension was ridiculous. When you hear the words, ‘things are fluid,’ you think you know what that means. But when you’re on the front line of a near riot, it’s the perfect description. The quiet becomes ominous. The adrenaline starts pumping, and fear, at least for me, outweighs curiosity. Meg was bolder, brasher … and angry. Around 3:00 a.m., via OnStar, she had discovered they’d gone through the parking lot behind our building and trashed and looted every vehicle, including her new GMC Terrain. She’d taken a video, which meant she could see them, and they could see her. Desperately trying to make her see sense, I reminded her it was just a car. It was just a car.

I was scheduled to fly out the next evening. Hating to leaving her there, I was grateful to the landlords who took her under their wing. They boarded up the first floors of their downtown buildings, and they had Meg and Luna stay with them a couple nights while she started her new job. The hospital, just a few blocks away on the same historic street, let her leave work early that first week to avoid any danger. Poor Luna, her anxiety apparent, has slowly begun to adjust to her location with the help of new friends and a wonderful doggie daycare just across the street from the apartment. Things have calmed down, but Meg hasn’t. She can’t sleep. Even though her building is quite secure, she doesn’t feel safe. Every night or weekend holds the the quiet threat of the unknown. This is an historic area with lots of reminders of the Confederacy and all it stood for. There continues to be organized, peaceful gatherings nearby, but thankfully her street has remained relatively quiet. Three weeks later her car is still being repaired. The landlord has put an extra lock on her door, and she bought security cameras for inside her place. She had been so looking forward to her time there. She’s met some great people and made several new friends right in her building. But it has certainly not been at all what she expected.

We’re going up to visit her in July. Maybe that’ll add some normalcy and fun to her time there. I hope so. It’s still a beautiful area, but I’ll be glad when she’s back in Florida again.

Posted in Randomness

Two months later

It’s been two months since my last post. Two months of COVID life and living (or not). It blows my mind how much can happen in just a matter of weeks. Before COVID, the TV was all about politics and the opinions of talking heads. I refuse to call it news anymore since, IMO, honest and factual news went out with Walter Cronkite.

The pandemic erased politics, and anyone openly complaining about it seemed uncaring and uninformed. We were blasted 24/7 with number of deaths (not number of recoveries) nationally and worldwide. Even deaths from the complications of other major illnesses became COVID-related deaths. (There was more money to be made that way.) Ventilators became SOP. (There was more money to be made that way. ) Face masks became the norm. (OSHA would disagree.) Social distancing, hand sanitizer, masks and percentages, vaccines, testing, checkpoints…these all became the norm.

Enter George Floyd, (*Note, this Wiki article on Mr. Floyd has interestingly removed any previous mention of him holding a pistol to the belly of a pregnant woman he assaulted.) and COVID took a place in the background. Suddenly social media wasn’t so social anymore. Friends were unfriended and families divided. Justice, injustice, tolerance, misunderstanding, lines drawn in the sand. Terrible images of American history were being destroyed while Hollywood started apologizing. Panderers embarrassed themselves. Marches, protests, Antifa, systemic racism. Suddenly, apparently, black lives mattered more than COVID deaths.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying what happened to Mr. Floyd wasn’t wrong. It was very wrong. And while I agree black lives matter and I applaud the demonstrators in their peaceful movement, the difficulty for me is what’s getting lost or ignored in the movement. I cannot understand for the life of me how intelligent people of all races and ethnicity don’t see that this is being used for political gain by the very people they believe are on their side. Why are we still our color or our race? Why haven’t we learned from the horrible riots of the ’60s that ravaged the country from Los Angeles to Newark and Detroit to Miami? Did Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy die in vain? We had President Obama in office for eight years! Seriously, after all of that, if things haven’t changed, don’t you wonder why? Let’s ask ourselves, WHY HAVEN’T THINGS CHANGED? Who is perpetuating this division? And more importantly, why?

Using race as part of our identity keeps the division alive!

Morgan Freeman has it right: “I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.” Can’t it be just that simple as a place to start? Black lives matter.” Think about it.

Posted in Thoughts

Struggling

Our new vocabulary: COVID-19, flatten the curve, coronavirus, Muhan, China. I can’t say I would have missed any of these words had I never heard them uttered. What they have caused worldwide is indescribable. They keep saying we’ll get through this, and I know that’s true, but I do believe there will be a new normal at the other end. And while we’re in the midst of it with so many unknowns and so many restrictions on living a life; seeing our plans fall by the wayside, being unable to to do so many things we used to take for granted; well, I realize some of us handle it better than others.

Social media can be such an eye-opener. People post such deep, philosophical thoughts – typically someone else’s – and then others ‘Like’ them or ‘Heart’ them or whatever. I read them trying to imagine myself posting similar things, and I find myself literally tearing up, unable to form a coherent thought or opinion about them or even caring to. Rather, I find myself at the precipice of the ‘rabbit hole’, a term a friend and I coined that describes that almost irresistible tunnel one can fall into with almost no will to stop. And at the bottom of that hole is darkness.

I know we’ve all been there. I was there for many years until my only feeling was the non-feeling of apathy. I haven’t been there in awhile. But I now catch myself at the edge, recognizing the danger and pulling myself back from it. I do all the things I would suggest to someone with my mindset. I keep busy, I ride my bike, I pray, I read and knit and do crossword puzzles. I occasionally allow myself to sit in my car at the beach with the windows open and let the negative ions try and balance what’s going on inside. A string of pelicans alongside me can bring a smile to my face. The ocean does seem bluer at times, and the vacant streets make it a pleasure to drive through our normally bustling vintage beach town. Driving home I play music and make a feeble attempt to sing along. Once there, tv news is avoided, though I will admit it’s time to ban it from my phone, as well. I cannot affect it, but it can certainly affect me.

A good movie in the evening helps. A good night’s sleep would help even more. I feel like an ungrateful child, telling my inner self to pull up my big-girl panties and knock it off. I have my mom here and David, both amazingly cheerful no matter what. And even though I feel as if I’m breaking some law, I do see my grandkids once in awhile and even some friends. I’m one of the very lucky ones, and I know it. I absolutely do know it.

But right now, like a million others, I’m just struggling.

Posted in Thoughts

It’s Like a Bad Movie

Well, here I was all ready to write about the various visits from family, when suddenly there’s new words in my vocabulary and a (hopefully temporary) new way of life.

I don’t watch the news anymore; I haven’t in quite a long time since there’s really not a thing I can do about what’s out there anyway. But when it directly affects me and mine, then I read as much as I can, avoiding the sky-is-falling sites, and go from there. This COVID-19 thing affects me and mine.

Suddenly it feels like we’re in a really bad sci-fi movie. We are, for the most part, confined to our homes. Playgrounds and beaches (beaches!) are closed. Shopping centers, amusement parks, theaters, gyms; you name it, they’re closed. In fact, unless you’re a grocery store or restaurant that can offer take-out, you’re closed (or will be). Even the almighty Amazon has had to change the way they’re doing business, focusing now on getting the essentials to those who absolutely need them and relegating the inessentials to an unknown distant delivery date. Bad human behavior has shown itself to be as diverse in its volatility as any B movie could conjure up. In fact, if someone had written into this movie that across the globe people would be hoarding toilet paper, would you have believed it? Wouldn’t you have wondered, ‘Who writes this crap’?

I just read two disturbing things regarding human behavior. In the first, a woman deliberately coughed, sneezed, and spit on $35,000 worth of food in a grocery store forcing the store to dispose of it. And this was intentional! The second involved a masked customer who was irate because he felt that an associate was ‘giving him attitude.’ When asked to leave the store, the man removed his mask and yelled and spit in the manager’s face! Really?

At the same time I read heroic and inspiring stories of the selfless men and women in healthcare and public safety who, despite their odds of contracting this wicked virus, continue to do their jobs day and night. I hear of the good neighbors willing to share what they have. I’m enjoying the plentiful impromptu videos musicians are sharing online just trying to ‘do their part’. Thankfully this list is long and encouraging, if you look for it.

While I can’t say this is the avenue I would have chosen, some of the consequences of this vile thing are not necessarily bad. Interestingly enough, the ozone is healing, there is little or no smog in the formerly polluted air around the world. Families are spending unprecedented time together, people are working from home and kids are learning online.

Will this be our new normal? Outside of the inconvenience of not having our swimming pool, card games, and social activities available, outside of not being able to see my family and friends right now, it’s been rather interesting. Gas is cheaper, traffic is lighter. Will people realize perhaps some of the good that has happened? Look at the projects getting done, the new hobbies taken up or rediscovered, the creativity that is drawn from having to find new and interesting ways to keep kids occupied. Parents are on social media sharing ideas and commiserating with with each other. We’re so used to ‘plugging in’ when things get to be too much that we forget what it was like before this technology arrived that has robbed curiosity and creativity. I’ve seen more interesting and creative ideas on social media than I ever did before! (Now if I could just find a store open for supplies…)

Check this out for some perspective: