Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Season 2010

This year has passed in a blazing blur, and the frenzied activity of the holiday season serves as a symbol of what the entire year has been.
Working full time in the world of hospice is challenging enough, but at the end of the year, in the midst of the holiday season, the mysterious "they" have chosen to launch our new computer system. Long hours of sitting in an office, trying to learn the system and foresee any future bugs have conspired to make this feel like the holiday that never was.
I came home tonight to a house full of boys and the sounds of "bye bye miss american pie" blaring. The younger was sitting at the dining room table with 5 other testosterone laden lads, while the older was ensconced in front of the TV with his favorite girl. The evening was filled with music and TVs and teenage voices. Oh, how I wish I did not have to rise early this morning and go back to the world of hospice..... how I wish I could just be here and soak up every millisecond of that .

I feel it every year... this yearning for peace and simplicity. Every year it grows stronger, and as I age I wonder if I have missed out on truly living. I longed to stay awake last night, to view the lunar eclipse that was a once in a lifetime opportunity. "The heavens declare the glory of God" but while God was speaking, I was sleeping.... in order to get up early and get back to the urgent.

I felt the pull and woke last night, in the middle of the night, slipping to the window, but all I could see were the street lights shining.

I left the computer session yesterday at lunch time, running out to see a patient who's sister had called me in tears earlier that morning. There, the house was quiet... filled with grief to be sure, but filled with love. Sitting at the kitchen table in that quiet house, nothing else really mattered. The new charting system certainly did not matter. Checking all the boxes, dotting the i and crossing the t so to speak, were irrelevant. Nothing mattered there but the quiet glow on the lights of the tree and the person sitting on the edge of the bed.

I suppose that is why I cannot bring myself to leave the world of hospice. It is one of the few places in the world where what is important supercedes the urgent. I could not rush into that house and back out again. In that house, I was forced to slow down, to quiet my spirit, to enter in, to feel the love and the pain. To be a part, however small, to be for a few moments part of something so much bigger than myself.

I know that we must, when we leave here, go on to something else. My patients show me that all the time. Their eyes take on the thousand mile stare, they talk to people that we cannot see. They are attended to by someone who has chosen to set their own life aside and care for them, showing me a purity of love that is not visible in the day to day. Their journey demonstrates love.

We see it when a baby enters the world, and everything stops for a bit to revolve around new life. We see it when someone exits this life and moves to the next, and our whole world stops for a moment. Perhaps it was glimpsed in the heavens last night.

Paul said what I'm trying to say so much better than I... " And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the power, together with the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God"
Ephesians 3:18

That pretty much sums up what my wandering mind has been trying to get to.... so my prayer for each of us in this Christmas season is that we can slow down enough to glimpse, even for a moment how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God for us...

Blessed Christmas to each of you.....

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

peanut brittle

I'm learning to pick and choose this season... actually a lesson I have been working on for many years and will need to continue to work on for many more.
I an learning to slow down, to sit in the silence, to close my eyes and try to empty my mind before the day begins. I hope to be relaxed this season, to actually enjoy the things that we do as a family, to find some time to enjoy silent nights -plural- to find in the midst of the frantic holiday the peace that seems so elusive, not only this time of year, but all through the year
My boys are older, we are past the time of Santa I miss the wide eyed wonder and the pjs with feet. I miss those days and I confess freely to mourning them. Sometimes when I look at the men who surround me (noisily) at the dinner table I allow my mind to go back to the days of "hey mom look at this" - the newness, the freshness of life. i look forward to the days when little sticky fingers will occupy our dinners, when big eyes will once again stand awed by the trees... but right now, in this season of life, i am grateful to be able to treasure the silence..... to savor it.
The tree glows brightly in my living room right now.
The lights are out otherwise..
The aroma of peanut brittle hangs in the air, and I am filled with satisfaction, knowing that if nothing else gets done for the remainder of the year, our family and friends will have evidence that we love them and our thinking of them with our simple gift of peanut brittle.

It is so easy to make... I think I will share the recipe with you. Let's see if I know it by heart

get a glass measuring cup the kind that holds 4 cups.
put in it 1/2 cup of kayro syrup, a dash of salt, 1 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 cup raw peanuts
microwave for 7-9 minutes
throw in a t of vanilla and a T of butter
microwave again for 3 minutes
put in 1 t of baking soda and watch in amazement as your beautiful peanut brittle turns a peuky green. Do not despair. Pour out onto parchment paper to cool for 15 minutes before breaking into pieces. Use caution when licking the spoon for the candy will be hot

Package in attractive tins or plain ole baggies and pass it out to anyone who might need a little Christmas cheer.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Elizabeth Berg and Jane Hamilton. A pleasure to meet you.

Just returned from hearing authors Elizabeth Berg and Jane Hamilton speak.
The event was a fundraiser for the library in the tiny community of Newcomerstown Ohio- and both generously donated their time.

They breezed in very late- so it was fortunate that the food, wine and company at the Raven Glen Winery was so delicious.

They breezed in without apology for their lateness, and were filled with humerous antedotes of their travails with the GPS. I must say that no apology was needed. Their laughter filled the room. Their generous spirit and warm hearts filled our souls. Their lighthearted admiration and love for each other inspired.

I came home feeling renewed by the experience. I have never read Jane Hamilton (but I will be soon) Her writing was described to me as "dark"..... so it fascinates me to know that she is filled with such humor and wit....
I love the books of Elizabeth Berg. She seems to see the inside- the extrordinary in the ordinary.

All in all... it was a lovely evening. I wish I could thank these ladies in person

They traveled many miles to help a small town save it's library. The ladies of that library are obviously passionate about their mission. It was an honor and a joy to have a small part in helping them meet their goal....

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

21 years

My father in law had an old joke
"I've been happily married for 30 years" he would say "Out of 40, that's not bad" He was quite the card....
We have been married for 21 years this month.
We went back, on the evening of our anniversary, to our very first home. It is currently for sale and sits empty (and lonely) so we took advantage and spent a little time exploring our old stomping grounds.
It's amazing how many memories a place can hold. We had our very first date on the hillside above the barn- a picnic where I brought snickerdoodles and invited everyone we knew- while Dan was prepared with wine and cheese, and spent an entire afternoon un-inviting everyone we knew...
It's the place we came home to for the very first time after our honeymoon. The old clothesline brought back memories, as did the birdhouse perched on a pole outside our dining room window. The barn is empty now, but I remember the work my new husband put in to put up fence and make a stall for my horse. Pulling in the driveway, I was almost sure she would be putting her head over the gate to greet us.
It's the place we brought our first born son to. A small outbuilding reminds me of the hours of scraping and painting we put in to create a playhouse.
We peeked in the windows and sat on the porch.
So many hopes and dreams, all wrapped up in one 16 acre piece of land. We didn't live there long- less than 2 years, and we moved on....
Still, it is good to spend a little time remembering the old hopes, and the old dreams. I look at my 2 nearly grown sons, and I realize that most of those dreams have become a reality. I am a wife and mom and I am richly blessed.
It seems like a good time to look ahead.... to create new hopes and new dreams for the future. To be grateful for what has been and look forward to what will come. To think of grandchildren. Travel. Ways to serve. To remember the passions of our youth and to rekindle some of them.
I think that there is alot to dream about. What about you?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

back to work

Well, tomorrow it's back to work for me. I've been home an entire week (which is not nearly long enough) enjoying a "staycation" It turned out the Dan and Nate would be gone to camp the week I took off, and although I might have changed it- I kept the week for myself.
I chose to stay at home, just so our 19 y/o would have someone to be around for him

It was a good decision. Even though I took this week just for some Me time, M/T/W ended up being filled in by others. When a good friend called and wanted to get together on Thur or Fri- I suddenly balked, knowing how very much I am in need of a little alone time. She is a good friend- she understood, so I spend Thur/Fri doing not much of anything.

I floated for a bit in my brother's pool. Way out in the country- in the silence, covered by a blue sky- I floated and savored the sensation.
I slept in - well -until 8 or so, but I compensated with a couple naps.

I rested. I walked. I intended to read a little, but I found that my brain was so welcoming the silence, that even a book seemed a bit much.

Tomorrow I return- and I'm not sure I'm ready. I'm not sure what I want to be doing with myself at this point in my career. I felt, when I found the world of hospice, that I had come home. Suddenly- things seemed to make sense. I still feel that way, but I confess that I am weary. This last year has taken alot out of me. It has made me question alot of my beliefs. I'm not quite as sure of the fit as I was before.

Hopefully, I can ease back into work. I know, from experience, that by an hour or so after my return, I will be feeling that I never left.

I'm going to focus on being grateful for the time that I had. Focus on remembering how glad I was to see my guys when they returned home. Try to keep my emotions in neutral for a bit. Try to hold on to this week of respite.

In 2 weeks I will be off again- this time to be the nurse at our elementery school age camp. It is a total change of pace, and something I always look forward to.

Hopefully, knowing that week is coming will keep me from feeling pulled back into the fray.

how is summer going for all of you? hoping you are finding a break in your routine and refreshment in the heat of summer...

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Saturday, July 3, 2010


Spent the evening last night sitting around a fire, watching the sun sink over down behind the hills.
If I could have figured out how to work my new "phone" I would have posted a picture- but I "up graded" to a droid and it's way to complicated for me. My teenagers are having a blast, laughing at their techno inept mother

We did not have a plan for last evening- I couldof/shouldof spent a good part of it finishing my charting. It was a loooong day in the world of hospice yesterday, and when my friend Linda called and asked if we wanted to come out, I was tempted to say no. I'm glad I didn't.

The evening was perfect- relaxing with good friends, watching the puppy chase the cat- until the cat had enough and chased the puppy. Easy conversation. Birds singing. Fire.

I often wonder what life is about. Often, I'm tempted to make it as complicated as my droid. I think when I do that- I'm missing the boat. Life seems best when it is boiled down to the simple.
Love God. Appreciate His creation. Enjoy and take care of those He has put around you..

Have a great 4th..

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I can't believe it has been so long since I posted here. I guess the storm of spring activities, (and the spring storms) kept me distracted. Graduation parties and wedding showers (everything seems to lead me back to rain- do I sense a theme here?) anyway, I digress.... One son home from college, another immersed in activities. Work...

In any case... just a post to get my fingers moving, and now I'm off to see what my fellow bloggers have been up to...

ta ta for now :)

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Blue eyes

More than 20 years ago a baby was born
A mere 4 or 5 months of age- or as we might put it- 18 weeks gestation. It emerged with a rush of blood from the safety of it's mother's womb and was placed in a plastic container, where brilliant blue eyes seemed to gaze at me from it's breathless body.

I still remember the feather weight in my gloved hand as I placed the baby gently in a sterile speciman container and screwed on the lid. I wanted to shed a tear- but I was an emergency room nurse- there was no time for tears.

We wheeled the mother to another cubicle- where she lay seperated from life and tragedy by only a curtain and her own silence. She had no words. Her face was a stone, and I knew not how to comfort her. I had not yet learned the value of a quiet touch or the meaning of simply being present.

We waited for her attending doc to come and write orders so we could wheel her out the door and move on. I hastened to his side when he arrived, ready to help. He asked first to see the baby- so we walked to the shelf, where it rested amid other specimans waiting to go to the lab.

To my astonishment, he quietly opened the container and gently removed it's contents. He placed the lifeless, weightless bundle in the palm of his hand and proceeded to the cot where it's mother lay. I remember that for me, all sounds stopped. I stood and watched as he gently, carefully, tenderly presented the mother with her baby. I stood and watched as, placing his other hand upon her shoulder, he encouraged her to hold her child, to touch it. I stood and watched as her expressionless face changed, as she emerged from that dark silent place within herself and hesitantly reached out with a finger to stroke the tiny head, to gaze into those blue, blue eyes and to finally place her child in her own hand. I saw her eyes lift from the baby to the eyes of it's father who had been, until that moment, a mere shadow.

I thought about that baby as I walked this morning. I thought about the way losses affect us- even losses of things which are not yet real- losses of things which are a hope and a promise.

That baby changed the trajectory of my life. I will never forget him or her. Those blue eyes are as vivid in my mind today as they were all those years ago. I wonder sometimes who else remembers that little one. Certainly the parents. I wonder how their lives were different and what affect that hope, that promise and that loss had on their lives and the lives surrounding them.

I thank God for the compassion I witnessed on that day.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

writing groups

Our hospice team is forming a writing group

Nurses, doc, social workers, chaplains, home health aides,bereavement co ordinators- all disciplines are welcome to participate

We plan to meet monthly for 6 months, and then evaluate. So far there are 7 people signed up.

This is not something we are taking lightly- years of thought, months of research and proposal writing

I am in a writing group in my personal life- it is very supportive and very informal. We "go with the flow" so to speak- depending on what project each of us has in the works

I'm wondering- for all you wonderful writers out there- if you have any thoughts about structured writing groups?

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Real World

I have returned from my exploration into solitude- and dutifully recorded on facebook that I am regretfully back to "the real world".... but I'm wondering a bit what the "REAL WORLD" really is.

I am back to the schedules and the chores. Back to the worry and the stress of work and the humdrum of dishes and laundry. My mind, however, somehow seems to have remained in the mountains of Maryland and W Va.

I ran away from home last Sunday- taking only a suitcase and a very large dog. Not even a book. I drove for 4 1/2 hours before I realized that I had never even turned on the radio. I arrived exhausted at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg W Va and fell into bed- only to be awakened by a phone call at 7a. The desk clerk was politely inquiring if I might be missing my car keys- as they had been noted sticking out of the trunk of my car. Do you think I was a little tired?

Two full days lay ahead of me- with absolutely nothing planned. The hardest task I had before me was to turn off my brain-and that proved to be a difficult assignment. I also wanted to find the headquarters for the Appalachian Trail, which is located in Harper's Ferry W Va.

I set off to find Harper's Ferry, with no map or directions, just the vague notion that it was somewhere south of Martinsburg. While this may seem faulty logic to most- it gave me the most relaxing drive, through the most beautiful countryside. Surrounded by mountains, driving on twisting roads... ahhhhh......

Eventually I decided I needed a map- so I meandered my way back toward I 81, intending to stop at the visitor's center. Thank God for ADD. I became distracted by a sign pointing toward the Civil War battlefield Antiem- so I followed the signs and landed there. There are spots in the world where I am sure that you can still feel what took place there. I once stepped through the gates of the concentration camp Auschwitz and felt the coldness overtake me. There was a similar feeling here. Not as dramatic, but present. We wandered across the battlefield, just me and my dog- looking at the mountains and imaging what it must have been like for the young men facing each other in battle on that day, for those same young men to gather their dead and bury them later.

A map showed the location of Harper's Ferry to the south, so we wandered country road, surrounded by those beautiful beautiful mountains until we found the charming town. Towns are not particularly dog friendly- so we had no recourse but to retreat to the National Park and walk on some trails. ahhhhhhhhhh Perfection.

It was not until the next day that I actually located the Appalachian Trail headquarters. The wonderful volunteer Judy (trail name Judo) had through hiked the trail herself- and was a wealth of information and stories.

We completed our day with a walk by the Potomac - a long nap- and room service- and returned to our guys a happy woman and a happy dog

so, here I am a week later- wondering. What is the "real world" anyway? Is it the daily grind of work and chores? doubtful The daily intimacies of family and friends? Much more likely Are those folks who are even now shouldering backpacks and taking another step in their 2000t mile journey experiencing more of what the world really is? Could be..

Maybe the real world is just where we allow our minds to dwell- what we fix our thoughts and our hearts on, no matter where we are?

In any case- it was good to go and it is good to be home

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

running away from home

I'm running away from home.


The last time I did such a thing was when I was 7 years old. I packed my bag with cereal and a cookie and bravely walked 1/2 block to the "hideout" - a little stand of pine trees- where I sulked all day and then returned, tired but triumphant.

I'm not packing much more this time. A change or 3 of clothes. Maybe! a book. Not much else- except some dog food and water.

I'm taking my best buddy Emma- a golden retriever. An old golden retriever. We are climining in the car on Sunday sans computer and returning on Wednesday.

We are heading for the tip of W Virginia- to be part of the mountains, to catch a glimpse of the Shenadohah and to just be.

to just be...

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


If I should die before I wake..... I would die a happy, content woman....

It has been such a lovely day. We left this afternoon to go to my favorite "thin place"- my grandfather's farm- where time seems to have stood still. It is the same road, the same trees, the same beautiful huge rocks where we used to play as children. The outbuildings are the same- and when I step into the barn I can almost hear my grandfather's voice.

Dan and I took a lovely looong walk, following a trail down into the woods, seeing wild turkey and hearing.... NOTHING.... I think that is one reason I love the place so. The silence there is palpable. On a summer day, you can hear a bee that is buzzing. Deep in the words, you can hear the distant sound of a tractor chugging down the road. The only drawback to the walk was when we turned around and realized what goes down must go up..and up.... and so up we went. One step in front of the other.

The farm is a beautiful place, but that, I'm sure, is not the reason I love it so. I love it because it was there that I was first loved. Completely. Unconditionally. Totally accepted for whatever I might be. There is nothing like a grandparent, and when I turn on that road, I can feel their love surround me.

We stopped to visit with a favorite cousin- and a favorite aunt and uncle. I love those simple conversations, where past, present and future all intertwine.

As we talked, I realized that a year ago on this date, my husband had been lying in the hospital, pale, wan and hairless. We were dealing with infections, cardiac arrhythmias and facing months of chemotherapy. A year later, we spend the day hiking. Truly, God is good.

Our day was made complete by a holy week service tonight comprised of only candlelight, music, scripture, prayer and silence. There is a peace in my heart and my head that has been eluding me for months.

I am wishing for each of you that you find peace in the midst of this hectic week. That there is a time or a place where you can stop what you are doing and be still. That you can take a moment to connect to the One who made you and who loves you just as your are- completely, outrageously and unconditionally

Have a blessed Easter

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

moments in time

It's a perfect day for washing windows. And for opening those same windows and letting the sweet smell of spring breeze through the nooks and crannies. It's a perfect day for sweeping the porch and for watching the people go by. On a day like this, one remembers the sight of freshly washed laundry hanging on a line, and the scents of good home cooking when the kitchen door is opened. On a day like this, boys come home hungry.

I wonder if life really boils down to all the little moments and how we choose to spend them?

I think of 2 women I met- both through the hospice program. Both facing trials and tribulations. One told me, speaking of the last 50 plus years of marriage "I wouldn't have missed a moment" Her face was serene, her eyes had a warm glow. The other sat in her chair, wrapped tightly within herself, making faces at her husband each time his back was turned. She shook her head and rolled her eyes. It might have been comical.... if it were not so sad...

What are your favorite moments?

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Guess who has an A in english

A text message any mother would be happy to receive... and I got it!

an A in english.... from my son.... who ever would have thunk it? So many memories roll to the surface- such a feeling of- all in that one little phrase

This is the kid who loved to be read to
- but couldn't learn his alphabet
This is the kid with whom I played hours of "games" each night of grade school
-but still couldn't pass a spelling test
This is the kid who hit 6th grade, still not able to read
-but no one could tell me why
"Such a nice boy" "he's very smart" "now mom.... he'll be ok" but no help
This is the child with whom I sat at countless tables, in countless meetings with an array of teachers staring at us. What an intimidating, overwhelming, stinking horrible experience- for both of us.

Vision therapy was the first ray of hope. I'll never forget the sight of my 10 y/o sitting in the big examing chair struggling to read a book that was below his grade level. Petite and passionate Dr Grant was explaining to me that "sometimes these kids will say that the words get bigger and then get smaller" - her fingers opening and closing as an example. The child engulfed in the chair- engulfed in the sea of frustration- engulfed in expectations and demands and drowning in it all... looked up, wide eyed and asked "do you mean they're not supposed to do that?"

Dr Grant and wonderful Janet tossed out the life preserver. Some wonderful tutors helped pull him (us) in. Middle school, high school for 2 years, then to the vocational school... and finally to college. and to a text message.....

guess who has an A in english?!

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

"I'm a survivor"

Oddly enough, I am glad to see the rain...

It seems to match my mood this morning- torrents pouring down, washing away the winter, making everything new...

It's been a rough couple weeks in the world of hospice. Some people just wrap themselves around your heart- and their stuggle mirrors your own.

so, I'm going to make another cup of tea- sit on the porch and watch the rain.

Tonight we are going to a benefit for people who have cancer. Tonight, at the conclusion of the benefit, my husband Dan will get to rise to his feet with others and proclaim "I'm a survivor"

It's amazing how many thoughts and emotions hover just beneath the surface. It's amazing how the act of writing can distill and clarify those thoughts.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

thank you for blogging

I woke up this morning with the weight of the world on my shoulders. Technology kicked my butt yesterday and I fought with computers in one way or another from 9am (work) until 9pm (my son's homework that would not print)

I came to this computer weary, ready to rant and rave - just a good vent to relieve my stress, and somehow get through today

Thank God for ADD- you have all been spared my ranting...

I became distracted by a blog about forgiveness and grace. Then another from a mom of 5 children with severe disabilites who approaches her life with such grace and humor that I laughed until I cried.

So thank you to all bloggers...... This world can be a mighty tough place. Sharing our humanity certainly seems to lighten the load

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

wondering about writing

I'm spending alot of time these days wondering what the process of writing does in our day to day. Because I am a hospice nurse, I wonder especially if writing helps to bring us through grief and loss differently.

I followed the poignant musings of Karen (karen....following the whispers) as she cared for her mother in law during her final illness. In (confessions of a writing mama), there was a burst- a sudden outpouring- expressing grief for the loss of her mother quite some years ago. I'm reading a book by Paul Stutzman (Hiking Through) in which he describes his journey across the Appalachian Trail - accompanied by his constant companion -grief- and how the trail brought peace and healing into his life.

I heard Paul speak the other night, and asked when he decided to write the book. He knew, he said, before he set foot on the trail that he would be writing about it, so journaled along the way. I wonder if he would have had the same experience if writing had not kept him so mindful.

The very act of writing makes us mindful. Gillie Bolton (author of several wonderful books about writing and writing workshops) reminds us that writing tells us "things we didn't know we knew"

I suspect that those who write are healthier for it. I know that I am different when I write.

What do you think?

and btw- I am also wondering how to link to someone elses blog when I mention it here. Everyone else seems to be able to have those lovely blue letters appear!

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Monday, February 22, 2010


I stopped at the pharmacy today to pick up my husbands prescription

I handed the pharmacy tech a check for $2552.72 (yes- you read that correctly) She handed me the medication. I asked for a receit. "I'm sorry, I can't give you a receit" she responded. "It would be" (are you ready for this?) "a violation of HIPPA"

She went on to explain to sweetly explain to me that my Husband was welcome to drive to the pharmacy- and they could give Him a receit for the medication that I had just paid for and was holding in my hand. To give me said receit apparently would be a violation of his privacy.

The pharmacist, apparently in agreement, assured me that the receit could be mailed to my husband. Wow, what a relief.

I get the intent of HIPPA... but given this experience, I'm wondering if 5000 pages of government gobblygock, to be interpreted by people severely lacking in common sense will solve anything for our health care system.

Just a thought...

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Monday, February 15, 2010

White out

I was waaaaaaaay out in the country when the snow started to fall.. Out in "the boundocks"
On a road that really isn't a road... certainly no yellow lines or markers, and lots of curves.

It was coming down fast and furious, and I wish I had a picture to show you- but I was to busy hanging on with both hands. Just look at the whiteness of the page- you will see just what I saw.

To make matters worse, I knew that my oldest son was also on the road- traveling back to school from a doctor's appointment

In a way though, that made my situation better. I knew that the only option I had was to pray for Alex- nothing else I could do for him. And in praying for him, I found peace for myself. The words of a favorite Casting Crowns song began to echo through my head... "I will praise you in the storm" I found myself saying thank you- for all the storms You have brought me through.

The more I remembered to praise, the more I felt my shoulders loosen. I came, eventually to a road slightly traveled, and there I saw tracks in the snow. It seemed easy now- all I had to do was follow the trail left by those who had gone before me. By the time I hit the road going past a popular lake resort, I was able to appreciate the mist above the waters.

And so - here we are- all snug and warm. I confess, I took to my bed for a few minutes after arriving home. Even "praising in the storm" can leave one exhausted. Alex made it safely back to school also, and for that I am very grateful.

Hoping that each of you is snug and warm inside. Stay safe this week.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowy Days

There is no silence quite as perfect as the silence of a forest on a snowy day.

I have a memory of a perfect day- a day that I spent quite alone- just myself and my horse, walking into the woods on a day such as this one. Although it was a trail that we frequented, nothing seemed familar. It was as if we had entered another land.

I let the reins hang. My feet, encased in heavey boots barely fit in the stirrups. There were no sounds, save for the muffled crunching of hooves. No birds sang. No water rippled in the nearby creeks.

We turned this way and that, more by habit than design. She stopped abruptly and turned her head as if to ask permission. I realized that we were at the top of a trail that I imagined was known only to us and to the deer. It went straight down for some hundred yards, then stopped in a grove of pine trees. Although I knew it was foolhardy, I tapped her lightly and we moved off, she slipping and sliding, me hanging on for dear life.

In the end- it was worth the ride. The snow heavily blanketed the pines, the creek, frozen solid, twinkled in the light, and the silence was palpable.

It remains in my memory, a golden moment. Totally alone, totally at peace, enthralled with the fairy world around me.

I think of that time whenever the snow blankets the earth. I pull the memory out and savor it.

Peace on earth.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

winter days

A perfect winter weekend

Saturday morning, I resolved that Nothing would make me leave this house. The only resolution I have managed to keep. It was a peaceful day, just the four of us rattling around.

Mid afternoon, I discovered a big box of crayolas- you know the box- the one with Every color you could possibly want. I retreated to my office, shut the door and sat, simply coloring, for an hour or so. My last coloring adventure was probably 45 years ago. I must say- it was relaxing, entertaining and revealing. My mind, left to wander on it's own, communicated a few things to my fingers.

Sunday we returned to "normal" - although I did maintain my stand enough to watch church on-line (www.newpointe.org) instead of braving the winter weather. Once I was drawn out in the afternoon and evening for a trip to the Y and the superbowl, I realized I was glad to be out and about in the snow.

My mind, returns however, to that little oasis Saturday afternoon. When was the last time you picked up a box of crayolas and let your fingers do the talking?

For some reason, I didn't put the crayons away. Like any 5 year old, I left them where they lay- waiting to call me back to play.... some day.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

if only

"I never should have left" "I wanted to be there" "If only" "If only"

It seems that I've heard hundreds of stories beginning this way. Because of the work I do as a hospice nurse, people frequently recount stories of loss. So many walk around with regret, wishing that they had been present, holding the hand, at the moment their loved one passed from this life to the next.

It is a heavy burden to bear, this baggage of regret.

There is something I have come to believe in my decade or so of hospice practice, and I try to share it with all my families:

I believe that people have some ability to choose- even at death's door- and I believe that some people choose to wait until they are alone to pass. I have witnessed this over and over. I have heard countless stories from my co-workers. Stories of families who sat vigil- wating, waiting- but the passing did not happen until they were exhausted or starving and left the room 'only for a moment'

Sometimes, watching, I think that is just to hard for someone to leave while the people they love are right there.

Some burdens are just to difficult to carry. If you are walking around toting a bag of regrets for things done or not done, just put it down. No one who loved you would want you to carry them.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Caring Bridge

Anniversaries. A year ago on this date my husband was lying in a hospital bed. We had just been told that he has leukemia and he was being transferred to Cleveland Clinic.

It's a funny thing about these types of anniversaries. It is almost as if your body has a built in signal. My wedding anniversary I might forget- but on this weekend- one year later- my membranes recall the fear.

I won't go on and on here- I have to get my family up and out the door to church, Dan included. He continues his treatment, is doing well and we are very thankful.

Let me just say 2 things. 1) Looking back- it was a year in which we were blessed over and over and over I still cannot believe the way we were loved and cared for. 2) If you find yourself in any similar circumstances- consider www.caringbridge.org (for us www.caringbridge.org/visit/danconkle )

Finding a way to stay connected, to feel the prayers got us through this last year. Remember - caringbridge.org

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010


May I say that I just love Facebook.
My boys roll their eyes... "MOM....on facebook?" but they don't seem to mind that their "friends" are my "friends" also...

I stopped in for a quick peek tonight and learned that my BFF from high school will be coming home from Germany for a visit to her parents- bringing her lovely daughter and 3 grandsons (she was Much older than I)

and that my nephew and his beautiful wife had spent the day snowboarding in Truckee (Calf). They started (she said) with their heads in the clouds and ended each run in a circle of sunshine.
What a great image- and how wonderful to have a glimpse of their lives. I lifted this picture from their facebook page- the view from their deck (hope they don't mind :) )

Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks.... and facebook makes me feel like a pup again

Are you a facebook fan? Check it out!

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Saturday, January 23, 2010


He inhabits the praise of His people (Psalm 22:3)

I was so blessed this week by an elderly gentleman who took my hand and said "I pray for you Sally, I pray for you every day" I barely know this man. Faced with his own trials and tribulations- it humbles me beyond words to know that he stops and prays.... for me....

I have been thinking about it ever since- wondering what prompts us to pray...... and wondering what the effects of those prayers really are. Something changes when we pray.

So much is happening in the world around us- so much seems out of our control. Yet every where I look, I see people trying to reach out- trying to help other people.

There are ladies who knit or crochet the prayer shawls like the one pictured above. As their fingers form the patterns, they pray for the person who will receive them. They don't know what the need will be.... they simply trust that their Father will know.
Wrapped warmly in the shawl, it almost seems that you can feel the prayers that formed it.

Say a prayer for someone tonight..... something changes when you do.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sara's Smile

These are Sara's hats.

Sara was my grandmother- and I was named for her.

The Sara I remember jammed one of these hats on to her head every Sunday or for every special occasion. Her lips were drawn in a straight line- I'm not sure that I ever remember a smile crossing Sara's face. She lived in impovrished Harrison County- once beautiful by all accounts, but stripped of it's coal, it was a barren wasteland when I visited there during my childhood. Although my mother was raised on the family farm, by the time I knew Sara, she lived in a dark little house in a little town.
She could answer every Jeopardy question-like a machine. She taught Latin and any other subject that might be required. By all accounts, she worked hard, going back to teaching during the war because there was a shortage of teachers, continuing her household duties, fed every
hobo that knocked on her back door. My cousin remembers Sara substituting as a teacher in his classroom and rapping him sharply across the knuckles with a ruler.

My mom remembers a Sara who laughed- a lot. My mom remembers that she was funny, that she joked often with her husband George, who was by all accounts a hardworking "horse-trader"- never without a story or a helping hand. She remembers that Sara loved to dress up.

She played basketball in her youth- oh how cool those uniforms were, and was the first female in her family to attend college.

She was a writer. I know this because we have stacks of compositions, on yellow paper, written in a careful hand, excellent penmanship. They are interesting- full of details and insights. They stop after her college years.

We learned, long after she was gone from us that she had a first love who died tragically while they were engaged. My aunt knew of this, though my mother did not. We found this picture not to long ago- in an album full of black pages, carefully labeled with white ink.

While my eyes still see a certain resemblance to the wicked witch of the west- I love the smile on her face.
I wonder when she lost that smile? Perhaps after my grandfather died? Perhaps life just got difficult and began to overwhelm her? Perhaps when the dementia that defined her later years began to creep in ?
I have been wondering about Sara lately.
She left a legacy - a family of hardworking individuals, who all seem to remember to laugh frequently. I feel badly that she lost her smile. I wonder if she ever remembered the swish of a basketball? I wonder if she remembered the self who loved easily and laughed often. I wonder if she remembered pouring her soul out onto a piece of paper? I wonder what she might have done to stay connected to that part of herself.
The world seems to be a difficult place lately. Let's not forget the things that make us smile.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Just read Jody Hedlund's excellent post "What is keeping you from writing?"

Have been loving reading blogs about writing- I find that these writers/authors keep me thinking- teach me something every day.

Here is the thing I find about writing: it changes how I live my life. It gives me something to be absorbed in, something that is not dependent upon others, something that makes me sit up and pay attention- and something that allows me to privately withdraw to my own little world, even in the midst of a crowd.

There was alot of discussion in our writing group this week about goal setting- what do we want to accomplish in 2010 (-doesn't 2010 have a nice ring to it?)
There was a fair amount of discouragement among us... things not falling into place as rapidly as one might have hoped.

Jody helps me realize- again- that the process must be as important as the "product". There is something about getting in the button chair (butt in the chair) that is honored. Doing our part must allow God to do His...

One of my fascinations with the world of hospice is noticing when those who have lived well. It try to carry their lessons with me. Writing, I believe, helps me do that.

Does writing change the way you live your life?

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lovely, dark and deep

The woods are lovely.. dark and deep... but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep...

Loosely quoted- I hope I'm close- but those were the words that rang through my head as I forced myself to leave the woods.

It was almost dusk when the dogs and I finally arrived last night- and as soon as we arrived I regretted that we had not come out earlier. Once there, with the trees standing out against a backround of white- I felt that I never wanted to leave- wished that I could walk forever in the silence. So beautiful... so still....

So many things in our lives push at us. So many things pull us away from our center.
I am grateful for the moments that I find in my life for silence. Somehow- those moments expand in my memory- giving my mind a place to go back to.

Is there a place where you find rest?

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Thursday, January 7, 2010


I had a hard time leaving today- each and every home that I visited.

Hospice caregivers are my heros. They give up huge pieces of their lives, simply lay them aside, to care for the folks that they love. They offer dignity, peace, respect and reassurance. They give those people the greatest gift by allowing them to remain in their own homes, surrounded by their own things and with the people they love.

They take on this task with trepidation. They take it on with fear. They take it on with faith. They take it on with love, and time after time, I watch people rise to the occasion and get through things they never would have thought they could do.

Today the snow was falling, and it is predicted that much more will come. Although I checked every medication, although I tried to prepare them for every event that might come, although I left written instructions and reminded them that we are just a phone call away.....still, I sit here in the middle of the night and pray.

I've done this job for more than a decade now, and I Know that things work out. I know that people do rise to the occasion and time after time I have seen that the people who are needed show up at just the right time.

Still, as I left each house, I prayed for protection and for peace. I imagine that no matter what else we do, those prayers are the best thing that we have to offer.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I'm going to the YMCA (sing along.... )

Up early this morning to be at the Y by 5:30am. I've been doing this since November- so it doesn't have the feel of a resolution- more of a routine..

Love getting up early in the morning, when no one else is stirring and the world is peaceful and still. The snow outside is beautiful- the dogs have been loving having the whole world to themselves to frolic and sniff. The youngster refuses to come in- she is the spoiled child of the family. I watch from the warmth of the house as she pushes snow with her nose and dives at imaginary prey.

Started the morning with a book of Psalms. Now that is something I hope to have the discipline to do everyday. It sets my mind.

I've noticed something at the Y, watching the weight lifters. Don't laugh- my favorite machine just happens to face their space. Anyway- I have noticed that these incredibly buff individuals spend a heck of a lot of time.... resting. I never knew. They lift, they huff, they puff, and then they..... rest. They take time to what? recover? prepare? I don't know, but I've been thinking about that as I go about my day. See a patient- give myself a little time to "rest" Put on music while driving, stop my mind from whirling long enough to get quiet. It's helped my days. I hope it will help yours.

I'm off...

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Friday, January 1, 2010


We attended silent communion last night.

Of all New Year's tradition- this is my favorite.
There is just something about it that seems to set things right.

We enter our church and sit quietly. Others are sitting in pews, but there is no music, no talking, no laughter. Sitting in the pew, you can be as alone with God as you chose to be.
It is a time for reflection, for confession, for thanksgiving, for petition. It is a time that always, in some way seems to set the tone for the year ahead.

When we left the church, I chose to walk home. Lately I have been learning a great deal about the benefit of solitude- even in the midst of a crowd. I was so glad I choose to have a few quiet moments, just myself and the darkness. The cold air on my face. The muffled footsteps. The big dark sky, the moon peeking from behind clouds.

The lights in my window felt like a beacon, welcoming me home.

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