Friday, October 27, 2017

Me, too.

So elder George Bush is a dirty, old man.  A licentious, grabby, old fart.  Excuses have been made: age, dementia, disease.  As the Washington Post pointed out, so what? Someone should be keeping a better eye on him then, making sure women are not within arm's reach.  His caregivers and others around him have a responsibility.  And why is this story repeated by of so many of our presidents, senators and congressmen who are supposed to lead and set examples.  Well, I guess they have set the example for others to follow.  We have a known predator in the White House now and . . . nothing.

But that is the whole point of #metoo isn't it?  That there has always been an expectation that as  women, men at one time or another or all the time, will be reaching for our boobs, crotch, or butt.  "It just happens."  

Raised in the 1960s and 70s, this expectation of behavior was certainly the message and the experience I had.  I was taught to kick boys in the crotch "if they tried anything."  There were the uncomfortable and embarrassing comments in the halls of high school and on the street.  There were cliche catcalls passing construction sites. When I was 17, I saved my money and flew to California to visit my eldest brother.  I talked him into taking us down to Tijuana one day.  While there, I was grabbed by the breast as I was buying something from a street vendor.  I told my sister-in-law in an inevitable voice, "well I just got my first boob grab."  She quickly said, "Don't tell your brother!"  I think she feared that he would flatten the guy.  Nice to know that someone would stick up for me if I had wanted.

This, of course, came after the repeated touching of my genitals by a family member when I was in grade school.  When I finally told, it stopped.  And in this, my experience is different than many.  I was heard and believed - the first time.  I was ultimately protected but not until after the damage was done.

Why as women are we taught to expect men - known or unknown - to sexually assault us and sexually harass us? Why has it been "It just happens?" Why are so many millions adding their voices to #metoo?  "Boys will be boys" or "men will be men" should never be used to excuse away such vile behavior.  No person has the right to touch, harass and otherwise humiliate another person. Why isn't this a national emergency as much as opioids or anything else?  Sometimes it can kill and it almost always leave scars if not open wounds.

I just shake my head and ask, "Why?"

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Your Job is to Pray

Anything happens in the hospital.  Anything can and eventually does.

I was paged overhead.  Unusual because the pager was on my hip, active and waiting for a command.  When I called the operator, I got a vague description of a family in need of support.  I walked the Longest Hallway Ever from my office to the ED.  I searched and found the charge nurse who hurriedly pointed to the family room as she was dealing with multiple tasks.  As I moved towards the room, I whispered to another nurse, "patient's name?"

I arrived in the family room to find the charge nurse from the previous shift in his street clothes, comforting a woman obviously distraught by her loved one's status.  How very like the staff here.  Compassion winning out over the time clock.  The needs of others taking precedence over their own.

The story I got in fits and jerks from the crying woman and the charge nurse was that the patient, her cousin, a young guy in his thirties, collapsed at work.  Something very bad was happening to his heart.  He was currently in the cath(catheterization) lab but would be transferred to a major hospital in the area if/when he stabilized.  When the nurse left, transferring caring responsibility to me, the woman quickly informed me that she was "not religious."  I reassured her that I was there for moral support, not to push an agenda.  I wandered in and out of the room trying to give her both space and support. 

About 20 minutes later, her son arrived, who seemed just the person she needed.  Besides being frightened for her cousin's life, the woman was overwhelmed trying to contact his parents and significant other were on opposite sides of the country in different states.  Intense discussion ensued about who would contact them and how much to share.  "I don't want to freak them out."

When the team from the receiving hospital arrived, the specialist didn't stop to talk but went right to work.  It was nearly an hour before I was asked to escort the family to the hall outside of the lab for an update.  The doctor came out and told them in no uncertain terms what was happening and what she was doing.  She did not sugar coat that the young man may not survive.  "Anything significant I should know." The woman quickly replied that her sister had died recently of heart disease, not to mention her father and other family members. Her fear was based on past experience.  Her grief was palatable. "I need to get back to your cousin. Your job is to pray.  Pray for him and pray for me that I can help."  She disappeared back into the lab.

"Your job is to pray."  The non-religious woman made no response to that directive.  She sobbed into her son's chest as he tried to reassure her.  I wondered what she made of the doctor's instruction.

"Your job is to pray."  As the family grappled with the reality of this horrific situation, I complied with the doctor's orders.  I prayed for the patient, the doctor, the team, and the family.  Not that I don't often do that, but this seemed more urgent as no one else seemed capable.  My job was to pray.  I thought of Job who prayed and sacrificed for his adult children, "in case they forgot."  

Eventually they rolled past with the critically ill patient.  His cousin was given a few seconds to kiss him on the forehead before they swooped out the door to the ambulance.   The woman nearly collapsed with soft wailing.  Her son held her, murmured reassurances, kissed her head and led her out of the hospital.  

I was left alone in the hall, praying.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Reiki Room

In a room hushed by closed 
drapes and shoeless saints, 
waterfall sounds emanate from a small player.  
Women were in this space.  
Strong, healing women.

I lay still on the table with closed eyes,
sheltered under a fuzzy blanket
and the weight of job and age and change.
Women closed in around me.
Strong, healing women.

The master’s warm hand hovered
over my lined and tired face.
Another encased an arm.
Reiki energy coursing through
Strong, healing women.

And when the warm hands moved
to cradle by face and jaw and leg
they came to me - one by one.
Women gone from my life.
Strong, healing women.

First came Ma of course, strong.
Then came her mother, joy.
My father’s mother, an immigrant, brave.
My mother-in-law, intellect.
So many strong, healing women.

Others joined them.  Others whom I have known
Petite Ellen, sweetness.
Petey with her determination.
Mildred, faithfulness.
My beautiful niece, independence.

Racing from energy beyond
through these two women
into my body, mind, and soul, 
giving of themselves to make me

a strong, healed woman.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Lovely face
deeply creviced and leather strong
Nine decades of witnessing
hardships and blessings in rugged country.

The smile
which rearranges all those lines
and grooves
and reassembles them in hope.

The eyes
while pale, still dance
and sing of mischief 
and miracle.

Lovely face
western woman
strong and seasoned
beautiful and bold.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Mask

I was very skeptical, although, I didn't say anything. Jose' was quite excited about his friends coming  to lead the retreat for our "11th Hour" class participants.  The retreat was to be the final event for a  large group of our volunteer chaplains who had specifically trained to be with the dying.

Masks - making "soul" masks.  Seemed odd to me.  Oh, but the Divine has a way of using people, methods and events to let you know what you need to know.

My biggest surprise I think was that I felt like I was on retreat.  There in the Educational center auditorium, among all that is familiar at my work, I felt like I was away from the routine.  We listened to music, had guided meditation, read poetry - all in preparation for making our masks. I was being fed which hadn't happened in a long time.

The gist of the retreat was to shed the masks that we wear at work, with friends, with our loved ones and with ourselves.  What was our soul trying to tell us?  Who were we in our deepest recesses?  Who did God intend us to be?

After our centering exercises, with soothing music in the background, we moved from our circle to the garbage bag covered tables.  Before us was a plastic mask covered in white gesso.  We were to talk to our mask and see what emerged.  The leaders had brought all manner of material for us to use: pine cones, fabric, beads, "things," paint and more. I tried not to think but to feel my soul.  I began with a stroke of blue paint.  Coming up from the lip, curving around the cheek to the forehead.  I followed with a companion stroke of black.  Grey. White.  Purple.  Swirling and dabbing over the surface of my mask.  I felt light and energy and free.  I added glitter to the wet paint and stopped.  While my cohorts were making full use of all the craft materials, I stopped.  Finished.  Anything else would have been a caricature of what my soul was telling me.

Our leaders - Cathy and Kathy - had different writing exercises to try if we completed our masks.  Haiku and Pantoum as well as "once upon a time."  I chose "dialog."  We were just to start writing - again not thinking. And so I did.  Rapidly, I scribbled this imaginary dialog with my soul and by the end, I was in tears.  Tricky Holy Spirit, getting to me when I least expect it.

My soul began:

"Why do you hide me away?"
"How should I know?"
"It's dark in here."
"Isn't it cozy?"
"I am light and energy."
"Maybe you'll burn up if I open myself up."
"Nonsense.  I am Divine."
"Oh, don't think much of yourself do you?"
"Why do you doubt?"
"I always doubt."
"But why?"
"Stop nagging."
"Are you afraid?"
"Of course I am."
"What if I don't like me?  That inner me? That soul me?"
"What's not to like?  Light and joy and Divine.
"What if others don't like the soul me?"
"Two answers:  Who gives a sh*t? and Why does it matter?  You are not defined by them.  God has refined you."
[deep breath in and exhale]
"You are spectacular. You sparkle."
"I do?  [chuckle] Dad was right."
"He called you Sparks."
"Fresh from the womb, unencumbered by roles or culture or family drama, he saw the fresh-from-God-soul you."
"And I sparkle."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Grief and the Chaplain

Marie Elizabeth Sebastian Meyer
Damnit.  I really wanted to pretend this never happened.  I was doing fine until I saw a post by my niece, Sharon.  A silly meme with words of love and loss. And then the tears started and my gut lurched as reality danced in front of me.  Since the beginning of the month, I have successfully pushed my grief to the side, kidding myself that I was somehow immune to it.  Maybe I tried to treat this as I would the loss of one of my patients.  “Interested not invested” as a former teacher would chant.

Idjit.  I am completely invested because this is family.

My lovely, saucy, funny niece Marie died in late September.  A vibrant wife, mother of two, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, coworker, niece - she died at the age of 48 from leukemia.  She fought so hard to live, to see her children hit their milestones, to be at her nephew’s wedding, to laugh with her sisters and brother, to do household projects with her husband, but the disease had a timeline of it’s own.

I flew to Chicago to officiate at her memorial service - one of her last requests.  I would have flown there regardless to be with family in such an awful moment.  To mourn together. I hadn’t been to Chicago in forever it seemed.  Brothers were older.  Great nieces and nephews were grown.  Childhood friends reflected my own aging. And yet they were the same people who I remembered and loved and got impatient with and needed.  When I boarded the plane to return to Oregon, perhaps I thought I could leave all this nastiness in Illinois.

Grief spares no one, not even board certified chaplains.  The waves will continue as I well know.  Shoot, this is the same speech I give families everyday.  But in the midst of the hurt, it appears I need to be reminded.

Damnit.  I really want to pretend this never happened.  Love you, Marie.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Decisions, Decisions

Soon, I'm going to have to make a decision - I think.  No sure about the necessity of making this decision since all of the stars have not yet come together in the constellation.  In other words, there is not decision to make actually.

Confession One: I am worrying about something that has not yet happened.

Mt. Hood -the view of which helps me breath
IF I have to make this decision, it will be hard.  It's usually not hard to make a decision about your life if one alternative is unappealing.  However, if both possibilities are tantalizing, exciting, and full of possibilities, the decision may be full of angst.

Confession Two:  I want both.

My decision will affect a lot of people.  Because we live in community be it family, workplace, church, or actual "community, our actions are never in isolation.

Confession Three: Whatever I do, I will "disappoint" someone(s).

And so I breathe  In. Out. Pause. In. Out. Pause.  I try to let go and allow the Spirit to lead.  If I hold tight, metaphorically or actually, wringing my hands, I am not able to respond to the whispers and luring of the Spirit.

May the Spirit of all Life, lift away all fretting.  May I be open to head the luring of the One.  Amen