Tuesday, March 28, 2006

This Fragile Life

I witnessed my first death today. That may seem odd given my line of work. I've been with numerous actively dying patients, spending the majority of a day with a family, only to have the patient die minutes or hours after I've left. I've counseled plenty of families right after their loved one has died. But until today, I'd never witnessed the actual transition. Vickie (one of my nurses) called this morning to let me know the patient was actively dying and that the family was having a hard time. As soon as I could, I went over to the nursing home to be with the family. Within minutes of my arrival, she took her 3 final breaths. And then she was no more. Our chaplain Ann describes it as a sacred moment. There certainly is a fragile line between life and death. I don't think I've had enough time to process this experience, to figure out what meaning I will take with me. My heart goes out to all of the families I work with, theirs is not an enviable task and yet they also have a bittersweet blessing: they have time to say their goodbyes, to make ammends, and to affirm their loved ones life. Most importantly, if they are believers, they have the time to commend them to God, to know that their loved one is no longer suffering, and that someday we will all be together again.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Case of the Mondays

Ever feel like you need a weekend to recover from your weekend? It started out simply. Friday night Kibibi, Jill, and Kat joined me and Donna for what turned into a What Not to Wear marathon. This may be vain but Kibibi and I started to wish we didn't dress so well just so we could get the pricey new wardrobe. And then we started talking about how maybe we could go buy ugly clothes at a resale shop and wear them for a few months just while the "undercover" taping goes on. I mean, it could happen, right? It was a fun night all in all. We intended to watch a movie but somehow WNTW and chocolate frosting were enough.
Saturday morning Donna and I went on one of our Hike for Discovery group hikes at a forest preserve in South Elgin. It was a nice hike, not too challenging, as is usually expected for the flat terrain known as Illinois. Our fellow hikers seem pretty nice and I'm looking forward to getting to know them better in the months ahead. This Saturday we'll be hiking at the Indiana Dunes. Normally I equate the dunes with wearing my bikini and getting a tan but I'm open to new memories. We left the hike a little early as I had a friend's wedding in the afternoon. I thought I'd know maybe one other person besides the bride but it ended up turning into a mini highschool reunion. Which is amazing since that usually only happens at Muldoon's. I'm never sure if it's a good thing to run into people you haven't seen since graduation. Once you've gone through the checklist (job, marriage, kids), do you really want to keep talking to these people? Luckily, the answer Saturday afternoon was yes. After the wedding I kicked up my heels at Cadillac Ranch. I still hate country music but I love line dancing! Who would have ever guessed? I still need to learn how to two step but I just may have mastered Apple Jack, which is especially fun to do during The Devil Went Down to Georgia. Let me know if you want a free demonstration!
Sunday morning I performed in an ensemble at church. The combination of a late night dancing and an early morning rehearsal (7:15 am!) means I was a little tired. Still, it's always fun to perform and we sang a really energetic, gospel-like song, got my energy right back up there. Pastor Ron's sermon was really good, titled Going after God's Best: Gonna Take Courage. How often do we settle for less than what God has in mind? It was encouraging to know that striving to be in the center of God's will is exactly where He wants me to be. As many things that are unknown in my life right now, God has it all under control. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. So even though I seemed to drag a bit today, I was able to provide good care to my patients and families. It's incredible to know that God is right there with me, feeling the pain of those I'm serving and empowering me to counsel and encourage them.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Manna and quail from heaven

I finally went to Sal and Carvao's tonight. People have been telling me for a few months that I needed to check it because, as we all know, I like to eat. It may or may not be one of the first things that people learn about me:) In any case, tonight was the magical moment. Kat and I were honored to be the token females for Mark's small group outing at this fine establishment. If you haven't been there yet, you should definitely make it a priority. Unless you're a vegetarian. Then you might want to steer clear. This place is all about meat. Brazillian meat. Delicious meat. The waiters are constantly coming to your table, bringing skewers of meat (lamb, pork, steak, chicken, etc.), meeting your every need. It almost brought tears to Mark's eyes. I don't know how else to describe this experience. What I do know is that if you could marry a restaurant, this just might be a good one to partner with for the rest of your life. A special thanks to the men of Mark's small group who allowed Kat and I to "crash" the man club (don't worry, we were invited). And an extra special thanks to Oliver for proving once again what a gentleman he is. Ladies, are you paying attention here? Maybe I should start a Harvest dating service...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A few thoughts...

Everybody start your countdown- the White Sox home opener is fast approaching! April 2 7:05 PM I will be cheering as my boys defeat the Cleveland Indians. If you're not lucky enough to have tickets, you can watch the game on ESPN2 and look for me in the crowd. Also, in case you were wondering, I did take Monday off of work. I am 100% committed to celebrating my team!

Vickie, one of the nurses I work with, told me today that I'm doing a great job and that they couldn't have asked for a better replacement. Grin.

Ladies, you may be wondering how Oliver rated on the date the other night. I only graded Charles since he was the one who asked me and Julie out in the first place. But since Oliver was there, I realized it was only fair that he be graded as well. You'll be pleased to know that Oliver earned an A, as evidenced by Julie's point system (those paper tablecloths are so handy!) In fact, there were a few moments when Oliver had more points than Charles but they evened out at the end. So if you're in need of a good man, look no further than Oliver or Charles. I am proud to recommend them as excellent daters.

I think I have one of the best small groups in the world! We met tonight and had another great discussion. I'm so glad that they let me fumble my way through leading. Seriously, there are nights where I know it is only through God's grace that we get anything accomplished. That's how you know for sure that it's all about Him, and not at all about you. Especially when studying Philippians and talking about guarding your thoughts...I may or may not have said "Thoughts are such tricky little bastards." Hmmm, maybe not the best wording but I hope there's some truth to that!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Best day ever!

I had to work late today (shocker) but three great/interesting things happened in spite of Monday's best attempts. First, I met with a new patient, I'll call her Martha and her husband Smitty. It ended up being a long visit with Martha, Smitty, and 2 of their sons. We talked through a variety of issues and through the course of the visit, the family traded sarcastic comments and teased each other mercilessly. Always signs of love in my book! Since I seemed to understand their brand of humor, one son quipped that I must also be German Catholic. German, yes. Catholic, not since I was 2. Still, I was touched to think that sarcasm and teasing was unique to German Catholics (although I have a sneaking suspicion it exists in every good family.) After a little small talk, we then realized that Martha and Smitty are friends with my grandparents! In fact, Martha went to highschool with my grandma and Smitty went to Marmion Academy with my grandpa. It is a small world after all.
Second, I called my mom at work to tell her of this strange coincidence (without giving away Martha and Smitty's names, after all I cannot break confidentiality). We both laughed and then she told me she had news for me. She and my dad attended my cousin Pat's engagement party Saturday night in WI; I was on call and couldn't go. Drum roll please: Pat became a believer a month ago! I am so happy! I have been praying for Pat and the rest of my cousins for quite some time and was starting to believe this was the impossible dream. Only to learn once again that God is not limited to our time table and He is able to change any heart and draw them closer to Him. There I am driving down Butterfield on my way to another patient, crying and praising God. Incredible!
Third, I went on my first "date" in a year tonight! OK, by date I might mean that Charles took me and Julie out to Macaroni Grill and the fun and fellowship was increased by Dena Marie and Oliver's company, but hey, this girl is taking what she can get! We had a blast eating and talking the night away. Thanks to MG's crayons I was able to Rate My Date right in front of Charles and will gladly share the results.
Here's what Charles did for me and Jules:
1. Opened the car door
2. Dropped us off in front of the restaurant
3. Offered us first dibs on the bread
4. Paid extravagant yet truthful compliments
5. Let me order first
6. Laughed at our jokes
7. Acknowledged he was on a date to the waitress and bragged about it
8. Ordered delicious tiramisu
9. Paid for dinner! (Oliver helped- just giving credit where credit is due)
So ladies, get in line for Charles. Jules and I both gave him an A !

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Youthful Looks

I admit it. I may not actually look 26 years old. But I promise you two things: 1) that is my real age and 2) it is never good to tell someone how young they look unless they are over 40. It's kind of like asking a woman if she is pregnant only to find out she has weight issues. Let me illustrate. When out to dinner for my mom's birthday, my friendly mother saw some friends at a nearby table and went to say hi. Mom is always proud to introduce her daughter and is quick to point out that I am a social worker, often before anyone has a chance to inquire as to what I do for a living. Unfortunately, this time she was not quite quick enough. The offender sweetly asked if I was home from college for Christmas break. Now most people would recover and apologize after learning that I graduated from college almost 4 years ago. However, the table of women proceeded to comment on how they never would have guessed I was this old and how young I look and how, of course, I will appreciate it someday. Yep, it is my curse, and boy am I banking on the fact that it will one day be my blessing! For now, I soldier on. When my patients raise an eyebrow at my fresh face, I give my credentials cheerfully and proudly. After a few minutes of conversation, I can usually win them over; I am such a sweet young lady after all! Of course the next thing I know they're suggesting that they set me up with their sons, grandsons, nephews, neighbors, or any nice single man they know. Now there's a compliment!