Monday, December 29, 2008

Obama's Irish Roots

The embedding was disabled on YouTube so you'll have to click on this link to discover where Barack is really from. It doesn't get much better than watching a cartoon Barack do Riverdance. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Let's eat!

I've been saving up two important recommendations for you all, at least all you who live in DuPage County.

First, we have Honey in Glen Ellyn. My friend Jillian and I go at least once a month for cupcakes and pressed tea. Such a wonderful after work treat! I thought I'd died and gone to heaven after eating a tiramisu cupcake! They have "bar" seating by the window so we can people watch while we chat. We're also able to stay near these treats:
Venture back into the rest of the restaurant for a sit down meal. I've been there for breakfast and dinner and have been very impressed. Try the Chicken Caprese sandwich or the Breakfast Burrito, depending on the time of day you go. The house potatoes and fries have this amazing rosemary rub! The ingredients are fresh so don't be surprised if they've run out of what you want by the end of the day. They also have take-home food at the front (near the cupcakes) in case you don't feel like cooking after work. The staff are always friendly and ready with a recommendation of their own. I feel very strongly about supporting our local establishments so I hope Honey will be with us for quite some time. Hint, hint.

Secondly, my high praise goes to Jason's Deli in Naperville. (There are various franchises across the country so you might luck out here!) I am obsessed with the Turkey Muffaletta sandwich and confess that I often have cravings if I go for too long without eating one. They have a great Quarter Muff Manager Special where you add a cup of soup for a grand total of $6.99. There's a great soup and sandwich selection, although I have not ventured far from the muffalettas. Like Honey, Jason's Deli strives to serve healthier food- they're free of artificial trans fats, MSG, and high fructose corn syrup. A nice JD perk is free soft-serve ice cream for all customers.
Happy eating!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Job security

I enjoyed all the family Christmas celebrations the last 2 days. It's wonderful to reconnect with everyone and hear the latest updates. I hadn't seen my dad's side of the family in some time, as we spent Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family. I was shocked to learn that my uncle Scott has been reduced to 20 hours a week and my aunt's hours have been dramatically reduced and there's an underlying concern that the store might go under if business doesn't pick up. Scott is trying to remain positive and find the silver lining to his situation; he noted that he will be interested to see if Obama's proposed stimulus package helps out his company or not. Another aunt picked up a part-time job in addition to her full-time job just to afford Christmas presents. On my mom's side of the family, there are similar concerns. Two cousins were laid off from their jobs (they're in the construction business) a few weeks ago. They're getting unemployment for now but since they're union guys, they're more limited in what they can do. Adam's wife works so that helps but Jon's wife has been staying at home raising their daughter so things are tighter for them. Despite all these financial concerns, we were able to enjoy the true spirit behind Christmas, enjoying each other's company and expressing gratitude for Christ's birth. I was struck that despite my discontent at work, I don't truly have financial worries. Yes, I'm trying to figure out if I can afford to buy a house in this area. But I don't have foreclosure hanging over my head or bills I can't pay. I am truly blessed and grateful for what my job affords me to do. I pray that I will keep this in mind the next time I want to rant about the injustices of my job. And I pray that my family's fortunes will soon improve.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bookmarks

"A bookmark is a limit: This is how far you've come. But a bookmark is also a horizon: I wonder what's coming next? A bookmark, then, is both anvil and kite. It saves your place, keeping you tethered right where you are, but at the same time, it keeps tugging at you too. It keeps urging you to rise up and keep going. One more page. One more chapter. A bookmark, then, is like a sliver of hope. It's all about where you are right now, and where you might be tomorrow." - Julia Keller

Keller's piece in today's Tribune resonated with me, not just because I am an incessant reader and can relate to the wonders of the random bookmark. (Business cards are a favorite place-marker for me.) I love the idea of something as small as a bookmarker being a sign of hope and accomplishment. We can all use a dose of that from day to day.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Goodbye President Bush

As excited as I am to see Obama in office, I am very heartened to read some of Bush's exit interviews. His candidness and honesty comes better late than never and I suppose will enable me to look back at his presidency in a new light. I wish him and Laura well as they transition to life outside the White House.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Burnout Seminar

I attended a fabulous seminar hosted by Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital this morning entitled "Your Calling Has Been Disconnected: Chronic Stress, Burnout, and Compassion Fatigue for the Professional." Since I've been burned out for quite some time, I figured this would be right up my alley and I was not disappointed. If you ever get a chance to see Serena Wadhwa speak, I would highly recommend it! I walked away from the seminar feeling a little more relaxed and a little more aware of all that has contributed to my "burned-outness." Plus I have some new tools for my patients! One point I especially appreciated was the Value of Value Clarification, which I'll outline below. I think you'll find it equally insightful if you take the time.

-List 5 things you are currently procrastinating about. This can be professionally, personally, or both.
-Take a sheet of paper and rip or cut it into 10 pieces. (You could try to just write on a piece of paper but the next steps won't be as easy to complete.)
-Ready? Pick your 10 top values from the list below and write one word per piece of paper. This should be a quick process- go with your gut instinct. This is a partial list so if a top value is not included, add it!

Acceptance
Trust
Honesty
Honor
Status
Intelligence
Integrity
Action
Sincerity
God
Simplicity
Commitment
Joy
Compassion
Hard Work
Loyalty
Family
Friends
Independence
Freedom
Power
Kindness
Generosity
Self-care
Health
Openness
Fairness
Justice
Curiosity
Security
Love
Peace
Money
Work
Solitude
Diversity
Humor
Education
Spirituality
Play
Order
Helping others
Experience
Creativity
Relationships
Perfectionism
Forgiveness
Control
Appearance
Personal Growth
Good food

-Got your 10 values? OK, take away 3 of them. This does not mean that these values aren't important to you. You just need to have the 7 most important.
-Take a look at these 7 values. Then take away 2 more.
It's not easy is it?
-Finally, rank your 5 remaining values in order of importance to you.
-Now look at your list of procrastinations. Compare it to your values. Our procrastinations usually have nothing to do with our values. After all, we prioritize the things that are important to us. Instead, you need to figure out how to make the procrastination fit with your values...a new way to motivate yourself.
For instance, I've been procrastinating on setting up my dental appointment, as well as my eye doctor and dermatologist. I often procrastinate on setting up any appointment. But my relationship with God is my number one value and he has commanded that I view my body as a temple, something I need to take care of. Suddenly setting up an MD appointment can be viewed as obedience to God. Love was another top value so I could see taking care of these appointments as a way of loving myself.
Serena recommended that you recheck your values every 3 to 6 months or once a year, depending on what you want, since our values are affected by circumstances, life stages, etc. She also upped the ante: choose your top 3 values. When we're not doing something on a daily basis that is connected to our values, we feel disconnected. Try focusing on your values for a couple of days and see if you notice a difference. I'd be interested in hearing about the results or any insights this exercise gave you...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Perspective



There's plenty more about Nick and his ministry on YouTube but this gives you an overview. Check out Nick's website for the whole story.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Support me!

I work late every other Monday in order to provide support to a patient's mother and 2 children. This is a family that is facing a myriad of difficulties, one of which being the teenage son has just been diagnosed with severe OCD. This is a family that definitely benefits from my visits and I'm glad that I can support them. This past Monday I met with the daughter first and then had a lengthy visit with her grandmother "Marge." Marge talked about having to be strong for everyone else and reaching her breaking point that day. She finally cried for the first time that she can remember in a long time. It was such a privilege to be there for her in that moment, letting her know that it is normal to feel the way she feels and to affirm that she is strong in spite of what she views as weakness. As I was leaving, Marge thanked me for visiting, saying she was glad that she had someone that could be strong for her. Then she said, "You have such a hard job being there for everyone else. Do you have people who are there for you?" This is not the first time a patient or family member has asked me or the other social workers this question but for some reason it really resonated with me this time. I reassured her that I did have people there for me but as I left the house I wondered if that was true. My stock answer when people ask me how I can do my job is that I pray a lot...and that's true. My coworkers and I also lean heavily on each other, especially since we don't get much support from our administration. If not for my amazing coworkers, I'm not sure any of us could do our jobs! It helps that we have some pretty special patients and families too but knowing that my coworkers are with me in the trenches goes a long way. I know I have their support but I realized as I left Marge's house that I don't share my work burdens with many people in my personal life. Yes, sometimes I grumble about my administration but rarely do I talk about my professional struggles, the moments where I question my calling or wrestle with the loss of a favorite patient. My perception must be that my friends and family wouldn't understand, possibly because most of them claim they could never work in hospice. This doesn't mean they don't care about what I do but I must believe that they could never understand. That's not fair to them or to me. Work occupies the biggest chunk of my week. It's time that I started to share my work struggles and triumphs, beyond this blog, with the people who love me. I will never tell Marge that her innocent question made me think but I hope that I can look back on this moment and realize that this was when I started to be more open and vulnerable regarding my work struggles with my inner circle.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President Barack Obama


It feels surreal to type President in front of Barack's name. The long election is finally over. America overwhelmingly chose Obama to lead us. There's the historical significance of this choice but there's also a feeling of hope, possibility, and promise. People were more excited to vote in this election than any other I can remember, whether they were voting for Obama or McCain. It was amazing to watch the crowd at Grant Park and listen to Obama's acceptance speech. It's not going to be an easy road for him. There is a lot to be done before he will be able to move on to his own initiatives. I pray that the American people will be patient and I pray that Barack will surround himself with wise, humble leaders who can help him redirect our nation. These are exciting times and I am happy to say that I am a Barack Obama supporter.
"This is our moment. This is our time- to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids;
to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace;
to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth-
that out of many, we are one;
that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't,
we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:
Yes we can."
-President-elect Barack Obama in his victory speech, November 4, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Seeking a Moment of Clarity

I didn't have any grand revelation about my life's calling while I was on vacation. I was hoping to somehow get a sign from God that it is time for me to move on from hospice. No such luck, I guess. Even though I fell in to hospice and at times have felt clearly led to this field, I've never envisioned myself staying a hospice social worker. Yet, here I am. It was good for me to get away. A one week vacation cannot possibly fully erradicate my burned-out self but it was a start. Now I just need to get over this cold and it'll be back to business as usual. They saved up 7 new patients for me while I was away, plus 2 they admitted the Friday before I left. And that doesn't even consider all the "fires" I had to put out yesterday and what's probably going on today while I am home sick. (Nothing like waking up with a fever and chills!) It's exhausting to think about but somehow I have a skill set that rises to these particular challenges. For now, I'm staying put. The future can remain a question mark.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ahhh, vacation

I came back from vacation with a cold but had a delightful time nonetheless. Here are a few highlights!

Massachusetts Democratic Donkey
Holocaust Memorial on the Freedom Trail
Kennebunk Beach, ME- a very cold but beautiful day
Beautiful Boston

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Break Time

Tuesday morning I will leave for my first vacation in 14 months. I cannot even tell you how excited I am for a whole week off from work! I've had a day or two off here and there in the past year but it has just not been enough. I've been burned out since at least the spring but none of my vacation plans have worked out until now. I'm headed to Boston and Maine with a friend and plan to eat, shop, and hike to my heart's content. Part of me will miss my patients but a bigger part of me is glad not to carry the burden of my job for this week. I guess I'll know when I get back if I need to be more serious about finding a new job or if I just needed a little break to feel rejuvenated again. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I hope all of my loyal readers will enjoy their work weeks! (That's not being mean- I've sat back this past year and watched you all go on vacation while I had to work. Now it's my turn!)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Personal pet therapy

I almost bought a puppy today. I, who have long decried people (friends, family, and strangers alike) who leave their dogs at home all day while they work, took one look at this beautiful Shiba Inu puppy and just about caved. I should have known better than to listen to my friend Linda when she asked if we could stop by Petland during our morning shopping excursion. I've been missing pet ownership like crazy lately. A pet store is the last place I should be! But when Linda asked, I didn't think twice. I figured we'd take a quick look and then move on.


Then I saw her:

Petland employees are quite brilliant. Before we could say we were just looking, the employee scuttled to the cage and lifted out my little Shiba, bringing her over to a play area. This puppy quickly captured my heart with her playful spirit and incredibly soft fur. My hospice patients have the option for pet therapy but I think we can all benefit from a little one-on-one time with a dog or cat. We just relate a little differently with furry critters somehow. It was good to play and laugh and cuddle this sweet puppy. Of course, Petland employees would come back to check on us and then ask, So are you going to take her home today? Or what questions do you have about taking or home? What can we do to encourage you to take her home today? They are persistent! I just wanted to play in peace. Instead, we got the Big Presentation about all that is included in the cost (food, free spay, crate, chew toy!) and, more importantly, how we will have this beautiful dog in our lives and be loyal Petland shoppers for life. All for the grand total of $1395. At least twice what I was guessing! Still, as my little Sheba the Shiba (as I liked to call her) scampered in my lap, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could budget it in. Every time Linda and I said we'd have to think about it, the employee would say they'd leave us for a few minutes, with hopes those extra minutes would be enough for us to change our minds. Of course, outside of my budget, my apartment does not allow dogs. And there's that whole "not being home during the work day" aspect. I briefly considered pleading Sheba's case with my parents but I'm not sure what Tucker and Buzz would think about a new animal in their home. Alas, I had to say goodbye to my sweet, spunky puppy. At least I have a new favorite breed! And there's a rescue group too so maybe I can get a dog and do a good deed at the same time someday...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Political Food for Thought

Charles Colson asks, "So maybe a particular candidate isn't going to cut your taxes or vote for your favorite program, but the real question is, will he serve all the people, or only the loudest?" Check out the whole article: Voting Like It Matters.

Jim Wallis looks at common ground regarding each candidate's take on abortion during the debate last night. Read the whole article and join the conversation on his blog. I hope we can continue in this positive direction.

Joe the Plumber responds. I personally don't have a problem with a 3% tax increase on those making more than $250,000 but that might be easy for me to say since I will never make that much money! Yes, most people have earned their money (although what about the millionaires that made their money off of others' misfortunes?) but I still feel we have an obligation to help the least of us. Just imagine if the candidates had been talking about Leigh the Social Worker!

Finally, don't forget to FactCheck the debate. I love this website!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cross it off the list!


The hospice team with Jim pre-jump

"Jim" went skydiving yesterday! What an experience! Unfortunately, I did not jump with him, thanks to the residual effects of Thursday's migraine. I'm hoping to go in the spring, or else when the hospice chaplain celebrates his 60th birthday in July- it seems we're all inspired to take a leap of faith. I'm not sure if Jim will still be living then but if he is, I know he and the hospice volunteer Gary will come support me. And if he has passed away, then I will jump in his memory. It truly was inspiring to watch him yesterday, ever calm, cool, and collected. The Skydive Chicago staff were incredible! So accomodating and similarly impressed by Jim's chutzpah. He's glad he did it- but I think also glad to be back on the ground!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Almost skydiving

Today Jim was going to realize his dream of skydiving. We arrived at Skydive Chicago by 11 and got the paperwork out of the way. Literally signed over my life. How should one feel when INJURY and DEATH are in caps throughout the waiver? Despite my nerves, I managed to eat a delicious turkey sandwich (I highly recommend the little cafe that's a part of the hangar.) Steve gave us the introductory class and then we went over to gear up. There's a fantastic instructor named Sparky that helped me get my suit and harness on. I was impressed with all the staff, actually. They're so friendly and passionate about what they do. I was wearing a White Sox shirt in honor of this momentous day (for Jim and the Sox tonight) and my instructor Brad was a Cubs fan. Fun banter ensued. You have to toe the line when your life is in someone else's hands so we agreed to disagree. Jim was in great spirits even though he was getting tired. We finally walked out the hangar to go to the plane...but there was a solid cloud cover. We waited about an hour to see if the clouds would disperse. They have to be able to see a mile between the clouds before it's deemed safe flying conditions, as apparently planes do fly over the land. I'd prefer not to meet a plane face to face. After waiting and consulting, it did not appear the clouds would even start dispersing for a few more hours and that was not guaranteed. Since Jim was growing more weary, we decided to pack in for the day and we'll try again at the end of next week. I have to confess I was a little relieved. While I'm excited to try this out, I'm also scared out of my mind! I am so honored to share the experience with Jim, though, and I know it means a lot to him. Hopefully next Friday the skies will be blue and Jim can cross this one off of his Bucket List.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Brief weekend update

My high school reunion ended up being much more fun than I ever could have imagined. We had a great turn out. I wasn't able to talk to near as many people as I wanted to but enough that I didn't get overwhelmed. It was funny how many little details came back to me, like what college someone had gone to, etc. Why on earth does my brain store that information? We got back our forgotten time capsules, which contained a questionnaire and whatever personal mementos we wanted to put in. Mine had a ton of pictures and random papers, as well as the prediction that I would either be a high school English teacher or a clinical psychologist working with child cancer patients (close), married (nope) with 1 or 2 kids (also nope), and that I would be athletically slim and graceful (what does that even mean?)

Even though we all claim not to care what former classmates care about us, in truth we do. And I felt validated by these old friends and acquaintances. Hearing about everyone's career path and marital status was daunting at times but it was interesting to see myself through their eyes. There was the usual reactions to hearing I'm a hospice social worker (I could never do that, I would cry all the time!) but I also felt admired and respected for this line of work. I sometimes forget the nature of my job. Yes, I'm good at it (some days!) but it's also a calling. All in all, 10 years later I have to admit: I did turn out pretty good. I've grown in a lot of ways but one friend put it best: "You've changed the least for the better." The core of who I was in high school is still with me today and that's not a bad thing. I'm the improved version of myself.

Yesterday I went to the Sox game and they finally won! And then they won today! And tomorrow? I can only hope!

Also tomorrow....I'm going skydiving with a patient! I'm excited for him and nervous for myself. I'm giving myself the right to back out last minute as I have never wanted to go skydiving before. But I figured, if there was ever a time to do it, it's now. Hopefully I'll be alive to tell the tale!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Baseball + Politics= Awesome Fall

I'm still hoping someday to post my rundown on the conventions but given the hectic nature of my life the past couple of months, I'm not holding my breath. I now have 2 families with children or teens that want me to do prebereavement support. Because kids and teens have crazier schedules than my own, this usually makes for longer workdays but I absolutely love it. Somedays I marvel that I have a skill set to prepare these kids for one of the hardest things they will ever experience in this life. I appear to be gaining a reputation within my organization. The medical director of the palliative care program (of which I am not a part) requested I be the social worker for one of the families I'm working with and when this doctor speaks, everyone jumps. It's a bit of a mindset change for me- hospice to palliative (patients are receiving aggressive treatment as well as pain management expertise from the PC team)- but I'm honored to be involved.

On Wednesday a patient told me I bring joy to his life. Without a doubt, one of the best compliments I have ever received!

It's hard to believe that baseball season is almost over. Next Sunday I'll be at the final home game of the regular season. As our magic number continues to go down, I'm pretty confident there will be 2 Chicago teams in the playoffs. Who knows what our beloved teams will do with that opportunity? I, of course, am keeping my schedule open throughout October.

Before I can go to the last regular season home game, I have to survive my high school 10 year reunion. I am not looking forward to this at all. I'm in regular contact with the high school friends that I want to keep in touch with. I can think of a million other ways I'd like to spend Saturday night (in fact, there are literally a million things I've had to pass up because of this stupid thing.) However, my best friends would kill me if I skipped out. Despite the panic attack I had a few weeks ago, I will go to the reunion. I will make small talk. I will mingle. And then I will never go to another high school reunion again.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Opinions gestate

In the words of Mogatu (Will Ferrell) in Zoolander:"It's funny how it switches like that."

Choosing Palin was a bold strategic move but it looks like McCain will end up regretting it for the next two months. The RNC is making me want to throw things and if you walk past the apartment, chances are good you'll hear me yelling in disgust. Let the battle continue!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Baseball Allegiance

A small blurb in today's Tribune made me chuckle. I'm sharing it with you because, baseball and political allegiances aside, I think you'll laugh too. Many Cubs fans are up in arms about this recent statement:

"You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer, beautiful people up there," Obama said in an ESPN interview. "People aren't watching the game. It's not serious. White Sox, that's baseball. South Side."

I don't think he's saying anything that people don't already know. Wrigley does have a reputation for being the biggest bar in America. In the full article, Derek Lee even agrees! Many people go to Cubs games, not for the game itself, but for the beer, the camaderie, the experience. I went to a Cubs game with a few friends a couple of years ago (free ticket, mind you.) I was with 2 self-proclaimed die-hard Cubs fans. However, neither person knew who was pitching or who was playing. What is die-hard about that? Or take this more recent example. During the second Cubs vs. Sox series (which I like to call "Turning the Table"), a "die-hard" Cubs fan worriedly asked me what had happened to Kerry Wood. She had no idea that he was the closer! When I expressed my incredulity to her, she said, "I'm a Cubs fan. You're a baseball fan." I firmly corrected her that I'm a White Sox fan and if I know that Kerry Wood is a closer, as a Cubs fan, she should know it too!

Die-hard is my cousins Jon and Adam who know Cubs history front and back and never miss a game if they can help it. Jon told me that if the Cubs make it to the World Series, he might need to leave the country because he will not be able to take the stress. Neither of us could even talk about the possibility of a Cubs vs. White Sox World Series! So yes, there are some real Cubs fans out there but that does not seem to be the reputation that the fans have as a whole.

The funnier part to me was the outrage people expressed towards Obama's statement. There are now 407 comments as I post this. How on earth can people let this affect who they would vote for???

A small sampling (spelling and grammatical errors intact):

notsofriendly: isn't that stereotyping??? to say all Cubs fans are drunken idiots who only are at the game to party? well, I'm insulted and this seems to be in direct 'violation' of the 'watch what you say' mentality this campaign season. and Derek, that wasn't too smart, speaking out against Cub fans...are you a Sox fan?

Gary: Obama has a right to be a sox fan but he insulted me and many others. He has helped me make up mind on who I will vote for.

Samantha: Obama's comments don't effect how I will vote, but it does make me wonder, maybe he should have consulted the facts before making this statement.

Phil: I am a Cubs fan, but the times I have been at Wrigley, it can feel like a 'Friends' convention.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Political backlash

Much has been said about Obama's recent remarks concerning abortion. It drives me crazy that abortion is still the litmus test for so many voters! Let's look at quality of life as a whole, people! It's not enough to tell someone, "Don't get an abortion," if you're not also going to do something to support the mother and child financially, emotionally, and spiritually. We need to give them the resources and support to make keeping the child a sustainable option. Honestly, unless things have changed since my fieldwork days at DuPage County's Family Planning and Prenatal programs, the resources just are not there. It's not enough to declare that you are pro-life unless you are doing something tangible to reduce the number of abortions. If you can say that you are making those efforts, I congratulate you. You are the exception to the rule. And if you don't agree, I would ask that you look at the pro-life leadership around you, in your community, the Senate, the White House- and see if they can say the same. Chances are they are more talk than action.

I don't agree with everything Steve Knight says but I love the questions he raises at the end and his points concerning criminalization. And for the record, I do believe that life begins at conception. I just also believe that it's time to look beyond pro-life and pro-choice. It's time to look at the issues of poverty, education, health, and yes, even the war (don't you love how the never-ending war eats up the entire budget?). They directly impact the number of abortions without a doubt. Frank Schaeffer, one of the pro-life movement's founders, says this all so much more eloquently.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jim's Bucket List

I've been doing great work with Jim and Jan, if I do say so myself. Jim and I watched The Bucket List together, leading to some great conversations and inspiring Jim to come up with his very own Bucket List. Jim has led an amazing life but there are still a few adventures left, among them is skydiving! Jim was happy to tell me this morning that we can cross one item off the list- trying caviar. A friend bought him a little jar of black caviar over the weekend. Jim asked me if I'd ever tried it. When I said that I hadn't, Jim asked Jan to bring it out . And so it was at 9:15 this morning, I tried caviar for the first time. I was trying to prepare myself because I am generally not a seafood-lover; however, I do love trying new kinds of food. My take? Caviar is very salty and yet quite enjoyable. I do indeed have expensive taste. I'll be sure to keep you updated as Jim completes more items on his Bucket List. Next week I will help him write his obituary and then we are going to record his memoirs. I can really tell that I'm making a difference here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A new matchmaker

Robert is a patient in his 60s with COPD. We've done a lot of hard work together as he faces the end of his life. He's struggled with anxiety and depression and just figuring out how to prepare himself and his family for his death. It's been a true honor to be a part of his journey. I see him every Monday, never quite knowing what we'll end up discussing. Robert is quite the charmer. The first time I met him he said he needed to put on sunglasses because he was blinded by my beauty! This past Monday he raved about my new haircut. Towards the end of the visit, he told me he hoped that I would find a man who would appreciate me- all out of left field. Apparently he wants to take Ruth's place...he added the caveat that he's going to need to meet and approve of whomever I decide to date/marry. I'm not sure how I inspire such a protective nature in my patients but it's sweet that they think I deserve the best. I can't argue with that!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Intimate White Sox Moments

Brooke's new boyfriend Dan scored us some awesome patio seats for last night's game. He works for US Cellular and got some extra tickets. This was the first time I met Dan. Clearly he thought that giving me free Sox tickets and free food and drinks (patio perks) would win me over. And clearly he is a smart guy! But I'm not so easily bought- although Dan is definitely a nice guy and a good person to know if you're a Sox fan. The patio is like the Garden of Eden of The Cell. Potato salad, fried chicken, ribs, plus the usual baseball food! We were able to sit right by the warning track and watch the players warm up. JD was literally 15 feet away from me. My camera has a horrible zoom so I don't have good player pictures to post, unless if you want to see Matasuzaka warming up for the Red Sox (the opposing team's bullpen is right next to the patio). Still, I was content to watch JD toss the ball around. He threw the ball over to Wise, then turned to look into the patio. He made direct eye contact with me. And then...he waved. At me!!! I was in heaven! Dan, Ricky, and Brooke will testify to my giddiness. Our seats in the stands were right behind JD so my happiness was made complete. Unfortunately, the game did not go so well. (Don't even get me started on Boone Logan!) But when Jermaine Dye waves at you, nothing much else matters for the night.

She bangs, she bangs

I thought after Donna's wedding was over, I'd be ready to chop off my hair. Instead, I decided to give bangs a try. I had no idea that this was a cultural phenomenon or that it would make me the most popular girl around. And now my coworkers have told me that with my new hairstyle, I will surely be married within the year. They are literally planning my reception. I'm not sure what to make of that but I am enjoying my new look!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hopium

John Kass's column in today's Tribune was pretty amusing. He and I tend not to see eye to eye politically but he gets points for being a Sox fan.

Read the article, then watch the video:



Also humorous:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Encouragement

Shortly after I wrote about Ernie last August, we ended up discharging him from hospice. He was simply too stable and healthy. It was disappointing because I adored visiting him at the nursing home. He's such a sweetheart! Every once in awhile I'll run in to him when I'm visiting other patients but it's just not the same. Also disappointing was not being able to encourage his daughter "Jan", a truly delightful, outgoing woman. Her husband "Jim" has Parkinsons. Jan was pretty busy between caring for her husband and visiting her dad. Even on her down days, she managed to keep a positive attitude. It was truly an honor to work with her. I know she wanted Jim to consider coming on to hospice but he was not ready.

Back in May he began a different program and was discharged on Friday. Over the weekend, Jim did a lot of thinking and decided he was ready for hospice. This is a huge decision and Jan was relieved. Monday night the hospice RN Liz went out to do the admission and today Beth and I did a joint visit. Jan is absolutely thrilled to have us back! She told me today that she was so happy that Jim agreed to the hospice program, that she didn't want to push her luck in requesting who would be on the team. She said she was so happy when Liz told her that Beth and I would be assigned. Beth and I told her that we wouldn't let anyone else be involved! It was so nice to talk to her again, get an update on Ernie, and meet Jim. Jan said she is relieved that I will be the social worker because she felt so supported when I was involved with her dad. Apparently the other social worker does not have much tact or empathy (still new to the job) and Jan feels that this will be a much better fit. It's so nice to know that someone would request me, especially after a week where I have felt I am lacking in skills. That might be my own issue- I certaintly haven't heard any complaints but every once in awhile I feel like I am in over my head and don't know what to say or think. Another social worker told me it takes 10 years in your field before you feel competent. Just 6 more years to go, I guess. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to working with Jan and Jim and helping them find enjoyment in the days ahead.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Today

Work was exhausting.
But I found gas for $3.99. (On Rt. 31 just south of Rt. 56 in Aurora)
Not too shabby!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pitchfork 2008

The rain held off for another great Pitchfork Music Festival yesterday. This is my 3rd year attending the 3-day fest, though I typically can only make it to just one of the days. I'm bummed that I wasn't able to go today for the sole reason that Bon Iver is there this year. Still, yesterday did not disappoint and I walked away with a few new favorite bands.

The Partial Line Up:
(just partial because I only ended up checking out bands on the 2 main stages and we got there a little late due to ticket distribution issues- still got to listen from outside but not sure who it was!)

2:00 p.m. Caribou- A great starter for my Pitchfork experience.
3:00 p.m. Fleet Foxes- Absolutely my pick of the day! I fell in love with the harmonies, the lyrics, and the band.
4:00 p.m. Dizzee Rascal- Energizing rap with enough F-bombs to make a seasoned rapper cringe. Still, I enjoyed his accent and the way he got the crowd pumped up.
5:00 p.m. Vampire Weekend- OK, I know that their debut CD is all the rage but they definitely lack stage presence. At one point, I wasn't sure if the set had ended or if they just had a loooong transition between songs. Once the stage presence catches up to their genius, they will be unstoppable.
6:00 p.m. !!! - Pronounced "Chick Chick Chick." (We were wondering too.) High, high, high energy band that inspires all to dance around them. There were some unflattering camera shots of the male lead singer but I could forgive that based on the band's enthusiasm and commitment to their music.
7:00 p.m. The Hold Steady- Already loved this band and they did not disappoint. I'm digging the stuff on their new album.
8:00 p.m. Jarvis Cocker- I found Jarvis to be mellow and quite enjoyable.
9:00 p.m. Animal Collective- I've heard little bits and pieces in the past. A wonderful close to Saturday and definitely ownable.

The Pitchfork web site has a link to webcasts of all the performances so check it out if you have time!

Other thoughts:
1. Guys should never wear capris or skinny jeans. Actually, I don't think anyone should wear skinny jeans. Ditto on high-waisted pants and shorts. Let's keep that trend in the 70s where it belongs.
2. Brooke and I sat with a few of Melissa's friends. One of them, Chris, was only there because his wife is a big Pitchfork fan. He's more of the death metal type, funny and perfectly harmless. I learned later that people tend to be intimidated by him- not me! Melissa told me I handled Chris perfectly. I didn't realize that he needed handling! Yay for my people skills!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bumper Sticker Thievery

While I was visiting my good friend Christy in Holland, MI, someone stole my Barack Obama bumper sticker again. Apparently Holland dwellers, or at least those in Christy's apartment complex, are not similarly enamored with Obama. I had to laugh when I realized that the sticker was MIA. Never fear, faithful readers. Where there's a will, there's a Barack Obama bumper sticker on the way.

(In good news, I had an otherwise fantastic time with Christy. We shopped, hit the beach, watched some movies, and, of course, ate some delicious food! I left at 8 this morning to go to my family reunion. I seriously adore my family! You would not believe the amount of food that is available at our reunion. I brought my famous whiskey cake, which was a big hit. I had a great time catching up with everyone. My uncle let me see the new kittens- he banned everyone else from the barn. And my cousin Adam finally won money off the chicken poop lotto. All in all, a good day!)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Busy, busy, busy

It finally happened. I've reached the business levels of my youth, or at least of my mid-20s. Somehow every weekend is booked through the end of August. And September is fast disappearing. Between Sox games, weddings, music festivals, work on-call (yuck), and church responsibilities, my time is becoming a hot commodity. Lest you think this business is reserved only for the weekend, my weeknights are consumed with Book Club, Dinner Club, coffee with old friends, dinner with current friends, and so on and so forth. (At least Book Club and Dinner Club are just once a month!) I feel ridiculous telling my best pals that we'll have to schedule something 2 weeks out. How on earth did I used to live like this? I am now more accustomed to at least 1 or 2 nights in. The truth is I really need that time at home, whether to relax, catch up on laundry and errands, or watch my current favorite reality tv show. None of these activities are a bad thing. I just need to strive for balance.

In great news- I passed my LCSW test on Tuesday! Hurrah! It is such a relief to have that over with. Now I just need to fill out my application and it will all be official. God remains silent over what lies in my future career wise but I'm hoping to have some direction within the next year. I figure I should either move on by then or consider myself a hospice lifer. Ironic term, eh?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

White Sox Winner!

I went into this weekend's Crosstown Classic with a hopeful heart but still recovering from last weekend's massacre. Friday afternoon I had to visit at pt. at one of my nursing homes, which just happens to hold a lot of Sox and Cub fan residents. Of course every floor had the game on so I was able to check the score in between my visit. When I arrived at the facility, the score was 1-0. I was pleased to see this. When I was done visiting with my pt., I looked at the score again. 8-0! I was even more pleased! My first thought: What a reversal of fortune from last weekend. And my hopes were even more raised but like any good Sox fan, I didn't want to jinx it so I kept these thoughts to myself. I watched the rest of the game at home and it was thrilling to the end. My mom and Grandpa were even watching- and my mom never watches baseball. A minute after the game ended, mom called me to congratulate me on JD's amazing 9th inning catch! She's too cute.

Saturday Brooke and I went to the game. I was a little nervous because my record has not been good in attending Crosstown Classics. Pretty sure I'm 0 for 3 (we lost even the year I had to sell my ticket!) Still, we both wore our Ozzie's Angels tank tops. I wore the 2005 black one and Brooke wore the white version we created last year. Brooke had her Sox naval ring in and was wearing her Sox necklace- she is sure these are lucky items and noted that she was unfortunately not wearing them last weekend. The game was an amazing nail-biter to the end! We were sitting by lots of dedicated Sox fans which made it even more exciting. There's nothing like high-fiving a whole row of strangers and this game gave us lots of reasons to do that! Our tank tops were a big hit as always- one guy said it was the best original shirt he'd ever seen. Why yes, sir. It is.

I watched tonight's game on tv while I studied for my LCSW test. Of course it's hard to focus on studying but the test is on Tuesday... Sweeping the Cubs was a dream but I didn't know how attainable it would be. I held my breath every inning. I told Jill last night on our marathon walk that it would be interesting to be hooked up to an EKG during one of these games. I get just a little bit worked up. I'm sure that's hard for you all to imagine! I'm so, so happy that we won once again! To sweep the Cubs after last weekend: priceless. But am I going to rub it in their faces? No. Sox fans don't do that. A Cubs fan always starts instigating. Do I defend my team? Of course. But do I start saying crap? No. I don't think that I need to do that. I'm confident in my team. It's been a great season so far, shaky at times but enjoyable to watch nonetheless. And lest I jinx myself, I will sign off now...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ruth

My favorite patient is dying. I have visited "Ruth", 93 years old and forever spunky, every week for the past year and a half. Our visits are usually in the 2-3 hour range and we cover all manner of topics. She's shared her amazing life story with me and dispensed her wisdom. One of her big wishes is for me to meet a nice guy and settle down- once she's approved of the guy, of course. Every week I have to give her a progress report on my dating life- and believe me, she's the only patient that gets away with this!

I was planning on visiting Ruth as usual this afternoon. Vickie, her nurse, called me about noon to let me know that Ruth had had a change in condition over the weekend. When I arrived, I didn't know what to expect. Ruth has had many ups and downs since she has been a hospice patient; we have expected her to die a few times only for her to bounce right back. In fact, the family jokes that I can bring her back from the brink, as she really has perked up at the sound of my voice. The moment I saw her, I knew that she wouldn't be bouncing back this time. She briefly woke up and smiled when she saw me but quickly fell back asleep. I spent the afternoon at her bedside, holding her hand and comforting her daughter. We shared our favorite stories about Ruth. At one point I took my hand away to drink some water. Ruth opened her eyes and asked "Where'd you go?" and reached her hand back towards me. I reassured her that I was there and held her hand once more. She was comforted and fell back asleep. Later on she asked me "So you found yourself a boy?" Her daughter and I had been laughing and reminiscing earlier about Ruth's matchmaking hopes for me. There's the proof that hearing is the last sense to go! I told Ruth about my latest date. Her eyes remained closed but I could tell from her facial expression that she is quite hopeful about this prospect.

It was very hard to leave the house today. It was very hard to say goodbye to Ruth. I don't know if she'll make it through the night or not. As much as we hospice workers prepare for these moments, there are certain patients that steal a piece of your heart. Ruth is that patient for me. She has told me in the past that I am her favorite hospice team member. It's rare that I trump a nurse in the line of favorites! I rarely cry during patient's final moments but I could not keep back the tears when I told Ruth goodbye. I will never forget her or her family. I know that I made a difference in Ruth's life and that means everything.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy Friday

This morning a patient told me, "You're smart, you're confident. You're highly intelligent." I would have been more flattered if he didn't have dementia.

Hurray for Oswego selling gas for $4.06 this afternoon!

My weekend will happily be consumed by the Crosstown Classic. If I'm not watching the games, I will be obsessively checking the score from wherever I am. I can't wait until next Saturday's game. I may have heart palpitations from the stress but I will enjoy every minute of it. Go Sox go!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oh, it's going to be good!

Respect the key word in Red Line series
White Sox organization has little antipathy for North Side rivals
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com

CHICAGO -- When Jerry Reinsdorf was the subject of ESPN 1000's "Lunch with a Legend" series back at the end of May, the White Sox chairman was asked for his opinion on one of the show's hosts, Marc Silverman, being a Cubs fan.
"Why don't you lie down, and it will pass," said Reinsdorf, taking an indirect but humorous jab at the White Sox baseball rivals from across town.

In complete honesty, Reinsdorf has nothing against the Cubs. Neither do most of the White Sox players, nor do the members of the organization. The White Sox are too focused on their own goal of winning the American League Central and pursuing their second World Series title in the past four years.

As for Ozzie Guillen, he has absolutely no hatred for the Cubs. The White Sox manager does desire equal respect for his team, in regard to how their current status is portrayed throughout the city.

"I don't really worry about the way people treat the Cubs in this town," said Guillen, prior to Wednesday's game with Pittsburgh and just two days away from the first Cubs-White Sox matchup of 2008 at Wrigley Field. "With all respect, they don't appreciate as a city what the White Sox have been doing here for the last few years.

"That's why I don't like it sometimes," Guillen added.

White Sox players have been hit with questions about the Cubs series for pretty much the past month, but that attention has heightened over the past week with both teams in first place atop their divisions. It's to the point now where these same players, some of the best quotes on the team, are offering up standard answers just to get through the respective interview sessions and move on to other topics.

You know, the "Let's focus on Pittsburgh right now" approach, followed by "It's just another series for us, but it has a little bit more excitement." In regard to hatred for the Cubs, a feeling the most ardent of White Sox fans regularly show off -- a feeling usually returned by the North Side supporters -- it's not outwardly present in the clubhouse.

"It's really for the fans," said White Sox third baseman Joe Crede with a smile. "I would never say that I dislike any team. As you play longer for one certain team, you grow accustomed to fans, and what they like and dislike about each team. You learn the whole situation of how passionate fans are here in Chicago."

"There's more craziness with all the fans and with all the hype, it's like a playoff atmosphere," White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye added. "It's an exciting series, but for the players, once you get on the field and start playing, it's like another series."

Dye has a friendship with Cubs first baseman Derek Lee, having grown up in the same area and played together as far back as the Arizona Fall League. Guillen also is close to Lee from their days together on the Marlins, as well as Ryan Dempster, while he also has a great deal of respect for manager Lou Piniella and general manager Jim Hendry.

So, the White Sox will lead everyone to believe this weekend will be just another series at a visiting ballpark among friendly rivals. The intense disagreements in the stands and the equally intense reactions to happenings on the field would lead everyone else to believe otherwise.

"Really, it's all about respect," Guillen said. "Am I a Cubs fan? Do I wish them doing well? As a fan, no. As a baseball man, yes. The thing is obviously when the game starts, it's another club to face.

"Off the field, a lot of people think I hate the Cubs or I'm jealous of the Cubs. But I have a lot of respect for them."

A little humor...

One of my coworkers discovered the DNR song and shared it with us after an endless afternoon of meetings. It was just what I needed! The video itself is nothing but the song is pure genius! Aside from the Kevorkian reference, it perfectly describes what I see everyday. Enjoy!


Saturday, June 14, 2008

James Taylor

This weekend is shaping up to be a far cry from the fabulousness of last weekend. Last night I had to cancel a dinner date because 1) it hurt when I swallowed 2) my glands were swollen and 3) massive sinus headache. It's been an exhausting week and must have caught up with me. I went to bed early and am feeling much better this morning. Such a disappointing Friday night though! Today I'm on call for work until 8 am tomorrow. I really, really hope I don't get called out! Of course, I hope that every time and sometimes my wish comes true. The real highlight (and perhaps my redemption) will be tomorrow- taking my dad to his first Sox game! Now if only the rain will hold off until after the 9th inning is over.

Last Saturday I saw James Taylor at Ravinia with 5 friends. James was amazing, as always. I got to see him at Rosemont a few years ago so I knew it would be a good show. Ravinia seems to make everything better. It was definitely a relaxed environment and I could almost imagine that James was singing to me in my living room. Obviously I knew I was outside but with an inflatable couch just a few feet away, you can see why one might forget their surroundings for a few moments. We may not have had our own inflatable couch but we still had an impressive picnic spread. Fruit, tons of brie, bread, chicken salad, chocolate, "crack" pretzels, and wine...delicious! Luckily the rain held off during the performance so we could enjoy our feast. I read in a review of James's Friday night show that he did not perform "Fire and Rain" but he did sing it for us! He played all the favorites and some great covers as well. I can't wait until I see him again!
Kibibi, Erin, Linda, Jill, and Annie with our bounty

Monday, June 09, 2008

A year in review

Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of Grandma's death. In some ways, I feel like the anniversary should have been over the weekend. She died at 12:27 am Sunday morning. I had been prepared to stay up with her Saturday night, giving her the medications she needed and making sure she stayed comfortable. It's such semantics to say she died on June 10. She was dying the whole week, slowly slipping away from us. And yet, she was my grandmother even on her last day of consciousness. She woke up Friday afternoon briefly. When I asked her if she needed anything, she said, "No, I've got you." That was Grandma. Friday night she said her last words- instructing us to sing Happy Birthday to my cousin Zack. She died about 27 hours later.

I'll be honest. It was a little hard to sing during church, as I thought about what I was doing at that time a year ago. Last summer was difficult for obvious and not so obvious reasons. I think I've come a long way since then but I am forever changed by this loss. Grandpa is still at Marianjoy for rehab so tomorrow our family will gather there to remember Grandma. I'm not sure that I want to go. I love being with my family. I want to pay my respects to my Grandma. Right now, the thought of a formal reflection time makes me unbearably sad. Still, I will go. I know it will mean a lot to Grandpa and to my mom. I will be with the people who understand exactly what I'm feeling. I will continue to learn what it means to praise God through our trials. And I will continue to remember Grandma and the ways that she blessed and impacted my life.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

History-making change we can believe in


I'm a little late in posting on Obama clinching the Democratic nomination but still just as excited! It has been amazing to see the response and support Obama has received since he first entered this crazy race. I'm glad to have played a part in it, albeit small. I love listening to Barack speak and this time was no exception- it's a little long but worth listening to. Onward we go to November!
"We may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans but we are Americans first. We are always Americans first." -from Obama's speech June 3, 2008


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Fried Pickles


Spears and slices, take your pick

If you've never been in the Peru-Mendota area, chances are you've never heard of La Grotto's. And chances are even better that you've never heard of fried pickles. And that, my friends, is a travesty. Three of my good college friends are from Peru and Mendota. There's not much to do in those parts but they do have a shining jewel in La Grotto's restaurant. Fantastic pizza and amazing fried pickles. So it was after our freshman year of college, 8 of my closest friends and I went on a camping trip that naturally incorporated a visit to La Grotto's. I've been hooked on fried pickles ever since. I'm unaware of local restaurants that offer this tasty appetizer but it is all the rage in Southern states. Every time I visit Tracy and Joel in Nashville, I make sure to get at least one order in.

Lately I've had fried pickles on the brain. I haven't been able to get back to Nashville since January and I've been craving a fried pickle dipped in Ranch dressing like nobody's business. What else could I do? I decided to track down a recipe and make them myself. Last night I attempted to create this delicacy for Annie's School's Out party (a celebration of her last day as a teacher and first day of summer). It was a bit of work but the fried pickles were a hit! I'm not sure how soon I'll attempt them again- especially as summer draws near- but I'm glad to know that I'm able to make such a wonderful treat.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

And so it continues...

Just when I thought we were making some headway on Grandpa's health, he broke his hip. Friday he was hanging a trellis on the front of his house when he fell. The MDs just thought it was badly bruised and sent him home with a walker. However, the pain only got worse so mom took him to the ER yesterday and they confirmed that his hip is indeed broken. He had surgery to replace the ball on the top of the femur this afternoon. So far, so good. He'll be in the hospital until Sunday and then he'll need physical therapy. After that, he will hopefully resume radiation and reschedule his colon resectioning. The eerie part in all of this is that Grandma was in the hospital this time last year deciding to stop treatment and go home with hospice. Grandpa was apparently admitted to the same floor- different room- and some of the RNs recognized my mom. I'm sure they will take extra good care of him. It's just strange to reflect back on the past year and be confronted with a grandparent's failing health all over again. Granted, Grandma's prognosis was grim from the start. Grandpa was told by his surgeon that he is healthier than most 55 year olds. They seem to have caught his cancer in time. Yada, yada, yada. It's just that this is how a lot of declines begin. I hate the thought of more hospitalizations in Grandpa's future. And I question how I would have the strength to lose another loved one right now. I know that I need to trust that all will work out. I have no reason to believe otherwise right now. This is just one of those times where working for hospice affects my judgement, attitude, and outlook. I've seen too much. Just today I was thinking that I should ammend my Living Will to reflect certain medications and treatments that I never want to have, based on what I've seen patients go through. I know. I'm morbid. Even though I'm questioning if I should stay in hospice, I would never trade my experience thus far. Stay tuned, my friends. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cheap Gas...Anywhere?

I was quite depressed to be glad that I found gas at $4.07 (corner of Roosevelt and Kirk) this afternoon. When you compare it to $4.27 (corner of Rts. 59 and 64- talk about highway robbery!), $4.07 doesn't seem that bad. It is just sad that we have come to this point. I remember last summer the experts declared it was going to go up to $5 and being shocked and appalled...and then it didn't happen. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief. Now I'm hearing it'll go up to $7 or 8. Say it ain't so!

Since I do a fair amount of driving through DuPage, Kane, Will, and Kendall Counties, I know where the "good" gas stations are. There are web sites that post where the cheapest gas stations are but, generally, when I need to fill my tank up, I'm nowhere near a computer. I'm betting that's true for most of us. Therefore, if you're ever curious about where to go, feel free to give me a call. I might as well put this knowledge to good use. It's too bad we don't have any local candidates offering cheap gas as a campaign stunt. Seriously. It's too bad.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Emily

I have a 46 year old cancer patient now and today I started working with his 5 year old daughter Emily. She is so precious! At some point I will also start working with his 2 year old son. Emily and I got along famously this afternoon. We played ball, had a serious talk about what was happening with her dad, and then we did art therapy. I asked Emily to draw a picture for her dad. Her interpretation of what she drew: "Daddy is in the tomb but there is no lid on it. And he has a blanket (it was pink and orange). Jesus is healing Daddy, he is pouring down his love on him." There are some theologically deep things going on this picture! I'm pretty sure Emily didn't understand all that she was drawing and saying- the magic of art therapy- but she knows that her dad is dying and that this is going to be hard. As sad as these circumstances are, it's good to be working with kids again, knowing that I can help them through this difficulty. Emily wanted me to stay there forever but eventually agreed that I could leave and come back next week. Or, as she said, "you can come back whenever you want." You have to love open invitations!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Healthy cafe

Saturday I got down to business and studied for my LCSW. I'd been slacking off lately so I felt like I made some real progress. I reviewed the basics and delved into the DSM-IV. I'll be diagnosing you all very shortly! Annie and Ellen needed to grade papers and suggested we all meet at Clean Coffee and Smoothies in downtown Glen Ellyn. It's been open since January and now the theater is flanked by Starbucks on one side and this healthy alternative on the other. Pretty much everything there is organic. Not only do they have an amazing selection of coffee, tea, and smoothies but the ambience is phenomenal! There's a wonderful mural covering the main walls, lots of cute tables, and even some games in one corner. And since I have more studying to do, I will definitely head back to this place often!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thoughts

Maybe, just maybe, Lita was right. 12 of my patients have died this month already, which is unusually high. I average about 9-11 deaths per month (and yes, I do track those things because I am a social work nerd.) I can only imagine what will happen in the remaining weeks of May. However, I would like to formally thank my brother Matt for giving me a new nickname in an email- Harbinger of Help. That's why I love my brudder!

It's strange to see Jon Garland in non-White Sox gear. I don't like it. I feel so conflicted about tonight's game. Obviously I want our guys to win but I still have such affection in my heart for Garland. Don't even get me started about the weekend series with the Giants- I can't wait to see my beloved Aaron Rowand! If only I had the power to bring my favorite guys back to the team.

It's been almost a year since I stepped away from all church ministry. I confess I've enjoyed the break. But I know it's time to dive back in. I've been praying about a couple of options so we shall see what happens...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pasta and a Prayer

Last night I hosted the first ever Pasta and a Prayer Night. I'd been wanting to do a springtime alternative to Chili and Doughnut Night for a while. I didn't want to make chili in the springtime- although it might have worked with our current weather. As much as I love hearing about how God is working in everyone's lives, I thought this springtime party should reflect a different aspect of the Christian walk. Due to the charismatic church of my childhood, I've had some issues with corporate prayer. As a result, I do not always feel comfortable praying out loud in a group. Over the years God has stretched me in this area and I felt like He was calling me out again. However, I didn't want to have a typical concert of prayer (usually cheesy) and have us all follow the ACTS formula. It doesn't really work for me. Instead, I asked my dear friend George to lead the prayer part of the night and I would handle the food.

Well, I made some great spaghetti sauce, almost 20 friends showed up, and the prayer time was very convicting and encouraging at the same time. George did a fantastic job! There was a discussion about what a balanced prayer life should like, time spent individually in confession, small group time praying through various attributes of God, and then big group time worshipping and praising God. I was personally convicted by how me-focused my prayer life has become. George shared that he had once been challenged to go for a day without asking for anything for himself or for anyone else. He said he couldn't make it for more than a minute. I think I would fail that challenge too. I hope that last night will get me back on the right track again. Everyone seemed to have a good time and I'm pretty sure this is another party that will become an annual tradition. I love being a hostess and creating opportunities and reasons for people to come together. Few things make me feel more alive. Now I just have to figure out what the next party will be...

Friday, May 09, 2008

Morning shock

Every morning the hospice team gets a text message from the supervisors informing us of any staff that is off for the day and any overnight deaths. Yesterday I had one patient that was actively dying so I was not surprised to read her name. However, the next name gave me pause. "Edna" has been one of my favorite patients the last few months. She is just a sweetheart and we get along famously. My last visit with her was yesterday morning and she was perfectly fine. She had congestive heart failure, meaning her heart could go at any moment. Apparently that moment was last night. Beth, her hospice nurse, called me soon after we got the text message. She was in shock too. As much as we know our patients are going to die- they are in hospice afterall- it is sometimes hard to believe. Edna had none of the classic signs and symptoms, proof that truly only God knows when our time will be. I'm just glad that I was able to see her one last time. I had debated about if I should go yesterday or wait until today but I followed an unknown instinct to stop by yesterday. We talked about her favorite show Dancing with the Stars, sports, music, and Mother's Day. Next weekend her granddaughter is getting married and the family was going to recreate the wedding for Edna since she would not be able to attend (it's going to be on a cruise ship.) Unreal. I'm hoping to go to the wake on Monday. I don't always go to the services but I'm going to do my best to pay my respects to Edna and her family.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

More talk, less action- or is it the other way around?

There was a short blurb in today's Tribune regarding the continuing dialog about faith and politics. 70 evangelical leaders released their manifesto in Washington DC today. Their goal is to address the confusion about who evangelicals are and clarify a view on evangelicals in public life. Jim Wallis, whom I love, included some excerpts in his weekly email so I was able to read the manifesto. They also give everyone the option to sign it as well.

These words resonate with me:

We believe that being disciples of Jesus means serving him as Lord in every sphere of our lives, secular as well as spiritual, public as well as private, in deeds as well as words, and in every moment of our days on earth, always reaching out as he did to those who are lost as well as to the poor, the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, the socially despised, and being faithful stewards of creation and our fellow creatures.
It's a tall order for all of us. I appreciate the intent behind the manfiesto but I wonder if another document will bring about change. I love what Wallis and his Sojourners movement has done so far. But when do we stop talking about the problems and start creating solutions? If they will know we are Christians by our love, how will they see any love unless we start acting? Believe me, I don't know what the first step should be. However, the economy is only getting worse. How can we justify talking about misconceptions about evangelicals when our country is troubled by increased gas prices, the lack of affordable housing and healthcare, homelessness, etc.? We need to live out our faith. Enough of the dialog. Let's show the world what living for Christ really looks like.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Unwanted Nickname

I am easily nicknamable but a new one gave me pause the other day. At one of my nursing homes, we've had a lot of patients come and go. The activities aide said she was going to start calling me "Harbinger of Death." Not quite how I want to be known these days. I had to remind her of a patient on another floor that we've had for over a year and a half. She then agreed to never call me that again. Phew!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy birthday Grandma

Tomorrow would be Grandma's 79th birthday. She was in the hospital last year at this time. Mom had to read her birthday cards to her and she did not have enough appetite to even think about birthday cake. The next day she was diagnosed with cancer. I know I've said it many times but it still seems to surreal. Grandpa is having a bunch of family and friends over tomorrow night in honor of Grandma's special day. He is slowly recovering from his surgery and will probably back to 100% just in time for the next surgery.

Today I learned that a friend's 2 year old daughter has leukemia. She has the most common and most curable form and it seems like they have a good plan of attack. My heart goes out to them.

It seems like it's been just one bad thing after another lately. As I drove home from work, I reflected on God's faithfulness. We live in a fallen world and these circumstances reflect that brokenness. God knows the big picture though and He is able to use all things for good (Rom. 8:28). This is comforting to remember. I may not understand why these things happen and I may never know why but God has it all under control. May it be so.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My twin?

I've already gushed about the movie "Once" so you can imagine how excited I was when a few friends agreed to see it for the first time last night. Of course, they loved it! One small reason why? They believe Marketa Irglova is my twin or that I am indeed the real Marketa and I have been hiding my burgeoning relationship with Glen Hansard and musical prowess from them all. I can't say that I really see the resemblance but I'll let you decide...
(My apologies for not having a better picture of Marketa/me to compare.)




A sidenote to the geese outside my bedroom window at 6 am this morning: I hate you.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Update

I finally got to talk to Tracy this afternoon for a few minutes. I didn't expect her to answer the phone but it was good to hear her voice. She was hoping to be discharged from the hospital this afternoon. Unfortunately it looks like she has a bit of a recovery ahead while she heals from the incision. I told her that Erin and I are coming to visit her no matter what- she just gets to let us know when that will be. Sometimes you have to go with the tough love approach with those who consistently put everyone else first above themselves. Tracy is a prime example of that.

Yesterday was a strange juxtaposition. I went to a college friend's baby shower and a high school friend's memorial service.

Really wish I did not have to go back to work tomorrow. I definitely need a vacation. I can't decide if I just need a break or if it's time to look in to something new.

Friday, April 18, 2008

More news

I got a phone call early this morning from my best friend's husband that she had to have emergency surgery last night as her fallopian tube had burst from an ectopic pregnancy. He reassured me that she is doing OK but I hate not being able to be there for her. I told him that I'll come down the minute they say go. I was hit really hard with this news and maybe in some ways I overreacted but it's hard hearing that your best friend almost died. I ended up taking the day off of work. It's moments like these that I am convinced that I should move to Nashville after all. But then I think about my own family and struggle with the idea of leaving them.

Grandpa met with his surgeon yesterday and got the good news that they got all the cancer. He'll find out next week if he needs any radiation and the week after that they will schedule his second surgery. That's all positive news!

In other good news, Brooke got us tickets to see Death Cab at Jay Pritzker Pavillion in June. The lawn seats were just $12.50. Sweet!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Testing, testing

I'm finally going to take my LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) test. I was eligible late last summer but decided to delay taking it after everything my family had been through. Then I had to renew my license in November anyway so I thought I'd take my sweet time before I plunked down more money. I looked over the study guide the other night and it seems doable. Of course once I've taken the 170 question test, I might be singing a different tune! Hope I'm ready to immerse myself in the DSM-IV, clinical practice theories, ethics, and relationship principles!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Week in review

Last week was insanely busy. The good stuff: White Sox Home Opener (the first Crede grand slam of the season), Patch Adams seminar for my work's 50th anniversary (if you ever get a chance to see him- you must!), plenty of fun times with friends.


The not-so-good stuff: Grandpa P. had surgery on Wednesday to remove a malignant mass (the MDs think they got it all and the cancer has not metastecized!), Friday was the one year anniversary of Aunt Teresa's death, learning that 2 high school classmates died.

Who knows what will come next?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Sox season

Monday is the Sox Home Opener and I can't wait! This week has confirmed that it is going to be an interesting season, full of highs and lows (although I'm opening nothing as low as last season.) It'll be fun to reunite with all my Sox buddies for my 9th consecutive home opener. A few of the regulars won't be there this year but I can't be too bummed because Jill is going to join us due to a last-minute extra ticket. There is nothing like the magic and promise of Opening Day. Spring is finally here!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pancakes and Ice Cream = A Fond Farewell

Jen and Jason are moving to Nashville this weekend- exciting for them, sad for us. Last night Jen and I returned to one of our favorite places...Colonial Cafe. If you live in the suburbs, chances are good you've seen one of their "I ate a Colonial Kitchen Sink" bumper stickers. That's 6 scoops of ice cream, 2 bananas, and a ton of toppings. And I've eaten it twice! Jill was also able to join us for dessert. The parking lot was packed when we arrived, which was puzzling. No one was on spring break but there seemed to be highschoolers everywhere. It turns out the Naperville branch was celebrating their 25th anniversary by offering pancakes for a penny. Naturally we each had a pancake to commemorate the occasion and then we dove into our delicious ice cream treats. I went a little crazy with a Super Sunday- 5 scoops of my favorite: Peanut Butter Chocolate. It was amazing and well worth the hour long wait. I know I'll still see Jen and Jason plenty these next few months while they come home for weddings and finalize selling their home but it was still nice to spend some good quality time at a local place we both love. The fact that Jill could join us? The true icing on the cake- or should that be syrup on the pancake?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter

Another first holiday without Grandma and Aunt Teresa has come and gone. I thought I was doing OK but wouldn't you know, grief sneaks up on you when you least expect it? Grandpa decided to host Easter at his (and Grandma's- it'll always be her place too) house. I think we all see this as a good, healthy sign. I knew it might be bittersweet but it is time for our family to reclaim that house and create some more happy memories there. I was on the phone with a friend when I pulled into the driveway after the 45 minute drive, thinking only about how I needed to get the green bean casserole into the oven ASAP. As I walked up to the house, I truly believed that Aunt Teresa would greet me at the door the way she always did, up until she got sick at least, and that I would find Grandma busily cooking in the kitchen. And then reality smacked me in the face. I didn't cry but I was momentarily stunned. Then I pulled myself together and went inside. It proved to be a wonderful afternoon. Yes, it was different but we still have each other. I absolutely adore my family. That is no secret if you've been reading this blog for any length of time. I got to play with little Kelli-o, banter with my cousins, and catch up with everyone else. Grandpa seemed to enjoy himself and we ate to our heart's content. In some ways it didn't seem like Easter, maybe because it happened on a cold March day or maybe because two loved ones are no longer with us. And yet, I was more comforted that it is Easter, to have that tangible reminder that death has no hold over us. Christ's death on the cross translates to eternal hope for those who believe in Him. This is not the end of the road. These light and momentary troubles will soon fade away and then we will see Him face to face. That reunion will blow all our family reunions out of the water- thanks be to God!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Domestic Bliss

I have been cooking up a storm lately. I always tell everyone that cooking is a great stress reliever for me. Given that I took mental health days on Friday and yesterday, it makes sense but I didn't plan on cooking as much as I did. Last Monday was the innaugural night of the new Dinner Club I started. This dinner club is for single girls, mostly from church. My old dinner club seems to have faded away with everyone either married, moving, or too busy so I'm excited about this new group of savvy sophisticates. I haven't figured out what to call the meal I served but it is one of my favorite creations- kind of like pasta fagiole without any broth. Delicious! The meal was a hit. The only hitch to the night occured when I sliced my finger while slicing bread. Not pretty but actually it was the first time I've ever cut myself while cooking. Turns out that is quite the accomplishment based on how many kitchen knife incidents I have since heard about from friends.

After Dinner Club I took a break from cooking until Saturday. I served up Irish breakfast at Mark and Erin's house for 9 friends. Then we headed down to the city for the St. Patrick's Day parade. I love being downtown for the SPD experience but I've decided I no longer need to watch the parade. We can just head straight to the pub for some hillarious and yet insightful conversations with drunk people. Sunday night I made Beef Stew- the last stew of winter. I invited a few friends to join me spontaneously and we ended up talking late in to the night. Ellen told me she is going to move in and just let me feed her from now on- she was happy to have been a part of Dinner Club, Irish breakfast, and then the stew dinner. I'm just happy that people like what I make!

Last night I had my parents over for Reuben sandwiches in honor of my favorite holiday. Donna was able to join us. It's the first time I've made Reubens by myself and now I have no idea what to do with the extra sauerkraut. Any ideas out there? I can safely say I'll be eating leftovers the rest of this week but who knows what I'll be cooking next...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Say it ain't so!

Today's Chicago Tribune led with this harbinger of doom: "Cubs may share 'Cell' with the Sox." Apparently if the Cubs begin their $250 million renovation of Wrigley, they would play part of the season on the South Side. The mere idea sends a chill through my heart. I don't want The Cell to be tainted by the Cubs and I don't understand how they can even conceive of this idea. Cubs merchandise being sold at US Cellular? Fans rooting for the Cubs in our park outside of interleage play? The horror! I can't even imagine what this will do to our rivalry. I'm guessing that Cubs fans would not be thrilled by this move either. How would this affect game attendance? How do they feel about tweaking their beloved Wrigley? Frankly I have no problem with a Wrigley overhaul. I'm not impressed by the tradition of a dirty stadium. (In fact, I wonder if Cubs fans would even notice that no one is actually playing there, so long as they still have their beer. It's not called the Biggest Bar in America for nothing.) I don't want the Cubs to leave the imprint of their "lovable loserness" on our field. And I don't want our schedule to be adjusted for a team that has hogged a spotlight they've never earned. Crane Kenney must be taking crazy pills...I hope the madness doesn't extend to Jerry Reinsdorf next.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Little pleasures

Work has been hell the past week but thankfully I did have one small ray of sunshine yesterday. Shamrock shakes are back! Last week the shake machine was broken but yesterday McDonald's was smiling at me. Delicious! Now I just have to get as many as I can before Shamrock season is over. Last year my friend Jason froze a couple extra- not a bad idea!


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Emily is my favorite cousin!

I am a longtime fan of the TLC show "Miami Ink." My cousin Emily has been working with Chris Nunez, incidentally my favorite tattoo artist on the show (it's an added bonus that he's rather attractive), creating commercials for AT&T. I'm so proud of Em and also a little jealous! Just a few days ago I saw the first commercial and then today I got this wonderful email from Emily.
Hey Sweetie!
Just got back from Miami (shot another AT&T spot)
and I told Chris Nunez of Miami Ink (he threw us a little shin dig at his bar)
that you (my fav cuz) were a big fan and that u said "hi!" --
He said, "Her name's Leigh? Tell her I said 'What's up!'" :)
I said, "I'll try to remember to pass it along" :)
More soon! Running out the door for work!!
XOXO
your cuz,
em
OK, I know that Chris will never remember my name again, but still! For that moment, he did. I've been wanting to get my next tattoo for the past couple of years but my friend Dani is holding part of the design hostage. She went to Thailand about a year after I did and I asked her to have the word "faith" translated, which she did and now 2 1/2 years later she still hasn't given it to me. I will renew my efforts. I would love to go on Miami Ink or LA Ink because the artists are phenomenal and a tv show is about the only way I will ever have access to them. Plus, I think I'd be great on tv! Either way, it's time to get inked.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Making St. Patrick Official

You may or may not have seen the recent Guinness commercial that asks you to sign a petition that will make St. Patrick's Day an official holiday. I wasn't sure if this was for real or not so I did a little digging. Proposition 3-17 is indeed alive and well. I was the 74,583rd signature of the million needed. Click here to sign your name with a mouse- trickier than it sounds but quite fun at the same time. One of the reasons Guinness is pursuing this unique initiative is that "it will allow people to express their Irishness." I love it!

I haven't been able to find the commercial itself online but rest assured, I will post it once it's available. In the meantime, I leave you with thoughts of Irish Eyes which are smiling at the thought of another day off from school and work.