Thursday, January 31, 2008

Matchmaking Family

I got an interesting phone call from a pts. daughter today. Before I fill you in, I need to give the back story (this is one of those things I should have written about what it happens- c'est la vie.) A few weeks ago I went to see a family where the patient, "Bernie" was actively declining. Bernie has been our patient for almost a year and the hospice team has become pretty close with the family. One of Bernie's daughters "Sandra" is in town from out of state helping out. There is also a hired caregiver. Bernie's wife "Mary" is always interested in my vacation plans and, of course, my dating life. I don't give out much information in the dating department, mostly because I haven't found anyone serious. After we discussed Bernie's decline and how Mary and the family were coping, she needed a change in subject for a while so, for whatever reason, she chose to ask about my dating life. I told her I still hadn't found the right guy and tried to think of something else to talk about. However, Mary was not to be dissuaded. She turned to Sandra and said, "There's got to be someone in our family that we could find for Leigh." And then she told me all about Sandra's son "Tom." He sounded like a nice enough guy but I wasn't going to encourage them in this department. Thankfully Mary realized that Tom is not much of a churchgoer and, knowing how important my faith is to me, decided that this would be the end to her matchmaking plans.

Imagine our surprise when Tom walked in the door about 5 minutes later! He was in the area and wanted to check in on his grandpa. He seemed nice enough but I knew there would be no future for us. I ended the visit, believing that this would be the end of the matchmaking. However, when I returned for a follow up visit the next week, Sandra and Mary were very pleased to report that Tom had been asking about me and wanted to take me out! I was very flattered. I tried to explain that this would probably not be allowed but promised that I would ask my supervisor and let them know.

Would one date really hurt? Maybe, maybe not. I took the issue to a member of the Ethics Committee, Mary, a fellow social worker whom I respect. According to the Code of Ethics for Social Workers, this would be a violation of ethics because I know this family in a professional setting, thus creating a power imbalance. Sometimes it seems so silly- I'm not going to abuse my power! But my responsibility does lie with the patient, first and foremost. If I did go on a date with a family member and it did not go well, it could negatively affect the relationship I have with that family and that would be horrible. Also, do I really want to be forever associated with the death of their family member? Mary and I discussed that after a period of time (6 months, a year) it might be acceptable to have a friendship with a family- the lines do get blurry in hospice since we relate to families in a different way during a very special time in their lives. The whole thing seems like a really great idea for a book.

Anyway, my next scheduled visit is next Thursday and I planned to tell Sandra and Mary that I could not mix my personal and professional worlds in this way, flattered as I may be. Bernie and Mary's other daughter "Nancy" beat me to it though. She left me a message, first asking about a caregiving issue, and then saying that her nephew Tom was still interested in taking me out and she had promised to ask me about it. I called Nancy back and we addressed the caregiving issues. Then I let her know that I just was not able to date Tom at this time. She was understanding of the reasons and told me that Tom knew my responsibility was to Bernie first and foremost. She told me that is why he didn't call me himself, in case it would muddy the waters even further. Since she had to call me anyway, she figured she would bring it up. We ended up having a good conversation about these ethical standards. It's the right decision but I still feel bad about it. Maybe it just feels nice to be pursued- even if it's through a patient's family. I can't remember the last time a guy followed up like this. Ah, the adventure and drama of it all!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Matchmaker Alert

In the last few months I have noticed an interesting trend. Patients are regularly offering to set me up with their grandsons or to find me a husband. Believe me, I'm not asking them to do this. It's very flattering but highly unethical so I can't accept these offers, however well-intentioned they are. I've been meaning to post on this for awhile as Matchmaker Alert will be a new feature for this blog. I'm curious about how many other social workers encounter this phenomenon.

Today CNA Valerie was finishing up with our patient "Alma" when I arrived. Valerie is relatively new so we don't know each other well. While she was helping Alma come back out to her living room, Valerie asked me if I had children. I told her no. Then Alma piped up and said "She's not married yet." Alma thinks it's great that I'm independent and regularly tells me I'll find the right guy when it's the right time. I like her. Valerie apparently has a different mindset and asked me what I was waiting for. Not entirely the angle I'm looking for during a visit but I just laughed it off and said I was waiting for Mr. Right. Alma affirmed this idea and decided that she is going to help me find someone. Pretty sure that won't happen since she's not able to leave the house very often. But bless her heart for offering!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

28 is Great!

In honor of my 28th birthday tomorrow, a list of my past 28 CD obsessions, in no particular order:
1. Flyleaf- self-titled
2. Paolo Nutini- These Streets
3. Mindy Smith- Long Island Shores
4. Mika- Life in Cartoon Motion
5. Robert Randolph and the Family Band- Colorblind
6. Breaking Benjamin- Phobia
7. The Wreckers- Stand Still, Look Pretty
8. Garden State soundtrack
9. Sister Hazel- Fortress
10. Aaron Shust- Anything Worth Saying
11. Shane and Shane- Pages
12. Damien Rice- O
13. Our Lady Peace- Gravity
14. Shiny Toy Guns- We Are Pilots
15. 30 Seconds to Mars- A Beautiful Lie
16. India.Arie- Testimony Vol. 1: Life and Relationship
17. Corinne Bailey Rae- self-titled
18. Patty Griffin- Flaming Red
19. Eisley- Room Noises
20. Mae- The Everglow
21. David Klinkenberg- Fiddle-levity
22. Little Big Town- The Road to Here
23. Telecast- The Beauty of Simplicity
24. The Killers- Hot Fuss
25. Matt Wertz- Twentythree Places
26. The Postal Service- Give Up
27. Michael Buble- Call Me Irresponsible
28. Alison Krauss & Union Station- Live

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My New Favorite Movie

Last night Jill and I had dinner at Muldoon's and then headed over to Tasting deVine to do a tasting. Unfortunately I had forgotten that they close at 9 so they wouldn't let us do a tasting. However, Marsha, our knowledgeable wine lady, said we could have a glass of wine off the tasting list and then she would give us an extra tasting of something else for the bargain deal of $5. (A tasting of 7 wines is $7 and well worth it.) I had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and Jill had the Prohibition wine- I don't remember the real name but Marsha told us a back story that involved a lot of acreage being sold after Prohibition. Then I tried the winerita, the wine version of a margarita which was delightful. Jill got to experience the Christmas Red, which is fantastic. We left an hour after the place had closed but we weren't the last people. If you haven't been there, you should definitely go! After dinner and drinks, we were ready to watch a movie. I had heard good things about Once but we were both blown away by how amazing it is! First, it's set in Ireland and we had been to some of the places in Dublin where it was filmed. Of course, that made us want to go back even more! Second, the music is incredible! I have a strong suspicion the soundtrack will be my next obsession. Third, it's just a great, simple story of Boy meets Girl. I highly recommend it!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Someone Who Gets It

An excerpt from "A New Resolution" by Elizabeth Berg from today's Chicago Tribune:

It may be true that music hath charms to soothe the savage soul -- I think it is true, actually. But books soothe our souls too. They're like comfort food without the calories or the dishes to clean up afterward. Books inspire us, because they suggest things we might never have thought about before, and they give us ideas for things we might never have conceived of otherwise, and they make us want to try things, or be things, or make things, from creme brulee to sensible foreign policy. Books educate us about art and politics and people and ideas. This happens in non-fiction and fiction. And in poetry, of course. So many of us have been moved to a deeper understanding of things -- or many things -- by taking in a few dark lines on a cream-colored page. Books exercise our creativity, because they are a uniquely interactive art form. The author may write, "She was a freckle-faced redhead," but it's the reader who sees those freckles forming a tiny constellation at the angle of the jaw. It's the reader whose imagination provides extra details for a kiss, a punch, a description of open land, or a dimly lit bedroom where a character kneels to pray.

What about the tactile joys of reading? What about the pleasure of looking at the jacket art, not only when you're considering buying a book, but as you read it -- even as many of us look numerous times at author photos as we read, probably trying to determine if the author is in fact talking about her- or himself, or if this is really fiction; or wondering who this person is who has the nerve to say this, or the poetic ability, or the insight, or the intelligence, or the creativity. Book pages feel good beneath the fingers, and you can at any moment take a deep and satisfying whiff of a book. Try that with a museum painting, or a ballet, or an opera, or, God forbid, a hockey game. Plus a book is cheaper than all those things, and it can be passed around to others to enjoy as fully as you did. (Of course it is always a nice gesture to buy a friend his or her own copy of a book you enjoyed. Come on, a paperback isn't much more than a grande latte frappa crappa mocha-hantas.) A lot of people say they don't have time to read, not even an hour a day. Whenever I hear that, I always think of my partner, Bill, who says, "Give up 'Wheel of Fortune' in favor of reading, and you can go through 25 books a year -- and that's with taking the weekends off!" And here's something else: Books don't so much take time as give it to us, because they reacquaint us with the notion of real time. One-blue-mountain, one second. One-blue-mountain, two-blue-mountain, two seconds. Remember? In this age of multitasking, of speed for speed's sake, of pop-ups and links exhorting us to go somewhere else when we're not even done with where we are, it is a relief, if not salvation, for us to focus on one dang thing at a time. Instead of being lost for hours in the time-sucking quicksand of the Internet, one sits in dignified, tick-tock, one-blue-mountain silence and reads a page ... turns it ... reads the next page, and so on. Such an elegant act, reading, isn't it? And such an elegant image, a person sitting in a chair, a book resting on a lap, lamplight spilling onto the page. Can't you just feel your blood pressure lowering, contemplating such a thing? Really, a picture of a person reading should hang in every doctor's office, especially those colonoscopy guys. I honestly believe that our sense of urgency, our belief that we must become one with our Blackberrys, our need for moving ever faster in the workplace and on the highway and in line at the grocery store, even in conversation with one another, is causing an erosion of the most basic form of civility. Are we really all that busy, or do we just make ourselves so because it has become the new norm? Sometimes I wish someone had talked to the inventor of Fed Ex and said, "Hold on, Bob; you might be starting a dangerous trend, here." For this is what we have wrought: Many of us have no idea how to keep still. We have forgotten that in stillness is a great richness, as well as opportunity for reflection and repair. Stillness offers a way to learn perspective and therefore kindness, for in such purposeful quiet we are often reminded of our connection with others, and of the need for that connection. We need to relearn the art of conversation, we need to take a moment to really look into each others' eyes when we shake hands, we need to see and appreciate and be empathic with each other. All of this takes time that we cannot afford not to have. So what's the link here, you might be thinking? I think there is a link. Because I believe that no matter what the genre, books help move us in the direction we need to go, because they require a kind of contemplation. And contemplation will suggest that we need to save ourselves from drowning in a sea of dullness, of virtual rather than actual reality, of communication that fails to really communicate, all of which leads to a deadness of spirit, which leads to a lack of respect for life, which leads to violence and destruction. In many wonderful ways, books make the dominoes fall the other way. I believe, too, that each of us, no matter how gregarious, or open-hearted, or secure we might be nonetheless holds deep inside ourselves a private place, a personal sacristy, where almost nothing is allowed to enter. But I think certain books we come across in our lifetimes do enter there. They enter and they pull up a chair and slip off their shoes and say, "I'm right here if you need me." In this way, they offer respite from a kind of existential loneliness all of us humans seem burdened by. I think that's why so many people say with such utter sincerity that some books are their best friends, friends who live on special bookshelves and are never thrown out or even lent out, lest they be needed immediately. I don't know, call me crazy, but it seems to me that Perez Hilton's online celebrity site just can't compare. Really, nothing can.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Referee Leigh

I'm not a big college football fan but I enjoy the occasional game and rooting for a team for no particular reason. I'm not sure where I fall on the Michigan vs. Ohio debate but most likely, I would root for whichever team had the least fans where I happen to be. Illinois gets my devotion because, hey, I live in Illinois. And when Illinois is playing, I am my ever loyal self. I was watching the Rose Bowl yesterday with Jill and Kat when USC made an alleged touchdown in the second half. The USC player lightly tapped on the line and apparently the Rose Bowl ref thought this qualified as a touchdown. Silly, silly ref. That's not how it goes in my world. Kat and Jill suggested I give them a call and educate them. I realize this one touchdown would not have helped Illinois win but it would have helped them to lose less and I cannot underestimate the importance of that detail. My take on this particular play made me think about what I would be like as an umpire for the White Sox. Can you even imagine my pure joy? The opposing players wouldn't even have a chance! I realize this may not be entirely fair but I sure would enjoy the power trip. And I think the Sox would enjoy the favoritism I bestow. An eagle eye for the opposition and a blind eye towards my team. Beautiful.