Happy Anniversary, HOPEspot!

Hopespotters! HOPEspot was born three years ago today. Three years ago, friends and family came to my home to launch this venture.  I was blessed with love and support that night. Those in attendance knew that I needed an outlet, a place to share my thoughts on life (mothering it and hospice-ing it). My husband, months before recognizing my discontent, connected me with a wonderfully creative web designer and HOPEspot was put in motion.

My husband’s initial diagnosis with my discontent was correct. My personal and professional experience was bubbling up in my throat and I needed to vent. I wanted to write but felt insecure with my talent. Three years into my blog, I still feel insecure about my talent. The majority of my followers are people that know me. Sometimes I worry their praise is equal to that of one might receive for looming a potholder because it was a useful application of time with a reasonably satisfactory product.

I started the blog with some shy, short outputs, but that time was marked by my niece’s heart surgery and there were tremendous feelings associated with that season.

Since then, we’ve explored Acts of God, Holy Saturday, 8th grade field trips and This is Us episodes that were life lessons. I’ve collaborated with very special people and felt good about this message.

I tried funny, observant, spiritual and informative. I tried to cover personal and professional and I wanted to make a name for myself as a writer. I still want that.

It is hard to try to be something bigger than I feel. I want to write about things that trouble me and yet I feel incomplete when I can’t make sense of the issues. I want to write from a place of total ego integrity, but I am too honest.

Three years ago, my husband wanted to help me start a blog so I could vent and grow professionally. Three years ago, Obama was still president. Three years ago, #metoo was unheard of. Three years ago, the shootings at the Orlando night club or Mandalay Bay had not happened.

Three years ago I felt younger- and more optimistic.

But this blog, this HOPEspot, has felt like a baby I’ve needed to nurture and help mature. As has been the case with my sons, I’ve made some errors.

I named HOPEspot for a reason. Personally and professionally, I’ve experienced times where answers and resources seemed absent. I know those moments where families look at each other with a love and a frightening void all at the same time.

Those moments SUCK.

My hope for HOPEspot was it would be a resource for those moments that could offer help and humor. If there was anything I could ever offer to families in those moments, I want to do it.

Three years in, I’m not as ebullient. Realities of disease, family, and circumstance constantly smack me in the face.

Three years in, I look back to why I started this and I come upon this:

Pandora.

Pandora was given a box she was forbidden to open. She is all of us. In predictable instant gratification, our girl opened the box and let out a host of evils she didn’t intend to release. In a panic, she closed the box, regretting the fact she didn’t follow her father’s instructions in keeping the box closed.


Thank you, Pandora for closing the box at just the right time. HOPE remained in the box. For all the hard things, I still think HOPE is the infinite remedy.

Thanks HOPEspotters followers. More. To. Come.





Dear Al Meggs

You’re so nice playing with me. God bless you and yours forever”

Me: I enjoy it!

“You did it again!! CONGRATS!!”

Me: Thanks, my friend.

 

What a week this has been. What a month, in fact. In addition to working in hospice and palliative care, my sons have been squeezing the end out of summer and getting ready for back to school. My oldest is starting high school and my youngest is starting middle school. We, as a family, are making a lot of adjustments.

In times of stress, which is frankly daily, I look for distractions.I love what I do and I love raising my family, but I am not ashamed to admit that I get anxious about change. I look at my smart phone more than is recommended by professionals. I enjoy social media and I love to play Words with Friends.

So this week we got really busy. After a summer of taking it easy and allowing unlimited Fortnite time (don’t judge), we had to buckle down and do back to school stuff. School supplies. Hair cuts. Open houses. PAPERWORK. A lot of stuff.

And “work” didn’t quit. I had patients in crisis. Families making hard decisions. Lengthy conversations. It’s rewarding work but undeniably challenging and time consuming.

With all aspects of “life” ramping up, I needed escapes more and more. I noticed I was more addicted to checking my smart phone than even my own tweens.

I try to check social media with a wary eye. I know that the gorgeous family vacation pictures aren’t as perfect as they seem. I’ve learned not to engage in a twitter war about sports or politics ( and this I’ve learned the hard way).  I try to understand that Pinterest is a place of nirvana that we should only visit with curiosity and not use as a standard of expectation.

Words with Friends, however, is a safe place of gaming. People playing scrabble for the sake of distraction and brain engagement. And I love it.

Whew. You sure are giving me a run.”

Me: Makes it fun!

“Yep, thanks to you!”

I have a steady rotation of playmates. My dad, 16yaskin, is my most steady and equal opponent. Shana Miller, a friend from high school, is loyal and worthy. I have a few others here and there and I am compulsive about responding to our games.

“Al Meggs” has been a player with whom I’ve engaged for two years now. I think I was suggested to him as someone “scores like you” and he started a game. I couldn’t resist accepting and we began to spar. In that first game, Al sent a message telling me I had an “intoxicating smile”. I got scared and quit the game.

Al reached out on the message board and apologized for being “forward”. He admitted he was “clumsy with a compliment”, a self admitted “old fool” and just really liked having an opponent.  Initially wary, I restarted the game. Al became a really fun opponent.

Over the last two years, I’ve learned a lot, and not enough, about my friend, Al, over the WWF message board. For starters, Al is better at WWF than I am (but every victory I achieved was cheered by him). Al loved to know that I was a nurse and he called me an angel a lot. Al was vague in describing his life situation, he may have been a retired teacher,  but alluded that he was not close to his family. Al checked on me when storms were near Atlanta, and Al was usually the very first to wish me happy holiday greetings.

If a few games or days passed by, Al would send a message - an innocuous greeting or simple question. He admitted that he loved connecting with people.

To be honest, Anonymous Al, WWF Al, became one of my best friends. In my tumultuous life, Al was a constant. A positive reinforcement. When everything else seemed out of order and unpredictable, I really looked forward to logging on to my games with Al and the intermittent messages that accompanied them.

And now, I can’t find him.

I’m sorry to admit that a week or so went by before I realized that I wasn’t prompted to play with Al. After waiting a few more days, I “nudged” him. I watched his picture square, the one that shows his face with grey hair and mustache, jiggle. I thought sure I’d get a response.

Me: Where are you, Al? I’m worried. (July 20)

 

WWF: Al Meggs has timed out. (Jul 27)

 

Me:  Al. Let me hear from you (Aug 1)

 

It has been six weeks now. I’ve looked back on our messages for any clues and I’ve internet stalked him. For what I know, Al Meggs is gone. I can’t find him online and he has gone dormant on Words With Friends.

I’m crushed.

People often ask me how I could possibly work in hospice care. What I know, and they don’t,  is the ability to impact the end of life experience in a positive way is such an indescribable gift. Every day I am inspired and motivated by the goodness that we can provide to an otherwise awful experience.

Hospice, though difficult, serves people with anticipated loss. It’s the unexpected that can still take my breath away.

With my least favorite expression, “just like that”, Al is gone. He was someone for whom I cared and with whom I interacted daily. Without warning, he is gone and ridiculously, I am so sad. After all, Al Meggs was a stranger, right? His profile picture could be false. The messages could have been an act, but it didn’t feel that way.

In the chaos of my current life, I really enjoyed Al as a constant. That he isn’t and appears to be gone is a slap, a glass of cold water in my face. When everything else is moving at breakneck pace, I long for something that is consistent and unconditional. The sweet relief of reliability. Al was that.

Now he’s gone.

So if any lesson is painful, it must have purpose. I think Al was a teacher and my relationship with him has taught me some things.

  1. Connection is a universal need and an unquestionable privilege.

  2. Let’s push past anonymity. The internet, with all its flaws, can be a beautiful tool to reach the isolated. You’ll never know what you might find!

  3. Reliability is underrated and desperately needed. The world craves more of it.

  4. Sudden loss stings like a bee.

  5. Cheering for your opponent is undeniably endearing.

 

Al Meggs, I don’t know you and I don’t know what has become of you. I want you to know that your awkward compliments really did flatter me and your consistent check ins were so warmly received. You were a worthy WWF opponent but I’m most grateful that this online game introduced us to each other and made our connection.

I really miss you, Al. I hope that whatever words surround you now bring you to a circle of friends.

B.Y.E.   F.R.I.E.N.D.



 

“I never dreamed you’d leave me in Summer...”

Hello, Hopespotters-  or perhaps more accurately- Hotspotters. It is July and it is HOT! Despite the continually high temperatures, summer, here in Georgia, is drawing to a close. For some counties, children went back to school yesterday and the remaining counties will return on Monday. By August 6, all Georgia public schools will be back to the grind. Since this week is mostly dedicated to school supply shopping, final haircuts and orientations, that is essentially a wrap for Summer 2018.

I, for one, have to say GOOD RIDDANCE! While many happy memories were made for my family in the last two months, the pace of summer is one that is not “well with my soul”.

Many of you are facing your hardest summer: preparing to see your first born, or your last born, off to college. Every minute of every day feels like a battle against sorrow and a consumption of disbelief over the rapid passage of time. It is about to get painfully quiet in your house.

I understand. In four short years I will be, God willing, in your shoes. I am sure I will come here and pour out the richest language I know about the slow breaking of my heart and my despair in preparing for that goodbye.

But for you, and for ‘four years in the future’ me, I offer the following - an honest summary of summertime: the 73 long days and nights between the last day of school and the return to the first. And for the purposes of this “vent”, the names have been changed to protect the “not so innocent”.

May 24, the last day of school, I looked in the mirror and I said to myself, I said, “Self, this summer is going to be different. Summer has been hard on you in the past- too much to organize, too little routine. Not this year. Nope. This summer YOU are in charge. You run the zoo. We will stick to a schedule. The boys will help more. Steve will do summer reading. Randall will organize his summer work so that it doesn’t wait until the last minute.  Everyone will exercise. You can do this.”

And as I turned away from the mirror, I could almost hear the lingering reflection giggle.

Day 1: I have mapped out the activities and childcare for the next month with military like precision. My date book looks like the chalkboard from “A Beautiful Mind”. Now if I could just find a way to go to my job…..

Day 5: Well this week doesn’t really count. I mean, they are just recovering from the school year. After our trip to Richmond, the REAL rules start!

Day 11:  I just made lunch five times and I only have two kids. There was no gap between breakfast and lunch. Surely they won’t want dinner, will they?

Day15:  Two sons. Two feet. Two days since last laundry. 53 socks to wash. That’s not even an even number. What. The. Hell.

Day 18: Do we think the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on screen time are just a little aggressive? Do those judgey Mc Judgersons even have kids?

Day 24: Steve: Mom, can I have a friend over?

Me:  Did you do your reading?

Steve: Can you just answer the question?

Me: I don’t know. Why don’t you write it down and READ IT TO ME???

Day 28: Fortnite, wet towels, grocery store. On repeat.

Day 31: Randall, please make your bed.

Randall: I did!

Me: Is there a dead body in it?

(Bonus: they are getting exercise and becoming stronger. The ocular muscle that controls the upwards eye roll is working with Olympic like strength).

Day 36: Apparently changing the toilet paper roll is very, very hard. And why are there so many WET TOWELS???

Day 41: Bitter disappointment. Amazon, does not, in fact, carry everything. I just tried to order a cow, which is apparently the only way I am going to be able to maintain a milk supply in the house but they have some “no livestock policy”. Look into this, Bezos- chop, chop.

Day 48: Too many dirty dishes. Can’t. Keep. Up…. Have resorted to paper plates in an effort to regain power and control.

Randall: Can I at least get a fork and knife?

Me: You’re too good for your fingers now?

Randall: It’s spaghetti, Mom.

Me: I’m sorry. Is the QUEEN joining you for dinner???

Day 52:  I’ve been warned by the manager at Publix to stop “casing the joint”. I explained that I actually need a daily refill of chips, drinks and toilet paper and when I told him how many children I have he had the bagger walk me to my car. Something about the heat.

Day 55: Have returned from CVS with Synthroid, Zoloft, Diet Coke and Wine. I am ready for anything. I will use the 9 foot long receipt as my super hero cape,

Day 58: My friend called to invite me to a girls night.

Friend: Come on, we’re getting together at Julie’s. It’ll be fun.

Me: No way. Too hot. NO. CAN. DO.

Friend: But it’s in her house. It has air conditioning.

Me: And where will her air conditioning be as I walk from my car into her house?? LIVES ARE AT STAKE HERE!!

Day 60: (Reporting from the back corner of my closet, in a whisper) “I think the socks have taught the wet towels the art of asexual reproduction. I am both parts terrified and delighted by the thought that they might teach the toilet paper.”

Day 65: Me: Who ate all the cookies???? I can’t go back to Publix!!

Steve:  You did, Mom.

Me: You can’t read but you’re Sherlock Freaking Holmes????

Day 67: Randall: Mom, can I have a snack?

Me: NO! You can NOT have a snack! You are eating me out of house and home!!

Randall: I’m sorry. I’m fourteen. I’m growing.

Me: Well who told you to do that???? KNOCK IT THE F—- OFF!

Me again: And if you and your brother could stop pooping, that’d be GREAT!

Day 69: Steve actually pushed a door that said PUSH and I’m counting that as today’s reading allowance. We are ready to rock this school year, I am sure!

We are in the final countdown now and, as I write,  I’m hearing the joyous screams of a Fortnite kill as the washer and dryer whir with their “never say die” spirit.  I’ve given them names and consider them my best friends.

Monday, the boys will get on the bus, one starting middle school and one starting high school. They’ll avoid my first day photos that I’ll insist upon taking and posting on Facebook. I’ll caption it, undoubtedly, with something like “another great summer in the books” and, like a crazy person, I’ll mean it. We did have great vacations, camp experiences, laughs and togetherness.

But I can bet you one million dollars the first like on my post will come from the manager at Publix.  

And when I go back inside, I will wait for the arrival of my Martha, the woman who helps me clean (I know, poor me) and when I see her I will genuflect deeply- and weep.

Peace out, friends. Good luck army crawling for the remaining days. And for my Northern friends who have more than a month to go- may God be with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July, Hopespotters! Don’t be alarmed by the double header this week. This is what happens when I get a few days away to clear my head.

 

Throughout my life, I’ve had a love / hate relationship with the Fourth of July. Growing up, it was a wonderful day, marking the middle of swim team season. We would shower and wear “real clothes” to get together and watch fireworks and dance. It was indescribably magical. When that tradition went away, nothing could compare and the day became a drudgery of where would we watch fireworks and get eaten by mosquitos. As a married person, my first Fourth was terrifying as our golden retriever puppy nearly ran away from terror of fireworks. I’ve never really gotten in the spirit, to be honest, from that day.

 

That isn’t to say that my whole heart isn’t behind what the day represents. The Fourth of July is Independence Day. The day that marks the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the all time best (as twitter pointed out today) break up letter. I’m no historian, but any American worth citizenship could tell you that it was this document, signed in Philadelphia in 1776, that inspired the holiday we celebrate today. It was the grand and clear message that made us America. And that document, contains wisdom for the ages.

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…..”

OK, hold my beer while I do this without getting political.

The Declaration of Independence, written by a group of white men, in wigs, in a hot room in Philadelphia provides a worthy road map for us today. And while we could easily apply it to arguments on both sides of the Congressional aisle, I’m not interested. I have ears for our forefathers in the battles I face daily.

For example,  “a necessary for one people to dissolve political bands” is the right on message to dump toxic people from your life. Doesn’t need to be a British monarchy forcing taxation without representation for you to grab your own inner hero and say, “I’m out of this relationship”. The sooner each of us could do that, the healthier we’d be.

“...a decent respect to the opinions of mankind…” may be part of sentence out of context but should be a social media law. Can you imagine John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson tweeting about #largesignature or #gotslaves.  We relied upon these men, and their assumed shared respect, to establish our country. Undoubtedly, they had feelings about each other’s lifestyle but “respect to the opinions” still existed.

I’ll skip the portion of declaring these truths to be self evident, because I have no right to get to preachy. And I want to get to the juicy part of the rights being, “...Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness..

I love to live in the United States of America for one hundred million reasons, but in the top ten has to be that in our founding document we discussed “Happiness”.  Pursuit of this condition was listed as a right in this document. A. Right.

I’m no historian so honestly I have no idea if any other countries preach Happiness in their core values. I just know that my country does and I think that is awesome.

Here’s why: Happiness is hard to come by. The right to pursue it is a blessing. Declaring Independence from the thing or things that prohibit that pursuit is a battle that exists for all of us today. While flipping off the King of another country seems grandiose and untimely, facing down the evil that keeps us from “pursuing happiness” is here for all of us every day.  

And just as our forefathers stepped forward with bravery in their Declaration, each of us has to summon an equal amount of courage. To say no. To say yes. To ask for help. To pursue happiness. Get out of toxic relationships. Leave bad jobs. Tell your loved one you need more. Ask for forgiveness. Or grant it. Frankly, live like you are dying.

For me, as fireworks are already whistling out my window, I am going to embrace this Fourth of July holiday as many of us do the New Year, with resolutions. Hopespotters, join me in Declaring Independence from any and every thing that prohibits you from the pursuit of Happiness.