Sum of the Parts

My Photo
Location: San Antonio, Texas, United States

Jill of all trades, mistress of none.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I walked in the door from work, after a long day, gladly removed my shoes and threw down my purse and work papers. I was greeted by my youngest daughter with a delighted, “Mom, you’re home!” About the time she hugged me, my pager began to beep. My daughter let out a “Oh no!” as I headed to the telephone to call the hospital.

I am on-call for two hospitals at the same time. The hospital nearest my home was calling. The Emergency Department’s unit secretary was on the line and breathlessly uttered, “Chaplain, we need you NOW.” I asked what was happening. “14 year old, suicide attempt. Parents aren’t here yet, but they WILL need you.”

I hugged my ten year old and slipped shoes back onto my feet. I walked out the door uttering a prayer.

I arrived at the hospital and walked into the trauma room to see my patient. The ED physician and two nurses and a respiratory therapist were working feverishly. Her parents had not yet arrived. The Doctor gave me a report and thanked me for coming.

The patient was intubated with iv. lines everywhere. The doctor explained the situation. “This is a 14 year old girl who was found at home hanging from the ceiling fan. We don't know how long she was down. Her mother found her and had to cut her down and call for help. She’s most likely brain dead.”

I felt like I was going to vomit. A flash of horror swept over me as I imagined the scene. Can there be anything worse for a mother to witness?

The doctor walked away and I walked to the bedside. There she lay, brown hair, mottled skin, machines whirring and pumping. God, How? Why? I leaned down and whispered a prayer into her ear. I had no idea if she heard me, but I needed to be mindful of God’s presence.

I turned toward the door to search for the family, when I saw it: her plaid school skirt and white blouse. When your life is one the line in the ED, they cut your clothes off, scissors right down the front. Doesn’t matter if you’re wearing Chanel or rags. Labels are not respected.

But the skirt… it lay on top of the heap on the floor; shoes, blouse, socks, and skirt. The sight of the skirt sliced right through me. The nausea returned as did a horrible realization. This could be my daughter.

One one of my children struggles mightily with anxiety and depression. She is fourteen. She goes to a private school. She wears a plaid skirt.

This is when it sucks to be a chaplain. When the chaos you enter hits too close to home.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Soul Food

I have eaten a lot of my words lately. And no, they are not very tasty.

The words I keep choking on are those that I’ve throw out at stressed caregivers and overworked women through the years. It isn’t tough to resurrect the essence of those conversations…

Someone grabs me… in the hall at work, or at church. Perhaps someone casually drops by my office under the guise of asking a question or expressing a concern about someone else. Before long the person pours out their heart. They divulge the enormous burden that they are carrying (usually a burden they have shared with no one). They beat themselves up for what they are not doing right, or perhaps for what they THINK they are not doing right. At some point after lengthy listening, I throw this out:

“It sounds like you are suffering under a pretty huge load. I am concerned for you. What are you doing to take care of yourself?”

(Crickets Chip...)

“I know that your family and your work are important to you, but you won’t be able to take care of either of these commitments unless you find a way to care for yourself, to feed your soul.”

My airway just narrowed, then collapsed. Someone please perform the Heimlich.

There was a time, once upon, when caring for myself was rather simple. When there were no deadlines, and doctor appointments, and people who depended on me or expected things from me at home. A time when I didn’t juggle projects and goals and papers at work. A time when marriage seemed easy. Times have changed.

I’ve found that feeding my soul takes work; a commitment on my part. It seems like something that SHOULDN’T, doesn’t it? Like most of us, I guess I want happiness and my sense of wholeness to come easily.

I have eaten a lot of my words lately. I imagine that in my sleep I grind those words while I grind my teeth. The words are not very tasty, and indeed they do nothing to feed my soul.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

who ever knew?

who ever knew life would be so hard?
i am quite amazed at how complex my world has become.

in a year's time, my world has turned upside down. illness in the generation before me has brought the realization that life is full of loss and that time is indeed passing quickly. illness in the generation after me has sent me reeling into a world of diagnoses, guesswork, sadness, and fear. i feel torn... between parents and children...

in the present, i find myself trying to recover from a couple of very painful blows. the rug got pulled out... i've lost my bearings... my foundation is cracked... i feel torn... between anger and forgiveness...

into this mess, add in my own personal midlife crisis... who am i? as the wrinkles and gray hairs approach, i'm stunned by the anger i feel at our cultural obsession with youth and beauty. what sucks most, is that i am a part of that thinking. i am a schism as i debate whether or not to "cover my gray". wouldn't dying my hair make me dishonest? make me part of that fountain of youth seeking cult? i feel torn... between denial and acceptance...

who am i? as my children age and as my husband finds so much life in his work, i sense the separateness of me. who am i NOT in relation to someone else? what do i want from the rest of my life? i feel torn... between the me i was and the me i am becoming...

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I laughed when I looked at the title of the last thing I posted: “I feel like I’ve been beaten.” Since that posting, the challenges of life have just kept on coming.

I’ve decided that perhaps if all I can do is post a word or two, that’s enough. So here’s a word or two…

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I feel like I've been beaten

Our trip was great. It's the homecoming that was challenging.

The morning we left Colorado, I felt a little tickle in my throat... nothing big, nothing to worry about. Ha! Steadily, since we returned to Texas, the little tickle has grown into a raging sore throat. My head feels like it's full of concrete; usually on only one side of my head at a time. My throat and ears itch and hurt, and now I've added a wretched cough to my litany of complaints. My "Rocky Mountain High" has turned into a South Texas Low.

It does feel rather like my body is mirroring my soul. I love the mountains and I wasn't ready to leave. I loved the opportunity to rest (which is rare in our household), to be with Gordon all day, and to engage in my creative bead pursuit as well as various other outdoor activities that feed my soul. My heart was sick to leave, so my body followed suit.

I walked into the office Monday to find 180-something emails; that, even after setting the "rule" to automatically send out the "I'm away from the office" message. I waded through that, met our new student, worked on reports, and generally had an administrative sort of day.

Tuesday was another story entirely. I was the only one in the office for the greater part of the day. I did all the referals and crisis issues. One of those issues involved one of our nurses. She had a meltdown at work, had me paged, and left the building to go home before I could return the page. I wound up at her house last night for a couple of hours. Life is just so hard. Through up a prayer or two for her.

Have I ever told you that I love nurses? Well, I do. I'm sure that there's some sick, twisted, unhealthy angle to that love... the one that has to do with being caregivers and the temptation to do too much. At the same time, there is a healthy respect for the rigors of what nurses do. My gosh, we expect perfection. If the world only knew the demands... you'd be surprised.

Pick up a magazine. Watch the evening news. All you hear is how unsafe hospitals are. Yes, there are many safety concerns. Last year during my mother's hospitalization and surgery, I was stunned by a number of errors. My former CEO had a horrific experience during his father's hospitalization following a heart attack. (Neither of these events took place in one of our hospitals!)

While I know there is reason for concern, there is also reason for gratitude. I work daily with people who give their all to eliminate, or at least alleviate, illness and suffering. Remarkable stories of healing and love are regular occurences. Remarkable people consistently risk their hearts by caring for those in need.

Nothing quite like rambling, huh?

Well, here's hoping that my allergy/cold/respiratory mess clears up quickly. In the meanwhile, I'm looking for a way to keep the mountains in my heart.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Time Flies

Life has been rather hectic.

We've sent the girls back to school with all the mountain of paperwork that entails.

The hospital has been swarming with surveyors. Actually, it's been that way since last fall. It's beginning to feel like a normal part of life to be under the microscope, and it is incredibly stressful for our staff.

We have graduated one CPE student and are prepared to receive another this week. Six months at a time, a student works in the pastoral care department of my hospital for the clinical portion of their internship year. We also have an extended student who will be with us one day a week. Orienting new students is very time consuming, but also exciting.

We have moved in new office furniture and since I am not the most organized of folks, I know that it will be a while until I find all my stuff.

I've been buying beads online. I've convinced myself that I can make something beautful out of these beads, since they themselves are so beautiful already. G and I leave for a trip this week, so I plan to use my time to learn and experiment while we relax and enjoy some time together.

Went to MD Anderson this week with my parents for my mother's check up. Thank God, it went well. Still no need for treatment.

G and I have done some work on my website and looking into getting away from paypal as a means of payment on my business page.

So, if you've wondered...that's pretty much why I have not posted in a while.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I took off my shoes, slipped on hospital shoe covers, and slid into a chair in the quiet room. As I looked around, I was aware of the people in the room. There were so many. It had not been this crowded before when I was here. I wondered about all the people… did they come often? What brought them here today? And then, more practically, would they distract me?

As I watched them move around the labyrinth, it occurred me to how very ghostly and eerie the scene appeared. Natural light and total silence, with exception of gentle spiritual music. People moving silently past one another, most of them with eyes on the floor. A slow motion, silent dance. Imagine the baptism scene in “O Brother Where Art Thou” and you might be close to the experience.

Before I walked onto the path, I sat shoeless, asking God for wisdom. I asked God to speak to me and to empower me to hear on my pilgrimage. I had not felt especially close to God for a while. My life had felt overwhelming and and seemed to blot out much of my sense of God’s presence.

The moment I stepped onto the path, I began to cry. I didn’t stop until I reached the center where I saw down.

At the first curve in the path, I was aware of God’s voice loud and clear: “I know the plans I have for you…” A few more steps, “The path is laid out before you…Follow…” and then, “Your only job is to just keep walking.” An overwhelming since of relief flooded over me. This is the God I have trusted with my life. How can I not see the care God has provided through every trial and struggle? Suddenly, all the angst I experience over decisions, and challenges, and forks in my life’s road, seemed pathetically silly. My struggle with work, parenting, marriage, joy, all seemed insane.

I found myself stepping to the rhythm of the music. Almost like the deliberate step of a ballerina with toes pointing, arch of my foot turned in and leading. I liked the feel of walking the music… of sensing it with my body.

Along the way, I remembered that the walk to the center is about letting go. I already knew what I needed to release. What has plagued me lately… my anger…my fear. As I thought about my fears, I heard God again: “Nothing can replace me. You have tried to put others in my place. NO ONE belongs there.” At the moment I heard this, I was aware of someone passing to the right of me. I glanced quickly to see G. A timely reminder…nothing can make me content, whole, happy but God.

A few more steps and Meister Ekhart whispers in my ear: God is not found in the process of addition, but in subtraction. What do I need to subtract? What expectations do I have of myself and others and God that are unrealistic? What can I release? What do I worship other than the Holy One?

Then God said, “Let him go. You worry and grasp so tightly because you fear so much. Let him go. Let the girls go. Turn them over to me. Turn it all over. G and the girls. TRUST ME.” I realized then, that the fear and distrust that plague me about my family are not that I don’t trust them, but that I don’t trust God with them. “Let them go.”

A few more steps and I marveled at how wonderful a thing it is when what you have stored in your heart, in your memory, springs forth to speak life to you. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him as Lord and he will direct your paths”. How many times have I heard these words? Today, I found great comfort in thinking that there is only one path and that it is completely preordained. That God is in complete control.

¾ of the way done, I turned a corner and realized I was facing the entrance/exit. A flash of emotion hit me. Not yet! Then a gentle turn to the right appeared, and took me further down the path away from the conclusion of my walk.

Aware of an impending encounter with a sunny spot on the path, brought a sense of excitement. Everything seemed meaningful, even the few spots on the canvas path that bore witness to some type of carelessness or accident.

I wish I could finish this; could neatly wrap up this account. For some reason, however, the rest of the experience is gone. Or at least gone from my conscious self.