Monthly Archives: April 2015

Nurturing through hospice

Nurturing through hospice

It’s the #1000Speak topic of nurturing. Well I am a bit of a paranoid nerd so let me make sure I understand the definition first. So I did what any red blooded human would do and googled nurture and this is what came up –

verb: nurture; 3rd person present: nurtures; past tense: nurtured; past participle: nurtured; gerund or present participle: nurturing
  1. 1.
    care for and encourage the growth or development of.

Well I was prepared for the care portion of the definition but encourage the growth or development of was more of a stumbling point for me. I know how to care for myself and others but encouraging growth or development takes it to a whole other level and frankly it is not something I learned in my family of origin. Growing up we were always in survival mode….just getting by to pay the rent and have the necessities there was not a lot of emphasis on personal growth. This is something I had to discover outside of my first little tribe.

What is interesting to me is that the actions required to nurture a person are so individual. For instance, my son can be nurtured with a gigantic bowl of pasta while my daughter will prefer an in depth conversation regarding recess who played 4-square, who didn’t, why they didn’t, do they like me…..and round and round we go. My husband, my children, my mother, my brother, my friends we all have different needs so the manner in which I nurture them varies by person and circumstance.

One thing that has been tricky about motherhood is finding ways to nurture myself. The obvious ones – eat right, get enough sleep, exercise, take time for yourself, shower regularly…..seem like monumental tasks when you are raising tiny humans. The early years are rough and that time just gets stretched more with each additional child. I made it through babyhood, preschool and the early elementary years and most nights if I can’t sleep it’s due to my own diabolical hormones and not night terrors. So my self nurturing takes me to the gym, out to lunch and helping others.

Yes for me nurturing others (outside the family) also nurtures my soul. It is natural to care for close family and friends but stepping outside that circle is also rewarding. For the past 8 years I have been a hospice volunteer. When I tell people that they either cringe or smile, few people are lukewarm about hospice. The ones that cringe tend to have a fear of death for themselves or someone close to them. The people that smile have usually been an eyewitness to hospice work, it is beautiful.

For those that aren’t familiar hospice is an approach to terminal care. It is the point where the patient decides that they want a different course of treatment. Instead of curative care they seek more palliative care basically comfort measures. My role in this varies by situation. I volunteer to provide respite for the caregiver. I stay with the dying person so their primary caregiver can take a few hours to do whatever they need to do. I’ve had dozens of patients in the past 8 years and while they share some similarities each one of them needed to be cared for in a unique manner. Sometimes I will read to the patient other times we will discuss current events or swap travel stories. Sometimes I make meals or tidy up the house it really depends on what is needed.

It’s an odd niche to get into and people always ask “why”? Of course I had personal introduction….I don’t think many people read a textbook and think….hmmm….I want to give that hospice thing a whirl. No most people that work or volunteer for hospice have a personal story. For me it was my aunt who was a chaplain and died from metastatic breast cancer at the age of 59. Her faith and ability to face death with a practical and loving heart gave me my first adult glimpse at the dying process. I was 29 when she died and was on the corporate fast track. It took another 10 years and many major life events to get me on the path to being a hospice volunteer. The seed was planted though and I am fortunate that I have been able to devote some time to something so important.

So what is the allure of hospice? To me I find it similar to when a new baby comes home. There is usually a lot of activity and well meaning visits, some family tension but mostly people tend to get their priorities in order. Suddenly the size of Kim Kardashian’s back side becomes unimportant and people can focus on what really matters in life – love, kindness, forgiveness, letting go, faith and hope. Now this isn’t a universal process but the end result is pretty consistent.

Perhaps that is another pull toward hospice. Maybe I just want to learn more about this universal truth that we all must face one day regardless of race, religion or whatever color socks you happen to be wearing…..we are all going to die. I find it interesting that while this is something we all know on an intellectual basis not many are willing to look it squarely in the eye. My hospice work is my way to acknowledge death and perhaps make some friends that can guide me when I get to the other side. And the stories……the stories they tell me are great and I am privileged to listen to them.


Sippin’ the Kool-Aid

Sippin’ the Kool-Aid

So many things about today’s society or at least the world I live in has me feeling like we are standing around a universal trough and it’s filled with Kool-Aid. We keep getting fed the same news stories, hear the same chatter and get outraged at the same things. People seem mad as hell over things that really have little or no impact on their personal lives. Sure sometimes it’s warranted….justifiable anger, a lot of things wrong in the world. The actions, misdeeds and hurtful outcomes seem to be creating a globe with twitching masses of rage and hate.

I was clicking through my Facebook Newsfeed the other night and the big story was about “Free Range Parenting”. It featuried a family that allows their 10 year old and 6 year old to walk a mile to a park.  They have been turned into Child Protective Services (CPS) several times for their parenting style. At this point I am not aware of any harm this has actually caused their children other than the fact they were held by the police for several hours because someone thought something “might” happen. So by calling the cops and CPS they pretty much guaranteed that something awful would happen and it did. The cops held the kids for several hours until late in the night without meals or the ability to see their parents…..I’m sure that will leave a mark.

Honestly I don’t have enough information about this family or their situation to form a well rounded opinion about the safety of their parenting style. I’m going to guess that most people don’t unless they are personally familiar with the family and the geographic area. That doesn’t stop the haters and the proclaimers from posting about it.  I too got swept up in the emotion of it.  A lot of posters commented that they were more afraid of CPS then the “free range” issue. One poster took a harsh tone with that attitude and suggested that parents get off their ass and play with their own kids. I puffed up my chest and replied with a comment that said “judge much” as I went on to judge her comment publicly. It is so easy to get sucked into this vacuum of negativity. I’m not proud, just human.

My other Kool-Aid moment this week happened yesterday. I came in after dropping my daughter off at early morning band practice. As I entered the kitchen I saw it like a beacon, the yellow canister of gum…..oh sh*t. Let me tell you about the gum folks…….this week is testing at the kids school. Perhaps you have heard some ruckus about standardized testing and the wake of destruction it leaves in it’s path….OK that may be a tad dramatic or not. For those that don’t know standardized tests have been taking over our public school systems, true story. Ask a teacher they will have very strong opinions about it and tell you how f-ed up it is in the most diplomatic way possible. Countless hours are spent teaching to the test so that schools get high scores and thus improve their districts ranking or at least slow the slide downward.

OK silly woman but what does a yellow canister of gum have to do with this testing issue? Glad you asked. Some brilliant academic determined that chewing gum during a test promotes better concentration for test takers. So now the kids in my school district all obsess about gum during the test weeks. For those that can’t chew gum due to dental work or religious reasons (that’s a joke, don’t over think it) mints are allowed. Oh yes and make sure little Johnny has a great breakfast (think cruise ship style midnight buffet) before test day, every day for 10 days (guess he can eat garbage for breakfast on the remaining school days). So when my precious child left his gum behind on day one of testing I knew I had to deliver it to the school pronto. And that my friends is sipping the Kool-Aid and it leaves a nasty aftertaste.