Saying goodbye

I’ve said a lot of goodbyes in the last few years. I’ve said goodbye to houses. I’ve said goodbye to family members and friends. I’ve said goodbye to dreams and ambitions.

Today I said a new goodbye. I said goodbye to my job.

It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in recent years. It’s because this was my decision, and many of the others were not.

Chaplaincy is the best job I have ever had, hands down. I loved the work, even when it was difficult. I loved the staff in the hospital. I loved my fellow chaplains. I loved my administration.

People change, though. I’ve changed over the last three years since I started this job. It was time.

My boss said we as humans tend to see job endings as a bad thing rather than a celebration. So tonight I am looking at the good sides.

For three years, I had amazing coworkers and amazing support through the hospital. I made friends the likes of which I didn’t think I would have again.

For three years, I saw God at work. It was often in difficult situations, but I went into everyone one of those situations knowing I wasn’t alone.

For three years, I grew as a person. I learned multitasking and time management. I learned I could rely on myself to make good calls, and I could call on others in a time of need.

So tonight, I celebrate. I celebrate three great years of work. I celebrate friendships and love. I celebrate God’s grace.

Thanks for the opportunities, Parkview. I’ll miss you.

41/42

Hey y’all, it’s that time of year again!  It’s my birthday!!!

Top 10 facts about the number 42 | Express.co.uk

This wasn’t exactly a banner year, and I don’t really feel like I have that much to say about it.  I’ll give it what I’ve got, though.

While 41 is not a monumental number, both of my girls hit big milestones during my odd year.  Emma turned 13, so we officially have a teenager.  Sofia turned 10, so we no longer have anyone in single digits.  I can tell you that I was not ready for either girl to turn those ages, but they’ve been great so far.  They are both such amazing little people, who really are not that little anymore.

Last week I hit the midway point in coursework for my doctoral degree.  Seven courses down, seven to go.  Then an internship, a huge exam, a dissertation, and a hop, skip, and a jump to my doctoral degree.  With each course, I seem to hit a point where I tell Michael that I cannot do this, but I’ve finished every course so far, so I guess I can.

Work continued on as usual, which means constant changes.  We saw a new tower emerge on the existing hospital building and quickly begin filling with patients , which is exciting and daunting at the same time.  We experienced the scary unknown of coronavirus, which ground all hospital visitations to a halt.  But the year was fun, as well.  I got to star in my own small day-in-the-life-of video for the hospital, which earned me lots of recognition and free donuts from my favorite bakery.  

I published not one but two books of poetry during 41.  I only meant to do the first one, Conversations with the Moon.  I had been working on that one for several months, and I knew where it was going.  39 Poems happened so fast that it seemed to come out of no where.  They are two very different books, but I am pleased with both of them.

We travelled just a little this year.  We made a few trips to Crawfordsville to see family, of course.  One of those was a milestone trip in itself, as it was for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.  That was a great week with family, celebrating my parents’ constant commitment to each other and their marriage, even when things are hard.  The only other real traveling we did was to the Outer Banks for a week in July.  That was a fantastic, leisurely week on the beach.  My brother went with us, which made the trip that much better.

In the middle of 41, coronavirus hit and the world seemed to stop overnight.  We haven’t gotten coronavirus in my family, thankfully, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been affected by it.  Everyone has been.  We had to cancel a vacation in April because it wasn’t safe to travel.  The girls haven’t been in a classroom since before spring break.  Michael works from home indefinitely.  We rarely leave the house, just to pick up groceries and fetch carryout food.  We wear masks everywhere we go.

In the forced togetherness, though, we have grown.  Rather than being sick of one another, the four of us have remained close.  We have learned a strange mix of independence and yet depending on one another.  We have played endless games and taken up new hobbies.

It has been an odd year, largely because of coronavirus.  Unfortunately there is no end in sight for it, at least at this point.  Somedays it feels like coronavirus will go on forever, and that our stringent social distancing will as well.

41 doesn’t go on forever, though.  42 is here, shrouded in a veil of unknowing.  I have things I hope we will do, like eventually send our girls back to school.  We hope to travel to Greece next summer if it is safe to do so.  But like so much of our current life, we are in a wait-and-see holding pattern for now.

So to 41, thanks for being a very different year.  I won’t soon forget you.

And to 42, let’s do this.

Psalm 23

I realized something over the weekend that I’m guessing some of you already knew: Psalm 23 can be read as a psalm of the dying.

I had always read it as a psalm of hope: hope for protection, hope for strength, hope for life.

Over the weekend, a family asked me to read it at the bedside of a dying patient.  I could tell that the spouse wanted to be the one to read it, but was too overcome with emotion.  So I did.

The LORD is my shepherd, I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams….

In that moment, the patient all they needed.  Family was gathered together.  Memories and sweet tears were shared, and prayers for an easy passage offered up.  The patient was resting, perhaps not in green meadows of beside peaceful streams, but everything was being done to keep them comfortable.

…Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and staff protect and comfort me….

Death is, I presume, the darkest valley.  At least for a moment.  For those of us who are living, death seems like the great unknown.  We don’t know what happens in that moment.  How soon is it before we are greeted by The Father?  But David tells us not to be afraid.  That is always part of my prayers for the dying: that they would be free from not only pain and suffering but also from fear and anxiety.

…You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings….

One of the purposes of anointing is to sanctify or make pure from sin.  I don’t know if we get an actual anointing when we enter heaven, but I imagine going to heaven is, in itself, an act of sanctification.  To live sinless in the presence of the Lord forever.  What could be more holy?  How could we feel more blessed than that?

…and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

That is where we hope our loved ones go when they die: to live in the house of the Lord forever.  That was certainly what this family believed, and it gave them hope.

As I read this aloud for the family and their dying loved one, I cried.  I cried for them, but I also cried with them.  Being invited in to a scene like that is special.  It feels almost holy, in a way.

I’ll look at Psalm 23 differently now.  Not in a negative light because I now associate it with death.  I’ll look at it with hope like I did before.  But now I’ll look at it with an eternal hope of life everlasting.

+++++

T

Leaving the Outer Banks

Saturday was hard, pretty much all around.

I set my alarm for 5:30 so I could go out and watch the sunrise. For some reason, I was awake before 4:00 and couldn’t go back to sleep. I did make it out to watch what I could if the sunrise. It was pretty cloudy, but still beautiful. Adam joined me for a little while.

Adam left around 7:00. It was hard to watch him go. We really like vacationing with him. He fits in so well with our family.

Michael and I had some coffee and started packing up. We kept at it until the girls got up at 8:00. We all had breakfast together and then went down to the beach one last time.

We stayed down at the beach for a little over an hour. Emma made a sandcastle. Sofia jumped in the waves. We soaked up the early morning sun one last time. We enjoyed being together in one of our favorite places.

Back at the house, we showered and then hit the packing hard. Michael went out to get sandwiches for us all. Around 11:00 we all got emergency alerts on our phones announcing that Dare County (where we were) was enforcing a mandatory evacuation of all visitors by noon. That was when we were planning to leave anyway, so it didn’t change our plans.

Leaving was hard. Two of us cried, and I think two more teared up. No one wanted to go. But now we had to. The rental agency even called us to make sure we knew.

Driving was hard. It felt like we were in nonstop traffic from the time we left our rental house until we stopped for the night outside of Washington, DC. We wanted to make it into Maryland before stopping, but traffic was that bad.

Honestly, Sunday wasn’t any easier. We woke up and were on the road nice and early, but everyone was sullen and listless. There was no playful joking around. The girls sat quietly in the back and kept to themselves, and really Michael and I did the same. We didn’t even play auto bingo.

We love our home. I just blogged about that a couple of weeks ago, about how great things are in Fort Wayne. We miss our dogs, and the girls miss their hamsters.

But no one is ready to return to life as we know it. Not after a wonderful, relaxing week together on the beach. And for me, not when one of our party of five doesn’t call the same place home that we do.

Still, we’ll suck it up. Michael will return to work on Monday. I’ll go back to the hospital on Friday night, as always. The girls will have one more week of summer vacation. Life will carry on, and it will be good. It’s just never the same after vacation.

Outer Banks Vacation, Friday

Friday found us mostly on the beach. We went out right after breakfast and stayed until lunchtime, then went out again for about an hour in the afternoon.

DSCF6520DSCF6521DSCF6522DSCF6530After the beach, Sofia played a few rounds of Dutch Blitz with Michael and me.  Then Michael, Adam, and I played a long game of Trivial Pursuit.  Michael won.

A shaved-ice truck drove through the neighborhood blasting loud music, and the girls and I attempted to chase him down.  He never came down our street, though, for some reason.  Two girls were disappointed.

Dinner was takeout from Top Dog, followed by ice cream from a local place.

We went back out to the beach for some evening pictures and one last swim for Adam.

We finished out the night watching Harry Potter together.

Outer Banks Vacation, Thursday

I made coffee this morning. Actual coffee, not coffee-flavored water. So much better.

Adam rode down to Avon this morning. It was quite the ride, apparently. He learned he is faster than IndyCar driver Sage Karam.

We all drove down to the Hatteras Island Lighthouse around noon. You can’t go in the lighthouse due to Covid, but you can still walk around and look at it. And the gift shop was open, so Emma and Adam each bought books by local authors.

Lunch was at a little Mexican place in Avon called La Fogatta. I ordered a margarita that I’m pretty sure didn’t have any alcohol in it.

We took a siesta after lunch, then down to the beach. The zucchini were still there. Weird.

We ate a random assortment of leftovers for dinner, then hung out on the upper deck for a nice long time.

Around sunset, we all headed north to Nags Head. We had reservations for a moonlight kayak tour through OBX Kayak Adventures. Sofia rode with me, Emma rode with Michael, and Adam had a kayak to himself. It was a long hour and a half, but it was fun. I tried to take several pictures, but none turned out.

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We had vacation cake back home, then went to bed.

Outer Banks Vacation, Wednesday

It stormed most of Tuesday night into Wednesday, which made for cool views from the third floor windows. It was still raining when we awoke.

Michael and I had coffee for the first time since Sunday, barely. I messed up how many tablespoons needed to go in and way undershot it, so it was more like coffee flavored water. I’ll do better tomorrow. We played Dutch Blitz while waiting for everyone else to get up.

Once it eventually stopped raining, Michael and I went for a walk along the beach. The air was nice and cool, which made the water feel strangely warm.

After the walk, we all five went to Kitty Hawk Kites which is a large local store specializing in water sports and clothing. The girls and I picked out sweatshirts we liked, but the boys didn’t buy anything. There was a restaurant upstairs called Good Winds and we had lunch there. It was pretty good.

We took a short nap when we got home, then we four Florys went to the beach. Sofia hurts from her sunburn two days ago, so she stayed in her dress and just went for a walk with Michael and Emma along the shoreline. I defended our belongings from the high tide and tried to figure out why someone brought and left two large squashes on the beach.

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When their walk was finished, Sofia went back to the house, Emma read on the beach, and Michael sunbathed. He is determined to be tan when we leave. It isn’t going to happen.

Back at the house, the four of us played a game called Sushi Go. It was “Forced Family Fun Time,” as Emma called it.

We stayed in for dinner tonight and made tacos. They were okay. It was a nice family time with the five of us.

Adam and I went for a walk on the beach. Actually he left first and I left about five minutes later, but I caught him as he was on his way back.

As the sun was setting, Adam, Michael, Sofia, and I went back to the beach one more time. Sofia wanted to stand at the water’s edge and Adam wanted to swim. It was a nice way to end the day.

Outer Banks Vacation, Tuesday

Everyone got up relatively early on Tuesday.  Adam beat us all by getting up at 5:00 to watch the sunrise from the beach.  He went for a bike ride down NC-12 nearly to Avon a little later in the morning.

Michael, the girls, and I slept until 7:45, which is still pretty early for most of us.  Michael and the girls got dressed and ready and drove up to Nags Head to a ropes course called First Flight Adventure.  They climbed around on a ropes course for two hours while the heat index hovered around 100.  It was fun, they said, but very hot.

Me? I stayed in the house and did homework like a good girl.  I did a lot of homework, though, so it was worth it.  Besides, I don’t do heights, and ropes courses are all suspended at different levels.

We all met up for lunch in the town of Manteo at the Lost Colony Brewery.  Adam and I got there way before Michael and the girls, so we ordered an appetizer.  I swear, the staff wanted to make us move because the rest of our party had not arrived.  I was relieved when they finally did, despite the fact that they were a sweaty mess.

After lunch we went back to the house for some well-earned rest.  And showers.

At about 3:30 we got the girls out of bed (they weren’t sleeping anyway) and went down to the beach for about an hour.  Emma went from not wanting to go to claiming she was having a moderately good time to describing the hour as pleasurable by the end.  Teenagers.

Michael, Adam, and I made a grocery run down to Avon, which has the nearest actual grocery store.  The guys forgot their facemasks, though, so I shopped on my own.  While I was inside buying food, they decided they wanted to order takeout for dinner.  Boys.  So despite the fact that we had already eaten out once, we ordered food from Dirty Dick’s Crab House, located conveniently in the Food Lion parking lot.  It was 8:00 by the time we got home with the food, but the girls were troopers about it.

After dinner we ate vacation cake (freshly purchased!) and watched part of X-men: Apocalypse.  I mostly slept through it.

 

Outer Banks Vacation, Part 1

Normally, I blog each day of a vacation.  I can’t put my finger on why I haven’t so far this trip.  Maybe it is because it has been so laid back that I haven’t felt there was much so say?  I don’t know.

Anyway, we are in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and having a great time.  This is kind of a different trip because my brother, Adam, is with us.  This is the second time he has vacationed in OBX with us.

We left early Saturday and drove nine and a half hours to Asheboro, NC. where my cousin Amy and my Uncle Tom live.  Adam met us there shortly after we arrived.  We had pizza and a delicious mint chocolate chip dessert that Amy made.  It was so great to catch up with them and see all of the improvements that they have made together on Amy’s townhome.

Sunday we had another great meal with Amy and Uncle Tom, then left midmorning for a brief stop in Holly Springs, NC.  One of my best friends from college, Sara, and her family live there, and I had made a quilt for her new baby boy.  It had been nearly a decade since Sara and I were together, so that was time well spent.

Then began the long remainder of the journey to OBX.  I don’t know why that three and a half hours felt so long, but it really did.  Michael rode with Adam.  The girls and I listened to the entire “Hamilton” soundtrack and then they watched an episode of “Sherlock”.  We drove over many looooooong bridges, which made me nervous because I don’t like bridges.  One of them was in a storm, so that was extra fun.

Sunday evening was spent unpacking and organizing the house before going out to the beach for some well-earned fun.  The girls would run down to the shoreline and stop right as a wave came in.  We stayed down there until sunset.

Monday was spent on the beach.  Very much on the beach.  It was fun, but everyone but Michael managed to get rather painfully sunburned, despite several coatings of sunscreen.  The girls played on their body boards, but I could not convince them to actually go out into the water and use them properly.  They feel the safest at the shoreline.  They buried Michael in sand up to his neck, and Emma looked for seashells.

Dinner Monday night was from a local place called Top Dog.  They are only doing carry out, as are most of the local eateries.  It was good, though.

Year Three in Fort Wayne

Today marks our third year in Fort Wayne.

Things continue to go well in the Fort. Emma and Sofia had good years in school, despite the weirdness of online school for the last two months of the year. I feel like they adjusted well to it, for which I largely credit Michael. He was a solid resource for them in their daily learning. Much more than I was. We still don’t know what the upcoming school year looks like, but I know they will both cope as well as they can.

Michael has also worked from home since March. He still has regular meetings with people on a weekly basis over the phone or computer. The college still needs numbers analyzed, which he is still happy to do.

Maybe the thing that has changed the least is my job. My schedule has remained the same through it all. Things have definitely been more stressful at the hospital due to the pandemic, but we manage. People still get sick and injured, and we still take care of them. Life carries on.

I think that is one of the things I have been particularly cognizant of over the last three years: life carries on. We did not expect to live in Indiana, and we never even considered Fort Wayne. We thought we would stay in Kentucky with our friends forever, I guess.

When that plan changed, we thought we would go out and change the world in our own little way from a foreign country. We thought we would raise two little multi-cultural girls who would be world-wise and emotionally acclimated wherever we ended up.

When that plan changed too, we were at a total loss. Then Fort Wayne happened, and it happened quickly. Michael’s job, the move, my jobs…they all happened so quickly and seamlessly that we knew they had to be right. We had plenty of growing pains once we got here, but we worked together through them all.

Despite all we felt like we had lost, life carried on. We found new blessings in life in all of the usual places: schools, jobs, pets, family. Everything changed, and we changed with it. We aren’t the same people who left Frankfort. We’ve all four grown more confident and self-assured. We’ve matured, all of us.

I don’t know what year four in Fort Wayne will look like. Whatever the case, we’ll carry on together.