If I had coffee with Sarah Sanders…

I have not perfectly demonstrated this belief over the years, but it is something I owe my fellow female professionals (and just my fellow women in general):advice for Sarah Sanders

But when it comes to this one woman…

My work schedule right now is front-loaded in the (much) earlier part of the day, so I often find myself able to watch the daily press briefing.

As I watch, I think “I feel so angry at this woman” as I watch Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (SHS).

I can’t figure this out.

Some of my strong emotional reaction I can diagnose …..it boils down to the fact that I don’t believe it is professional to demean the journalism professionals present so openly nor to speak in such a hostile way about people and organizations that disagree with the leaders of the Executive branch.

I start watching/listening to most daily briefings with an attitude of “I probably won’t agree with most of what she says but it is important to not stick my head in the sand.”

I usually make it about 10 minutes before tweeting out my frustration and trying not to hurl shoes at the television.

What I want to tell SHS

I know some sources say she plans to leave the position by the end of the year (although she apparently denies these reports), so perhaps it’s a moot point, but I still have to get this out.

I know I will probably never actually be invited to have coffee with her. I’ll never face the White House press corps. I’ll never be in the audience at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, knowing my boss and I are surely going to be the butt of jokes.

But if I did have an opportunity to chat, I would tell her no job is worth abandoning your own voice to be the mouthpiece of anger and vitriol. I don’t think that is what the press secretary role is about.

Not the she necessarily sees Melinda Gates as a role model, but I’m with Melinda.advice for Sarah Sanders

I would tell her that I think in time she is going to look back at this period of her life and wish she had taken a different approach.

SHS’s predecessors were different

This topic has been niggling at my brain for months now. Because I don’t have a comprehensive recall of previous press secretaries’ performances, I sought an example from a previous administration. I chose a Republican administration to be fair to SHS and ended up at this Scott McClellan briefing from the George W. Bush administration.

Watching one briefing does not a thorough analysis make, but I was struck by a few things:

  1. McClellan’s calm tone (even when he was refusing to answer questions)
  2. How he emphasized the fact that he valued his relationship with the press corps (yes, he may have been blowing smoke up their butts, but he made the effort)
  3. His tendency to explain rather than attack

BUT SHS has done some things right

SHS has done one thing that did not (in my opinion) occur under Sean Spicer. She has brought a semblance of order to the process. I admire her for that because keeping conversations within the rails has to be hard.

About SHS’ interaction with Larry Karem

Fast forward to the June 14 press briefing. As the national outcry grew over the how the administration was condoning the separation of children from their parents when immigrant families arrived from Mexico illegally, reporters sought answers.

Larry Karem of CNN and Playboy pressed SHS over and over (and over) again, eventually asking … as she began to ignore him and pointedly called on another reporter … “Don’t you have any empathy for what they go through?”

(At the time, all I could think was about my time at Healthy Kids. In my customer service capacity, I talked to countless parents who were upset about their children’s accounts being cancelled for late payment and other reasons. Inevitably, they would say, “do YOU have kids?” One parent said, “I’ve looked you up on Facebook. I know all about your kids.” Nice. It is hard to separate out your compassion and empathy as a parent with the rules you have to enforce as an employee. Therefore, I did feel empathy for SHS as the reporter screamed at her, prefacing his question about empathy with, “You’re a parent. You’re a parent of young children.”)

Ultimately, I side Larry.

If I had coffee with Sarah, I would encourage her to listen to her own voice.

I know a bit about her ideological background, so it’s unlikely that her “own voice” has that much in common with mine.

But if we were going to be in the same tribe together, and she was at all receptive to my attempt to lift her up, my advice would come with an admonition to consider listening to her own voice more closely instead of resorting to hostilely defending someone else’s while denigrating people who are (for the most part) trying to do their jobs.

*Note: One question I have asked myself while thinking through this post is whether I would feel the same if SHS were a man. I’m not sure. I think at the heart of my personal reaction to her approach is the idea that young women considering careers in communications are taking their cues from her, not just about professionalism but about how to mix being a professional with being a parent, and the message she sends should be longer on professionalism and shorter on mean-spiritedness.

*Note 2: If you want to use YOUR voice to advocate on behalf of the immigrant children being separated from their parents, here are five simple, quick actions recommended by Moms Rising.

Five Minute Friday: RESTORE

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: RESTORE

The word “restore” makes me think of a local church called “Restoration Place.”

I suspect people may go to Restoration Place seeking for their spirits to be restored, but the real work happens inside and can take place anywhere.

I want to write something positive tonight (because I feel my writing lately has tended toward deep introspection with an essence of despair (not to sound maudlin — it’s been a year.))

Therefore,  a word of gratitude to the people, places and things that restore me daily. It really doesn’t take much.

My Facebook friend Lisa, for example, shares her vivid nature photography. I don’t think she and I have ever met in person, but she restores me with these gorgeous images that remind me there is a force out there bigger than ourselves that places beauty in our paths. Thank you, Lisa, for capturing it so beautifully.

Gulf Fritillary
Photo Credit and all rights: Lisa Baggett

A friend texted me yesterday to set up brunch this weekend. That gives me something to look forward to, at a restaurant I haven’t been to before. I know from prior experience with her that the shared laughter, empathy and support will be restorative.

I’m in a new (additional) freelance situation this week. The fact that the owner took the time to tell me that I am appreciated, picked up screen share (do you pick up screen share? Set up, I guess) to teach me a skill I needed because I hadn’t used their social sharing platform before, and in general set a positive tone refreshed my faith that sometimes a strange set of situations …

** end of five minutes**

… some Slack conversations and a bit of serendipity can lead to a bright moment or two.

I’m also still in my (old) freelance situation and, although anyone who is hanging out with me on Twitter at that time of the evening may wonder why I tweet almost every night that I am happy to wake up early for work I like, all I can say is the same thing I say in many of those tweets. I don’t take this for granted. A decade+ of Monday dread showed me otherwise, and it’s worth sharing over and over when something revitalizing happens.

Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

 

4 Ways to Exercise Again After a Health Setback

Exercise again after a health setback

I was never a fast runner, but I have always been competitive with myself. I approached every finish line at a sprint, hoping to shave a few seconds off my time.

That was true until October 2, 2016. That day, I rolled into the finish area of a 5K as the passenger in a golf cart, because I was experiencing worrisome enough heart rate issues to compel me to ask the organizers to take me off the course a  little over a mile in. Of a race I was simply walking.

Although I did some half-hearted workouts after that, went to a few yoga classes, and took some walks, that day is when I gave up and stopped working out.

The Sweat Thearapy workout at Happy Motoring on June 2 will turn out to be the day that jump started everything again. Here are four game-changers that are going to be part of this new transition back to the old fit ways.

Exercise again after a health setback

Overcoming the Fear

When I had a follow-up with my electrophysiologist’s PA recently for a routine check related to my exercise-induced tachycardia, this is how the conversation went (also, it’s how the routine check four months earlier with the doctor went):

Her: Any problems?

Me: No

Her: Have you been exercising, which would have to happen for you to know if there are problems?

Me: Well, no.

Her: You won’t know if you don’t exercise.

BUSTED

It may be the electrical activity in my heart that is the “problem,” but it turns out my head is where the biggest irregularities are.

I hated having to get picked up at that 5K. I’ve hated working out at my usual place that does so many partner drills because I push myself too hard, afraid I’m going to let my partner down. It is difficult to trust that the medication will keep everything in check.

I became afraid to work out and got stuck.

Making Adjustments

If you are returning to a workout habit after a setback and/or extended break, get comfortable with doing things differently.

I wasn’t sure how the June 2 workout would be structured, but I went into it prepared to do what worked for me even if it didn’t fit with what the majority was doing. (The workout was advertised as “all levels” and it lived up to that billing, but you never know. Some “all levels” workouts end up being intimidating and too strenuous for a beginner or returning participant.)

Here are some ways to adjust a workout. (And a good instructor will offer proposed modifications to accommodate various levels.)

  • Reduce intensity (turn a jumping jack into a step jack or one of these variations, for example)
  • Keep moving, but slow down. If an activity is too difficult and there’s not a variation that feels right, don’t do it. March in place if possible. Walk for a few minutes. Listen to your body’s warning signs
  • Be clear about what you need. I mentioned that partner drills are one of my bugaboos. Imagine my emotions when the instructor announced — you guessed it! — partner drills. Turns out she had incorporated them in a way that wasn’t threatening. Each partner was taking a turn at a station, but the activity didn’t depend on partner A finishing something before partner B could start. It worked for me but I was prepared to say “I am not going to be able to keep up with a partner; I’ll take a walk and meet you all after this section is done”
  • Cut it short. If the planned workout is too long for you, it’s okay to stop early (make sure to cool down, though, and hydrate well)

Creating a Plan

One of the awards given at the weekly Weight Watchers meetings I attend is the 4-week award.

Each week, our leader asks this question of the group before presenting the 4-week awards: “Why is the 4-week period important?”

Answer: Because that’s what it takes to establish a habit. (Note: that is the Weight Watchers theory …. opinions vary. I agree with Charles DuHigg that the habit of eating chocolate can be ingrained much faster than other habits, let’s say regular exercise, making progress on a book or saving money.)

I’m saying a workout eight days ago was the start of a habit, yet I haven’t lifted a weight or walked a mile since then. There’s a small caveat because I had my implantable loop recorder replaced a few days ago and have activity restrictions for the next week.

But I’m here to tell you, readers, regular fitness is going to become a thing for me again as soon as these activity restrictions are lifted.

Remembering How Good it Feels

Working out has physical benefits, of course, but it just feels fantastic!

The sun (if you’re outside), the sweat, the collective energy of being with other positive people, being in touch with your body, being away from a screen. All of it.

Everything about working out (despite its difficulty) adds up to walking away feeling good.

Bonuses

One of the best parts of my workout that day was meeting a fellow Twitter friend for the first time. Thanks, Harry/@hdoug11 for recognizing me and saying hello. Ironically, I had just been involved in a thread that morning about how so many of us in the Tallahassee Twitter community have never met in person. This was a great start to making in-person connections with Twitter friends who make social media fun and as wonderful as the workout.

Exercise again after a health setback

Okay, great hair (me – not him) is NOT a workout benefit!

And heck, the $4 mimosas provided tasty hydration and *may* be one of the features of this workout situation that got me out the door!

Exercise again after a health setback

Details About Sweat Therapy’s Workouts at Happy Motoring

My kick in the pants to get out of my funk happened because Sweat Therapy is offering free summer workouts each Saturday in June at a venue I had been curious about anyway, Happy Motoring. Visit this Facebook page for more information on the workouts.

Are you struggling with being “stuck” in a workout funk or standstill? Let me know in the comments (or message me) and let’s talk about how you, too, can have a ball working out after a health setback.

*Note: Please check with your physician to clear your exercise plan before starting.

Five Minute Friday: FLY

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: FLY

It’s almost impossible to write today without the muted presence of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain hovering near (and in our family’s case, my brother-in-law Chuck).

Images are deceptive, especially in today’s media world.

I read Bourdain’s book, Medium Raw (it was the successor to Kitchen Confidential, which I have not read) a few months ago and loved it. I was amazed at how close he came to losing it all and how he pulled himself up through gumption and luck and serendipity.

I’ve walked into Kate Spade shops with my daughter numerous times. I could never wear much of what she made (too many shift dresses and non-curve-friendly items) nor was I up for paying those kinds of prices. Still, because my daughter loved her merchandise, I tried to open my sensibilities to it also (but not my wallet, usually).

I wonder what voices in their head needed to take flight.

If I have given anyone the idea that I am above those types of demons, let me assure you I’m not.

Even though I didn’t go into practice, the reason my undergrad is in Child Development and Family Relations and my Master’s is in Counseling has to do with wanting to undo/fix/improve issues in my family of origin.

Sample things I struggle with:

Guilt (about many things but especially the amount of debt I’ve gotten into (and remaining issues about my relationship with my mom)).

*end of five minutes*

The feeling that I am responsible for things that in some instances I had no part in.

Searing insecurity, personally and professionally.

Trying to embrace the things I am good at (writing, proofreading, editing, social media, relationships, connecting people) without getting paralyzed by the perfectionism that threatens to destroy them all.

I’ve seen so much debate on social media today about the best way to respond to friends and others who are suicidal or having mental health issues. I’ve seen people saying it’s ridiculous to tell people to reach out because they literally can’t (I get that all too well). I’ve seen people begging others to talk to them, take advantage of their ear, ask for a hug.

I don’t know the answer.

I know, speaking at least for myself, we all want desperately for our problems and issues to fly elsewhere because they are like dark clouds blocking the sun.

While they aren’t going to fly away (probably), we can surely try harder to give each other a safe place to land.

Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

 

Get up to $50 by Starting a Florida 529 Savings Plan

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

“Skip a latte and spend the $5 on something that will last longer.”

I have used this argument often in my life, either to encourage someone to donate to a charity, or to save money for their child’s education.

The latte example is true, of course, but let’s up the ante a bit to MEALS.

Our family spent so much money on meals out over the years. While of course it’s fine to have some family celebrations at restaurants, or to grab a bite when life gets hectic, when I look back on it, I am struck by the fact that I spent lots of money without having much to show for it.

I am sure this sentiment will only grow stronger as I age, but I promise you I never say, “I wish I had spent more money on budget-busting meals I immediately forgot.”

via GIPHY

Florida 529 Savings Plans Provide Lasting Benefits (and Flexibility)

Here are some of the things a Florida 529 Savings Plan can provide:

Expenses like:

  • tuition
  • mandatory fees
  • room and board
  • textbooks and supplies
  • computers
  • other equipment that is required for enrollment

While a Prepaid Plan is fabulous (we are fortunate that my parents bought Prepaid contracts for both of my children), a Florida 529 Savings Plan pays for additional needs beyond those covered by Prepaid and gives flexibility.

Here are a few ways 529 plans are different from Prepaid Plans:

  • Florida 529 Savings Plans do not have a set payment amount or schedule.
  • A family can contribute as much or as often as desired, and accounts can be opened at any time. There is no minimum contribution to open a Florida 529 Savings account, and there are no application fees.
  • The biggest difference between the two is that the Florida 529 Savings Plan is subject to fluctuations in the financial markets, while the Prepaid Plan are is guaranteed by the State of Florida.
  • There are 11 investment strategy options, including an age-based option that gets more conservative as the beneficiary gets closer to college age.

Sign Up Now and Get a Jump Start

The administrators of the Florida 529 Savings Plans are doing a special promotion:

Open a Florida 529 Savings Plan, from now through June 30, and they will seed your account with $25. Set up an automatic monthly contribution of $25 or more, and they will add another $25.*

To sign up, click here.

It will take you about 10 minutes to enroll, and you’ll need the social security numbers for yourself and your beneficiary.

You might want to explore your investment options here first.

An Investment That Lasts

Even though I knew, in an offhand way, that there would be additional fees beyond tuition when my children enrolled in school (duh, housing anyone? but also all sorts of fees not to mention books and other extra costs), I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been.

As I’ve written, my short sightedness led to me having to take out student loans to take care of those additional expenses.

In retrospect, I would gladly eaten a few more mundane meals at home to have the peace of mind of less debt now.

I would have peace of mind and the knowledge that I have given my kids a gift that lasts much longer than a dinner out.

Florida 529 Plan

My son’s graduation from the Automotive Collision Program at Daytona State College. The satisfaction of earning this diploma will outlast any dinner out.

*Here’s the fine print of the summer jump start offer:

  • This promotion is limited to the first 5,000 new accounts opened between May 29, 2018 and June
    30, 2018.
  • This offer only applies to new accounts opened between May 29, 2018 and June 30, 2018.
  • Funds earned will be deposited directly into your Florida 529 Savings Plan account by August 30, 2018.
  • Full details here.

 

Five Minute Friday: RETURN

Today’s prompt: RETURN

My friend Gordon posted the image below on our running club’s website a few days ago. It resonated with me because, despite *all* the well-intended encouragers out there who say “no goal is impossible if you try hard enough,” I truly “just can’t” run right now. But that’s a post for a different day.

Five Minute Friday

Here’s what I can do (alert: abrupt subject change). I can get rid of all the medication (and the non-alcoholic beer) that characterized my father-in-law’s time with us. Did you know when you start hospice (at least in our case), a FedEx package arrives at your door step almost immediately filled with “comfort items” like anti-anxiety meds and some high-powered pain relievers (i.e., morphine).

I have looked at those items pretty much every time I opened our refrigerator since he died on July 2 of last year, frozen. I would say “I need to look up the procedures for getting rid of these meds and do it the right way (flush them? take them back to the pharmacy?)” and ………. do nothing.

Thanks to this blog, I moved past the “can’t” in order to return a bit more to my pre-hospice, pre-caregiver life.

They have been disposed of. Maybe not the right way but it’s just like me to get hung up on the right way and in this case the need to move on prevailed.

It turns out I CAN mobilize myself to take the action I need to take.

Staring at those items on the year anniversary of his death (7/2/18) certainly wouldn’t have been the way to go.

Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

 

Maybe Next Time: WITH

parents with children

The humble word “with” (and its Latin version, “cum”) could be better used in these two ways:

THE SUMMA CUM LAUDE GRADUATE’S CAKE

Did you read about the case of Publix and the summa cum laude (with highest praise/with highest honors) graduate?

His mom ordered a cake from Publix online, and requested that his graduation distinction of “summa cum laude” be inscribed on the cake.

Publix’s online ordering system prohibits “vulgar” terms, so the “cum” was represented as “—” when the mom originally ordered it, and she commented in the comment box that it was not a vulgarity, but should be inscribed as requested.

When she went to pick up the cake, this is what had been made:

parents with children

This image appeared in the Huffington Post and numerous online publications.

The graduate’s parent said her student was “absolutely humiliated.”

Here’s the Washington Post version (the most detailed) and the Huffington Post version (if you can’t get past the WaPo paywall).

Publix and online ordering

In my experience, online ordering at Publix still has wrinkles (as the graduate’s family experienced). I ordered a princess happy birthday cake a few years ago (because trust me you can have a daughter in her late teens for whom a princess cake is still the bomb diggety) and the store eventually called to say they didn’t have that version.

A scramble ensued to find a Publix with princesses (granted, she wasn’t going to have a three-year-old level tantrum if I didn’t provide it but still …. it’s the principle of the thing).

Even long before online ordering was a thing, I ordered a cake in person from Publix, and gave them a picture of the 1-year-old-to-be that was going to be added to the cake via an edible image. What did I get at pickup? “Happy 18th birthday, Mackenzie.”

Screwups can happen IRL and in online commerce.

My take

This is one of those situations in life that is frustrating but is also a) easily fixed and b) deserving of perspective.

(And full disclosure: I have done my share of online griping about things that turned out to be minor (and some that I still consider relatively major). I do try also to recognize the dazzlingly good and positive things that happen too.)

To the kid: For what it’s worth, I can tell you from the perspective of a mom, this doesn’t deserve the “absolutely humiliating” label. Not to discount your feelings, but people and corporations mess up. Some worker at Publix did what they saw on a printed order form to do (granted, they could have asked/clarified). Just enjoy the cake. And congrats on your 4.89 GPA — that’s incredible.

To the mom: I understand your frustration too. I do. I’m really glad to hear you are “laughing about it ” (Huffington Post) but not entirely sure why you are going to “avoid Publix for now.” I know it wasn’t you that picked it up (and I can see my husband not proofreading a cake if I sent him to pick it up) but I have seen Publix fix an error in flat out minutes. I realize you may not have even had “minutes” to go back and get it fixed but I wonder if they don’t deserve just a bit more grace than they’ve been given. I feel like they probably try to teach that at Christian-based home schools like the situation in which your child was educated.

To Publix: Please update your online ordering system (or train your bakery workers to carefully read the comments section of online orders). Or suspend online ordering until wrinkles like this get ironed out. Please: iteram conare (try again). Maybe next time you’ll get it right.

(Note: I don’t know Latin and I’m relying on Google translate so if you’re a Latin expert, feel free to correct me!).

THE KIDS BEING SEPARATED FROM THEIR PARENTS

The New York Times says “more than 700 children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents since October, including more than 100 children under the age of 4” at various stations along the US-Mexico border.

One of many questions about this complex issue: is President Trump’s administration starting to use the threat of separating children from their parents as a deterrent to trying to cross into the US?

Furthermore, the Office of Refugee Resettlement has “reported at the end of 2017 that of the 7,000-plus children placed with sponsored individuals, the agency did not know where 1,475 of them were” according to the Arizona Republic.

The issue of how/when/why/where we allow people from other countries to cross into ours is bigger and different from the fact that children should remain with their parents.

Here are some articles to read. I am frankly trying to digest it all myself, so at this point the best I can do is say is “read this,” pray if you are a praying person, and act in some tangible way.

From the New York Times (may be behind a paywall): Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border

From PBS Frontline: HHS Official Says Agency Lost Track of Nearly 1,500 Unaccompanied Minors

From the Arizona Republic (opinion piece): Montini: The feds lost – yes, lost – 1,475 migrant children 

From Vice: What Separating Migrant Families at the Border Actually Looks Like

From Political Charge: #WhereAreTheChildren: How to Help

My Take

I think many of us in our country are awfully selective about how we use hashtags regarding other people’s children. Remember how we all got behind #BringBackOurGirls when Boko Haram abducted hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria but many people in the US took more of a #SendBackTHEIRGirls attitude when so many children from El Salvador arrived in Arizona in 2014?

In this case, termed #WhereAreTheChildren widely on social media, the girls (and boys) are here in the US. Decisions must be made about their long-term whereabouts, but in the meantime they should be #WithTheirParent.

I am so fortunate to have been able to travel to El Salvador (and Guatemala) with Unbound. These week-long trips only scratched the surface of truly understanding the issues faced by people (especially women and children) in Central America. Although this is a HUGE understatement, the desperation many of these people feel to leave their countries is born of life-threatening risk day and day out (not to mention restricted access to education and difficulty earning enough to survive).

As the Vice article I link to above notes, one parent was separated from her children upon arriving in the US then assigned a bond “too high for her to pay—$12,500—deeming her a flight risk for being connected to a gang, when her sole connection was the harm they did her [the woman reported being beaten in front of her children by MS-13 gang members].”

Although I am a citizen unwilling to wait until some hypothetical next time, for the purpose of this discussion, Maybe next time a child won’t be forcibly separated from a parent, lost in an administrative maze and exposed to potential human trafficking. But let’s make “next time” immediate.

NOTE

It’s ironic that today’s post is devoted in part to advocacy. I just revised my LinkedIn profile to delete one of my favorite parts of my profile, the fact that I am an advocate. I decided it may be confusing potential employers. Rest assured I will always be an advocate. ALWAYS.

But I need a full-time job. Therefore, if you have any leads (Tallahassee or remote), I would appreciate you letting me know.  Here’s my LinkedIn profile. I am looking for communications work (writing, editing, proofreading, social media) but also have extensive health policy experience. And I can promise a solid work ethic, professionalism and enthusiasm wherever I end up. I took a necessary detour through the world of caregiving for a few years, performed it willingly and lovingly, but it’s time to help pay for these two college educations for which I am responsible and get back on a full-time professional track again.

I doubt it will happen by next Sunday (although you never know!) but maybe next time (or soon) I post a blog, I’ll be doing it with a fond word or two of farewell to the gig economy as I move on.

BACK TO “WITH” AND “CUM”

The only way I know to wind this up is to offer to bring a cake inscribed #WithTheirParent to a postcard-writing party or other advocacy event (about this issue of the missing kids).

Who’s up for it?

This post was written in response to a Kat Bouska prompt: “Write a blog post the ends with the sentence: Maybe next time!:

parents with children

 

Five Minute Friday: PAUSE

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: PAUSE

WHY ARE YOU SLEEPING?

Although my use of all caps here may imply yelling, that’s not exactly my intent.

I am thinking of my father-in-law asking me that when he lived with us.

He didn’t understand my quick day naps (I’m not sure I did either).

Napping has always been something I have needed.

Unfortunately, my tendency to get sleepy at inopportune times (think: meetings, when sitting in the choir loft facing the church) has led to me taking a pause when I least wanted to.

But, being home for the past four years made it a little easier to meet that need for the well-placed brief midday nap without annoying an employer, stealing time from their clock or embarrassing myself by falling asleep in front of a group.

Especially as it relates to the last four years, though, I guess mainly the three years of caregiving, I wonder if the napping wasn’t a response to the overwhelm.

I read someone talk about stress napping a few months ago and I rang true.

Maybe that’s what I’m doing, I thought.

(Although, to be fair, I’ve rarely gotten enough sleep at night so am probably in a perpetual sleep deficit to a degree.)

This article talks about stress napping. I’m not sure its premise applies to me, but it is another piece of (sweet) food for thought.

Side note: I’m listening to the Paus playlist on Spotify because themes matter!

I also often fall asleep before my plane takes off and wake up at landing. I actually love flying, but this pattern started when I was…

***end of five minutes***

…traveling for work while also caring for an infant at home (can we say exhaustion?) and seemed to get even more entrenched after 9/11. Maybe my need to avoid/escape any unpleasant effects of flying is deeper than I think. Maybe I don’t want to chat with my seatmate.

I just know that whether it’s a mental health thing, or a physical need, or some other drive, a pause through a micro-nap is something I seek often.

Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

 

Dispelling 3 Myths About Hospice

My father-in-law had two encounters with cancer over the three years he lived with us. The first was managed by radiation. When the tumor showed up in essentially the same place (his throat) a second time, our family concurred with his physicians that hospice care was the best option, since he was not a candidate for chemotherapy and the tumor could not be eradicated through radiation alone.

I don’t recall precisely the date Dad became an official hospice patient but it was in early 2017. Despite the fact that he was a hospice patient for months, it didn’t seem that people fully understood that he was under hospice care until he moved into the Hospice House June 27.

Because I have observed that there are several misconceptions about hospice, here’s my attempt to bring accuracy to three of them.

1 – Hospice is not always a brick and mortar place

Dad was officially a hospice patient starting sometime in February 2017 (I think). However, he still lived at our house until his move to Hospice House June 27 prior to his death on July 2.

He was not alone in being a hospice patient receiving treatment at home.

Although many of us associate “hospice” with a specific building where the patient spends their last days, the majority of patients receiving hospice care (58.9% according to data from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization) do so at their own home, with 31.8% getting care at inpatient facilities and 9.3% rounding out the figure at acute care hospitals.

Hospice myths

Why this matters: It seems that people (and maybe it’s just my perception, but it’s a mistake I made before having a family member on “at home hospice,”) think hospice is primarily an in-patient facility. This leads to not understanding that your friend/acquaintance/co-worker with a relative “on hospice” may be living 24/7 with the stresses and needs of a terminally ill person. Although they receive medical assistance, some help with hygiene needs like bathing, music therapy and other volunteer interaction and provision of some durable medical equipment and medicines, it’s still, to an extent, all on them.

2 – Hospice is a business

This is another one that falls in the “maybe it’s just me” category regarding my understanding of how it all works.

Before having a family member on hospice (and seeing his Medicare bills), I had fallen into some gauzy idea that hospice is “nice” (which it is) and that it is primarily funded by donors (which it is not) and fueled by volunteers (which it is, to an extent – volunteers like Jim are indispensable both to the patient’s care plan and to the caregivers’ sanity).

According to the Kaiser Foundation, about a quarter of traditional Medicare spending (between $23,181 and $43,353 per capita depending on age) for health care goes to beneficiaries ages 65 or older who are in their last year of life. Hospice makes up roughly 10% of Medicare spending.

Debt.org says Medicare spent $13 billion in 2010 on hospice care, averaging $10,700 per patient.  .

Why this matters: This matters for a number of reasons, but here’s an example of why it matters drawn from my experience. Dad qualified due to his hospice status to have someone come and help him bathe several times a week. As his illness progressed, the activity changed from assisting him with getting to the shower and taking the shower, to sponge baths in bed.

One day, the aide did not arrive to help Dad with his shower.

I notified hospice.

The aide (a regular who had been to our house multiple times) called and insisted she had indeed come and he had refused. (Refusing was not uncommon — but the point is she had not come.)

Because I work from home, and my work space at the time was about five feet from Dad’s chair, I knew it was impossible that she had come and been refused. I said, “do you mean to tell me you walked in, tried to get him in the shower, and he refused while I remained oblivious?”.

*****pause*****

Aide: “oh wait I remember — I got sick and couldn’t come.”

Sigh.

I can’t confirm whether she billed hospice for the visit or not, but I also can’t confirm she did not.

It was not an issue of someone doing a nice thing for Dad failing to show up (that I could have forgiven, of course). It was an issue of the fact that it costs Medicare a certain fee for her to come (and she gets paid).

Accountability matters. When it comes down to it, our taxes are on the line here. 

3 – The Medical Care Economy is Complicated

When my mom approached (unbeknownst to us, in a way) the end of her two-month medical crisis in February, she was in ICU. My father was presented with the option of “putting her in hospice.”

I was not present for the discussion (I wish I had been), but I was an advocate for the hospice option. Apparently I believe the myths myself, because I pictured her in a facility similar to Dad’s situation — a lovely place with freedom for the family to spend time 24/7 with the patient and a different philosophy about end of life than a hospital has.

Turns out, she was put “on hospice,” but although that meant a change in her treatment plan, it meant she stayed right there in that ICU bed. Hmmm.

I’m not a medical economist, but I have to admit not being surprised when someone who had worked extensively in hospice and hospitals said, “hospitals don’t want people to die for accreditation reasons.” It would be very complex to unwind this, but it’s tempting as a layperson to say “surely an accreditation agency would understand a patient with a fatal condition dying.”

I do think my mom’s transition to “hospice” was necessary because there were related changes in how she was being treated that resulted in a more dignified end.

But I still have lingering questions about why it mattered (if it did) to the hospital to be able to change the coding sent to Tricare to “hospice” rather than “inpatient ICU.”

Why this matters: As our population ages, the boundary between traditional hospitals and hospice care seems certain to continue blurring. We may not see the financing details, but behind the scenes, they make a difference in how policy plays out and how our loved ones are treated.

To further explore one angle of this issue, the book And a Time to Die: How American Hospitals Shape the End of Life looks interesting. Here’s an excerpt:

…although most people die in hospitals, hospitals are not structured for the kinds of deaths that people claim to want. For example, Medicare’s reimbursement methods dominate what happens to the majority of hospital patients at the end of life. In its attempt to control spending over the last two decades, Medicare has systematically been eliminating its cost-based payments to hospitals and nursing homes, and hospitals are not explicitly reimbursed for providing palliative care. The institutional response to these cutbacks has been for nursing homes to transfer dying patients to hospitals to avoid the cost of intensive treatments, and for hospitals to discharge patients, once they are labeled “dying,” so as not to incur the cost of palliative care. Simply put, at this point in history, dying people are not wanted in medical institutions, and it shows. ~ Sharon R.  Kaufman

The Philosophy Behind Hospice

In addition to the three myths that I recommend dispelling, the most important thing to understand about hospice is that it is (in addition to not being solely a “place,” being a business and being a complicated part of hospital financing) an entity with a philosophy that gives its patients dignity and a semblance of control over the end-of-life process.

There are several good explanations of the hospice philosophy, but I like the American Cancer Society’s:

The hospice philosophy accepts death as the final stage of life: it affirms life and neither hastens nor postpones death. Hospice care treats the person rather than the disease, working to manage symptoms so that a person’s last days may be spent with dignity and quality, surrounded by their loved ones. Hospice care is also family-centered – it includes the patient and the family in making decisions.

Having a front row seat to a family member’s death experience, and being a part of the hospice process, deepened and revised my understanding of how to define hospice.

So many people say, “they [hospice staff/volunteers] are angels on earth.” I sure as heck don’t disagree (and owe a special enormous shout-out to our social worker, our  nurse, the music therapy students, and our volunteer). They all had a part in helping Dad have as peaceful an end of life as possible and keeping us as a family somewhat sane.

In sharing these observations, my hope is that the general public understands hospice a little better (and can have a more accurate picture of what it is when they are consoling friends/family members who are part of a hospice process).

I also think accountability is critical, and an understanding of the business underpinnings behind it all. Our taxpayer dollars are at stake, and our loved ones are too busy doing the sacred and essential work of dying to be able to intervene.

Hospice myths

Five Minute Friday: SECRET

Today’s prompt: SECRET

I bought the sleep mask pictured above recently.

(I am going to bed exceptionally early (for me) and that creates a disconnect since inevitably I *just* get to sleep when my husband comes in to go to bed and turns on the television. I am not likely to convince him not to do that, so I sought help in the form of a sleep mask.)

When I went to purchase the mask, I thought about the cute masks Tenley used to get when she was a kid. They would have kitten eyes, or some other cute design. I also thought about how much I really don’t like to have anything on my face, and remembered what a huge frustration it was for my mom during her illness to have all the CPAP and BIPAP masks on, how she said she hated having anything on her face.

I couldn’t find a mask locally and didn’t make it to the mall to look at Claire’s, which is (I think) where Tenley got hers, so I headed over to Amazon and researched a few options on the Internet for people who need help getting their environments dark enough for sleep.

It was overwhelming!

So many options.

I was struck among many of the options, though, about the fact that the part that covers the eyes is so BIG. Wouldn’t it make sense for it to be flatter?

It turns out, the design is meant to allow the wearer to still be able to blink.

I suppose that idea has merit.

As I have begun using the mask, besides the fact that it looks like a tiny strapless bra for a small person…

***end of five minutes***

…I am still a bit struck by all that space. In addition, I have a really small face so the mask seems huge even though it is adjustable.

(The reviews also talked in detail about people who found it difficult to sleep on their sides without dislodging the mask. That has been okay for me.)

It is that space that still gets me.

I open my eyes, with plenty of space to spare. My eyelashes aren’t squished and I am looking out into darkness.

That space reminds me of something more permanent than the allowance for blinking and unsmushed eyelashes.

It reminds me how dark our secrets can feel —– trapped behind a barrier that can’t be breached —– floating around and getting in the way of our ability to see clearly —– all because we have chosen to give them room.

Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)