12 Things I Would Do If I Didn’t Have to Work

Imagine this! Your life fairy godmother just waved her wand and *poof!* you can do whatever the heck you want to do with your time.

What do you choose?

Mama Kat suggested we blog about “10 things you would do if you didn’t have to work.” Before sharing my list, I must add two caveats:

First: I love working. There have certainly been things throughout my career that I did not love and did not do to the fullest of my capabilities, but in general I value being part of a team, contributing to a goal, making a difference. If I won the lottery, I suspect I would keep working in some capacity, but I would take advantage of the windfall to fit in a heck of a lot more of the things I am about to list.

Second: Up until May 2014, when I left Healthy Kids, I had always worked full time (with tiny breaks when I moved back to Tallahassee from NYC and my two maternity leaves). The whole time, I thought “I don’t know how I’m fitting this all in” and almost always felt like I wasn’t giving anything 100% because I was split so many ways.

Having been out of the traditional work force for three years, I can attest that (at least for me) it is true that “people who have the most to do get the most done.” When your day is unstructured, it takes an iron will to whip it into some kind of order. If I did not actually have to work, I absolutely know I would need to have some type of structure (probably in the form of work!) to keep myself together and prevent inertia. (This is why taking on a structured part-time job in January 2017 that, although it is done from home, requires my full attention from 6:45 am to 12:30 pm every day was a game changer.)

Here is my list of 10 (plus two bonuses), in relatively random order (paging Fairy Godmother STAT!):

Travel to Valencia, Spain

I took a Spanish course in college that was far above my fluency level. Ironically, I learned so much from this class — from being forced to keep up with a group composed mostly of native speakers. I am not sure exactly what it was, but something about Valencia piqued my curiosity and ignited a desire that has been in my gut for decades.

Personal Life Goals

Picture me here! That’s what I’m doing. Credit: Flickr user Bruno.

A Spanish Immersion Program

Perhaps this should be in the number one slot (but I would be willing to muddle through a trip to Valencia with my less-than-advanced Spanish!). No matter how many courses I take and how much practice I get locally, nothing replaces having to live with a language for its usefulness to language learning.

More Yoga

Arguably, I could do more  yoga starting … NOW! The minute I finish this blog post. But my list for today (besides the fact that there may well be a Category 3 Hurricane here within 48 hours) is lengthy. I have been to yoga once in the past six months, and I have missed its benefits … for my body as well as my mind. I’d love to buy an “unlimited” yoga card and use it without my mind reeling from the 1,001 other things I should be doing.

Personal Life Goals

More Aggressively Pursue Options for My Tachycardia

If you have been a reader for a while, you may be aware that I have multifocal atrial tachycardia, mostly exercise-induced.

Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers apparently has a similar problem (he has atrial fibrillation, which is worse (relatively) than my MAT). He is scheduled to have an ablation, and I hope it works (I was not a candidate for an ablation after my electrophysiology study in April 2015). It’s important to keep in mind what Terry Francona, the Cleveland Indians manager, who also had an ablation, said: “You’re talking about life, not just baseball.”

What would I do differently about my medical situation if I didn’t have to work? (Caveat: I’m sort of assuming that along with her dispensation allowing me not work, the Fairy Godmother gives me a bit of a blank check!).

My tachycardia issue has gone far past interfering solely with my running at this point. I need to find a solution.

The nurse practitioner at my appointment yesterday scheduled me for another check in four months and said, “you know, another EP study wouldn’t be the end of the world; the circumstances that prevented an ablation before may have gone away by now.” She’s right, but I hesitate to take the time off from work (the gig economy doesn’t come with medical leave).

But there are some additional avenues I have hesitated to follow. A friend with extensive personal experience has urged me (strongly) to get a second opinion from the Cleveland Clinic. She is right (and to be fair, my electrophysiologist said he would help me pursue a second opinion if it was important to me), but I hesitate, wary of the long list of diagnostics I need to send them and the price tag. Ironically, I would (and have) advocate to any friend to be their own strongest advocate for their health.

The past year of not running has (in some very small ways) revealed some qualities about life I had been missing (hello, Saturday mornings!), but good golly I miss running. I miss exercise endorphins. I miss my running community.

Clean My House

Yes, I have written before (as recently as last week) that I know myself well enough to know I need help to overcome my housecleaning inadequacies. BUT with a little extra time, I think I could master the basics.

Help at a Public School

In my mind’s eye, this means reading with elementary school kids, but I imagine there are some middle schools and high schools that could also use a caring adult to pitch in. There’s so much work to do — teachers are stretched frightfully thin and I would love to help relieve some of the stress.

Be a Hospice and/or Alzheimer’s Association Volunteer

This one is inspired by our recent experience and the ways volunteers made the process of navigating terminal illness with a loved one more bearable. I know in our area, the outlying counties beyond Leon are more stretched for volunteers; I would be willing to drive quite a ways if it would help a family be a hair less stressed.

Go to New York City Much More Frequently

Best case scenario: I have a tiny, but safe, studio in New York that is available to me year-round and I use it. I could go with an annual two-week stay or briefer, quarterly stays. I need NYC far more often than I get it.

Take a Cruise

I’ve never been on a cruise and would love to check this off my list! I’m not too picky about which line (although Disney Cruise Lines would be extra-magical!) or where I go. I just want to be able to chime in to cruise conversations with some experiences of my own.

Spend Time at the Beach

When we went to Daytona Beach earlier this month to help Wayne Kevin with arrangements regarding school, we had dinner at the beach both nights we were there. I only got a quick glance at the sea, a few moments on the sand, but even that little bit of time was restorative.

Personal Life Goals

Write More Letters

It’s no secret that I love snail mail but I send out far fewer letters than I would like. I would especially love to send out “just because” notes.

Travel to Australia

I have relatives in Australia; visiting them (and the country) would be a dream! Not sure what I would do first, or what my priority would be, but three top contenders would be to see the Sydney Opera House, to visit New South Wales (I know this is a broad desire!), and to visit something well off the beaten tourist path (I have plenty of time to come up with a plan on that).

YOUR TURN

What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

Personal Life Goals

This post is a response to a Mama’s Losin’ It prompt: 10 things you would do if you didn’t have to work.

13 Life Questions to Ask Yourself

Many experts say your blog should be consistent in theme, and no one does that better than Bob Tiede, whose Leading with Questions blog does, in fact, focus on questions almost exclusively.

A recent guest post by Dr. Travis Bradberry detailing 13 Questions That Will Change Your Life especially captured my attention. After reading it, I thought, if I could truly focus on answering these 13 questions for myself, and take action on my candid answers, I could be in a better place emotionally and serve those around me more fully.

Writing about all that could lead to a novel rather than a blog, though, so I am giving myself 100 words per question. Let’s see how that turns out. Or, in the spirit of the “questions” blog, “How will that idea pan out?”

Question 1: How do people see me differently than I see myself? 

My Weaving Influence coworkers gave me a “virtual going away party” recently. When Becky asked me if I wanted to record it, I declined. No one participating in a video call (unless it’s with a client) really goes into it prepared to be recorded. I suppose the comments that meant the most were about my patience, my authenticity, and my ability to help visual learners understand concepts. The last is something I have been told periodically over the years, and it usually makes me wonder why I haven’t pursued some type of training responsibilities in my work life.

Self Examination

A quick shot I grabbed of my virtual going-away party.

Question 2: What/Whom did I make better today?

I suppose a flip of this question is to ask every morning, “what/whom can I make better today?” I’m at a pretty funky place about this question right now. Of course I have a commitment to trying to make things around me better, but we can make things worse when we think we are making them better. And my continuing fatigue two months after Dad passed away reminds me that recovery from a life-changing event isn’t immediate. At the risk of sounding selfish, I think I need to put my own oxygen mask on first right now.

Question 3: Am I being true to my values?

My biggest “aha” recently has been around family dinner time (great timing since we’re now an empty nest eh?). When Wayne Kevin’s girlfriend started eating dinner with us more often, we actually started moving the laptops away from the dining room table, he stopped taking his dinner to his room to consume while playing video games, and …. we talked! I may not be able to convince my husband to move his laptop during dinners, but I can do something about ME. I can pay attention to my food and the people at the table again. People matter most.

Question 4: If I achieved all of my goals, how would I feel? What can I do to feel that way as I work to achieve them?

In June, I wrote a post in which I recommitted to having written goals. This question’s reference to “all of my goals” is a pretty broad thing. But baby steps make a difference, and in June I told everyone that I would improve my Spanish, eat better, and move more. I committed to enroll in Berlitz’s online Spanish program, but allowed frugality to stop me. $99 may be a small leap but as of this writing, I am enrolled! ¡Bueno! I committed to eat better and move more. Time to whip up a salad and go for a walk.

Question 5: What haven’t I taken the time to learn about?

From a practical standpoint, it would be in my absolute best interest to learn more about WordPress, especially the back end and coding, so I could be less dependent on others. Next up, also a practical thing: learning to drive a standard transmission. It’s been on my list since we got my son’s car, which is manual. We have had it since November 2015; although he has moved away, the car was here in Tallahassee, the best car in the family, and I was relegated to my older car with the non-functioning air conditioning because I couldn’t drive his.

Question 6: In what areas of my life am I settling?

Life is a balancing act, and I would argue “settling” is sometimes a necessity and not that much of a sacrifice. I love well-tailored clothes and pricier pieces, but with two kids in college and some debt obligations I created for myself, forgoing some fashion fun is not the end of the world to me. I have, though, “settled” for staying put – I haven’t driven hard enough to do some of the overseas traveling I want to do, and that is a harder pill to swallow.

Question 7: What do I want my life to be like in five years?

I would like for my debt to be drastically reduced if not gone. For my daughter to have a career she loves and be personally happy. Ditto for my son. This may sound superficial, but I want my house to be cleaner and I’ve lived with myself long enough to know that means hiring someone to do it. I want less house and more travel. And to be connected with a cause (or causes), with the flexibility to give my time freely and travel to support those causes.

Question 8: What would I do if I wasn’t scared?

This one doesn’t take a hundred words: WRITE THE BOOK.

Question 9: Who has qualities that I aspire to develop?

I have a counterpoint question to this: Why is it so hard to balance the message “you are enough” and “there’s only one you” with the fact that other people’s qualities sometimes lead you to ask “why can’t I be more like [name of awesome person]?” But in the spirit of answering the question: the sales/business/promotion savvy of my former boss, Becky; the “I can move mountains and did” chutzpah of another former boss, Rose Naff. The writing chops of Jodi Picoult, Mark King and Ann Patchett (this list could go on and on…). The humanity of Malala.

Question 10: What problem are we solving?

Given my background in crisis counseling and mental health, I can count on the fingers of my two hands the times I have asked “closed-ended questions” when talking with someone about a problem over the past few decades. I’m also a big believer in finding root causes rather than being distracted by symptoms. In our current tension-fraught times, I would argue that there is a deeper challenge to be resolved than can be managed solely by taking down statues (without having a plan for dialogue and some way to document the context).

Question 11: What’s stopping me from doing the things that I should be doing?

Usually, when I feel “stuck” from making progress toward a goal, I determine to at least take a baby step. While “some progress” is usually a positive, I wonder if it has become a bit of a coping mechanism for me. I could argue that financial challenges are “stopping me” but I am also pretty creative about finding my way around those. I think I am failing to “ask for more” when I could probably get more. I love writing so much I do it for free, but why don’t I take the step of sending more queries for paid projects?

Question 12: Will you be my mentor?

Travis Bradberry says, “Everyone likes being looked up to, and it feels good to share our knowledge with others” in explaining why he recommends having a mentor and why people who are asked rarely turn down the request. This is one I’ll keep thinking about.

Question 13: What’s the most important lesson I’ve learned so far in life? Am I living that lesson?

Almost every day, I think about sitting in the car with Wayne, leaving our neighborhood, and him asking “did you call Ann (his sister)?” We were in the process of buying a townhouse from, her, we had gotten some painting done that was agreed to as part of the process, and he wanted me to let her know. I wasn’t in a hurry to make a phone call, so I put it off. She died in her sleep roughly nine hours later. It would have been a cut-and-dried conversation about a home repair detail, but I would have heard her voice. The lesson? Don’t assume you have the luxury of time.

What are YOUR hard questions?

Travis Bradberry closes by saying, “Asking the hard questions can be extremely uncomfortable. But we don’t learn and grow by sticking with what’s comfortable.”

He is right. Ask the questions. Give yourself grace to explore the “what if’s” while protecting your deepest “self” from the fact that other people may want you to adopt their hopes/opinions as your own.

Self Examination

6 Ways Our Marriage Resembles a Tree

Twenty-five years ago (8/8/92), I stood on the Brooklyn Promenade and said “I do” to Wayne.

Wedding Anniversary Tree

Intrigued by the SITS Girls prompt, “If you were to describe yourself as a tree, what kind of tree would you be?,” some arborial thoughts on our 25-year old marriage.

We aren’t a “flashy” tree like the Hawaiian Rainbow Shower (Cassia) tree, known for its eye-catching blooms, its frequent changes in appearance, or its notoriety.

Wedding Anniversary Tree

Source: Flickr

Instead, I like to think we have these qualities in common with other trees:

Longevity

Wedding Anniversary Tree

Source: Flickr

The Great Basin Bristlecone Pines are the longest-living trees known to man. According to the National Wildlife Federation, they grow straight at low elevations, “but at high elevations, the trunks become twisted.”

Same after 25 years of marriage. Growth gets a little less straightforward as the years go by.

Faithfulness

I read that elm trees represent “dignity and faithfulness.” This elm tree in Oklahoma City, the “Survivor Tree,” survived the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and became an important part of the memorial.

Wedding Anniversary Tree

Source: Flickr

My daughter visited the Oklahoma City memorial earlier this summer and, comparing it to the 9/11 Memorial, said “it was so different in comparison, a place of looking forward.” We both place a high premium on being faithful to each other; it matters and I believe it will continue to make difference “looking forward.”.

Fruitful

Our biggest blessings are our children, Tenley and Wayne Kevin, so a tree that bears fruit is in order. And we’re Floridians, so let’s go with “orange.”

Wedding Anniversary Tree

Source: Pixabay

Extending Open Arms

Even though I don’t consider us, as a couple, all that public or outgoing, we have made it a priority to deepen family ties. Ready for a tree pun? This involves, um, “branching out.” I love this beautiful live oak tree here in Tallahassee at Lichgate.

Wedding Anniversary Tree

Credit: VelvetteGypsy on Pixdaus

From trying to make every get-together, and Wayne’s incredible cooking for those get-togethers, to the last three years taking care of Dad, reaching out has been an important part of our marriage.

Deep Roots

Deep roots are essential to a good marriage. I couldn’t find a great example of one type of tree that has the deepest roots in the world. Rather, I found this blog post explaining that strong root systems need water, oxygen, and space. In other words, it’s not necessarily the kind of tree you plant but how you treat it that makes a difference.

Determination also matters, as Nietzsche points out:

Wedding Anniversary TreeNietzsche was right, as was the blogger who emphasized the fact that you have to always be vigilant to create the right conditions.  

Strength

Smithsonian Magazine says this about the Baobab tree: “Its bark is fire resistant. Its fruit is edible. It scoffs at the driest droughts. It shrugs, and another decade has passed.” Sounds about right for 25 years of marriage!

Wedding Anniversary Tree

Source: Pixabay

It may not be the prettiest tree on the planet but it is still there, while others have come and gone.

Twenty-Five Years Later

My favorite marriage quote came from Ann Landers:

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.

 

Now we are caught up in celebrating the new marriages of relatives who were babies (or not born yet) in August of 1992, like my niece Olivia, who will be getting married in September (this is us at a recent party for her and her fiance, John Landon).

Wedding Anniversary Tree

My wish for all these new marriages is longevity, faithfulness, fruitfulness, open arms, deep roots, and strength.

And for our marriage, 25 years in, a happy anniversary to us!

Next Steps: My Job Hunt

Now that my father-in-law has passed away, it’s time to reshuffle the career/life deck of cards. While he was with us, I had to be home, and that requirement limited my vocational options.

Writing this blog is my way of forcing myself to put some of the building blocks in place (resume updated? check!) and organize my thoughts (while simultaneously asking for help/ideas/support).

First Steps

I am transitioning out of my freelance commitments at Weaving Influence and the Lead Change Group. I started working there in October 2014 (although I had been a friend of the organization before that), and am abundantly grateful for what I have gained from WI and LCG. It has definitely been more than a paycheck.

I updated my resume (here it is!).

I added a passage to my LinkedIn profile, detailing the demands of being a caregiver. I don’t know why this seems like such a renegade thing to do because it was most definitely “real” work but the management skills, empathy, and paraprofessional medical capabilities needed to shepherd someone through mini-strokes, dental crises and two recurrences of cancer have to count for something.

Options

There are several options as I see it now, some more realistic than others.

Add A Second Part-Time Job (virtual or brick and mortar)

Now that Dad is gone, so is the restriction that I be at home. For that reason, my “Plan A” is to keep my part time position with a B2B newsletter, which takes from roughly 6:45 am – 12:15 pm every day, and add “something else” to the mix.

Maybe that “something else” will be, for example, something out of the house from 2-6 pm.

Maybe it will be something virtual (I have feelers out for that).

There are pros and cons to both. I love working from home and honestly wouldn’t mind working from home, 100%. However, I also realize there may be some value for me, growth-wise and spirit-wise, to interact more directly with human beings in person more than I do now.

(Note: I know I have left out the option of “one full time job.” Time will tell and obviously that’s not ruled out, but I love my current B2B newsletter job and am not ready to give it up barring the most amazing offer/opportunity ever.)

Write a Book

On the one hand, I feel that writing a book is one of those things that you should only do because you have to, not to make money or meet some other perceived external need.

On the other hand, I work with many authors though Weaving Influence, and I often find myself saying, “I wish I had my own book to promote.”

I have set aside my idea of writing about Camp Gordon Johnston (for now). I am toying with the idea of writing about caregiving, but want to do that while the memories are fresh. I also have an edge idea of a picture-book type thing (comedy) related to elder care.

Hmmm.

Be an Elder Care Sherpa

This is the one that, if I had a little more courage, surplus organizational skills, and enough income to build it as a practice, would, in my opinion, eliminate (or reduce) the types of frustrations we had as caregivers, for an easy-to-navigate resource directory, for advocacy with physicians/dentists/other providers, for assistance centralizing all of the pieces of information we were invariably hunting for, for helping cut through the conflicting pieces of information we received. The key to being a kick-a** elder care sherpa (in addition to the courage and organizational skills) would be a true heart for eldercare (especially the element of serving the families doing the eldercare) with the counteracting asset of not being personally emotionally invested in each elder’s life.

The challenge of being a loving family member, marginally equipped to handle all of the onslaught of needs/requests/demands while also working to make a living, is daunting. An eldercare sherpa could help streamline the demands, in a caring yet businesslike way, while *possibly* helping that family find a little more peace of mind (and get a little more sleep every night).

Strengths and Weaknesses

As I cast my net to seek new opportunities, and in the event you’re reading this and are aware of something, here are my top three (self-perceived) strengths (and a bit about weaknesses):

A love of writing, decent writing skills, and an intent to always improve

The ability to apply social media skills to helping people extend their messages and refine their presence online

Being capable of “connecting dots” and helping find unlikely intersections between people/entities that help both be better

As far as weaknesses, I guess the upside of my weaknesses is that I have pretty transparently written about them here, here and here. (TL:DR – taming the confidence monster.)

I know I have a tendency to focus on a single pine needle to the point that I may not realize the entire forest is on fire, but attention to detail is not always a big thing (unless the forest is on fire).

Why Change Matters Now

There’s a very practical reason I need to change now. With Wayne’s dad gone, I need to redouble my efforts to contribute to our family’s bottom line, especially until we can make a change to our housing situation to save money (and that’s going to take time).

While I am very flexible about what I do next, I also agree with my friend Dwayne and what he said in his awesome blog post about finding purpose:

Our souls know what we are meant to do, and will nudge us in that direction when we are heading somewhere else.

I was also talking on Twitter with @lisamunro, who asked via this tweet, “Do you feel that your work is a calling? If so, how do you know? Can we have more than 1?” Her question led me to revisit this tribute post to my friend Jarrod, who passed away at far too young an age. I closed out that post with this quote from Leigh Caraccioli (I would link to Leigh but I can’t find a recent link, sadly):

When you live your passion, there is no line dividing what you do and who you are.
They are one.

 

Besides these two wonderful, inspiring quotes, I won’t add some self-help inspirational offering from Pinterest about how wonderful change is. I know change is a good thing (mostly) but primarily I am torn between a tiny sense of adventure, the fact that I’m still processing the freedom, emotional and physical, that came with dad’s passing, more than a little anxiety, and the hope that I can find someone/someplace where I can make a difference while meeting our family’s financial obligations.

I would love any ideas/networking recommendations you have to give!

Communications Job Search

Five Minute Friday: Collect

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.” Today’s prompt: COLLECT.

Five Minute Friday

I am tempted to write about another kind of “collect” – emphasis on the first syllable as in the “collect” that is read during a church service, but a different “collect” (emphasis on the second syllable) is in my head.

I went to church with my daughter at her church for the first time Sunday, and when it came time to collect the offering, I found myself inserting my donation into a POPCORN BUCKET. I mean, her church is quite laid back but I didn’t understand at first.

The church is doing a summer series, “Summer at the Movies” and the entire theme is around movies and theatres (hence the signage on the way in, the popcorn being served, and the …… popcorn buckets used to receive offerings).

I love themes.

But I also love the fact that no matter what the outside receptacle, the contributions we choose to make are consistently the same. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the trappings that don’t matter.

When I go to my family reunion Saturday, someone’s baseball cap will be used to collect the money we contribute annually to pay for paper goods. That always makes me smile …. so functional ….. so “family reunion.”

I am so glad I had the opportunity to go to church with my daughter. The theme was “Finding Dory” and (spoiler alert) how, despite being separated, her parents never stopped believing she would find her way back to them.

They worked every day to make sure she had a path back (several paths back) and they, being parents, remained in one place so she wouldn’t get confused.

Don’t we all need a central source of love that always believes we’ll make it back?

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

Mental Health Days and Leave Policies: What Works?

I saw a link to She took a day off to focus on mental health. Her CEO’s response has gone viral several times last week before I finally clicked on it. I had suspected, before I read the post, that I would love it. I did love it, but it also raised questions and generated dialogue among my Facebook friends beyond “wow that’s great.”

In summary, when Madalyn Parker advised her co-workers that she would be out of the office, she was transparent about the fact that she hoped the time off would help her cope with depression and return to work more focused and mentally healthy.

In a follow-up post, Parker’s boss, Ben Congleton, said this:

I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace when 1 in 6 americans are medicated for mental health.

Destigmatizing Mental Health

First, I agree with Parker and Congleton that mental health should be treated no differently than a physical ailment such as an infection or broken bone.

This infographic from Deloitte lays it out well:

Workplace Mental Health

My acquaintance Pauline said in a recent post about her mental health diagnoses:

The stigma that came with each diagnosis was reinforced by the fact that pretending everything was okay was the only option.

 

Policies about Leave Time are a Inconsistent and Challenging

While Parker’s specific story resonated with me, a tweet about it on Twitter activated a different personal emotional hot spot. Here’s the tweet:

Workplace Mental Health

It didn’t hit a hot spot because of Cohen’s question/opinion, but it hit a hot spot because I worked for years at a place I loved, but a place which didn’t have separate sick leave vs personal leave for years (a split between the two types of leave was adopted eventually).

I suppose my breakdown of the issues related to how leave policies are defined would be something for a different post (or a human resources professional), but here are the immediate emotions/thoughts it unlocked.

When you have an “all the leave hours in one bucket” policy, you may be more likely to go to work sick because you want to save your leave time for either discretionary activities (like vacations) OR for your children’s illnesses, for maternity leave, or for obligations. An all-in-one policy is also somewhat unfair for people with children (who have to take off for their children’s illnesses), for people who may have more severe health issues who have to use that leave time for medical reasons and don’t get to take as much “fun” time off.

I know the above paragraph may not sound like it’s about mental health, but it certainly was for me. Once I spent all my leave time on maternity leave (the organization subsequently acquired short-term disability policies, which helped some), there was very little time left to take care of me. 

More About Leave Time

It is so easy for us to get in a bubble about the topic of leave. One friend, who works in retail, said this:

I would never think of saying such a thing as that to my boss. At a previous job in retail, I learned that the ever-changing shift work was setting off so many triggers with my condition, I requested and received an ADA compensation that I have regularly set hours. The management were forced to meet the requirement but they gossiped about my diagnosis, and used it against me until the day I left. I can’t take that chance again.

This topic brought up so many other rapidly ricocheting thoughts in my brain.

I thought about all the enrollees’ families (mostly moms, but dads too) I talked to in two decades at Healthy Kids who could. not. leave. their. hourly wage jobs (many in retail, as my friend alludes to above) to take a child to the doctor (even if they had transportation), to take care of their own physical health (much less mental) without risking getting fired.

THEN, my mind went to the people I have met in Central America who would, I am pretty sure, just find it laughable, absolutely not an option, and downright hilarious that we worry about “having time off to center ourselves.” The ability to do something, ANYTHING, to earn enough to feed their family for the day, the walking for hours and having to fend off violence and shakedowns just to get, for example, fish to sell, is such a far cry from the experiences many of us here in America have.

My Personal Experiences

I mentioned above the effects of an all-in-one-bucket leave policy, but I also can truly and honestly say I have never taken a mental health day. That is not necessarily a good thing, but I haven’t.

I think one of the reasons I have never taken a mental health day is the fact that I was afraid I would never go back! Something about forcing myself to go to work, to push through, was a better strategy for ME (not for everyone). I wasn’t sure what a mental health day would do. I think I was afraid a day would turn into a week and I would fall farther down into whatever hole drew me to take one day off in the first place.

The Whole Person Matters

Last week, I wrote about the Ignatian-Jesuit concept of Cura Personalis, or “care for the whole person.” None of us are “just employees.” We bring so much more to work with us (and I must mention that approximately 40% of us are contingent workers, so we have even more vague boundaries than ever before).

If supervisors don’t recognize that mental health is integral to our well-being at work, and if we don’t learn to articulate what we need (and if workplace policies and government regulations don’t provide a safe space to do that), something will be lost.

Hopefully what’s lost won’t be our minds……

Workplace Mental Health

Editor’s Note: I shared this post with Ben Congleton (Madalyn’s boss) and here’s what he said (7/28/17) — I am inspired all over again:

Hi Paula,

Thank you for your kind words, and for continuing the conversation. I’ve been encouraged by the power that a simple act of gratitude has had to create more dialog around mental health in the workplace. It was Madalyn’s courage that made all this impact possible. I’ve been inspired by so many positive responses and I know there is more to do. I hope that my actions inspired more leaders to realize the impact they can have in their organizations. 

I see a future where talking about mental health will be as easy and as normal as talking about the flu.

Be human,
Ben

Five Minute Friday: Comfort

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.” Today’s prompt: COMFORT.

Five Minute Friday

It has been a bit of my pattern over my life that I found comfort (or maybe excitement? satisfaction?) from being “the new” whatever. The new student. The new parishioner. The new employee, not afraid to figure things out.

Today, at Wayne’s dad’s funeral service, something happened at Blessed Sacrament, his church, that brought me comfort. I am not Catholic, but I have participated in many services and events there since Wayne’s parents were (his mom was what I call an uber-Catholic — VERY involved). I took them to mass after Dad stopped being able to drive, so I was there weekly for almost two years.

But I (of course) never took communion. And it was not the kind of Catholic church that said “you can still come up during Communion, with your arms crossed, and get a blessing.”

TODAY THEY DID! After so many years of being walked past by people leaving my pew to go to Communion, I got to join them.

I will never “fit in” in that church unless I convert, which is very unlikely. But that one change on the part of this parish brought my comfort today.

It reminded me, for some reason, of the founder of Unbound, Bob, who had a very earthy, comfortable way of conducting mass. I can picture him now with his guitar and his songs, which at first I found sort of simple but over time developed a deep complexity for me.

 

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

One Afghan, Many Roles

Ever since I worked at Fordham University, I have aced any trivia question that involves the word “sesquicentennial.” I was fortunate enough to be a Fordham employee when the university celebrated its 150th birthday in 1991. As part of the celebration, we were given commemorative blankets depicting the university.

I wonder who was the first person to touch the threads that became part of these blankets, who wove them into finished products, how many people were part of their journey to the Bronx and into my hands.

I loved my Fordham blanket. It followed me back to Tallahassee after Wayne and I got married and had a prominent place in our living room. It wasn’t just decorative, though; it comforted me through many naps and illnesses.

The Blanket and Dad

At some point during Wayne’s dad’s stay with us over the past three years, the Fordham blanket became his go-to covering as he sat in his chair and watched tv. I can’t say I was especially happy about this turn of events. The latter years for Dad were signified by a serious decline in his personal hygiene habits; at some point the blanket developed a hole in it. I, again, was not happy about this but put the blanket’s downfall into the “it is what it is” category. We had too many other things going on to fret about it.

In the couple of weeks prior to Dad’s move to Hospice House, he started carrying blankets with him from the chair to his bed, security-blanket style. Anything near was fair game. The Fordham blanket especially, but if there was another blanket around, it went too.

About ten days before his move to Hospice House, on a Saturday, Dad sat for lengthy periods of time, pulling individual threads of the Fordham blanket out, obsessively. I’m sure this was a signal of his cognitive decline. The Hospice nurses helped us adjust his anti-anxiety medications, which helped with the obsessiveness a bit, but the blanket was none the better for this episode.

A Final Comfort

When Dad’s condition declined so much (and space available in Hospice House allowed), he was moved there (on June 27). I wasn’t home, but I understand the nurse and social worker encouraged us to send the Fordham blanket with Dad to provide continued security.

Although I didn’t really plan to circulate them, I did take pictures each of the five nights I visited Dad before he passed away, mainly in case family members wanted to see them, as difficult as they were to view.

The Fordham blanket was always front and center, providing comfort. This is an edited picture of my last visit, hours before he passed away.

Life Reflections

I *may* have asked Wayne (husband) more than once to double check that the Fordham blanket made it back to us from Hospice House after Dad died. (We still have a pair of “inherited” sweatpants that came home with Dad after his respite stay there in April — dear family out there looking for the tan sweatpants — we’ll hang onto them for you!)

Earlier in Kiger Family History

As I have been going through old pictures looking for photos of Dad, I ran across a picture from twenty years ago, a different time in the Fordham blanket’s lifecycle with us. It was a time of new beginnings, before Tenley (now 21) was six months old.

Life Reflections

(Oh, the cuteness!)

At six months, Tenley was already going to my in-laws every day. They took care of her until she was two years old. She was thriving. She was loved. My father-in-law and I had relatively diametrically opposed ideas about child care, but at no point was she not cared for with love by two people who were also helping us avoid the financial drain of child care.

Thanks, Jesuits (and Ignatians) for Cura Personalis

As I was looking up a few details about Fordham and the Sesquicentennial Celebration for this post, I ran across the concept of “cura personalis” on the university website.

This is an excerpt of what IgnatianSpiritality.com has to say (but I encourage you to read the entire post):

Little is written about the Ignatian-Jesuit characteristic of cura personalis, which is Latin for “care for the whole person.” Cura personalis comes down to the respect for all that makes up each individual. As St. Paul reminds us, “the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

I can’t say I ever heard the term “cura personalis” during my time at Fordham. (I also must admit I was quite focused on the thrills of Manhattan and the Bronx — I did do my job as Internship Coordinator to the best of my ability and fell in love with Fordham while developing a deeper respect for the Jesuit approach …. but NYC held much of my focus!).

Somehow, though, the idea of cura personalis is a fit for the journey the Fordham blanket has taken, from the time I acquired it in 1991, through my marriage, to the time it lay under my infant, to the time it comforted my father-in-law as he passed from his earthly life.

Where will the blanket end up?

I don’t know where the blanket itself will be 150 years from now. Maybe my great grandchildren will transfer it from home to home, use it for various purposes, reflect back on how “this once belonged to great-grandma Paula.”

My hopes are that, if it survives, it will never be a “hands-off” showpiece, something people don’t touch, but rather something that brings comfort, security, and joy.

Something that does what cura personalis envisions: serving not just the intellect, but the heart, body, and whole person.

Life Reflections

Editor’s note: Yes, I titled this “afghan” and then referred to the item as a blanket throughout. Choose a preference; hopefully the sentiment makes sense either way!

Five Minute Friday: PLAY

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.” Today’s prompt: PLAY

I remember so vividly the exhilaration of rolling down a hill. The grass smelled just-mown. There were giggles all around as other people rolled down the hill to the point that they were dizzy.

I was on an outing with NYCares, a volunteer matching group. I had agreed to join a trip to take “underprivileged” kids outdoors. I can’t ever remember where we went — somewhere away from the City.

My child companion’s name that day was “Precious.” As we drove along, I started thinking of how I could  have a part in her life. Maybe I could help with homework, give the family items they needed, take her on more adventures.

Why did we start rolling down the grassy knoll? Because we could, I guess. I remember the absolute exhilaration, not caring about being dirty, barely caring about ending each downhill trip dizzy. Just the feeling of truly “playing” and not worrying about anything else.

Of course I figured out rapidly that there would not be a place for me in Precious’ life. I was there for one afternoon of her life, to play with her.

I guess she would be in her mid-30s now. I wonder where she ended up. Does she still (ever) feel as playful as we felt that afternoon?

Do I ever feel as playful as I felt that afternoon? Rarely. The expenses, the challenge of relating to people I love and like (and some I don’t!). It can be a drain. Coming off of three years of caregiving, I am amazed at how quiet the house is. It is hard to remember that I can, for the first time……..leave the house without making sure Dad is taken care of.

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.