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

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.

Underneath the Drywall

Note: This is a post I originally wrote in November 2015 for Weaving Influence. Thank you, Stacey, for continuing to inspire. 

I have been unable to get the image of this simple wooden beam out of my mind over the past few days.

Personal Messages

An acquaintance of mine here in Tallahassee, Stacey, passed away at the age of 46 recently. She had been a true shining light in countless lives. Although I did not know her well, an overwhelming number of people in my social circle were taken to their knees in grief as they said goodbye to their friend.

On her memorial page, one of the pictures that was shared was one of the wooden beams which were part of the structure of her church. She had written a sentiment on that piece of bare wood before it was drywalled over and turned into a “finished” place of worship. Her friends and family found solace in the verse she had chosen, and I am sure they would all confirm that she lived by the verse she chose: Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your path.

This piece of bare wood got me thinking about two other times I have seen someone write on the “raw” construction components of a building.

Once, when my previous employer was transitioning to a new Third Party Administrator, we were taken on a tour of their contact center as it was under construction. One of the workers had written “a sentiment” on a bare piece of wood. My Spanish isn’t that good, so I asked our tour guide what it said. She said, “You don’t want to know.” I’m thinking the message wasn’t “may this business serve every child of Florida as if they were our own sons and daughters.” Probably something more profane than profound!

About ten years ago, when my church was constructing a new sanctuary, we were invited to come to the unfinished church and write on the bare wood underpinnings as a perpetual message and a way to bless the future of the congregation. My son was very small; I am pretty sure his contribution was a line drawing at best or perhaps a scribble. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I attempted to prayerfully convey my hopes and dreams for the future of this parish as it tried to fulfill its mission.

All of us have some type of “raw wood” at the core of who we are. We cover it up with fashion and makeup. We embellish the things we say with attempts to fit in, to appear to be more than we are, to impress and persuade.

As I read people’s comments about Stacey, my acquaintance, I read example after example of how she encouraged, empathized, and motivated others to be the best selves they could be. I thought about how many times in this state capital town I have dealt with people who have completely lost sight of who they are at their core, who make personal choices which hurt those they love as they give in to stress, a hunger for power, and confusion about what really matters.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself mindful that so much of our lives are covered up with window dressing and exaggeration. And I ask myself if the words on the “raw wood” of who I am shine through in what I write, the words I say, and the way I interact with others.

What would you write on your “raw wood?” It’s never too late to strip away the superficial and inscribe a new message.

Personal Messages

This post originally appeared at Weaving Influence as Underneath the Drywall.

Five Minute Friday: BLESSING

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: BLESSING.

Five Minute Friday

This week, I picked my daughter up from Jacksonville (about 2.5 hours away) when she arrived home from a friend’s wedding. That was Monday night.

Tuesday, we celebrated her 21st birthday (which had been Monday) and returned home to Tallahassee. During all of that, my father-in-law was  moved to Hospice House from our House.

Wayne (husband) remarked that night “it’s so great to have all four of us home, just ourselves” on the day he was moved.

It was true and serendipitous.

When we’ve been driving around, Tenley and I have been listening to the Waitress soundtrack.

My earworm has been the song “You matter to me.”

It applies in so many ways. So. Many.

Blessings-wise, it has been my privilege to try to tell my father in law through my actions “you matter to me” and it is a blessing to have so many people in my life who have made it a point to let me know I matter to them.

It’s a beautiful song. I can’t even remember the scene details from the play. But the song will bring back the memories of this week in our lives, and the passages (my son turns 18 Saturday as well), for a long time. I hope I always embrace the blessings and acknowledge them. They aren’t to be taken for granted.

Blessings come in so many different forms. This time around, some of the biggest have manifested in small ways – a hug, a text, a message. A kind ear and a blind eye to the horrible state of our house. I love small blessings, and trying to create them for others. To show them “you matter to me.”

My daughter had her wisdom teeth out – a blessing to have dental insurance and to have her with me this week.

Five Minute Friday

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

Five Minute Friday: STEADY

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: STEADY.

Five Minute Friday

When I picked up a prescription for my husband yesterday, the staff person said hello to me as if he knew me. I scrambled to see his nametag (I am Faceblind, so these types of interactions are complicated). Turns out it was Justin, who usually works at the Publix where my father-in-law has his prescriptions. He happened to be doing a shift at “our” Publix.

“Yeah —- your brother comes in sometimes to pick up prescriptions right?”

Brother?

I corrected him: HUSBAND.

But this question, like the “are you retiring?” questions I received when I left my job in 2014, carried so much more weight than the questioner intended.

We celebrate our 25th anniversary in August. Are there times when this marriage hasn’t been “fiery,” volatile and spark-y? Yes.

But brother?

The thing is, I have grieved the opportunities for a “spark” thing over the years, in very deep ways.

BUT over the last six months, I have watched my husband be the steady hand/arm my father-in-law needs as he becomes increasingly Unsteady. It has not been pretty and as I have written about elsewhere, lots of bodily fluids have been involved. Lots of difficult behavior wrangling too. But there’s nothing more attractive than a man taking care of a loved one.

Five Minute Friday

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

2017 Goals: Announcements and Moves

I still believe that, to paraphrase Brian Tracy, “Only 3% of people have written goals and the other 97% work for them.” While I am not dying to have lots of people working for me, I think the principle applies to success in general. We are more likely to succeed when we document our goals (and seek accountability).

Somewhere along the way, I stopped writing my goals down. Six years ago apparently. SIX. YEARS. AGO. My last “here are my goals” post was in 2011.

Now it is 2017, and a couple of catalysts are calling me out of the goal-less quagmire:

My friend Laura Petrolino wrote this post that outlines the four reasons we fail to reach our goals (hey! I’m 4 for 4!).

My friend (and Laura’s boss) Gini shared a motivational recording with the PR Dream Team that gave me a kick in the butt.

My personal aspirations the last three years have become increasingly hemmed in by my father-in-law’s caregiving needs. As his time with us is finite, I am going to wake up in the not-too-distant future and ……be free of the obligations/excuses/responsibilities that come with caregiving.

It’s long past time to write down some goals

Number One: Improve my Spanish

The “become fluent in Spanish” goal began long, long ago when our family was stationed in Puerto Rico. As a kindergartner, I took Spanish. The seed was planted.

Even though I took Spanish in high school, and minored in Spanish in college, I am nowhere near fluent. I joined a bilingual Toastmasters club to improve. Although the club is great, and my speakings skills improved significantly, it wasn’t the best choice to improve my Spanish specifically (we were allowed to give speeches in English and frankly I defaulted to that 90% of the time — it takes a long time to put together a speech in Spanish.)

The plan: I’m going to do Berlitz’s online self-paced program, partially because I can get an initial assessment that will give me some type of objective bar for improvement. I’m still going to seek some local (and less costly) option for conversation practice.

Number Two: Improve my nutrition

I am heavier than I have ever been. Heavier than during either pregnancy. I haven’t made peace with my inability to run due to multifocal atrial tachycardia but it’s time for the excuses to stop. Maybe the issue is I have been running to the refrigerator instead of around the block!

I’ve tried to explain emotional/stress eating to a couple of significant people in my life, and a not uncommon response is “just stop eating.” I wish it were that easy!

The plan: For now, I’m starting with a very small, but hopefully beneficial step. I’m increasing the amount of fruit I eat per day. This involves (gasp!) buying healthy food in advance at the grocery store. Publix, here I come.

Number Three: Reinvigorate my exercise routine

Numbers two and three are closely related, Exercise should probably precede nutrition, but they are connected.  Running is out for now and I can finally say that without crying, But the list of things that are not out is much longer than I have been willing to acknowledge: walking (duh), yoga, indoor cycling, most boot camp/rowing activities as long as I take my beta blocker in advance and swallow my pride when I have to sit out a running drill.

The plan: For now, walk a mile every day.

Goal Setting

Goals in the Wings

If you are reading this, I would love your involvement in keeping me accountable for the three above! Hablo español conmigo, eat healthy things with me, or let’s go for a walk.

But the three-goal trio is not all. Here are two other goals.

More Learning!

I am always up for more learning. Always. But to be specific. I am considering getting a Pharmacy Tech certificate so there is something flexible and easily accessible I can do once Dad passes away.

Secondly, I love my freelance work for Smartbrief and want to position myself to do similar/more responsible work with them or another similar organization. I mean, I managed to break up with the Oxford comma (painfully) so why not keep drinking the AP Style koolaid?

Book

Ironically, my freelance job at Weaving Influence revolves around helping authors expand their digital presence. I love helping authors promote their books, but in the back of my head, always is a little writerly voice asking, “when are you going to be promoting your own work?”

I have kind of evolved from considering writing about Camp Gordon Johnson to writing about caregiving, with an emphasis on the ironic humor of the whole caregiving situation but a healthy dose of useful advice too.

What now?

I scrolled through Pinterest (What? You go elsewhere for inspiration?!) and this quote from The.Success.Club struck me:

Goal Setting

Let’s call this blog the “announcements part.”

Now it’s time for the moves.

Five Minute Friday: WORTH

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: WORTH.

Five Minute Friday

Worth is a concept that presents a challenge to me. It’s easier to ascribe worth to someone else than it is to myself.

Especially over the last three years, after I quit my “real” job and began the patchwork of caregiving + part-time work + life, I have increasingly found myself asking “how do they do it?” when I see friends/acquaintances juggling a “9-5,” family, and community obligations.

I have had several conversations recently with friends about what “counts.” I will admit I am a bit driven by external recognition — certificates, being mentioned on social media, winning awards (I used to aspire to be an FSU “Grads Made Good” but that ship has probably already sailed as far as it being a possibility – unless I write an amazing book – you never know!!). But there are smaller, subtler things that have worth too. A couple of times recently, people have made it a point to mention how they used a green pen I gave them and it made them smile. A simple green pen!

But I don’t give green pens to just anyone. Choosing to give one means something worthy, maybe just to that person and me, but there is optimism in the exchange. Maybe I need to remember to give myself that same optimism, every day.

The caregiving life is full of times you wonder if your choices matter, if anyone notices, especially the recipient of the caregiving. [STOP]

Five Minute Friday

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