Geranium seeds

Seeds of wellness for body, mind and spirit

Pastoral Care Week

Today I am reposting an entry I made for my hospice organization’s blog. This entry was based on a previous post I made on this blog, “Lessons in Healing Spiritual Pain: What Really Hurts,” which you can read in its entirety here.

During the week of October 21-27, we celebrate the work of chaplains and other spiritual care providers. This year, the theme of Pastoral Care Week is “Giving Voice.” Here is what is symbolized by the Giving Voice logo: “Giving voice is like a drop of rain that nurtures the earth, quenching thirst, and giving new birth to a voice that has been silenced. We listen to what is within, to the diversity of voices we hear, and assist in the weaving of voices in the teams we serve. The bird symbolizes new heights and new places to which our voices may soar.” (PastoralCareWeek.org)

When someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness, many questions find themselves bubbling to the surface: “Has my life mattered? Will I be remembered? Am I worthy of love and forgiveness? Have I done enough? Have I loved well? Will I find peace?” It is possible to conjecture that these questions have always been there, under the surface, to be dealt with at a later time or place. Spiritual pain can often be masked by roles or identities we wear, busy schedules, and prizes we collect along the way. When a terminal illness occurs, however, the masks are gradually stripped away as our usual distractions are no longer viable. What remains is our very core, the longings of our heart, and the essence of our soul.

Life threatening illnesses come uninvited, obtrusively into our lives. They are not warranted or deserved. But if we stop to listen, spiritual crises such as terminal illnesses can also be great teachers. They show us what is important to us and what needs to be healed in our spirits. They give us the opportunity to name needs formerly silenced, to offer and receive forgiveness formerly withheld, and to express gratitude and love formerly taken for granted.

Chaplains assist patients and families in giving voice to their concerns and expressions of meaning, and may also help families voice questions and concerns to God. Spiritual healing may occur even when physical cure is not possible. When patients and families feel heard they may find spiritual healing to be more powerful than they can express in words.

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I’m really doing it!! Transitioning to working part time…

I’m giving heed to my inner voice to “slow down”
*Image by Kelly Rae Roberts

Holy Cow, it’s really happening. In just a couple of weeks I will be changing from regular full-time job status to a 24-hour work week. I will be working 3 days per week (Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and will be a stay-at-home mom for the rest of the week. Craaazy, right??

I know, it’s really not a crazy or innovative idea. Lots of people do this. Lots of people are stay at home moms all week long. But it’s craaazy to me! To me, the one who has (privately, to no one) sworn to always hold a full-time job even after becoming a mommy. To me, the one who has (privately) scorned the idea of ever being other than a professional working woman.

I know, I know. Being a mom is my most important work right now, and if I were to quit my job altogether in order to raise my child at home, that would be a fine choice. Intellectually I know this. Emotionally, it’s not so simple.

I have been and still am a strong supporter of mommies who work outside the home. I know that, for a lot of women, it’s not a matter of choice but of necessity. For me, I have to say, it has been a choice. My husband and I could surely have made accomodations in our living expenses if I had decided to stay at home. To be honest, the thought of staying at home never even entered my mind. It wasn’t even a consideration.

You see, since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be two things: a mother, and a professional career woman. I daydreamed about both of these roles and knew inspiring women who did both well. My own mother was a school principal while I grew up. My career plans have changed a lot throughout the years, but my inner identity as a professional woman has not. It has taken me a long time to finally find myself in a professional position. First I was an undergrad, then a masters student, then a chaplain intern, then a chaplain resident (and with jobs in between), then finally a staff chaplain! Let me just say, chaplain jobs aren’t that easy to find — especially in a small town. So, the thought of leaving my job was just out of the question.

Like many women, I underestimated how difficult it is to balance work and family. Still, I was doing fine, I thought. Then one day while discussing this with a friend, she said, “Working part-time would be perfect.” Until she said this, I hadn’t even considered part-time work. But I thought, she is right. A few months later, I pitched the idea to my organization after coming up with what I thought was a good plan. They said no, and that was that. Or so I thought.

For the next several months, I have heard this voice inside of me telling me to “slow down.” I have felt so rushed. And the voice has been getting louder and louder. But, would I be happy working part-time? What about my career ambitions? (Yes, even as a chaplain I do entertain career ambitions such as moving into a leadership role in the future). And what about the pay cut? It’s not pretty, my friends, but the truth is that having a pay cut is a big blow to my ego. You see, just like it took me so long to reach a professional position, it has taken me this long to finally earn decent pay. When you go to school for so many years it’s kind of demoralizing to not make much money (like the kind I made during my first couple of years post-masters degree). Truth is, I like the money, but mostly I like what it represents. As in, my education was worth something. As in, my working skills are worth something.

So anyway. I had to get over all of that and say YES, voice, YES, I will listen. I will slow down. So I kept coming to my supervisors with new ideas for going part-time. And it really seemed as if it wasn’t going to happen. I had started looking for part-time work elsewhere, and I grieved the fact that I was probably going to leave my hospice work. And then it happened. It was almost out of the blue. I had a meeting with a couple of supervisors on Tuesday, when I was given the OK to work a 32-hour week. Then, on Friday, my supervisor told me I can make that a 24-hour week. Unbelievable!

So here I am. Nervous, and excited. Mostly excited.

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My working playlist for a friend in need

This is what I feel like sometimes when I am singing in my car.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m up on the music trends of the day, or that I have a heightened talent for finding great obscure music out there. Truth is I am often the last one to know about a great new band or sound, but I sure do enjoy many different kinds of music.

Sometimes when I am listening to the radio or to my ipod I do a lot of daydreaming or pretending (OK, pretty much all of the time). At times, and especially if I’m driving, I pretend that I am performing whatever song I’m singing — sometimes at small venues like a coffee house, sometimes in big concert halls. In my head, I have sung duets with Josh Groban, John Mayer, and Jason Mraz. Each time I think we complement each other really well.

If I am not performing the song in my head, sometimes I am making playlists and wondering to whom I would send that song and in what circumstance. I have a working playlist that I have envisioned sending to a friend who might be in need of encouragement or an affirmation of support (or to my husband, or child, in a similar circumstance). I am often adding songs to the playlist, but sometimes I forget to write them down.

Sadly, I have never actually acted on my fantasy of sending a CD to a friend with all of my picked songs. Maybe someday. Meanwhile I am sharing these with you so all of my daydreaming will not go completely to waste. Be advised, most if not all of the songs on this playlist are kind of mellow… I guess that is my mood when I am daydreaming about a friend in need… If you scroll all the way down to the end you will get the nice treat of checking out my number one song.

1) When you’ve got trouble, by Liz Longley (this one I mostly envision sharing with my husband or child, but could be shared with a friend too I guess).

2) Don’t forget, by Brett Dennen

3) Let it be me, by Ray LaMontagne

4) Can’t go back now, by The Weepies

5) It will be me, by Kristin Chenoweth

6) Lucky, by Kat Edmonson

7) Hold on (Change is Coming), by James Grear & Company

8) Stand by me, by Tracy Chapman

And now for the treat I promised… enjoy!
* Image from http://howtowinakaraokecontest.anythingkaraoke.com/

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Staying healthy? There’s an app for that!

An actual picture of my phone screen with some of my favorite apps

In the last couple of years, I’ve come to depend a lot on my smart phone — and likely, so have you. I’ve never been one to fill my screen with games (although, on my last flight I missed having a game or two to keep me entertained). Instead, I’ve enjoyed finding apps that make my life easier and apps that make it easier to stay healthy.

There are tons of health and wellness apps out there, and you probably have your own favorites. I thought I’d share mine with you, and then maybe you can share yours with me as well!

1) RunKeeper: this was my all-time favorite app before hubby got me a Garmin watch for Christmas. It helps you track mileage and pace when out running or walking, lets you map out your run and save all of your activity. You can also make up workouts such as intervals and let RunKeeper prompt you to change the pace. Really great app.

2) Eat This, Not That: the restaurant version. It grades the menus of many popular restaurants (mostly fast food), gives the nutritional info of foods on the menu, and recommends healthier items. If I am out on the road and haven’t packed my lunch, I usually check it before ordering.

3) My Fitness Pal: Here you can enter your current weight and your weight goal, and the app will come up with a daily calorie goal for you and help you keep track of your calories throughout the day. It has an impressive amount of food items; you can just about find anything you’ve eaten or you can enter the calories of any food you’ve created. Very good way to keep yourself accountable if you’ve been overeating.

4) Food on the Table: you can select recipes based on what’s on sale at your local grocery store. Then, it makes up a grocery list for you based on the recipes you’ve selected. The recipes are not bad!

5) Breath Lessons: if you think you know how to breathe, think again! This is a great app with really good info on how to reap all the benefits of a good breath. Really, try it!

6) P Tracker Lite: Girls, this is a good little app for keeping track of your menstrual cycle. It helps you know when you are fertile and what to expect around your period.

7) Sleep Pillow: a free app with white noise for sleeping. Can be a life saver for a light sleeper like me.

8) Heart Rate: If you don’t have that Garmin watch or another heart rate monitor, use this app to quickly measure your heart rate after or during a workout.

And a couple of honorable mentions – apps I haven’t actually used a lot, but still find interesting:

9) ShopWell: similar to Eat This Not That in the sense that it recommends healthier foods for you. In this app you list your nutrition needs, and it helps you make a grocery list of items that best match your needs and goals. You can enter grocery items you usually purchase and the app will grade the items based on how well it matches your goals. My complaint about this app is that many of the grocery items recommended aren’t easily found in small, rural towns like mine. But, it is still an eye-opener even if you use it just once.

10) This for That: another food-swap kind of app. You choose the kinds of food you are craving, and it tells you what you could have instead. I haven’t actually tried the swaps, but it was fun to browse through. It would be interesting to see if the cravings actually go away with their suggestions.

11) Healthy Habits: I have recently uploaded this and have not used it yet, so I can’t give a proper review… If anyone has used it, let us know how you like it! The app lets you choose habits you want to break or add to your life (physical, mental and diet-related). Then it helps you stay accountable to that with tips and encouragement.

That’s it for now, folks! What’s your favorite health app?

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Flower Therapy

I am sooo not Martha Stewart. So, if you are naturally crafty or very good with flowers, you will not get much from this post. If, like me, you enjoy beautiful things but need little tips on the craft/make-it-yourself/and-make-it-look-good department, read on, friends!

I have always enjoyed fresh flowers, but would only have them around for special occasions. Since I was never a good flower arranger, I would just buy a pre-arranged bouquet, trim it a little, and place it in a vase, exactly like it was when I purchased it. That was fine, but a couple of months ago I started a practice at my house that makes me supremely happy 🙂

Here, it is, in three easy steps:

1) Get a cheap bouquet from the local grocery. Yes, pre-arranged, but we are not going to use it as is. For the pictures on this post, I got a bouquet from Kroger for $5.99!

2) Use small vases or vase-like things you have around the house. I have been using old glass bottles (even a Frappuccino bottle). I filled the bottom of the bottles with pebbles just for a nice look. Other craftier people might tie ribbons around them and the like. I went the easy way.

3) Distribute the flowers among the vases/bottles as you like, and then place them in strategic places around your house. Here is where I like to place mine:

In the kitchen…

In the bedroom…

And in the bathroom…

It does me a world of good to look at my flowers all the time now. Today I was having a blue kind of day, and the flowers fixed me right up 🙂 I’ve also gotten some compliments from friends and family when they come over. Such a small thing but it can really make a big difference to how you feel at home.

By the way, I thought really hard about a witty way to say “flower power” in this post. But I couldn’t come up with any and it’s late and I’m tired, so… flower power!!

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