Remains of the Day

Today, the fates granted me four uninterrupted hours with my teenage son. If you don’t have a teenage son, you might think this is no big deal. You would be wrong. Usually, he is either away with friends or behind a closed door. To have him in my immediate presence and speaking to me is a miracle.

Here is how it all went down, in case any of you want to try it yourselves.

The Set Up:
For most of the past week, my son spent time with 3 to 12 (the number changed hourly) of his nearest and dearest friends doing Spring Break things. Then, two days ago, for reasons that only another parent can understand and which would require a complete blog post of its own, he sprayed air freshener all over his hands and arms. One day later, his arms began to itch. Two days later, with a weekend looming and arms still itching, he agreed to see a doctor. This whole thing should take 90 minutes, tops.

The First Hour:
As I filled out forms at the doctor’s office, Teenage Son asked if I could take him to a friend’s house after the appointment. Sure, no problem. He ate two lollypops and texted his friends, was in constant communication with them the entire time. (Note this for later ironic twist.) Once in the exam room, he explained the origin story of the itch, at which point the medical assistant turned to me and said, “Kids.” We left for the drug store to pick up a prescription. “Then you can take me to Friend #1′s house?” Yes, sure.

The Second Hour:
At the drug store, Teenage Son picked out one candy bar, a packet of gum, a King Sized package of Reece’s Sticks, and a self-inflating whoopee cushion while we waited. After 20 minutes, we were told that this particular pharmacy was completely out of the medication we needed. So we purchased Teenage Son’s merchandise and headed to the next closest store. In between texts with his friends, Teenage Son tossed the partially-eaten Reece’s into my cup holder and said, “Here, Mom.” And he was shocked – SHOCKED – when I rolled my eyes. “Why would you do that, Mom?! I got that to share with you. Geez.” So I thanked him for sharing the candy I bought him. We picked up the prescription at drug store #2 and headed back toward Friend #1′s house. “No, no, no! We need to go to Friend #2′s house! No one is at Friend #1′s house yet. They are at Friend #2′s house.” Still texting the whole time.

The Third Hour:
We drove to Friend #2′s house. No one was there. (What was the point of all that texting over the past 2 hours? Insert irony here.) Where were they? At a Starbuck’s. Which one? (more texting) Downtown. No. “What?! What am I supposed to do?” I pulled over and played on my phone until he figured it out. After 10 minutes, the Texting Teens decide he should go ahead to Friend #1′s house after all because that is where they are going from Starbuck’s. They were leaving any second and would probably be there by the time we arrived.

The Fourth Hour:
Friend #1′s house was deserted. I discovered this after Teenage Son got out of the car and wandered aimlessly in the driveway. He was Not Happy when I refused to leave him there for goodness knows how long. “Why, Mom?! Who does that?! What kind of parent are you?” Would he get back in the car if I agreed to take him for a snack? Sure, but they will be back any minute so hurry. One double-cheeseburger, fries, and a root beer later, we were back at the driveway of Friend #1. Waiting. For half an hour. Then a car arrived, unloaded four gangly teenagers and my son was out of my car to join them faster than you can say Snap Chat. Not a word to me.

But we had four hours together! Uninterrupted. Sometimes with actual non-arguing conversation! He’s got food in his belly, less itchy arms, and a very annoying mom. I’ve got these remains of our day…

Fossil record of four hours with my Teenage Son

The Beards of Southwest

When I arrived at Seminary of the Southwest, there was a lot that impressed me – the park-like campus, the sense of community, the cookies. But nothing – and I mean nothing – impressed me more than the amazing displays of facial hair. There is some serious shagginess going on here. These guys have everything from 5 o’clock shadows to full-on Santa Claus. 

Some people love their beards so much. You can tell that whiskers make them happy.

Deliriously cheerful. Look at those smiles!

Others take a more philosophical approach to their goatees. Being unshaven can make you look and feel more…scholarly. Right?

I know all of those guys and they are probably thinking about theology or politics…or the cookies they had at lunch. Those are some erudite beards.

Beards can take over your life.

They require a lot of maintenance.

‘Stash wax, even.

But it’s worth it.

<– Seriously, check it out.

 

 

 

 

Beards. If you don’t have one, they look so tempting.

Happy and a scholar? Yes, please!

 

You have to go there. Really.

I have several new friends who just moved to Texas from other states. They asked and have been told about where to get the best BBQ, and they’ve learned about the odd quirks of our streets-that-change-names-every-couple-of-miles. The longer they live here, the greater the odds that they will learn how to two-step, where to catch great live music, and that tacos for breakfast, too.

There is one thing, however, that I have been urging them to experience while they are here and they just don’t seem to understand it’s cultural importance. I am speaking about going to Buc’ee’s. If you have to ask why, it means you have not been yet. You really should go.

Buc’ee’s is a roadside refuge, but not just a place to fill your tank and stretch your legs. Whenever you drive between Texas towns, it is important to make sure your route will pass a Buc’ee’s or the trip will be incomplete.

Now, I need to make it clear to the newcomers (the natives will know this already) which Buc’ee’s I am talking about. You might drive down the highway and see a regular looking gas station/convenience store with a sign that says, “Buc’ee’s.” But that is NOT WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT. Why would I send you to regular? I am sending you someplace extraordinary. You will know you are headed to the right place when you see huge billboards announcing, “Clean Restrooms Ahead. We Guaranpee It! 21 Miles” (And that is true. You should have a serious talk with your bladder about timing your stop to meet this need – it is worth it.) I was headed toward the town of Waller and passed a sign that said, “Waller You Waiting For? 8 Miles.” Buc’ees loves a good pun.

And then, there it was:

That is just the side entrance.

You can tell you are at the right place because IT IS AS BIG AS A HOME DEPOT. Maybe even a Walmart. It is immediately evident that this will be more than a pit stop, it will be a life changing road trip experience.

Doesn’t that sound appetizing?

Before you actually enter, you may think to yourself, “I wonder what kind of snack I can buy myself at Buc’ee’s?” Because that is what most people do when they go to a convenience store along the highway. In fact, Buc’ee’s has its own brand of snacks, the most famous if which are the Beaver Nuggets:

But there is so much more.
So. Much. More.

At Buc’ee’s, you can find back-to-school fashion, napkins for your next fancy cocktail party and – y’all! – Texas-themed birdhouses for your Christian birds.

So far, you might think Buc’ee’s isn’t that much better than any other stop along the road. And you really need to be getting on your way…except, haven’t you been thinking about redecorating your house? And wouldn’t it be convenient if you could do that now, while you are driving away from your house? At a place that also sells snacks and birdhouses? What if you could get a beaded cow skull, faux-leather pillows, and charming wooden signs for the walls in your new Texas home? What if you could get placemat, napkins and a table runner featuring the Texas bluebonnet? Or a faux leather shower curtain and matching towels? WHAT IF YOU COULD GET THIS ALL IN ONE PLACE?

Friends, you can:

Perhaps you need to take it up a notch. All those decorative items are just a little too tame for you?

Okay. Why don’t you treat yourself to a cowhide? Because they sell those at Buc’ee’s.

Cowhides.

At the highway gas station/convenience store. (You can also get a mirror with a cowhide frame.)

 

 

And that isn’t even all -I could go on all day. Camo-themed items of all sorts. Everything imaginable in the shape of Texas – wooden things, stone things, soap things, lots and lots of Texas-shaped things. There is framed “art” on the walls leading to the famous bathrooms. And, of course, you can get your own Buc’ee to take home.

 

 

Mary of the Hills

 

Maryology loves Marys. You knew that; it’s what we are all about here. And on a recent trip out to the Texas Hill Country, I got to see a shrine to Mary of Nazareth, the BVM, mother of Jesus. A friend pointed me in the right direction and as I strolled over I saw it nestled into a hill looking like a small house of stone – perhaps even a little like the house in Ephesus where legend says she lived her last years:

 

 

As I got closer, I could see a sweet copper statue of Mary holding an infant Jesus:

So I contemplated this lovely scene for a few moments, noticing her faraway look and how the baby clung to her neck. And then my gaze shifted and I saw something else:

Someone left Mary and Jesus a puppy. Thoughts?

Things I will not miss about CPE

On this, the occasion of my penultimate day of on call as a hospital chaplain, I am feeling reflective…and a little snarky about the whole experience. While this program has been mostly wonderful and transformative for me, there are some aspects of it that I will be more than happy to kiss goodbye.

The Sleep Room.  One of the perks of staying overnight at the hospital is having a sleep room to, uh, sleep in. So, that’s good. It has a nice 8th floor view and a microwave. Yea! But I will not miss the bed at all. It looks harmless, those crisp white cotton sheets look comfy but they cover a block of granite. At least that is what it feels like at midnight. (I did bring my own pillow.) Sure, there are lots of other people who have overnight on call here, but they actually get paid. Which is what I’ll require in order to ever sleep on this bed again.

 

I will also not miss the sink in the sleep room. When you stand close enough to use it, the dispenser to the left automatically spits out a few inches of rough brown paper towel whether you need it or not. (I preferred using the rough cotton towels. Good for exfoliation.) I did appreciate the warning sign on the blow dryer – NOT FOR USE ON SKIN. Phew. I was just about to dry my hands with that thing.

 My Pager. I don’t think I need to say too much about this one. Does anyone like them?

Sharing a Computer with 5 People… We all needed it throughout the day to track our work or look up patient info. Sharing can either build or destroy community – thankfully my peers did the former. More on that in the next post.

…and tracking every minute of my day. I used to work mostly from home whenever I wanted. As long as the work got done, I was fine. All summer long I’ve been tracking my time down to the minute on two different databases. Not only where I was and what I was doing, but what kind of spiritual/emotional/psychosocial assessments I was making. One helpful tip I can pass on: spirituality doesn’t translate well to databases.

Beets. This seems like an odd one, but all summer the cafeteria has been pushing beets AND I AM SO OVER IT!!! I don’t like them and I don’t need anyone making cutesy displays and hawking free samples. No, no, no.

And finally, Military Time. If I never have to calculate what time it is on a 24-hour clock again…it’ll be too soon.

3-Legged Stool of Survival

Another overnight on-call is coming up. Now that I am more than halfway thru my CPE internship, I am starting to wonder about myself the same things I wonder about patients:

  • what is giving your life meaning now?
  • gosh, you’re going thru a lot, what coping strategies do you have?
  • do you ever consider a good metaphor for what you are going thru?

Okay, I don’t really ever wonder that last one about patients. But for myself…I’ve been wondering what my three-legged stool is for surviving this summer. You know, the three-legged (because that is how many it takes to hold something up) stool used to talk about investing, leadership, or even Anglican theology? A timeless metaphor.

What are the three essential things keeping Mary from falling over?

Those might sound a little snarky to you. How about something more serious:

But really, what it boils down to is this:

 

Buzzy Bees

I woke up this morning with the sore throat that has been making the rounds in my house. Allergies? Cold? No idea. Then, as I was driving my daughter to another soggy day at camp, I realized I forgot to put my reading glasses in my brief case. Argh! This was not a good start to the day.

They say every cloud has a silver lining. And while I haven’t seen anything very shiny in the omnipresent clouds we’ve had this summer, there turned out to be a couple of bright spots to the clouds in my day.

I didn’t have time to get my glasses from home – so I had to get new ones. Had too. Poor me! My forgetfulness got me a whole new look.

 

Off I went to work with my snazzy new glasses. Meeting, rounds, …then found out that my sore throat was going to keep me out of NICU. No seeing babies today! Boooo!

I was about to sulk for the rest of the day when things got really adorable. And crafty. Because I got to spend my afternoon making these buzzy bee cards to leave with NICU families. Silver linings like this will last me (maybe) two days. After that, this sore throat better say adios and let me get back to work.

The snarky chaplain

This first full week of being a hospital chaplain has been emotional, inspiring, and exhausting. If only more of my patients could appreciate this. I am here for you, people! Trying to learn something here!!! I am growing impatient with my patients.

By Friday, I realized that most of the people who let me pray with for them are premature babies. Because they can’t say, “no thank you.” Before they are born, their parents are fine with a polite smile and a nod. Silently they say, “nice to see you, but I’m getting out of here soon and can’t think about anything else.”

There are some people who do like to talk. But sometimes they are asleep or getting medical care when I stop by. Can we work on this?!

Why do I feel like this is part of the lesson for my summer…

Valentine

As someone who likes to learn about obscure saints – especially through my fav Lenten devotion Lent Madness - it occurs to me that I have been remiss in my studies. For many, many years I have given and received, made and purchased Valentine cards for my loved ones, but not given a thought to the saint that this greeting-card and special-menu holiday honors. Well, today it is time to fill the lacuna in my saintly knowledge. And yours as well. Here is what I found out:

Valentine was a Roman dude. Or maybe two. And he was a priest. Or a bishop. No one knows for sure. But he was martyred for his faith and maybe also because he married couples in defiance of the law. In any case, poor Valentine was tortured and beheaded. Not to make light (well, maybe to make light) but it seems like many people experience similar feelings today when they observe his day – they give all they’ve got for loved ones and get, well, cut off.

For all his bravery and miracles (he cured his jailer’s blind daughter!), he has been made the patron saint of engaged couples and beekeepers, among other things. And, since I got married on St. Valentine’s Day, I happen to know from observance that he seems also to be the patron saint of Bridezillas. I promise I was well-behaved on my wedding day, but anyone who has been to a reception or hotel lobby on that day can tell you, it is full of people martyred by brides. I myself was witness to such a martyrdom when a new bride forced her entire wedding party to re-enact their hotel arrival three times until it looked the way she wanted on video.

Tread lightly on February 14th. Send some nice cards and chocolates. No matter how loved or abandoned you feel, be glad you have not been martyred for your faith or someone else’s wedding fantasy. Also, consider the beekeepers, who have a patron saint celebrated with chocolate and not honey.