Archive for January, 2013

Clothing the Grass

Quiet. It was the first thing I noticed after I stepped out of the door, an uncanny, unusual stillness. It was as though the world about me was holding its breath. Nothing moved. The chickens were huddled silently inside the coop. The cats were nowhere to be seen. The sheep, thanks to the obscuring fog, couldn’t see me and therefore didn’t bleat. Perhaps a wild bird or two made a swift dart from branch to ground and back again, but even they were restrained and noiseless. The cold, damp and heavy, bit to the bone. Nothing, no matter how thickly furred or feathered, wanted to stay out in it.

It is winter, chill and white, and despite its bitterness, it does possess a beauty. It’s a world at rest, on hold, waiting for spring in its green frenzy, but for now, quiet, even… magical. The fog and the cold make of this place a winter wonderland. Together, they have slowly frosted every surface. It’s almost an organic process, the slow partnership of frigid mists. Everything freezes, and bit by bit, tiny crystals of ice collect at the extremities. Leaves, blackberry thorns, spider webs, spikes of grass, etc. – they are ever so delicately begemmed about their edges. Days have passed here. Each day has seen the icing a bit more pronounced, a bit more crowning, a bit more elaboration on an already stunning theme.

It is so beautiful – the silence, the frost, the green hinting beneath the ice – that it makes me stop and catch my breath. I don’t love the cold, but I do appreciate the charm and delight of the moment. It’s a good time to stop and consider the lilies, to appreciate how marvellously “God clothes the grass of the field.”

Working As a CNA

I’ve worked as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) for 15 years, give or take. That’s a long time, and it’s unusual. Most CNAs I’ve known work, at most, in that position for a few years. Then they either tire of it (burnout is common) or finish up their nursing degree. A CNA with a year under their belt is pretty experienced. Somebody like me is just plain old. It’s funny to consider. I’m in my mid 30’s. I’m not old. It’s just my job experience, honest!

As I said, burnout is common. Looking back over my time in the job, it’s not hard to see why. I’ve had two back injuries, gotten whiplash in my neck from a kick, been bitten, pinched, slapped, and otherwise physically attacked. I couldn’t begin to guess how times I’ve been called names and verbally abused. I’ve been splattered with just about every bodily fluid. I’ve been stuck all day sitting with the crazy and the violent to keep them “safe.” I’ve had to work holidays and weekends and night shifts and therefore missed all kinds of events with family and friends. I’ve worked twelve hour shifts and not gotten breaks. I’ve worked shifts shorthanded and rushed about trying to plug all the holes. Lots of shifts, we haven’t even been shorted staff, and there’s still been far too much to do. Let’s not forget that patients die. Whether it’s sudden or expected, death is never an easy thing to face. And besides all of that, it can be very hard to get respect, to be anything but taken for granted and buried under delegated tasks. It can be dangerous, humiliating, and difficult.

The job can also be boring. To be the one who helps people bathe and to the bathroom, to walk and to eat and to give them water, to make their beds and pick up their stuff and check their vital signs is not exactly intellectually stimulating. Once the basic techniques and precautions are learned, it’s pretty much rote behavior after that. Technique can always be refined, but I don’t find that it taxes my brain. Sometimes, it’s really not good for me. I’m pretty smart. I need intellectual challenge.

So if my job is not so awesome, what I am still doing working at it? I could give a lot of reasons, some of them good, some not so much, but what keeps me showing up when I’ve just had it is that this is the job I believe God’s given to me. While it’s not great for my brain, and it’s sometimes been hard on my body, it’s been awesome for my faith and for my heart. I’ve learned a courage and resiliency I never expected to experience, and it’s a great way to serve.

To serve – healthcare is a service industry. I keep hearing over and over that Americans expect good customer service, and that my hospital attempts to achieve great customer service. We do get very positive feedback, but that’s not really what I’m talking about when I talk about service. You know Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God not only humbled Himself enough to dwell among us, but also enough to wash His disciples’ feet? I’ve seen that done a few times for weddings and what have you. It’s touching, but I figure Jesus probably had some much dirtier and gnarlier feet to clean. People did a lot more walking 2,000 years ago. The climate was hot, and I’d guess the roads and paths were mostly dirt. I’m thinking, “EW!,” but Christ washed them, probably from His knees, hauling around a basin and towel. That’s service.

Service on its own is not enough. I’ve worked with people who are practically automatons performing tasks. They act like machines working with other machines, never engaging on a personal level. That’s certainly been tempting to me. When I started working as a CNA, I was emotionally frozen, and I most certainly didn’t have the tools to embrace people in all the mess and need on any level other than a performer of tasks. I spent lots of time on my face asking God to teach me to love the people with whose care I was entrusted. That’s really what it is all about – loving people – and especially when it came to loving the world full of people around me in not personally reserved and safe ways, I didn’t know anything about that but some pretty words. Pretty words without deeds = pretty lame. I’m grateful for the opportunities to learn to love in a love challenged environment, to practice kindness, compassion, gentleness, and all of that when I am tired, incompetent, and ready to snap. I love seeing God come through and meet not only the patient’s or other staff member’s needs, but mine as well.

Besides all of that, as I’ve spent years fetching water and washing people, their feet included, I’ve realized something. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a lot more important than I knew. One of these days, the person needing help from strangers might be somebody I love a lot, like my mom or Kimberly. One of these days, it might be me. Who do I want to be doing that? What kind of care do I want to receive or see my loved ones get? I want good care, of course. I want to know that they or I would have our needs met and be treated with the respect, dignity, and care due to every human being. If that is what I wish to receive, that is also the minimal level of care which I should be giving. I think about that a lot.

One of these days, I’m sure I’ll move on and be working another job. I’ll miss working as a CNA, but man! I’m sure richer for having worked the job!

God bless your day!


My goodness, my goodness! Time supposedly flies when you’re having fun (amazing how it never gets redirected thanks to bad weather), and it did over Christmas break. We had a great deal of fun and commotion. It wasn’t all fun, was it, Carey? She went back to North Carolina over Christmas break and had bad weather flight trouble. I think her only flight that went as planned was the one from Portland to Chicago. Everything else was changed. Other than that, though, there was lots of fun. For Christmas, my mom set up a house rental over at the coast, and most of us were able to go. Let me just give you some highlights:

  • Shelah managed her schedule so that she was able to be at most all of the family stuff. Working as a hair stylist has meant that she’s missed a lot, and it was awesome to have her around over Christmas.
  • Ping pong! The table at the rental was in poor repair, but since we aren’t serious players, it really just made for more hysterical laughing.
  • Playing Hungry, Hungry Hippos with Kalyn
  • Kimberly’s exit line, delivered with perfect timing and intonation: “I’m so confused!” Nobody has any idea what she found so confusing, but, boy! Was it funny as she muttered it and left the room.
  • Mom chortling over spam texting Rachel’s phone
  • Presents – I had lots of fun giving them this year
  • Stephanie’s genuine disappointment over not getting underwear for Christmas. Who wants underwear for Christmas?!? Stephanie! Maybe she’ll get lucky for her birthday.
  • Grabbing drinks at the Lincoln City McMenamin’s with Shelah, Stephers, and Rach. The waitress was lousy, unhelpful, and rude, but the barkeeper was her antithesis, so we got just what we wanted and had a good time, anyway.
  • lots of good food, including Suzanne’s Chocolate Cake, and coffee. Can’t forget the coffee.
  • Speaking of which, I took a hand grinder over to the coast and had a great time grinding beans with Kimberly and Kalyn. They must have liked it, too, because they kept turning that handle with never a complaint!
  • Nertz!
  • Good shopping trip at the Lincoln City outlets – we found some great deals and got there early enough to stay ahead of the crowds.
  • Rach got to come back and hang out with us for a couple of extra days. She and I went to the airport to pick Carey up and then took Rach home, which, except for Carey getting back a day later than planned, worked out well.
  • Watching Rach and Stephers pouring over airline tickets trying to help Carey get home
  • Jacob and Elizabeth missed the coast trip, but they came over for several hours one day after we got back, and it was great fun.
  • Playing WoW Sunday afternoon with Rach, Jacob, and Stephers. Shelah brought her computer over, too, but since she’s not a WoWer, she played Sims. It was fun company!
  • Watching Carey when she opened her birthday present from Rach – heehee!

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. It did make writing posts difficult. There was so much commotion! People’s schedules are just, more or less, getting back to normal. I’m hoping that means I’ll get back to a more regular posting schedule, too.

Happy New Year!

For all those New Year's diets!

For all those New Year’s diets!