Thursday, February 25, 2010

This winter is killin' me!!

I am beyond heartily sick of this weather.  This whole year, actually, has been ugly, cold, wet, and rainy.  I am told it has something to do with El Nino, but why would that badly behaved personified weather formation choose to show up on this, the year that I turned 30 and was given a road bike by my sweetie?  Does nature not know that I have RIDING TO DO?

Seriously, I think my brain will soon explode if I don't get outside on some real roads.  But I am still nervous about trying to ride the roads if they are anything other than perfect.  I still don't have full mobility back in my right hand from that crash last August, and my shoulders still click, my wrist can't bear full weight, and I'm only just starting to regain my flexibility.  I been schooled.  So obviously, me and rain and especially train tracks are not on the best of terms.

Meanwhile in the frozen wasteland I refer to as "reality", it's been horribly cold.  We are talking windchills in the 20s.  We are also experiencing the phenom known to Yankees as the "slopstorm", or "wintry mix", or "the perfect combination of weather to imprison you".

This has all kept me indoors on my trainer, or at the gym.  And I am so sick of the indoors I am about ready to go Bruce Banner in here.  So I thought I would go for a "no matter how cold it is" run (or maybe even a ride on my trusty solid hybrid if the roads were clear?) tomorrow.

The evil weather man is giving me a forecast of MORE SNOW.  Snow!  Snow, I tell you!  I would bet any of you that it is "Sierra Cement"- that horrible, wet, sloppy stuff.

I will get stuck inside, baking, eating chocolate, and riding the trainer to Hindi movies for the rest of my life.  (Let me put in a plug, by the way, for Hindi movies as the best spin accompaniment ever.  You'd totally want to take my spin class.  Not that I do organized spin classes well.  I tend to spend my time imagining I am on a real road and being rudely jerked by to reality by a skinny instructor telling me to "run on the bike for 30 seconds and then do jumps!"  What does that even mean in actual bike language? I do better at home with my trusty Trek and trainer and people randomly bursting into song on scenic mountain tops.)

Whichever of you is in charge of the weather-related religions, please help me out here.  Barring that, please find someone to offer both of us some awesome jobs in the Northwest, which sounds like a balmy heaven right about now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Please Don't Booby-Trap Your Hospital Room

In the category of "Worst Chaplain Ever":

As many of you know, I serve as a staff chaplain in a level 1 trauma center.  When I do on calls, I cover the whole hospital, including units I don’t usually go to.  Tonight took me to a unit I never see except on a pre-op visit.

I visited a patient who said, “Oh, chaplain?  Of course, please come in!”  Except that her light was off and the privacy curtain partly drawn and behind her half drawn curtain, hidden, because someone did not want people to see it was there, was her commode.  Which was very, very full. 

The dark room and the drawn curtain explain how, as I entered, I managed to kick the commode and sent its foul contents all over the freakin' floor.  This resulted in the patient saying, “Oh, please, pray for me…” until she smelled what had happened.  And then she started screaming at me. 

Try explaining that one to the floor staff.  (And obviously, I am spoiled in the ED when we just call Environmental Services and they rush right over and do their thing.  The floor had to call the main department and wait, and wait, and wait.)


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gnocchi Now, After Lessons Learned in Seminary

I finally made gnocchi today.  It's perhaps the third time I've made it.  Gnocchi is a very simple pasta, but like all fresh pastas, it's a bit of a pain to get the dough ready to go.

The last time I made the gnocchi, I was in Seminary.  I had a tiny, communal kitchen and strict rules about what we were allowed to keep in the fridge.  There were lots of fun people living in the dorms, and we were all going through various stages of dislike about the changes in the Refectory- the seminary cafeteria.  Several people took to cooking little meals in the dorms.  I became the unofficial bread baker with my trusty "R2D2" style bread maker.  I actually turned out french bread in those Seminary ovens!  Across the courtyard, I remember a group from Madison dorm inviting me over for homemade chai.    

When my turn came, I invited a group over for gnocchi.  I was low on white flour, but being low on any ingredient has never fazed me.  I will substitute without a pang of guilt.  (This is the opposite of M, who is liable to leave a dinner half done to go fetch a missing ingredient.  Not me.  I know every trick in the book. I will even make you cheese out of nutritional yeast if pushed...)  Therefore, being low on white flour did not bother me.  I had plenty of wheat flour on hand.

I subbed the wheat flour for the white flour, and plowed ahead.  I even took the time to use the fork to make those pain-in-the-butt tine marks on each and every freakin' gnocchi.  Usually, I cut and hand roll to make pillowy dough circles because I'm lazy like that.  But not this time.  Perfectly shaped and tined, every one.  In to the water they go, and as they floated back to the top, out they came.

A homemade sauce accompanied them.  I will say that the wheat flavor added a nice nuttiness.  Cheese was sprinkled on top, and thank God that someone had brought wine- lots of wine.  And that I had very good friends.

Because I had not counted on the fact that brown wheat flour, in a round pasta form, would end up looking so unfortunately... round and brown.  I could have submitted them for illustrations in that educational children's book.  Pasta fail!

My friends deserve credit for ever letting me cook again (which they did).  But I learned my lesson about making brown wheat pasta.

Tonight, the gnocchi were made with all white flour.  And they were pillowy and sweet, perfectly formed and tender.  I think I may have erased the trauma I brought upon myself five years ago.  I wonder, though, if any of those friends have ever eaten gnocchi again?

Priest Sunday Off

As I acclimate from working two jobs with no time off to working just one job with a normal amount of time off but a really wacky schedule, I decided I would take 6 weeks off from doing regular church work. The first few weeks, I slept very late on Sundays. The Sunday Morning Bed Magic still works even when I don't have to work. Somehow, Sunday Morning Beds are just *that* much more fluffy and cozy and warm than beds at any other time of the week. I always hate getting out of a fluffy, cozy, warm bed. So I reveled in my chance to sleep late and be cozy.
I like not having to work on Sunday mornings. One of the great discussions I had this week with a few awesome nurses (do nurses rule the world, or what?) revolved around church. Does the Sunday-morning-as-Sabbath model actually work for us anymore, as the sort of society we are becoming? Nurses were wondering about afternoon services instead, or mid-week services. (And oh, my, that discussion would have fit right in on Holy Hill in Alexandria, at an LMA or a pastoral theology class! My peoples, they gots them some brains!) Part of what I like about chaplaincy is not having to drag myself out of bed at the crack of dawn to do services. I know that sort of service speaks to some, but it just doesn't do anything for me.
((And this just in: I do love hearing from relatives on their opinion of organized religion.  My MIL has some great opinions that just crack me up.  M likes to call her to tell her the religious news from CT.  He just got off the phone after telling her about the Baptists.  She countered with the story of a crazy priest who forced a few little girls to fast ALL DAY before Confirmation.  Yowch.  Yet another reason to convert.  I feed my people!))
Naturally, I do think that communal worship is important to our spiritual practice. But if Sunday morning worship doesn't do it for me, how do you call ME back into community? Because, baby, if you can't get a priest excited about Sunday mornings, how can you expect to get a non-church geek excited?
[Caveat: for St. Mark's Capitol Hill, I bounced out of bed on Sundays because they ROCK. St. Gregory of Nyssa was supremely exciting as well. Is that the future of our church, or am I just an emerging-church-nerd?]
Of course, the struggle for me is discerning where to go spend my life after Connecticut. I am beginning to realize there are some things I like about the parochial model. Like the flexible schedule and the great benefits and the spiritual development focus, something that lacks a bit in the corporate world. But maybe I'm just not a parochial priest. Maybe the Bishop got it right when he nicknamed me "the Vagabond Priest". Maybe in my next job I'll be looking for a non-parochial-but-Episcopal gig. Does that mean school chaplaincy, a different form of chaplaincy, or even Diocesean or national work? I don't know. Maybe you can't ever call a vagabond home. The not-knowing makes me a little crazy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday in Real Life

Even though it's Ash Wednesday, there's plenty of people out there who are not the type who can get to church. They are working, or they feel disconnected from their own church, or they don't "do" ashes and don't know why their Catholic friends are walking around with dirty foreheads. So as an Episcopal priest, it's an interesting thing to teach people about Ash Wednesday, the whats, whys, and wherefores. Today, I did the Episcopal service at 7PM in the hospital chapel, and had a great crowd with a strong response. I spent the first 8 hours of my shift bouncing around the hospital imposing ashes, educatin', and doing my 'thing'.

On ICU rounds: "Hey guys, just letting you know I'm the chaplain on call tonight. Call me if you need me. And I'm doing ashes until midnight." Them: "Then what?" "Then you're on your own for repenting."

From a person near the chapel: "I would like ashes, but I think I need to make my confession. Are you able to take my confession?" Me: "I'm an Episcopal priest. I'd be glad to hear your confession if you are comfortable." Him: "You don't understand. I've done actual sins." That's right, sir, that's what we like to hear. As the Lutherans say, sin boldly.

On Nuerosurgery: "Can you tell us what the ashes are REALLY made of?" You mean the top-secret, super-holy recipe? Sure. You take year-old palms from Palm Sunday ("Ever been to church on the day when they give you the big green palms and you wave them around and stuff? That day."). You burn them- I recommend using a coffee can and doing it in the company of kids. Kids love burning things, the little pyros. Then you grind them up. I add a few drops of chrism to make them a little sticky. Nurses: "Wow!" Ask me for my secret cream cheese frosting recipe sometime. That's almost as amazing.

Nurses: "So, I don't go to church every Sunday. Maybe twice a month. But you know, I work nights, I work weekends. I mean, I want to sleep. I figure I'll just make God mad twice a month." Me: "You know, I'd give you a pass on that one. I think God would want you to sleep and be healthy and have fun with your family. I'll let you off the hook." Her: "Are you really sure?" Me: "I used to tell my police officers the same thing all the time. You're fine. And you swear a lot less than they did, so you got a leg up right there."

Me to nurse: "You know, maybe the way we do church these days isn't really how our society relates to the Almighty at this time in human history." Her: "Well, I mean, yeah, Sunday mornings? And I don't like it when they tell you when to sit, when to talk, when to stand, when to kneel, when to give money every time they ask for it. I think you should do it because it's the right thing to do for you, not because they just tell you to." Hmmm... generation X. Independent buggers, we.

Me: "Chaplaincy is fun partly 'cause of all the different religions. My personal favorite is the Pastafarians... they respond to prayers by saying "Raaaaamen." Them: "You're kidding about that one... right?" I love how people take everything I say as if it's gospel truth. Oh, the looks when people realize I'm totally telling fibs sometimes...

Walking through the ED with ashes and a dirty thumb... "Hey, chaplain, can we get some too?" "Hey, chaplain, we missed church! Can you come here?" "Hey, chaplain, I'm Catholic, I can't believe I missed church, I'm so upset!" Hey, chaplain, thank you so much! I was so upset about missing church today, of all days!" "Hey, chaplain, can you call my mom for me? Why's your finger all dirty? Ew."

And now Ash Wednesday is officially over. It's time to head up to the on-call room, read me some iPhone Kindle, and catch a nap until the next page goes off. If I'm lucky, I'm in for a serene night.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What does rhythm look like?

I worked two jobs for so long that I became used to working pretty much all the time. M was the guy who lived here who I got mad at when there was no laundry and no groceries, since it seemed to fall to him to do all those sorts of about-town chores. On rare occasions, I could venture out to a store: either Whole Foods on the way home from the gym, or very occasionally to the Stop and Shop in the next town. Yes, pathetically, this constituted "time off" for a long time. As in, "Hey, I have two hours off. Want me to meet you and help you shop?"

Today, I went to the store all alone, did the grocery shopping, replaced my Stop and Shop card, and came home and cooked. I made more jalapeno poppers (I had extra filling), quiche with homemade crust, and broccoli soup. It was served with gimlets. Yes, it did feel all sorts of domestic.

I am still fighting this feeling of guilt that I should be working on something. I've worked for so long I don't really know what not working feels like. Of course, having many friends who travel for work or who are writing dissertations, I hope you can fill me in on what it feels like to have time off. Is it really normal to have time to cook?

In funny news, I showed M my new pair of Danskos, my favorite comfy shoe. I could live in Danskos at work. People say they are indestructible. I've destroyed at least three pairs now. On one pair (a Mary Jane), the metal buckle gave way under the pressure of the constant walking I do. M looked at my latest pair of clogs, and said, "Oooo! They're irridiscent! I wasn't expecting that!" I laughed and asked him what he had been expecting... "Well, nothing, really, I had no idea. I thought they were going to be shoes." So I completely superseded his non-expectations. They are oil slick color patent leather clogs, by the way, and my feet are happy. For now.

Monday, February 8, 2010

First Sunday Off

I was looking forward to my first official Sunday off for weeks. It would be the first time in years that I had been employed and not had to work on a Sunday. Usually, I only had Sundays off when I was on vacation, or when there was a snow day. (I can't tell you how stressful snow days are, when I am the one having to call them!)

A day off is the day when you don't have to work. Sabbath is the day when you gain spiritual renewal, when your soul is fed. Day off is what I have when I spend the day doing my laundry. Sabbath is what I used to get when I'd spend the day in the National Cathedral visiting the Resurrection Chapel or strolling through the National Gallery for the umpteenth time.

Sabbath in Puritan, Frozen-Wasteland Connecticut doesn't look quite like that. See, normally on a Sabbath day, I'd include a lazy brunch followed by some brain-expanding cultural event like a museum. Say, brunch and the Wadsworth Atheneum sounded like a good idea.

We *were* going to start out at Cheesecake Factory... but we were promptly kicked out because they weren't open yet. So we went for a cup of coffee and kicked our heels for half an hour. Seems they open stuff late in CT because you are supposed to go to church.

Returning at 10, we were seated, and I ordered a Bloody Mary. Which they could not serve due to the stupid CT blues laws, which state you can't have any alcohol before 11. Dumb state, trying to tell me when I can be irresponsible. M pointed out that in the South, there are no such compunctions. Indeed, if the liquor police were strolling down the street, they'd be checking to *confirm* the alcohol content in your breakfast drink. Not here, in Puritan Land.

After brunch, I ran a few errands, because my mother lives in the wilds of Tolland and she doesn't just drive down. She makes an epic trek, involving four-wheel drive and coyotes and steep hills and fast-paced traffic danger. As I waited in line, my phone rang. Expecting my mother to call so we could go to the museum, instead it was work. A disaster, quite naturally. (Is the entire universe against me?) And just like that, I was waiting to find out if I'd get called in.

Which I did, an hour later. A few hours of chaplain-derring-do, and I had things under control. By that, I mean I was successfully able to dump the workload back onto the (very nice) duty chaplain. And skedaddle. But no free museum for me.

I was able to finally get my bad-girl beverage at my brother's house where his wife had an epic service of munchies. We sat around, ate too much (but it was healthy, so all good!), and watched us some Super Bowl. There were some real stinker ads, and nothing that has yet surpassed my favorite- the dalmation training the Clydesdale.

It was certainly a Sunday, but it was definitely not Sabbath. What do you do, and how does a spiritual professional recover when their designated Sabbath day was taken away?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bringing Home the Books and Sundry

Just as my home has expanded, so has my office. (Can you believe I used to live happily with all my stuff in a dorm room?) Yesterday, I started work on bringing home all my books and belongings from the church office.

This is interesting, as there was a lot of good times, a little sadness, and some sky-anxiety as I finished services on Sunday. Some folks were ready to rush into my office with windex and start cleaning and I had to gently usher them away so I could empty the place this week.

One sweet parishioner gave me her very own pewter Epiphany Ornament so I will always remember the "Good times". And you know what? I will. I'm going to tuck that into the Christmas box and put it on my tree and remember the good days in Southbury.

In the meantime, it's a little exciting to have all my books at home. I am putting them onto shelves and using my label maker to label the shelves accordingly. Please do not mock my label maker. Yes, M, this means you too! Even you like that you know what kind of dried beans I have put up! Labels are organized and organized rocks. In fact, my mother needs some labels on HER office drawers...

I am putting my kids' toys into the toybox I keep for my nieces and nephews to play with (they are taught the rule that you can play with the red toybox without having to ask permission). It feels comfortable. Does it feel like this is how I will spend the rest of my life? Nope. But for the next few months, it is comfy.

The time was right, and it really feels like the time was fulfilled. Now you must excuse me, because I have to go get my vestments, break the news to my cat supplies person that I won't be coming, get my name off the church funds, and have me some lunch with my rockin' Administrative Associate.