Friday, December 31, 2010

2009: Final Report

I had a lofty list of goals for 2009, and feel like it's worth checking in to see how I did before moving ahead to 2010.

- I did entertain a bit... not sure if I'd call it "more" but perhaps "more deliberately" or "with more enthusiasm". I hosted my first annual Oscar Party complete with a red carpet, a fancy dress, and drinks named or themed after the nominees. From what I could tell, people had fun, and I'm planning on another in 2011. I also hosted the second annual "Opening Day" party for ALC alums. Two events a year is a good start, I think.

- The study never got cleaned. I did, however, do a major overhaul of clothing and shoes (well, mostly clothing) and donated a bunch of stuff that was sitting around waiting to find a new home.

- Preparing more meals... hmm... I subscribed to Cooking Light and did try a few recipes from there. I did get more creative about lunches for work, and had some pretty fun salads.

- Never started any kind of social gathering club (book, wine, knitting), but I did become closer to a group of friends from work and spent some time with them. I continue to make new friends at work, and feel optimistic about perhaps some regular social gatherings in 2011.

- In 2010, I did not read one book a month. I read one book about every other month. And most of those books were vampire trash. HOWEVER, reading is reading, and I feel like that was a good start. Clearly more room to grow in this department.

- In 2010, I resolved to put more money in savings and then use those funds towards a vacation to somewhere I wouldn't usually go. I got a little sidetracked with the savings situation when I got invited to no less than eight weddings. The formal vacation plan was put on the back burner, but I was able to take a week on the west coast to visit friends (and attend a wedding), and a few long weekends in the fall to attend weddings and see groups of friends. Here's hoping for fewer weddings (and more savings!) in 2011!

- In 2010, I spent limited time exploring my spirituality. I did attend church on the first Sunday of the year, which has to count for something. I also helped in the hiring process for a new chaplain at the hospital where I work That was really interesting.

- As for my trend of being true to myself, I think I was able to successfully continue that trend. Unlike 2009, 2010 had no unhealthy relationships and very little drama. The drama that did exist I think I handled with a good sense of humor. I saw more of friends I hadn't seen in a while, put energy into the people I love who love me back, and allowed some relationships to wane without hurt feelings, understanding that that is the natural progression of some friendships over time.

I had forgotten until looking back at last year's post just how difficult 2009 was for me. I appreciate looking back on 2010 that there were no major complications or challenges that left a shadow on the year. Many people have posted on Facebook that 2010 was a horrible year and that they can't wait for 2011. I'm quite pleased with how 2010 shaped up, but I'm also excited about what lies ahead...

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Customer Service

I've never worked retail, but I believe I've heard that the golden rule of retail is "The Customer is Always Right". I consider myself a reasonable person, and generally try not to make waves. I rarely find myself in a setting in which I feel the need to speak up and advocate for my consumer rights. But a strange situation is brewing, friends, and I am sharing it here.

Once upon a time, Fibby was browsing on and discovered some lovely socks* that were reasonably priced.

"Ooh!" Fibby thought to herself, "I can purchase these as gifts for friends this year for Christmas!"

Fibby spent time browsing all options, and checked out with multiple purchases from this shop.

The order was packed and shipped promptly, and a few days later Fibby opened a box full of socks that were just as beautiful as they had been in the photos. She left 100% positive feedback for the products online and was generally very pleased with her order. However, some of the socks were larger than Fibby had expected.

"Hmmm, this could be a problem," thought Fibby, "I'm not sure I know people who can wear these socks, and I'm not sure I can wear them either!"

Fibby emailed the etsy shop owner. She explained that the socks were beautiful, but larger than expected and inquired if an exchange would be possible. Fibby didn't expect the shop owner to agree to an exchange, but felt it was worth asking, just in case.

Fibby heard nothing back from the shop owner, which she took as confirmation that the store did not do exchanges.

Weeks later, Fibby realized that there were a few more people in her life who might appreciate some beautiful socks for Christmas and headed to the etsy shop once more. She found a couple more pairs of socks that would be perfect for her friends, and ordered them.

The order form had a section for comments, and Fibby decided to provide feedback to the shop owner:

I love your socks and will continue to buy. Just a note of feedback - I sent you a message a few weeks ago about exchanging some socks. As it turns out, I have found homes for them and I no longer need to. But it would have been nice to hear back from you. I would have been fine if you had told me you don't do exchanges, but not hearing anything was kind of disappointing. Just a little constructive feedback from a repeat customer!

This is where the story gets strange...

One day after ordering the socks, Fibby received an email from informing her that her second sock order had been cancelled, along with the following information:

Cancellation reason provided by the shop owner: Seller refuses service and buyer has paid

Message from the seller: Future purchases are not available to buyer who was not happy with items or shop, but continues to purchase and critique simultaneously.

Friends, I have to admit, this made me concerned about the sanity of the shop owner. I had repeatedly told the shop owner that I loved the socks, had provided 100% positive feedback online, and then provided a piece of customer service feedback directly to the shop owner that I still maintain was written in a constructive way.

A piece of me was tempted to change all my positive feedback for my previous sock order to negative feedback and never do business with Crazy Irrational Shop Owner (CISO) anymore.

But there was another piece of me that felt the need to appeal to CISO with a rational argument and attempt to get the second sock order approved. (The socks were quite lovely, afterall)

I wrote to CISO stating that I believed there had been a misunderstanding. After providing a little more background, I laid out the following points:

To clarify:

1. I was absolutely happy with my original items, but some were a little bit larger than I had anticipated, so I contacted the store to inquire about an exchange. Not a return - an exchange. I didn't want you to lose money, and would have happily paid extra shipping costs or a re-stocking fee if necessary.

2. I heard nothing back after my email, which implied that an exchange was not an option. This was fine, as I wasn't sure I'd be able to exchange the items, but had felt I should at least inquire about whether or not it was an option.

3. I purchased more socks last night because I was so happy with your product, and I wanted to give a few more as gifts this season.

4. I wrote a comment along with my order not to complain, but to provide constructive feedback that it was disappointing not to have heard back from you after my initial inquiry. Had I truly been a disgruntled customer, I would have written negative feedback for the products and/or not shopped with you again.

I then requested that CISO reconsider the (ridiculous and irrational**) ban on having me as a repeat customer.

Where will this go? I don't have high hopes. My guess is that I will once again not get a response, or get a response that tells me the CISO is still not willing to do business with me. There's not much I can do after that, and frankly, if CISO continues to be so unreasonable, I won't have any desire to provide additional income to such an insane person (who knows where that money will go!).

At any rate, it seemed like a good story for sharing on my oft-neglected blog, so here it is.

*gifts have been changed to maintain some element of surprise
** words not included in the email

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I'm not sure my list has changed much since last year.

I remain most thankful for family. I have learned about love, laughter, patience, impatience, challenge, success, and celebration from my immediate and extended family members. I continue to enjoy expanding on those life lessons every time we're together.

I am thankful for friends - camp friends, college friends, grad school friends, high school friends, work friends, friends I met while living abroad, and friends I met while living out west. Not a day goes by that I am not inspired by what they are all doing, or appreciative of the fact that we've been able to maintain our friendships.

I'm thankful for my job and the work it allows me to do each day. It continues to be an honor and a pleasure to do the work I do every day and I can't imagine my life without this work in it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I held him.

Disclaimer: Sometimes my job is unbearably sad. This was one of those times.

After the crowd dispersed and the room was still, I held him.

After the monitors were turned off and the bright lights dimmed, I held him.

After the controlled chaos turned to silence, I held him.

After I shared tears over the phone with a mother who couldn't be there, I held him.

After I helped to bathe and swaddle him, then make footprints of his tiny hands and feet, I held him.

After we prayed around his bedside - for him, for his family, for ourselves - I held him.

I held him in a rocking chair, and as we rocked together I stroked his downy hair and sang to him.

He was not alone.

I held him.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Prayer for Fibby

It's been a tough month at work - a tough few months, really. Lots of complicated social situations. Lots of sad stories. Lots of heavy loads to help people carry...

There's an ongoing situation right now that eats away at me. It makes me sad. It makes me angry. It makes me frustrated. I'm mostly able to leave it behind when the work day is over, but sometimes it takes the whole walk home to fully shake it. And of course, it's always waiting for me when I return to work in the morning.

I knew that I'd have a day that centered mostly around this situation when I headed to work yesterday morning. I had checked email throughout the weekend and was aware that there had been some issues that would need to be addressed when I returned. I got to work, took a deep breath and plunged right in.

The "water" was deep, and the situation upsetting. I met with one person, I met with another, I organized a meeting of the care team, and then I documented in multiple places the plan to move forward. I stayed an hour late to finish all of this and was exhausted by the time I began my walk home.

It was a full-body exhaustion: physical, mental, and emotional. As I turned down my street, I was mentally preparing to leave the day behind when I walked through my front door. I spent the last few blocks taking some deep breaths in an attempt to let go of the day, but it was still hanging on.

Two blocks from home, I looked up and saw a few adults in their early 20s walking towards me.

"Excuse me," one girl said, "Do you have a second?"

"I might," I responded cautiously.

"It's not for anything weird... I mean... Well, we're with the ______ Church and I'm wondering if there's anyone you'd like us to pray for - maybe for you or for someone you know who is having a hard time?" She and her friend both smiled and looked at me kindly. "My name is Meredith," she said.

I'm of the belief that given the line of work I'm in and the challenges I so often witness there, I'm in no position to turn down prayer. Whether it be to a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim God, whether the god be male or female or gender neutral, if someone offers to pray for me or the families I work with, I won't say no.

So I thought for a moment, wanting so much to request a prayer for this family that is causing me so much heartache but not wanting to violate any HIPAA regulations. "Could you pray for the families at my hospital?" I asked. I told her where I worked and the population I serve, and tears came to her eyes.

She asked if she could put her hand on my arm, and when I said yes she began to pray.

I don't remember all the words of her prayer, but I do remember how kind and earnest she was. It wasn't a cookie-cutter prayer. She said "um" and "uh" as she strung together her thoughts into words. But her simple, honest prayer carried a surprising depth and weight. She praised her God for wisdom and love, and acknowledged that God's heart can break just as ours can. She asked for strength and peace for the families in the hospital. And she asked for strength and peace for me.

She finished her prayer and I thanked her. We chatted for a bit and then parted ways.

I walked home feeling lighter, less anxious, and relieved. Relieved in the realization that I am not carrying these burdens alone. Relieved at the idea that there might be some larger power that will help me through these difficult days - if not by solving the complex social problems I witness at work, at least by sending people like Meredith to pray for me when I need it most.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Walk Home

I was a few blocks from home when I saw them: a group of four pre-teen kids (a mix of male and female) hanging out in front of a house down the street from my own. They were talking to each other and pointing to one kid's shirt. As I got closer, I could see that this kid was wearing a (clean) maxi-pad stuck to his shirt. And his friends were laughing - not at him, but at the fact that I had noticed. And as I walked by, one kid said, "Don't mind them - they're all crazy!"

As I walked towards home laughing, I thought, "These are the kids I'd be friends with if I were their age."

Friday, May 21, 2010

These are the questions I ask every day, on my way, on my way, on my way...*

I was walking home today, in a rush to get there and finish packing before driving up to Maine, and walked past two people sitting on a bench.

"Excuse me?" said the female, "Could you answer a question for us?"

"Sure" I shrugged.

"What do you think your purpose in life is?"

"Um, I, uh..."

"We're not going to record your answer or anything. We're just having a discussion and wanted to get more input."

"Well..." I began, "I guess I'm not sure where to go with that... do you mean career-wise, or personally, or...?"

"How about answering this question instead," said the male. "Which is more rewarding: interpersonal connections or self-satisfaction?"

I thought for a moment before I responded, "I don't believe one can have self-satisfaction without interpersonal connections."

They seemed satisfied with my answer and I continued on my way.

What about you? Would you have stopped to answer questions from strangers? What would your answers have been?


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

For Cragin

I didn't know you well (I think we met once), but we shared a history. We were part of the same group, but in distinct time periods. We sang the same songs, but next to different people.

Today I received news that you died this weekend. And it brought back memories of a night more than 11 years ago, when another group member was lost. I am sick to think how your friends must feel now, as I remember all too clearly the shock and disbelief I felt then.

Even though I know you and Christine never met in real life, I imagine you two finding each other in Heaven. I imagine you both becoming friends and starting your own a cappella group. And that makes me smile.

If there is a chance to sing for you in a few weeks when I'm on campus, you can bet I'll be there.

Until then, I share the song we sang for Christine. I sing it for you tonight.

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice...
That was not ours although we understood...
The sea was not a mask. No more was she...

And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker.

As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker.

- Wallace Stevens

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rain, Rain

I walked home in the rain tonight. There was thunder and lightening in the distance, and as I got closer to home the rain came down harder and harder. If it weren't for my new shoes getting wet, it would have been a lovely walk home.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

She Said

"It's been five months last week," she said.

I couldn't believe how much time had passed.

"It's been a tough week," she said.

My phone call had made her cry.

"People tell me I visit his grave too often," she said.

I told her they were wrong.

"I often wonder what might have been," she said. "Did we make the right choices? Did we do what was best for him?" and then an urgent plea - "Please tell me that we did."

I comfort her and reassure her as best as I can, because I was witness to his final days and I know that he was loved beyond measure.

And as she remembers, so do I.

And for a moment, there is no talking. Just silent tears between us.


I was witness. I sometimes forget what an incredible honor and responsibility that is. And I sometimes forget how important it is to remain connected to these families. To remember with them. To talk about their angels when no one else knows what to say.

More often than not, I don't know what to say. I get overwhelmed by the idea of picking up the phone to make that call, so I put if off until "later", though of course I have no clear plan as to when "later" might be.

But on my brave days, I pick up the receiver and dial the number. And on those days I am rewarded with a raw and most pure form of human connection. Those days remind me more than any others why I do the work I do.

I want to be brave more often, because it feels good to listen. It feels good to talk. And it feels good to remember the angels.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Eight Things in a Salad

This morning, MOMP posted about a life lesson she learned regarding the minimum number of ingredients required for a good salad (five). Inspired, I decided to have a salad for dinner. I had a big stash of mixed greens (1) in my fridge, as well as some colored peppers (2) and hard-boiled eggs (3). I swung by Whole Foods to grab a few extra toppings. In the end, my salad included fava beans (4), broccoli (5), parmesan cheese (6), marinated mushrooms (7), and miso-tahini dressing (8). A wicked awesome salad, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Read This

I just started reading the blog of a good friend from college, and her writing is incredible. Check her out at Je Ne Sais Moi.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Pure Joy

Despite what you may think from reading through my posts, my job is not all doom and gloom. 

For over seven months, I've gotten to know a very special family. Our patient has faced more challenges in the past year than many people face in a lifetime. He has met some challenges with success, and has had some significant disappointments as well. Throughout it all - even at the lowest points -  his family has remained strong in their faith that he would be healed. 

Today, this patient got one very significant step closer to being able to go home. I can't share more information, other than to tell you that today's events are life-changing in a positive and nearly unfathomable way and I am so very happy for him and his family. 

Yes, sometimes my job is difficult and sad. But sometimes I'm witness to incredible miracles here on earth. I am so very lucky to do the work I do.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A New Year

Last year when 2008 turned to 2009, I didn't take time to appreciate all that I had experienced in 2008 (graduation, finding my dream job, gaining friends, losing friends...). I only looked forward with anticipation for what the new year would bring. A year later, I am pausing to reflect on all I have learned and experienced in 2009, and looking ahead to some goals for 2010.

To be honest, many parts of 2009 were pretty difficult. Many months of the year found me processing two situations in which people I had trusted and been close with betrayed my trust in a significant and hurtful way. There was a lot of confusion and anger and sadness as I tried to make sense of my new reality. If I'm being honest with myself (and with you, the few readers I still have out there), I'd have to say that for at least 3/4 of the year, these two relationships and their fall-out sapped much of my energy.

That said, there were many good things that happened in 2009 as well. I made some new friends and prioritized making time for a social life. I put myself on not one but two online dating sites and had a steady stream of dates to keep me feeling proactive about my dating situation. I fell even more in love with my job, despite (or perhaps because of) its intense highs and lows. I reconnected with some friends with whom I had somehow fallen out of touch. I traveled to Maine quite a bit to see friends and family and I traveled to California and Colorado to see friends. I finished my first knitted baby sweater (which also happens to be my first knitted sweater) and learned how to be creative with eyeshadow.

Overall, I think 2009 was a year for beginning to figure out how to fill my life with the people and things that mean the most to me and how not to get weighted down with those which do not. I hope to continue the positive trends in 2010 and to let the pain of those two failed relationships stay in 2009.

So here, in no particular order, are my hopes and goals for 2010. They were written on the back of a receipt at Friendly's on New Year's Day while eagerly anticipating 2010's first Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Sundae with chocolate ice cream and extra peanut butter sauce.

- In 2010, I want to entertain more. We have an amazing house for entertaining and I want to create more opportunities for friends to get together. That could mean having people over to watch Lost together (the final season starts February 2!!!), a game night, ALC gathering, Groundhog Day Party, or a dinner party. It will definitely mean hosting an Oscar party on March 7 so mark your calendars, book a babysitter, and pull out your fancy clothes because there will absolutely be a red carpet.

- In 2010, I want to clean and re-organize my study. I want to get rid of things that I no longer need (a goal that I have for clothing and shoes as well). I want to sell my desk and make room for a table on which I could put a sewing machine (which is currently sitting in my parents' basement in Maine). And I want to organize my filing and bills.

- In 2010, I want to prepare more meals. I want to get back in the habit of bringing healthy lunches to work with me every day. I want to try more recipes instead of just sticking with my standard go-to recipes (so send some favorite recipes my way!).

- In 2010, I want to start or join a book club, knitting club, or wine club (maybe it can be all three!) - something that provides me the opportunity to meet up regularly with a core group of people. (In San Francisco, I was part of a book club that had a great rule: not reading the book is not a reason not to come to book club. I never read the books and I always went to book club. Best. Book club. Ever.)

- In 2010, I want to read at least one book per month. The above goal will make this easy if I end up being in a book club, but if not, I still want to read at least one book per month. More would be great, but after an embarassingly long time away from being a regular reader of anything longer than a magazine article or childrens book, I think this goal is good for a start.

- In 2010, I want to put more money in savings. And I want to put some of that savings towards a vacation.

- In 2010, I want to take some time to explore my spirituality. I'm not a religious person, but I do consider myself to be spiritual. I don't know if there is a church that speaks to my spiritual beliefs, but I think I'd like to explore what's out there. I want to read more books, poems, quotes... anything really... that make me think more deeply about the world in which I live and what I'm doing in it.

- Finally, in 2010 I want to continue a very important piece of self-care I started late in 2009. I want to continue the trend of being true to myself. I want to hold myself to the same standard to which I hold others. I want to give more to relationships that bring me joy. And I need to cut back on giving so much to relationships that take my energy and give little or nothing in return. I want to try harder to reach out and ask for help rather than feeling like I have to face difficult times alone, because I know that burdens are easier shared than carried alone and that friends want to help share the load but they need to be asked. And I want to carry with me every day a healthy sense of self-worth.

These are my hopes for 2010.

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy new year...