Life IS Hard!

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care on October 13th, 2010 by Jim Hughes – 2 Comments

These days I tend to spend time with people going through tough times in their lives. I now hear stories and details that in the past I wouldn’t have known. Because people know that I provide pastoral care, they tend to tell me things that they don’t share with others.

It has made me a lot more sensitive to the fact that life is hard.

And I recognize that for most of my life I was not as aware. Not that I wouldn’t know that people were dealing with life issues — cancer, death of a loved one, caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s, etc. But I was not in a position to know the details, to hear their stories. So I didn’t recognize how very hard what they were dealing with was.

You may be one of these people for whom life is hard right now. If so, then you know, and can empathize with others going through similar times.

If you’re not, then just be aware that there are folks all around you every day for whom life is hard. And that a gentle word, a gentle touch, can mean so much, even if you don’t know all the details.

Living with Uncertainty in Washing Machines and Life

Posted in Grief and Grieving, Self Care on September 22nd, 2010 by Jim Hughes – 1 Comment

We live in a world where washing machines overflow and flood houses. According to my repair man, they all work the same way and are all prone to the same problem, the one that causes them to overflow.

He blames it on the detergents. And the fabric softeners. Over time, he says, they plug the Tygon tubing that connects to the switch that senses when to shut off the water. And when that happens, the floor gets flooded.

His recommendation? Use less detergent, and use a different type. And NEVER run the washing machine when you are not there to watch it and make sure it doesn’t overflow and flood your house.

The washing machines of our world are imperfect. We think they should be better. In fact, they could be better. One could easily design them with an additional sensor that would shut them off it they started to overflow. Or maybe the detergent makers could make better detergent products. But the extra protection from an infrequent overflow would cost more, and because our washers don’t overflow every day, we wouldn’t want to pay the difference. Unless maybe our house had just been flooded.

So because no one makes that washer that will never overflow, we live with ones that might. And because our easy chairs or our desks aren’t in the laundry room, we don’t sit and watch washers to make sure they’re not going to overflow. We just live with the uncertainty, learning to allow it to be pushed from the fronts of our minds by other things.

More importantly, we want a life that we can control, a life that is surprise-free, a life that isn’t disrupted by unexpected incidents. No one makes that life, just like no one makes the washing machine that could never overflow. Things happen, some of them tragic, some of them painful, some of them even fatal. That’s the way life works.

So we learn to live with uncertainty, and the prospect of not only flooded floors, but disrupted lives. Because we have no other choice.

Some days will be like this.

Posted in Personal on September 17th, 2010 by Jim Hughes – Be the first to comment

Some days will be like this. I don’t know why, they just are.

Actually it started yesterday. I’d finished mowing, taken a shower, and put my mowing clothes in the washer and started it. Then I sat down in the den for a few minute before leaving to go eat and do some errands.

When I started to get up, I could see the water running from the kitchen into the hall. The washing machine had overflowed. Again. The entire kitchen, the laundry room, the garage, the hall, and a little of the den were very wet.

My first mode of attack was to use the hard surface floor cleaner to start sucking up the water. It sucked its capacity in about 3 seconds. I figured out pretty quickly that wasn’t going to be much help. Then I grabbed the 5 gallon wet vac, and that was great until it was time to try to empty it. Finally I shifted to the carpet cleaner, which was more manageable, and I finally got it all cleaned up.

So first thing this morning I called GE to set up a repair appointment under our service agreement. You see, the same thing happened two years ago, and I ended up buying the agreement. After navigating the phone tree and having to call another number, I got a representative reading from a script in broken English. He said I had to unplug the washer for one minute to reset it to see if the part was really defective. I did, watched it fill to the top thinking I’d shut it off quickly enough, only to have water running on the floor again! He kept asking questions while I kept telling him I needed it fixed and I needed to clean up the water, but eventually he got what he needed and I got an appointment. And I got the water cleaned up. Again.

So I thought I’d go have a nice lunch, soup and a salad, at Panera Bread. I ordered chicken tortilla soup and a classic salad with ranch on the side. When the food came, the salad didn’t have ranch dressing. I told the waiter, who responded, “We don’t have ranch.” “Well, what is this dressing?” “I don’t know,” she replied, “but I’ll ask.” “Balsamic,” she said a few minutes later. I didn’t tell her that the reason I didn’t order the Greek salad was I didn’t want balsamic. I just ate it, figuring it was part of the day.

After lunch, I went to HEB to pick up a few grocery items. It’s one of my favorite places, actually, and a trip there usually makes me feel good. And everything was going great until it was time to check out. Checkout was more like Walmart than HEB’s normally great experience. But after the way other stuff had been going, it just confirmed to me that it was just one of those days.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow!

Some weeks I need my Moleskin.

Posted in Personal, Self Care on August 2nd, 2010 by Jim Hughes – Be the first to comment

Well Used

Some weeks I need my Moleskin.

I need to physically write things down, bullet lists of to do’s that I can check off as I go.

For some reason, it just doesn’t work the same when I do it on the iPhone. I’ve tried all the apps, some of them very good. But I end up feeling more overwhelmed, instead of more focused.

During Dad’s illness and recovery period, it was my go-to for information ranging from his Rx list to Dr. contact information to lists of what I needed to handle and ideas of how to do it.

It’s not a big Moleskin. It’s one that will fit in my pocket, one which will allow a pen to be held when it’s kept closed by the elastic closure thingy.

When things are going along pretty smoothly, I don’t need it. I keep up with things in my head or on my calendar.

But when things get hectic, as this week’s going to be, I grab it and start writing. It’ll be in my pocket the whole week, keeping me focused, keeping me comfortable, like a blankie.

What helps you be focused and comfortable during hectic or stressful weeks?

Times of Refreshment

Posted in Caregiving, Personal, Self Care on July 30th, 2010 by Jim Hughes – Be the first to comment

I think he's smiling!

It’s Friday, and I woke up early this morning.

I’ve enjoyed the quiet, watching the sun rise in a clear sky, hearing and watching the world in my back yard wake up. I saw the great horned owl come home to roost from his night’s hunting, ready for his day of rest. I saw the wasp that started building a nest on our back porch go from sleeping while hanging by a thread to the nest to resuming active building. I heard the sounds of other creatures big and small beginning to move, and the sound of traffic as people became busy.

Meth the goldfish, the name Eloise gave him because he’s lived so long (short for Methuselah), was excited that I was up, hoping for a few flakes of food. Missy Dog was still curled up in a ball when I went to let her out of her kennel. But she too was eager for the day after a few stretches.

I slowly sipped a cup of home-roasted Honduran coffee, not because I needed the caffeine, but because of the joy of its rich taste.

And I had a quiet conversation with God. We talked about Jim and Pam, and the slow process of recovery from a double lung transplant, about the joy of small steps, about the challenges of each moment. We talked about Earnest and Xenia, each caring for spouses who have suffered debilitating strokes. And we talked about many others, currently on my prayer list, asking his blessing and intervention for them.

But we also talked about how amazingly beautiful this world is that he’s given us to live in for a little while, and I spent some time wondering what Heaven must be like if this world is so gorgeous.

Most of my mornings are not this good. I wish they were. It’s a calm in a storm, a chance to catch my breath, a time of refreshing.

Much of the last week has been about caregiving. It had worn me out. I had lost a night’s sleep at the ER with daughter Sara as she suffered though another bout of pancreatitis. Then after getting her home, there was concern and being on call as she rode it out. I also spent long hours with Dad at doctors’ appointments and tests. Sara’s recovered and Dad’s test results were good. Another storm weathered. I’d never wish that I was not the go-to guy for them — I prize being able to be there for them. But it has its price.

My refreshing comes from quiet times like this morning. And from some focused time taking and processing and sharing photographs of beautiful things. And reflecting. And conversations with a God who loves me they way I am. And having a loving wife who puts up with me even when I’m weird.

I’m hoping that you’re having times of refreshment along the way too.