Bastet

If you read this blog then you know I was a funeral director for five years. I followed my dad into the “family” business right out of college.  I was lost and didn’t know what to do with my life so my parents provided me with a steady job while I worked out the details.  I mention this because  I am in the depths of grief over something that I never thought would be a big deal.

Psycho Puss B

On Monday, I had my precious cat (Bastet) put to sleep. She was a wonderful companion for nearly 18 years of my life.

Her death rocked me to the core.

I always joked that Bastet had lived with me longer than anyone (even my wife).  For some reason this sweet tortoiseshell persian  picked me as her “person.” In fact the night we first got her, the little rascal (no bigger than a rolled up sock) lay on my chest and promptly bit my nipple!  I was her “go to” her “god,” her everything….

Which is what made Monday so damn hard.

As an OT I see loss daily. Usually I encounter a patient’s loss of freedom, independence, function…but recently, I came across something which took me back…

It occurred during an evaluation.  I was in a hurry and only had a chance to glance at this patient’s medical history which showed:

Fx (fractured) humerus resulting from MVA (motor vehicle accident)

A broken arm?  Good!  I love working with shoulder patients. (This is how we therapists think–strange I know)

When I arrived at the address, I stumbled into a spacious apartment, where beautiful antique clocks and tables filled every crevice.  A reserved, frail woman, silently beckoned me with a wave of her hand. I sensed her unease so I began with some small talk.

“Looks like someone likes antiques…”

“Yes, my husband was fond of clocks.”

“He had great taste.”

Pressed for time, I jammed through the evaluation, hitting all of the major areas of concern (safety, doctor’s orders, pain management…the works). I was wrapping up and feeling pretty good about myself when I asked,

“How long have you lived here?”

“Oh, we were planning to move here for quite some time…starting a new chapter of sorts, but my husband was killed in the accident…”

My heart dropped to my stomach as she began to cry.

I felt her grief…thick….gnawing, numbness that sucked the air out of that beautiful room.  It hit me in the chest and my eyes began to water.

I’ve said this before…and I’ll say it again…my job is to support the client NOT crumble with them. My goal (just as it was in the funeral business) is to provide strong guidance that encourages healing.  Well, as I started to lose myself in this lady’s grief, I tossed all of that “heady” stuff aside and hugged her.  I won’t lie…it was awkward.  I didn’t even know this lady and yet we cried together…but I truly couldn’t help it and my client didn’t seem to mind.

This woman experienced grief–real grief. So why does a cat’s (Bastet’s) death upset me so much?

Initially, I though it was because I had a hand in her death.  I was the one who authorized our vet to euthanize her.  I still think this was the main reason for my distress, but there’s more to it.  Bastet’s death was my loss on several levels.  In fact both Reece and I could feel an emptiness following her death.  It was as though part of our family was cut away leaving a void in its place.  But more than that, I think Bastet’s death reminded me how fragile life is.  In a matter of 24 hours, a pet whom I loved, cared for and nurtured nearly half my life was gone forever. The comparisons began to flood my brain and I began to see (in a small, small –fraction of a way) how devastating death and loss can be.

Ekart Tollie puts it this way:

“As people around you pass away, you become increasingly aware of your own mortality…Many people still, in our civilization, deny death. They don’t want to think about it, don’t want to give it any attention.”

My first real experience with this was when my grandma died.  Mom and dad had left me in charge of the funeral home, therefore I was forced to make heart crushing decisions.

Should I pick grandma up and bring her to our funeral home?

Should I call dad right away? How am I going to tell him?

Who else should I call?

What arrangements should I make? 

My brain drowned in emotions blocking any semblance of rationality. When you work as a funeral director, you learn to block out the grief. For some silly reason, I thought this same ability (to numb the pain) would carry into my personal life. I was sorely mistaken.

So there I was, sitting at the vet with Bastet in my arms…hoping a definite sign would reveal itself.  In my heart I knew it was over, but I held hope that something would happen…a test, treatment…anything to give me a clear course of action.  But nothing happened.  If anything, the waters became more muddy as our vet rifled through scenario after scenario.

“She’s very dehydrated so we can administer IV fluids to make her feel better….or you could leave her here overnight while we run more tests…we don’t know if anything will make her feel better but if you’re looking for options….”

I didn’t want options.  I wanted clear-cut answers.  I wanted someone to tell me what to do. Here was my sweet Bastet, looking into my eyes then burying her head into my chest…with one decision holding her life in balance.

My wife says, being an adult sucks sometimes because you have to make THE decision.  The decision as I saw it was that Bastet was not going to get better.  Her condition was chronic and after some IV fluids, we would be right back where we were.  It was time.

It was time.

In the end, I sat alone with Bastet, in some back room, waiting for the doc to return for her final shot.  It was the hardest part because she kept trying to fight and get back into her cat carrier.  She wanted to go home…but she never would return home and it crushed me.  When the doc finally arrived, I wrapped her in a blanket and she calmed down.  As I cradled her, I looked into her wide eyes and told her how sorry I was…how wonderful she had been…how I wished I could hold her forever…how I wished I could see her through this.

Bastet was just a cat, but she was so much more than that.  I’ve heard the belief that attachment (to anything) is wrong because it causes pain. Attachment does indeed cause pain, but the pain I experience over Bastet’s death is well worth all of the love, joy and tenderness she gave me in her short life. I love you my Bastet…and I can’t wait to meet you again at the Rainbow Bridge.

Cat and El B

 

 

 

Not Living Like Joaquin

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” 

Mark 9:24

 I like to talk to myself.  It’s a strangely addictive habit, but easily hidden unless you’re outside your car. My most recent one-way-conversation went something like this…

Q: How do you achieve fulfillment in life?

A: By trusting God and giving Him control.

Q: How do you give God control?

A: Through Faith.

Q: Do you live your life through faith?

A: Sometimes. There have been times when I have “LET GO AND LET GOD.” Remember when I left Thomas More (TMC) to play baseball at Ball State (BSU)? I took a chance telling myself, “you’ll never know how far you can go unless you take this opportunity.” Or what about when I decided to leave the funeral home and become an occupational therapist because I knew that continuing down that path (in the family business) would end in resentment?

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I pitched from 1993-94 at TMC with good success, so when the opportunity came to play at a higher level I transferred to BSU. I ended up pitching less than 30 innings in 2 seasons for the BSU Cardinals. 

Following college, I worked as a funeral director in the family business before accepting a remedial job at Children’s Hospital, becoming the oldest rehab tech on record.  I worked 3+ years at Children’s on my way to earning a master’s degree in OT.

Q: Do you regret these decisions?

A: Not at all because they both lead to growth.  I wouldn’t be the same person without those experiences.

Q: How is that living in faith?

A: It’s believing in your decision and not getting grid-locked over all the variables.  It’s what a friend of mine calls a Bold Move.

https://www.facebook.com/allan.milham?fref=ts&ref=br_tf

Q: Oh yeah, Allan.  Nice guy.  Anyway, you said that you “sometimes” live through faith.  What do you mean by that?

A: Wait that old lady in the hoopty is staring….okay she thinks I’m singing.  “Sometimes” means that there have been times in my life when I didn’t make that leap….where I allowed my fears to control me.

A: For instance?

Q: For instance…right now….I’m waiting for the perfect job opportunity to come around instead of stepping out of my comfort zone.

Q: But fear is good right?  I mean if you took everything by faith, you’d end up standing at the bottom of an exit ramp, holding a cardboard sign and wearing a wife beater.

A: Is there a question in there?

Q: Ummm….fear can be good so isn’t it better to be safe than reckless?

A: Sure, but I’m not talking about pulling a Joaquin Phoenix here…I’m talking about how fear limits my full potential. If I allowed fear (instead of faith) to rule my life, I’d be living alone in the basement of a funeral home, blaming others for my frustrating life. If I never surrendered to God, then Little Panda would be a cute name instead of my future daughter. You see what I’m saying?

Q: Yeah, but you’d better calm down.  You forgot to roll up the windows and you’re beginning to shout.

A: Can I turn on the radio or do you have more questions?

Q: I have one more question.

A: Shoot.

Q: Who’s Joaquin Phoenix?

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Perspective

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“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

― Viktor E. FranklMan’s Search for Meaning

Is perspective everything?  I’ve thought so for a long time and my beliefs are becoming more ingrained the older I get.  When I go through life this way, everything makes more sense.

Let me explain why.

Keeping things in perspective to me, means that everything (good, bad, indifferent) is relative. This means that every thought, idea, belief or act of mine is a product of my own personal life view. So when I say that I believe in Jesus the Son of God, my statement is based on an American, Christian, white, middle class worldview.  Life makes sense when I realize people’s actions are dependent on their perspective.  From this view, I look from above the forest and bask in it’s beauty and complexity.  The trouble is, I am constantly drawn back into that forest and become buried in foliage.  I forget that no matter what path I take, I have the power to experience it any way I want and that events I see as stressful, may (in reality) be good for me:

I wonder how many things in life would change by putting this principle into practice?

In his book, Searching for Life’s Meaning, Viktor Frankl described how he turned imprisonment at a Nazi Death camp into a meaningful experience.

“The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. … Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.”

But knowing this idea and putting it into practice are two different things.  For example, how do I change my perspective on waiting for our Little Panda?  It’s been almost ten months now and the wait seems never ending. If I focus on this fact then my wait becomes a watched pot, but if I recall that the average wait for a match is twelve months, then wham! my perspective changes and I’m back in the game of hope.

I believe a lot of our power to manifest a meaningful life comes from perspective.  We humans are built to bring meaning to things. So rambling about this accomplishes a few things for me….it allows me to frame our wait for Panda into something positive like:

  • The time is not right…either our family or Panda are not in the right place yet
  • This extra time allows us to properly prepare for our new daughter
  • Each passing day takes one day off the wait (BTW–This is how I get through Winter)
  • We have done everything that’s in our control, now is time to let go and trust in God

Just by framing things this way, makes the wait bearable….

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. FranklMan’s Search for Meaning

To read some of more of Viktor E. Frankl quotes click the link below

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2782.Viktor_E_Frankl

God Genius

I have it all…family, friends, health…everything…yet one area of my life continues to elude me…

a job that I love.  

Don’t get me wrong….my profession allows me to touch lives in positive ways, but I have yet to find a job that sings to me…inspires me…empowers me to use my gifts to their fullest potential.

This struggle for a meaningful job has intensified over the past few years as home health tries to remain viable within our careening health care system.  I won’t bore you with all the details but at one point I was working four separate home health jobs to make ends meet.

Like most spoiled kids, I complain about these sort of things to God. 

“I want a job that inspires me!”  

“Why can’t I have a job that allows my wife to stay home?”  

“Why don’t you show me a clear path to follow?”  

Pretty ungrateful…I know…but I have scant tolerance for uncertainty and over the past two years my job has been about as certain as a Reds winning streak.

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I’ve always had a job in healthcare and am blessed for that, but my current path in home health is overgrown with weeds and I’m tired of pulling them.

 

Enter a new opportunity…

There’s a possibility that I may be moving into a different field, but I don’t know if it’s the right move.  It will be a difficult road but in the end it MAY prove to be the right course. Do I take it?

 

God?  PLEASE SHOW ME! 

 

To help me through this, I decided to shout out to God and see if He answered.  He always answers, but usually a) I don’t hear through the chatter of of my monkey brain or b) don’t listen long enough to hear His voice.

As many of you know, I see God through music.  I truly believe He speaks to me through songs and lyrics that evoke feelings…alerting me of His presence. So Monday while in my car for the morning commute, I asked God to be my Almighty DJ. 

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Let me explain.

 

I have an I-Pod with 4654 songs from numerous hard rock genres. In essence I said, “God, I’m struggling with this job decision so I want you to talk to me through my music.” 

Before I continue, I must inform you that my I-Pod was on “shuffle” (not Genius) which means that any one of those 4000 + tunes could have randomly come up. Brilliant songs from classy bands like Acid Bath, Tool, The Dillinger Escape Band, etc.  In fact I would say 70 to 80% of my tunes are either classic rock, metal or a variation of the two.  In other words, If you’re looking for the newest tune by Mary Chapin Carpenter…good luck.

So I hit “Play” and these are the songs (in order) God chose for my 30 minute commute:

 

“Call Me Fool” by Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO48FEOakow

I can’t believe I finally found the key, the door, the trip it was all in my mind now I’m one with the fools of love

I can’t believe I finally found the prisoner, the free man were all in my mind now I’m one with the fools of love

 
These fools of love are misunderstood their history is with me now
I can’t believe my core was shaken I gave up the ghost of everything I was before now I’m one with the fools of love
 
The fools of love are misunderstood the mystery is with me now so call me a fool call me a fool call me a fool
I can’t believe my dream is over I woke up this morning with nothing but light in my eyes now I’m one with the fools of love
 
I can’t believe the key, the door, the clouds that blocked the sun they were all in my mind now I’m one with the fools of love

And these fools of love are misunderstood their history is with me now so call me fool call me a fool call me a fool the fools of love are misunderstood the mystery is with me now

 

“He” by Jars of Clay
(This song has always “hit” me and I know God used it because I’m thinking of going back into Pediatrics)
 
 
 
Don’t try to reach me, I’m already dead
The pain when it grips me, for things that I’ve done

Well I try to make you proud, but for crying out loud
Just give me a chance to hide away
Exhaustion takes over, will this someday be over?

[Chorus:]

Fearful tears are running down
The pain you’ve laid don’t speak a sound
Don’t take my heart away from me
And they think I fell down

Daddy, don’t you love me?
Then why do you hit me?
And Momma don’t you love me
Then why do you hurt me?
Well I try to make you proud, but for crying out loud
Just give me a chance to hide away
Exhaustion takes over, will this someday be over?

[Chorus]

A teardrop falls from up in the heavens
Drowning the sorrow of angels on high
For the least of the helpless, the hopeless, the loveless
My Jesus, His children, He holds in His eyes


“Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” by Robert Plant
 
 
 
Satan, your kingdom must come down
Satan, your kingdom must come down
I heard the voice of Jesus say
Satan, your kingdom must come down

Gonna pray until they tear your kingdom down
Gonna pray until they tear your kingdom down
I heard the voice of Jesus say
Satan, your kingdom must come down

Gonna shout until they tear your kingdom down
Gonna shout until they tear your kingdom down
I heard the voice of Jesus say
Satan, your kingdom must come down

 

“Faithfully”
(It was the Glee version—gotta bite the bullet and keep with what God gave me)
 
Highway run
Into the midnight sun
Wheels go round and round
You’re on my mind
Restless hearts
Sleep alone tonight
Sending all my love
Along the wire

They say that the road
Ain’t no place to start a family
Right down the line
It’s been you and me
And lovin’ a music man
Ain’t always what it’s supposed to be
Oh, girl, you stand by me
I’m forever yours
Faithfully

Circus life
Under the big top world
We all need the clowns
To make us smile
Through space and time
Always another show
Wondering where I am
Lost without you

And being apart
Ain’t easy on this love affair
Two strangers learn to fall in love again
I get the joy of rediscovering you
Oh, girl, you stand by me
I’m forever yours
Faithfully

Faithfully
I’m still yours

I’m forever yours
Ever yours
Faithfully


As I said, my music is mainly heavy, ridiculous stuff so there wasn’t an abundance of choices here which makes this so amazing.  4 songs (undeniably chosen) in a row that speak to me.  

 

God is with me…He is with you…we just need to tune in.

The Waiting Game

Does anyone like to wait?

Just thinking of a clogged I-75 burns my biscuits.

Why?

Because waiting is un-American.  Because our society runs like a blitzkrieg.  Because instant information is readily available at our fingertips.

You get the point.

Time is a strange thing.  Some days are gone in a blink, while others crawl along like Slowpoke Rodriguez.

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The best explanation I’ve heard about this phenomena came from a very smart lady.  Grandma was 95 years old when I asked, “Why does time speed up when you get older?” Granny smiled. “When you’re young, you feel as though you have all the time in the world, but when you get old, time flies by. I think it’s because the longer you’re here the less a year seems in comparison to your age…” I thought her explanation was brilliant.  In essence, Granny was saying that 1 year to a 10 year old goes slower than mine because 365 days constitutes 1/10th of their lived experience while it’s only 1/40th of mine therefore, to me the year “feels” smaller in comparison.

Boy-Looking-Confused.png (530×484) I still think it’s brilliant.

Unfortunately Granny’s time theory isn’t working in regards to our adoption because each day is dragging.  Things were really cookin’ during the dossier process, but now time has slowed to glacial speed. I’ve read the hardest part of an adoption is the wait. Perhaps that’s true–but until a child becomes available on the special needs list, there’s nothing to do but wait. On average, it’s taking about 12 months to be matched with a special needs child through our agency.  We completed our medical list about 9 months ago, so hopefully we’re rounding third on this.

Why is the process taking so long?  In my attempt to answer this conundrum, I decided to look online for  answers.  Here’s the skinny:

According to this article written by NPR in 2012, China is encouraging domestic adoptions over foreign ones which has slowed the process.

http://www.npr.org/2012/08/07/157844554/would-be-parents-wait-as-foreign-adoptions-plunge

NBC news writes, “China has eased its one-child policy, fewer baby girls are abandoned, domestic adoptions of healthy orphans have increased…causing the waiting time to triple in the past four years.”

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/36037857/ns/health-childrens_health/t/adopting-chinas-special-needs-kids/#.U7YV6JRX-uY

Finally CNN states, the process has slowed due to “rising regulations and growing sentiment in countries such as Russia and China against sending orphans abroad.”

http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/16/world/international-adoption-main-story-decline/

This same article claims that, ” As China slows international adoptions, the number of children filling its orphanages is climbing — rising to 92,000 in 2011, almost a 50% rise from 2004, according to China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs.”

I think orphans SHOULD be adopted by their own people, but obviously the supply of orphans continues to overwhelm the demand for domestic adoptions in China, which brings me back to the original question…why the wait?

If there is such a great need, then why is the process taking so darn long?

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I’m open to answers…

Mine All Mine

It’s been awhile since a song inspired me, but leave it to Van Halen.

 

“Mine All Mine”

Forgive me father 
For I have sinned 
I’ve been through hell and back again 
Shook hands with the devil 
Looked him in the eye 
Looked like a long lost friend 
Anything you want 
Any dirty deeds 
He’s got everything 
Except what I really need 
Keepin’ me temporarily satisfied 
But not one thing I tried 
Filled me up inside 
Or felt like mine 
Mine, all mine 
Yeah, the search goes on 
The more I look 
My world keeps getting smaller 
Staring at the sun 
Searchin’ for the light 
Almost ended up blinded 
Some only see 
What they want to see 
Claiming victory 
Oh, but that’s not me 
Give me truth 
Give me something real 
I just want to feel 
Like it’s 
Mine, all mine 
Oh really mine, all mine 
Come on give me something 
Something that’s mine, all mine, all mine 
Mine, all mine 
All the words on the wall 
Look the same in the mirror 
Every riddle 
Every clue 
You got Allah in the east 
You got Jesus in the west 
Christ, what’s a man to do? 
They’ll find a cure for anything 
Just kill the pain 
Numb my brain 
We see a man 
Speaking the word of God 
Provin’ to be a fraud 
His own church applauds 
Stop lookin’ out 
Start lookin’ in 
Be your own best friend 
Stand up and say 
Hey! This is mine 
All mine, all mine, all mine 
Baby, you got something 
And I got something 
And it’s mine, all mine, all mine 
Mine, all mine 
Mine, all mine 
Yes, I’m searching 
Mine, all mine 
Got to have it 
Mine, all mine 
Mine, all mine
I can’t say I’ve been through “hell and back again” but I can relate to searching for truth and ending up disappointed…following paths that lead to nowhere…listening to people who see this world as black and white…puzzled by those who follow blind truths without questioning them.
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I can relate to that drive for something real…replacing religiosity for tangible ways of helping other human beings…being disappointed by ideologies that claim truth but in reality are methods of justifying the human experience.
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I can relate to numbing myself to this world and what needs to be done…seeing the frustration that people have with those claiming to be followers of God while their actions don’t line up. I’m one of those not lining up!
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Finally, I can relate to finding meaning by looking “outside” myself, by looking to things that are shallow rather than deep, transitory rather than eternal…finding meaning in pleasure, money or a myriad of other worldly things.  Hey, I love this world and don’t buy that God wants us to hate our lives and everything  physical but there’s a reflection of truth in simple things.  I can’t explain it rationally, but my heart sings while pushing my kids on a swing or sitting with my dad on a park bench as the sun sets or wrapping my arms around Reece on a cold night.  Truths like these are hard to define but are what matter most…experiences  not bought at Walmart or used up…rather things connecting us together like invisible threads of love.
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God gave me this life experience and rather than allowing someone else to dictate reality, I’m gonna do like Sammy and look inside for something that’s mine—mine all mine.

Passionate Friends

Recently we shared an awesome evening with some friends of ours who share a common interest. If you’ve read my blog, you already know what that commonality is.

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Several years ago, this sweet couple adopted a little girl from China.  Reece and I have known them for years, but now something drew us all together.  All night long, the four of us reveled in this adoption journey going through videos, pictures and keepsakes from their trip to China. It was a great night for many reasons–but perhaps the biggest was our shared passion.

In the beginning of this adoption journey, I thought everyone would relate to our enthusiasm.  I was hungry for someone to share in our interest, someone moved by the same cadence of spirit, who knew where we were coming from and related to this decision to adopt a kiddo from China.  What I quickly realized was…not everyone can relate to this.

Each of us has a passion.  Maybe it’s hiking or stamp collecting…heck I knew a guy who loved to crumple paper, but the point is, your passion is yours and may not translate to others.  I’m confused with Pokemon but millions of kids (mine included) love that stuff.  To me, watching a Pokemon cartoon is about as interesting as shopping for shoes,  but my kids and wife are passionate about these things, so who am I to judge?

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Obviously, adoption is different, but is it really?  We are all called for something, whether it’s saving a child or manatee, solider or post office, redwood or tata…http://savethetatas.info/   Who’s to say which of these things is more important?  I would say the child but someone else may see it differently and I really can’t blame them.

If someone is going on and on about something they love, why not join in?  Why not bring something to the conversation?  Well, because it’s a passion you really can’t relate to.  You can try to be cordial, asking questions in support of your friend, but in the end it’s their mission and their passion…not yours.  If you told me a year ago that I would spend one entire evening of my life talking about Chinese adoptions, I would have answered like my 8-year-old daughter, “Yeah Right!”  But a passion like mine cannot be described unless you have it in you.

So the next time I’m rambling about China and see that glazed-over look creeping into your eyes, it won’t bother me.  Why should it?  This isn’t your mission, this is my mission and I’m driven by a different motive…different meaning and purpose…one that’s unique to me.

What’s your passion?

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