Monday, July 24, 2017

Life is My Runway

Ever since I was a kid, I've felt that fashion was important. Well, maybe not fashion exactly, but definitely how I present myself. There is a certain vibrance in appearance I was always searching for, a kind of zest that burst forth from the clothes and shoes and accessories I chose. In short, I dressed purposefully. 

[My first day of school outfit, age 6.]
I still dress purposefully. It doesn't have anything to do with the best clothes or expensive taste. I'm a social worker. I bargain shop. I look for the little pieces of awesome. I match and pair things together in a complimentary way, much like some folks pair a good meal with fine wine. It's a conscious decision about trivial stuff like earrings, pops of color, or scarves, but every little thing I put on, every little thing I carry with's like a message for anyone I meet. I dress purposefully...with intention...because I want everyone I see to feel like they mattered when I got ready in the morning. And I want to bring cheerfulness and joy with me when I walk into the lives of others. I feel like my outfits can do that.
[Bright necklaces can be talking points!]
I can't tell you how many times the bold necklaces I've chosen become fun topics of conversation with female patients in memory support units. They touch them as little children would...they comment on the eye-catching qualities...they talk about the necklaces they used to wear.

[Color and joy in living can show up in anything...including my clothes.]
There was a day a few years ago it dawned on me that I might be the most exciting part of someone's day. I think about that often now. My burst of energy through someone's door, my smile, and my outfit might be the best thing they see. What a huge responsibility, if you really think about it. What an honor and an awesome opportunity, if you think about it further. 

It's not a big deal, this whole outfit thing. But at the same's kind of a big deal. I remember a patient I used to have who looked forward to seeing what I'd be wearing every week. Where did I get it? She'd ask me. She'd really want to know. 

[I want my clothes to say: I like what I do. I'm happy to be here.]
I remember a patient who said, "Where did you get this dress?" 
"Stitch Fix," I said. And from that point on, it was like our "thing." She'd want to know what had come in my Stitch Fix package every other month. Silly? Maybe. Human? Absolutely. We're all curious, fun-loving creatures. And just because you're used to wearing pajamas and staying in bed all day every day doesn't mean you don't love clothes!

[Even my rain boots are fun. I wouldn't have it any other way.]
My rain boots are teal green. My winter coat is red like Little Red Riding Hood. I want even my outwear which has the primary purpose to protect from weather to have the secondary purpose to bring a shot of color and personality to the homes I visit.

I have a male patient who calls this my Pineapple Hair. Who knew that so much attention would be paid to whether my hair was up or down? That it could become an inside joke? 

[One of my favorite tops]

[In the cooler months, I love to rock a variety of scarves.]

Some might call me crazy, say I'm putting too much stock in material items...but that's not what it's about for me. 

Sometimes I dress up, sometimes I don't... but no matter what I wear, I enter every home, every space, with a smile and as I say "Hi" and "How are you?" I'm also saying - with my clothes - "I'm present. I always look forward to seeing you. My job is important to me. I want to radiate joy for you. I love life. Let's enjoy it together."

And I will continue to dress purposefully.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Looking Back

It's my work-i-versary. 2 years ago today, I began my journey as a Hospice MSW, LSW. I took this photo on July 6th, 2015, before I left my house in the morning.

I had just left a job I enjoyed, people with whom I loved working, and a whole ton of elderly residents I was going to miss. Being the Social Work Director at a skilled nursing facility in Allentown was a stint I'll always remember with fondness, but I was ready to move on.

Still, I was scared. I had just survived the most difficult year of my life - my first year of widowhood. Before I even had a chance to really ride the second year, I was jumping into a new reality. I was leaving my Positivity Wall I'd created at the nursing home - a colorful mosaic of powerful and gratitude-filled quotes in art form - but I was bringing masses of positivity with me on my new journey (I hoped).

[my last day with my Positivity Wall]
From the beginning, I felt right at home at Hospice. It didn't take long for me to fit in with the amazing people I'd started calling co-workers. I became one of those women whom people would meet and say, "I don't know how you do that work." People would comment on the sad aspects of the job, never understanding the beauty. I began to perfect my response: "It takes all kinds of people to make this world work," I'd say. Sometimes I'd change it up by saying, "I love what I do." Both statements are true.

I'm so glad I made the decision to change jobs, to take a risk to move on, to listen to my intuition (which told me Hospice was the place for me). As I've lived and breathed this work over the last two years, I've realized that there's nowhere else I'd rather be. In fact, I want to to keep doing this work as long as I can. There is nothing tugging me in another direction. I'm in this for the long haul. I have dreams and plans and my Positivity Wall is now a private gallery in the quiet of my mind. I'm doing what I love and loving what I do. There's nowhere I'd rather be.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Vacation Contemplation

As I sit on a beautiful beach, sea breeze blowing through my hair, my new husband beside me, and the happy screams of my bonus kids filling my ears, it's easy to recall other vacations I've had over the years. While I wiggle my toes in the hot sand and set my book to the side, it's the funny stories and random little moments that really stick out, not the hotels in which I've stayed, the ice cream cones I've licked, or the hyped-up activities I looked forward to as a kid.

While I may have been on almost every pier ride at Seaside Heights, NJ for example, it's not the rides I remember most. What pushes itself to the forefront of my memory is my dad effortlessly playing the Frog Bog on the boardwalk and winning me stuffed animals. It seemed amazing to me at the time that he could win at a game so few could master.

I also remember, not the various hotel pools or the beach shops I loved, but the fact that my grandparents sometimes came along on vacations with my parents, my brother, and me. I remember standing in the pool with my Nana, realizing that the water came up higher on her than it did on me because she was little and I was still growing.

I don't remember much the shells I found or the castles I built in the sand, but I do remember laughing with my mom over countless trials - all but forcing her to go on a spinning ride with me, for instance, after which she could barely function due to nausea.

I also recall eating too much ice cream and needing to use a bathroom on a random street on Martha's Vineyard where my mom had to barricade the whole Ladies' Room so I could go without my public bathroom phobia. :-D

I watch my new bonus children frolic in the waves of the Jersey shore and laugh to myself. My new husband smiles next to me, pointing out the funny gestures his children make from afar. Today we instituted a new tradition we called "Family Nap." Jeff and I, having gotten approximately 4 hours of sleep, made the fleeting statement that we felt a nap was in order between our morning fishing excursion and heading to the beach. Shockingly, we heard the words "I could take a nap," uttered by 11 year old Mia, immediately followed by a shrug from 8 year old Julia and the words, "I don't care. I'll take a nap." Needless to say, Jeff and I did not hesitate to run upstairs and leap in the king size bed at 12:30 pm. Mia and Julia leaped on after us, and our massive dog Luna took up the only space left, leaping on top to complete "Family Nap." We may have exceeded the weight limit for the bed, but I consider it a great success. My only regret was not having another person present to take a photo.

I smile remembering that last night, on the 4th of July, we were all so tired that we unanimously opted to stay inside and snuggle in our pajamas rather than go watch the nearby fireworks.

My experiences with family vacations used to be reserved for my own childhood memories - arguing, singing, laughing, eating, playing, and planning. Now I get to experience my own family vacations, high on life and excited about all the future events yet to come.

I'd choose a family vacation over a honeymoon any day. I've longed for this family.