Monday, August 05, 2013

True Story: Do the Dew

A friend and I were chatting recently, and I shared this story. At her prompting, I'm sharing it here for a wider aurdience...just so you all get some small glimpse into the life of nurses who visit people in their homes.

Lots of people think caring for people in their own homes looks like this:
...and sometimes it does. But not always.

True story: The year was 2000. I was a home care nurse and had a new patient to admit to our services in East Palo Alto, CA. For those of you who don't know, that was (still is?) a bad part of town – definitely the wrong side of the tracks.

(This picture is not EPA, but you get the idea)

As I pulled up in front of the house, there was nowhere to park…but right in front of the patient’s house, a dude was leaning into the driver’s side window of a parked car and clearly some sort of “deal” was being done, with cash being exchanged quickly, etc. Also of note, in one hand, the dude held the leash of a large rottweiler.

The car drove away and I parked in his spot.

The guy who'd been leaning in the driver's side window took the rottweiller (named "Felony", I later found out!) and tied it up to the garage door handle.

...then he began walking toward mydriver's side wondow. The look on his face said both "Are you sure you want to be here man?" and "If you aren't supposed to be here, you're going to be sorry!"

I took a deep breath and rolled down my window, introduced myself as a nurse who was here to see someone in the neighborhood and...was it OK to park here?

He said “Oh, you must be Keith! My dad said you would be here soon. Sorry about that man – I’ll make sure you always have a parking place, don’t worry about it!” …and he always did!

He turned out to be a very devoted son, and was really helpful all the time; clearly cared a lot for his dad…in the middle of various “deals” he was doing outside.

…and one day as I was getting ready to leave, he said “Hey, do you like Mt. Dew?” I said, “Umm, yeah, but I’m headed out to see another patient so I can’t stay, sorry.” He said, “No problem – here take some with you!” and he opened a closet door.

On the floor of the closet were approximately 30 two-liter bottles of Mt. Dew!

My mind flashed through a few scenarios as I wondered where in the heck he got THIRTY 2-liter bottles of Mt. Dew…but I didn’t ask him.

I just said thanks, grabbed a bottle, and walked out to my car… =)

~ Keith

Monday, December 24, 2012

Freedom and Flying

I read this quote recently (from a friend on facebook) and realized how strongly I identify with it!
I can't speak for anyone else, but at a certain point the experience of running surpassed in value, and by a pretty wide margin, my desire to make sense out of it. 
I don't know why I run. I don't know why I race. I don't know why I compete. I don't need to know. Because running means more to me than curiosity. It goes deeper than knowledge. I run. I compete. I move on down the line. I'm a runner. 
For us runners, the question of “why” is pretty moot. Not because it may not be interesting, or important, from a certain point of view, but because we’ve left the question of the meaning of running behind. 
After all the questions have been asked, and all the answers given, in spite of the disagreement on essences, physiology, rationales, training strategies, trail running, road racing, i-pod wearing, mid-foot striking, turnover cadences, arm carriages, Jack Daniels, Arthur Lydiard, 20 miles a week or 100, 5k or the 50k, whether it's really the Miles of Trials or the Trial of Miles, after all the words have been spoken and keyboards have been pounded, meanings given and ideologies subverted... 
After all this, we runners bend down and tighten the laces, open the door, brace for the cold and are renewed: another godawful, glorious, and meaningless 8 miler. 
- Jeff Edmonds The Logic of Long Distance
and accompanying this post was this picture:

I love that idea - "Aristotle's featherless bipeds" and how Edmonds goes deeper than that, since we are more than just "rational animals" -- or perhaps less-than; simpler.

Before my run yesterday morning, I posted this on Twitter and Facebook:
The cold dark morning-quiet streets call to me: 
"Come away, play, discover again you are body and soul"
& I'm reminded running is play
Not long after I started running, a friend (and very experienced runner) sent me a Nike postcard with a sentiment which has become something of a mantra for me:
Not because you are in a hurry,
or because you are being chased.
Just run. 
Back in 2010 as I was preparing for the Portland Marathon (my first, I ran it on 10-10-10) I read a poem by Charles Hamilton Sorley that literally moved me to tears because I so identified with it.

The poem still moves me to tears to this day, as I marvel at the person I've become, and truly enjoy the process of discovery as I am still becoming.

Song of the Ungirt Runners

We swing ungirded hips,
And lightened are our eyes,
The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
We know not whom we trust
Nor whitherward we fare,
But we run because we must
Through the great wide air.

The waters of the seas
Are troubled as by storm.
The tempest strips the trees
And does not leave them warm.
Does the tearing tempest pause?
Do the tree-tops ask it why?
So we run without a cause
'Neath the big bare sky.

The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
But the storm the water whips
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land. 

I am a runner.  And oh the joy & freedom I often feel when I run. It grounds me and releases me at the same time. I am a featherless biped, yet I am flying and oh-so-alive. Especially in the rain and wind!

~ Keith

Saturday, March 17, 2012

meme = me + me

My first post in ever-so-long, with an image from the interwebz, from my friend Jen. Ahh, the simple pleasures in life!
~ Keith

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Asking For Help

Asking for help is not always easy. Especially when it is help I know I don't really need. It's about not being lazy; not shirking. It's about integrity. Anyone who has a 3 year old child (or has been one!) has learned this lesson: sometimes it is important to do something just by myself, just to prove I can. Not to prove it to anyone else; simply to prove it to me.

That's what running has been like for me. I started running in June of 2008 and the changes I've seen within myself have been nothing short of remarkable. Miraculous, really.

When I set out to run the Portland Marathon in October 2010, and various people asked if I would be running for charity I knew it was something I just could not do. As noble and good as it would be, it just did not feel right in my heart. Running for a cause would certainly add motivation to my training, but it would also cloud things somehow. Selfish as it might sound, I didn't want to run for anyone else.
I had to do this for myself.
Once I'd run the marathon, and began to think about running another, I was surprised to find the idea of running for charity was still something I did not want to do. I was really hoping to get in to the 2011 NYC Marathon via their lottery system ('cause I'm nowhere near fast enough to get a guaranteed entry based on skill/timing!). Wanting badly to run in NYC though, I told myself I'd run for charity as a back-up plan: something I'd resort to as a way to get a guaranteed entry only if I had to. I felt that way right up until the drawing on Wednesday 27th April, when the website confirmed my fears: I had not been selected via the lottery.

I knew there would be perhaps 100,000 people or more who would be swooping down onto the official charities so I'd have to be quick. I took a break at work and began to actually look through the various charities I could apply to run for. That's when my heart began to change.

I realized there's another reason asking for help is difficult for me: it feels like an admission that I am not good enough, not bright enough, not strong enough. Reading through the charity webpages reminded me that, well, I'm not! I'm not good enough alone! No one is. I'm not bright enough to figure everything out on my own. No one is. And I'm not strong enough to get through this life alone. No one is.

Once I embraced that next-level measure of my own weakness, and allowed the humility to clear my perspective, I realized something else: Asking for help is sometimes easy:
If I have dropped a heavy load, it is hard to ask for help to pick it back up and carry it onward.

But If someone else has dropped a heavy load, and I stop to help them pick it up and carry it onward -- and in doing so realize that this load is so heavy I can't be the only one to help, then asking someone to help me as I help another...that comes easily.

So here I am. Asking for your help.
As I browsed through the charities, one stood out to me. the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). As a Home Hospice RN by profession, I see the impact of this disease in my day-to-day work. But it is also personal for me. Cathy's mom died of multiple myeloma. She was only 68. Everyone who knew her tells stories of what an amazing woman she was. Vibrant, playful, compassionate, loyal, and loving to all. I wish I'd met her, but I never got the chance. You see, I met Cathy in May 1987, but multiple myeloma had already taken her mom's life in February of 1986. Her name was Josephine Mary (Fanucchi) Thompson -- and I'm running in her honor. I'm running so MMRF can help others beat this disease, get the chance to live to meet their family, and enjoy a full life.
Nearly 90% of every dollar donated to the MMRF goes directly to research!
Will you please support my participation in the 2011 New York City Marathon benefiting the MMRF? Your donation can help make the difference! I have made a commitment to raise at least $3000 by the race on Sunday November 6th. I need your help to get there! Please help as you can. It all adds up! On the right-hand side of my donations page you can select a suggested donation amount, or come up with whatever you feel comfortable donating. For those interested in a per-mile sponsorship, here's the math for you!
  • $1/mile = $26.20 total donation (x only 115 people = $3013!)
  • $2/mile = $52.40 total donation
  • $3/mile = $78.60 total donation
  • $4/mile = $104.80 total donation
  • $5/mile = $131.00 total donation
Would you please consider sponsoring me? It is as simple as following the link above.

For more information, to make sure your money is going to a good cause and a reputale charity, you can follow this link to the MMRF site, and there's an NBC Nightline interview and article here, a reprint of a New Yorker article discussing the creative business model of MMRF here and the ubiquitous Wiki link is here.
Thank you in advance for your support!
~ Keith

Friday, January 28, 2011

Death's Sting is Fleeting and Weak

I find it hard to put into words the depths of feeling I'm experiencing right now. My long time-friend, mentor & spiritual example Mark Macallister took his own life earlier this month after a long battle with depression and chronic pain. He leaves behind his amazing wife Jody and two beautiful and wonderful kids, Levi & Bree. This picture shows their family together and at peace.
My heart hurts quite a bit right now due to the tragic, senseless and sudden loss of so bright a light as Mark shone to the world around. He was gregarious and compassionate and had friends in such a wide range of places I was almost always surprised when someone I knew said "Oh, Mark? Yeah, I've known Mark for years". He would never be the one to shine a light on himself, always demuring and deferring to others in a humility that was so natural and secure.

Mark exemplified to me the heart of love and care for others that is the best description of the word "Pastor" I know. It was primarily his influence in my life that opened to me the possibility of giving my life away to others in this pastoral way as well.

Living as followers of Jesus, Mark and I shared a hope that there is something beyond this life -- something which defies description although better men than me have certainly tried. I do take comfort in knowing Mark is "in a better place" although that rings so hollow in my ears because his current experience is so much richer than that little phrase could possibly convey, but also beacuse that little phrase sounds so trite and weak when placed against the pain of his loss to my heart.

I do also take comfort in knowing that death itslef was never supposed to be part of our story -- and so it will be done away with in the final analysis. And so I have a deep appreciation for John Donne's classic poem as well. I'd heard the opening line many times of course, but seeing "Wit" with Emma Thompson really galvanized within me an appreciation for the epochs-long wrestling match with death we humans have undergone.
Death be not Proud
By John Donne

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
Requiesact in pace Mark, until we meet again when death itself has been put away.

~ Keith

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Week at an Abbey

I recently spent a week at an Abbey in Mt. Angel, OR.
I thought I was going there for some solitude; some silence. Apparently I was wrong.

I did spend a significant amount of time alone, and being quiet, and that was nice. It was restful and restorative -- but I learned some things about solitude and silence I was not aware of before. Some I learned from my reading, and some I learned from just being there, alone. A Monk's room is sometimes referred to as a cell -- and it has been said
Go into your cell,
and your cell will teach you
everything you need to know
I wish I had more to say about it here, but I had such rich time journaling and reading and being alone with God that I feel no need. =)

If there are specific questions anyone has I am happy to answer them either here on the blog in comments, or privately in eMail -- but simply chronicling my experience here (which is what I might have done in the past) strikes me as something which would somehow take away from the experience.

~ Keith

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Happy Holidays

'Tis the season, so here is my quasi-annual post relating my thoughts on saying "Happy Holidays" vs "Merry Christmas" -- especially in the context of all the ruckus from well-meaning (if closed-minded) people who complain the former limits their free speech and who insist the latter is somehow better.


I like Thanksgiving. I also like celebrating Christmas, and the start of a New Year. I also like learning about other cultures and traditions. Channukah, Kwanzaa, etc.

So am I the only one who doesn't really mind saying "Happy Holidays" to people?

I mean, sure, I'm a person who is trying to live in the love of Jesus, so for me the signifigance of Christmas is such that this one holiday is at the center of my holiday season. But I know that's not true for everyone.

Me wishing a "Merry Christmas" to people who don't celebrate it is like me saying "Happy Birthday!" to someone when it isn't their birthday -- isn't it? And isn't it rude for me to press the point by saying "Well, I don't care if it's not your birthday -- I'm celebrating it..." And isn't it even more rude to just assume that everyone I know thinks like I do, and celebrates the same things -- and isn't it even more rude for me to somehow imply they should, by making a big deal of only saying "Merry Christmas", or griping when an employer encourages the use of "Happy Holidays" instead?

And anyway -- aren't "holidays" really just "holy days" and if "holy" means (among other things) "set apart" and "special" then why all the fuss when employers encourage people not to say "Merry Christmas" and instead only "allow" them to say "Happy Holidays" -- isn't that a nicer thing to say anyway -- more inclusive?

Maybe it's just me.

~ Keith