What The World Needs Now Is…A Lot Less Hate

Our son is blessed with loving aunts and uncles who dote on him endlessly, and when he asked his beloved Godfather about his aunts and uncles and cousins, none of us minced any words. Because his Godfather is a holocaust survivor, he has very few living relatives and he replied in this way:

“They died in the war started by a man named Adolf Hitler.  He was a person who was so filled with hate and the quest for power that he ordered the death of millions of Jews. My family were amongst those who were killed.”.

“Fuck that guy!” our nine-year-old aptly commented.

Indeed, but we reassured him that most the world came together to defeat Hitler and that this would never happen again.

Ahem.

I firmly believe that just as hate begets hate, love begets love. And of the two, love is the more powerful force.

In the interest of spreading love, here are a few ideas to bring light into the world this week. A week that demands action over inaction and kindness over malevolence.

  1. Bring food to the food bank. There will be a rush of donations come Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the shelves tend to empty over the summer months. Anything non-perishable is appreciated.
  2. Donate blood if you are able. Blood units tend to drop over the summer months. As a donor, you get cookies and juice and the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to save a life. (On that note, why can’t we be notified when our donation is being used to help someone? I’ve seen their tracking procedures – each and every unit of blood is marked and labeled and checked and double-checked and recorded arduously. Would it be that difficult for Canadian Blood Services to send a text or email when our donation is being infused? That would be a great notification to get and may inspire new people to donate).
  3. Buy some flowers for a friend, or for someone in need. A little potted plant (usually under ten dollars at the grocery store) delivered to a local nursing home can really uplift someone. I leave it with the receptionist with the instructions to pass it along to someone who is sad or lonely.
  4. My dad is in his eighties, and my mom just turned (redacted). For her birthday, we gave them a food delivery service for two weeks (my friend, Jenn Tobin, had the idea). They are THRILLED with it. We ordered from Chef’s Plate. They usually have 50% discount for first-time customers. My parents are very particular, and they are awestruck by the freshness and tastiness of the meals. They even tried soba noodles for the first time! Best idea ever, Jenn. (Chef’s Plate requires the assembly of the ingredients. If someone you love could use a little more help, you can order pre-cooked, pre-packaged meals from Home Style Meals — it’s a far fresher and tastier alternative to Meals on Wheels). (NOTE: I am not being paid or compensated in any way to suggest these companies.)*
  5. Forgive a small slight. My parents moved into an apartment a few years ago and were introduced to one of their neighbours. She was unwelcoming and nasty to them right from the start. Some people are just like that, I suppose, but mom and dad have stayed far away from her since their first encounter. Until today. This morning, when the three of them entered the elevator at the same time, a very cool “hello” emerged from my mother’s pursed lips, followed up with a “and how have you been?” (not that she particularly cared, but old polite habits die hard). “Not well” the woman replied. “my husband died”. Cue the melting scene from Frozen. Hearing of a spouse’s death is like kryptonite to my parents. Sincere condolences were expressed, and later that day my dad brought her a plant with a note containing their home and cell phone numbers, giving her explicit instructions to call them day or night if she needs anything. They had a long conversation in the hallway, and a new friendship might just emerge from this.

“Love begets love. It multiplies the kindness and goodness of every heart” – Jean Ayende Totanes

*my editor, Lee, insisted that I add this disclaimer. I find it hilarious how he thinks that so many people read this blog that I have to worry about legalities.

Kindness Karma

One of Lee’s best qualities is his willingness to help anyone, at any time, with anything. He jumps into action the moment he is needed – without question or comment – and just helps.

The most recent example of this kindness happened last week. We rented a quaint little cottage on a river; it had a wrap-around deck with glorious views of enormous trees and the calm waters cutting through them. Lee was absorbed in a Sidney Sheldon novel when when a couple approached him. They startled him out of his retro-fiction read, apologized, but explained that their boat had just broken down. They were stuck, had no idea where on the river they landed, and needed to get back home.

I would have offered my telephone and put the kettle on, but my sweet husband grabbed his keys and said “don’t worry! I’ll drive you home”. They lived 30 minutes away but that didn’t deter Lee.

It didn’t even occur to him that there could be an element of danger to his good deed.  Quietly, I asked Lee “is this safe?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?” he replied.

Ever the jaded skeptic, I hid by the kitchen window and took photos of the couple.

He returned (safely) a little while later, and off we went on a paddle boat ride down the river. Long story short, the boat had holes, we took on water, and capsized. In a paddle boat. What an inglorious way to die that would have been.

20 minutes later, a pontoon boat appeared and stopped when they saw our sorry asses on the riverbank. The women on board hauled the children up, wrapped them in their sweaters and took us down river where we could fix things up. We returned to the cottage safe and sound, with the children so very excited about their adventure.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the negative news cycle. It seems like everywhere you go, people are competing to be America’s Next Top Dickhead. These two examples of kindness, occuring just hours apart, buoyed my faith in humanity. I hope it inspires and enlivens your day too.

Kindness Comes in Many Forms

Picture this: I’m in my car, sitting at a red light in the left turn lane. The advance green arrow appears and INSTANTLY the guy behind me lays on his horn.

(Note that I’m a ridiculously nervous driver – hands at the “ten and two” position, head up and at attention like a German soldier.)

So here we have it, folks, another angry pork chop guy. A guy so unhappy in his life that he feels the need to lash out and exert power in even the most benign circumstance.

As much as every cell in my body wanted to give him the finger and drive suuuuper sloooooowly, that would just escalate the situation. Instead, I made my turn, moved into the right lane, and as he passed I smiled and waved at him like I would an old friend. His angry expression became confused. “Do I know her? Why is she waving at me? Who did I just honk at?”.

Hopefully, my Random Act of Ridiculousness gave him enough pause that he continued his drive peacefully. I’ll always take perplexed over angry.

Now it’s time to concentrate on the kindness I’ve witnessed lately.

I have an entire blog post devoted to the friends and neighbours who have helped me through my adventures in disc herniation. The warmth and concern that surround me stop me in my tracks and I’m eternally grateful. More on this later.

The second act I witnessed came from my dad. He’s 83 and still working as an insurance broker. One of his clients went on a sabbatical overseas but forgot to pay her insurance premium before she left. When he received a note from the insurance company indicating that her house insurance was going to be cancelled, he took out his VISA, called them and paid her premium for her. $800 that he won’t see for a bit, but he truly doesn’t care: “she’s been a loyal client for some time” he said.

Take that, Geico Lizard.

The final act of kindness came about in 2006 – the year that Lee worked in Vancouver. He lived in the Vancouver Marriott hotel and was treated to both a delicious breakfast every morning and the sight of Jessica Alba working out in the hotel gym.

Although he wished he did
Picture not taken by Lee

Lee got into great shape that year.

Anyway, the hotel chef prepared a homemade granola that was stop-in-your-tracks delicious. Other than stalking watching a Hollywood star stretch and sweat every morning, it was the best part of his day. When Lee complimented the chef, he asked Lee if he’d like the recipe and wrote it out by hand. That stained, worn, well-loved piece of paper is in our recipe book and every time Lee sees it, he is reminded of Jessica Alba’s abs the chef’s kindness in sharing it with us.

Here is the recipe. Guaranteed it is the BEST granola you’ve ever had.

4 cups oats
1.5 cups rice krispies
1.5 cups brown sugar
250 g butter
50 g honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup almonds

In a pot mix together the brown sugar, melted butter and honey over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Fold mixture into the dry ingredients.

Mix well until the oats are well coated then pour onto baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Stir granola once during cooking process to ensure even cooking.

Let cool, keep stirring until fully cooked (if you prefer chunks, let cool without stirring and break pieces into container for storage)

Options; add dry cranberries or sun-dried cherries or raisins.

Three different forms of kindness: a passive, non-agressive act when confronted by misplaced rage, a huge favour for a loyal client, and a seemingly small act that is appreciated 11 years later.

Kindism will return August 4, 2017.

 

 

Helping the Anxious – A Five-Step Plan

Anxiety and panic disorders are a real bummer. Your stomach tightens to the point where you can’t take a deep breath, and there’s a low-level hum to your insides that distracts you from all the things you’re supposed to accomplish. You feel vaguely flu-ish almost every day. Sure, it sucks if you’re the person troubled with these ailments, but it is equally difficult to stand by and watch someone you love suffer. I’ve compiled a list to help the loved ones and caregivers of those who are travelling through the darkness of mental illness.

1) Help your friend find the right doctor.

The help I received ranged from the absurd to the sublime. I had entered into an easy, comfortable relationship with the therapist I had seen for years.  My decline into panic left him as perplexed as I was, and I found it difficult to find someone else to help me. One doctor told me “just be grateful you don’t have cancer”. Another doctor took out a blond-haired doll and said “pretend this is you as a child.  What would you like your young self to hear?” Both techniques have merit and may have been helpful for some, but these approaches were completely unsuitable for me.  The cancer comparison left me feeling guilty and I’m a brunette who gets freaked out by dolls, so neither approach worked. Yes, it was intimidating to start over with a new therapist.  I came up with all sorts of excuses: I don’t want to tell the whole story of my decline over and over. I don’t want to go too far from home. I’m comfortable with him and he helped me in the past.

Let me be clear: I don’t care how convoluted the story of your illness is – it will take no more than 20 minutes to recount it.  I don’t care how far from home the right doctor is, because they will treat you, find a solution and your appointments will become fewer and fewer as you get better and better.  Finally, just because a beloved physician has helped you in the past, they cannot be expected to treat every disorder.  If your mental health changes, find a specialist to treat that particular illness. This is where having an army of caregivers is helpful, as they can make the appointments and make sure you keep them.

2) Make them comfortable, but not too comfortable.  

At my worst, I was incapable of leaving the house to go grocery shopping. Getting downstairs to do the laundry was an insurmountable task. Helping your friend in the areas of household chores and maintenance would be welcomed. However, the most growth and healing I experienced was when I was left on my own. For instance, I became accustomed to having my husband drive me to the hospital for therapy three days a week. The day that he gently explained that he had an important meeting at work and he couldn’t take me was the day I got back behind the wheel of a car. It was dreadfully uncomfortable. My heart raced as I gripped the wheel and an invisible dark force wanted me to turn around, go home and back into the safety of my bed. But I didn’t give in to the darkness.  I knew the hospital was helping me and I simply had to get there.  The pride I felt when I made it there – and home – on my own gave me a tremendous amount of confidence. Slowly, I regained the ability to go out by myself.  If you stick to what’s easy and comfortable, you’ll never grow.  This applies to fitness, to education, and, yes, to the recovery from mental illness.

3) Text and email are better than phone calls.

I can’t tell you the number of times I hit the “decline” button on my phone when it rang. This is an example of the polarity of mental illness: I wanted to be left alone, but I didn’t want to feel alone. Friends: don’t take this personally. While I wasn’t up for a conversation, I loved hearing the text message ding, I loved reading that you were thinking of me and I wanted to hear all the things happening in your life.

4) Suggest low-interaction activities.

The thought of sitting and conversing over coffee exhausted me. Any face-to-face time made me feel like I had to seem ok, even though I wasn’t. I felt pressure to talk and smile even though my insides were shaking and my head was heavy with worry. A movie, on the other hand, is the perfect excuse to get out of the house and involves little or no mental exertion. Being in a dark theatre, next to someone who cares for me, swept away in a story for 90 minutes was just the break my overwrought brain needed.

5) Re-label.

I firmly believe that children live up to the labels we use to describe them and adults are no different. It was easy and comfortable to live up to the description on my medical chart: “suffers from severe panic and generalized anxiety disorder”. As accurate as the word “suffers” is, that’s not how I wanted to be defined. Time for a re-label. While I’d love to see a description of me such as “hard-ass motherfucker, physically and emotionally robust”, I’ll settle for something along the lines of “tires easily but is responsible, dependable and kind”. Pick a few words that describe your friend and remind them that THAT’S who they are. They will live up to your label.

Battling any illness is exhausting and caring for those who are suffering can take a real toll on the caregiver.  Don’t take anything personally be as good to yourself as you are to the person you love.

Quick Hits of Kindness – Say It Now

I am always trying to think up the next “million dollar idea”.

For instance, I want my car to come equipped with different horns for different situations (someone has done it, I see, but I swear I had that idea ten years ago), a diaper genie for kitchen food waste, and a website where you can download forms to help you tell people how you feel about them while they are still alive. The last one was going to be called SayItNow.com but when I pitched it to those closest to me, I got some lukewarm feedback. And some crinkled brows. Plus, my mother said “that is horribly depressing”. Figures that the one thing I could do without the aid of an engineer got a big thumbs down.

However, this is what sparked the idea: I work part time in a beautiful funeral home. It has the feel of a fine hotel – wide staircases, an enormous, glittering chandelier, and furniture clad in the softest fabrics. The building is kept immaculately clean, soft music dances gently through the speakers and it always smells like vanilla shortbread cookies. Lots of people say they couldn’t do my job, but my office is quiet and civilized and filled with a supportive staff who treat each other like family.

Anyway.

It also has a state-of-the-art sound system, and, quite often, I can listen to the eulogies given during funerals over the speakers scattered about the funeral home. While every funeral and every family is different, there are a few similarities:

Tears

Flowers. So many flowers.

Eulogies from loved ones reminiscing about the good times and speaking well of the deceased.

It leaves me wondering if anyone said such wonderful things to them while they were alive.

I try very hard to remember the fleeting nature of life and if I were rich, I’d like to rent a plane to sky write: DON’T WAIT – TELL THOSE YOU LOVE HOW YOU FEEL RIGHT NOW. Grief is painful and leaving things unsaid and undone intensifies this pain. Now, there have been volumes written on grief but the most meaningful words I’ve read were written by Jamie Anderson:

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go”.

If grief is painful, guilt magnifies this pain. The guilt sneaks up on you and weighs you down with thoughts of “if only…”. So I think everyone should take the time now, while your loved ones are still alive to express how you feel about them.

A genuinely kind note written from the heart is never a bad idea and is always welcome. For instance, I work with a man who is very quiet. Pleasant always, but not overly emotional.  Yet, every single Christmas he gives out Christmas cards with the most beautiful sentiments handwritten on the inside. I keep every single Christmas card I’ve ever received but I keep his in my desk to read throughout the year. They always make me smile. 

So write the letters, send the notes saying “thinking of you”, email the friends who mean the most to you. Buy the cheesy cards, send flowers, tell your family you know they did their best. Say thank you with a card. Make someone you love laugh. Take a shitload of pictures. Host a crappy dinner party. Get over the awkwardness of self-expression. Just get over it.

Or, if you can’t, order a card from these people. They are hilariously vulgar.

Who would you like to hear from? To whom do you owe a thank you? How do you want to be remembered?  Celebrate the people you love and those who love you.  Say it now.

Quick Hits of Kindness – Gentle Reminders

I subscribed to Martha Stewart Living magazine for many years. My favourite part of every issue was where she would share her calendar of “gentle reminders” – things like, “peaches should be ripe and ready for canning this week” (ha) and “launder all draperies in the house and clean the window sills to a sparkling shine”. I found it entertaining and inspiring and it gave me something to aspire to.

This week I’m sharing some gentle reminders of my own. They are quotes I read before I go to sleep and immediately upon waking. The more I internalize this way of thinking, the more it affects my life in a positive way. These are my favourites:

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” – Kurt Vonnegut

“People tend to dwell more on negative things than on good things. So the mind then becomes obsessed with negative things, with judgments, guilt and anxiety produced by thoughts about the future and so on.” – Eckhart Tolle

 Doing something that is productive is a great way to alleviate emotional stress. Get your mind doing something that is productive.” – Ziggy Marley
When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” – Winston Churchill
Respond; don’t react. Listen; don’t talk. Think; don’t assume.” ~Raji Lukkoor
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” ~James Baraz
I also have a sign by the front door that reads “Today I choose Joy”. I love that sign. I love it even more now that my friend Dave looked at it and asked “who’s Joy?”.
Gentle reminders to re-read and repeat as often as you can. So much easier than canning and cleaning!

Not a quick hit of kindness, but interesting anyway

Another guest post by Lee.  Angie is the one with the talent for writing interesting things that make you think and get you to action.  I find interesting things on the intertubes and post them.  Like this:

The writing is a bit small so let me transcribe it for you, just one of the many services I provide other than posting pictures!

None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else. — Reddit user “Hotsauceinmyeye”‘s mom

I have the be silly and be weird down. Angie has the be kind locked up.

Normally when one of my friends has a birthday I send them a quick note saying “Happy birthday” and include some form of insult, possibly on the FacePage thing.  I’m not sure why I have friends plural and not just maybe one sick and twisted person who puts up with me because they think I’m funny.  Today I did something a bit different and sent a personal email with “the truth that you’re carrying in your heart” and it felt really good to express myself with none of the macho-manly don’t say what you feel and definitely not to a guy garbage. No time like the present and no sense holding onto the treasure until you can use it in an eulogy.

So the challenge to you is to take one of the suggestions above, and don’t just pick the easy one about eating delicious food, and do it over this weekend.  I’ve done the one and will do all of the rest except jump in the ocean, but I will jump in my pool.

Quick Hits of Kindness – Nice Photos and Angry People

Good morning and happy Friday everyone!  My sister sent me this collection of photos and it made my heart happy (I hope the Kindle came with a charger and I’m always leery of people who accept payment in “hugs” but the images are a nice change from what we’ve seen in the news this week).

I felt a weird energy in the air this week – maybe because of the number of angry people I encountered over the past few days. Picture this: I’m at the check-out line with my weekend groceries and one of my items didn’t scan, so the cashier called for a price check. The man behind me sighed loudly and banged his pork chops down. Normally, I’d say “take it easy”.

I didn’t.

I turned and smiled at him. He glared at me and shook his head in disgust.

I packed up my things as we waited for the price check and once it came I paid for everything, wishing the cashier a lovely weekend. Grumpypants behind me said “you should really pay attention to the prices when you shop”.

Oh?   Looking for a fight are we?

I had a choice in that moment.  Every cell in my body wanted to lash out and return his anger with a self-rightious “fuuuuuuuuck you!”.

The outcome of that would be a surge of adrenaline throughout my body. The argument would have escalated (because I don’t back down easily) and I would have been angry on the ride home – which would have affected my driving. I’d be annoyed at his unprovoked hostility toward me and I’d be all wound-up when our son got home. I’d recount the story to Lee, which would fuel my indignance. It would have coloured my entire day. This is not the ripple effect I want in my life.

So in that moment, I fought the anger. Turned and looked him straight in the eye and said “I wish you peace and love today and every day”.

He didn’t know how to respond.

I left him gobsmacked. In a non-hostile way.

I went merrily on my way – no adrenaline, – no bad feelings at all – in fact. Just a sense of peace.  Wishing all of you a peaceful weekend full of good thoughts and feelings. Quick hits of kindness don’t always come easily on days like these, but they are worth fighting for.

Here are the photos my sister sent me:

The man who gave the shoes off his feet to this homeless girl.
Good deeds
This motorcyclist who stopped
to help an old woman pass safely.
Good deeds
This barber, who offers haircuts for the price of a single hug.
Good deeds
Consolation knows no color
Good deeds
The police officer who handcuffed himself to a woman
to make sure she knew she’d have to take him with her.
Good deeds
The many people who helped make this boy’s dream come true.
Good deeds
This dog owner who mourned by giving.
Good deeds
This store employee who gives extra service.
Good deeds
The person who decided to put new tires on a stranger’s car
just because he needed it.
Good deeds
 The crowd who decided a fan should be able to watch the show,
no matter what.
Good deeds
This dry cleaning place that helps the unemployed for free.
Good deeds
These kids helping an injured member of their rival team to score.
Good deeds
The man who played for fun and gave his winnings away.
Good deeds
This man who missed his train
helping this older lady with her bags.
Good deeds
This man who gave something to a homeless man no one gives –
something to occupy his mind.
Good deeds
And Dan, a man who, twice a week, buys coffee for every patient,
nurse and doctor at local cancer centers.
Good deeds
The people at the animal hospital,
knowing how hard it is to say goodbye.
Good deeds
This man who gave his umbrella away
so this cat could have a dry night.
Good deeds
The
paramedics.
 
Good deeds

Not-So Quick Hits of Kindness – The 3 Versus 10 Way of Reprogramming Your Brain

I totally understand why there is such a large “self-help” section in bookstores and libraries. We are programmed to seek answers and solve problems – especially relating to ourselves and those we love.

We are also programmed to anticipate and avoid danger. Now, most of us have food and shelter taken care of, and avoiding predators is relatively easy nowadays (at least the furry kind – the ones in the suits are a bit more difficult!), but part of our brain hasn’t quite caught up to evolutionary advancements and, as a result, we tend to focus on the negative in our lives.

Once I realized that the factory setting in my brain was overly sensitive, I had to learn ways to cope. I awaken every morning with my brain screaming  “danger danger danger” and just last year the wiring in my brain fizzled out from over-use.

I’ve described my decent into madness here and here.

I guess “decent into madness” is an offensive way of putting it. Oh, and I’ve learned that “nervous breakdown” is also a passe term.  In fact, when you’re treated at The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, you are referred to as a “Client” not a “Patient”. I’m no stranger to offending people, so I still refer to myself as a patient (I’m under a doctor’s care, for goodness sake, not shopping for car insurance).

Anyway.

The single most effective treatment I learned in therapy was writing down the top THREE worries that are foremost in my mind, and following that up with TEN things are going right in my life.  Acknowledging your concerns in this way is, for some reason, very cathartic. Then the true magic happens when you start listing the things in your life that you’re grateful for. It turns out that, more often than not, I have to stop myself at ten because I could go on and on.

I was given a hospital workbook for this purpose, but by all means, treat yourself to a beautiful journal. Or open a Google Doc. Either way, keep them in a format you can refer back to. I am amazed at how many things on my worry list never happened, and I love looking back and seeing the happy things I wrote down more than a year ago.

I’ve mentioned before that it is impossible to be kind to others if we are not first kind to ourselves.  Try this exercise over the next week or so and I promise that it will fill your heart with joy and tame your screaming brain into silence.

Have a safe and happy weekend, everyone!

Quick Hits of Kindness – Hospital Edition

I had the (opportunity? misfortune?) of being both a visitor and a patient in a hospital this week.

Our son’s Godfather had back surgery.  This man moved heaven and earth when my husband was ill a few years ago.  He called in favours to get Lee looked after and for that I am eternally grateful. It was an honour to be included with his family at his side during his surgery.

A few days later, I started feeling…unwell.  It started with waking up with a sore neck of the “ow ow ow neck, shoulders, don’t touch me” variety.  Massage, advil, stretching and the like didn’t do a thing to help.  Huh.  Weird.

Then, a few nights later, the spasms hit.  Spasms that made birthing contractions feel like a twinge.  Spasms that made the pain of kidney stones AND gallstones feel like a bit of indigestion. Spasms that made me cry and sob and scared the living shit out of the dog.  So, off we went to the ER, and an MRI confirmed two herniated discs in my neck.  Now, I’m drugged to the gills which stops the spasms but I’m still worried because I haven’t regained feeling in my right thumb.

So, lots of time in hospitals and lots of time to observe and comtemplate the power of kindness in a hospital setting.

If you’re visiting a person in hospital, here are a few things that I found made the biggest impact: Tic Tacs, lip balm, hand cream, pens, pencils, note paper, puzzle books, magazines (especially Reader’s Digest), fresh fruit, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, a box of soft kleenexes and an extra long cellphone charger (we found a ten-foot cord and it was perfect to go over the hospital bed and around the IV poles).  We excused ourselves whenever the nurses and doctors came in to do their rounds, and offered to bring them back a coffee or tea when we went downstairs.  Surprisingly, I didn’t hear many people around us say “please” and “thank you” when speaking to hospital staff.  Common courtesy made a huge impact on our friend’s care.  Some of his visitors stayed too long and it exhausted him.  Keep the visits short and sweet, and if you’re part of the family, bring a book to read so the patient doesn’t feel like they have to keep you entertained.

When it was my turn as a patient, I was amazed at the yelling and insults that got hurled at the nurses.  One patient told our nurse she was useless – let me assure you, she wasn’t.  She was bright and kind and doing her best in a packed ER.  I know pain can change us.  I was in agony and felt ignored a few times and if I wasn’t mindful, I would have yelled and sworn too.  I found myself telling the nurses “I’m sorry for the crying, I’m scared and in terrible pain, but I know how busy you are and I know you’re doing your best”.  Sadly, it seemed like those were the first decent things said to them all night.

I’m also very fortunate that my husband is the most gentle, good-natured guy there is and his calm and sweet demeanor won the nurses’ hearts and, in turn, got me some fantastic care and unbelieveable painkilllers.

Finally, I harnessed the power of the written word.  I emailed the hospital with the names of the nurses and technicians who made my stay so much more bearable.  A good word to the boss means a lot more than a Timmy’s gift card, I think.

Have a wonderful and safe long-weekend, everyone!