Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving, in every sense of the word.

A friend of mine recently invited me to read some of his writings, something which I was truly honored and humbled to do. Our written words are often a black-and-white representation of what we truly hold within, who we are, and what (and how) we've lived. In his writing, he expressed much joy with the little things. I think this is important for all of us to do, and something that I enjoy writing about.

I had a patient who was on hospice care, and who had rapidly declined. I was in her room, assisting her with breakfast, when her doctor paid a visit. He asked her all of the regular mental status questions, quick and to the point. She reached over and took my hand while he was questioning her. She would look over at me, and whisper, "What building is this, honey?" as if the doctor couldn't hear her doing it. The hospice nurse and I laughed, yet the doctor looked as if this was wasting his time. This woman joked and laughed with me, and would interrupt the doctor to ask, "Is your arm getting tired, honey?" because I was reaching over to hold her hand. These were a few precious moments of clarity and humor for this woman, and I was blessed to be a part of it. The hospice nurse and I talked quietly in the hall for a few minutes afterwards, and he told me that it was the first time in about four days that he had seen her smile.

It's the little things that can really make someone joyful, if only for a few minutes. Sadly, later that afternoon, she declined even further. I was happy that she was happy just for a little while.

I am so thankful for my patients. I am thankful for the other CNAs and nurses that made it possible for me to assist her; they took a few of my calls because they understood what it meant to have this woman laughing.

This Thanksgiving, I will be spending it with my family. I will be cooking up a storm, because that is how I relax. I love to cook, and I love to bake. Something in the activities of stirring and kneading and snapping beans and assembling the sweet potato casserole transports me into another plane in which there are no exams, no papers, no need for Foley catheters or vital signs every 15 minutes during blood transfusions. I am simply there, with the oven and stovetop, giggling with my Dad over past memories of exploded baked potatoes. And being needled into baking him his favorite lemon-walnut biscotti.

Yes, Dad, I will do that. Don't you worry. :)

p.s. Sweet potato casserole is a spin-off of my grandmother's recipe.
  • Canned sweet potatoes (okay, they're yams, but I can't say the word "yam" without just laughing my fool head off because it sounds so funny)... so 4 big cans of those.
  • Brown sugar, probably about 1/2 cup
  • Cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, ground allspice to your taste. I never measure these.
  • Amaretto and Bourbon. Again, I never measure. Whatever tastes good and flammable.
  • Pinch of salt
  • Enough of the little marshmallows to cover the Western Hemisphere
Using a handmixer or potato masher, mush the whole mess together. Make sure there is enough spice and Amarettoeyness in there. I like to leave some chunks in there to make it look more rustic. Plop the whole mess in a baking dish. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, and then squish the marshmallows in an enormous layer on top, making sure to cover every millimeter in sugary, poofy goodness.

This part is important... put the baking pan on a cookie sheet. This way, when some marshmallows expand and inevitably fall off, you will not have an impossible cleaning task the next day. Bake for another 10 minutes or until the marshmallows are that gorgeous golden brown color.

Where was I?

Oh yes, the little things in life. Go out there and enjoy them! We're all so busy in whatever it is that we're doing that we overlook things. When we had that huge power outage here a couple of months ago, it was bizarre to have no power, no TV, no internet, no phone lines, nothing. After a few hours, it became nice! There was communication between neighbors and family members. There was politeness and quiet and realizing that there is a whole world around you. The small flame of a candle became as bright as an overhead fluorescent light, because it really did show you what was around you.

Reach out with your hands. Touch rose petals. Feel the cold rainwater when you splash through a puddle. Listen to the dog bark down the street... is he barking happily because his humans are home? I love waking up in the morning and hearing my cat snoring. She's happy and warm and cuddled against me, and there is nothing in the world like that.

If you have family photos around your house, look at them.  We get so used to having so much stuff around us that we never appreciate it. Remember those times, and cherish those memories.

Savor the first sip of whatever it is you're drinking. Sit in a sunbeam when you read your paper in the morning. Feel the energy of the world around you. We plod through our days with schedules and lists and "OHMYGOSHI'MRUNNINGLATE". There is always time to stop and breathe. Take a deep breath and feel the life in our universe comingling with your life. We're all here together. Isn't it amazing to think of all the living beings on this Earth?

I challenge you today to stop and find three little things that make you happy. Three little things that you probably would have overlooked on a normal day. When you find them, write them down and tape them to a place you see every day.

Life is beautiful. We just need to step outside of our own selves for a little while.


  1. so very true... I really try to remember the little things and let them bring me joy.

  2. Yes, it's all about slowing down and appreciating all the small things in life that puts a smile on your face and warm fuzzies in your heart.
    I'm glad that you were there to hold that womans hand. she probably appreciated that more than you'll ever know.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. I have the utmost admiration and appreciation for the people who work at hospice. Being able to bring joy even for just a little while to someone at the end of their life is something very special I think.

  4. So glad I read this today.

    I hope that tonight as Hubby and I are prepping our dishes for the big day tomorrow and the kids are driving us crazy, I will remember to be truly present and enjoy the gifts in my life. :)