Friday, December 30, 2016

Why You Should Donate Platelets



I have given blood regularly for a few years now.  They love my blood because my veins are AWESOME (one phlebotomist described them as "garden hoses") and because I have a high hemoglobin.  Donating blood is awesome and I encourage everyone to do so.  But I am going to advocate that you donate platelets. 

I have the American Red Cross donor app which lets me know where my donated blood goes.  Most recently, my blood donations have gone into storage.  Which is awesome, because it means that there is so much blood out there that it can be stored. 

Platelets are a little different. Platelets are a component of whole blood. They help with clotting and stop bleeding. They are critical for trauma patients and for cancer patients.  Platelets only last five days, and someone needs platelets every 30 seconds.  I witness someone every day at the trauma center who needs platelets in order to survive. That's why I have decided to donate platelets instead of whole blood. 

I had a lot of questions about donating platelets, so I thought I would blog about my experience in order to get more people to donate.

Platelet donations require a special machine, called a blood cell separator, so you have to go to special centers, either at blood banks or at hospitals.  You usually feel better after platelet donation than whole blood donations, because they give you IV fluids to replace the plasma that they have taken out of your arms.  When donating blood, you just get blood taken away and it takes your body approximately 60 days to replace the lost blood.

Before you begin donating, you go through a brief interview process to determine if you are medically eligible to donate.  Also, your hemoglobin is tested with a small finger stick. If both of these things are clear, you are moved to a recliner next to the machine. 

Both of your arms are used during platelet donation.  The needles used during the platelet donation are much smaller than used during blood donation. One needle pumps blood out of your arm and into the machine.  The other needle returns sterile saline, along with red blood cells back to you through the other arm. 

You will receive an anticoagulant (citrate) as well.  Some people have a mild reaction to this, usually a tingling in their mouth or around their lips.  You are preemptively given antacids to counteract the effect of this, as the calcium from the antacid works against the chemical reaction caused by the citrate. You can always have more. 

You will also get kind of chilly during the donation process, as room temperature IV fluids are infused.  The donation center will have lots of warm blankets and heating pads available.  Keeping warm is important not only for comfort, but also because it helps with optimal blood flow in and out of your arms. I brought my own fuzzy blanket and warm socks because I know that hospital blankets are super thin.

The most uncomfortable part of the whole process is that you can't move your arms.  You can watch a movie or take a nap, but you can't really read a book, knit or play on your phone. I downloaded a bunch of podcasts and set them to continuous play.  While its important to be hydrated, don't drink too much because you won't be able to get up and use the bathroom.

It also takes a good amount of time to donate platelets, plan to spend about 3 hours at the donation center.  You can watch the progress of your platelets coming out.  The yellow fluid is plasma and the IV bags behind it are the anticoagulant and the saline.

 The centrifuge that separates the platelets from the blood is located under the counter of the machine.  At the end of the donation process, your platelets will be mixed with the donated plasma.  They will tell you all about this and let you watch as much or as little as you like.

Amy's top ten reasons to donate platelets:

1. They are more critically needed than blood

2. Because of their short shelf-life, they are always kept local

3. You get IV fluids replaced, so you feel great after donation

4. You help patients with cancer, who often can't get treatments if their platelets are too low.

5. You help patients who have experienced a trauma or internal bleeding

6. You get to sit in a comfortable chair for about three hours and watch movies and have nurses bring you juice and snacks

7. You get warm blankets and heating pads

8. Your ONE platelet donation provides the same amount of platelets that could be extracted from FIVE donations of blood

9. The needles are smaller than those used for whole blood

10. You can donate platelets up to 24 times per year, instead of six times per year for whole blood


Monday, December 26, 2016

For All the Saints, a sermon on Luke 6:20-31


A.Kumm-Hanson, 2016 Iceland
Grace, peace, and mercy are yours from the God of all the Saints. Amen.

Today we celebrate the festival of All Saints.  This feast day in the church year has historically been the time in which the unnamed Christian martyrs were remembered for their contributions to the faith.  Different Christian traditions have varied criteria for sainthood. In the Roman Catholic church, there are prescribed standards for becoming a saint, including miracles performed and observed by others. In our Lutheran tradition, we celebrate the lives of all of God’s beloved as saints, recognizing that we are all both saint and sinner. On this day, we remember the lives of those who have helped us to grow in faith, touched our lives, and helped us to more clearly see the face of God. 

On All Saints Day, we remember that we are part of a great cloud of witnesses, part of a river of humanity, intricate parts of a greater whole of creation, that testify to the Living God through both our living and our dying. We are saints not because of what we do or what we believe, but rather, because of who created us. At the beginning of liturgy today, when the names of our beloved saints were read aloud, we remembered and gave thanks for their lives.  On that list are many loved ones. Parents, grandparents, children, friends. People who rest in glory after long lives and people who lost their lives far too soon.  On this day of honoring our saints, it is impossible to forget the sting of death. For even as we know that our beloveds reside with God, we feel the pain of their loss here and now.  We might see far off glimpses of a future with God in glory, but we acutely feel the burden of death now. It is a moment of “now and not yet.”  On this day when we remember our saints and the ways that they have blessed our lives, we also feel woe because these loved ones are no longer with us. Love is both joy and pain, because when you love someone, that love is always accompanied by the pain of their potential loss. To be human is to fear death. And to be human is to be deeply in need of healing by a merciful God.

In today’s Gospel text, Jesus has gathered his disciples and a crowd who have come to him for healing. He is going to preach what is called the Sermon on the Plain in Luke’s Gospel. It has similar words to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, but this sermon is not for an elite few on top of a mountain. It is for anyone who “has ears to listen” as we hear Jesus say to the crowd.  We have all most likely heard a few sermons on these beatitudes.  Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you who are hungry, for you will be fed. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. What makes Luke’s account so compelling for me, is that the sermon does not just stop with blessings. It includes woes also. There is something more here for us to dig into.  Who is woeful? Is it us? Is it our neighbors?  Is it The Other?

Woe to you who are rich, because you have received comfort in this life. Woe to you who are full now, for the day is coming when you will have a hunger that cannot be filled by food. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.  Woe to you when you are publically acclaimed and well-liked, because that is what your ancestors did to the false prophets.

We don’t get to hear what the disciples or the crowd think about these pronouncements that Jesus makes. But it is likely that they react similarly to us. Our temptation as humans is to place ourselves (and others) into one of these two categories, either blessed or cursed.  And we definitely want to be blessed. This division feels particularly acute with Tuesday’s impending election.  We want to see ourselves as blessed and others as cursed. We want to place ourselves into the sainted positions of righteous and holy and upstanding, and cast others as ignorant or deplorable. We are blessed because of where we have located ourselves, or where society has placed us by virtue of our skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation or age, and others are cursed because they are not in that same place of privilege. Or maybe we are so broken by systems and systemic oppression that we feel cursed. That the world has broken us to the point where we only see woe. That all the blessings belong to someone else.  Sometimes we cannot see ourselves as saints who are blessed, because the world tells us otherwise. Over and over again.  

What does it mean to be a saint?  Must we have miracles attributed to us?  Must we be perfectly pious?  Must we know what it is to follow Jesus? What if we have no idea, just that we are drawn to this Jesus guy, seeking to be healed?  Like those who followed Jesus in this Gospel story, who came to hear the Sermon on the Plain, wishing to be in his presence and hear a word of healing. We don’t know why we are called there, just that we need to hear the word that makes us whole.

What if being blessed as saints means catching a glimpse of God’s world and trusting that we are a part of it? Blessing comes through trust in God and God’s future, in the hope of justice that this world cannot give. The woeful are those who answer “yes” to the question, “Is this all there is?” 

This Gospel points to God’s future for us all. A time and place in which we gather with the saints by the river in God’s presence. And it is a reminder that our hope is that the same old thing will not continue. That we lean into God’s promise and God’s future together.

However it is not enough to passively sit back and look towards the future. Part of our role as saints is to work towards God’s justice and God’s kingdom now. Some years ago, some clergy friends and I decided to call out on social media all the things that provided us hope, provided us with a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.  I have found that this practice of recognition is the only antidote to the brokenness and death of this world. The kingdom of God looks water protectors gathered in a fierce prairie wind to protect the river for future generations. It looks like my good friend Lauren’s friends attending her funeral this week dressed as Comic Con characters to honor her memory and her spirit of joy. It looks like children who invite lonely classmates to sit with them at lunch or on the playground.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of who we are.  We are both fully saint and sinner. We are part of a great cloud of witnesses seen and beloved by God. It is our identity as God’s beloved that has freed us to walk humbly and with justice now, and trust that we will rest with God eternal as we pass from this world to the next with all the saints.


Good News of Great Joy for All People, a sermon on Luke 2:1-20


A sermon on Luke 2:1-20

This past spring the creator of Humans of New York traveled to Turkey to speak with Syrian refugees. To capture the most ordinary moments of life for refugees, in the aftermath of war, in the shadow of terror.  I encourage you to check out these posts, I will post a link on the Calvary Facebook page. He wanted to share the lives of ordinary people just like us, who are faced with extraordinary challenges.  Most moving for me was a series of posts from a young girl named Aya. Aya talked about school and her dog—named George—and what it was like to flee for her life first from Iraq then Syria into Turkey.  This is as close as a glimpse to the lives of refugees that many of us will ever see, and in these moments, we learn extraordinary things about humanity.  We learn that we are more similar than we are different, that refugees are our siblings instead of our adversaries, and that even the Son of God was a refugee.



What if Mary and Joseph’s time in Bethlehem had been captured by Humans of New York? Their story is more similar to one of Syrian refugees than residents of New York City. I imagine a picture of a woman nursing her newborn son, sitting amongst straw and animals.  Saying, “I never really wanted it to happen here. I wish I could have stayed home in Nazareth. But it is census time, and we didn’t have a choice. We were told to go. I guess I hoped the birth would happen at home. But here we are. We are refugees in this place, waiting to be counted for tax purposes for the empire.” 



Joseph is standing in awe, as new parents often are. He says, “He isn’t my child, you know. I had a lot of shame about this in the beginning. Mary came to me one day and said that she was pregnant by the Spirit of God.  I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it, until the angel told me.  Then to think we had to travel all the way over here. Our lives really are not our own.”



Mary, holding the infant Jesus, “Meet Immanuel.  His name means ‘God is with us.’”



Powerful words. Earth shattering words. The most ordinary human things are extraordinary when God shows up.  What does it mean that God was born into this world to refugee parents in a strange land? To a pregnant unwed teenage mother? In a shed with animals?



It means God shows up in some pretty unlikely places.



In Luke’s Gospel account of the birth of Jesus, we hear about some angels making an appearance to shepherds keeping watch over their sheep in the fields at night. It was probably impossible to ignore an incandescent angel in a dark field at night, and we hear that the shepherds were terrified.  The angel says, “Do not be afraid! Because—see—The Greek word for see in this text translates to “Behold!” or “Go see for yourselves!”  (It is an imperative, compelling them to go see what the birth of this baby was all about.)  I am bringing you news of great joy for ALL people. 

It is significant that the angels would deliver this message to shepherds. Shepherds would not have been among the social elite of the day.  They were likely to have been young boys, maybe 10 or 12 years old. They lived in the fields with their sheep, so they probably didn’t smell all that great, and they only had each other for company.  They lived on the outskirts of town or in the wilderness with their sheep and had minimal contact with the “respectable” people.

By appearing to the shepherds, this multitude of angels would have made it clear that this good news is for EVERYONE.  The angels didn’t appear in a shopkeeper’s home or to a priest or even the innkeeper. This is like angels appearing at the Cedar-Riverside interchange to those gathered there flying signs requesting spare change, instead of showing up inside a church.

The angels compel the shepherds to go “Check it out!”  and explained how to find this new infant.  After the angels disappeared, the shepherds turned to one another and said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this crazy new thing that has taken place, which the angels of the Lord told us about. So they practically run into town to see for themselves.

They meet the new parents and the infant Christ. They relay excitedly what had been told them by the angels.  We hear that Mary “treasured” these words in her heart, because they confirmed what she knew already from her own experience with the angel. 

              But this not just good news for several millennia ago. Angels appearing to the least likely audience, shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, and compelling them to “Go and See!” is something that echoes through the ages.  God coming into the world as a human child is very good news and something to behold. This is the incarnation, the putting on of flesh, and it did not just happen once. God lives incarnate in every single human being.

What would it look like if we heard the message of the angels tonight for ourselves? 

“Do not be afraid; for go and see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for ALL the people: to you is born this day in the city of Minneapolis a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

              Christmas is the gift from God, of God’s very self, for all of us. That the world might know God’s love, in us and through us.



This good news compels us to share it!



Go see for yourselves where Jesus is to be seen!



Go reflect Christ’s love and light into all the places of the world that so desperately need it.



This is the good news of the incarnation. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

What we can learn from the animals...a sermon on Matthew 6:25-33

Grace, peace, and mercy are yours from the God of all Creation. Amen.
There was an internet meme floating around this summer about “What God was thinking when creating the animals.”  Some of these are too good not to share. 

When creating parrots: How about a tie-dye chicken who screams actual words at you.
When creating snakes: how about a sock that is angry all of the time.
When creating kittens: Make them fluffy and cuddly. And put razor blades on their feet.
When creating spiders: Make it a land octopus, that can walk on walls.
When creating dogs: These turned out great, I am going to need all of these back someday.
I am so thrilled to be preaching in worship this morning, as we celebrate the life of St Francis and bless the beloved animals with whom we share our lives. I have always had dogs in my life. From my childhood pets, to the dogs that my parents and sisters have now, to the dogs that compose my family here in Minneapolis, I have always believed that the love that we give and receive from animals can teach us about God and being God’s kingdom in the world.
We too are beautiful creatures created in the image of God. We hear in our Psalm that God created all of the world and all of the living things in it. All animals that walk, swim, and fly upon the earth were created by God, all of humanity included.  We want to sometimes distance ourselves from being creatures, being animals, because we want to ascribe some of our instinctual qualities to our animal selves. Like competition for resources or the desire to procreate.  We want to harness our instincts into self-control and being polite. I think one of the defining characteristics of being human is the tendency to worry. This is one of the things that sets us apart from the animals with whom we share this earthly home. And there are many things about which to worry.
We worry about paying bills and meeting deadlines. We worry about making friends and fitting in at school and work and even church. We worry about climate change and systemic racism and diminishing resources for an exponentially growing population. We worry about being happy and fulfilled in our vocation.  Sometimes we even worry because we aren’t worrying enough or don’t seem to be worrying about the things that other people are worried about.
The Gospel that we heard today from Matthew gets right to the heart of this matter. Jesus is teaching to the crowds while he moves about the countryside. He was speaking to people who really didn’t have anything to lose by dropping everything and coming to hear this desert prophet speak. He wasn’t speaking to people who were influential in their communities or local government or who really had any power or privilege. There was legitimate concern for where their next meal would be coming from or whether or not they would have clothing.
While many of us here may not have these survival worries, we do have deep concerns for our own lives and wellbeing. For coping with mental illness, physical limitations, raising well-adjusted children or helping aging parents into the next phase of life. Look inward…what are you most worried about?  What wakes you in the night or occupies your daytime thinking? What is the one thing, or multiple things, that give you a lump in your throat and makes you feel as if you might never be free?
With that in mind, hear this summary of the Gospel…
Therefore, listen to what I am telling you: don’t worry about staying alive or about what you will eat or drink, or about your body or what you will wear. Isn’t living life more than looking towards your next meal or your clothing? Look at the birds? They don’t plant crops or harvest them, and yet, your heavenly parent feeds them! Don’t you think that you are of more value in God’s eyes? And can any of you make your life any longer by worrying?  Why are you worrying about what you will wear?  Think about the lilies of the field, how they live. They neither sew or weave fabric, yet they are clothed like royalty. But if God provides beauty to the grasses of the field, which is alive for such a short time, will God not care for you even more? Therefore, do not worry, asking, “what will we eat or drink? Or what will we wear? For it is those among you that do not have faith who think about these things, and indeed your heavenly parent knows your needs. Strive first for the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given to you.
I have always loved this text. That is why I picked it for this Sunday where we bless the animals with whom we share our lives and our homes. I love the imagery of a tiny sparrow, fragile, vulnerable and how God provides for that sparrow. I love the imagery of a lily of the valley being clothed in royal finery by God. I love the message of “Do not worry, because it is not going to add any years to your life.” Because I believe that it is something that we need to hear constantly.
Do not worry. Because it is not going to do anything to benefit you or provide you with what you need. Strive to be close to God and God’s people, by ever seeking out the kingdom of God.  Your needs will be met in this way. What does it look like to seek after the kingdom of God?
It looks like a group of God’s beloved gathered in a sanctuary with their dogs, cats, snakes, geckos, stuffed animals and pictures of dear pets. Gathered together to sing praise to God through song, barking, meowing and whatever noise rodents make.
It looks like the beauty that we create together for beauty’s sake. The music that Andrea and our choir create each week. The flowers and gardens that are lovingly tended on our block.
Striving after the kingdom of God looks like this congregation coming together to provide a warm wall tent for the community gathered at Standing Rock so that they might survive the winter.
Seeking God’s kingdom looks like the faithful food shelf volunteers greeting our south Minneapolis neighbors with care and hospitality each week.
The kingdom of God is all of us gathered here today, in this space, craving the Word and the Body of Christ, that we might go out and be of service in our schools, work, and homes.
We are going to worry, because we are human. It is what we do. But God wants us to be free from those worries and to rest comfortably in God’s presence. This is what we can learn from the furry, feathered and four legged friends here today.


Animals teach us about joy. Those of you that have dogs will know that there is some variation of “Let’s go for a walk” or “Want to go for a ride?” or at my house, “Do you want to go bye bye?” that will make your dog lose their mind with happiness. Or with cats, the sound of a can opener or a shaking of treats will bring your cat running from anywhere in the house, purring and weaving between your feet. We can learn something about the “drop everything and be happy” approach to life that our animals show us.
Animals teach us about being present in the moment.  My dogs aren’t worried about finding success at work or paying bills, they simply want to be with the people they love and find joy in this being together. When we go for a walk, they are smelling flowers and trees and observing squirrels and birds. They aren’t distracted by what is back at home. When I think about living live intentionally, I think about how animals interact with what is around them.  They are present in this time, enjoying and engaging what right now has to offer.
Animals teach us about freedom from worry. They see that their immediate needs are met and then they simply live. They aren’t concerned with building up their resume or retirement accounts.  They aren’t striving to find happiness, because happiness is wherever they are at that time.  
Today we celebrate the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, who exemplifies seeking the kingdom of God by showing kindness to all of God’s creatures. He is the patron saint of animals and the natural world. In the Lutheran tradition, we do not have much of a history of celebrating saints, certainly not as much as our Roman Catholic siblings. But St Francis is a fascinating person, both saint and sinner. He is the founder of the religious order known as Franciscans, the largest order in the Catholic church. Franciscans, generally men, although there is one subset of Franciscan nuns, are known for wearing brown robes, and devoting themselves to contemplation, preaching, and service. St Francis of Assisi, named for the town in which he resided, has a complicated and interesting history. In his youth, he was known for debauchery. After a religious conversion experience, he was said to have devoted himself to repairing rundown churches, using money made from selling goods he stole from his father. He was known for brokering peace settlements, particularly for a visit to North Africa in an attempt to stop the Crusades. He is remembered for a great many acts of kindness and mercy and is often depicted while holding a small bird in his hands.  St Francis was a preacher and prolific writer, known especially for a song called the Canticle of Brother Sun, which was used at the time as a shared expression for people of different faiths, but a shared experience of care for one another.  I leave you with the Canticle of Brother Sun today:

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility




Thursday, July 28, 2016

What do Chaplains wear?

When I first started this chaplain gig four years ago I remember being entirely puzzled by what to wear for my shifts in the hospital.  This is a professional job, but it comes unique challenges when it comes to attire. I will share a few of the things that I have learned in the hopes that it might be helpful for all those CPE students or other chaplains.  I can only speak to women's attire, perhaps my male colleagues have more to offer for men.

First, hospitals will likely have a dress code of some sort.  Chaplains fall into the "professional" category of employees, but do most of their work in clinical areas and have direct patient contact. Other professionals who fall into this category include social workers, registered dietitians, pharmacists and psychotherapists. At the bare minimum, hospital dress codes usually include closed-toe shoes, socks (no flats for women unless wearing tights or socks), and what is termed "professional/business casual attire."  For women this can be button-down shirts, slacks, cardigans, skirts, etc.  Some hospitals have their own specifics.  I've worked at facilities that required me to cover my forearm tattoo (hence why I have a wide variety of cardigans).  My current employer has requested that we dress "for safety", which means no dangling scarves, neckties, earrings, necklaces, etc, that could be become hazardous by being pulled by patient or caught while doing a task.

Next, think about what you need from your clothing to complete your tasks at work.  I carry two pagers simultaneously, which means I need somewhere to clip them.  For this reason, dresses don't work for me and I never wear them to work.  I will wear skirts if they have a tailored waistband that can support the pagers. I also need pockets because I am frequently carrying around pieces of paper, rosaries, and other things.  My work requires standing, but also bending my knees and squatting down next to beds or chairs, and lots of walking around.  I have found that what works best for me to wear are high-end tailored neutral color scrub pants.  My favorite style is the five pocket pant from Grey's Anatomy by Barco. I have them in black, charcoal and khaki.
This is a typical summer work outfit
 They have pockets, look presentable and are comfortable. This may or may not be acceptable depending on your hospital. I am frequently cold at work, as hospitals keep temperatures low to reduce infection risk.  I wear layers (cardigans, fleece vests or sweaters) all year.  Bonus points if your warmup jacket contains pockets. You need to wash your hands a lot, so having sleeves that roll up is important.

This is a typical cooler weather
work outfit for me.


Third, think about your clothing as it relates to infection prevention for yourself and for your patients. Some units (at my hospital the SICU and Burn Unit) require you to remove a sweater, jacket, cardigan or lab coat upon entry. Everything I wear to work is machine washable, because I have no interest in dry cleaning. As evening chaplain, I am on every single unit. I could be in the ER with extremely injured patients, I could be on the burn unit with patients at high risk of infection, I could be on labor and delivery or I could be visiting someone on enteric or contact isolation precautions in the MICU. I do not want my clothing to become an infection vector for myself, my family, or other patients.  So once I wear something to work it goes directly into the hamper at home until it is washed.

Shoes are an important consideration when it comes to comfort, functionality and safety.  I wear a dedicated pair of Danskos to work.  They are the Pro XP model, which has a slip resistant sole and removable insole.  I have custom orthotics which fit into the clogs. I walk about 14-16k steps per day at work, so comfortable shoes are a must. I wear these shoes pretty much only to work and they live just inside my front door because I have no desire to track anything nasty into my home.

With regards to accessories, I wear a watch or fitbit everyday.  I note when I enter and exit a patient's room, because I must enter that into a chart note later. I have a work notebook that is covered with leather and has a pen attached for this purpose. It has taken many iterations to find a system that works for me. Sometimes I use scraps of paper, but I find that the notebook is useful for keeping track of information for more than one shift and sometimes patients or families will request a blank sheet of paper and I can just tear one out of my notebook for them. I usually have one or two pens clipped to my shirt or in my pockets also because pens are a hot commodity in a hospital. Hospitals require you to wear a name badge in a place that is visible above the waist. I wear mine clipped to my collar on the left side. This gives me access to hospital doors, the employee parking garage, and identifies me as someone who belongs at the hospital.

A note on clergy shirts for chaplains:
I would never wear a clergy shirt while visiting patients in my work as chaplain.  For me, a clerical collar belongs in a parish as a work uniform for the pastor or preacher.  Just as I would never wear my employee badge to preach in a congregation, I would never wear my clergy shirt to the hospital while employed as chaplain. I find that the image of a clergy collar can be off-putting to patients who might have had bad experiences with church and who are already in an extremely vulnerable state while being hospitalized. For me, not wearing a clergy shirt is a matter of hospitality.  I also find that outside my specific Lutheran context, a woman in a clergy shirt is confusing and controversial. I find that the shirt is a distraction more than a comfort. People know that I am not a Catholic priest but cannot seem to make the required leap that I am a pastor. Additionally, chaplains are interfaith. I visit patients who are Christian, but also Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hmong, or no particular religious tradition at all. A clergy shirt can create barriers to conversation or create a sense of exclusion.

These Shoes

These shoes belong to a chaplain. These shoes are "hospital shoes", which is a nice way of saying they barely make it inside the front door of my home. Because I have no desire to bring MRSA, CDiff, VRE or anything else home to my family. 

These shoes are hardworking shoes. They walk endless miles of hallways, at least 5-6 miles a day. 

These shoes are covered in blue surgical booties in bloody traumas or operating rooms at the time of organ donation. 

These shoes stand alongside deathbeds and extubation procedures and trauma bays. 

These shoes are stared at during family consults and death notifications and on silent elevator rides with families who leave their beloveds in a sterile morgue.

These shoes see so much. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

On Black Lives Matter: A letter to other liberal white people

I have struggled with whether or not to write anything about Black Lives Matter, because the last thing the world needs is another white person centering their voice in the movement. I have had a voice for too long, so before I go any further I will lift up the voices of some folks of color whose words have inspired me.

Nekima Levy-Pounds 

Broderick Greer 

Bishop Michael Curry

The Rev Wil Gafney, Ph.D

The Rev Grace Imathiu

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I welcome further suggestions to expand my reading lists. I have also appreciated the writings of James Cone , Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Michelle Alexander. I encourage you to check them out, familiarize yourself with their work and become conversant about Black Lives Matter and the profound racism that continues to plague people of color in America.

As a white person, I have my voice heard almost automatically. My privilege allows others to listen to what I have to say. So I need to proceed carefully with what is mine to say.

Primarily, what is mine to say is to own my white privilege. I was born with advantages because of the color of my skin. I have never been followed in a store for fear of shoplifting. I have never had to fear for my life when being pulled over by police, I just have to fear for a speeding ticket. I don't have to be expected to speak for my entire race or have my experience be generalized as true for all other white people. I benefit from institutionalized racism. I benefit because I have white skin. I might not like to think that I am racist, but I am racist. Because I unknowingly benefit from privilege in an untold number of ways. Because I am ignorant of all of these benefits. 

Next, what is mine to say is that it is not the "job" of people of color to educate us (white people) about racism.  It is OUR job to educate ourselves. Google Black Lives Matter for the basics. Visit NAACP's website. Check out any of the websites of the people linked above. Ask me questions and if I don't know the answer, we can find it out together.

Generalizations such as "We're all the same inside" or "I don't see skin color" etc, are violent. They erase the lived experience of racism and pain and injustice of people of color. These expressions are said with good intentions, but good intentions aren't good enough. Commit to educating yourself and educating your family, friends and neighbors.

Don't assume that your experience is the same as that of others. I have many family members who are law enforcement officers. I work with police, sheriffs, and detectives nearly every day in my work at the hospital.  By and large, my interactions with law enforcement officers have been positive. I respect the work that they do. I have never had a bad interaction, but I don't know the experience of others. Part of my role as an ally to the movement is to honor the stories of others and to believe what they are telling me. It is entirely possible to respect law enforcement officers and want to hold them to a higher standard and because of the many cops that I respect and work alongside, I do want ALL police held to higher standards.

Don't EVER say, "All Lives Matter."  Period. Don't do it. Our racist culture reinforces in thousands of ways that some lives matter more than others. We are lifting up Black Lives Matter because it is time to uncover the racism that has plagued our siblings of color. This is yet another example of invalidating the experience of so many people of color. As white people, we already know that our lives matter. We must keep proclaiming that Black Lives Matter.

The Kumm-Hanson's visit Iceland: final thoughts and tips


A few helpful tips that made our trip a success: 

1. Get a TEP. This is a portable wifi Hotspot. It allowed us to use our phones as GPS devices. It was $10 a day, with unlimited data. 

2. Make sure you have a PIN for your credit card. Most places were fine with a chip reader and a signature, but gas stations require PINs. This was an afterthought for us, but we are glad we did it. 

3. Go swimming as often as possible. Icelandic pools have precise etiquette: take your shoes off before entering locker room, take a full shower without swimsuit, leave towel in locker room near shower & don't use your cell phone in locker rooms or pool. Embrace it & relax. Pools are the main social spot in Iceland and they are spectacular. 

4. Cash isn't really necessary. We picked up a nominal amount of cash in the airport, but really only used it for tipping drivers and small purchases like coffee. And if you need it, ATMs are readily available. 

5. Bring an eye mask. The sun didn't really set in the summer. Regulating our sleep was a real challenge. It was difficult to go to sleep without the cue of darkness. We also took Benadryl a few nights when we were really keyed up. 


Thanks for a spectacular honeymoon, Iceland. This is Greenland from the air upon our departure.

The Kumm-Hanson's visit Iceland part 7: the Icelandic countryside


On our way to Jokulsarlon we saw the south coast of Iceland. We stopped in the town of Selfoss for lunch, which is pretty much the last larger town in order to buy food or other things in larger stores. Most small towns have gas stations (N4 is the common one here) and there are generally cafes and coffee shops also. 

But there are large swaths of countryside with nothing but stunning scenery and lots of sheep. 

We stopped at Seljalandsfoss. Absolutely breathtaking! 




You can hike behind the waterfall. This waterfall is right off the road, so it's filled with tourists and tour buses. There's a food truck and souvenir shop, as well as basic outhouses. 

Next waterfall is Skogafoss, a powerful and tumultuous expanse of water. There's an epic hiking trail behind the waterfall that allows you to access a glacier. 




This appears to be a popular camping spot. You can tent near the trail. There are clean modern restrooms with showers (think KOA), as well as a tiny town with cafes and hotels. 

This is the volcano that caused a worldwide issue in 2010 and got people thinking about Iceland. 

On our return to the city we stopped at Vik, a town on the black sand beach. 




Vik is a good place to stop for gas or food. There's an excellent restaurant (try the seafood chowder!)  as well as what appears to be an Icewear outlet store (Icelandic woolen items). 

And some random beautiful things to look at:


















The Kumm-Hanson's visit Iceland part 8: glacier lagoon and Jokulsarlon


We left the city to explore the countryside at the suggestion of our taxi driver, she mentioned Jokulsarlon, which means "diamond beach".

We stayed at Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon, a brand new four star hotel near the lagoon. 


The glacier lagoon was just beyond the hotel and it was incredible. 




Glaciers calve into this lagoon and flow out to sea. It's possible to take boat tours of the lagoon, although that's not something we did. There's a small cafe and coffee shop also. 

The beach has chunks of ice on black sand which look like diamonds. 












The Kumm-Hanson's visit Iceland part 6: Harpa



Harpa is the positively stunning concert hall/performance space on the waterfront in Reykjavik. There are multiple performance spaces inside. We caught a humorous (and historical) play called Icelandic Sagas, which told the story of the mythology of Iceland. 








The Kumm-Hansons visit Iceland part 5: more Reykjavik


We spent a fair amount of time hanging out around Reykjavik. We enjoyed coffee at Babalu (Skolarvordustigur 22). 


And gluten free crepes at Eldur and Is (Skolarvordustigur 2).  

We had a late lunch at The Laundromat cafe, (Austurstraeti 9) I had carrot parsnip soup that I still dream about. 






Saturday, July 09, 2016

The Kumm-Hanson's go to Iceland Part 4: Adventuring




We went on a trail ride with Laxness horse farm, located only a short drive from Reykjavik, which also arranges transportation. This is a family run operation, and they clearly love their horses and love the people who come to hang out with them. I highly recommend this company! 

Earlier in the day we went caving in Laederandi, a lava flow cave just outside Reykjavik. It was about a two hour trip, with excellent guides. 





On our way back to the city we stopped to view the fish drying racks, an ancient way of preparing a favorite snack in Iceland.