Friday, October 26, 2012

Good Deeds and Worms

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Cognitive dissonance

This is the feeling of uncomfortable tension, which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time and it happens to me all the time.  I know what’s right, then I do what’s wrong.  I say one thing, and do another.  I get on a soapbox, and then sneak off the back side when I think no one is looking.  But that’s not what happened this time.  There was no discomfort at all, not even the usual intestinal disorders or voices in my head.

Remember how I said I believed it was good to learn to be simply grateful without needing to pay back?   Well, I simply HAD to give something back to Hope Lodge because I wanted to.

On a weekend home during Paul’s treatment, I dug through my piles of small quilts and came up with several to offer for the corridors of Hope Lodge.  To my surprise, they wanted every single one I brought!  Jammie and Sarah spent a happy hour deciding where to hang them and I took them all home to attach hanging sleeves and make hanging boards.

Delivered a week ago, 14 quilts:


Three more

Zipper inspects the hanging devices

Jammie, Nancy, and Sarah with their favorites, respectively


I’ve been around long enough and done this often enough to begin to see a pattern:  A great idea pops into my head and starts worming around in there until it comes out, by way of my mouth, as a PLAN.  By the time it reaches the ears of others, the idea has become a larger-than-life PLAN, infused with a hidden dream element.  That dream element is part of the problem.  Maybe the line between facts and dreams can be somewhat blurry in my mind when I’m excited?  Or bored?  Or perhaps it’s happening a lot.  You tell me.

Where do worms/ideas come from?  For me, it involves some sort of input… it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  In my defense, most of my ideas start out innocently enough.  I see a problem, a need, or an opportunity and the worm start to squirm. 

In my group of friends (we fondly call each other “besties”) we have a saying: “I have an idea…”  This usually means the speaker is about to suggest something dumb, poorly thought-out, immoral, or all three.

I get it wrong

My idea for Hope Lodge was only guilty of one of the three above elements:  poorly thought out, owing to insufficient data input.  Not sure who gets the blame for the skimpy input, but it’s possible that, once the worm is turning, the input channel gets clogged with worm castings.

Data input:  each of the 60 guest rooms at Hope Lodge has a big comfy recliner.  You might imagine that a guest who’s pretty sick would spend a lot of time that recliner.  Hope Lodge keeps a protective cover on the headrest, something that can be laundered after each guest checks out.   Oops!  That didn’t sound right in this context.  How about “returns home”?

This is the chair and coverlet that was in Paul’s room:
You can see that this thing is very launderable if not cozy.  It turns out that “launderable” is not a real word.  Nor is “laundrable”, but I’ll bet you understand it anyway.

The idea:  Since the folks at Hope Lodge were so excited about the wallhanging quilts I was offering them, I figured they’d love the offer of some new chair coverlets in updated colors and style.  And they did. 

So I went home and started making little quilts for the chairs.  Then I got grandiose and started selling the idea/worm to friends and they started making little quilts.

With the delivery of the 14 wall-hanging quilts above, I carried 17, yes seventeen, chair quilts to Hope Lodge.  And that’s when I learned that half of the 60 recliners are leather and, aside from using a staple gun to keep them in place, they weren’t going to stay in place.  See?  Insufficient data due to premature input channel closure.

But look how nice they look anyway:
Mary's quilt

Fixing it

Velcro is out, and so are safely pins.  I wonder if I can do something with elastic?  When it comes to finding a solution that doesn’t make the whole business look tacky, I’m stumped

If you have any suggestions for a remedy of the problem, something that can be used on either leather or upholstered chairs so the quilts are interchangeable, please share them with me in the comments section.
Detail of Lori's contribution.  3-D!!!

One of mine


Thursday, October 18, 2012


We've had an interesting year+ in the Schmidt House.  Those who've followed our a story on Paul's Caring Bridge site are accustomed to my gallows humor and irreverence in the face of some pretty serious things. This approach to life and it's challenges has been honed by my partnership with my husband, Paul, who shares my twisted strategy for survival in a harsh and unpredictable world.

Now we are on the other side of sixteen months of cancer diagnosis and treatment for Paul.  There have been confounding complications and equally astonishing treatments and outcomes.  We've met people that I've wanted to strangle, which is a common reaction of mine when things don't go according to my plans.  Paul simply ignores or tolerates these people and their words while I snort and twist and start digging another hole in the woods behind our house.  More often we have been surrounded by people who are immeasurably kind, skilled, and blessed with perfect timing.  I'll never be able to thank them enough.
The woods in our back yard, September, 2012 
For a chronicle of Paul's illness and the adventures we've had, please visit our Caring Bridge site here.

Gratitude feels good

This is not something I knew before.  I think I believed that being grateful implied I was indebted in some way.  I was certain that it was more comfortable to be on the giving side of the equation.  As a Christian, I'm surprised to discover how uncomfortable I am with receiving grace.  It means accepting that I can't manage it all on my own, that I need someone outside myself.  It means practicing humility.  Not my strong suit.

I needed to learn to be simply grateful. I know that it's a lesson for the rest of my life, learned slowly, forgotten and relearned over and over until I surrender the notion that I can do it all on my own. 

Hope Lodge

One of our more remarkable experiences in the last year was Paul's five week stay at Hope Lodge in Rochester, MN while he was receiving daily radiation treatments at TWFMC (The World Famous Mayo Clinic).  Hope Lodge is the American Cancer Society's version of Ronald McDonald House.  It is a home away from home, a place to live free of charge, for cancer patients and their caregivers.

At first, Paul was able to be there alone, with occasional visits from his sisters.  Mary, Bette and Laurie all became familiar with Paul's favorite Rochester restaurant, The Canadian Honker.  Later, as the treatments zapped his energy and ability to eat, I joined Paul and stayed for the remainder of his course.

From the moment I got there, I knew that Hope Lodge was a remarkable place, that I'd eventually have a lot to say about our time there.  Caregivers have a very different experience from patients, which sounds so obvious now, but wasn't plain to me at the time.

The rooms are set up like basic hotel rooms and are intentionally kept completely separate from the cooking/eating and public areas.  Imagine how sick some of these people are and how cooking odors and germs from visitors might affect them.  Of course this means that Paul's room had no mini-bar, but I was the only one bothered by that.

So!  The main floor public areas are populated largely by caregivers, volunteers and cancer patients that either feel pretty good or are so gregarious that they need their people fix no matter how crummy they feel.  It's a rarified environment. 

Because everyone living there is fighting the same battle in one way or another, the subject of cancer suddenly becomes comfortable.  It's almost as though it were a normal topic of conversation.  I cannot tell you how nice it was to talk about this stuff without the preambles and sad looks.  It's as though we were all in a lifeboat together.  No need to say, "Hey, I'm in a lifeboat here, in case you didn't know."

Hope Lodge is run by a combination of staff and volunteers that create a warm and open environment.  Without exception they know what's at stake and they know how to make the place a home away from home.  I will never forget the little bright shining moments that happened here.  As dark as those days were, every day had them. 


Giving back to Hope Lodge and how I reconcile that with the idea of being "simply grateful".