She Was a Freakin’ Social Worker!

Quick note: I drafted this several weeks ago but never posted. So, the timing mentioned may not always make sense. Just go with it and read between the lines. Ha!

When I tell you the last few weeks have been a struggle, I mean the last few weeks have been a struggle. As a Social Worker, it seems that our day, our week, our month never ends. Thank God for the warm fuzzies received along the way or we’d probably just drink beer into oblivion or whiskey (verb) so hard every night until we needed our own Social Worker. (God bless the dear soul that has to be my Social Worker one day. Poor thing isn’t gonna know what hit him/her. I’m crazy now…Lord help us all after a few more years of this. Ha!) But I digress; back to my last few weeks.

As for patient referrals, I have had a bed bound patient’s caregiver admitted to the hospital unexpectedly in the middle of the night for cardiac issues leaving no caregiver in place for my patient; a patient with suicidal ideation; a patient dependent on oxygen evicted from her home who had to sleep in her vehicle for a short while; bed bugs and fire-hazard-level unsafe wiring in another patient’s home…oh yeah, and another caregiver who needed respite care at the last minute; and about a trillion miles traveled to “handle” all of this. Then of course, routine visits plus two precious long time hospice patients who I have grown to adore who were declining and I needed time (for them AND for myself) to just sit with them, rub their hair or hold their hand.

As I reflect, I distinctly recall an entry Green Beans on the Interstate where I watched a lady eat greenbeans while she zoomed in and out of traffic.

https://coffeewithpaula.com/2018/04/17/green-beans-on-the-interstate

I watched her and wondered why…why she couldn’t just take a damn minute and eat her green beans while parked.

I immediately stopped the top-of-my-lungs duet with the radio and began to ponder what the bloody hell would make her be in such a big hurry to not just take an extra ten minutes before she left home and sit, while not zooming, to eat her green beans.

Well, now I understand. SHE WAS A FREAKIN’ SOCIAL WORKER!!! 

When I got the call about my little lady evicted who was about to spend some nights in her car, it was late in the day and something had to be done. I had already had some doozies that day and hadn’t eaten lunch. I brought a salad that morning with the intentions of stopping somewhere to enjoy the salad after one of my stops. Well, I knew I couldn’t let her spend more nights in her car, therefore didn’t really have time to stop and eat that salad that had already wilted from staring at me all day. So what did I do? I ate that salad while driving to handle business. All I could think about was Green Beans on the Interstate and how I had so quickly and smoothly transitioned into a major hypocrite. Ha!!!

As Social Workers we tend to have hearts that are sometimes too big, and we just have to keep rolling and doing and calling and following up and advocating…and all the other words, that as a Social Worker on a Friday night I just can’t come up with; cognitive abilities wane fast at end of week. Ha! But this job, this career choice, this mission…is so worth the stress and fatigue and brain tiredness that we experience. We get to come home to our nice relaxing homes that have a/c, no bed bugs, electricity, a place to sit, food to eat, no loved ones who are dying, no family member requiring wound care or diaper changes. We get to come home and shake off the week. These precious dear souls we help and worry over and spin our wheels for all week are stuck in their situation 24/7. Twenty-four/seven. No reprieve. No rest. No break. We do this so that they can have hope of something better.

Jokingly, I have been known to ask the question “What the hell was I thinking?! Social Work?!” Ha! But I am truly so honored that on days like today, I get a call from a dear lady who now has an apartment to move into, “Ms. Paula, I’m here.” Tears in my eyes! What a blessing to see that dear lady come through all those weeks of hell from being evicted, spending nights in her car, a couple weeks in a hotel to finally moving into her new apartment. Blessed is what I am! I was able to be a tiny part of that woman’s life. I will never forget her and in some little selfish part of my Social Worker heart, I hope that she will never forget me either. Not really for the “toot your own horn” part or accolades of any type…I just want her to remember that someone loved her enough to hang in there with her and stand by her until all was well.

Sipping coffee tonight but thinking I probably should have chosen beer. Ha! ~paula

Marriage and Term Limits

I have said a couple times lately that I think the fine institution of marriage needs term limits; like at year 15, you both could yell “SWAP”. Ha! What that vision would include is that somewhere during year 12 when you fantasize about pinching their nose clean off their face because they continue to leave their crap all over the house for you to clean, you could just tell yourself, “don’t do it, just a few more short years”. Ha! (I feel the need to insert “just kidding” right here. Hopefully that wasn’t necessary, but either way, just wanted to be on the safe side. Ha!)

I do have something on my mind though about this very topic. Picture this. You’re sitting at your desk when a new co-worker comes around to meet you. The both of you hit it off nicely and after a week or so of brief office chit chat, you go for a quick lunch one day. After several quick lunch dates that go fairly well, you decide to go out for dinner and a movie one Friday night. It gets to where you start noticing increased heart rate; a little excitement when you see this new interest round the corner to your office or when you see their name pop up on your phone; you feel your cheeks blush with certain eye contact or simple touches and just the thought of a kiss makes you giddy with anticipation. You begin hanging out more and more, determine that you are now going steady and get to the moment of saying those precious three little words, “I love you.” After that, you are attached to the person…feelings of possessiveness come into play, they are yours…your special person. You feel safety when you’re with them and seek them out while in a crowd. You’re just naturally drawn to them.

Typically the next step would include meeting the families, later getting engaged and finally marriage…Lord willing and the Creeks don’t rise. Right? So which part is the love part? All those mushy feelings or the part where you say “I love you”…which to me signifies that you will love them or continue the act of loving them for an undetermined amount of time? With this comes the question of today…is love a noun or a verb?

I’ve come to realize that we have a very skewed view of love when we see love as the noun…those mushy feelings if you will. Let me just tell you, feelings come and go as quick as Aunt Sally’s Homemade Banana Pudding or Uncle Fred’s Scratch and Win Lotto money. (insert eye roll)

Marriages have been thrown away for the sheer fact that one or both spouses don’t feel like they love the other any more. If love is a feeling, then yes, you probably don’t love them anymore. If love is an action (verb), you can choose whether you do or not. I think real change happens in a failing marriage when you come to view love as an action and not a feeling. You can make that choice to “act” all day long, but feelings, you have no control over; they come and go with the wind.

When we vow to love someone for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part, do we really know what we are promising? I’ve posed the question before…if we knew what til death do us part meant for us as a couple, would we still walk that aisle?

As a hospice Social Worker, my eyes are wide open as to what that phrasing means. We are saying that we will love our spouse until they take their final breath; that we will wipe their behind when they are unable to do so themselves; that we will make difficult decisions about nursing home placement; that we will spend some lonely years when the kids move out to live their own dream; that we will possibly lose our ability to help our mate when they experience a decline in health because we ourselves are experiencing a decline in health; we may look at each other from one wheelchair to another and chuckle at the fine situation you both find yourselves in this time.

Of course, all of this time from the aisle of the church to a spouse’s final breath is riddled with bad but also with much good. Funny memories are created from eating Ramen Noodles and dented-can-mystery-meat from the clearance bin because diapers and formula are super expensive; moments spent on the back porch after the babies are down for the night; sweet moments spent on the couch under a cozy blanket while you watch television…or while the television watches you cuddle and smooch; moments of pride as you see your children grow and chase their own dreams; grandbabies being born…just so many good times also.

I find myself back to the difficult question of how can one couple make it to the final breath and some make it only to ten years and a divorce attorney? I’ve decided it’s all in your perspective. You can make that choice to love or you can hit the road the moment the mushy feelings flee the scene. But I can assure you, the next relationship you run to will entail all of those same feelings initially but they too will finally dissipate. How many times do we change partners to chase those feel good mushy lovey dovey feelings that accompany new love? How many is enough?

Sipping some delicious warm soothing “muddy water” as a friend recently called it and thinking to myself that after 26 years of marriage…and no term limits…I might better view love as an action because those mushy feelings have been g-g-g-gone for a minute now. Ha! ~paula

What I See Now

There might be a topic or two in this entry that some may say is TMI so I decided to say that out loud before I carried on any further. You know, at least give you the opportunity to read with one eye open and one eye closed if you were scared of possible content. (Nothing super horrible though, so for sure, don’t feel like you have to read with both eyes closed.) Ha!!!

There were so many things that I had stopped doing, stopped caring about and stopped even using brain power or energy for during the year of Mom’s illness; and honestly, all the way up to about 6 months after she passed. I didn’t realize what an absolute funk I had been floundering in until I slowly stopped floundering in it. I can’t tell you if I stopped floundering in it or if the funk just dissipated enough that I could see reality again. Well, I shouldn’t say I saw reality again because that funk was my very real reality for so long…so long.

Anyhoo, during our last year with Mom, the dishes at my little mama’s were done thoroughly. Dishes at my house stacked to the ceiling and I had no ability to care, even if my very life had depended on it. Christmas decorations at my little mama’s house were immaculate this year. As opposed to our Christmas tree that had lights with an angel on top and nothing else. I did buy my babies their new ornaments as I do every year, but they never made it to the tree. I should also include that my tree remained up this year until around late July. I could not have cared less what a soul thought about it either. I’m going to say that again. My tree stayed up this year until around late July…lights on. I. Was. In. A. Funk.

Other tidbits of information to show you just how much of a funk and tail spin grief can provide…we ripped out carpet last July and replaced with laminate floor; until August of this year, I still hadn’t hung one thing back up on the walls again…including curtains.

I want so badly to help others who grieve silently by grieving out loud through my blog.

I want you to understand that I have never been one to keep a spotless house. Not Child-Protective-Services-level filth…but if I have some dishes in the sink and some clutter here and there, I totally feel at home and am okay with that. Ha!

But to say I had let my house go was the most monumental understatement I could ever let flow out of my mouth. I lost control of a situation that I barely kept under control anyway.

During that time of funk, I would go days without showering. Weeks without shaving my legs…and when I did, the area shaved would only be specific to whatever article of clothing I chose. (Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. Ha!) I don’t know that I even brushed my teeth regularly. When I say funk, I mean funk. (Literal funk. And in a lot of different ways.)

I would say that around the 7 month mark after my sweet little mama passed, I realized…Good God woman, wake the hell up, what is going on, who have you turned into and how did all this happen??? My house was a wreck, I had hairy man legs, my tree was still up, the house was so full of junk that when I “cleaned” it still looked horrible.

So what do you do when you wake up and life has gone on without you for months and nearly suffocated you with stuff? You start cleaning and throw stuff out…and you shave those damn hairy man legs! (I don’t mean shaving what is specific to the article of clothing anymore, I mean shaving your legs…both total legs…because you have enough care and concern to not want man legs anymore. Ha!)

I made the comment recently to an old friend but new reader (yay!!!) of Coffee with Paula that I want so badly to help others who grieve silently by grieving out loud through my blog. This is real life grief. This is what grief looks like. Grief is not just feelings. Grief has a personality, a look, is tangible and had consumed me. I worry that others only see the put-together-Paula and think that I don’t hurt or feel or grieve or feel anguish or despair. It is real. It is a part of my life and I don’t want anyone to be confused by my laughter, my smiles, my ability to keep moving everyday, my ability to joke about life, my ability to sing on a praise team or keep working with hospice patients every Monday thru Friday. I grieve, I hurt, I want to give up, I want to cry, I feel despair, something is missing, there is a dull ache in my heart…it has been like this since I found out she was going to die and gained in intensity after she passed. All of these are decreasing in strength now. But they are still there.

To say that I am so much better now, is the truth. Those are not just shallow words. I have evidence that I continue to get so much better. I still miss my little mama, the dull ache is constantly there, random tears still fall unexpectedly…but the consuming funk has gone. Will it come back? I hope not. But I think Paula is back. And that feels amazing!

Sipping coffee and liking the me that I see now…but wishing someone would get that Christmas tree box off my front porch. I got it out of the house, somebody else can take it the rest of the way. Ha!!! ~paula

I Heart Cooking! (Buffalo Chicken Dip)

I’m always looking for snacks that warm my soul but won’t stop the shrinking waist line I have right now. I have a friend who often makes Buffalo Chicken Dip for our gatherings and no matter HOW big of a slow cooker she puts it in…IT AIN’T ENOUGH! Ha!!! Her dip is so very yummy! But today I wanted to try my hand at my own version. I sort of read up on several different versions and came up with the lowest carb version that I could and decided to try it out.

Since I have been trying to cut the carbs, I know this is a dip I can have…I just have to be creative as to what I use to scoop. I choose celery today. Of course for my family, I will have their Fritos Scoops and their Doritos. Otherwise, the only thing I got to eat tonight might have been a knuckle sandwich. (Wait, that would most likely be low carb as well. Right? Ha!)

But anyhoo, here are the ingredients you will need.

Please feel free to use whatever name brands you’d like.

1-1/2 cups Buffalo Wing Sauce

1 cup Blue Cheese Dressing

2-8 oz blocks of Cream Cheese (softened at room temperature)

6- 12.5 oz cans of Chunk Chicken Breast (drained and crumbled)

4 to 6 cups Shredded Colby & Monterey Jack

For this size recipe, use a 4 qt casserole dish. Crumble the drained chicken into the bottom of the casserole dish. Mash cream cheese into the chicken until the chicken is fully covered by cream cheese. Then add your Buffalo Wing Sauce, Blue Cheese Dressing and half of your shredded cheese. Once all is mixed well, flatten ingredients and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Baked at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes. I left it in long enough to see bubbling in the center and a nice sear to the cheese in areas.

Now it’s ready to eat! Just dip with Frito’s Scoops, Doritos…or celery sticks for you low carbers.

I will admit, there are a few changes that I will possibly implement before I make this dish again. I didn’t use a full 6 cups of cheese and it left quite a bit of grease floating on the top. If you drop to the 4 cup range of cheese, there will surely be less grease on top. Secondly, I will use a little less Buffalo Wing Sauce as the spice was fairly significant; possibly will use only 1-1/3 cup. Thirdly, I will most likely use three 8 oz blocks of cream cheese rather than two as I think I would like it a little thicker. And finally, I will possibly use 1/2 cup Ranch and 1/2 cup Blue Cheese Dressing rather than 1 cup of Blue Cheese. I will certainly let you know how it goes the second time around. Please let me know how your version goes; I would LOVE to hear!

I’ve enjoyed spending time with you in the Bloggerina’s Kitchen!

With warmest regards,

Paula

I Heart Cooking! (Paula’s Cheese Stuffed Meatballs)

I have been living…atleast partially…the Keto life lately. I’ve lost a little over 30 pounds since February of this year. But the best thing, by far, is that I feel fantastic! More energy, less swelling in my fingers, not hungry in between meals, clarity of thought. It is just wonderful!

I’d like to share a delicious little recipe that I threw together myself!

Paula’s Cheese Stuffed Meatballs

You will need:

3lbs Hamburger meat

one bunch of green onions, chopped (add as much or as little as you like)

one pack of cubed cheese (your choice, I chose cheddar)

2-3 eggs

Salt/Pepper/Garlic Powder (Feel free to add any other seasonings you like, the options are endless! Be creative with it!)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, with the exception of the cheese cubes. (Set the cheese cubes aside.) The best way to mix thoroughly is to get your hands all in the ingredients and just squish it together. (Stop grossing out, wash good and dig in…mix it like your granny used to. Ha!) After mixed thoroughly, start rolling them out. Approximately 2 inches in diameter.

You will need to stuff a cheese cube inside each and line on a cookie sheet already sprayed with non-stick spray. Make certain to have the cheese cube fully and tightly enclosed in the hamburger meat or it is more likely to sneak out during their time in the oven.

Once they’re all rolled and settled onto the cookie sheet, bake at 425 degrees for approximately 30-45 mins. Due to the excessive amount of grease that pooled on the cookie sheet, about half way through baking, I drained the grease off so that they weren’t just soaking in it. You could also decrease the amount of grease by using a much leaner mix of ground meat.

Man! These are super delicious and perfect for the Keto life!

I must say though, it’s often difficult for me to juggle a family of four and meet everyone’s meal needs. If you are doing Keto and your family is not, be creative and design the remainder of the meal around their needs and likes.

Example one: Pull enough Cheese Stuffed Meatballs out for you, pour spaghetti sauce over the remainder, heat and add pasta for Spaghetti & Meatballs. Voila! You have a meal that the entire family can enjoy…while you keep the pounds and inches on the decline.

Example two: Pull enough Cheese Stuffed Meatballs out for you, pour pizza sauce over the remainder, heat and place inside hoagie buns, sprinkle with parmesan cheese or mozzarella. Voila! You have a meal that the entire family can enjoy…while you keep the pounds and inches on the decline.

Add a salad and enjoy! =)

Sipping coffee this afternoon, thinking up what else I may try making. I’ll definitely keep you updated. I love throwing stuff together and making up recipes. Let me know what you think! ~paula

For Whom Do You Sing Harmony?

I adore singing in the choir. I have some of my most carefree moments of each week…goofing, laughing, singing, harmonizing and practicing with my fellow choir members…who just happen to be some of my closest friends.

I sing alto, as did my sweet little mama. She managed to teach me that I would love choir…or else. Ha!

During my early years in choir, she was my choir director. Let me just tell you, when your mama was the choir director…you sang in the choir. Needless to say, I can’t say I always had a passion for singing or harmony, but it is now as much a part of who I am as my skin color, eye color, hair color and my facial features. I LOVE TO SING.

But to say I love to sing, is not really the full picture of what I love about this topic. I do sing pretty much all day long…in between patients, on the way to church, in the shower, while I listen to music on the beach… I even have to school myself NOT to hum while I’m in a conversation with someone because it could be construed as inattentiveness to what is being said. I have it bad. Ha! But the truth of what I love about singing is the harmony.

When I sing to the radio, I’m full on harmonizing. I sing alto in the choir which is primarily harmony. I feel a little disappointed when the alto line has to sing the melody and the sopranos have to bust out the harmony.

Sidenote: I realized recently that Sopranos don’t typically like to sing harmony either…so music writers…stop that. Ha! On second thought, maybe you should keep doing that occasionally so we are forced out of our comfort zones more often. But that’s a whole other topic.

Google depicts harmony as a noun that is: 1- the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions that have a pleasing effect. 2- agreement or concord. Synonyms: accord, agreement, peace, peacefulness, amicability, friendship, fellowship, cooperation, understanding, unity, rapport, like-mindedness. Basically, in music, harmony is a note that compliments the main note, the melody.

As you have gotten to know me…you knew I wouldn’t be able to let this go, right? You knew I would have to take this a step further. I couldn’t just let the definition of harmony be the end, right? There are so many life lessons all wrapped up into this one little topic. (#deepthinkerprobs)

I think that in life, we have to be the harmony to our fellow man’s melody.

As a Social Worker, I must be the harmony to my patient’s melody as I work along side them as they make decisions. I absolutely can not be the melody for my patient or families. They are the melody. I am the harmony. I accompany them as they make decisions they will live with for the rest of their lives. They are the lead. I provide necessary accompaniment.

As a wife, I must be the harmony to my husband’s melody. In this day and age it is frowned upon to say this, but he has the task of leading and I have the task of accompanying him as he accomplishes that task. Do I always play perfect harmony with him? Like, a big hell no to that. He makes me angry and crazy and absolutely nuts at times and I purposely turn that harmony right into a ‘dissonant’ chord. (Fellow music folks, do you see what I did there? Ha!) But luckily, dissonant chords are a ‘thing’ also. When a dissonant chord resolves itself into beautiful harmony again, life is good, right? That means kissing, folks. And kissing is good, right? Ha!

Moving right along. As a mother, I must be the harmony to my children’s ambitions in life. They have so many decisions to make along the way. I can’t run their lives for them. As much as we want to stop them from making the same mistakes we made, they have to live their life on their own. We can educate…harmonize, if you will…but we have to let them be their own melody. At the end of the day, they are the ones who have to lie their head down on their own pillow at night and live with their own thoughts. Not us. We live with our own thoughts.

I should probably revisit my earlier comment “we have to be the harmony to our fellow man’s melody”. What does that really mean? If we are always the harmony for others, when do we get to be our own melody? Almost always would be the answer. If everyone learned to compliment other’s melodies, there would always be someone available to be your harmony as well.

“Your true character is most accurately measured by how you treat those who can do nothing for you.” – Mother Teresa

Just sipping some Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée Coffee and thinking about puttin’ on a kitchen concert. Where’s my spatula mic??? I’m about to bust out some major harmony…whose gonna tackle the melody for me??? ~paula

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

img_3120I got a snap from a good friend of mine that she left a surprise on my desk at work and it would be waiting on me the next morning. I, of course…since I hardly have the ability to be serious…suggested that I was hoping it might be a certain singer & song writer who I currently crush on pretty hard. But I mean, how would they have gotten Ashley McBryde to agree to come to my office and just sit on my desk and await my arrival until the next morning? Nope, that couldn’t be it. (But seriously, her lyrical ability that literally makes you question whether or not you are the one in the song coupled with her mesmerizing vocals…and amazing tats…who wouldn’t crush on all of that!)

But I digress. (Clears throat and gets back on task.) What was awaiting my arrival this morning was a bag of Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée, Ground Coffee by Archer Farms. This coffee is described as “Sweet vanilla and burnt sugar flavors with a light body”. I wouldn’t have been able to come up with that choice of words if my very life depended on it. I didn’t actually read that description until I had already tasted the coffee which was preceded by me smelling the coffee as it brewed. Man. All I could think to describe the coffee was “damn”. Ha! See what I mean? The level of delight experienced by my happy little taste buds decreased my literary skills by about 37.9%. I went sort of neanderthal…just grunted “damn” and kept slurping. Ha! But that description was spot on! Delicious!

So delicious that I even took a picture of the moment and decided there was something that should be said for good friends and thoughtful gestures. It just needed to be shared.

My mind considered the Random Acts of Kindness movement that was so prevalent for a while. I definitely hopped aboard the proverbial band wagon and dished out a few little unsuspecting niceties. They definitely made my heart smile as I hoped it did for the recipients of my kindness. I just wish the movement had truly swept the nation and made a lasting impression. You know, reached every single corner of the entire globe…nice people everywhere…waiting, watching, ready to pounce with a nice gesture the moment the opportunity presented. This would have resulted in so much sugar dripping from every street corner that you wouldn’t have been able to breathe. Ha! Not likely though, right?

Nice gestures and sweet friends are only two tiny pieces of the enormous puzzle that make this life pleasant. There are a lot of things that make life lovely and pleasant and worth it. Closing your eyes as you get lost in a slow kiss, refreshing rain showers enjoyed while rocking on the back porch, the first sip of morning coffee, slipping under clean sheets with freshly shaved legs, the first long drag of a cigarette while you stress smoke, a long icy chug of a 20oz Mountain Dew straight from the cooler, the aromas that waft from your mama’s kitchen, watching and hearing the waves crash onto the beach while the breeze blows your hair, your teeth squishing into the juicy sweetness of a summer  sun ripened watermelon, listening to babies belly laugh with no inhibition, kicking your shoes and socks off and plopping down on the couch after you come in from work. Aaaaaah! I could literally go on for hours of all the nice little things in life. Things that are often overlooked, discounted…taken for granted…but can’t be bought.

My pastor used the word content recently in a sermon and communicated how we should learn to be a little more content in life; stop wanting so much stuff. The word content is so integral in making or breaking our perspective on how life is treating us. If we only look at the things that are missing; your car isn’t as cool as your neighbor’s, you don’t have enough money for that new house, can’t find your second fuzzy sock, your television is broke; we will miss out on so much of the “good stuff”.

Sipping my new favorite coffee tonight which was such an unexpected sweet gesture and learning how to be content in life…looking for the good in everyday situations. What did you enjoy about your day? You had to have something you could consider “nice”. What makes you content? ~paula