Unusual Day

After playing phone tag for several days with a specialist I’m finally able to see (I say finally because I do not have medical insurance which made seeing this kind of specialist difficult), I was finally connected to his nurse. She used the word “unusual” when quoting the  dr. in reference to a test and it’s results, I had in the hospital, 10 days previous.  Unusual, eh? Hmm. I think I like that word better than another word he could have used.  I guess he could have said, positive, or concerning, or deadly, haha. I don’t know. What is the word that most drs. use when the results are not so great?

The word unusual was warm and fuzzy compared to the next few words the nurse spewed out of her cute little lips. They were words that I had NEVER googled in my life while researching my symptoms the past year.  I’d never googled that kind of specialist to which I was referred and I’d never googled or even had any knowledge of the next test she talked about.

So I hung up a little in shock, made some important calls with a dry cotton mouth, while at the shop and of course the minute the phone would return those calls, the empty shop would fill to the brim with shoppers. So I just told myself to wait. Wait. Wait. One of those shoppers was an eccentric man and his wife. I knew him from my social work career. He was what I would call a spiritual Sage with many professions. He has 9 children and when he walked in the store, like before, he announces, I have 9 children and I want to buy my wife a shirt to match this skirt. I think, oh crap, I don’t need this.  He is a Sage and has many helping professions, surely he can pick out a solid colored shirt. The conversation with my nurse was still reeling in my head. I was feeling much anxiety. But this man and his stories and wisdom calmed me while his wife was in the back trying things on. It was good he was there.

So the rest of the day brought in more neat people to take my mind of my morning conversation with the nurse. A couple from Minnesota came in and we shared stories of the North Woods and the Twin Cities. I laughed and had fun and I forgot the earlier morning for a few minutes.  I was so grateful these people came in. It’s like they were lined up outside with a purpose. Make her forget, make her happy until she can get home.

And then the time came to go home to google the medical words I had never googled in my life. I pull up in my drive at home and a woman about my age, clearly a tourist came right up to me as I was getting out of my car. I think,,,oh my, I don’t wish to talk, I must go upstairs to my little cave and computer. I need some alone time. But it was not to be for the next 15 minutes. She requested a ride up the hill 3 blocks to her car near the train. She was afraid she might pass out due to the elevation. She was also from Minnesota. So I said, sure, get in and we headed a few feet up the hill towards her parking lot, when a trailer jack-knifed in front of us. I was trapped in the railway and incline traffic just a few feet from my solace, my little home, my computer. She apologized and I told her not to worry I was just going to get on my computer and look up some words related to an illness for which I had just started taking tests. She turned to me and said she was a breast cancer survivor of 4 years and then she started telling me everything I needed to do to stay calm through whatever my illness is and know that there are people out there that will carry me through this. My eyes started to water.  I asked her her name because I was sort of getting a feeling that all these people walking into my life during the course of the day were sent to me. Sort of like angels. She told me her name. It was the name of a dearly beloved relative that had passed many years ago and then I knew this was not a coincidental moment.  She also said, I’m a prayer warrior, Nancy. I’m so glad we met and she hopped out of her car while we were forced to back the car away from her destination and I told her to have a wonderful year, thinking of how important the 5th year of being in recovery of cancer would be for her and I continued to back up to finally return to my home. After that final unusual visit with someone I knew was sent to me that day, it just didn’t seem as important to be alone in my little home with my computer in which to google unusual medical words.

God Moments


My American Indian Sweat Lodge Experience in Minnesota

sweat lodge

This looked like the sweat lodge the Agency in which I worked used.

In light of the news about the “sweat lodge” debacle and unfortunate deaths, I felt guided to write about my sweat lodge experiences.

When I worked as a family advocate for an American Indian Agency in the inner city, we used the sweat lodge with our families and homeless teens. It was buried deep in the woods in Minnesota and only American Indian Elders lead the very spiritual experience. Several weeks before our scheduled sweat lodge ceremony social work co-workers which included an Elder and I took some women clients to the fabric store and we bought beautifully flowered cotton fabric and colorful ribbon. We set up several sewing machines in our staff meeting room and families and staff sewed our dresses we would wear in the sweat lodge.   Male staff members, Elders, and teens from the Agency shelter would hop in a van early in the day before our scheduled ceremony and prepare the fire in the woods where our agency sweat lodge was. Big and little beautifully rounded rocks were buried beneath the ashes of the hot fire in the woods.  If you have experienced the middle of winter in Minnesota you know that it can be extremely cold and snowy. I will never forget sitting around the campfire in the serene snow frosted moonlit birch forest before the ceremony in my cotton dress with nothing under it, scrunched up in my coat waiting during preparation of the rocks. These rocks were called Grandfathers and Grandmothers. They were the rocks that were placed one at a time, by the Elder in charge, in a little pit in the sweat lodge. Between prayers to the Elders that went before us and to the Spirit, the woman Elder would sprinkle water on the Grandmothers and steam would envelop us.  We never forced anyone to participate and if anyone felt ill, the door flap to the small tarped lodge was opened for that person to exit. I feel I should add that I was the only non American Indian and have worked as a community social worker with many cultures of families. Respect is the most important aspect of my work and during the sweat lodge experience I showed my utmost respect following the lead of my Elders. In between prayers and the passing of the pipe, I whispered to my Elder co-worker that I was hearing tapping sounds on the tarp. She said that was the Spirits. When the ceremony was over I circled the lodge looking for a tree branch that might have been tapping or scratching the tarp in the winter wind but there was nothing. There was a couple feet of snow too and I couldn’t picture squirrels scampering around in the frigid moonlight. All in all it was a good experience and done in a respectful, safe way when lead by the Elders who knew what they were doing and most importantly, why.