Monday, December 27, 2010

A Resolution Worth Trying to Keep

This book was written by a CEO of a hospital. Although he is also, of course, so much more than that title, that is his qualification for writing this book. I fully understood the importance of this book by the time I finished the first page. He remarks, “CEOs don’t take care of patients. So, what do they do? The single most important thing a hospital CEO does is to take care of the people who take care of people – to serve the servers.” Now I am obviously not a CEO of a hospital, and I am fully aware that I will probably never be the CEO of the hospital. But this one statement, to take care of the people who take care of people, has just become my 2011 professional, New Year’s Resolution (also, ick, I hate resolutions and think it’s annoying that I hate them, but then talk about them and make and break them each year…but this seems like a worthy one…not that “throwing away all granny panties and stained t shirts from middle school” weren’t worthy at the time).
So, my book pick of the week, this last week of the best and busiest year of my life, is “Radical Loving Care” by Erie Chapman. He defines Radical Loving Care as "creating a continuous chain of caring light around each and every patient." Who doesn't want to strive to create more of a chain of caring light around each person we come in contact with in our personal and professional lives? As long as this is the beginning of my long list of resolutions, I don't mind jumping in to the 2011 resolution making trend...maybe I will be able to keep this one. Wanna join?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i"

“The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he paid for the turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he recompensed the boy were only to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his chair again, and chuckled till he cried.”
The women in my family have a problem. We sisters were cursed with it from our mom, who received it from her mom, who we are told also received it from her mom. So it must be a Felker/Sowell/Blake woman trait. We, like others who have this epidemic, often get together and laugh until we cry. Now this sounds beautiful. But let me assure you it’s not. It’s not that cute joyful noise of laughter that is accompanied by a simple tear or a delicate “wipe away your mascara with a white tissue’ cry. We seriously cannot breathe. We laugh so hard that we cry and forget what we were laughing about because we start crying and cannot talk or make a noise. You can’t even hear any laughter. You can’t remember why we started laughing or if it was even funny, because we cannot talk to explain what just happened. Usually this hits one of us and it makes the others start, and then just hold on because it won’t be over soon. And then, only making it worse, when it finally passes no one else thinks whatever it was that got us started was funny. Except, the funny part, is the way we look when it’s all done. We are not pretty laughers and we are not pretty criers, so the combination is the worst.
This is all only to make a few comments about A Christmas Carol that I just finished: One, I loved this book as much as I hoped and thought I would. Two, the Felker/Sowell/Blake girls have been called pretty and been called “Crazy Indians” and these two often go hand in hand..however, when we laugh we only fulfill the latter. Three, I understand dear Scrooge. I understand, thank God, how it feels to be so overcome with joy that you have to chuckle until you cannot breathe because there’s nothing else to do.
We are less than one week from Christmas and I am so overcome with joy and love that I feel like we will all just have to sit in a room and laugh until we cry in order to get this joy out of us. My mom and I drove to Kansas City to finish shopping yesterday. She told me that she can seriously feel my grandparents with her and that it’s such a complete feeling of joy – that it’s an actual physical joy. I agree so many times a day. I feel that it truly is a wonderful disease or epidemic. And that it’s contagious. You only have to be in my mom’s presence, or Seth’s, or Judy’s, or David’s before you catch it. That feeling of being so overcome with joy that you have to let it out somehow. And sometimes all you can do is chuckle till you cry.
Thank God for this contagious joy. And in the next week I pray that we let it happen and don’t worry about not being pretty. One of my favorite Christmas songs says “guide us thy perfect light.” I think of this sort of joy as a perfect light.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Let Your Heart Be Light

I know that this is a blog about books, and I know that I have not read many books this year. However, 'tis the season to get busy with the things that make this season so wonderful.
Baking cookies with friends

Christmas partying with my David

Not missing the big "gender revealing party" for my best friends' baby..It's a Girl!

You get the picture. So, no, I haven't quite finished a Christmas Carol or re-read Little Women for this season. No, I have not wrapped all of my Christmas presents, and no, I'm not done shopping even nine days out. No, I have not bought the last twelve rolls of ribbon for the wedding or finished the guest list. But, Yes, I have made it to each Christmas party (and won the dessert contest at one), handed out Cherry Mashes at the end of Holiday Park, turned on my tree the minute I wake up each morning (even if it is way too early because I had to drive to Bethany Missouri and leave town at 6:45 every morning), and have refused to move my radio from 102.1 for 24 hours a day. I have had my nephew for a Birthday slumber party and eaten popcorn out of the Christmas tub until the four year old admitted "Kiki, my tummy hurts." And I have been excited for my fiance when he brought home a pheasant, a duck, or a crane (yes, he crane hunts...) And I told a dear friend goodbye in the midst of editing and finishing a state proposal. I may not have finished my book, I may not have texted you back in a timely manner, and I may not have made it to every single Girl's Night Out. But I have worked hard this season to try to be the best Christian, the best sister, the best aunt, the best daughter, the best fiance, and the best friend. And, if I have time, the best PowerWorks specialist, the best dessert maker, and the best lemon cookie baker. And, if you have time, tis the season to read some great books.

Friday, December 3, 2010

There'll be scary ghost stories...

Now here is something scary... Today while reading one of my favorite blogs I heard that the setting of one of my favorite family traditions will no longer be open for business. Brace yourselves for this one, call me dramatic, avert you eyes before I crush all your dreams for your future families, or keep reading on completely bored. Whcichever action is your own, know that I apologize. I apologize that your life will never be the same because Pik a Pine is closing. I kid you not. This is the last year of Pik a Pine.

My family has been going to this Christmas tree farm since before I was born. Seriously, I went while in the womb. While everyone else is running around St Joe like mad the day after Thanksgiving for the sales, we are bundled up chanting "pik a pine, pik a pine, pik a pik a pine." We all complain. We all make fun of the silly tradition, and we all never miss it (or the hot chocolate and popcorn). In fact, even our dogs go.

2010 has been a year of changes for me. You might say that I made it my "D.B." In the past 11 months I have gotten engaged to the love of my life, moved out of my Plaza apartment (with this change came moving away from Abby who I had spent the previous ten months living just three floors above) into my first home, moved David from St. Louis to start a completely new career, lost our three grandparents that were still living, accepted a new position and left my first career, and, oh, planned a wedding. There was a cold January night before one of my best friends, Jenna, moved to Nevada that Abby, Jenna, and I sat outside on our bench on Ward Parkway and promised we would all make 2010 our dirty bitch. Yep.  That's the phrase we chose. So we proclaimed that 2010 would be our "D.B." And I would say that all of these changes proved that I did do just that.

I don't know exactly why all of this hit me with the announcement of Pik a Pine closing, but it all seems related to me. I was hesitant to switch family traditions around this year when Erika suggested that we all go to Schweizer's instead of Pik a Pine. So, just as any normal family would do, we put our heads down and took a vote. (What, that's not how your family does it?) And when push came to shove, we all agreed that it would be fun for Seth and Eli to take a tractor ride at Schweizer's. And it was fun. We started a new tradition this year. We decided 2010 was the year to start new Christmas traditions, and I guess that Pik a Pine agreed too. We didn't know this would be the last year of Pik a Pine before we went to Schweizer's, but this all seems to have fallen in place just perfectly.

As I say good bye to Pik a Pine and wonderful memories, I have to close this year saying goodbye to my grandparents. So I will go to Pik a Pine one last time. Not for a Christmas tree this year, but for beautiful grave mounds for George, Ray, and Shirley.

And I thought the scariest thing was that "Marley was dead." ...I've only read to Chapter 1, but more on this later.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Kite Runner...sigh...

There is so much to comment on about this book. Everything from how sad I am to realize that I know so little and I am so ignorant and naive about Afghanistan pre-twin towers in America (and let’s face it, so ignorant about the after also). To how thankful I am for my family and for the fact that I was born to the family and country I was born to. To how millions of miles away (okay, maybe thousands..again with the ignorance) there are things going on that are not fair. I know that there are things going on here too that are simply not fair. But I am talking more about the kind of not fair that includes hazaras (servants), ethnic cleansing, the Taliban, exiles and refugees, and many more not fairs than "it is so not fair that my car broke down last week" or “it is not fair that I waited until too close to Thanksgiving and now the reams egg noodles are all out at WalMart” type of not fairs.

So I have so much to say about this book and my love for this book and the things it made me think about. As promised, I finished it this sleeping for five hours each night. It was that good and haunting. This is the week of Thanksgiving, my grandpa's birthday, and my grandparent’s anniversary. All things that go nicely with this book and my realizations from reading this book. Family, love, thankfulness, blessings, true friendships, and knowledge. What a perfect time to read this book. Step aside John Steinbeck. Let's read this book this holiday time and then talk about what we are thankful for.

So, today I am thankful for a horribly upsetting book that reminded me just how much I am thankful for. The only thing that makes me feel worse about not being thankful for my blessings every single day, is that I had to be reminded of how blessed I am from a book that is true. That I had to re-learn this again and again because of someone else’s misery. That this book is a true enough story that the horrifying events in it are not only real, but recent. I hate having to be reminded how lucky I am because I learn how miserable others are.

In my little mind, I have put things like the events in this book in a “lessons learned” type of box. I pretend that women and children are not sold as sex slaves all over this world, that children have not seen their mother and father shot in the street in front of their houses and now are orphans, and that a woman is not stoned to death at the halftime show of a soccer game. I mean, this is 2010. This stuff does not happen.

So I naively pretend, until being reminded otherwise as this book did, that the most unfair thing that happened today was that I had to buy a different brand of noodles to take to my family Thanksgiving. A Thanksgiving dinner that will be filled with laughter to the point I can’t breathe, free speech about God and His blessings, more food than many children have ever seen in their lives, some time off from a perfect job that I love, and I will buy things from a store…with money I earned from working hard, but not harder than some...that I drove to in my car… and prepared in a warm home that I own…to get ready for all of this joy.

I have to take a minute to point out that I think you need to read this book and promise I will not say that about every book we talk about. And I think you need to accept that this is real. And that I think you have to feel it for yourself. And you have to address parts of it and be sorry that you didn’t know and haven’t done anything to help. And you have to accept that you didn’t mean for this stuff to happen for someone, and forgive yourself. The same way I wanted to ask Amir to ask for forgiveness and then forgive himself. To remind him that he didn’t mean for any of it to happen. That he might not have been able to stop it, or that he would have done it all so differently if he could go back. That he was young. And that, a thousand times over, he is forgiven not because he is good, but because of grace.

Oh, and, that I agree with you, Amir: clichés are clichés for a reason.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My List of "Happy..."

I have been known to say that "I am just so excited I could burst" probably too often so that it's now lost some of it's emphasis. But, anyway, I am. So at the risk of sounding annoyingly happy, I wanted to wish you all a Happy Three Months Until Our Wedding, One Week Until Thanksgiving, First Month of Work, First Go Live as a PowerWorks Implementor, First Thanksgiving in Our House, Weekend Getaway With Abby, Weekend After My Two Shower/M.O.H. Visit Extravaganza, and so many Happys I know I am forgetting a million.

All I can think about to write about is either EMR/EHR Light (as in "lighter" than the "light" version I thought we were teaching this past week) or the fact that I haven't finished Kite Runner yet. As I am sure you don't care about the former, I am going to touch on the the fact that I haven't finished the book, knowing that you understand after seeing my list of Happys above. I am not even halfway through this wonderful book that in another place and time, would have taken me one to two nights to finish depending on how much sleep I wanted to get to get by the following day.

So really, this is a post about my need to post. To spill it out that I haven't been reading my book, but I intend to. I intend to let you live vicariously through me this weekend because I will be sitting right here, enjoying wine and my book and not thinking about SPM conversions. And yes, it's okay that you have no idea what that means. You will someday, if you stick with me. In the meantime, please beg Pal to post until I have finished Kite Runner. And I will be right here, doing just that. Happy Weekend Before Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 29, 2010

You Really Wanna Know?

Probably, the answer to that is "no." Because right now I am not reading John Steinbeck or watching Julia Roberts trot across some beautiful land with a tub of popcorn. I am reading any and everything that has to do in some way or another with EMRs and the sharing of health information. Don't know what those are? You might want to figure it out if you plan on reading any more of these posts by me...ever. Because, although I love curling up with my fun reads, (The Kite Runner is my pick this weekend for anyone who still is keeping track) I am unbelievably focused on knowing everything about my new position. And I love it. I can't seem to get enough of it. I do not see a burnout anywhere in the future, so maybe you will hop on board? I promise, it is not boring, and I promise, you will be touched by these ideas in some way sometime.

EMRs are my new life (Don't worry - this isn't something that has replaced David or Bo, it's just my work life). I eat, sleep, breathe, and everything in between EMRs from now until LACIE (yep, another one you will need to familiarize yourself with) takes over the U.S. And I can promise you this, LACIE is coming to a town near you, and soon. Since most of my readers are in fact in this same town as me, the answer is "Yep, it's already taken over your town."

So here is a cheat sheet for what's to come. You will now, my kind followers, be able to say that you know a bit more about HIEs and yes, you are excited about the future of healthcare.

EMR - Electronic Medical Record
HIE - Health Information Exchange
HIT - Health Information Technology
LACIE - the Lewis and Clark Information Exchange
U.S. - Well, if you don't know this one, I simply cannot help you

Questions anyone? If you don't have any questions, don't tell my boss because she very well might just hire you instead. Because I have exactly one million.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall = John Steinbeck

It's the middle of October and you know what that means. Wait, you don't? Well, it means it is John Steinbeck time! Every Fall I love to read two books, and maybe, just maybe, this year I will branch out and read one of his that I haven't read yet..if there is one.

Okay, I have said I wouldn't push my favorites on you. But I also have said that I wouldn't waste my time reading teeny bop books (woops - Twilight). So here's my push. Read East of Eden. Seriously. Stop reading this blog and go buy it. You need your own copy; don't borrow one. You need to highlight in it, fold pages over, get water marks from reading in the bath, and have your own copy to "give" to your best friend to borrow when she says she hasn't read it yet. And try not to gasp or give a horrible snarl when that happens.

And, while you are buying your copy just go ahead and buy The Winter of Our Discontent. Because the minute you finish East of Eden you won't want to wait a few days while you can run to the bookstore or wait for it in the mail for a week. You will start reading The Winter of Our Discontent immediately. And quickly. This one is shorter. So if you must start with it, by all means go ahead. But I have to tell you that for some reason I feel like you should read East of Eden first. Maybe it's only because I don't deal well with change and I always read it first...that's probably a different blog topic.

And then you will be ready for winter! And you can thank me for changing your life after you have read these both.

So Happy Fall and you're welcome.

"But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed - because 'Thou mayest."  - East of Eden

"People who are most afraid of their dreams convince themselves they don't dream at all." - The Winter of Our Discontent

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Relentless Pursuit of Happiness

"I keep remembering one of my Guru's teachings about happiness. She says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you're fortunate enough. But that's not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don't, you will eat away your innate contentment. It's easy enough to pray when you're in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments."
So, lately, I have had what some people think of as a "stroke of luck." Here is what happened to me last week from an outside perspective: I interviewed for two positions with two local and wonderful companies in St. Joe on Monday morning. On Tuesday morning I received a call from Company A offering me a wonderful job...saying that the two men I interviewed with were very impressed. Later that same morning, Company B told me to expect a call from HR later that day with an offer, and do NOT accept another position until I gave them a fighting chance. By Wednesday morning, less than 48 hours after my interviews, I had two amazing job offers. I accepted my new position that day.
Don't roll your eyes at me yet or decide you hate me because I am "just one of the lucky people who has everything handed to her" because, my closest friends and family members can vouch for me on this one, this is all a consequence of personal effort.  I fought for this, strived for this, and insisted upon making this happen. I do understand that some people work hard and things still don't happen for them for one reason or another...however, this was a result of relentless pursuit on my part.
Last April (six months ago) I started pursuing both of these companies. Six months ago, I started reading and researching, praying, and thinking. I decided that I was going to work in St Joe, spend more time with my family and friends, support my wonderful fiancé by being there, and get involved in the community that I loved. I prayed that I would find a career that would challenge me, that I would work hard for, and that I would be successful with. So then, I made sure I had an active role in making this happen. I spent the weekend before my interviews reading the latest news about each company. I read the newspaper, memorized the companies' websites, and read about the competitors each company faced. I went for long runs and practiced my interview questions so that I knew my answers were prepared and honest. I visualized myself walking into these companies in a calm way. I didn't just walk into these interviews and hope that good things happened for me or to me. I worked hard to insist that good things would happen.
I could go on. All of this was tough. It was hard for me to tell my current manager that I was leaving the company that I have grown so attached to over this past year. It was hard for me to decide which company was the right one and turn down the other. It was hard for me to tell my teammates that I was leaving. All of this was hard and was not fun. I can't stand disappointing people and I made myself sick. None of this was easy and none of it merely happened to me.
I love the part in the excerpt above from Eat, Pray, Love that says "you have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings." Relentlessly. Participate relentlessly. This is how I have felt these last six months. I had to relentlessly pursue through the struggles so that I could be happy. Now, as I enjoy the benefits of all of my hard work, I just pray that I don't become lax in maintaining this excitement. The next four months are going to be crazy. I will start my new career and prepare for my wedding and marriage. I know that some days will be tough and I know that some days will be wonderful. I just know that it's up to me to decide my feelings about each day. And it's up to me to insist that I am happy and to relentlessly pursue this happiness every single day.
My sister Abby reminded me of a quote from The Holiday that she is using lately. "You're supposed to be the leading lady of your own life!" Unless you are the kind of person that good things just happen to day after day (in which case I roll my eyes at you, am way jealous, and hate you a little), you are going to have to work hard for your happiness. You are going to have to wake up each morning and decide that yes, it's going to be tough, and yes, it might be a bad day, but yes, you are going to be the leading lady today and you are going to do whatever you need to do to be happy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Attraversiamo (Let's Cross Over)

Attraversiamo - Not only does Liz find this word beautiful, but also uses it as some sort of mantra during the first section of this book (or so I picture her doing so). I can't get it out of my head. It has become one of those embarrassing little inside jokes I have between myself and myself. I have said it under my breath when a friend has come to me with a problem, or one of my sister's has sent me a disturbing text, or someone has emailed me with an urgent issue at work. I say the first part while inhaling - attra..and the next part on the exhale - versiamo... And it makes so much sense. Let's cross over.

My grandfather passed away 3 months and 2 days ago. Right after that we lost David's only living grandparent - an inspiration to everyone, George Richmond, and then my grandpa's wife, my beautiful and crazy Indian grandma. I find myself completely rushed mostly all the time. I feel like I can't even begin to process anything before the next thing happens to me. I feel like I am walking down the path and don't have time to choose to "take the road less traveled" because who has time to sit on some perfectly placed tree stump in the middle of a beautiful forest and decide which direction is best for her?

I'm not sure if Liz Gilbert meant for this to happen to me, but I keep picturing her..strolling around Italy with her friend, a beautiful chocolate drizzled bakery item in hand, and constantly crossing the street. I am so jealous. I am trying to apply this to my own life. It doesn't have to be so frantic all the time, right? Maybe I can take a minute, a breath, and cross over.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

That's right - we are reading it! And then we are going to watch the movie. Oh how I love Julia Roberts! I know, I know, that's not what this is about, but it helped me go back on my know the one that says "I will never read that book because everyone else is reading it and it's too popular right now." Okay, honestly, I had to eat those words the day I finally picked up Twilight. And I admit that they are pretty stupid words anyway. If everyone really is reading it and it's popular, it's probably that way for a reason. But anyway, Eat, Pray, Love is awesome already! So pick it up and read it with us. I will write more when I've read more and before we go eat popcorn for dinner and see the movie!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Our First Posts!

Welcome to our blog! My name is Katy and I am the Ping part of Ping and Pal. I have always loved to read. I remember asking my mom to buy me my own copies of books instead of borrowing from the library because I wanted to highlight and write notes in them. This was in third grade before anyone had taught me to annotate for homework.

Along with my desire to read, I have always felt an urgency to have someone share the experience with me. That's where Ally, my Pal, comes in. We feel that by reading the same things and applying them to our individual lives, and then sharing our thoughts with others, we will be changed by the experience. We will, in some way, complete a journey together but still be able to experience it individually.

Right now, I am finishing a novel by Paul Elie that my friend Karen urged me to read. This novel follows four Catholic writers: Dorothy Day, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, and Walker Percy. It is a wonderful novel that follows their individual progress, all the while showing their interactions with each other and their devotion to their religion and how these two things shaped their individual experiences. It talks about how we are all on a pilgrimage that we must experience for ourselves.

"A pilgrimage is a journey undertaken in the light of a story...the pilgrim seeks not only to confirm the experience of others firsthand but to be changed by the experience. Pilgrims often make the journey in company, but each must be changed individually; they must see for themselves, each with his or her own eyes. And as they return to ordinary life the pilgrims must tell others what they saw, recasting the story in their own terms." - Paul Elie from The Life You Save May Be Your Own
 Welcome to our blog! I hope you enjoy reading about what we are reading and are encouraged to go see for yourself!

I’m Ally – the Pal. I haven’t been a big reader until recently. With being on the road the majority of the time for my job, I have found myself reading more and more.

My dear friend of almost 11 years, Katy – the Ping - has encouraged me to start reading with her and have small discussions about what we have read and what we are learning! We have both always loved journaling, so this is a neat experience we can have together.

I just finished “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. This wonderful book has changed my life. It is about falling in love with God and living crazy for God. The author does a great job of characterizing lukewarm Christians “who strive for a life characterized by control, safety and absence of suffering.” This book has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me realize that it doesn’t matter what I buy, how I dress or what I drive. What matters is helping others, serving others, loving people unconditionally – even if they hurt you and living your life to glorify God in all that you do. I have also learned how important it is to rely on God and trust Him. Although living a Christian life is difficult, but truly worth it. After reading this book I am going to strive not to be a ‘lukewarm Christian,’ but rather treat everyone I encounter as if they are Christ.

I hope that as we blog, we encourage you to pick up the same book and comment on our discussions! Happy Reading :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ping and Pal Discuss Books...Sorta

We just want to read good books and comment on them. This isn't to comment on their literary is simply to say, "Here's this great book we read together. Here's what was going on in our lives when we read it, and here's what this book did or didn't do for me." Welcome and enjoy! Oh, and read with us!