4-month check-in, holiday greetings and new year wishes

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OK, so it’s been a while (4 months), but I changed jobs, got busy and looked up to realize the year was nearly over. So I hope your holidays have been joyful and maybe even occasionally restful.

Here’s where we are in the story of us:

I am four months into my job at Universal Health Services (UHS), based in King of Prussia, Pa., which manages hospitals and healthcare services. I direct story-telling, which is daunting, because we’re a Fortune 500 company with 87,000 employees, 2 million patients a year, and more than 300 facilities across the United States, Puerto Rico and England. We’re BIG — and hospitals are inherently home to human stories. There’s drama built into a hospital in a way that isn’t true when I go to the dollar store, or the gym, or even church. Turn on the TV — anytime since there have been TVs — for proof, in the form of hourlong hospital dramas. So there’s a lot to say. And yet, people are busy and reluctant to hand their stories to a huge company and sharing their stories can be problematic from a privacy standpoint. It’s a complicated gig, with nice people and the possibility to do some good. I’m enjoying it.

Speaking of health, I had a health hiccup this fall, when a routine stress test pointed to a potential return of my heart issues. To cut to the chase, a surgeon did a cardiac catheterization in early November and, after taking a good look around, decided nothing needed to be done. The result didn’t surprise me; I hadn’t been feeling as I had the previous three times I’ve been “cathed,” so I was skeptical that anything was dramatically bad. But I’m not the doctor and the stress test result was concerning. Even so, I was heartened when the surgeon took my side and  pronounced my arteries OK, though he suggested I clean up some of my eating/lifestyle habits, which I agree is needed.

As I said, the episode reminded me a bit of the events of 4 years ago, which makes me think about mortality, and that almost always takes me back to my dad, who died nearly a decade ago. That seems a long time and not so much, which reminds me of something the Rev. Ken Beldon, the founding minister at my church, said recently, “People die, love doesn’t.” I found it helpful in understanding this persistence of human presence long after the physical person is no longer among us, and drives home for me that we are far more than our physical being. 

While I don’t enjoy having cardiovascular disease, its existence within me does unlock a vulnerability that I would have difficulty accessing if I was without it. And dealing with that discomfort provides a focus that helps me to cultivate a more mindful ease than I could imagine otherwise. As the late Rev. Forrest Church said, “Want what you have” (the opener of his three prescriptives, followed by “do what you can; be who you are”). It’s not easy, and I keep trying.

In more family news:

  • Pete, Marissa and now-20-month-old Mia have set up a household in Cherry Hill, N.J. Pete is working for Draft Kings, the online fantasy sports behemoth that recently moved into online sports gambling. Pete works in player development. Marissa continues to work as an IT recruiter in Philadelphia. Mia remains our favorite (and only) granddaughter and, at 20 months, she is a wonder to behold (above, from Christmas, in Gigi’s arms). 
  • Kelly is at a goat farm in Northern California, the third farm he has worked on since heading west at the end of the summer as a WOOF-er (WOOFing is Working On Organic Farms, details at wwoof.org). He’ll be traveling to Greece and hiking the Appalachian Trail before heading to Camp Unirondack again this summer. Kelly enjoys being outdoors and working with his hands, and has time to read and hike. He is healthy and happy.
  • Virginia was recently promoted at her job to supervisor of a group of service coordinators at her company, AmeriHealth Caritas. She now has to report to an office, just south of the Philadelphia International Airport and, for the first time maybe ever, she has a longer commute than me. I, at least, am enjoying it.

Recommendations

A couple recent things worth sharing.

  • Virginia and I saw the movie Parasite, and both recommend it. It reminded me a bit of Get Out, a movie that starts like a humorous critique of America and race its first half, then veered in a much scarier, violent direction in its second half. Parasite, which was made in Korea and is about class instead of race, isn’t THAT extreme, but it is very well done. Definitely worth a watch. And suddenly, there’s a lot we want to catch at the movies.
  • Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Brandon Brooks struggles with anxiety and he was unusually candid about his mental health issues last month after missing a game when he suffered a debilitating panic attack. His courage in talking about it was so very good and I’m sure led to a lot of talk and maybe even some understanding about a health condition still smothered in stigma.. And speaking of persistence and resilience, the Birds have painstakingly hung in there through a difficult season and increasingly look as if they could make, and be dangerous in, the NFL playoffs. It hasn’t been fun, but it might make for some exciting moments in January.
  • The headline pretty much gives away the bottom line – “I Worked for Alex Jones. I Regret It” — and it doesn’t do justice to what a great job the former employee does of putting in context just how frightening and dangerous Jones is. 
  • I’ll get itShe’s not here right now and It’s for you are all phrases on their way out of the American dictionary, in lockstep with the disappearance of the landline from American homes. And that, argues this article in The Atlantic, is a loss. If you gave up your landline in recent years (like we did), this set off some waves of remembering and nostalgia, and I agree with the writer that it does mark a loss in the Family Commons. That said, I’m not going back and I doubt many others are, either. 
  • This long article about a group of historians who wrote a letter taking to task the editors of the 1619 Project, a look at America through the lens of its relationship to slavery that was published in The New York Time Magazine earlier this year, was, I thought, a comprehensive and even-handed examination of the issue. I have read some, not all, of 1619P, and I was struck by its pessimism about the possibility of change — and I also get that such a conclusion is justified by a reading of the historical record. I am an American optimist, even in these difficult times; I believe this: we’ve come so far; we have so far to go. My hope is, despite those who wish us to hearken back, we step forward to the country the founders wrote into being, rather than the one they excluded from the document and thus allowed to persist. 
  • Finally, I just finished listening (via Audible) to A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles’ novel about a Russian aristocrat who becomes an unperson and is confined to a cosmopolitan hotel in the capital, ostensibly for the rest of his life. The book is simply a triumph, and the audiobook even moreso, as the reader embodies it perfectly. I’ll say no more.

Best wishes in the new year!

– Kevin 

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