Thinking of Karen Evertson

Today, as I unpacked my husband’s lunch box as part of my morning routine, I came upon a neatly folded up piece of tinfoil. I smiled, and thought of Karen Evertson. Karen was a colleague of mine some years ago. In fact, she was the CEO of Capital Region Mental Health Center. One day as I joined her in her office for a meeting, I spotted her finishing up her lunch at her desk. She was folding up a piece of tinfoil and neatly tucking it into her lunch bag. I was curious about two things, both her reuse perspective and her presumably limited or no use of condiments. I commented on both. She shared her doctor had recommend she avoid high fat high salt condiments, so she did. I certainly appreciated her use and reuse philosophy with the tinfoil.

Karen Evertson passed away in March of 2017 after a battle with breast cancer. I learned from Karen, both professionally and personally. I think of the committees we were on together, the presentation on a mentoring program we rehearsed for together as a group. I always knew how Karen was feeling. She was very open. When I decided to request a mentor for myself within the mentoring program at Capital Region, I secretly wished to be matched with Karen. My wish did not come true. But, I didn’t stop learning from her.

Karen wrote her own obituary. In it, she says “If you think of me and would like to do something to honor my memory, here are some suggestions…” and goes on to talk about many different ways to help others, to give back to others. Karen, today as I make someone smile, I will think of you.

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Fishnet Stocking

The chain-link fence casts a shadow on the girl’s legs, almost looking like she is wearing fishnet stockings. There are many mirages I have stumbled upon in my life; perfection, some friendships, the meaning of happiness, what is important in life. Some mirages are shattered, other’s are more dismantled over time as I accumulate different experiences. I imagine some mirages have yet to be shattered or dismantled. They just remain in place, shimmering as though they were reality.

I discovered another mirage as I was leaving a parking garage in the city. On my way out, as I waited in line to pay, an interesting sign caught my attention. It looks like a dated public service announcement with it’s black-and-white presentation. It has a drying of a seatbelt buckled, a rather simple representation. It reminds us “Fasten your seatbelt, someone loves you.” I immediately thought “that is quite an assumption.” Albeit true for most people, unfortunately there are some people that this is just not as true for. Another mirage. So many mirages, some revealed, some yet to be revealed. Thinking about this one for my understand blog.

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My Fortune

I received the following fortune in my cookie after one Chinese meal. “It’s one of those low-key days that you’d rather spend just chilling.” Is this what Fortune cookies have become? An observation? What has become of the profound phrases and quotations from ancient Chinese culture and tradition? The very ones that guided tradition and civilization for thousands of years? This fortune is a good guess, seeing as how I am purchasing Chinese food, so I am not cooking at home, and no cooking is always the beginning of a relaxing day.

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vàjé du

At work I have a sturdy plastic bright pink folder that is growing by the day. It is my “Work in Progress” folder. It is relegated to various things in varying stages of readiness or completion. Well, I am by no means getting any closer to getting caught up on this folder. In fact, it continues to grow in girth. It’s BMI is most definitely out of the healthy range. So, I find myself doing what I tend to do when I begin to embark on the overwhelmed phase; I look for other work to do. I spend time dusting my office area. Then, I search the second floor for a broom to sweep my office floor. Next, I empty out the three hole punch. Now, back to find the broom (should have emptied the three hole punch before sweeping the floor). Next, I tested a few pens in the coffee mug they make their home in. The attractive and substantial looking and feeling pens are all dead. I know this to be true already, as I often search through three or four of these useless pens before I find a viable one. Today I take the plunge, and purge the dead pens – right into the garbage they go! Now, I peak into a few desk drawers, looking for yet another diversion. And, what, there, do I see? Could it be? Another “Work in Progress” folder. This one, thankfully, has a minimal BMI. This one was abandoned a while ago, like a sinking ship. I have the sinking feeling, too, of vájé dō; that none of this has happened before. Where has this folder come from?

I don’t even open it, not today. I am looking for a diversion, not actual work. I have plenty of that. I am haunted, though, by this. I now remember this first “Work in Progress” folder. But, what was happening when I abandon the first folder, just put it away and didn’t look back? I guess I started a whole new folder. Interesting. This cleaning my office diversion has taken a turn for the worst. For me, diversions and high stress go hand in hand.

I recall a time of insurmountable stress in my life. It was my last graduate course, and I was charged with my final writing assignment, if you could call it that. More like an unpublished book. Well, this overwhelmed state of mind completely took me over , and I began looking for diversions. I cleaned my apartment from top to bottom. Then, it came to me – I just had to make homemade pierogies, completely from scratch. What better way to honor my Polish heritage? So, this being before the Internet and Google, I did what any young person might do, I called my Dad on the phone – yes the phone plugged into the wall. He was curious about my sudden desire to try this out. But, he cooperated in my diversion, thankfully. Two hours later, with flour on my clothes and homemade pierogies in tow, I brought samples to my sister, my dad and step-mom. My fiancé watched in confusion and horror, as he contemplated all the hard work I had done up to that point in my graduate program going down the drain.

As always, the diversion gave me enough of a break to get back on track with what I really needed to do. So, I dove back into my final paper with a renewed energy and vigor. And, today, here in my office, I slowly peel back the cover of the abandoned folder. Then, I will chip away at the plumper current folder, until my next self-imposed diversion. This feeling of vàjé dō stays with me, that none of this has ever happened before , until, of course, I find evidence to the contrary.

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Root Canal

Sound bites of Barry Manalow and Kenny Rogers escape between the drilling. Haven’t heard that one in a while. I travel back in time to the 80’s when my mother obsessively played her Kenny Rogers records again and again and again. Ruby, I say, get the hell out of there!!

I am dragged back to reality by the saliva removal equipment getting stuck to the side of my mouth. I can surely expect a large canker sore there by week’s end. What a lovely door prize, a memoire.

In the end I needed to return a few more times to keep digging the roots out. Apparently many of the routes to the roots had calcified. For some of the root channels he was only able to clear 30%. Perhaps I should only be charged 30%.

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Subtle Hint

Oh, my husband, he is subtle. His most recent message came in the form of a collection of used brown paper lunch bags, maybe about 25 to 30 of them in all. After their mysterious delivery, they stayed, neatly folded and gathered together, by the kitchen door for about a week. I had a sense of just what they might be. But, I asked him anyway just to be sure. Yes, each bag represented a lunch purchased at work. That information hit me hard, hit me right in the pocketbook! At $8 to $10 per lunch, those bags represented $200 to $300 worth of lunches. Ouch. Oh, he can say he brought the bags home for the family to reuse in various ways. But, I know the subtle message he is passing along here. Moving forward, packed lunches it is. And, I have plenty of bags to pack them in!

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The Greater Than Sign

” We are close in age” she said.

“I’m 52” he said.

“So, I’m older than you” she answered.

Silence. Continued silence.

I think we all expected her to share a number, her number. Instead, she chose to use the greater than sign. Yes, greater than is all we need to know for this discussion. We won’t be graphing anything on any number lines, so specific numbers are not needed.

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