because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Losing My Gourd: A #LessonLearned by Amy Stevens

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When you see the teacher, you know it’s a #LessonLearned!

I first “met” Amy Stevens 18 months ago at Life From The Trenches. Amy’s blog commonly features stories about her life with her husband and their children. Amy has lofty goals of growing a garden, frequently uses sarcasm as a coping mechanism, always wears socks in hotel rooms, sometimes says “Amen” at the end of The Pledge of Allegiance, and pretends to eat peas in front of her children.

Amy lives in Joplin, Missouri, and it is an understatement to say that her life was rocked in a major way when those tornadoes hit last May. Since then, Amy has been posting intermittently as she has worked tirelessly to rebuild her family home while assisting in rebuilding her community. She continues to provide her children with a sense of faith in a world where nothing is solid. Amy writes about beautiful, messy, and chaotic moments that make ordinary life magic. And she’s hoping to get back into her writing — starting now.

I urge you to follow Amy on Twitter @AmyStevens_ or, if you prefer via her Facebook page. I feel fortunate to have Amy here today to share this month’s #LessonLearned.

• • •

Photo by Craig Newsom at Flickr.com

I don’t know what led me to become a hospice social worker, but it’s been an amazing journey.

I could write about the patients: how they teach me about grace, compassion, gratitude, and provide powerful doses of perspective.

But I’m not going to write about the patients.

I could write about my colleagues.

You want to see radical compassion? Watch a hospice nurse work furiously to ease the pain of a patient. You want to experience mercy? Watch an aide provide care with patience and gentleness. Want to soak in real faith? Watch a chaplain offer a prayer that helps our patients find solid ground to cling to in grief.

But I’m not going to write about my colleagues.

I am going to write about a spaghetti squash.

One of the nurses gave me the squash, a giant one. Leaving the squash on my desk, I went to a meeting debating if this squash called for marinara, sweet sugar and cinnamon, or maybe just some Parmesan. There are so many options when it comes to spaghetti squash.

Fast forward to an hour later. My meeting ended and I walked out to my desk to find that the squash was gone. In its place was this note:

“You’ll never see your gourd again.”

In addition to all the things I said above about my coworkers, they also have sticky fingers.

They also think they’re funny.

And so it began.

I threw out reasonable accusations.

Everyone was a suspect, and everyone looked a bit shady.

They are, in fact, a tad shady.

No one came forward.

Because they’re good. Really good.

I went home and, as any top-notch investigator would, I turned to Facebook.

I posted this completely authentic picture of my poor children with no supper. (Guilt can lead to confessions, and this was no time for mercy.)

Look at those starving children!

My photo was posted along with the following Status Update:

Someone at work stole my spaghetti squash leaving behind the note: “You’ll never see your gourd again.” Tonight my children go hungry: victims of a cold, calculated crime.

Forty-three comments later, I learned my colleagues are not only shady but also willing to throw each other under the bus.

Still, no one came forward with a confession.

I was not surprised.

The following morning, I entered the office to this:

Squashy looks like he had a rough night.

Apparently, my squash had been stolen and passed around the office like some kind of contraband sex toy. The main culprit was a nurse, but no one was innocent in this game — except for my poor, hungry children.

(I wouldn’t feed them dinner until they posed for the Facebook picture. I wanted authentic.)

From the moment I discovered the theft, to the discovery of wide-eyed squash, to my apology over the intercom for accusing innocent people of a heinous crime, there was laughter.

Life hasn’t always been easy in Joplin, Missouri. As a community, we’ve struggled to rebuild ourselves after last year’s tornadoes. And, of course, working in hospice is not easy.

And yet.

My life has led me to a place where I’m surrounded by people who leave in their wake physical relief and soothed souls. There are no better people to teach how to comfort and how to be comforted through understanding words, soothing touch, and the simple presence of someone not scared away by suffering.

There are many lessons to be found in this tale. Obviously, the first lesson being that one should always secure her squash. But also that life is gritty – often devastating and heartbreaking – so it is important to find joy in the ridiculous, share comfort in a little squash vandalism, and heal through humor.

What’s making you laugh these days? What’s your favorite fall vegetable? How do you like your spaghetti squash? Anyone else have a playful office climate & culture? What kind of fun little pranks have you played at work?

Twit these Twits @rasjacobson & @AmyStevens_

31 thoughts on “Losing My Gourd: A #LessonLearned by Amy Stevens

  1. Hello Teachers & Twits! So exciting to be at Renee’s place. Also, to answer the inevitable … yes, squashy was still eaten. We went with the parmesan cheese option. Yum!

    1. Amy! I’m so glad that you are here today! I hope my readers enjoy your #LessonLearned as much as I did!

  2. Great post by two of my faves.

  3. I certainly enjoyed your squash story! It’s amazing how much difference it makes in our lives when we know that people care about us. And squash vandalism, though a major crime in most states, is a sure sign that people like us. 🙂

    1. Sadly squash crimes fall somewhere below misdemeanor here in MO. It is nice to know they care though.

  4. That poor innocent squash . . . violated in such a way as an obvious victim of gourd hate crimes and gang warfare. Who knew Missouri was such a dangerous place?

    When one works in an environment surrounded by pain and suffering, I think it is natural to find lightness and humor in absurd and goofy moments. It is refreshing to see that you and your colleagues can find humor while surrounded by that type of work. Shananigans are always welcome! 🙂

    1. Missouri is hard core. There’s a vandal lurking around every cow field. (What would life be without shananigans!?!)

  5. Ha! This post is what’s making me laugh today. Such a fun writing voice you have, Amy. My hat goes way off to you for doing hospice work. Having volunteered for hospice a bit, I know how special the people who work there are.

    I love spaghetti squash…and may never look at it the same way. 😉 Contraband sex toy. LOL Too much, in a great way.

    1. Thank you so much for volunteering. Our volunteers amaze me. I could go on and on but they allow us to make differences in the lives of our patients and families that would otherwise be impossible. Truly inspirational people.

    2. I can’t imagine working in hospice. But I’m really glad for all the nurses and other folks who do. They are amazing.

  6. What a hilarious stunt and why didn’t I think of doing that? Oh. I guess I don’t often have the opportunity to steal someone’s squash… 🙂

    1. Sadly, it’s one of those opportunities that rarely presents itself! I know that I’ll be keeping my eyes opened for neglected squash. And for other un-squash-related ways to get them back. Ideas are welcome!

  7. I love this! Thank you for introducing me to Amy, as it were. (Hi, Amy!).

    1. Thank you! And very nice to meet you.

  8. We don’t get good gourds this far south, because it’s still summer til after Thanksgiving. Bummer.

    1. I’d send you some if it didn’t violate my new never-let-it-out-of-my-sight gourd policy.

    2. Lisha: I remember that fruit cart guy at the corner Riverbend selling “Loseiana Gorrs” (aka: Louisiana Gourds) back in the 90’s. Is he still around?

      1. I don’t know if he’s still around. The ones in Mid-City are still here, but I don’t get to Riverbend much during the day when he’s be there.

        Most of the gourds rot on the ground here because of the humidity. There’s a pumpkin patch in St. Charles Parish that caters to field trips for little kids, but half of the pumpkins out there are store-bought and placed in the fields for effect. I get mine from Walmart. 😉

  9. Amy! So great to see you here, my friend 🙂 I loved this story and how it represents the importance of finding moments of lightness, especially during the most trying times in our lives. Thanks, Renee, for sharing Amy’s great intelligence, wit, and compassion with so many other readers. You are both such talented writers and I always enjoy reading your pieces 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Dawn! So, coffee?!?

      1. YES!! Let’s do it next week. I’ll text you 🙂
        Renee, see how you’ve connected people through your blog?? What an amazing gift you have! 🙂

    2. Squeeee! So excited! I am so thrilled that the two of you are going to get together! I hope you love each other. I think you are going to click in a big way.

      1. There is no doubt in my mind that you are correct. We are totally in sync on Facebook! LOL

        1. We also have several mutual friends and hang-outs. I’m just surprised we haven’t run into each other yet! I’m looking forward to solving the world’s problems over some Starbucks.

  10. Okay, I’m totally determined to try spaghetti squash this fall! Sold!

    1. Nina, you’ll be so glad you did. It’s delicious even without Sharpie art all over it. (I’m partial to the butter/parmesan method.)

      1. Definitely try it, Nina, you won’t be disappointed. I cook it in the microwave and throw some marinara sauce over it after removing from the skin. My kids like it every bit as much as regular spaghetti noodles.

    2. I might make this for Rosh Hashanah! Seriously. It sounds so yummy.

      But we can’t do the cheese.

      Can’t mix milk with meat.

      Maybe I’ll save until Yom Kippur. Definitely on the list for the fall. Amy, will you send me the exact recipe? I need exact. I’m not a good wing-it-er.

  11. Thank you for hosting Amy! I am off to read away, love finding new people to read. This taste (said tongue in cheek) was delightful.

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