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Friday, December 9, 2011

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I will take the 1st of the 2 licensure exams I have to take to become a fully licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the great state of California.

I have studied, I have prayed, and I have worried. Tomorrow I will know if I get to move on, or if I need to take it again. I am opting for the first option. I am tired of being an MFT-Intern, with its limitations.

So, I will keep you posted. Thanks for you support!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanks to My Clients

Dear Clients  I Saw Today,
I just wanted to say, "thanks." Thanks for coming and bringing yourself to the room to sit and talk with me. Thanks for stopping and taking the time to ask me about my holidays, too, and my comfort, instead of just yours. It means a lot to me, you know, when you see me as a person and not just a "service provider."

Thanks for humoring me and answering my silly, odd questions. Thanks for being honest with me even when you didn't like where the conversation was going, and for being willing to come back, even though I can't fix your problems like you hoped I could. Thanks for engaging with me and trusting me with your stuff. It means a lot, and helps me feel successful at my job.

Thanks for telling me about your happy moments, not just your sad ones. I love to hear your stories. I love to discover who you are under the veil of all that stress that brought you to me. You really are so special and brilliant. I feel privileged to be the one to see you and hear you. Not enough people give the time it takes to really watch another person unveil their wonderfulness, and I'm glad its me. Its like being a treasure hunter. I am amazed at your senses of humor, your way of seeing the world, and your compassion for others. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with me.

I hope my fondness for you eeks through. I don't always find it easy to express my delight at who you are, or my intense love for you, because of my own hang ups, and because of the restrictiveness of our relationship. I can't give you a big hug or invite you to my house for the holidays. I can't always tell you how much I am your side. But I just want you to know I really love who you are. I really love getting to see you. I sure wish I could do more for you, did you know that? That it stresses me out to send you back out the door with the same problems? But I am amazed and impressed by how much you succeed even with the burdens you carry.

So thanks for sharing your life with this random stranger. Thanks.

Perks of Being a Therapist

Being a therapist has its perks. Other than getting paid to sit and talk to people all day long (something I would doing ANYWAYS!), there are certain therapeutic mentalities which fit really nicely with my own needs. Therapists all are about "congruence." What congruence means for mental health professionals, is being candid with their clients. This isn't always easy, or appropriate ("I'm totally scared of you," for example, would probably be an inappropriate use of congruence), but it means I am free to be a big basket case who makes mistakes all the time. If I mess up, I can say, "I'm really sorry, I messed up" or "whoops, I forgot" instead of having to put on a big show if I forget a family member's name or mischedule people. I can also express genuine positive emotions with my clients. If I think about them outside of work, I tell them, "I couldn't stop thinking about what you said at our last session," or "I was really worried about you!" When I am brave, I also share my dilemmas in a way you normally don't get to in a professional setting: "I'm torn on what to tell you, because on the one hand I totally get why you cussed that kid out, but I don't want to encourage you to do that again because it keeps getting you suspended."

When I first started, I would get easily flustered when I made a mistake or didn't have things perfect in my room. Now I'm learning to address what's going on instead of pretending everything's perfect when its not. People seem to move on faster if something is addressed. Its pretty nice, being able to be a genuine, flawed human girl instead of a perfect entity.

I try not to live in a vacuum, because I can't. Sometimes I'm really tired, and its better to say, "I'm sorry I yawned, its not you- I'm just tired today, " than try to act like I'm not. The clients smile and say, "me too, " and we move on. It is also helpful to let them be a human back to me, and to give them short answers about my life. "Thanks, I had a nice Halloween...I passed out candy. What did you do?" Pretending I don't exist outside this office doesn't really help anybody. Most people seem to prefer talking to a flesh and blood human.

I remember in Grad school, I asked the head of my program why she went into therapy 30 years or so ago.  I expected some lofty answer. She said "I haven't a clue," and smiled. I loved the honesty of that moment.

Sometimes, I have failed at being congruent. I have found it difficult to tell the truth when a client makes me angry. I have found it difficult to admit if I forgot to do something for them that I was supposed to do.

But I work on it, and try to give of myself as much as I can, and improve the rest of the time. Which is what I hope for my clients, too. And you know what? I find myself really enjoying that kind of mutuality with my clients. As much as the therapy is about them, its also about how they relate with me. The families that really succeed are the ones with which I form a strong relationship with goes both ways. If I can accept them as valuable, but real people, and they can accept me the same way, well, the work is almost already done!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How God Has Worked in My Life

I don't know how to explain to you, if you don't know Christ, how God has worked in my life, but He has in a very personal and real way. For those of you who do know Christ, you know what it's like to experience Him as a friend, helper, and counselor.

One of the things which continually amaze me is how He answers my prayers, directly and appropriately, every time. I have brazenly asked Him for a variety of things in my life, things I have no right to. I have asked him for a husband, for a career, to be able to travel, for advanced education, for a house, to pay off debt...I will never quite understand how He has been so faithful in giving me what I ask but doesn't always give these things to other people.

God answers prayers differently for different people, I know that, and He has a different plan for each of us. Sometimes we get everything we ask for, and sometimes He says "no" because He has something different and better in mind we don't know about yet, or we have prayed a foolish prayer that he mercifully denies. Sometimes He says, "wait."

But there are a few things I have noticed about how prayer has worked in my life. The Bible says, "you have not because you ask not." I have, as I said above, asked Him directly for lots of things. I trust Him and I try to remember to bring all my needs before Him. Sometimes I think people forget to even ask and they don't know why He hasn't answered them. So I bring all my little, provincial needs to My Lord, and He comforts me and guides me. Like a child, I come to Him, aware He can say "No" but that I can ask for anything.

Secondly, I rest in the knowledge that God Himself gave me my desires and interests and has a purpose for me. He will not leave me without tools to accomplish His will! So when I ask for things to take care of my family and succeed in ministry, I believe He will give me what I need to do it, and He does! I am not asking selfishly, I am asking in order to accomplish His purposes, and I am blessed along the way because He is so merciful.

Thirdly,  I've profoundly felt the prayers of others in my life. My life has been a CAKEWALK in comparison to most people on this spinning globe, and the only thing I can really attribute that to is that before I was born and before I was old enough to pray, and even today, people have been praying for me. My parents prayed for their future children before we were even conceived, and I have been immersed in prayer ever since. God hears the prayers of the saints, and I know I have been protected and blessed, not due to my own righteousness, but because God has lovingly answered the prayers of his faithful people for me. I have walked through this world clothed in peace because of their prayers. Likewise, I hope to be a prayer warrior for my children, family, and the people who I encounter to continue to pass along His blessings which I have been so grateful to receive and He has given me the eyes to see.

None of this means I am immune to illness, or that God doesn't sometimes allow trials and pain to come to people who pray or are prayed for! After all, Jesus tells us "in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world." God has a purpose in His actions bigger than our comprehension. I have not always received what I have asked for when I asked for it, and that is part of His goodness, too, and I know I will not escape trouble in this life. But there is such joy in knowing that My Heavenly King hears my cries!

What about you? How has the Almighty God worked in your life?

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

I am still coming to terms with the fact that being a therapist is, hands down, the hardest thing I have ever done. It has brought me to my breaking point more than once, and I am daily faced with challenges I don't know how to meet. It is hard. I have sometimes wished I'd picked a less challenging profession, but I know myself too well. I would have kept pushing and challenging myself until I found some equivalent situation where I was, once again, up against the wall.

I have to come face to face with my own shortcomings over and over again. I have to work with people I'm not comfortable interacting with. I have been criticized, complained about, condescended, by some very sick folks, and sometimes, to my shame, some not so sick folks. I make mistakes, many mistakes, and sometimes seen the consequences of those mistakes in the lives of my clients. I have failed some of my clients. I have dropped the ball more times than I like to remember. I have under-performed, felt under-motivated, resented my clients, coworkers, and company for "making" my life so hard. I have personalized the impersonal, been affected by my environment, and have experienced the sickening feelings of self-doubt and self-loss. In the middle I didn't seem to be able to make sense out of what my life had become and I frequently fantasized about just walking away from the tremendous pressure I felt every day.

I have recently had to face my own juvenile tendencies, and come to terms with the fact that no one is going to come in and save me from my situation. There will be no deux ex machina to swoop in and allow me to go free. I can't go over it, I can't go around it, I have to walk through it. No matter how I cry out to him that "it's too hard!", God has been unwilling to release me in my darkest moments. It is time to put on my big girl panties, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, and face things myself.

I have come to the painful realization that we all do, eventually, which is that no one else in the world can accomplish my goals for me. No one else will fix me or make it all better. My mommy can't come and rescue me from this big, bad world of frustration and personal failure. I am the only one who can walk this path through to the other side.

But I am learning lessons through all this that I couldn't have learned otherwise. I'm learning that perseverance really is the one thing that ends up mattering in the end. Everyday, I get back up, not because I want to, but because I must. Everyday, I go back to work. And everyday, I learn a little more, and put in a little more time, and do a little more toward the future. It feels like so little, but it adds up. And somewhere in the madness, a person is emerging. I was so afraid she would be bitter and used up, but instead, she is older, more forgiving, more humble, and more aware of the challenges of life. She is more appreciative of the sunrise, of fresh fruit, of frozen yogurt and good coffee. She better understands her clients and the pain that just living can cause. She better understands what it means to feel trapped and powerless, but also what it takes to overcome. She is more appreciative of family and true friends, and has become more honest about her own shortcomings with people around her. She has fewer blind spots about her own stuff. She gives out compliments more freely and requires less excitement in life in order to feel content. She better understands the power and importance of encouragement and acts of kindness because she has relied on them so desperately to get through. She imagines she can now better understand how Jesus felt, willingly submitting himself to an earthly body with all its frailties and confusion. His sacrifice started long before the cross.

    Part of me would like to reject these changes. It would have hurt less to stay in the shallow end, to still be naive to the pain of living. But I don't think any of us really get that option. If I didn't learn these things now, I'd just have to learn them later. I'd rather start today, before kids, so I don't have to make as many mistake on my family as I work through my own disillusionment and grappling with what it means to be a person.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A New Hope

A week from today I begin teaching an undergraduate psychology course. For the longest time, teaching at the college level has been a goal of mine, and now, that day is a lot closer than I expected it to be, and actually easier to get into than I thought. Turns out, full-time clinicians were being sought in my area for the clinical experience we bring to the classroom, just as I was seeking to expand my professional experience to teaching! It's one of those glorious marriages of goals that don't come along everyday. Now that the first cat is in the bag, I am starting to get nervous. A lot hinges on this plan- this is a stepping stone to the future for me, so I have to do a really good job if I want to keep teaching additional classes. Don't screw this up, self. I hope I do a good job! Eep!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Random Acts of Power

           
There are many, many things I wish were run differently in the bureaucratic system where I work. This is the nature of bureaucracies. It doesn't seem to matter which one you are apart of, the same sorts of problems persist.

           This inability to dictate how my day goes has been a source of frustration to me since...forever. "I don't like that policy," I say, and the answer, however nicely phrased, is "too bad, its a part of your job." And when people do try to make policy changes, things seem to have a way of drifting back to their original forms because people do their job the way they always have.


           So powerlessness is a feeling I grapple with each work day, and it can consume me up in frustration, irritation, anger, and hopelessness. None of which makes a productive employee. It makes a disgruntled employee.

           But this summer, when I was on a well-needed rest from work, I did a lot of praying and a lot of thinking. One of the revelations that resulted was this:

1. I have very little power over the bad things that happen where I work. It doesn't seem to matter what I do, they don't get fixed or changed by anything short of an act of God.
BUT:
2. I have A LOT of power over the good things that happen where I work. It's much easier to make good happen than stop bad from happening! So a well-placed prayer/hug with a coworker, a treat for my office mates, a drop by and say hello to a lonely fellow employee- these things make the day much more palatable for myself and others, even if we can't seem to control the system which dictates our work day.

            I am sure there are bureaucratic gurus out there who know how to "fix" these things and make amazing, streamlined choices which benefit everyone by removing systemic problems. I am not currently one of these people.  But right this minute, right now, I have the skills to improve my working environment through addition rather than subtraction.

           So that is my new goal. And you know what? I don't feel so powerless anymore.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Removing the Fixings: Examining The Issues

     When I started my therapy career, if a family came in with a lot of emotion and upset, I would find myself disengaging because I couldn't immediately see a solution to their myriad of issues they were bringing to the table. It made me feel sick, powerless, fearful, and reluctant to see the clients who needed me the most because I couldn't figure out how to treat their dysfunction. One of the challenges of family therapy is having to listen to so many different people and formulate treatment from all their stuff that works for everybody, and some of my families are very vitriolic. In supervision, I came to realize I was practicing a slight form of dissociation when these families would come in that rendered me unhelpful. I felt the need to either better control the session with less talking time and more structured time, or to interrupt and redirect, or to just sit and glance up at the clock, hoping they would finish tirading soon so I could actually do some therapy. I felt embarrassed that I didn't have quick answers for them, and impatient if they didn't "get better" soon enough. I chalked all this up to not being the best therapist for the job, which sent me deeper into my disengagement. It didn't help that I was told to focus specifically on Solution Focused strategies with all my clients, no matter what, so I felt forced to stay in a little box of communication and try to remember all the catch phrases and questions I was "supposed" to ask instead of communicating naturally.

Over time, I have learned a few things. I'm excited because today I navigated a session that could have been uncomfortable because of its deep emotionalism and the family member's difficulties communicating with each other. But in the last 2 and a half years, some things are finally clicking for me. Many of my ideas are based on Solution Focused and Motivational Interviewing concepts, with an odd hybrid of Psychodynamic and Attachment Theories thrown in, so you will see those theories demonstrated in what I have learned. I know more experienced therapists than myself have said these things, and said them better, but here is the way I have it worked them in my brain.

1. Treat all issues with genuine curiosity instead of trying to find a solution right away. Spend more time analyzing and less time intervening. What I have found this accomplishes is that interventions rise to mind based on analysis that I might never have come up with otherwise.

2. Treat all interventions as experiments, and all analysis as a hypothesis. This one I borrowed from our wise Solution-Focused gurus, but now I am actually doing is a lot more than I used to. Maybe I am right, or maybe I am wrong. Lets see, shall we? "What if we tried...could that help? What do you think?"

3. Reserve the right to be WRONG. I can be wrong a whole lot more than I can be right, and how I see a family when I first assess them may be totally different than I see them 6 months later. I routinely change my analysis. I used to feel bad about this, like I wasn't a good enough assessor, but now I am learning that most of it is based on the information I have been given, not on my skills. I am bound to get something right eventually, and its usually sooner than later as long as I keep communicating my hypotheses to the family and let them correct me or modify my understanding as needed.

4. Let the problem be a big problem. A problem neither needs minimization or exaggeration. It is usually exactly as big as the family thinks it is and they know better than me. While I normalize a lot, especially about what to expect from teenagers, who are apparently the most obtuse creatures on the planet, I also respect the level of distress the issues facing the family are causing for its members. I am also learning I don't have to resolve their problems in the session in which those issues are uncovered. I can respect their problems and let them leave with the family without being an ineffective therapist. Rather, its a recognition of the seriousness of their situation that they had to come and see a person like me in the first place. Their problems are big problems, or they wouldn't be here. I am learning to be okay with complex problems which aren't fixed in one or two sessions.

5. My most important job is to care for 50 minutes. People may not remember how I analyzed their problems or my interventions, but they will remember that I care. I am striving to be an excellent therapist, but what matters to be an adequate therapist is simply that I know about their lives and show them compassion and love. I am also learning how to share with them emotionally, and then let their feelings go until the next time. It has taken some mental work, but I am learning to put my emotional response to their emotional displays away until they are needed again. Sometimes residual responses remain is particularly troubling, but most of the time I can pick up and put back on my mantle as needed. This is going to continue to take some work on my part.

What about you? What lessons have you learned in treatment, or in your job, which someone may have told you about but didn't start clicking until you were practicing for a while?

   

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blog me This

I attended an orientation last night for the university I will be teaching a course for this fall (about which I am SUPER EXCITED). At this orientation, one of the other professors mentioned an ethics conference he attended where the therapists and other helping professionals were encouraged to get rid of any social networking pages or other forms of public identity online because of how the finding of this information might affect the clients. He said there was a case recently of a therapist whose license was revoked because her client (who Googled her) found her Facebook profile and, after seeing a picture of her in a bathing suit, felt this changed the dynamics of their relationship and impaired his therapy.

We could focus all day on the reasons this wasn't really the therapist's fault, as he had gone out his way to look for information about her that she did not volunteer, and so on, but the point is that the committee ruled the burden was on her, and was encouraging all helping professionals to steer clear of social networking internet activity.

Which leads me to a lack of cultural understanding directed by older clinicians toward younger clinicians. I am 27. I keep track of everyone via Facebook. I mean everyone. My grandma is on Facebook. I followed the play by play of my niece's birth on Facebook. I don't get people's email addresses or phone numbers if I want to stay in contact; instead I ask, "Are you on Facebook?" And they usually are. To ask me to get rid of my Facebook is like asking me to cut contact with all the people I have ever known who I don't currently see. In fact, the recent dilemma is whether Google+ is going to be something I need to invest time into or whether I can just keep things how they are.

Social networking is also a way to present myself publicly in an effective way. It doesn't bother me that potential employers might look me up- I welcome it because I make sure my social networking face is professional and appropriate.

I understand the need for discretion and not allowing just anybody to see photos and personal information. I have appropriate blocks on my Facebook to ensure privacy and make sure not to post anything too personal.

So I found this declaration to avoid social networking as distressing and somewhat insensitive to a generation that relies on the internet to keep track of people throughout their lifetimes.

What are your thoughts on this? Do helping professionals have the right to personal social networking? Or ought we to be ethically bound to internet silence for the sake of our clients?

To add to the discussion on the topic of social networking, head over to The Strangest Situation for information from the same conference as it relates to teenagers. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

"He Said What About Your Mom?" Trying to Help Clients Keep Perspective When I don't Have Any


I had a young man come into my office, a bright, precocious older child living in a group home for a variety of reasons, most of which were not his fault. He happens to be black. His crime of the week? Getting into a fight with another group home boy, a new boy to the house. So we discuss this because somewhere in the middle of all this we have developed rapport. I’m not sure why, except that one week he was telling me therapists can’t help him and the next week he had his guard down. I passed some kind of test, or maybe his life is just going better. Regardless, he tells me his side of the story. He tells me this new kid was calling his mother names. Not just “your momma is so fat” kind of stuff, but real names. This kid, according to my client, called his mother a “nigger.” I apologize for even posting that word because of its ugliness, dehumanization of blacks in America, and the years of innocent blood seeping from every letter.

Now, I am a white girl, so this label has never been used against anyone in my family. But I know the history of this word, and its history is evil. The little boy who used this word does not know that this word conjures up hundreds of years of cruel subjugation, but he needed to learn right then and there that it’s not okay to use that kind of language. My client helped him learn this lesson by hitting him in the face.
Personally, I believe a good smack in the face is an awesome object lesson especially for boys, who often use violence as a way to establish a pecking order. If one of my sons ever used this word against anyone I would not have an issue with my husband using some degree of corporal punishment to get the idea across that we NEVER dehumanize others.

But I am not serving in the capacity of a mother or a private citizen. I am serving in the capacity of a therapist, a therapist who is aware that in a group home, it doesn’t matter WHY you punched the guy in the face, it matters that you did, so you must have a “behavior problem.” Never mind that fighting is a common behavior for young boys, especially if you stick 6 of them from different backgrounds, all with chips on their shoulders, into one small house and supervise them with rotating staff with High School diplomas who don’t stick around longer than a few months. Never mind that a lot of these kids come from xenophobic backgrounds to begin with so they are actually scared of people with different skin colors because they were trained to be by their families of origin. Never mind that some of them don’t really see what the point is to making changes because they may NEVER GET TO GO HOME, no matter what they do, and fighting and destruction are the only means they feel they have to make a statement because they never a say in getting taken away from mom.

Regardless of the difficult circumstances these kids are placed in, they are expected to follow rules, to play nice, and to get passing grades in school. I get that we can’t enable bad behavior just because someone has had a hard life. But it’s really easy for a social worker to say that who came from a middle class life of stability, where people don’t use nasty words against other people’s mothers, and you don’t have to watch your back every minute of the day.

Anyhow, I digress. It does my group home kid no good to have a therapist say, “Sounds like that kid had it coming! That’ll teach him to use nasty names about other people’s mothers!” He still gotten written up even if I think he had cause. And who’s to say my client didn’t call the little boy’s mom a “Cracker” or a “Beaner” a few minutes before?  I only get one side of the story. So, I plod onward, asking him what he will do differently the next time, encouraging him to rise above his environment, sharing my analogy of a lobster in a bucket (you don’t have to put a lid on a bucket of live lobsters, because as soon as one tries to get out, the others pull him right down in their own attempts to get out) and encouraging him to not let the ignorance of others pull him downward.

But as part of me is really glad he punched that kid in the face, and you better believe I understand where he is coming from. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This is Your Choice: You Can Do it With a Good Attitude or a Bad Attitude

Growing up, when I was given chores or other responsibilities, sometimes I would ask, "Do I have a choice?" My mom and dad always had the same answer:
"Of course you have a choice! You can do it with a good attitude or a bad attitude!"
To which I would sigh resignedly and go and do whatever it was they asked me to do, believing there wasn't actually a choice at all.

The memory of these words often resonate with me at work because I am often asked to do things I seriously don't want to do. I am assigned clients who I feel uncomfortable, or unqualified, working with, and I am asked to complete tasks which I dislike or disagree with. But its where I work, and no one is asking me my opinion or my permission, and its my best chance and hope of fulfilling my own personal goals.

I recently watched a movie called "The Rundown" starring The Rock. In the movie, his character, Beck, is a mob enforcer who has no taste for violence and just wants to open up his own restaurant. He gives people 2 options:
Beck: I need you to make a choice for me.

Travis: What choice?

Beck: Option A or Option B. Option A: we walk out of here nice and easy, we go back to the airstrip, and then we begin our long journey back to Los Angeles. There'll be no bruises, no broken bones, and no problems.

Travis: What's Option B?


Beck: Pretty much the opposite of A. But I wouldn't recommend that one.


Travis: I'll take option "C."
                     
Beck: Travis, there is no option "C."
                      
Travis: Really?
Beck: Mm-hmm.

Travis:Are you sure? I mean, big boy,there's always an option "C."


   Travis opts for Option C, and eventually ends up with option B. I keep finding myself thinking, "where's my option C? I'd like another choice, please." But that's not really how the system works, not if I want to keep my job.

   A lot of the kids I work with are system kids, in foster homes or group homes, and a large part of their symptoms results from the grief rage they continue to experience as a result of being ripped from their families by CPS, even if it was for their survival. They have no choice either, and the message they get in their group home and from their social workers is "that's the way it is, so start getting in line." That's easier said than done. I pick up on their rebellion, and while I can't condone their choices, I can empathize with their stance.

  So, like my little foster care/ group home kids, I still have the following choice, the choice presented in every seemingly involuntary situation: I can do it with a good attitude or a bad attitude. I don't always choose good attitude, but lately I have been trying to do this for my own sanity. I have been trying to suppress the rage I experience when I feel like a square role in a round peg, and focus on what I am doing it all for: My future, my family, and the glory of God. And unlike my system kids, I do have a choice: I choose to keep going to work everyday and subject myself to someone else's authority in order to choose a better future. I am still in control, and I am still choosing. And, someday in the future, because I stayed on track, I'll get my Option C.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Diet Plan: Bite Your Tongue!

The White One is the Crazy One
This is the new diet plan I discovered yesterday evening. So far its working more effectively than any diet I've tried in the last year.

Step 1: Acquire a giant, crazy, jumping dog.
Step 2: Engage giant, crazy, jumping dog until, in a fit of wild enthusiasm, she runs toward you and, in mid- jump, rams the bony part of the top of her head into your jaw so that your teeth slam onto both sides of your tongue, resulting in bloody, gnarly gouges.
Step 3. Go to sleep after receiving appropriate medical attention.
Step 4: Wake up and attempt to consume a solid breakfast. Experience the PAIN.
Step 5: Quickly decide that liquids are a better option until your tongue heals.
Step 6: Feel weight drip off with every rumbling of your tummy.

How long does it take a tongue to heal, I wonder? Hopefully not long! I'm getting very very hungry.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: Irvin Yalom's "The Gift of Therapy"

In an industry like mine, there are lots and lots of experts who preach lots and lots of different techniques and strategies. You can easily listen to two (or more!) accomplished authors and experts endorsing completely contradictory techniques and modalities at the same conference. One of the greats that stands out, however, is Dr. Irvin Yalom, the writer of "The Gift of Therapy," "Love's Executioner," and tons of practitioner's guides to group therapy. I am currently reading "The Gift of Therapy," which never fails to bring me new insight into the work that I do and reminds me why I do it.

This is good, old fashioned, long-term therapy that Dr. Yalom endorses, the kind that doesn't bill so well with HMOs but is the reason so many of us went into this work to begin with. The kind of work I yearn to do, and, every once in a while, get to do, even though it rarely ends up in my notes.

Some of the excellent instructions Dr. Yalom gives us are simple, but liberating. Often, a young therapist doesn't know how much to give of herself and how much to keep hidden. Dr. Yalom posited there is no way to be unaffected by our clients, so be honest and transparent with them insomuch as it is helpful in therapy. He proposes scary, here and now encounters which ask honest questions about the relationship between therapist and client which lead to a great deal of fruit in the therapy time. Questions like "How are you and I doing today," or "How close are we today?" These are actually very scary questions for anxious people like me, who fear the answers! But if I ask my clients to be vulnerable, it is only fair that I be vulnerable to them, as long as it is helpful to therapy and not a distraction.

I am doing a crummy job of summarizing Dr. Yalom's work, unfortunately, so I recommend you read it yourself if you are interested in mental health or you are just curious what sorts of things go on in a therapist's mind, or what the purpose of our work really is. He is an excellent story-teller so it is an enjoyable as well as an informative read.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Love of Lavender

      The summer I graduated college, I went on a road trip with my grandmother up to Washington. The circumstances were somewhat sad, as we were going for her sister's funeral, but the trip was amazing. If you have never traveled up the Pacific Coast, you may not know that produce is abundant, and every season has its specialty. We were blessed to be travelling in Cherry season- we feasted on red, purple, and yellow cherries from roadside stands all the way through Washington. We went to charming boutiques up and down the Washington and Oregon coastlines, where we saw beautiful hand blown glass ornaments and luxurious satchels of, you guessed it, lavender. I would dip my face in the smell and soak it in. When we reached Pike's Place market in Seattle, we walked through the fresh flowers and I found vendors selling piles and piles of intoxicating fresh lavender. I purchased some dried and some fresh, and took it home with me. I had a satchel for my car and one for my desk, and I would crush it in my hands for months afterward to sniff its beautiful fragrance. I was becoming a lavender addict. Of course, lavender satchets don't last forever and after a while I needed to get a fresh fix. I purchased Lavendin oil to go in my baths, looked for delicious smelling soaps and lotions, and started receiving gifts from family members who had caught on to my somewhat obsessive interest.
              Then I married a man who was not so big a fan of lavender or other overpowering scents, and objected somewhat to painting our entire home purple and green. My displays of love for lavender have been relegated to our bathroom (mostly,except for the subtle packets in drawers and on shelves throughout the house) , which my grandmother, a talented lady, painted sage green for me to match my purple towels and white-framed photographs of lavender fields. If our first child is a girl, her room will become a lavender field. If its a boy, his will be a train yard- overlooking lavender fields!!!

            I am not the only one who has discovered the awesomeness of lavender. It has historically been used to cure insomnia, decrease anxiety, and improve overall health. Recent studies have suggested that properties in lavender act like estrogen for both males and females, with somewhat embarassing results for young boys who began developing breasts due to excessive use of lavender based roducts. The following is a good blog detailing these studies:
http://readingdirt.blogspot.com/2006/07/lavender-and-tea-tree-oil-estrogen.html.
 Lavender is, apparently, pure femininity in plant form. Its an excellent fit for an anxious woman like myself, although not for children!!!

I also found out there is a lavender farm in my town: BJ's Lavender. 

but I just missed their open season. Next year, I will be there. 


When we landscape our yard, I am going to try my hardest to landscape with lavender. And today, I found out there is also yellowred, green, blue, and white lavender!!!

I just don't think my yard is big enough. Or my budget for lavender splurges!

And you? Is there an herb or a plant that you simply can't get enough of?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Making a Difference

I almost called in sick today. I didn't feel good and the main reason I didn't was because it would have been more of a hassle to reschedule everything than to just drag myself in. By 1:45, I had decided to quit and pursue some other job, any other job where I didn't have to deal with crippling anxiety everyday because complaining people are coming into my personal space. Besides, when was the last time I remember my work making any difference? People don't seem to even do what I suggest, much less seem helped by it. I would probably be doing the world a favor by moving on.

Then at 3:00pm, I had a client come in in crisis. Right then, it didn't matter if I picked the right intervention...she was on the verge of doing something dangerous and needed help, right then, to keep herself safe. All my years of crisis training kicked in, and I calmly followed the steps I needed to in order to protect her. Today, I stood in the gap for a person in need. What would have happened if I had called in sick? Maybe nothing, or maybe something tragic. Today, I made a difference. That's worth a little pathos.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Failing For Jesus

Right now, right this second, I am not succeeding to accomplish the things I would like to
accomplish.

I am getting fatter every day. I feel more swamped at work and less accessible to my church for ministry. I have very few wise words for anyone, and I haven't been able to directly share the gospel with coworkers in months. My sleeping habits and nutrition are at a low. My house...oh, my house.  I am not moving forward into greater and more glorious things. Things feel like a big old slumpy slump.

Someone is NOT feeling like a Proverbs 31 woman!!!

But you know what is amazing about all this? Somehow I am in God's will right now. Everytime I try to wriggle around and pray and ask Him to use me, He reminds me to be still and know that He is God. He is still accomplishing His purposes through me. I don't always know how or see how...but in the morning, I pray He will use me to do all things that He wants me to do that day, and I believe He is faithful to answer my prayer. Some days, all I seem to do for Him is care about my clients, care about my husband, or listen to one of the youth tell me a story about the funny thing that happened at school. Eternity is happening all around me, and God is letting me be apart of it, but He's not letting me see it right now. There's a strange liberation in that. I don't know what He's going to do with me next-and I don't have to figure it out or create a master plan or be all together. Thankfully,He knows His vessel well enough to know what I am capable of and He will take me little baby steps at a time.

Part of this newfound comfort in not feeling "successful" is that I am learning to lean on my Savior, Jesus. Lately He has been my comforter, and I have started praying in a different way, a way I have never prayed before. I am giving my pain and distress to Him as an offering.

Huh? You say? That's kind of wierd. Let me explain. I believe I often hold onto my worries and my stress and I don't give them to my God, who has told me to cast all my cares upon Him because He cares for me. I am sinning by holding onto my problems. And they are a vanity into themselves, aren't they, really? "Me, me, poor pitiful me, I suck so much" ought not to be the cry of the believer. Instead, I believe God is asking me to bring all I have to him and sacrifice it at the feet of the cross. And you know what I have right now?

Sadness. Confusion. Turmoil. Fear. Worry. I have these things, and these alone to give.
So I will give what I have, believing that Christ has already borne all my pain and suffering, and that of all my counterparts on the cross. I am not adding to his burden- rather, He has already taken mine. I think of him telling us His yoke is easy and his burden is light. Jesus conquered death on the cross, and that included all suffering and pain. It is going to be wiped away on the day He makes all things new. I needn't hold fast to it today. I can leave it at the feet of the cross.

So if I am overwhelmed by emotion, I have prayed, "Jesus, I give you my sorrow. Please use it as you will." Just a few minutes ago, it was, "Jesus, I give you my fatigue. Please use it as you will."

So, I am working on allowing myself to be a failure for Jesus. If I must be a wretch, I will be his wretch, and I will be content with the abilities He has given me. I understand more and more the words of Paul, when he said, his strengths are made perfect in my weaknesses. I have been poured out as a drink offering and I will rejoice in whatever role God would have me play, whether I can see its effect or not.

So, I sacrifice the need to personify MY idea of success, with my mental checklists and "supposedto's." My Lord's idea of success is total and utter obedience to Him. So obedient, even to the point of disgraceful death (as was my Lord) is what I will strive for. My goal? To be like the perfect Lamb, who received no earthly accolades and allowed himself to be humbled. I will meet Him with the disgraced outside the camp, which is the only place He will be met this side of eternity. And, Lord willing, and through His grace, in this I will
succeed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Stuff I Want to Tell My Clients, But Can't.

Sometimes, dear reader, the hardest part of being a therapist for a person like me, who is not a natural, non-judgmental listener (I’m an ENFJ, for those of you who know what that means), is not saying my opinions about my client’s life choices. You will be proud of me, because I zip my lip very well in session. I say things like: “How is that plan going for you?” and “Do you think that behavior will help you reach your goal?” or
“What do you think would be the best decision to make?” I do not break that curtain, because unconditional positive regard and self-empowerment are the foundations of my job.

But when I go home, I have STUFF TO SAY. My poor husband gets to hear my opinions a lot because I can’t tell them to the people who need to hear them. So there are a lot of things I would like to tell my clients, especially the girls, but I can’t because it’s not my job to just come right out and say it. Here are a few of them:

  1. DRUGS ARE BAD!!!!! Drugs are very, very, very bad! STOP DOING DRUGS.
  2. DON’T SLEEP WITH THAT BOY. He is bad news! He just wants to use you, get you pregnant and move on to the next thoughtless girl. HE DOESN’T LOVE YOU. Would you like me to kill him? I will kill him for you.
  3. GANGS ARE NOT COOL. Have you ever met a successful female gang member? NO. Female gang members get raped. They get knocked up. They get drugged up and prostituted out. Being a girl in a gang is like putting a sign on your back that says: “Mess up my life!” STOP DATING BOYS IN GANGS. SEE POINT # 2 AGAIN.
  4. GO TO CHURCH. People at church love you. They care about you. They will help you and hug you when you are sad. They will even give you a ride or a meal if you need it and you don’t have to do them any illegal or immoral favors to get it. STOP BEING IN A GANG AND GO TO CHURCH INSTEAD.
  5. Being a teen mom is NOT COOL. The top way to get out of poverty is to NOT get pregnant. He says he will stick around? He is lying! And even if he’s not, he doesn’t have a dime to help you out with. SEE POINT #2 AGAIN.

That’s just a few of them. Some of the things I DO get to say are good, things like this:

  1. I know its hard right now, but one day, I promise you, things will get better if you keep doing what you know is right.
  2. You are SO SMART, beautiful, creative, and talented. You can have a better life if you keep doing what you know is right.
  3. Stay on track. There is a great future for you out there… if you keep doing what you know is right.
  4. You don’t have to stay in the bad side of town. You can graduate high school, have a strong family (at the right time!), and have a good job and stay off of welfare…if you keep doing what you know is right.
  5. I believe in you. I know you can do it.

I care about them so much sometimes it hurts… I want them to have more and have better lives. I wish sometimes they were my kids so I could take them away from all the gunk they live with and endure. I want them to know there is more out there than trips to Chucky Cheese. I want to go all Quantum Leap style and take over and make their choices for them for a few years until they are out of danger! But I can’t. So I settle for hoping I can let them know there is a big, wonderful world out there that is better than the ghetto, and they can get there…if they keep doing what they know is right.



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Name Game

I have a pet peeve. Sometimes parents, in an attempt to give a child a name that is different and unique, give them a name no one knows how to pronounce. Now I'm okay with that, people are free to name their children wierd things if they wish, but some people take it a step further. They get OFFENDED if you mispronounce their name or their children's name, even if its spelled in a way that would confuse anyone. So they come into my office and the test begins. Can the therapist accurately pronounce little Ma'likwa's name? If not, we have a reason to be automatically offended. So my first interaction with some parents goes something like this:

Me: "Mall-ik-wa?"
Angry-looking parent: "It's May'-leek-qua.That's the way its spelled. That's why there's a hyphen."
Me: Sorry, I'm no good with names! Come on back, My-lik-wa."
Angry-looking parent: "It's May'-Leek-Qua, I just told you."
Me: "So sorry!" (instantly forgetting appropriate pronunciation) Come on back...kid."

And it tends to go downhill from there.

Now, my name is Carolyn. I am often called Carol, Caroline, Carolina...sometimes even Carrie, Karen- lots of derivations. This doesn't really bother me. Its what happens when one has a common name. Carolyn comes from the root male name Charles, so I'm just happy I don't get called Charlie, Charlemagne, Carlos, or Carl.

To top it all off, I have a twin sister! So I'm just as likely to get called her name as I am my own. If I got offended every time someone called me Sandy, I'd probably be in prison right now for disorderly conduct. I can't tell other twins apart either, so I don't judge.

So if you gave your kid a funky, individualized name, don't be mad when no one else gets it right away. Its like penalizing people for not knowing your inside jokes! If anyone, let it be a conversation piece, because once its brought up, there's a good chance no one will forget his or her name, even if they aren't sure how to pronounce it.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Letting Go

My apologies for radio silence over the last few weeks- I was much busier experiencing my life than commenting on it! I attended a fabulous retreat with other Minister's Wives weekend before last that I am still processing. While I was there, God spoke to me about growing closer to him. I had to come to terms with the fact that I am struggling with giving up my idea of how my life should go. I had an idea for my life involving discretionary income, freedom from debt, and free time that has not panned out as well as I had hoped since I have been out of school. I have had to wait on dreams of travel, mobility, and daily adventures due to the demands of "real life" and the cost of living , especially with student loan and credit card debt lying around and causing problems. I also had ideas about when and how my family would be formed and when and how my home would be remodeled and when and how I would have awesome hobbies which would be good to talk about at dinner parties. 

While at my retreat, I had to come to terms with the fact that I am grieving the ideas I had of how my life was "supposed" to go. Now I have an awesome life, please don't misunderstand me. I have an amazing husband, 3 obnoxiously wonderful dogs, a house, family and friends, and a church family who we love and who  loves us back. God has blessed us exceedingly!!! But He also isn't letting me have everything the way I want it, and some of the things I want, like being able to start a family and getting out of debt, feel like they are coming along tortuously slow. I have a mentality about my life and what is important in it that is different than's God idea of what is important in it.  


So here it is God, my life. I know you have better plans for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope for the future. So its yours. Only I need your power to pray, like Mary: "I am the handmaiden of the Lord" and choose to serve You in your ways, not in the ways I think you should.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thrift Store Success 3

This is the dress I found, but in Black
Today was awesome at the Goodwill on White Lane. I found a nice pair of slacks (trying to find pants that fit is hard enough at a regular store!!!) and a nice blouse, both from Ann Taylor Loft, for 2.75 a piece.

But the find I was most excited about was a BRAND NEW (Tag was still on it) calf length black Talbot's dress which will be perfect for working in the hot summer months. The Talbots tag said the dress was originally priced at 68.00$. My price at the Goodwill? $4.50.

Thriftstores have revitalized my wardrobe and definitely improved its quality.

Even when (sometime in the far future which I can't currently envision) I can afford to shop for clothes of this quality at retail prices, I am thinking I might continuing thrifting because I will know I can get them for much, much less.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Helping Children Grieve

I have had death and funerals on my mind a lot lately, after the 1st year anniversary of my grandfather's death in April, and having attended a funeral yesterday for a couple from my church who were tragically killed last week. While I have been dealing with these things personally on an emotional level, I have been also looking at them on an analytical level ('grist for the mill', as they say in my field, which means that everything is fodder for therapy). I have been observing, and pondering upon, how people handle and deal with grief, especially where children are concerned. These are some of the things I have come up with so far. 

Beliefs change everything.
How we see the world changes how we react to the things that happen in it.
One of the things I see often in my work is parents unsure of how to communicate with their children about death. "What do I tell him?" "How do I make her understand that her mom's not coming back?" "How much do I tell him?" "Should I tell her the truth?"

One of the biggest determiners of how a child responds to news of losing a loved one is determined by their family's beliefs, and openess about, what happens to a person when they die. Some families are not very open with their children about family beliefs, perhaps out of fear of not allowing them to make up their own mind, their own uncertainty of what happens next, or just uncomfortability with discussing things they feel are very private or too mature for children to understand. This parental "mute button" can be very difficult for children because they need clear, strong answers. Better for them to have an idea to start with than a big question mark on something this important.

Another thing that begins to happen with the 3, 4, 5 year olds I work with who have lost a loved one, is they begin to display behaviors which appear to be "psychotic" to their caregivers. They talk to pictures, claim to see visions of their deceased loved ones, or just sit and talk to them. I always hasten to normalize this. I either accept the family's spiritual interpretation oif they have one, or explain that children's imaginations often compensate for loss in creative ways. The same way as that child would have had an imaginary friend, they may substitute their parent, grandparent, or other deceased family member in that place.

The only truly "bad" responses to grief for children are shutting down and refusing to answer their questions, or becoming frighteningly out of control when asked.
"I don't want to talk about this," "Not now," or just ignoring the question, can all send the message that death is even scarier than the child thought, that its something people don't talk about, and that its best to ignore and squelch grief just like mommy and daddy.
Or, if a parent responds with great emotionality ("I can't handle this!!!! Life is over now!"), a child will get the message that A. Mommy or daddy are too weak to talk about serious things and B. The event was so traumatic and horrible that life will never be good again.

Calm, honest, appropriate answers and statements will have the best effect on a child in grief. People tend to be surprised at children's capacity to handle loss when the adults around them treat it appropriately.

I was personally very blessed to have a father who, when his father died, was willing to sit down and answer my sister and I's questions when we asked what had happened to Grandad. Although it must have been painful, he explained carefully and calmly to his 6 year old daughters about how Grandad's heart was sick and the doctors had tried to help but couldn't. Before this, he and our mother had the courage to sit down with us and tell us that they had to take him off life support, and endure our questions about whether he might get better, and why they would take him off machines that were keeping him alive. I can imagine how hard it was for them to stay calm and have this conversation with us, but they did.

But the strongest, most important gift my parents gave us was faith. I remember being afraid to ask if my Grandad was a Christian, because I was terrified he hadn't gone to heaven. When they told me he was and he had, I had peace. I missed my grandad, and hated watching my grandma be sad for so long, but I knew he was okay, so I was okay. For several years after he died I would take out his picture of him in his Captain's uniform and talk to him. I would pray and ask God to give him my messages as I rambled on about my life and how much I missed him. Over time I did this less, although every once in a while I still have conversations with him, and think about him often.

I wish for the children I work with that their parents would be able to handle grief as well as mine did. I saw my father and his brothers cry, and they weren't ashamed, so I wasn't uncomfortable. I saw my mother and father sad, but they never allowed their sadness to pull them away from their job of caring for us, and they always deferred their burdens to God, which allowed them to keep going and be who they needed to be. I watched my grandmother grieve deeply the loss of her soul mate, life partner, and husband, but she always remembered our birthdays and still had us over, even when it was hard for her to smile or make conversation.

I can even say that I grew a lot through seeing their grief. It was an important lesson, learning how to grieve, and one which will be needed to be used over and over again as the people I love grow older and life leaves me with scars. I hope that one day, when grief inevitably visits my own children, I have the strength and fortitude to sit down with them and help them understand and grieve with them.

In the meantime, I encourage my client's families to talk to them about what it means to die.
"What does your family believe about what happens when you die?" I ask.
"Have you talked to your daughter about where her grandpa is now?"

If they haven't talked about it, I encourage them to have those conversations. I also encourage them to give the children closure. Sometimes children aren't allowed at funerals or viewings or graveside ceremonies. I believe children should be allowed to participate in these activities, but it is up to the family to decide if the scene is appropriate for children (if you know your family is going to be hysterial at the funeral, for example, it may be a good idea to leave them with a sitter), but some sort of closure is necessary. Visiting the gravesite after the service, allowing their child to write a letter, freeing a balloon with well-wishes for the lost person, or something else equally symbolic needs to replace that moment of final goodbyes. Something that is so important for families to remember is that children won't be afraid if they aren't. Seeing his aunt's body in her casket at the viewing doesn't have to be frightening if you are holding your son's hand and encouraging him as he says goodbye. Also, talking to him later about how peaceful she looked can go a long way to normalizing grief and loss.

I encourage the parents to talk about the people who were lost, be honest about their own sadness, but never stop attending to the needs of the living, and always be open to talk with their children about what has happened, using terms they can understand in a manner which is calm and open. If the details are gruesome or traumatizing, I tell them not to lie, but to tell enough of the truth without the bad bits ("Your mom was in bad accident", "Grandad got real sick," "Your brother got hurt in fight and he isn't going to get better" are all probably sufficient without a child needing to know about the drunk driver which hit mommy, her grandfather's long, painful bout with stomach cancer, or their brother's murder until she is old enough to ask these questions and handle the answers with her parents' support).

What about you?

Did you find anything particularly helpful with your own children, students, or clients, which helped them cope with grief? And was there anything you remember as a child which helped, or hindered you, from dealing with loss?

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Year Later

It has been a year since my grandpa died…I realized it late last night when I couldn’t sleep and I pondered a strange dream I had had the night before. I had dreamt that my family told me I had a great grandfather I had never met who was still alive in a nursing home somewhere. I asked to be taken to meet him immediately. My mother told me I would see him ‘sometime’. I said, “He’s 99! He could die anytime! I need to meet him now!” So they took me to a nursing home, where I found an empty bed with no one in it. I said, “He’s not here!” They told me, “Yes, but imagine it like he was here. I’m sure he’ll turn up.” As I thought on that image of the empty hospital bed, I suddenly realized my grandfather’s passing had taken place a year ago, and I had even taken the same day off of work (Wednesday) that I did last year when he died that I did this year because I was sick. I hadn’t even realized.
Last year, Easter came early, so he could celebrate with us, a blessing from the Lord, because any other year and he would have been gone before it came. Like the empty tomb in the scriptures, the hospital bed in my dream was also empty. Search as I might, I will not find my grandpa here with us, but he is not dead. His earthly body may be gone, but he will be given a new body by my Lord Jesus and one day I will see him again at my Lord’s side. In the meantime, pray for my family if you are a praying person. The trouble with truly loving one another is it causes true grief, which can be a painful, though precious, burden to bear. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fluffy Fridays- Wherein our Heroine Goes out on a Limb and Can't Climb Back

I am planning something rather big for me, and I thought I would tell you all about it today while I wait to see if my client is going to show up. I had this idea at my church, where my husband is the youth pastor, to hold a benefit concert for our youth group, rather like the ones you see on TV for natural disasters and charities. I have been brainstorming this thing and finally got the time approved for May 14th at 6:30 at our church.  Since it is my brainchild, I am pretty much the producer, director, and publicist for the whole thing. I am excited that I am actually doing it, but I have never undertaken this kind of thing on my own before. I have enlisted some talented singers who I know will do an excellent job, and have enlisted the youth as crew and decorators. I am still trying to figure out if I have any kind of budget for this thing.

This is definitely going out on a limb for me, and now, the date is set, and the show must go on. I think part of me hoped someone would stop me, but instead, they are letting me do this thing. Hopefully people come, and hopefully people donate, and hopefully I didn't just get enough rope to hang myself.

Hm, 3:04...I wonder if my client is going to show up?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Poems from Yesteryear

I looked through an old flashdrive today, where I stored some of my writings from over a decade again. I was a voracious poet in high school,  constantly writing. I used to hate looking back on them, but now, 10-11 years later, I find it remarkable how many still reflect the way I feel about the world. Some of them don't, especially the ones that have to do with being lonely and wanting love, but many of them still capture the way I experience emotion and the way I see the world around me. So I am going to post several of the poems I wrote in high school for you today, I hope you like them. 


This one is one of my father's favorites. 

Colors

Red Slithers,
Black shivers,
Green grins mysteriously.
Blue watches,
Brown blotches,
Pink preens surreptitiously.
Gray cowers,
Purple overpowers,
Yellow raises arms to the sky.
Manila complains,
Orange stains,
White flies high.

These next ones are good examples of how I saw the world around me as a teen.  I was apparently even a sociologist back then! 


6/13/00 
Poverty #2

In the city poverty
Is a nauseous rot-
Appearing,
Disappearing
In the disturbed blink of an eye.
In the country poverty is aired out
Displayed
A show for all passerby’s
To avoid,
Uncomfortable with their suburban prosperity
In the midst of such degration.
But a city pretends
To be whole and alive
A leper in an Armani suit,
Dancing and drinking to the music of his own demise.

10 6/27/00 
Pursuit of Happiness
The piƱata shop
The hair salon
The small dying businesses
On the wrong side of town
All trademarks of The Poor’s pursuit of happiness.
Far after Costcos and Walmarts ruled the earth,
There are still these paint-chipped
Dreams
With meager handmade merchandise
Shyly displayed on starving shelves.
They scream:
Do not let us die!
We are someone’s
Hope in the world!
We are all they have left!
It is our sparse business
Keeping them from the streets!
For what song will the world sing for them
 But that which they sing themselves?

 3/23/01 
It Starts Here
The Heavy-Hipped females
glide their way through the
Hormonal Crowds to
Rub their bodies against pubescents who
Sweat and sickly grin for
each party trying to find Romance
that they are too young for and will
ruin themselves before their prime and
Their heavy-hipped bodies will become
Heavy-Bellied with the illegitimates that were not on their Christmas lists,
Just like their mothers, lended to lust when love is scarce and abuse when attention is scarce and dance to the sickly tune of dirty beds and hearts too old for their owners.

And, one lighter one to offset all the intensity:

3/19/01 
Bicyclists

Bicycling breeds goats of men
With laconic wives missing
Stomachs and Rears
(Sweated off over years)
Bikers are wizened little drivers
(Like stones smoothed by rivers, indistinguishable from their vehicles)
They are nymphish pipe cleaners
Wound about metal
Feet encircling pedals and
Bodies so entangled
No cyclist remains,

Just tight spandex shorts and a

bouncy water bottle pedaling by…









Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thrift Store Success # 2

Last Tuesday, I went out thrift store shopping in an attempt to find some clothes with labels I like at prices I can afford (which is about $3 a shirt right now). I tried it again this week, at another thrift store downtown, and I was even more successful! I got a Vera Wang tunic, one Talbot's blouse, and one Ann Taylor Loft Blouse, all new.I spent $8.25 on three new awesome additions to my wardrobe. This may have to become a Tuesday ritual.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Giving You My Life

I do not know the length of my days,
But I know they'll be complete.

I do not know the paths I'll walk,
But I know You'll guide my feet.

Lord, I give you my life,
To use as you will,
And I know it won't be in vain,
All I ask is to be able to enter your presence,
Again, again, again, and again.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fluffy Fridays- A Poem for Hawaii

I lied, a little. This is not so fluffy, but it is also not as heavy as some of my other stuff and it explains one of the reasons that Hawaii is special to me and my family. My husband and I also honeymooned in Hawaii, so now the Islands have strong personal significance for us, but there were stronger connections before then. My grandfather, after a long, successful career in the merchant marines was a cruise ship captain to the Hawaiian Islands before he died. My parents got to visit the islands on his ship as did my grandmother. There is a beautiful picture of the 2 of them on the ship, him in his Captain's Uniform, her in a lovely Mumu, taken a little before he got sick. Tall, proud, and strong, that is how I remember my Grandfather the best.

 So here is a little poem written to them.



Oh Islands,
So symbolic for me of the grandfather I lost,
the brave ship's captain who trekked your waters,
and the long-lost love of my grandmother,
who to this day photographs lighthouses in remembrance of you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Camino De Decaer

Peeling paint, ruffled people,
Pock-marked asphalt, an abandoned church's steeple
Burnt out buildings, shuttered doors,
Rehab centers where we keep the poor-

Bits of grass shooting up through cracks,
Suspicious eyes watching our backs
lumber yards, a vacant, half-built stripmall,
Everyday I drive past them all-

Sirens blaring, train whistles blasting,
a parade of Semi-Trucks is passing,
The air is brown, so are the trees,
As the wind blows dust and tumbleweed seeds-

Catty-corner to the bustling swapmeet,
Next to the liquor store, with the storage yard across the street,
is the little brown building where I work everyday,
Hoping to revitalize this place someday.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thrift Store Success

I have a problem which I am trying to fix. The problem is that I like to shop for, and dress in, nice clothes, but I don't have money for nice clothes. In our best months, my clothing budget is Wal-Mart sized, and I get really tired of my clothes wearing out, wearing the same things every day, and looking sloppy. Hence, my newest strategy: Selective Thrift Store Shopping. What I mean by selective, is I will look for brand names first. My favorites are Talbots, Coldwater Creek, and Ann Taylor Loft.

I have to say it wasn't without prompting. My twin sister has been an avid thrift store shopper for sometime and I finally decided to follow her lead.

Today was the first time I tried this strategy during my lunch hour. I browsed blouses by label first, then by like. It went surprisingly well. I found a nice Ann Taylor Loft Blouse for 3 dollars, and a brand new Route 66 dress (which I found out is a K-Mart brand, oh well) for 3 dollars. And the thrift store near where I work isn't even that nice of a thrift store. I actually found multiple Cold Water Creek blouses, some Liz Claiborne, and some other brands I know to be reliable and nice. So, kudos to me for some good finds. I hope this strategy will allow me to do some satisfying shopping without breaking the bank.