Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A little ambitious

After 4 years of looking at this mess every time I open my basement door

I decided that I could not take it anymore. 
Granted my basement is unfinished and looks equally hideous. But it's at least better hidden from the general public. 

So Ben and I run to Lowes. I love their clearance oops paints. For $5 I picked up a perfectly acceptable neutral color. And as soon as Ben went down for his first nap I set to taping and edging. 

He woke up and we hung out and went to the park. And I finished up during his second nap. 

Bill came home and asked what we did today. I opened up the basement door and showed him this

While not perfect. I feel better. And accomplished. I might even hang a picture. 


Many children have "attachment objects" you know, items that bring comfort, help them get to sleep or otherwise freak out if they don't have it. 

Up until now, my little guy has had no such thing. We never used pacifiers. He has no Linus-esque blanket he carried everywhere. ( not like baby me who had my gee-gee. Aka ratty torn blanket I could not part with. ) and even with all of the stuffed animals that surround him in his crib now. Nothing clicked for him

Paranoid momma has begun to wonder if this is problematic and will forever mar his personal relationships. Normal momma looks at him and can see he is perfectly ok. 

This was the case until the other day, when I was digging through some boxes in the basement, looking for some particular pieces of nostalgia. I found one box of some of my moms old items. Some that stayed with her in her final year in long term care. There were too stuffed animals, dogs, at least one of which I am certain I bought her. 

One still has her name tagged to it. So it would not get misplaced, as items tend to do in nursing facilities. 

I took them out and threw them in the wash. Seeing as they have been basement ridden for at least 4 years. 

These guys were then handed to my son. And immediately he was smitten. 
He takes at least one to grocery stores. The babysitter. Carries all over the house. And goes to bed with all of the other animals. 
To me this is so special. I have always struggled with not feeling a connection or any signs or anything from/with my mom since she passed. Like so many people seem to see or have. 
In a way I feel that this is something. As clear as day. A wink. A nod. A reminder she is always with me. 
A connection


It's still there. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

The one bad apple

I just completed a marvelous 3 day training.
Another training that involved mental health professionals and equine (horse) professionals.
And encourages them to work together. (this one, in my opinion, was more thorough, organized and professional than the last one. I also get CEUs)

I will get into the training itself and where I see myself going with this at some point in the future. However, this is not the point of this post.

This one is merely to vent.

I greatly value my role as a professional counselor. And I greatly value the input and contributions of other professionals who are sincerely trying to improve the lives of others in the community.

Something happens though when you put so many people into an intense and exhausting environment. people with big egos.  people who are trying to prove to other professionals how much they know. When in fact we are all there to learn.

Do you know where I am going with this?

I met some awesome people from all over the country. I met some people who I would love to grab a cup of coffee with and talk to and collaborate with more who are local. A therapist from Wauconda with a hilarious self-deprecating sense of humor. A horse person in Belvidere, originally from Texas with a calm confidence. Another woman is just up 83 from me in Burlington.

But there were also some people who by the end, I would have loved to just punch in the face.

I recognize how inappropriate this thought is coming from a CBT therapist who works with violent offenders. I do believe violence is wrong and blah blah blah. The picture in my head just made me feel better. Catharsis. Coping, if you will.

You know when you start to notice those people a little bit in the beginning. And think that maybe they are just quirky. Or confidant. And you give them the benefit of the doubt. And they magically begin to know more than the trainers. And they brag about how awesome they are at everything. And talk down to people who see a situation differently. Sulk if not the center of attention. And slowly my benefit turns into contempt. And then, by some horrible stroke of luck...you (I) get placed into "processing groups" with those people. And role play. I start twitching. And it is UN-BEAR-A-BLE.

My saving grace???

I am not alone.

I begin to notice the facial expression I am feeling. Or perhaps unintentionally expressing myself (since we know I have practically no filter when it comes to feeling and my face). On others. not just me. And we smile and give each other a knowing look. And they offer me a chocolate covered cherry.

Even one of the horses seeks me out for a quick nuzzle.

And it is so relieving.

More relieving than my desire to dislocate someones teeth.

I am amazed sometimes at my own ability to allow one or two or three people to almost ruin a perfectly wonderful experience. To overshadow the 40 other professionals who are going to nail this thing. Who I have learned so much from and am inspired by their vulnerability and honesty. And who I hope very much to see in part 2 in November.

May I work to always see the 40. Instead of the 1 bad apple.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

12 years later

I've never been to New York
It's probably somewhere on my top 10 list of places I want to visit before I die. A bucket list of sorts. 
I want to see Broadway. The Statue of Liberty. I want to have that Carly Simon song playing in the background as I ride a ferry and go to Times Square and the Empire State Building and Ellis Island. Maybe wake up early one day to get a wave in on the Today Show. 

And of course I want to see the memorial of 911

When I go, it will be as a tourist. As someone who will visit, get my fill and return home to my safe warm quiet and comforting community. 

I wonder though what it is like for those who live there or work there or frequent there. Like I might to Chicago. I love just walking the streets of downtown Chicago. I feel like I know them like a familiar friend. But Chicago with all of its problems, does not have the scar that New York City does. 

What would it be like to regularly pass a giant hole in the ground. A place where shining towers of human architecture and booming business and trade and tourism once thrived. 

A constant reminder of what was. Of lives lost. Of fear and desperation. The images that will never leave the minds of all Americans, but how much more intensely for those who saw it first hand. And walk by a reminder if an intense trauma. 

I can't even drive by my moms old nursing home without feeling a pit in my stomach. I drove by the Dhamer house in Milwaukee once and that gave me the creeps. 

What then does it feel like to pass the burial ground of such an evil act. A place embedded with grief. Even 12 years later. 

That's what I am thinking about tonight on the eve of 9/11. 

And what good can possibly come out of this tragedy. Cause you know how much I long to and need to see light out if darkness. Good out of bad. 

And maybe it's a few things. It brings us together. It's one of those events in history where we all have a collective and individual story. "Where were you when...".  Like The Kennedy assassination. 

But also just that people still walk by that spot. Life continues. People work. Tourists come. Through fear and sadness and pain. Life still sustains. 

And to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Those lost and their families and friends who walk with a hole in their hearts. My heart is with you. You are not forgotten. 


How to speak to seniors

Today I am hesitant to enter one patient room. I have to fight this each week. It's not that she is elderly, most of my long term care patients are. And most talk with ease. I love talking to my elderly clients. 

What I do not enjoy is sometimes seeing in facilities how our elders are treated as objects. Things to be dealt with rather than people with rich histories and good ideas and feelings and stories to tell. 

When I tell people what I do, my current 2 main populations. I often get interesting reactions vary from disgust and shock for working with abusers, and sympathy and boredom with the elders. I am questioned on the difficulty of what to talk to seniors about or if they can hear me. All real questions. But they are also real people. Who are lonely and desperately want to talk. Sometimes it is just to complain about problems. But who doesn't. Talking with them is easier than you might think. 

Want some ideas??

1. Ask them anything about their past. Families. Relationships. School. Careers. And never assume they had kids or did or didn't work

2. Let me back up. Want to open the door a little. Compliment something you see genuinely. Their shirt. A picture. The weather. Gets you off on a good foot

3.  Favorites! Music. Tv shows. Sports or teams. Vacation. Holidays. Memories. 

4. Most have pictures or objects or memorabilia around them. Ask them about them or who brought it or significance of those things

5. Their goals and dreams. Even in your 80s or 90s we have goals. It might be for their family. Or helping a neighbor. Or physical therapy to get out of bed on their own. It gives purpose. 

6. Bring your own pictures. Share about your life. Kids. Job. Family. 
( this is the only population I do much self disclosure with.  As a therapist self disclosure is generally frowned upon. It must be beneficial to the client. And to some of these clients I am their ONLY connection to the outside world. Therefore I see it as often beneficial)

7. Ask open ended questions and be patient on the answer. There may be memory issues. But also our previous generations were a storytelling time. It's how time was passed without tv phones or the Internet at our beckon call. 

And when all else fails. Which is kind of where I am at with the aforementioned client. Just be real about how you are feeling. Ask them what you can do for them or what they need. Ask them to bring topics of discussion. Even if you are asking every week. This client is difficult. And is impossible to talk to and is resistant. But desperately wants me there and do I am trying. Not giving up on her. Cause I get the sense that everyone else has. (FYI. I got her to talk some by asking where she was during major historical events. 911. Kennedy. MLK)

You want to enrich your and someone else's life. Go visit a nursing home. It's not so scary.