Thursday, December 31, 2009


Do animals make a human cry
when their loved one staggers
fowled dragged down
the blue veined river

Does the female wail
miming the wolf of suffering
do lilies trumpet the pup
plucked for skin and skein

Do animals cry like humans
as I having lost you
yowled flagged
curled in a ball

This is how
we beat the icy field
shoeless and empty handed
hardly human at all

Negotiating a wilderness
we have yet to know
this is where time stops
and we have none to go

by Patti Smith
The Guardian, Saturday 2 December 2006

Patti Smith, Where Have you Been?

How has Patti Smith escaped me all these years? I suppose her brand of genius in song and poetry was well before my own generation, not to mention, I've never been a punk rock fan. But last night I watched a brilliant documentary on PBS, Patti Smith: Dream of Life. I enjoyed her so much, such a quirky and bold woman. Her writing is breathtaking and her performances so full of energy and truth. I found myself slightly confused yet completely captured by her gender-bending appearance-- the unimposing thin frame and wiry hair. She is a woman for all times, for all generations. Thank you, Ms. Smith, for your contribution to our world and thank you, PBS, for introducing this amazing woman to me. Great documentary, check it out at

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Little Girls & Co.

Just so you know
it is not actually you
I am missing but some
fantasy of a man I've carried
since sixth grade.
You just happened to
come along
during my production of this
particular drama
Prince Charming
Cinderella and
a Slipper,
you know the story. You
had nice eyes.
I thought you'd fit the part, so
now that it's over
a huge disaster
a real flop
not what I imagined at all,
I remember sometimes
moments you were not so bad, imagine
perhaps you'd make a better
Lancelot or
Romeo. No,
it's really best you are not employed with this company,
I'm looking at trying my hand at documentaries anyway.

Photo above found at:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Beyonce is Not Naughty But I Am

Well, I have finally dropped the children off at school this morning and I couldn't be happier for some quiet around here! My five year-old son and I were the unprepared victims of the 9 year-old's Autism Rant. If you've never witnessed an Autism Rant, then be glad! When Hannah launches into one of these passionate long-winded speeches of social injustice, you could be in for an Academy worthy performance. These rants are loud, repetitive, filled with paranoid and delusional beliefs that the world is against her, and cannot be stopped. I have learned that any attempts to stop an Autism Rant are futile. At least in our household, it is best to provide no comments, point out no illogical beliefs or falsehoods, or even offer up an Amen. In fact, trying to intervene in any way, especially with threats of time-out, grounding, or spanking, only fuel the righteous indignation, and could possible turn an Autism Rant into an Autism Rage (very violent, someone gets hurt, not a pretty scene).

So, we've all learned to keep our mouths shut as best as possible, while Hannah stomps around the house like it's her pulpit. She really doesn't mind if you're actually listening or not. The Rant seems to be more for her own benefit, stemming from her intense need to put into words the injustices she has suffered, which this morning happened to be the fact that it was too cold for a skirt. This particular Rant on this morning was actually pretty passionate as it ventured off into the area of who is naughty and who should be on the naughty list. Apparently, I am very naughty and will be getting no presents this year. Bummer. I also learned from this impassioned soliloquy that there are leagues of naughty people at her school and in this family. Furthermore, in true Southern Baptist fashion, Hannah preached to us that you should NEVER put yourself on the naughty list, because that is rude!

Imagine my great relief when, after a 45 minute sermon about bad mommies, naughty lists, and the proper use of "temper fits," I finally have both children in the car and we're on the way to school. Popping two ear buds on her and some Beyonce seemed to soothe her anger somewhat. Beyonce always works for me too. Once Hannah had calmed down some, I thought this might be a good time to revisit some of the disturbing statements she had made during her sermon about the nature of Christmas. "Hannah, it's very important that we remember what Christmas is all about. Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus's birthday. I am so glad that Jesus was born, so now He comes to live in my heart and I never have to be afraid of dying. I'm going to live forever in heaven with Him, the God who made me." There is silence from her in the backseat, and I'm thinking she is turning this over in her mind. Perhaps these words are sinking in. "Having Jesus in my heart and the promise of living with Him forever is the greatest gift I could ever get. Don't ya think?"

She maintains her flat expression and replies to me with a tone that says she is not impressed, "Mom, that is not a good gift." She pops her ear buds back in and turns up All the Single Ladies. Okay, so I survived another Autism Rant, and it never escalated farther. I'll just be grateful for that and let God do the rest of the work on her!

Photo above found at:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Condiments of Marriage

Marriage is a very complex and tricky thing. We know how God intended for marriage to be when he created Adam and Eve, and we know that He knew all along that was going to be too hard. We cannot be married without God-- it's just too hard! I hear young people sharing with excitement their news, "I'm getting married! I just love him!". I just smile politely, bite my tongue, and know inwardly, "Yeah, Sister, just wait till he's not so cute anymore and you realize you actually have to WORK at living together."

I supported myself throughout my college years by waiting tables. At the end of every night, we servers cleaned our table sections, which included marrying the condiments. We would fill back to the top any ketchup, mustard, or salt and pepper shakers that had been used, so that all condiments were full for the next day's customers. A half-used ketchup bottle would be married with another half-used ketchup bottle to create something new for the next day. When two people get married they bring together everything they own and join it. They create a home from their joint furnishings and finances. They marry their talents, whether that be organization, patience, handyman, cook, or compassion. When everything that two people own physically, emotionally, and spiritually is married together, life should be easier for them and their potential for growth much greater than they could have as two singles. At least that's the ideal God had in mind. Actually getting there is pretty tough and doesn't magically happen right after you both say "I do."

When you go out to eat, you will readily find your most commonly used condiments right at your table. If marriage were the dining table, there are three main condiments that should always be married at that table to keep the two diners happy. These marriage condiments (the true life blood of marriages) are sex, money, and parenting. When one partner has more control than the other in any of these three areas, this couple is at high risk for an unsatisfactory relationship.

Sex-- both partners should always feel they have full ownership over their own bodies and sexuality and share it willingly when they want and in the ways they feel most comfortable. Any compromises are discussed and agreed upon by both parties. If one partner routinely gives in to the other, invalidating their own needs or feelings, then the condiment grows empty. You have to get married in your sex life. Actually, I tend to believe that when two people do not bring equally to the marriage emotionally, then the sex condiment gets drained pretty quickly.

Money-- both partners should always have complete access to and full knowledge of the money coming into and out of the household. What gets spent, where, and why are decisions made by the two partners who have married their finances and, thus, both have equal say in where the money goes. Often one person may write the checks, balance the account, etc. for simplicity's sake or because one person is more organized in this area. Even so, the married couple operates as partners and equals in the managing of their funds. There are no money secrets and no money dictators.

Parenting-- couples who join their parenting skills have reached an agreed upon plan of how disciplinary issues will be addressed, what rewards will be used and when, and especially how many children there will be, if any! Having and raising children is a joint operation, a business managed by two people who bring together their abilities and both parties are always kept fully informed of the goings on of the child business. When one person is solely responsible for parenting or the two partners are not in agreement on their parenting values and plans, this is a marriage headed for destruction!

You alone cannot supply everything a marriage needs. You cannot give your all, particularly in the areas of sex, money, and parenting, and believe that you will carry this so-called marriage on your own. There might be a piece of paper that says you are married legally, but when one person is in charge and keeps the other in the dark-- where is the joining? Is this really a marriage? If you are the one getting left in the dark or being left out of the partnering in any of these areas, it is your right to speak up. If you care anything at all about your marriage, you will insist to be made an equal partner in these areas, to be heard, and to be respected in these areas. Whether you've been married 15 minutes or 15 years, there is always room for more marrying. Bring what you have to the table and expect the same from your partner. Keeping the condiments of sex, money, and parenting equally married will make for happy couples!

Photo above found at:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Holland Schmolland

In the vein of celebrating Good-Enough Moms, I'd like to re-print the wonderful article "Holland Schmolland" by Laura Kreuger Crawford, a must-read for all parents of special needs children:

Holland Schmolland

If you have a special needs child, which I do, and if you troll the Internet for information, which I have done, you will come across a certain inspirational analogy. It goes like this:

Imagine that you are planning a trip to Italy. You read all the latest travel books, you consult with friends about what to pack, and you develop an elaborate itinerary for your glorious trip. The day arrives.

You board the plane and settle in with your in-flight magazine, dreaming of trattorias, gondola rides, and gelato. However when the plane lands you discover, much to your surprise, you are not in Italy -- you are in Holland. You are greatly dismayed at this abrupt and unexpected change in plans.

You rant and rave to the travel agency, but it does no good. You are stuck. After awhile, you tire of fighting and begin to look at what Holland has to offer. You notice the beautiful tulips, the kindly people in the wooden shoes, the french fries with mayonnaise, and you think, "This isn't exactly what I had planned, but it's not so bad. It's just different."

Having a child with special needs is supposed to be like this -- not any worse than having a typical child -- just different.

When I read this my son was almost 3, completely non-verbal and was hitting me over 100 times a day. While I appreciated the intention of the story, I couldn't help but think, "Are they kidding? We're not in some peaceful country dotted with windmills. We are in a country under siege -- dodging bombs, boarding overloaded helicopters, bribing officials -- all the while thinking, "What happened to our beautiful life?"

That was five years ago.

My son is now 8 and though we have come to accept that he will always have autism, we no longer feel like citizens of a battle-torn nation. With the help of countless dedicated therapists and teachers, biological interventions, and an enormously supportive family, my son has become a fun-loving, affectionate boy with many endearing qualities and skills. In the process we've created . . . well . . . our own country, with its own unique traditions and customs.

It's not a war zone, but it's still not Holland. Let's call it Schmolland. In Schmolland, it's perfectly customary to lick walls, rub cold pieces of metal across your mouth and line up all your toys end-to-end. You can show affection by giving a "pointy chin." A "pointy chin" is when you act like you are going to hug someone and just when you are really close, you jam your chin into the other person's shoulder. For the person giving the "pointy chin" this feels really good, for the receiver, not so much -- but you get used to it.

For citizens of Schmolland, it is quite normal to repeat lines from videos to express emotion. If you are sad, you can look downcast and say, "Oh, Pongo." When mad or anxious, you might shout, "Snow can't stop me!" or "Duchess, kittens, come on!" Sometimes, "And now our feature presentation" says it all.

In Schmolland, there's not a lot to do, so our citizens find amusement wherever they can. Bouncing on the couch for hours, methodically pulling feathers out of down pillows, and laughing hysterically in bed at 4:00 a.m. are all traditional Schmutch pastimes.

The hard part of living in our country is dealing with people from other countries. We try to assimilate ourselves and mimic their customs, but we aren't always successful. It's perfectly understandable that an 8 year-old from Schmolland would steal a train from a toddler at the Thomas the Tank Engine Train Table at Barnes and Noble. But this is clearly not understandable or acceptable in other countries, and so we must drag our 8 year-old out of the store kicking and screaming, all the customers looking on with stark, pitying stares. But we ignore these looks and focus on the exit sign because we are a proud people.

Where we live it is not surprising when an 8 year-old boy reaches for the fleshy part of a woman's upper torso and says, "Do we touch boodoo?" We simply say, "No, we do not touch boodoo," and go on about our business. It's a bit more startling in other countries, however, and can cause all sorts of cross-cultural misunderstandings.

And, though most foreigners can get a drop of water on their pants and still carry on, this is intolerable to certain citizens in Schmolland, who insist that the pants must come off no matter where they are and regardless of whether another pair of pants is present.

Other families who have special needs children are familiar and comforting to us, yet are still separate entities. Together we make up a federation of countries, kind of like Scandinavia. Like a person from Denmark talking to a person from Norway (or in our case, someone from Schmenmark talking to someone from Schmorway.), we share enough similarities in our language and customs to understand each other, but conversations inevitably highlight the diversity of our traditions. "My child eats paper. Yesterday he ate a whole video box." "My daughter only eats four foods, all of them white." "We finally had to lock up the VCR because my child was obsessed with the rewind button." "My son wants to blow on everyone."

There is one thing we all agree on. We are a growing population. Ten years ago, 1 in 10,000 children had autism. Today the rate is approximately 1 in 150. Something is dreadfully wrong. Though the causes of the increase are still being hotly debated, a number of parents and professionals believe genetic predisposition has collided with too many environmental insults -- toxins, chemicals, antibiotics, vaccines -- to create immunological chaos in the nervous system of developing children. One medical journalist speculated these children are the proverbial "canary in the coal mine", here to alert us to the growing dangers in our environment.

While this is certainly not a view shared by all in the autism community, it feels true to me.

I hope that researchers discover the magic bullet we all so desperately crave. And I will never stop investigating new treatments and therapies that might help my son. But more and more my priorities are shifting from what "could be" to "what is." I look around this country my family has created, with all its unique customs, and it feels like home. For us, any time spent "nation building" is time well spent.

Mommy Guilt

If you are a mother, you are likely familiar with the unique-to-us feeling of Mommy Guilt. I believe women in our Western culture are prone to guilt already, then the responsibilities of Mommyhood come along and pack on more pressure. There is an intense push in our culture for mothers to be perfect in all we do. We must work 40+ hours per week on our jobs, giving 100% there or risk being told, "you're not being a team player." Then we go home exhausted and have our precious babies excited to see us and be with us, yet they get the day's leftovers. We put on the smiles, forge ahead through the fatigue, and clock in for our second job of Mom.

Because I have never parented a "typically developing" child, I cannot really know if my Mommy Guilt is more intense than other mothers. I do, however, spend lots of time with other mothers of special needs children and share specific guilt behaviors with them. As mothers of special needs children, we are prone to stay up way too late researching, spend more time than is necessary calling and visiting doctors, worry excessively about our children's futures, and feel intense guilt at the end of every night when our children still have said disorder. There's always the nagging feeling at the end of the day of did I do enough today for my child? Because if I didn't do enough, I am convinced my child will end up with a miserable life and it will be my fault. We will take out a second mortgage on our home to pay for specialists, schedule round-the-clock therapists and doctors, buy every supplement, try whatever medications the doctor recommends... we will do anything! If we don't do EVERY POSSIBLE THING to "cure" our children, then we are being a BAD mom. I just have one question-- Who the hell sold us this load of garbage?

I'm learning to be a good-enough Mom. My children consistently receive from me my support, love, nurturing, attention, guidance, and discipline. Because of this, I can rest in knowing there is room for mistakes. I will make mistakes as a mother, sometimes being too harsh when I should have shown mercy. I may be too lenient when really my child needed a stern consequence. I mess up and they grow, no, they THRIVE anyway, because they get enough. Having a mother who carries a sense of peace and confidence is just as valuable to a child as a mother who works tirelessly... maybe even more so. Children are tough and resilient. They can survive us despite our parental mistakes. If you don't believe me, just look at yourself. You survived your Mom, didn't you?

Photo above found at:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

This old hymn has been a real blessing to me lately:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Ro­bert Ro­bin­son, 1758; ap­peared in his A Col­lect­ion of Hymns Used by the Church of Christ in Angel Al­ley, Bi­shop­gate, 1759.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You're Not Alone

I will be very honest and say that I have spent large portions of my life experiencing deep pain or engaging in behaviors that distracted me from or minimized my pain. Only in the last few years have I gathered the courage to just settle under waves of grief until they passed, and I want the world to know I have emerged! I remember toward the end of some heavy grieving having the sense that this pain was like a large, dark, and heavy cloak just draped over me everywhere I went. It could not be shaken and I wore it all day. Then one day, while envisioning and experiencing this cloak of sadness, I took a step back and saw that this cloak actually covered all of humanity. It is the burden of being human and we all had our portion to wear at particular times in our lives. Stepping back even farther, I shockingly realized that this same cloak draped over all of humanity was nothing more than the train of God's robe, and that He was actually wearing the cloak! We were draped only in the train of it, while He carried its greatest weight.

This morning driving home, after dropping the kids off at school, I suddenly became aware of something odd-- the absence of pain. I am driving in my car in absolute peace, enjoying the morning sun, thinking no negative thoughts, and shedding no tears. There were mornings I dragged myself out of bed under the weight of the cloak and took care of my children under the cloak. I know the depths of sorrow. I am keenly familiar with hurting, grief, and remorse. I lost my very self under that dark covering, and today, I just want to thank God I am alive.

I know I have readers all over the world, many who have awakened this morning beneath the cloak of pain. I know there are people around the globe who wonder how they can possibly go through one more day like this. I am certain some of these people are hurting because they are courageously facing down their demons and engaging in the long process of recovery. I still have days, of course, when I feel down, and I experience moments of sadness. I do not, however, feel the heavy burden of suffering any longer. The dark night finally passed, and it will pass for others too who just keep going forward. So, though I no longer wear the cloak of suffering, today I come beneath it with all of you who still wear it. You are not alone. I am strong enough now to come help you bear the weight of it today-- here, come let me hold this with you today. I am with you in spirit, acknowledging the weight of this thing you carry. I walk with you today. You can do this one more day.

Photo above found at:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Do You Believe in Magic?

There are people who carry way more than they should in this world. They carry the burdens of their children, their spouses, their bosses, foreign countries, alien life forms, and angels in heavenly places. There are some who even carry the burdens of God, and just how arrogant is that, if I might ask? And, yes, I can ask, as I will admit I was once one of those people. I still have moments when I am drawn into the black hole vacuum of some needy person who is carrying too much weight and needs a partner to shoulder it, a hero to come from the heavens and take away their pain. Somehow these types of people can convince us that we are capable of taking away all their pain, and it's just so flattering to believe that. I soon find myself thinking, "Well, if he/she thinks I can solve all these problems, then maybe I can! I can and I will!" I haven't fallen into that trap in awhile, until yesterday.

I have been counseling children and families for almost 10 years, and there is a subtype of parents I encounter-- the desperate parents. These parents are having great difficulty accepting that they have a child with any type of disability or illness. Understandably, the pain of this type of acceptance is very scary and crushing. I drift in and out of acceptance regarding my own children's disabilities, but I accept it or I go crazy. That's the only two options unfortunately. Nonetheless, there are parents who hold onto hope that someday some magical person will come along with magic wand in hand, tap the head of their child and, all ADHD will disappear. Autism will shrink to nothing or severe mental illness will turn to mist and vanish. This magical person must only appear and be willing to impart her divine wisdom and allow their child to sit in her most holy presence, and all will be well.

I am getting better at spotting these types of parents, because I am prone to buying into their grandiose plans for me and their child. One of the first telltale signs is that many of these parents actually say something like this,"We have been to so many doctors and I am just exhausted with this process. Come work your magic!" I usually try to burst that bubble right from the start with, "Well, I hate to tell you this but you're going to learn it about me eventually... I'm human, no magic, sorry." Usually they don't believe me the first few times and continue to try to force magic from me. When the magic persists on not "working," then I begin seeing anger. It often sounds like this, "What have you been doing with my child all this time? All I ever see you do is playing with them. How is that going to help them!? Look, I really need help here! This is not what I thought it was going to be. I need you to talk to her teacher, and could you please tell her case manager that I need those housing forms? I'm not even sure I like this doctor anymore, are you going to be talking to him soon?" Essentially, this parent just took the enormous burden of caring for a sick or special needs child, held it out to me and asked, "Are you going to take this crap off my shoulders or not?"

Be forewarned, if you take the bait (and I have), this is what will play out. You, the therapist (or friend, spouse, etc), will take over the role of shouldering this burden. You will begin making the phone calls, researching the internet, buying the books, emailing the doctor, calling meetings at school, and lecturing the child to get with the program. Therapy sessions turn into what Mom or Dad wants you working on rather than what the child brings to the table for the day. Child clients become defensive and shut down, whether passively or aggressively. Therapists begin to burn out, get angry with the child for not cooperating with the plan! Basically, I have taken the anger and denial from the parents and made it mine. In the meantime, you are not likely seeing much progress with the child with this type of approach. Thus, parents are getting angrier and applying even more pressure. Therapist starts working even harder, gets angrier. Less progress, parents apply more pressure, therapist wears out.

Oh,well... mistake spotted. Time for me to back up and go back to plain old humanity. It was kind of fun for awhile believing I had superhero powers. I almost thought I cured one this time, but no. I've seen good, healthy, slow and steady progress with a child. One more case of the humdrum, slow and laborious work, eating your therapeutic fruits and vegetables, and being only a small part of someone's lifetime of growth. That's just how we humans heal. I guess that's just how we therapists learn too. Drats.

Photo above found at:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Crazy is an STD

One of the spiritual lessons I am in the midst of these days (and we are always in the midst of one, whether your recognize it or not) is better understanding my sexuality. My concept of sexuality has been corrupted by culture, childhood events, relationships, media of various forms, and much more. I'm definitely in the beginner classes, when it comes to understanding the magnitude of sexuality and how it encompasses our entire (human) being.

As God often does for me, He introduces a person or event into my life that becomes a perfect metaphor for what He's trying to teach me. I enjoy metaphor, use them often, and think in them often. Being our spiritual Daddy, He knows how we all learn best! A couple days ago our home computer became infected with a pervasive and pesky virus that eventually crashed the entire system. In researching this virus and how to clean it, I probably created even more devastation than was already there. I also had the honor of experiencing what I have learned in the computer world is called "the blue screen of death." When your computer gives you that blue screen screaming error... well, you're just toast. Yeah, I get that now. Thanks. This morning God dropped some insight into me like a pebble into a pond-- my sexuality is the core operating system for my entire life!

Our sexuality goes way beyond sex organs. Because I am admittedly still in the beginner classes here, I cannot rattle off for you the complete list of what falls under "sexuality," but I can tell you that you'll find much more than "genitalia" listed there. In fact, I'm beginning to realize that practically EVERYTHING about me falls under the category of my sexuality, and I am hard pressed to find what isn't listed there. My sexuality is my very self as a woman-- my creativity, my feelings and thoughts, my strengths and weaknesses, my emotional and spiritual energies, my gender identity and role on this planet as a woman. My sexuality is the very essence of everything else about me, the core operating system. God forbid it ever get infected with a virus. Been there, done that and it pretty much sucks.

I am no computer genius, but I know there are innermost programs operating on an unseen level that keep my computer healthy. These programs are the skeleton for every other operation I want to perform, kind of like the secret inner room of my hard drive. There is a secret inner room to my sexuality, where no one enters but God. If I allow my spouse, partner, friend, or any one else to go where only God can exist, I get infected. Then there is a middle room to my sexuality that is meant only for close intimate relationships. God permeates into this room as well and allows me to bring in my husband. This room is meant only for him and if I let someone else in, yes, I get infected. Just a side note, I am not talking about the kind of infection that requires a shot of penicillin! Even though the virus entered through this middle room, it worms its way into every area of my sexuality and every room becomes infected!

Then there are other outer rooms where it is good to allow safe people. It is vital to the health of my sexuality that I keep these outer rooms open, while also using good protection. I have to share the programs operating from the depths of my inner sexuality, because they are creative masterpieces from God and His gift to the world. To keep them to myself would just be a waste. But in that sharing, and in all moments of sharing and opening, I need good protection around me that I do not allow viruses to come in and infect the lush and fertile grounds of my sexuality/my encompassing self.

When we are infected in our sexuality, regardless of how the virus entered, it can manifest itself in a lot of dysfunctional patterns. We're most likely going to see it really wreaking havoc in our relationships. A healthy sexuality shares intimacy and honesty, but an infected system cannot perform this function. An infected sexuality also creates bad employees and bad bosses. We become selfish or conversely, a wide open door for any fool that wants to come in and pillage. We become neurotic, psychotic, codependent, lazy, workaholic, alcoholic, sexaholic, ragers, doormats and/or devoid of any self at all. Our thinking becomes illogical and distorted. We start to believe things about ourselves and the world that are so sick it then affects the way we behave. You see how a virus spreads and affects every area of our lives?

So now I'm wondering, what is good virus protection for sexuality and where can I get some? Well, naturally, foremost I guess that means keeping my innermost room healthy. That space for me and God needs to be clean, open to Him only, and visited regularly. He meets me there, I can go any time, and answers for every other operating problem are found there. I have to keep that room safely protected and stop bringing any Tom, Dick and Harry to come in there and impart their wisdom. I need to be mindful always of other infected people. Don't you know if you invite a sick person to come in and hang out for any extended period of time, you're probably gonna get sick too?! Duh, this is not rocket science! As I change and grow, I have to keep my protection updated. What protected me yesterday may not be sufficient today as I have grown into new areas. I am careful where I go, who I listen to, what I watch, see, or read. I take in all things through a protective lens. Yes, it is hard work, but it is self-love, and more than worth it.

So, as I am re-building my electronic life on a computer that has been entirely swept clean and re-set, I am reminded that re-setting a life is painful. There is protection against the sexually transmitted diseases that infect the human spirit, and these diseases can take a life just as assuredly as HIV or untreated syphilis. Having an infected body or computer is devastating, having an infected sexuality is devastation.

Photo above found at:

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Red Poppy

The great thing
is not having
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they
govern me. I have
a lord in heaven
called the sun, and open
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters,
were you like me once, long ago,
before you were human? Did you
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never
open again? Because in truth
I am speaking now
the way you do. I speak
because I am shattered.

by Louise Gluck
Photo above found at:

Thursday, September 24, 2009


The Jewish call it
I weep for it
the tears of it within me
the tears of it outside me
my spirit self thousands
of miles away
nested at the weeping wall

In Gaza
one proud spa owner
oils the leather seats where
the wealthy still come
to forget
find oasis
feel the touch of another human
kneading sorrow from
the muscles
the Jewish call it

Who destroyed the sacred
grave site of Joseph?
Who bombed homes while
Palestinian girls slept
peacefully within?
Where can we go
to find the last knot of
the rope
to hold fast
the end of this rope
Maybe in these tears
we travel
back back back
all the way to kedusha

By Melissa Greene
Photo above found at:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kathy, 1966

When my mother was nine she baked the cornbread
every day after school. Her face then
the same as today, blue eyes soft with knowing
mouth quiet and still, resigning to
signed contracts.
Her mother is dying.
She has a bad haircut, maybe did it herself,
the bangs stiff as straw on her forehead,
shoes scuffed, scrawny knees that hold
life weight like a body builder. She can cook
green beans, creamed corn, and pinto beans with
the best of them. Little Kathy can fry
potatoes, feed grown men
a father and brother bent to the plow.
She will feed grown men for many years
bent above their own devices of
turning the ground for sorrow. Kathy
found quiet at Mamaw’s, even though
there was no plumbing. She liked to rest
against the splintery fence watching Mamaw milk
the cow, carry the large sloshing pail into the kitchen
set it on the table and get out two
tin cups, Kathy, you want some milk?
There’s the rows of pink hollyhock where
little girls can run without being seen.
Tall stalks of corn
tobacco for miles.
There’s the honeysuckle,
the smokehouse, the outhouse.
Always at Mamaw’s
there’s the cool creek water where
she took off her white church socks,
tip-toed in the shade of the elms
quietly over smooth river rocks.
Here for hours
she is nine years old.

By Melissa Greene
photo above found at:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Poem for Aretha

Cause nobody deals with Aretha—a mother with four children—
having to hit the road
they always say "after she comes
home" but nobody ever says what it's like
to get on a plane for a three week tour
the elation of the first couple of audiences the good
feeling of exchange the running on the high
you get from singing good
and loud and long telling the world
what's on your mind.

Then comes the eighth show on the sixth day the beginning
to smell like the plane or bus the if-you-forget-your-toothbrush
the strangers
pulling at you cause they love you but you having no love
to give back
the singing the same songs night after night day after day
and if you read the gossip columns the rumors that your husband
is only after your fame
the wondering if your children will be glad to see you and maybe
the not caring if they are scheming to get
out of just one show and go just one place where some doe-doe-dupaduke
won't say "just sing one song, please!".

Nobody mentions how it feels to become a freak
because you have talent and how
no one gives a damn how you feel
but only cares that Aretha Franklin is here like maybe that'll stop
chickens from frying
eggs from being laid
crackers from hating

and if you say you're lonely or tired how they always
just say "oh come off it" or "did you see
how they loved you did you see, huh, did you?"
which most likely has nothing to do with you anyway
and I'm not saying Aretha shouldn't have talent and I'm certainly
not saying she should quit
singing but as much as I love her I'd vote "yes" to her
doing four concerts a year and staying home or doing whatever
she wants and making records cause it's a shame
the way we're killing her.
We eat up artists like there's going to be a famine at the end
of those three minutes when there are in fact an abundance
of talents just waiting let's put some
of the giants away for a while and deal with them like they have
a life to lead.

Aretha doesn't have to relive Billi Holiday's life doesn't have
to relive Dinah Washington's death but who will
stop the pattern?

She's more important than her music—if they must be separated—
and they should be separated when she has to pass out before
anyone recognizes she needs
a rest and I say I need
Aretha's music
she is undoubtedly the one who put everyone on
She revived Johnny Ace and remembered Lil Green. Aretha
"I say a little prayer" and Dionne doesn't
want to hear it anymore
Aretha sings "money won't change you"
but James can't sing "respect" the advent
of Aretha pulled Ray Charles from marlboro country
and back into
the blues made Nancy Wilson
try one more time forced
Dionne to make a choice (she opted for the movies)
and Diana Ross had to get an afro wig pushed every
Black singer into his Blackness and negro entertainers
into negroness you couldn't jive
when she said "you make me feel" the Blazers
had to reply "gotta let a man be/a man"
Aretha said "when my soul was in the lost and found/you came
along to claim it" and Joplin said "maybe"
there has been no musician whom her very presence hasn't
affected when Humphrey wanted her to campaign for him she said
"woeman's only hueman"
and he pressured James Brown
they removed Otis cause the combination was too strong the Impressions had to say "lord have mercy/we're moving on up"
the Black songs started coming from the singers on stage and the dancers
in the streets
Aretha was the riot was the leader if she had said "come
let's do it" it would have been done
temptations say why don't we think about it
why don't we think about it
why don't we think about it

—Nikki Giovanni
from Women Working: An Anthology of Stories and Poems (The Feminist Press, Old Westbury, New York)

My apologies to Ms. Giovanni for inadvertent changes made to her original punctuation, spelling, and spacing. Poem above copies from a Spanish translation. :-)
Aretha Franklin sketch above found at:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two Sides of Fantasy

Ok, so you realize that you have been living a fantasy, believing a fantasy. The man, woman, child, parent, boss, friend, whoever, you loved is not the person you fantasized them to be. They are human and fallable like the rest of us, and you are heartbroken that this person will not save you and fill you utterly. This person cannot make you whole and will hurt you, because that is what humans do. Sometimes we hurt each other. This is the painful part of fantasy-- it isn't real!

Here is the wonderful side-- just as no one can fill you, no one can destroy you. We have no power over when and if people will leave our lives, but that is ok, because when they go, they do not take a part of us with them. Perhaps as children we had to believe that we wielded some magical power or seduction that kept people in our lives, because abandonment to a child can mean possible death. The good news is that no one can "abandon" an adult. You can simply come and go from my life, but I am no longer abandoned, because I care for myself. If you leave, I will not die. It is painful to realize that the person I invested so much in is incapable of fulfilling me, yet it is freeing to know that when you don't fulfill me, I survive anyway. I don't need you to fill me! My survival is not dependent upon whether or not you love me! This is the wonderful part of fantasy-- it isn't real.

Photo above found at:

i carry your heart

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

by e.e. cummings

Friday, August 28, 2009

Our Wounded Artists

Despite the fact that many of my friends and readers will be rolling their eyes and saying, "Jeesh, it's over! Move on already!" I just can't. Tomorrow, August 29, would have been Michael Jackson's 51st birthday. There is something about the death of Michael Jackson that stirs an anguish in me, an anguish that is begging to be named and brought to the surface. I don't intend to dissect the rights or wrongs of Michael Jackson's life. It's not my place to do that, but I cannot miss the brilliance and tragic irony of his life. It would be too great a waste, and I want to talk about it.

First of all, I believe there are many people, both living and dead, who are gifted in their particular genre of the arts-- people, who carry large sacks of pain from their pasts and from the generations before them. These gifted people, despite a lack of true personal identity or connection to reality, are able to delve into their art and there, touch their true selves. Deep within the arts they create are the touchstone moments of rejection, abandonment, and abuse. In their arts they are able to experience a part of the original pain of their lives and, thus, who they really are, both broken and whole.

Michael Jackson is only one of many people in our culture with whom we have witnessed this. We are a culture of abandoned, rejected, exploited, and abused children. We are a culture largely consisting of hurting children in adult bodies. There is something about the practice of the arts, whether music, dance, theater, or poetry, when done well, that sings the truth of our hurting culture. Now and again there comes an artist who reaches within the hurts of their own life and puts it out for the world to see. We see it, feel it, and the soul within it resonates with our own experience. I think for me and millions of others, Michael Jackson was able to do that. What then happens is that millions of us project our pain onto the artist. We also project our adoration onto the artist for his/her dance or song that speaks our truth and when we witness it, we cry out, "Yes! I feel that! That's it! You named it!".

I'm not certain what we, as a culture, can do to prevent these kinds of tragedies-- the tragedy of a gifted artist losing himself or herself within their art. Not only is MJ's death a horrible tragedy, I consider it tragedy that he lived with such suffering, physically and emotionally. The only thing I can think is that we collectively nurture and value our children, so that they grow up with a strong sense of who they are. In psychology we call this ego strength. If we can build children with good ego strength,then these are the children who have the ability to create and also stay within themselves. They will be able to create and not feel compelled to take on the pain of the world in the process. Children with solid ego strength can sing it, dance it, write it, and know it is a gift to God and the universe, not the sum of who they are.

So, I don't want to belabor this horrible event but really find some MEANING. It's necessary for us all. Whether MJ sang and danced the story of your life is not the issue really. Whether he harmed more than he rescued, I cannot say either, though I admit to a fondness for MJ and sincere belief that he loved children. I can say without doubt, however, that the pattern of his living and dying seems to becoming one that is all too common,and this hurts. This is the anguish of it.

Photo above found at:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Intimacy? Why?

I am having some meandaring thoughts about intimacy-- so bear with me while I try to organize them here! I was thinking about what intimacy is, how it happens, and why we are so reluctant to have it. First of all, intimacy is when two or more people come together and CONNECT. Intimacy can happen between spouses, friends, parent and child, or most any relationship. Each person brings a real self into the moment with the other person who brings a real self. What I mean by this is that I am in touch with my thoughts, feelings, and values, and come into relationship to share them openly, willingly, and honestly. The other person(s) does this as well and a magical thing happens-- intimacy. Intimacy is not enmeshment, which means we come together and I lose myself in whoever I fantasize you to be, and you lose yourself in whoever you fantasize me to be. When we are enmeshed, we lose ourselves in other people. When we are intimate, we bring what we have and ultimately always find more of who we are. In true intimacy, I can say "no" when I need to and can respect the other's "no" as well without falling apart.

Intimacy does not happen without practice. I believe developing the capacity for intimacy is just as crucial as language development. Also, like language, intimacy is best learned at an early age. We can learn intimacy and new languages later in life, but it is always more difficult. Our brains are just primed to get these things very early on! Intimacy begins at birth... the touch, smells, and sounds of our caregivers. We cry and they meet our needs. We explore the world and caregivers look on lovingly and encourage us to try new things. We make mistakes and caregivers may critique, offer advice, or support. In all these ways, and many more, we learn who we are and how to share our budding selves with others without fear.

So if intimacy is all that and a bag of chips, then why the hell are most of us running scared when it comes to getting intimate? Well, fear is always based on fear of loss. Thank you, Dr. Howard Lipke, for giving me this wonderful insight this weekend! The fear can be a loss that already happened and fear wards off the sadness and grief of the past loss. If you experienced true intimacy with someone, then lost that person, being intimate with another can trigger those painful feelings of loss. The other type of fear of loss, is fear of a future loss. For example, we may fear that if I become intimate with you, then I will lose myself. Often adults who experienced physical and/or emotional abandonment as children fear intimacy for this reason. They fear that if they share who they really are, then you will not want to be with me anymore and leave, just like others have before.

Love addicts have often experienced both enmeshment and abandonment. In their world, these are the only two options. The love addict experiences enmeshment as a wonderful union, a supernatural connection, when the addict is truly FOUND in the other person. The love addict is able to experience a self through the eyes of the other person. This is terribly exhausting for the object of the love addict's affection.

The love avoidant often fears intimacy due to strong fears of potential abandonment. The love avoidant ultimately wants to be admired and maintain a sense of control. Love avoidants will pursue a love addict (who often appears in distress and in need of a hero). The love avoidant comes onto the scene, saves the day, then wants to bask in his/her bravado. When the love addict begins to actually seek identity through the love avoidant, the avoidant fears that intimacy may be approaching and intimacy means you will see I am really not a supernatural savior. True intimacy could also mean that you see the real me and abandon me, as others have before. Thus, the love avoidant does what avoidants do best... well, avoid! Run! This sends the addict into a desperate chase, which only makes the avoidant run harder. You see the pattern.

Another barrier to true intimacy is that many people are completely out of touch with their own thoughts, feelings, and values, and therefore, cannot possibly share them with someone else. How can I bring anything to the table, when I have no clue what is in my pantry? This is true for both addicts and avoidants, and why the first step to any recovery is development of a self. I guess what I am realizing then is that true intimacy always happens first with self and Higher Power before it happens elsewhere... what a concept. Sometimes meandering takes us to nice places.

Photo above found at:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Gimme a C! Codependent!

Codependent is a term that confuses many people. Some people believe they know what it means, but really do not have a full understanding of the codependent role. The word codependent has such a negative connotation, too. I mean, who really wants to willingly identify themselves as codependent? Most of us get there only after years of codependent behavior that has made our lives a wreck, and we acknowledge ourselves as codependent. By this time, we would almost graciously accept the label of Boo Boo the Fool just to get some relief! I'm hoping to shed some light on what exactly IS a codependent?

A cheerleading team has a captain and a co-captain. The co-captain is there to assist the captain with tasks that the captain cannot handle alone. The co-captain is the leader in situations where the captain is unable to perform his/her managerial duties for the team. I have never heard of someone say, "Oh, I want to be co-captain of my cheerleading squad!" The co-captain is generally someone who wanted to be captain, and didn't have the seniority, skills, clout, whatever, to be captain. It's somewhat the same with a CO-dependent. The co-dependent is there to assist the addict with tasks that the addict cannot handle alone, as a result of their addiction. The co-dependent has to step up and lead when the addict is unable to perform his/her duties, as a result of their addiction. No one ever says they want to grow up and be an addict, and no one ESPECIALLY says they want to grow up to be a CODEPENDENT!

We become co-dependents by default, that is, when we grow up in an unpredictable, scary, and/or chaotic environment, one where we have no developmentally appropriate level of control. Often these are environments where one or both parents/caregivers are addicts or codependent themselves. Children in these homes cannot predict from day to day what punishments might be, whether parents will be happy or raging, what might make a parent happy, if Dad or Mom will be high, or if anyone will be home to cook dinner. When we cannot be captain and have some measure of control, we are defaulted to codependent.

Let me preface by saying, there are NO perfect parents. We need only be good enough. Children need safety, unconditional warmth, someone who nurtures development of unique skills and traits, a caregiver who provides predictable structure and routine, and someone who listens/validates the child. When one or more of these are consistently not met, the child fails to develop emotionally. The body grows, but there is not a person in there!

The foundational definition of codependency is lack of self or lack of a relationship with self. Codependents are addicted to addicts, taking care of addicts, being angry at addicts, taking out revenge on addicts, getting abused by addicts, leaving addicts and finding new addicts. Codependents can even act out this addiction with other codependents, just to make things clear as mud here. Because no core identity really exists (apart from SHAME perhaps),codependents need the mirroring approval, acceptance, and needs of other people to give themselves a face or identity. Addicts love codependents because the codependent morphs into whatever being the addict requires him/her to be. If the addict needs money, the codependent can provide that. If the addict needs you to love him/her and not ever mention the addiction, codependents can do that. If the addict needs someone to defend and justify their behavior, codependents will do it! Codependents are blank slates upon which addicts can write out the person they need.

Codependents are as variant as the many ethnicities of the human race itself. They do not all look nor behave exactly the same. Some are bitter, unlovable people. Some are successful in their work (probably in a caretaking career, such as nursing or social work!), yet burn out or have multiple boundary and ethical violations on the job and are forced to do something else. Being a codependent is very hard and exhausting work. This is why in addition to the magical morphing trick they do, nearly all codependents beg for help from others with all the caretaking they do. If they are too proud to ask for help with the caretaking, they may play the martyr, do it ALL completely alone (without complaint, mind you) and wind up physically ill, mentally ill, or dead.

The life of a codependent is a tiring one and full of stress and misery, but there is hope! Codependents can heal and get well. They can overcome past wounds, develop a relationship with self, and soon the addict magnet stops working. I feel I've rambled on quite a bit for tonight, so maybe we'll get to that in another post! So, I guess the moral of this story is-- if you're not nominated as captain, then politely decline the co-captain position and just enjoy the away games and the pep rallies!

Photo above found at:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

For Nina

A fellow blogger, sweet Ms. Renita at posted this video a few days ago. I was so moved by it, I wanted to try to share it here. After watching this performance of Nina Simone, I was moved to write the poem below.

Whatever you do, do it with
your full heart, lay your very life
across the keyboard as your hands stretch the song
we all have known but lacked
the courage to sing. Do it with
your full soul, when you pack your lunch.
Pick the apple whose reds and yellows stripe and
fuse into a shout that says Glory be to God!
String your words together like diamonds that
adorn the queen's throat, say what you say like
you mean it
make us believe it.
Whatever you do, do it without shame
do it while you catch your breath
do it whether tears or rain cover your face
do it because it is what you were created to do
do it when you don't feel pretty,
when your way is wrong.
Do it through sweat
through racism and
sexism classism and ageism.
Do it again and again and
when you do
we will believe it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Helping Hands

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God."

Have you ever gotten so bogged down in your own self-care that you actually do harm to yourself? For me this starts out with some well-intended books on organization or self-care. One book turns to two or three that I am reading at one time. Then I go to a seminar and realize that I need more daily meditation and that's my real problem, so I throw that in too. While I'm watching Joyce Meyer and getting ready for work I hear her point out that so many Christians focus way too much on themselves and should give more to others if they want peace. I agree and decide I want to volunteer some counseling hours to a local shelter today. But wait, my son has a dentist appointment at 9am and then I have a meeting at work at 2pm. I can't miss that meeting, because I was already late last time, because I was taking a lunch spa break, something my therapist recommended! Guilt and depression come creeping around the corner... I'm working so hard to take care of myself, why am I so tired and pissed off!!

Some of my best meditation time comes unplanned-- while mowing the yard or driving to work. This is when God has me silent enough that He can whisper some good wisdom to me for the day, and yesterday I felt step 3 pattering its sweet tiny feet into my heart-- give yourself over to My care today, I can do it for you. I was obsessing over the fact that I forgot to pack a lunch in addition to about 500 other things I needed to do. My sarcastic reply to God was, "What? Are you going to provide lunch for me today? That's what I need." His reply, "Sure. I'll take care of it." Now I am either so stressed that I am developing audio hallucinations and delusions of grandeur that I have conversations with God or I could just go with it. I stepped out on a leap of faith that the words I was feeling were true and that God really did want to take care of me today.

I finished up a string of meetings at 1pm and was starving and said, "Where's my lunch, God?" He said, "in the large conference room." I laughed to myself and walked up to the large conference room. A short distance from the door I began to get this wonderful smell of seasoned chicken. I walked into the room and there was a lunch spread. A cute little blond lady said, "Hi! Would you like some lunch? What do you do here?" It was a pharmaceutical rep who had come to speak to children's medical providers and therapists today (that would be me) and brought us lunch in return. It was a delicious lunch and a great presentation on a popular ADHD medication that I had some questions about! Thanks, God.

That moment and that promise fulfilled gave me such joy, just knowing I am NOT alone. The Creator of the Universe has all resources and wealth at His disposal to give me the best care possible. Often He places crafty tools in my head and hands that I use to do the work of self-care. Other times, He just reaches down those big sweet hands and does it for me. Every day. I just need to ask. Every day turn my LIFE and my WILL over to the care of God and things are just so much easier.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shout Out

to wet pavements glistening like
freshy glazed doughnuts
to the raindrops arrogant on
my clean car.

Shout out to mamas crying
children crying
teachers crying
balloons popping
pink bubblegun popping
pop rocks popping
heartbeats never stopping.

Shout out to turkey and swiss
lime slurpees and nacho cheese
to taking the top down
to ponytails down
to walls coming down
to Brandi wanting to be down
to turning the lights down and
the upside of down.

Shout out to sunshine on eyelids
sunshine on shoulders
sunshine on bare arms
Shout out to snowflakes
Shout out to earthquakes
to all my mistakes
stacked chocolate cake
to God-- I'm awake
Shout out for the shout out's sake.

Photo above found at:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

If It Weren't for Autism...

Although I hate having Autism as part of my life and affecting my children's lives, I'm beginning to realize that Autism is teaching me some essential lessons about parenting.

If it weren't for Autism...

1. I could have been one of those Moms who tells her kids to "shut up"
2. I might have gained my own self-worth through my children's successes
3. I might have taken it for granted to hear my children read
4. I would have certainly been a control freak parent who HAS to have a clean house and perfect kids on order to feel OK
5. I would have my kids signed up for too many activities and have the entire family stressed
6. my husband and I might have little to talk about
7. I would not have been able to find this kind of joy in my chilren's words
8. I might have overlooked the invaluable gift that only other children can give to my kids
9. I would have never experienced the completely unselfish and precious gifts some teachers and caregivers have offered
10. I might have gotten lazy about teaching the basics of making friends, coping with anxieties, and using your words to have your needs met

Because of Autism...

1. I will have the immense joy of watching my children accomplish the nearly impossible task of graduation and moving away from home OR I will have the joy of getting to live with them always... either way it'll be joy
2. I have learned to relax and let my children have fun
3. I have learned to play
4. I experience GRATITUDE every day for smiles, eye contact, complete sentences, having other kids WANT to come to our house, and happy children who love life

Photo above found at:

Friday, June 26, 2009

From Victim to Victory

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I am a fan of feeling the pain. Go in it, dig in it, rub it all over your body, cry, writhe, scream, act a total fool and get it out. We've often kept quiet too long. We've hid our true sadness, masked our real anger, and been scared frozen of our own grief. For crying out loud (no pun intended) FEEL it. This is my mantra.

I don't really know exactly how long this process takes. From my own experience and walking with many clients through pain and grief, there seems to be a peak when the pain is at its worst, then it starts to recede and we're able to move. At times it is so painful we try to escape it through overeating, living out a rescue fantasy with a crazy partner, drugs, depression, work, whatever will distract! Then we'll go back to the pain until it is unbearable and start the escape process again. Working through pain is very messy. It is filled with stops, starts, and lots of damage done at times to our relationships while lashing out or completely withdrawing. There are sometimes periods where our work and family lives are put on hold while it takes every ounce of physical and emotional energy just to put one foot in front of the other for one more day. Nonetheless, we do make it through one more day.

The whole point is that eventually this does end. This horrible suffering is endured. Yes, it is. It is endured and it begins to recede. Unfortunately, I see people all the time who never seem to find this end. There are many reasons why this might happen. Sometimes people become stuck because they do not have the external resources to move forward. That is, they do not have social supports, positive relationships, or they continue to experience unfortunate life circumstances they set them back. Another reason people may become stuck is due to lack of internal resources. This is when a person may be fully willing to begin rebuilding a positive new life and they have no clue where to start. For these folks, there are little to no positive or helpful thoughts embedded anywhere in their brain that can be accessed during this time.

I believe a third possible reason people get stuck is they have adopted the VICTIM ROLE and are very hesitant to give it up. Being a victim actually feels good in some sense. When we are the victim, we can blame someone else for being the "bad" person. Look what he/she did to me! Being the victim requires little effort. We can just lie there, cry, and receive lots of comfort and empathy from people. This feels good and we do need that continually throughout our lives. Ultimately, however, we get up from our bed of ashes, take off the sackcloth, and decide it is time to take responsibility. When we stop identifying ourselves as the victim, we are forced to live life looking not at what people do TO us but rather to look at what are WE doing for ourselves. Frankly, sometimes we are just too lazy and/or scared to tackle this.

I have been a victim many times throughout my life. I grieve these episodes and validate them. I acknowledge the reality of what happened and the depth of the pain it caused. I gained a sense of self-acceptance and even self-worth by allowing myself the space to do that. What naturally grows from this is that self-love propels you into action. Yes, I have been hurt, and I am feeling strong enough now that I want to rise above it. I am nobody's victim today. I have not forgotten the past but I don't recreate it today. I don't even really need to talk about it today. My eyes are on the future and creating a great life for myself.

Jesus asked a crippled man, "Do you want to get well?" This man had sat by a pool of healing waters for years complaining that no one would help him into the pool. Essentially, Jesus said, "If you really want to get better, then GET UP."

If you are in your 10th year of grieving, cannot enjoy life, and are not sure why... well, gather your wonderful self together, organize your external and internal resources, and GET UP!

Photo above found at:

Michael Jackson-- Much Love

Say what you will about Michael Jackson as a person, but no one can deny the musical genius and talent in this man. With all the garbage being said about him today, I wanted to put out something positive in his memory. I was a child of the 80's so MJ pretty much sang the soundtrack of my childhood. What a talent! He started out breaking down cultural barriers in 1970 with his performance on Ed Sullivan with the Jackson 5:

I watch some of his video performances and am amazed at his dancing. MJ brought a dance style all his own, completely unique, and one that is copied by pop and R&B performers today. He set the stage with his moonwalk performance on the Motown awards show. I watch this video and stand in awe. Who does this?! WOW.

His dance sequences in Thriller and Smooth Criminal are amazing. I could watch them again and again. They stand the test of time in talent and entertainment. I listen to his songs today and hear the soul that pours out. Even on later albums that didn't get the sales and notoriety of earlier albums, he put his all into his vocal performances on those songs. He lays his very soul on the line in Man in the Mirror and Dirty Diana. You can't sit still while listening to Don't Stop Till You Get Enough and Billie Jean. He's given us a legacy of entertainment and wonderful music. May you finally find rest, MJ. Thoughts and prayers to your family.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

These are Children

Pray for the ones who cry alone
who cry aloud
for those who cry to mothers and
those who hold the tears in cold
steel cups behind the eyes.
Pray for the ones who tremble at
themselves, who fear the night, who
hope to die,
suffer in silence,
reach out for someone
anyone anything
find nothing.
Pray and know these are children.

Pray when you rise from your bed, when
you hum along to the radio in
rush hour traffic.
Pray when scrubbing the dishes
rocking the babies
mowing the grass
reading the morning paper.
Pray for someone else's children.

Melissa Greene
the photo above can be found at:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Writing as Therapy

I recently had a comment from Glenda Beall, a fellow blogger at Netwest Writers ( ). I love her blog and hang out there quite frequently just for the sense of writers' community I get there. Glenda pointed out to me how she too has felt writer's block during times of happiness. I mentioned this in an earlier post, and I couldn't agree more that writing is a form of therapy.

I do a writer's workshop once a week at Vanderbilt's Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital. This project is made available through Nashville's Youth Speaks organization. This pulls together my two greatest loves, psychology and creativity. I find that the troubled children there are highly creative, cooperative and open to the writing process. I enjoy them every week and find such inspiration in their courage to share honestly. Although I work with lots of great poets who also help facilitate this writing group, I believe I am acutely aware of the personal struggles of the adolescents there because of my experience in counseling this population for many years now. I enjoy them so much, and I am always thinking of both writing skills as well as tools that will help them cope with the many traumas and stresses they face in their young lives. I thought I might share some of those with my readers.

Processing an Emotion

One skill I teach the teens is how to take a feeling and squeeze every drop of sensation from it. I encourage them to describe in great detail the thoughts, body sensations, colors, and images associated with it. A common exercise we do is giving the emotion 5 senses. For example, if anger had a taste, what would it be? What color is anger, what would it feel like in your hands? Often we hold intense emotions in one side of the brain with no connection to positive neural pathways or even words! This exercise helps to make emotions more bearable and work them through.

Dealing with Obsessions

Another skill I teach the adolescents is how to "write out" an obsession. Often these children are plagued with anxieties or worries. I ask them to imagine that they have literally been eating whatever is the target of their obsessions or anxieties. If they ate this particular thing, what would we see running from the corners of their mouths? What would other people think or feel when seeing this? How did it feel to swallow? The kids love this exercise. One girl wrote, "There is no pain like mine. I have been eating your last words to me."

I believe our writing puts to words the pains that are often indescribable. I cannot tell you about the depth of my hurt, but I can describe the cold hand clenched around my throat, hoping to take my life. Bringing these feelings into being through image and sound puts them into a safe container. Writing about joy engages the same senses, but joy is not often a feeling that was forced into suppression, nor does it require safe placement. Joy is safe, and I'm more accustomed to writing about the forbidden. Joy, I feel it but am still learning to write it!

Picture above found at:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

His Garden

Here I am
the wild and loose fuschia
rose you tried to hide.
You wanted a larger
more profound bloom, one
that flowers then dies
flowers then
dies, flowers
then dies
all summer.
You cut me
to place her inside where
her pleasing delicious colors could
satisfy you again and again.
You didn't plan for me to
break loose against
the grafting.
You didn't expect me
to live again but provide
only a backbone and
heartbeat to your
hybrid rose, created to
please you but
here I am
burst free from my training
spraying these clusters of
chaotic pink flowers
spreading tiny uninhibited
foliage across your porch
across your evergreens, even
the peonies and
stately stalks of oriental lily
rising to late spring.
Here I am
the wild that cannot be
contained, the finely planned
disorganization of one-season
blooms created by One
who smiles on such things.
You didn't expect me this spring but
He did.

Melissa Greene
The photo above can be found at:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Secret

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of

I who don't know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can't find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

by Denise Levertov

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Children with Autism: Quote of the Day

"This stapler is broken!! Staplers are so overrated."

age 8

Joy and Pain

Hello all. I've noticed that I have neglected my writing here on my blog and I'm not really sure why. Honestly, I have just been so peaceful and happy lately that I feel I am losing my artistry! Most of my life my creativity has been fueled by pain and anxiety, so what do you write about when life is good? This is just a HORRIBLE dilema! I purchased a poetry anthology for myself that celebrates joy, and it was encouraging for me to read that good poetry can still be "happy." This is a very new thing for me... this happiness stuff... and I'm not sure how it is going to work for me. :-) In all seriousness, I am not naive enough to believe that all of life is this black and white-- there is either misery or joy. There's a large continuum and I am very grateful to be living much of my life these days on the joy end of the continuum. There is actually a place to be found, where one can hold both joy and pain and find contentment in that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Common Mistakes Made by Therapists

1. Too Much Advice Giving/Not Enough Listening: This is a common mistake made by many therapists, regardless of how long they have worked in the field. We know that people need to gather feelings from the limbic system and send them to the frontal cortex for processing. Essentially, they need to feel their feelings, talk about it. Feel a little, talk about it, feel it, talk about it. This process of feel then talk is what we call processing and, ultimately, healing. When we jump in too quickly and interrupt that process with advice, the client is not given the opportunity to engage in the processing, and a giant piece of work is left undone.

2. Impatience: This is usually the mistake that leads to mistake #1. Good therapists can quickly assess a client and often have a fairly accurate reading as to why a client is in therapy, what is contributing to their problems, and what they need to do to change-- all within the first 2-3 sessions. The impatient therapist recognizes all of this and wants to jump straight to the healing! As therapists, we have to relax and allow clients to walk through their own process of change at their own pace. We have to accept that this process can sometimes takes months or even years. We may not even be around to see the entire process, and we need to accept that we are here for a time to assist this person in this phase of their growth. It is our role to guide, challenge, listen, and support along the way. This is often one of my own biggest mistakes, and what has helped me the most is learning to find the wonder in the client's process. I may have their ultimate goal in mind, but I have learned to find peace and gratitude in every little step they take to get there. It is much like parenting. We want our babies to grow up to be healthy adults, but this doesn't happen overnight! We celebrate every small accomplishment along the way.

3. Taking Clients out of Their Feelings: Because most therapists are naturally and intensely compassionate people, it is often difficult for them to sit with a client who is experiencing pain. We know we want clients to discuss their hurts, and when they do they will cry or rage. This is difficult to watch and be with, particularly when you are connected with the client. We do not enjoy seeing people hurt and we want to rescue them from this. This is especially hard with child clients, so children's therapists need to be particularly mindful of this trap. As therapists, we should remind ourselves-- it is good for clients to feel; it is good for all people to feel; this client needs to experience this deferred grief or anger; these stored feelings have become toxic and are poisoning this person, we have to clean it out.

The field of psychotherapy naturally draws to it hurting people with deep wounds of their own. This is true for many "caretaking" fields such as social work and nursing. This is not to say that every therapist and nurse is a hopeless codependent. It is just very important for those of us in this field to know why we came to it, be aware of it, and how it affects us when we step into the room with clients. Many therapists have deep wounds or "original pain" as John Bradshaw described it. If a therapist has not worked through their own "original pain," he/she will be unable to allow a client to go there. This leads to mistake #4.

4. Denial of Personal Make-up/Triggers: I have seen countless therapists who present with giant steel barriers around their own pasts and hurts. A good therapist has to acknowledge their own humanness. That is, they have to admit, I am a person capable of the same hurts and behaviors that my clients come to treatment with. I am capable because I am human too and I have my own weaknesses and issues that I work through daily. If you are a human being, then you are imperfect and have flaws. Therapists have to be comfortable with their flaws, which may be a tendency to control others, defensive, overly sensitive, or procrastinating, etc. It's ok to admit weaknesses to yourself! Therapists who are in denial that they have any personal issues of their own often come across as judgemental with clients. Their attitude is "Why can't you just do the right thing, get better, and be a great person like me?" If you believe for one second that this attitude does not come across with your clients, allow me to correct you-- IT DOES. A good therapist should believe from their very core, "But for the grace of God, there go I."

5. Poor Self-Care: Every day when we, as therapists, step into sessions with clients we bring our tools into treatment. Carpenters use hammers, nails, saws, etc. Doctors use their scalpels, x-ray machines, and whatnot. Therapists, well, we bring ourselves. We bring our minds, our bodies, and our emotions. When I come into the therapy room I want to bring healthy, sharpened, up-to-date tools. Would you want your doctor doing surgery on you with an outdated rusty tool? Would you want someone building your home with half the tools missing or without any blueprint? In the same vein, we should bring a healthy self into treatment. We should take good care of our feelings. This means we ACKNOWLEDGE that we have them, especially feelings brought up in therapy with this client. We get our own good therapy to keep our emotions and mind sharp and healthy. We stay connected with peers and supervisors to remain cleaned out. We get good sleep, exercise, eat well. We manage our time, delegate, speak up for ourselves, and know when to remain quiet. We nurture ourselves spiritually, physically, and mentally. We TAKE VACATIONS AS NEEDED without guilt. If you care about your field and your clients, then start with caring about you!!

6. Stagnation: Ok, therapists, here is a real shocker for you. Did you know that when you graduate from school that you really know very little in the way of providing good therapy?! Did you know that you will hone your skills in the moment with clients and in your supervisions and consultations? Good therapists are not born from textbooks alone and the textbook you learned from in 2006 may already be made obsolete by new research? Many well-intentioned therapists graduate and believe they are now finished with learning. They may feel "I know all about Psychology, I have a degree, " and never care to crack another book on the subject or seek out good guidance. Getting a degree in Psychology does not make you a therapist, it's just a good start. After that you have to stay updated in what is going on in your field. There are so many wonderful new treatments available. Every day we are learning about the brain's involvement and impact on behavior. Again, would you want a doctor operating on you who is operating using techniques from a 1920's textbook? This is not to say that some of our great foundational teachings in psychology are to be forgotten... they are not. Just stay current and open-minded.

The cartoon above is originally found at: