Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life in a locked facility

For the last 13 years I have either 1) worked and gone to school or 2) worked two jobs. Thirteen years is a long time. I don't even like to admit I'm old enough to have been working for 13 years! But, well, I'm tired. Really tired.

My current full time job is as a clinician in a preschool partial hospitalization unit. That means little teeny kiddos who get kicked out of "regular" preschools and daycares. Typically for aggressive behavior. The kids who hit, kick, bite, throw things (like chairs and tables). The unit is locked. Non-staff must be accompanied by staff when they are visiting the unit. Parents don't get to meet other parents or get to know their child's classmate because of confidentiality. It can be intense.

It is pretty much a daily occurrence to hear crying, screaming, and swearing on the unit. Three year olds with quite the vocabulary of profanity. Chairs get thrown. Punches get thrown. Once even a window was broken. And a bus caught on fire. Because a kid got ahold of a flare. It can be intense.

I deal with parents on a daily basis. I have heard all sorts of explanations and excuses for their child's behavior or for not attending session. A parent once cancelled session because they had to do laundry. I kid you not. I meet with parents who want to medicate their kids into submission. I meet with parents who are in denial that their child truly needs medication. It can be intense.

I see poverty. I see abuse. I see severe mental health. In my face, up close and personal. I've been sworn at and hit. I've had things ripped off my walls. I've had lamps tossed. I've had milk poured onto my carpet. I see toddler tantrums and grown up hissy fits. I call Child Protective Services. It can be intense.

Sometimes staff makes inappropriate jokes after the kids leave. Because if we didn't laugh, we would cry. It can be THAT intense.

Then I go home and parent. And sometimes go to my second job. And try to maintain a healthy marriage. And some sort of a social life. It can be intense. And exhausting.

It isn't all bad. Just yesterday I went to a dance party for the kids who had been safe all week. A gym full of kids doing the Nae Nae together. I got hugs from two of my kiddos who moved up to the school age program. I hear from parents, grandparents, foster parents, and legal guardians who finally understand what is going on with their child and how to effectively help their child. Not every day do I see the good. Lately seems to be a particularly bad string of bad days. But there are good moments. Intense, exhausting moments.

Not everyone is cut out for this kind of work. Just like I am not cut out for anything the involves more blood than a paper cut produces. Most people realize pretty quickly they aren't right for the job,  but we have some martyrs. Those who complain about anything and everything and constantly try to get others to do their work. But we have some people very passionate about helping kids be the best possible version of themselves. People who can engage the tough kids, form relationships, and motivate kids to do better, try harder. People who can engage with parents who are victims of poverty, abuse, trauma, a failing system. Parents who are mentally ill and can barely care for themselves let alone their child or children.

I have thick files on kids who have been here six months, nine months, a year. Kids who will always need treatment and kids who should have never been in treatment.  I get buried under mountains of paperwork. I don't always return calls within 24 hours. I go home and can't always muster the energy to cook. I blast music in my car to erase the day before I put on my parent hat. But sometimes I still dream about the injustices of the world. I am rarely shocked by them, but I am still moved by them, the injustices of the world. And hopefully I always will be.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Daily wake up call

For at least the last two weeks someone or something has woken me between 4 and 5 am. Like clockwork. I think it has been 2 weeks, but my sleep deprived brain cannot remember. It has been long enough that my body almost anticipates the disturbance. Another few days of this and I will wake up without cause, just because it has become routine.

I am a terrible sleeper. Have been for as long as I can remember. Now, before you given me your sleep remedies- don't. Warm milk makes me want to throw up. Nyquil gives me scary weird lucid hallucination like dreams. Lavender? Melatonin? Tried them. No success. White noise. Check. Consistent bedtime. Cool, dark room. Done and done. As for other remedies, probably tried them. Or there is a valid reason why I haven't or can't.

Often I read until the words blur on the pages. Surprisingly, since Punky was born, I actually sleep better. Pure exhaustion. Until recently, I had significantly fewer nights when I couldn't fall asleep. And I could get back to sleep after waking. Now, as it grows much to close to the start of preschool, extra curricular activities,  and her 4th birthday, Punky needs me less and less at night. But there are weeks still that she wakes and needs the reassurance that I am just in the other room (no you cannot sleep in my bed), the shadows are nothing to be afraid of (you have a nightlight here, here, here, and here. Sigh, yes I will leave the hallway light on), you can get out of bed to go to the bathroom without me.

On the nights that she sleeps soundly, someone (the Huz, used to being up all night for work, laughing as he plays his game with some other nocturnal being, directly under our bedroom)  or something (train, cats, dog). Usually the cats. Well, Pete. He rarely wants attention, but when he does it is 4 am and he gets it by headbutting my jaw or laying across mu throat. Or wanting to play. With old man cat, Fritz, who wants no part of it and just wants to be curled up at my feet. So I have to corral a cat, which more often than not involves me sitting on the floor, coaxing said cat out from under the bed under the guise that I want to pet him, carrying him out of the bedroom, dashing back to close the bedroom door, wrangling the other cat, shoving him out the door while trying to keep the first cat from slipping back in. Hissing. Bloodshed. Tears. Why, you ask, do I let them in in the first place? Some nights I don't. I kick them out prior to settling in with my book. And then I get the 4 am meowing and Fritz throwing himself at the door trying to get it open. And if I forget to do the super secret lift the door when you shut it so it fully latches routine, he succeeds. He is a persistent old man cat. Nothing short of throwing at least 2 pillows at the door will get him to give up. Of course, if this whole process makes enough noise I risk waking the dog. Or the kid.

The joys of pet ownership.

The Huz, of course, is oblivious to all this. 5 nights a week he is off being a super hero of the cable television world, making sure insomniacs everywhere have their choice of infomercials. On his nights off he is either 1) engrossed in his game, headphones on, having a grand old time yucking it up with whomever it is he plays 2) asleep on the couch 3) turning in for the night (day) just after I've gotten settled back into bed and am almost ready to drift off, again oblivious to anything that has occurred in the previous half hour. This occurs precisely 15-30 minutes before my alarm is set to go off.

The Huz could sleep standing up in the middle of a hurricane (I exaggerate, but only slightly). He is snoring within seconds, while I resist the temptation to smother him and usually end up just getting up. I think it no small accomplishment that he has survived 8 years of sharing a bed with me. If I'm ever on trial for murder, you'll know the sleep deprivation got the best of me.

The Huz will be moving back to day shift soon, and while there are many positives to this, I was finally getting used to sleeping without him next to me.

Sleeping. The true test of relationships.

(King size bed, best decision ever.)

I admit that at least one morning a week I get to work and spend the first half hour staring at my computer screen not doing anything. And not for lack of work to do. Some mornings I contemplate a caffeinated beverage. My senses quickly return and remind me caffeine doesn't wake me up, it just makes me jittery enough to not sleep hours and hours after I have consumed it. Truly. I can't make this stuff up. I am much too tired.

But if you see me sitting somewhere, staring off at nothing, don't say hi. I might just be sleeping with my eyes open. And for your own safety, you shouldn't wake me.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

As excited as I was to read this, I opened the cover with much hesitation.  What was this going to be like? Would I like it? Would I hate it? Would it affect my relationship with Mockingbird and cause me to regret the name of my firstborn?

But I could not resist the siren's call of another book by Harper Lee, especially when that book was about the same characters I had grown to love. I will do my best to not give any spoilers as I attempt to share my thoughts on the book.

Now, I fully admit I almost put the book down and walked away when I learned about Jem on page 13.... But I knew there HAD to be an explanation and I NEEDED to hear it. So I continued. I will also announce here that I am Team Dill all the way.

It took me a few chapters to leave my hesitation behind and really get into the story. About halfway through I finally realized part of why I love Mockingbird so much. It isn't that I want to be like Scout (I do), but Harper Lee writes in such a way that I AM Scout. Watchman is no different.

I giggled when it was suggested that Jean Louise parade her dress through town on a pole. I smiled at Miss Muffet's character. I have no idea what half of what Uncle Jack said meant and feel I might need to brush up on my history. Jack's confession at the end- I did not see that coming. Tears pricked my eyes as Jean Louise's world turned upside down in a heartbeat, I felt her hurt and disappointment. And I am left with this feeling of heaviness.

For 45 minutes after reading the final words, I wrestled with my emotions. These are not merely characters in a story, words on a page. The Finches are as real as you and me. We know people like them. We are people like them. I missed Dill and was saddened about Calpurnia, such an important minor character. Atticus' words to Scout at the end are exactly what makes him Atticus: "'I said I'm proud of you.' 'I don't understand you.  I don't understand men at all and I never will. ' 'Well, I certainly hoped a daughter of mine'd....'"

I think I will likely need to read the last few chapters again and again before I can fully come to terms with all that it contained in these pages. I am certain that my reaction to this story would be very different had I not first read Mockingbird. I may not even have wanted to read it. But it is because Mockingbird came first that I am so struck by the power of these characters. I can't say that I loved it, not like Mockingbird, but it will find its place on my shelf and be reread over the years.  And I may come to love it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A day in the life...

I have goals, ambitions. I really do. Things I want to do or accomplish. And some days feel really good and like I am making progress. Other days... well, let's just say other days are harder.

Often I preach self-care to the parents I work with. I use the imagery of a pitcher and a cup. The parent is the pitcher and the child is the cup. A cup full of holes. As parent, your job is to fill the cup. But if you never stop to refill (self care) you run dry and then the cup runs dry. You can't give what you don't have.

I try to practice what I preach. Especially in my current job. It's hard. It's draining. The paperwork is endless.

The last couple weeks have been tough ones. Both at work and home. The Huz is still adjusting to the night shift (meaning he sleeps. A lot. At weird times.) and, to be honest, I am still adjusting too.

I think you could probably count the number of waking hours we have been together in the last two weeks on both hands. And have fingers left over. We've been coming and going more than normal. My second job, helping friends, Vacation Bible School, golf outing, etc.

I think the last couple of days have been more survival mode than anything else.

It is my first spring into summer transition at this job. Kids coming and going at different times. I went to get a kid today and even though he has been in the program 9 months, he has been on my caseload 9 days and I had no idea what he looked like. Whoops. And of course the 2 hours I set aside this morning for paperwork was fruitless because of network problems. I couldn't even get logged into my computer! Bah!

My tickets to a game arrived in the mail before I even told the Huz I was going (oh, hey, Sister, our tickets arrived!). In some ways, it seems like the Huz never came home from vacation, except for the fact that there is more laundry. (Oh the laundry! How can three human beings produce SO much laundry?!)

I haven't run. I haven't gotten out my yoga mat. I haven't taken the dog for a walk. I haven't crocheted (and I probably won't for a while since Punky shoved my hook so far into the skein of yarn that I can't find it and I'm going to have to undo my work and unwind the whole skein. Honestly, I'm just not looking forward to that. Maybe I'll buy a new hook instead....

I have been reading. Which says something about the book I'm into. Typically during times of stress I can't sit still long enough to read. I manically start trying to accomplish as much as possible only to stress myself out more. Maybe this indicates growth on my part. Or a REALLY good book.

Sometimes I kill a few minutes between sessions on Pinterest. I shouldn't do that. All the super moms  (or should that be Super Moms? ) with all these amazing uses for toilet paper tubes who make their own side walk chalk and turn pillow cases into adorable dresses get me down. I call it a good day when dinner is something other than a grilled cheese before 7:30pm!

I want to make our own birdfeeders, I do. But half the time I can't remember to check if the store bought feeder has food in it!

So tonight, we aren't going to make birdfeeders, but we will have pizza and movie and popcorn night. And the Huz will snooze through the movie, but we will be together. No distractions, other than yelling at the dog to leave the kitten alone. A few hours, undisturbed. Finally.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Learn to let go

This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My Presence, where you are complete. Take time to bask in the Light of My Love. As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into My care.

You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence. The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes: I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand. Herein lies your security, which no one and no circumstance can take from you.

Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, March 24

Monday, March 23, 2015

Toast for dinner

So I've been thinking lately, a lot, about motherhood. 4 years ago next week I found out I was going to be a mother. For years, though I had always worked with kids, I denied that I wanted any of my own, denied I had any motherly instincts. Then just over 3 years ago, I met Punky and nothing has been the same. I can barely remember life before Punky. Sure, I could sleep in later, when my insomnia let me. Sure, I could have a social life without making childcare arrangements or checking to see if it was a family friendly gathering. Sure, my house was not overrun with toys. Sure, I didn't have to clean out the tub before I took a bath. I admit I recently said I needed a vacation in this order: alone, with the Huz, then as a family. Being a mother is hard (I assume being a father is too, but as I am not one I cannot speak to that). Being a working mother is hard. Some days I get home just in time to put Punky to bed only to get up and leave again at dawn. I feed her boxed mac and cheese more than I should and vegetables less than I should. I don't clean frequently enough. We don't make cookies or crafts or practice our academics daily or even weekly. Some days I am not the mother I thought I would be. I yell more than I imagined, I lack patience,  I dread the teenage years.  But I think about that solo vacation and know I would hardly last a day before I was calling for the Huz and Punky to join me. I love stories and snuggles before bed. I love the giggles. I love the "look Mommy"s. My heart breaks when she asks all teary-eyed if I am mad at her (no, the answer is always no). I watch her hug her friends goodbye when I pick her up. I help her mail pictures to family. I listen to her play. She is a source of joy, pure joy. I worry about her health and well being. I worry about mean girls and bullies. In my line of work I've heard real horror stories. And I know there is only so much I can do to protect her. Some days I wish bedtime would come a little sooner, but mostly I wish for more hours in my day and more energy in my hours to spend with this amazing little creature. I am not a supermom and I don't have to be. I aspire to be more, but remind myself that good enough IS good enough. And that I am lucky to have a partner to share it with. After almost 8 years of marriage to the most infuriating man I've ever met, something still feels off when we are apart.  The man rarely sees me out of my pajamas (due to our schedules, not the fact that I never leave my pjs) and doesn't get mad when I forget his pizza rolls, there must be some kind of award for that, right? So while the adventure isn't what I thought it would be and I wouldn't have believed you if you'd tried to tell me how hard it is, I feel lucky to be on this journey.  And yes, we might be having toast for dinner. In our pajamas. At 5:30pm. On a Monday. Don't judge me. I won't judge you.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New You?

"Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual." - Mark Twain

It is that annual time to reflect back on the year that has come to a close and to resolve with all the good intentions of the world that the new year will be different.

"Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow: The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true." -Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning." - T.S. Eliot

"We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential." -Ellen Goodman

Each year my thoughts, goals, dreams, plans are generally the same: Work less, play more. Read. Write. Get outside. Be healthy (in all domains).

What about you? What are your 2015 goals?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Rest in Me

"Rest in Me, My child, forgetting about the worries of the world. Focus on Me- Emmanuel- and let My living Presence envelop you in Peace. Tune in to My eternal security, for I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. If you live on the surface of life by focusing on ever-changing phenomena, you will find yourself echoing the words of Soloman: 'Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!'

"Living in collaboration with Me is the way to instill meaning into your days. Begin each day alone with Me, so that you can experience the reality of My Presence. As you spend time with Me, the way before you opens up step by step. Arise from the stillness of our communion, and gradually begin your journey through the day. Hold My hand in deliberate dependence on Me, and I will smooth out the path before you."

December 14 
Jesus Calling
Sarah Young

"Sometimes we feel so beaten down by life, battered by outside circumstances over which we have no control. During these unwelcome storms, fear begins to permeate our inner being. Seeing no way out, we may fall into depression and enter into self-preservation mode by withdrawing into ourselves. But in doing so, we cut ourselves off from those who would give us aid and comfort. 

"Fortunately, God has other plans. He knows what we need and lovingly provides it. He 'comforts the downcast' by sending earthly 'angels' to help us. These people of God, Tituses among us, give freely of God's love and fill us with the healing balm of His comfort.

"In the midst of distress, we are not to withdraw from God's helping hand but to immerse ourselves in His Word and reach out to others, allowing both to give us love and comfort in our time of need. And then, while once more, we in turn can be a Titus for another."

Day 10
3-Minute Devotions for Women
Daily Devotional Journal

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Prince of Peace

"I am the Prince of Peace. As I said to My disciples, I say also to you: Peace be with you. Since I am your constant Companion, My Peace is steadfastly with you. When you keep your focus on Me, you experience both My Presence and My Peace. Worship Me as King of kings, Lord of lords, and Prince of Peace.
"You need My Peace each moment to accomplish My purposes in your life. Sometimes you are tempted to take shortcuts, in order to reach your goal as quickly as possible. But if the shortcut requires turning your back on My peaceful Presence, you must choose the longer route. Walk with Me along paths of Peace; enjoy the journey in My Presence."
Jesus Calling (December 2)- Sarah Young

Today's writing reminds me of this song:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Gray day

I called in sick today. Something I very rarely do. And I'm not even sick, well, not exactly. I've been doing this gluten free thing for almost a year now. And it helped- at first. But my symptoms have returned. Not quite as frequent as before, but still they have returned. And last night was a particularly bad episode that left me awake most of the night. So I called in sick to have a day to myself to recover. Wouldn't you know, now I feel guilty. That I'm laying in bed mid morning still in my pajamas not working. And my kid is at the babysitter's. I hacked and coughed and sneezed and sniffled for three weeks, and showed up to work every day. But today I wasn't sure I could handle running after or restraining a child. I wasn't sure I could help parents with their parenting of difficult children. Why should I feel guilty? I have PTO for a reason! But I do. Because I'm not really sick. And I just had a four day weekend. And I sent my kid away. And it is raining and I want the Huz to be here curled up playing hooky with me so we can spend a rainy day watching movies like we always said we would do and never have done. And I want to feel good enough to go pick up my kid early and do something fun together. But I'm not. And I did. And he's not. And I don't. 

The cat is smiling that I'm home and in bed. (Literally, he is sprawled out of the bed next to me and looks like he is smiling.) The dog is whining in her crate (sorry pup, I can't trust you unsupervised yet). Time to put away the guilt, I can't un-take the sick day now. Maybe one day I will get answers or find the miracle cure for my ailments that all seem to contribute to one another. At least the weather suits my mood and I'm not missing out on a beautiful sunshiny day.