Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hurts and hopes

I have a Master's degree. In counseling. So I like to think I know a thing or two about humans. But there is still so much I do not understand. I totally get that growth and change are a-turtle-in-molasses slow. But it feels to me, in my limited understanding, that we are worse than stuck. We are moving backwards.

We are overly sensitive and too easily offended by everything and at the same time so self-centered we don't care who we hurt. What happened to walking a mile in someone else's shoes? What happened to if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all? What happened to the simple, genuine apology? We are so defensive. All. The. Time.

While I don't necessarily agree with it, I am beginning to understand the Huz's desire to acquire an arsenal. He sees lawlessness ahead and wants to defend that which he loves. I want to prevent the lawlessness from becoming reality.

I have never been what I would call an active activist. I don't go to marches or rallies. I don't closely follow politics and platforms and such. I fully acknowledge I am pitifully uninformed about some big things. I read the local news on my phone to see if any of my clients' parents have been shot or ODed.

I can't handle more than that. My heart hurts too much to know more than surface details. I am appalled by the fear and ignorance (yes, I said it, ignorance) that I see.

People are people. Love is love. Why can't we learn to move on? Why are we stuck fighting the same battles? Why do we still need #metoo movements and black lives matter and rainbow flags? Have we learned nothing?

I am ashamed of us. Yes! That's what that feeling is. Shame. Shame to be part of the stuck-ness. Shame to be associated with an organization that I feel just made a huge error in judgment. Shame for my backseat feminism.

Am I suddenly going to attend rallies and financially support all the causes I believe in and get political tattoos? Well, let's be real. No. I am not. I don't like crowds and I have no money.

I will continue my quiet, respectful defiance and hope that people listen when I do speak. Because my words are carefully chosen. I do not wish to add to the noise of life.

I will make Wonder Woman earmuffs.

I will love and support and encourage each young life I have the pleasure of coming into contact with whether they be black, white, yellow, purple, or green; gay, straight, or bi-curious; male, female, gender confused, or transgender.

I will work on my own fears and ignorances.

I will hold on to hope.

And maybe I will get a new tattoo.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Bruised and battered

It started at 3 am on December 22, 2018 and hasn't stopped. I don't mean to be dramatic, come on!

I frequently encourage my kids, er clients, to write about their feelings and tell them about my multiple journals to show them I am not asking them to do something I wouldn't do. But to be honest, words are failing me.

How do you write about the guilt and anxiety of not taking your kid's tooth pain more seriously? Is 4 (soon to be 5) trips to 3 dentists since the 22nd penance enough?

Does lecturing you parent that an ER visit equals a phone call, not a text, no matter the time of day make that ER visit any less panic inducing?

What is there to say about driving almost the exact stretch of highway where the accident happened on your way to the funeral?

And just when you think you are finding your balance again you are thrown an unexpected snow day followed by unexplained stomach pain.  Just when you think the dark cloud of sadness, stress, and anxiety is lifting you learn of the death of another kind, wise, remarkable individual with whom you had a personal connection. What words come then?

When the dog escapes the fenced in yard and is off roaming the neighborhood, when two fights break out at school before breakfast is over, when you pack peanut butter and a knife, but no bread. What then?

For a reader and wannabe writer, words soothe. Words bring understanding. Words heal. But sometimes words don't come easily. Sometimes counting stitches feels too much like work and the hand can't figure out how to draw the jumble of emotions.

Sometimes it is easier to find a Golden Girls marathon on TV. But only when you can't find M*A*S*H. And you shake your fist at the heavens or the universe, or your partner who stepped over the basket of clean clothes rather than carrying it upstairs. And you blast the music alone in your car. And buy the candy bar you know you will regret (but just one!). And you cry at a stupid video of people making wigs for kids with cancer.  And you put on your pajamas at 6:30pm on a Friday.

You ask for a hug. Then remind yourself that you are stronger than what life throws at you; that the tooth is out, and the stomach is better, and the scar is barely visible; that your sense of humor will return, the stitches will come together, the hand will make sense of the madness, the sadness will lift, and the words will come.

Bruised and battered. Sad but strong.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Happy Anniversary

I doubt many (if any) of my friends would describe me as a mushy romantic. Trashy novels aren't my jam unless there is a really good murder mystery mixed in. I pick action flick over chick flick 9 times out of 10. I just am not good at public displays of romance. I go for humor over gushiness (is that a real word?). I am making myself uncomfortable already.

We are celebrating 11 years of marriage. and by celebrate, I mean we look at each other, shrug, and agree it has been pleasant enough for us to continue. (See, there is that "humor" I was talking about.) I like to think that after 13 years together, he knows how I feel about him. I also know sometimes you need to hear it anyway.


My dear Huz,
Thank you for the laughs (even when, especially when, I want to be mad at you) and the love; for spoiling me at Christmas, and not getting mad when I buy books. Thank you for getting the oil changed in my car and tolerating my crazy hair colors (we have an understanding). Thank you for good vacations, health insurance, and calling me first to rant when work sucks. Thank you for teaching our kid about superheroes and enduring endless infestations of glitter. Thank you for supporting my growing mermaid obsession and letting the dog out the last time each night. Thank you for saying I could go back to school to be anything I want without reminding me how much I still owe on my student loans. Thank you for not commenting when I come home with more yarn. Thank you for choosing a different movie when I do not want to watch the one you picked out. Thank you for picking up milk. And eggs. And poison ivy relief stuff. Thank you for eating cereal without complaint when I am too tired to cook. I could not have made it through everything that has been thrown at us over the years, especially recently, without you. When the unfairness has threatened to break me, you have never once failed to let me smell the chocolate on your breath. Just like the tattoos on my skin, you have left a permanent mark on me, one that would be too incredibly painful to remove. Happy anniversary, I heart you.

Friday, January 8, 2016

So this happened...

It all started a couple weeks ago. I was brushing Punky's hair and commented that she was due for a cut. I just happened to mention she had enough hair to donate, not really thinking anything of it, more reminding myself that I have to stop doing crazy colors in my own hair before I can donate again. She looks at me and asks, "What does donate mean?" I explained that (in this context) it meant to give your hair to someone who didn't have any. She immediately said, "Yes, I want to do that."

Having my own attachment issues to my hair (when I donated almost 4 years ago, my sister in law went with me, to watch the baby [and to make sure I didn't chicken out]), I took the next logical step. I got the ruler. I showed Miss Punky how much would need to be cut and how much would be left. "Yes," was again her answer.

I put her off a bit. "How about this time we just do a trim and then if you still want to cut it next time, we will." I figured she would change her mind within the hour. But she kept talking about it. I reminded her that once they started cutting her hair, she couldn't go back. And that if she didn't like it, it would grow back, but it would take a while. We couldn't reattach her hair once it was cut.

Still she seemed cool with the idea. I told her she needed to talk to her dad about it. The Huz generally prefers longer hair on females, so I wanted to make sure he was in on the discussion. He reviewed the idea that once it was cut, it was cut. Punky said she understood.

So I tried a different approach. "I'm getting my hair done soon, want to see if she can cut your hair when she does mine?" She hesitated. She likes playing at Cookie Cutters and sitting in a funny chair and watching cartoons. "You'll be going with me even if you don't get it cut." "Okay, I'll do it then."

Quick check with my hair person to make sure she could squeeze in Punky. She could.

Hair happened to come up in a conversation with the babysitter. She suggested finding a picture to help Punky understand. So after some Googling I showed Punky a picture of a young girl without any hair. I believe her name is Riley. At least that is what we are calling her.

After we picked out a recipient, I started showing Punky some options for shorter hair. Shoulder length. Chin length (or as Punky called it, cheek length). Pixie cuts. She made her choice with confidence.

Now, I know Riley already received a wig and that we have no idea who will actually get Punky's ponytail, but Riley is helping Punk to understand where her hair is going. I'm not one to lie to my kid. Or anyone. But a little truth stretching in this case, I'm okay with.

I am so proud that Punky committed to "Riley" and wanted to do something for another human being, and one she will never know! I want her to know the hard truths in life and that she can change the world. One little wig at a time if that's how she chooses to do it.

But I'm a little bit sad. My little girl is growing up. And looking grown up! I'll miss the daily torture sessions of brushing and styling. We pulled off some crazy hairdos! I am going to miss her hair as much as I missed my own the last time I chopped and donated.

One thing you can say about us Morris girls. We go big or go home when it comes to hair!

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.