Monday, April 21, 2014

Teen Parenting Advice from An Imperfect Mom

Bill Cosby said parenting teens is like nailing jello to the wall.

No one is going to be the perfect mom really - or even almost perfect, so before I even get started, let's keep that at the forefront of our thoughts mmmk?

So let's talk about some teen parenting advice from an imperfect mother

I think the sub topic of this post would be "but one who is doing/has done pretty good so far"

also a sub sub topic would be "just love them" and I could have probably summed this whole thing up with that and left it there - but I'll expand on that thought if you if you'll bear with me through a long list of stuff.

Also, I think about writing blogs about parenting all the time but then I never finish them or publish them (well a couple of times I have, but you get what I'm saying), because the last person I want to be is that annoying mom/person.

But still - I notice little things all the time, especially in my job, and they seem so simple and yet parents seem to struggle.  So here are my rules for parenting (from an imperfect mom) in no particular order:

1.  Close your eyes.  Think back.  Remember 12 year old you.  Now 14.  Now 16, 17.  Maybe 18.  Do you remember that person?  What did you want?  Who did you think you were?  What was important to you? Did you feel like people didn't understand you (my guess is going to be definitely yes, unless you were a super weird teen, and by weird I mean...not weird at all, which if you think about can't be normal)?  Can you try to hold those ideas in your head simultaneously while you try to be the "adult" in your house of teens?  Because just remember all of that is going to make you approach your children differently than you might otherwise.

2.  You are you.  Your kids are not you.  As much as I think number 1 is important, number 2 is equally important.  Your insecurities are not going to be the same as your child.  Your children are unique and you are their parent.  Your own parent may have been fantastic or lacking but whoever your kid is (even if they are a lot like you) - your kid is not you, and your kid doesn't have your mom or dad as their parent.  They have you.  So don't assume.  Things that may have been a big deal to you may not be to them, and vice versa.  Keep your mind open to all the ways in which your child may be vastly different than you and need something different from the world, school, parenting, friends, activities, etc. than you did at their age.

3.  You can fix a whole bunch of stuff with humor.  If you can laugh and get your kids to laugh - even if they really seem like they might not always think you're funny - you're not going to have too many problems you can't get through.

4.  Have expectations.  By that I mean, expect them to do their best, expect them to be good people, expect them to have goals, expect them to be kind to others, expect them to be somebody.

5.  Have realistic expectations.  They may not be exactly who you imagined or who you want them to be.  That's okay.  Figure out what the basic most important things are.  Take some time to think about this.  Stay open to learning who your children are while they learn it too.  In other words, you may know your kid really really well, but you don't really know who they are going to become.  They're still figuring it out.  Allow that process to happen somewhat organically.  Try not to control it too much.  Expose them to lots of options.  Expose them to lots of good things.  You doing so will have more influence on them than you realize.  They will make mistakes, so will you.  It's okay as long as generally things are headed in a good direction.

6.  PLEASE remember that whatever ideas you have about what chores they are suppose to do, what homework and grades are suppose to look like, and whatever other achievements you believe they should be working on, should not be the whole entire basis of your relationship with them (and source of conflict on the daily!).  Parents get this so screwed up all the time.  Want your kids to do chores?  Great. Keep trying to figure out how to make this happen if it's a struggle - but do not let it become the entire aspect of your relationship with them.  Let me repeat this - parents get stuck in dumb power struggles over things like believing their child has to practice the piano every day, or do the dishes, or whatever the heck it is, and they fixate on focus on these like two or three things all day every day.

7.  Remember it would be okay for your child to NOT learn to play the piano if they hate it (my mom used to say I would regret not practicing - guess what?  I don't.  What I wish my mom would have done is leave me alone to let me write in peace because that's what I really enjoyed doing).  Tons of things fall into this category.  My theory is let your kids join and do whatever they want (within reason) and if it sticks it sticks and if it doesn't, not a big deal.  If they love something they'll keep at it.  My only exception to this is if you see a kid has a ton of potential but they are scared to do something.  A smidge of pushing just to test the waters and 'try' it would be okay.  Like maybe saying "you can quit after a month/season, I just want you to at least 'try' dance" (or whatever).  Otherwise, let them dictate what they do as much as possible.  It could be they will love something and get a ton out of something you never even thought of before.

8. You know that whole thing about not being their friend but being their parent?  Yeah, that's good.  But also?  Being their friend is not a bad idea either.  They are not mutually exclusive.  Yes, be the parent first.  But then immediately fall into friend mode whenever you think it's possible.  Listen to their music.  Show them the music you love, and loved when you were younger (if you're lucky maybe there will be common ground).  Watch movies they chose.  Show them yours.  If you can find any common interests, explore those together.  But at the least, encourage their interests and pursuits like you would any other friend of yours.  What do they do when they are hanging out on the internet or whatever?  My kids pretty much only watch youtube these days.  What are they watching?  Maybe you would like it too.  Maybe you won't, but you should at least check it out first.

9.  Give them their space.  When they have friends over, be near by, but stay out of the way when you can.  Don't eavesdrop too much or otherwise overly concern yourself in their world.  Let them be - they really probably don't need you to be checking on them that much dude.  Chill.  Don't try to fix problems with friends or call other parents and try to go that route.  Don't get too involved in their dating life.  Don't stalk their social media too much.  Just enough - not too much.  Be a very aware person who steps in very infrequently or rarely.  Mostly you trust them.  And you tell them.  "I trust you".  I trust you UNLESS you give me a reason not to.  Then, all bets are off.  (but please do give them their privacy - though you may demand you have access in theory to all their accounts, etc., don't go snooping around.  you don't need to be reading all their texts or scanning their twitter constantly - they need that space from you, its normal).

10.  Don't be an idiot.  Your kid is at least as likely to lie or do some other bone headed thing as someone else's kid.  Pay attention.  IF you become concerned about something going on - a friend, a situation, a girlfriend/boyfriend, whatever, then you can pretty well ignore number 9 above.  Go ham.  They need to know you are just crazy enough to make their life miserable if needed.  If you lay down the law and do some serious grounding, lay out loss of privilege, or take away their property, BE CONSISTENT.  Don't say they are grounded for a month and cave in 2 days.  Be realistic and then don't change your mind about the punishment.

11.  Curfew is not negotiable.  5 minutes late one time and big consequences.  Just be a jerk about that one thing at least.

12.  exception to 11 is a big event like Prom or whatever.  If you discuss it with them ahead of time and agree on something different, cool.  But that should be rare.  There does not need to be some discussion every weekend about why they need to be out later.  No they don't.

13,  Have everything at your house.  Seriously.  all the sleepovers.  all the parties.  all the movie nights.  swim parties.  trampoline jumping.  Whatever it is.  Try real hard to be that house.  (see number 9 above to find out how you become that house).  (and don't try too hard to be "fun mom" you'll end up looking like a moron.  don't be that mom posting 400 selfies and trying too damn hard.  just BE and be cool.  If you're cool, no problem, if you're not naturally cool, that's okay.  be the nerdy mom.  they'll still like you anyway)

14.  Don't freak out if you can help it.  If your kids start telling you about a friend of theirs who does drugs don't flip out.  Have a frank discussion with your kids about why this is a terrible idea, sad, concerning, whatever.  But keep the conversation open and don't react in such a way that they will never want to tell you anything ever again. Mostly listen.  Be spare with your thoughts.  You want to make the experience of them telling you things comfortable and you want to create a safe space where they want to come to you because they know you aren't going to freak out.

15.  Do stuff when you can.  Go on a road trip.  Go get milkshakes.  Swim even if you hate how you look in the bathing suit.  Light fireworks.  Go to the mall when you don't really feel like it.  Watch the football game on tv with them.

16.  You don't need to spoil them but it's okay to spoil them sometimes.  The details are up to you.  But make their life pleasant sometimes if you can.

17.  Do give them responsibilities.  Help them figure out a part time or summer job or whatever.  You might be surprised to find they are much better employees when they have a "boss" than they were doing your dishes.  But it's okay to "help" them with this.  Teach them the things they need to know for a job interview.  Help them navigate the process.  I'm shocked how many parents are unwilling to help with this kind of stuff.  They have never done this before and there's no better person to help them than you.

18.  Help them explore ideas about their futures but allow them the freedom to change their mind.  Encourage them to "follow their bliss".  It will work out.  Really.  It will.

19.  If things go sideways don't be afraid to get help.  Substance abuse? Depression?  Cutting?  Self-esteem issues?  Eating Disorders?  Sorry but these are all the possibilities of being a semi-grown up in a confusing world.  It's okay.  Get the appropriate kind of help.  Get them good counseling or other interventions and try not to make your worry become the whole aspect of your relationship.

20.  LOVE THEM.  Do you know how often parents just flat out forget this?  LOVE THEM above all else.  No matter what is going on make sure they know that one thing.  Every Every Every day.  Make sure the bulk of your interactions with them are positive.  Parents think their kids should know they love them.  But when everything you talk about it is to argue about something - they really don't know.

And a few other thoughts:

Sometimes I put my marriage first above my children.  This seemed like what I should do at the time.  But now I'm not so sure.  I realize partially this is because I find myself divorced now and if I weren't I probably would look at it totally differently.  But in retrospect, I'm not sure.  I guess just be judicious about this and try to think about how your kids will ALWAYS be your kids.  The spouse, is a less certain thing (no matter how certain you think it is - I hate to sound like a jerk about that, but it is experience that gives me that perspective).

Teenagers are not aliens.  They are normal people.  You maybe forgot what that was like, but don't be all awkward around them.  You are the one making it weird.

On the days when you get kind of sad about them growing up, spending less time with you, maybe even moving away - remember that this is an awesome time for them, even while it may be hard for you.  Focus on being happy and excited for them.  Not sad for you.

Get a life.  Have interests besides your kids!  Do stuff.  Go do something with your friend.  Don't be one dimensional.  They will like you more if you are an more interesting person.

It's okay if your kids opinions and yours are totally different.  Maybe your politics don't match up exactly.  Maybe they think rap is awesome and you hate it.  Whatever.  It's all good.  You helped create this really interesting person.  Revel in that.  Be proud of yourself for creating someone who is confident enough to just be themselves and not a miniature version of one of their parents.

It's not about you.

Don't be jealous of your children.  That's weird, creepy and wrong.

Don't compete with them in some odd way that makes you feel good about yourself.

Be kind to yourself.  Be proud of all the stuff you're doing right.  But realize it's always one day away from going sideways on you. Be humble about that.


If you're pretty screwed up from your own childhood, trauma, issues, whatever - get your own therapy.

Expose them to the arts, ideas, philosophy, and culture.  Even if they protest. Eventually they will thank you I promise.

If you have a particular faith you are trying to raise them in.  Cool.  That is good.  Such things generally tend to be a positive thing for kids.  One caution: Be careful that you use it to build them up and not tear them down. If you don't have a specific faith or spiritual belief, at least impart to them your values.  Know what they are and how to teach them.  Most of all, try to live them.  They will notice when you don't.

Can I say it one more time?

If you screw up everything on this list, as long as they know that you really truly deeply 100% love's probably going to be just fine.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Favorite Things Party - Third Annual

Last night was my third favorite things party.  It was biggest favorite things party to date and I thought it was pretty awesome.  There will definitely be a 4th annual!

I'm too tired to do it justice, but I did want to blog about it and I wanted to blog about my new room in my house.

My new room is like, my new favorite thing.  So it relates.  And the party was my deadline to get it completed.  One of my friends asked me, if I don't have any time, how did I have time to get the room done for the party?  Good question.  I started the room project way back in the fall by looking at paint samples for about a million weeks.  Then I narrowed it down and narrowed it down until I got bold enough to paint the walls black.  Then I got one of my marginally employed children to do it for me if I paid their gas money, movie tickets and sushi money etc.  (children are usually bribe-able and it they aren't you are parenting all wrong, trust me).  I re-carpeted the room after it was painted as the carpet was more than 10 years old and looking a little sad.  This was done through one of the places that sell remnants in order to keep the cost down low.  In the end, I didn't pay much more than you would for a decent rug.  Then I started repainting (or rather had my child do it) some book cases I had around the house.  I had a coupon for a chair online (promotional coupon for an online store that made the chair super affordable).  Once I got that and realized I liked it I ordered a second one with a coupon a friend had but wasn't going to use (making each chair just over $100). I found a rug on Amazon that I liked (and that seemed durable - it's made of recycled straws!) and then I framed some art work I had been collecting for a long time.  I pulled a bunch of things into the room from other places in my house, got a dresser from a friend, and Voila!  New room.

Some day, when I able to take private clients at home, I'd like to be able to use this space.  For now, it is a great place for me to read and I love that the room seems purposeful and useful now.  I was scared of the black paint, but now I love it, and I would not hesitate to do it elsewhere in the house.

Here are photos of the new room:

artwork by the most awesome Holden Glenn Hays

view into the back yard (courtyard)

Here's the problem with the favorite things party - I have NO TIME to take any photos.  It's super fun, and busy and I think it's a testament to how fun it is that we aren't all sitting around taking photos the whole time.  Next year I'm going to ask people to help me take photos and hashtag them on instagram so I can access them.  I wish I would have had that genius idea BEFORE my party.  :)

I had 31 people at this party.  I did a popcorn and lemonaid bar before hand, had dinner catered by Pita Jungle and Babbo (two of my favorites) and we had sherbert for dessert.

I created a pinterest page that includes the majority of the "favorites" that were handed out.  Everyone did an excellent job bringing things other people wanted.  Go check out the pinterest page for more ideas about what we enjoyed at the party!


to all my friends who came, thanks for making it awesome!  I don't think I could pick my favorite favorites that were brought, but I was awfully fond of the italian toothpaste and the crystal earrings.

I basically managed to get a photo of dessert:

for more information on how to have a favorite things party please check out these links, which provide more details: 

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Finding Hope in (depression, self-harm, eating disorders, and almost everything else)

a few things:

I'm working a lot on what philosophical/psychological theory or theories or interventions or whatevers I most identify with/think I would utilize as a practitioner.  It's not really something you can "decide" in class or even really learn enough about in class to really be sure.  And even though I'm sort being forced into deciding for the moment, I also feel these are things that you sort of have to develop over the long run as well.  Sometimes I literally think I can't possibly cram one more book/theory/thought about it in my head.  But I persist. 

I'm mostly drawn to existentialism - and to be honest, I always have been - even when I was studying more from a philosophical viewpoint way back in undergrad (and I do mean way back, cause it was like 1987 when existentialism and I first crossed paths).  I always liked Sartre and Kierkegaard and even though I didn't always agree with him, found Nietzsche pretty interesting too.  In fact I love the idea that in a way, psychology is sort of this applied philosophy, and in a way (though it's just part of the process) it's like helping people understand a simplified version of philosophy and being able to apply it to their lives along with some skills, coping techniques and maybe some insight.  It is a little more complicated than that - but that's still roughly it.  When someone really wants to apply themselves to the process, some pretty amazing things can happen.  The existential psychologists and theorists are kind of endlessly fascinating to me and I've been spending a lot of time with Yalom, May, Bugental, and Van Durzen (among others).

Or if all of that was a little boring you could sum it up this way:


My point here really is to once again, put in a plug for therapy.  If you tried it before and you didn't think it worked, maybe your therapist wasn't the best fit for you.  Or maybe you weren't ready to make the changes yet.  Maybe there were too many other distractions in your life at the time to really make a lot of progress.  It's really never too late to try again. 

Sometimes I see meme's like this on the internet and it kind of  bugs me a little:

On the one hand, I can see that the message behind this is suppose to be positive - don't bully people who have these issues and assume that it's some kind of choice for them to be the way they are.  Nothing is that simple and no one wakes up in the morning and thinks it might be cool to be depressed today. 

But at the same time, I don't like the implication here that because these things aren't a choice -  there isn't really anything that can be done (it doesn't say that - but it feels like it's kind of implied). 

No, it's not really a choice.  But recovery is a choice.  Going to therapy is a choice.  Working on the things that are difficult is a choice. 

I am in no way saying this is easy.  It's not.  It isn't easy to recover from drug addiction, or eating disorders or self-harm.  And there are some things you literally cannot ever completely eradicate from your life  - such as schizophrenia, to name just one.  Recovery is a forever process for most people - you're never really "finished".  So we should always be compassionate.

But I do want people to know that a much happier healthy life is possible.  And you are not your "issue".  You're not a "cutter", you're not a "bulimic" and you're not "a depressive". You're not "a schizophrenic" either.  There is literally hope for all people in almost any difficult situation who have gone through hard things and who have all kinds of diagnosed disorders and symptoms. 

I guess my point is - don't give up hope on other people who struggle with some of these things - and don't give up hope on yourself either. 

There are truly miraculous things that can happen and I see them all the time.  People are amazingly resilient.  And even sometimes when it doesn't look they are - they can surprise you and they can surprise themselves. 

To summarize:

1.  When hard things are happening there is help
2.  Be kind to people who struggle with mental health issues
3.  You are not your diagnosis
4.  You have some power and choice to heal
5.  Be patient with yourself and others
6.  Have hope
7.  Hope doesn't mean ignoring problems or "hoping" they will go away on their own - hope comes    when we actively seek for healing.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Forever in School

You guys.  I am kind of crazy but when I was on vacation I found myself flipping through Itunes University on my phone and I was kind of tripping out about some of the classes you can take. I mean sometimes it feels like I will be in school forever to finish this Master's.  But also sometimes I realize that I really probably want to be "forever in school" anyway.  I was actually a little bit sad that because of school and work I don't have time to do any of the self-directed courses available on Itunes University!

Sometimes I will hear adults say "If I could go back to school I would __________" or I would love to study "___________, but I am too old now" or "it's too late for that but I would have loved to major in _____________".  You guys.  This is a very sad thing to say!  Life is short and yet you have a lot of TIME.  There are some things you have to do in life, and some things you should do, but we should also always make some time for the things you want to learn or study or learn to do.  It's honestly never never too late.  Too late?  How can it be too late?  Are you still alive?  Then it's not too late. (and look at me, good grief, I'll be almost 50 before I have that Master's in hand...that could seem discouraging.  Sometimes for a moment it is discouraging. But I'm honestly just grateful I've figured out a way to do it at all).

Seriously look at these classes you could be taking:

Yale teaches a course you can take called "The American Novel Since 1945". (I mean who does not want to take this class?  I downloaded the curriculum just because, you know EVENTUALLY I'm going to do this.  It even appeals to me to write the papers even though I'm not actually going to be turning them in.)

There is whole course through Yale on The Great Gatsby

Stanford University teaches a course on film studies.

Stanford also teaches a whole course on the 2012 election cycle

A course that UC Berkeley teaches called "Psych 107, Social Welfare" with subtopics of "sleep, dreams and death", "emotion, demons, stress and action", "enlightened society - shambhala".

UC Berkeley course called Anthropology 114 with lectures on cultural materialism and symbolic anthropologies as well as social systems.

Harvard has a course on Justice

Harvard has a course on The Hebrew Scriptures

University of Virginia has a lecture series on architecture

University of Virginia has a class on Virginia Woolf

I mean those are just a few of the things that interest me - if math, science, philosophy or computers are more up your jam, there is something there for you as well!

I guess my point is that even if you didn't get to go to school on a campus that looks like this:

(isn't this beautiful - University of Virginia Rotunda)

You can still fill your brain up with some of the information these fine institutions have to offer.  

As difficult as school is sometimes, I love it when I learn things I didn't know before, I love the idea that we are limitless in the amount of information we can gain.  Isn't that one of the best things about being alive?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

2013's Best Movies (according to me)

So obviously I did not see every single movie that came out this year.  And decidedly my taste runs a little more towards independent films so results are skewed a bit in that direction too.  But every year for the past several years I have done a year end top movies post and I didn't want this year to go too far into 2014 without one for the last year.

In no particular order, these are all the movies I gave a "5 star review" to.  I recommend them all!

1.  Side Effects:

This is a thriller that succeeds on every level.  Clever, well-written and well acted with interesting twists and turns.  I love Steven Soderbergh's movies typically and this is one of his best.  I don't want to go into the plot too much and give things away because I think it's best if you go into with no preconceived ideas.  But there is an interesting topic here regarding big pharma which I think we should all be a little more frightened of than we are.  

2.  The Place Beyond The Pines

This movie was not exactly what I thought it would be - but I still really thought it was good.  I thought Gosling was so perfect in this role.  It's a generational story that gives you pause and has a theme that sweeps across time.  Besides everything else I liked about it, I thought that the photography was beautiful. 

3.  The Silence

This foreign thriller is really good.  More or less it's a detective piece to determine the murderer of a young girl.  I took my teenager to this with me, and although she initially protested going to a foreign film, I won her over with the storytelling and the tension of a well written and acted thriller.  I promise you won't mind the subtitles.  

4.  The Kings of Summer

An awesome coming of age film that really just spends two hours pondering the wonders of being young.  I loved it.  And again, it was beautiful besides being a sweet little story. Charming and endearing, I think you'll love it too. 

5.  Frances Ha

This is one of my favorites of the favorites - shot in black and white, the story telling is excellent, the photography is great, and the message is superb.  Sensitive and endearing it's all about figuring out how to become and adult.  And some of us still haven't figured that out.  But some of the realizations Frances has are both global and personal at the same time.  I HIGHLY recommend this one. 

6.  Lore

Another foreign film, this one packs a punch.  Set in the days just before Nazi Germany began to crumble, this story takes a look at things from the perspective of the left-over germans who were Nazi or Nazi sympathizers.  Seen through their eyes, we don't actually know how to feel half the time.  Revulsion and a sneaky sense of compassion this movie plays roller coaster with your emotions.  The photography is to die for.  This is a quiet one, watch it alone when you have no distractions because you need that with this one.  (or with someone you trust will be quiet enough to let you really have it wash over you)


The Way Way Back

Another one of my favorite favorite faves of the year.  So good I think I've seen it 3 times now (maybe 4?).  Absolutely awesome coming of age film from the perspective of a slightly nerdy teen boy who figures out who he really is and learns to stand up for that self as well as have some perspective on the adults in his life.  Toni Colette is awesome here, as is Steve Carell even though you hate him.  SUPER highly recommend this film to anyone with a heart. 

8.  In a World

Can they all be favorite favorites?  Cause I love this one too.  Great story and original ideas here, Lake Bell (writer, director and actor of this film) does an outstanding job!  There are some really funny scenes and moments here and it would not have been the same without Dimitri Martin.  This is another one I saw multiple times because I kept taking people to go see it.  A great message in this movie for girls also.  


Short Term 12

This movie just really hit me in my heart.  This film is really about the same kids that I work with every day.  Everything in this movie resonated and felt so true it made me cry A LOT.  It's absolutely fantastically well done and I'm sad not very many people will see it.  I feel like it explains in such a simplified way the issues that face young kids in the foster care system or the behavioral health system and all the challenges that they face.  


Enough Said

Probably the only really romantic comedy I liked all year - this is a great little film with a lot of heart.  Superbly acted by James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  If you want a rom-com but hate that they all end the same way with the exact same plot, then this is the movie for you.  I also liked that this was a rom-com for the over 40 age range, which is sometimes hard to find. 

11.  What Maisie Knew

I loved how this was told completely from the standpoint of little Maisie.  A movie about a custody battle, but it's really about the ways in which this turmoil visits itself on the little people involved without the adults understanding the toll.  Although this sounds like a depressing premise, I really thought it was a lovely and beautiful film.  

12.  Dallas Buyers Club

Although the subject matter here is rough to watch - and I don't recommend it for anyone with squeamish sensitivities - this is an excellent film.  Jared Leto is stunning, McConaughey is at his very best, and the story is compelling even if it is hard.  The basic premise is that McConaughey's character develops AIDS and then has to resort to illegal means to obtain the drugs needed to survive because they aren't legal in the U.S.  In the meantime he ends up overcoming some (though not all) of his homophobia as his friends become those who he helps to get the drugs and treatment as well.  Based on a true story. 

12.  Nebraska

Another awesome one.  Another black and white.  Parts of this, being from a small town myself, felt so darn real it almost made me uncomfortable and claustrophobic.  EXACTLY what it feels like to live in a small town.  I thought this movie was just excellent story telling with some stellar acting.  A little bit about aging, but a lot about family.  And even in family's imperfections, some greatness can be found.


The Heat

Look you guys, NO ONE can make me laugh like Melissa McCarthy.  I saw this 3 times and laughed every single time.  


Blue is the Warmest Color

I know.  But hear me out.  Darned if this isn't gorgeous and excellent.  I'm obviously not recommending it for anyone who is going to be upset by sex scenes.  And there are quite a lot of them.  And they are long.  I'm glad I saw this though - I thought it was really beautiful. 

That's it - there were several movies that ALMOST made the list, but I tried to keep it to 10 and I couldn't even do that.  2013 was a good year for movies!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My life in one week - a photo essay & diary of sorts

 A couple of years ago I did a blog post where I took photos throughout the day of stuff I did.  It was mostly sedate stuff - dropping kids off at the pool, getting a diet coke at Circle K - that kind of thing.  But the post ended up being kind of fun to do - it was fun to take photos all day, and it did end up being a pretty popular post.  A couple of weeks ago I basically complained that it is difficult for me to blog right now for many reasons.  Time and lack of content being two of many.  So this week I struck upon the idea of doing a photo essay for the week.  To be honest, I did this more as a means of keeping my own sanity.  I need something in my life besides school and work with the occasional chore or obligatory stuff I have to do.  Almost nothing I do serves to renew me in some way.  In "therapy talk" this is called "self-care" and I don't do much of that.  If you exercise, read, go on trips with family or friends, long walks alone, or even crochet - you are doing a form of "self-care" and self-care is something that kind of renews and sustains us during the long days when very little if anything you are doing is something that you just "want" to do.

I know it's important. I have some things I do - typically a hot bath or taking myself to a movie occasionally.  But not something I do every day.  So this week I challenged myself to take photos as often as I could remember and when it was appropriate.  I honestly had far less time to do it than I initially thought I would - and even sometimes when I really remembered and thought it would be awesome - such as taking photos of my clients chickens as they surrounded my car - I had absolutely no time to stop and take a photo even though all these photos were just taken on my Iphone.

So here's my week - starting on a Saturday and ending on a Saturday with some commentary to give you an idea of what I did this week.  I enjoyed taking the photos.

My Saturday started at a high school where I was judging a speech and debate tournament.  All 3 of my kids have participated in these tournaments now and I try to be a judge when I can as all the school have to provide judges for the events.  We don't judge our own kids or kids from our own school obviously, and so given this fact, I very rarely see my kids the whole time I am at the event.  But I like doing it all the same because as I may have mentioned before - watching these dedicated kids meet up in suits and ties at 6 am on a SATURDAY to spend ALL DAY at a tournament where they are judged for the speaking and debating skills warms my heart more than I can explain.  

While there Jordan did come and find me on her lunch break.  She was worried at the time that maybe she wasn't performing as well she would have liked.  She expressed frustration and worry.  She really did not need to be worried as she ended up not only making it to the finals in Expository but she won the whole tournament and took first place.  (of course, being a perfectionist, she still allowed it to bother her that she did not place in finals in her other event!  we need to work on this! but she was VERY excited to take first, because she honestly did not expect it).   I left before all of that excitement because the finals and awards don't happen until late in the evening and I had been there since 7:30 am and I had homework to do.  When I got home I took a bath.  Judging can be exhausting (that sounds whimpy - but for reals, it is mentally challenging to do that all day) and those were all the photos I managed that day.  

On Sunday I had a little more time to think about what I was doing and take some photos even though probably maybe technically I did not have permission to take photos of all of the children at church, I have contacted the mothers in post production to get retroactive permission to view them here.  My new "calling" is working with the primary aged children.  If you don't know what that means it's basically junior sunday school - all the kids 12 and under go to a separate are while their parents are in different meetings and classes for the 2nd two hours of church (The first hour, is sacrament and everyone is together for those).  My "calling" is to basically help run the program for these kids working under and with some other ladies who are awesome.  Which basically means I don't have that much to do because they already have it totally together.  Initially that day I was laughing my butt off during this photo: 

oh I know - this doesn't look very hilarious.  But it most definitely was - because David Hale was helping with the music and singing time and he was having fun by having the kids sing the same song over and over again while having them sing it in a "voice" - OKAY KIDS - let's sing it like an OPERA singer!  Which is hilarious when a bunch of kids are singing like opera singers and even more hilarious is watching David do it.  But then he started throwing out some really random ones - singing like a cowboy...or was that elvis?  I was so confused right then.  After everything started to have a British accent when David was doing it - so it started to sound like John Wayne, doing Elvis with a cockney accent.  And then the robot voice the kids requested also had a British accent but with blinking lights Dave added by using his hands to make flashing motions and at that point I was nearly falling off my chair with laughter.  (to be honest, in the whole world of church stuff that David should or could be doing - he should only be doing this). 

Then pure bedlam nearly started.  Oh sure, they look pretty ruley here, but as in the other photo you don't quite get the flavor for how funny it was - in this photo you don't quite get the gist of how much we might not have known what we were doing bringing the kids to the stage to practice for the nativity being performed the following Saturday.  Eventually all of the adults figured somehow it would work out in the end and we tried not to micromanage it too much.  But hey look, there were cute donkey ears and sheep ears and angel halos made in previous weeks, so we figured if the costume is good, you're more than half way there right?  Production value being everything really.

PLUS adorable children on a stage not quite knowing what they are doing?  What can be more cute?

Next up came the part of my Sunday that needed to be wholly devoted to homework.  And I spent the rest of the day doing that no joke.  I do not like to start Monday knowing there is anything due.  I like it to be all be finished going into my week or I feel panicky.  I was on my bed all day reading for a looooong time.  Then I was on my computer and ipad typing.  So these were the only photos I took - one of the ipad and one of the wall above my bed.  

Later that night I did sneak in some time on the couch with my daughter and my dogs for a little while.  But not long.  I was up until midnight finishing a very long assessment paper and agonizing over it a little bit.  

Monday morning came a little too early.  I am up at 5:20 on seminary days getting Jordan to seminary by 6:20 (okay we are often a little late - but I TRY) I took this photo on my way to the office.  It was 6:30 on monday and there was already significant traffic considering.  I shot this photo making note of being on the freeway and only going just over 30 miles an hour.   I am not suppose to get to the office this early.  I wish I was just on salary instead of hourly because I just want to get my work done - I do not care about the whole 40 hour work week nonsense.  But with traffic this slow I figured by the time I stopped to get Starbucks hot apple cider near my office I would not be all that early.   

You can see that the sky is starting to significantly lighten by the time I get there.  I love the mid century architecture of this Starbucks on Osborne and 7th street. 

And here is my office on the outside.  By the time I got there it was fully light.  (the starbucks line was super long).  I spent the vast majority of my day inside that office building dealing with whatever it was I was dealing with.  Being a high needs case manager for kids I the majority of my clients are in CPS custody and in a foster home, or being fostered by a relative.  A few are in a group home or therapeutic intervention.  For a few, CPS is not involved.  But I can only think of two clients where CPS is not now nor has ever been involved and they live at home with parents.  In the afternoon on Monday I had a meeting at a therapy office who only deals with children with sexualized behaviors - either victims or perpetrators (keep in mind child perpetrators are also often first victims themselves).  Later I met for another meeting at group home in a stucco neighborhood on the border of Mesa and Apache Junction that looks like all other stucco neighborhoods in AZ.  The only way that you can tell that is a group home down the street there are all those white vans out front.  I can always find the group home if I look for the white vans.  This meeting went well - it's a new client for me.  Sweet girl.  Lots of problems but even though it was overwhelming to look at her records before I met her, I have a feeling she is going to be okay.  It's just a feeling - I don't know, nothing about the situation looks good on paper.  I just feel like she'll make it. 

this was shot on my way home as I neared Tempe and Phoenix again.  Long day.  I needed to get home and take Jordan to her dad's house for the night.  After I got back to my house and picked her up I headed to downtown Phoenix where her dad lives and where I took these photos - I got out of the car and walked around downtown for a little bit while I was talking on the phone and catching up on a some personal calls I missed during the day that I needed to return. 

After I got home I started in on reading homework again.  Although my paper was finished I had some other reading assignments I needed to do.  A huge part of my life right now is learning to assess for mental illness and learning the DSM.

On Tuesday I didn't have to get up quite as early since Jordan was taken to school by her dad.  I slept in clear til 7 am which felt like a luxury!  This is what it looked like when I lifted the blind on my bedroom window (I know I have a lovely view of my neighbors house, but it is the quietest room in the house and I am grateful for that even if the view is the worst in the house).   I love the sunrises and the sunsets in Arizona. 

This day I never made it to the office. I had to head straight to Queen Creek to meet with a foster mom, then I went to Canyon State Academy to visit another client (it's a high school boarder program for wayward boys), and then to a third foster family to end my day.  I also stopped to see a friend who lives out there and to do some homework while I was on my lunch break.

I'm not allowed to take photos of my clients or anything but I did take a photo of the project we worked on at the last foster home - we made these Christmas trees.

This last client of the day lives all the way in San Tan (and hour and 1/2 drive from the office!) and I shot this while I was driving out there just to show you that although I may live in the city, some of the people I help very much DO NOT live in the city.  

This shot was taken out the car window as I was rushing off after this last clients house.  I was going to be late for school and I was a little panicked.  School is in Tempe and at least about an hour away from my last client.  It starts at 6 and I was pulling out of the client's dirt driveway at 5:30.  I may or may not have sped to get to class and in my seat by 6:08.  I was too harried to take photos at school. 

I took this shot waiting for a tuna sandwich at Culvers at 10:24 pm.  I know I should not eating at 10:24 pm but on this day, that's just how it rolled.  I was grateful also for the fact that I drive a prius because right now I am averaging 62 miles per gallon and I calculate it every time i stop for gas (which is not all the frequent!).  I don't see how I can ever drive a non-hybrid again. 

The next day I spent the whole day in the office and I was super super super behind on paperwork all day and I kept trying to get the paper work done but I kept getting phone calls upon phone calls from a seriously crazy person who should not be raising children.  Seriously.  She is so not correct in the head.  Sometimes I find myself zoning out while I am listening to her because I feel completely helpless and frustrated because I want to take her child home with me and never let him go back home and raise him myself and he will be fine I imagine (and even though this is probably not true and he probably would not be 100% okay even in my home because of the abuse he went through earlier in his life - it is not okay for CPS to decide this is where he should live either.  but kinship placements are usually the easiest option and the most legally easy thing to do but I don't agree that they are always best for the kids...clearly they are not!  and clearly I am helpless and I have to listen to her ramble and be crazy for long periods of time and all I can do is mimic to my co-worker Bill that I am slitting my wrists as he walks past my desk for a little bit of levity but it is really not funny and can you feel my panic panic panic?)

Then I walk downstairs and get a snickers and a diet coke because I have to eat my feelings. 

And those post it notes have upwards of 20 tasks that need to be done. And they will no way get done today.  And my boss emails at 4:30 wondering why my notes are not all in for the week and do I have a plan for how they are going to get done?  and I tell her that I will work as late as I need to get them done tonight if she will give me permission but that I also need to attend something one of my kids is doing tonight and so I need to go do that at 6 but I will got back to work afterwards.  And she says okay, but she is not thrilled about it.  And neither am I but I am working as hard as humanly possible.  And at 6 I enter the freight elevator near my desk and go to the parking lot and get my car and drive downtown where I am meeting Jordan and going to see Holden & Noelle's set up where they are selling Noelle's "Sass Kisser" lip products at Phoenix Downtown Market. 

When I stepped outside for the first time today it looked like this - all dark with Santa and his sleigh up there in the sky, slung between the two buildings that are adjacent to mine. 

When I get to Phoenix public market it's a challenge finding parking, but I finally get a spot and then I find them and I find Jordan.  And Jordan is exhausted from her own drama of the day which is trying to finish an online class that Kirk stayed home from work to help her with.  She's really tired and we decide to just eat dinner at the Market.  We stop with Kirk for Shortleash hotdogs before we head back home.  We pop by and see Holden & Noelle twice and they are busy hawking their excellent wares.

As soon as I get home it's about 8:30 and I need to start working again - so a quick bath and then back to work. I finished 2 minutes shy of midnight and fell into bed.

On Thursday morning I drove down Central on my way to work.  I love how the trees almost touch in the center.  Central is really not a bad route to the office.  And it's pretty so that's a bonus.  I hardly had a chance to take photos this day.

After a brief stop at the office it was out to the Juvenille Courthouse at Durango for court hearings for two of my clients.  I was there all morning.  By the time I left shortly after noon I had to take a forced long lunch because of my working the night before (see why I hate working hourly - I would have preferred to just get stuff done! I have so much work to do! but instead, forced long lunch break).  I drove to my favorite restaurant and figured I would read through emails which nobody can fault me for - I was just doing it off the clock and not doing any "billable" work.  I was eating a delicious tuna sandwich while doing so.  I love La Grande Orange.  It's my favorite.  While there I texted one of my friends and asked if she could stop by.  Thinking there was no way she probably could but she said she could swing by.  And then another friend was already there and stopped to eat with us for a while to.  It was an impromptu ladies lunch that probably never would have worked out any other way except that the cosmic universe fell into place, or God was looking out for me and wanted me to a have a bright spot in my day or something.  It was indeed, a bright spot.

After the lunch I had to head out to Mesa again to the same therapy office as earlier in the week where they only counsel the sexualized issue clients.  We had a difficult conversation and I am exhausted trying to figure out how to help this family.  But we'll keep trying.  I make it out of there at 5:30 and head back home to try to make it to Shadow Mountain High School by 6:30 as Jordan is performing tonight for their end of the semester showcase for speech and debate.  The traffic gets ridiculously slow around Tempe for some reason and I snapped one of these photos to show I am going 8 miles an hour for at least a full 20 minutes on the freeway which was maddening (it's the opposite of commuter traffic! how can this be?!).  But I did make it to the school with 10 minutes to spare.

 Not only did Jordan perform wonderfully but her fellow team members did as well and one girl from our ward who Jordan has known since she was in pre-school is also on the team.  (Karalyn if you don't want this picture of yourself on here let me know and I will take it down, but I feel you look very official, and as always, darling).

While Jordan was performing her actual piece I was too emotional to take photos because it always catches me up and makes me cry.  But I did get one of her at dinner afterwards.  We all ended up eating dinner together as a family afterwards at Babbo (are you getting the idea I never cook dinner?  that would be correct, I don't even when my intentions are good).

 What can I tell you about Friday?  Everything about it was not so good.  Lots of driving from place to place.  My first client's RAT tried to climb up my leg.  And I am still massively behind.  I was looking forward to taking one client to the art museum but his guardian cancelled and so I ended up working on administrative stuff all afternoon that I needed to get done.  I left the office still behind for the week and going into another one next week.  I took this shot staring up at the ceiling inside the freight elevator.

I came home and took Jordan to her dad's and then decided to go to a movie.  It was an Italian movie and I was too tired and I feel like I fell asleep several times and I am disappointed that I did that because it was really beautiful.  So maybe I'll see it again sometime.  I just needed a break but I was too tired to really enjoy it. 

Okay so on Saturday I was torn between all the Christmas shopping I haven't done yet, bills I need to pay, homework that is going to take me many hours, and a house that needs attention.  I did a little bit of everything and didn't accomplish much with any of those things.  In the afternoon I had a haircut and color scheduled.  Luckily this gave me a much needed break.  Isn't the world a better place with good hair?  (and yes, this is a "selfie" and no, I do not take them often because as you can see it is impossible to get an angle that doesn't make me look like I'm psychotic...and I might be psychotic now that I think about it so, appropriate)

and then it was off to the church again to help with the nativity and the church party where I took some photos of these cute kids.  then I spent way too much time writing this blog when I should have been doing homework instead.  OH! I went to the grocery store tonight!  I feel like I really accomplished something when I do that!

finally, I will end this with my favorite photo of the week - taken tonight, backstage at the nativity.

sometimes I realize that life is good, even very good, in the midst of all the craziness.



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