Sunday, December 28, 2008

watch the soup simmer - hmmm a metaphor

Things improved as the night went on. Sort of like simmering soup - it can really turn out well even if it didn't seem like it would. So, yes, life is like soup.

I always have this strange guilt for writing about how I feel, especially in regards to family. As if not everyone knows that families are complicated. But for me with the way my family is complictated (or some of the ways) it ebbs and flows so quickly.

I feel bad for saying that comparatively this was the worst of my trips home. I love my family and seeing them - it was in viewing how hard and emotionally challenging it is, how much fighting and how out of the ordinary it all felt. Including how much I felt and acted like a kid that I make this unfortunate estimation.

I would like to take a moment to blame graduate school. There's the passing of tonight's buck. They rip us up and throw us to our families for the holidays - knowing that we are vulnerable and our brains are spinning. It's a messy system.

Oh and I'll blame divorce. When I was married I was less likely to be treated like, or to respond as, a teenager. I think.

So being single (in the married sense) and in graduate school have had a negative impact on my holiday. Yes, I have NO culpibility.

That's the making of a good therapist.

Here's the making of a good soup:

1 Anaheim Chili Pepper - cut to preference
(I keep them about an 1/2 inch long and pretty thin)
2 or 3 cans of Coconut Milk (depends on serving size of course but also thickness)
1 can Garbanzo Beans
1 Can black beans
3/4 teaspoons of green curry
Onion if you like (when I add it I make it big enough to notice so I don't ACTUALLY eat them just flavor with them)
You can add a little garlic

Put the coconut in the pan, heat and add the ingredients - I add the curry a 1/4 teaspoon at a time.
(the pepper is best when you've sauteed it a bit so it is softer in the soup)

It may sound odd but it is delicious! Watch those pepper seeds though - it can get spicey really fast. Even my little sisters liked it - the one who dislikes all foods liked it. Quite the feat.

why? why? and again, why?

How come if you catch yourself getting upset and try to stop it, it is still too late?

Like tonight, I knew I was over-reacting but all I wanted to do was walk away. And by the time I stood up to do so I was very much acting like a child. Even though I said, "I am over-reacting so I need to walk away."

And then when I came back and said, "I know I was over-reacting that's why I walked away." It was responded to with a lecture about how I am allowed to over-react to other people but not my own parents and to accuse them of mocking me - even though everything pointed to the idea that I was being mocked. I said, again, that I had to walk away and I went to pack and because I did not come down stairs when my mother sent my littelest sister to get me because I was, sincerely, packing they went to bed (parents). Good thing I stayed home to spend time with my family.

It's really sad. This is probably my last long trip home and it was my worst trip since I moved - or since Steph's wedding at least (trips leading up to that were bad because I was an unbearable wreck).

I mean there was a lot of great that happened and I got to see a couple of friends and have a good visit with a lot of people -family/friends- in general - but if I were to line up all of my visits this was the most heartbreaking. I haven't fought with my parent's like this since I was a teenager. It's like everyone exists in some weird time warp. Like Twin Peaks meets Northridge.

Anyway, there was just a lot of sadness. Watching other people be in so much pain and dealing with my own things. I will miss my family and I am REALLY sad that I didn't get to see most of my friends and that I missed this reunion thing tonight but I am tired of feeling alone in the place where am actually NOT alone, so going home sounds good.

You know, ironically, I am more alone - literally speaking - in Portland where I can't even find a ride home from the airport because I have so few "active" friends there (or who live close enough to the city), here I don't think that would happen. But I have felt lonely and broken here - and not just because Kyle is far away (though that doesn't help) but because it is all so messy.

Understand, I know I am complicit in all of this - from the stuff here to the friend situation in portland. But all in all I am just tired and want to curl up on my own couch the next time I cry. Except I don't think I will make it until tomorrow since I am crying right now.

Better go finish packing.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The buildings crumble.

They were shaking but I pretended they were still.

They were pounding but I pretended they were silent.

The pieces fell to the ground – crash after crash.

Ears covered, eyes closed, I curled up small.

I hid beneath the tall trees, stared at the rain.

Watched the clouds and prayed they would take me in.

That they would make it go away.

Block the truth.

And they did.

They hid it from my eye, my sky.

For then they hid it.

It came back - pretending is harder.

The crumbling doesn’t miss – crash after crash.

I stand in the middle of the pieces.

The trees will not shield.

The stars not reach down.

The tears shake and loudly fall.

I don’t know what to do.

So I cry and ache and wait.

I watch and stand so close but look from so far away.

And some days I don’t look at all.

Even when I should.

Because looking is painful and the pieces start to build.

The walls come up and swallow me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Who is Herald?

This is what my sisters asked me the other day. They said, Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Who is Herald and why does he have angels?

The last couple of days have been hard. They have made for an uneasy visit. My mom and I had a huge fight, my cousin and his boyfriend had to hear it, my sisters too. It was all around terrible. And it was her 50th birthday - so score Heather for the goodness and kindness and holiday cheer. (and yes, I can see the irony of a future family therapist being 30 and having HUGE fights at home - but one needs training for their work, right?)

It doesn't feel like Christmas. It feels like something I can't explain. That spirit that always exists is missing. I am sure I am contributing to that. It will be nice when my sister and her husband get here though.

My professor in Human Growth and Development said that a key goal in our program is to have us essentially gutted. To deconstruct the schemas we have and shift the way we see ourselves and the world. She said on the last night of class (I paraphrase), "I hope you all have difficult holidays" Okay that wasn't her word, it was something much worse. It may have been "horrible" or something even less charming. We study, of course, so many aspects of family and human relationship in general, and with family roles we discuss the reality that who we are in our lives vs who we are in our parent's home is so different. This is not because of anything we want to do, or anything we do do, or don't do really, just because that's life. She believes in the possibility for change of course, but I have a feeling she also subscribes to Douglas Coupland's philosophy, all families really are psychotic.

I was feeling pretty confident that I had finally learned how to have healthy interpersonal relationships. That all that therapy had paid off (haha) and it felt like it didn't this week. It felt like I was in high school. 30 going on 15. It was terrible. But I know that this isn't really who I am, or not the whole story. I know that there is more to it than a difficult week away from my regular life and that all of interpersonal skills are not ruined or my work undone - it just sort of feels that way. (was it DCFC who sang a song about not believing what you feel to be real?)

So I will just shift my perspective and seek the positive and the hopeful and celebrate Christmas. There is a reason that I had "it is" emblazoned on my ankle, because I strongly believe that life is what IT IS and we are what makes the difference. We choose to. (well that is 1/2 of the meaning, the other spiritual but i will write of that later).

Good luck to me - haha.

Wow, this is a terrible blog. :/

Friday, December 19, 2008

Into the Void I Speak

I am at my parent's home, the end of day 1 of 10. This will be a quick 10 days - so much is going on with family, holidays and birthdays. I feel like so much is going on everywhere and I am unsure of how or where to focus, what to do, how to decide. What do I do about school? What do I do about a job? How do I balance? How, why, what? Flashing before and behind me are questions. And yet I tend to make nonsensical statements and seem to remain on a relatively irrelevent surface, brushing through the day to day.

It is nearly 10pm Friday, and I have, more or less, been up since 7:30 am on Thursday. It was intentional for most of it, then the terrible sleep at the airport and on the plane - that sort of blank sleep where your body feels numb and your brain shuts off but doesn't really rest. And then another hour of that on the couch in my parent's living room tonight. Then? I went to bed. That was at 8. Am I sleeping? No. Have I really tried? No.

I am, instead, writing and brewing tea. Listening to the rustling of leaves and the whistling of wind. Feeling at home and yet homesick. Like most things worth thinking about it feels like a paradox. There are two quotes I like of Madeleine L'Engles on the subject of paradox:

"The deeper and richer a personality is, the more full it is of paradox and contradiction. It is only a shallow character who offers us no problems of contrast."
(A Circle of Quiet)

"We cannot seem to escape paradox; I do not think I want to."
(Walking on Water)

We are always in the process of becoming, of being, of moving, flowing, rushing, like the leaves outside or the wind - like the flames beneath my kettle. Everything is in motion. Like our very selves -in motion, changing. I was told last summer that, not in so many words, there was something wrong with me for not having known who exactly I was by the age of 24, 25 or 27 - that I always had to find someone new inside me. That even now at 30 I have set out a new plan (grad school I presume they meant) to try to do that. I am okay with not having known, I like mystery, so does God, that's why He never gave us blueprints.

I think in many ways our core never changes, who we were made to be in the truest essence is consistent, but the process of emergence is different for everyone. Because we are never the same from moment to moment, thank God, we have the chance to grow into a better and more loving person than the one who you knew before. This is from The Developing Mind, by Daniel Siegel (an amazing book on neurobiology and interpersonal relationships):

"We are always in a perpetual state of being created and creating ourselves. We will never be the same, and we have never been quite the way we are right at this moment."

If that isn't an example of the craftsmanship of God, an example of His intricate ever emerging design, I'm not sure what is. I will never be the same, I am thankful for that.

Angels in the eary morning . . .

Angels, in the early morning


Angels, in the early morning
May be seen the Dews among,
Do the Buds to them belong?

Angels, when the sun is hottest
May be seen the sands among,
Parched the flowers they bear along.

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson did not name her poems, she numbered them. She did not write them in a book, but on the back of receipts and napkins and she bundled them in her desk drawers.

The cab will be here in 2 hours to take me to the airport. I am going to see my family and friends for Christmas. I love Christmas - yet it is the absolute hardest time of the year. From October 10th - January 19 for the past 15 years, there have been many of the most painful times or worst choices of my life. Some for no reason, for others, reason indeed. . .

Tonight I couldn't stop crying. I was so sad that I won't be with Kyle for the holidays. See, I am so excited to see my family and friends, but because this time is so scary it makes the distance feel like gaps in my soul. Like there are areas in need of patching. It doesn't make much sense and when I am there it will be just fine. But the prospect is hard.

So I will think of this poem and the gift of being up so early in the morning. I love flying out during sun rise, or just after, the sky is amazing and the clouds so soft. However in this weather I imagine it will look different. But it will, nonetheless, be like finding the fairies in Kensington Gardens - difficult at best. So I will look for the Angels in the early morning and maybe on the dew on the plane's wing I will see them stooping—plucking—smiling—flying and guiding us safely.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Change of Plans

I think I am going to drop to part time for school and try to work more.
What's 1 more year, right?

I don't think I could handle the stress of a full time load anyways. Think someone outside social/human services will hire me when all I know how to do is place kids in foster care and wrangle wild children?


Would It Be A White Christmas?

I doubt it, but I wonder, were I staying in Portland would I get my first white Christmas? I am trying to think if there was any snow when I was in Paris for Christmas in 2002(that sounds rather pretentious, doesn't it?). I know it was icey and cold outside Notre Dame. I have this memory though of walking down this path outside a movie theatre just after seeing the Lord of the Rings (with French subtitles) where I could see white lights in all the little trees and the Arc de Triomphe in the not too far distance and I think there were remnants of snow. But I may be romanticizing that because it was, after all, Christmas in Paris.

That was the only Christmas I ever spent away from my family and there I was in Europe, 24 and missing them like crazy. Funny. Guess that's why I always go home for Christmas. I think the first time I ever saw it snow fall was that year too. Oh Southern California how you deprive us of weather.

And now I do not know what to do with it - weather. So I stay in my apartment and watch the flurries fall down on my patio. It is getting too cold for snow - which I think it strange. See, I didn't know that below freezing was too cold because I figured that was the perfect time for it, you know, when it is cold.

Huh, crazy climate changes.

The Beautiful Messiness of Faith: Intentionally Placed

The Beautiful Messiness of Faith: Intentionally Placed

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


my brain was full of fantastic stories. after a day on the bus, in the city where i so enjoy the rich material of my surroundings and encountering people in this anonymous fashion- and then one little thing broke this - shattered my sense of wonder and my artful soul was crushed.

i hate that.

so much for beauty today.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My foe fettered to my brain, insomnia why must you remain?

Apparently there are very few quotes on insomnia. While I haven't combed through the whole of the internet I found these:

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep. ~Fran Lebowitz

The bed is a bundle of paradoxes: we go to it with reluctance, yet we quit it with regret; we make up our minds every night to leave it early, but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late. ~Charles Caleb Colton


What all so soon asleep; I wish mine eyes would with themselves shut up my thoughts.
- William Shakespeare

Not Quite:
The last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world.
~Leonard Cohen

O sleep, O gentle sleep, nature's soft nurse, how have I frightened thee, that thou no more wilt weigh my eye-lids down and steep my senses in forgetfulness?

What I hear when I lay in the dark wishing for sleep:
To sleep, perchance to dream; ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
- William Shakespeare

In the movie White Christmas Bing Crosby says (sings) that we should "count our blessings, instead of sheep," but I've tried that too.

Insomnia is my greatest foe for it effects my nights and days and everything in between.
The Beautiful Messiness of Faith: "Silence"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We Wear the Badges - We Are Trauma Junkies

I was talking with my co-worker tongiht about an acute psych place he used to work - we didn't get to talk about it much but he mentioned getting strangled to the point of passing out and having his nose broken. I wanted to say (but had to get the butter out for a client, I am at work) oh, I don't work in acute settings anymore because . . . insert injury story. Instead I said, "so, you a crisis junky?" "Oh yeah," he replied smiling.

Nurse Bob at SubAcute used to tell me that people who worked there or at the psych hospital (people like him and at the time, me) were crisis junkies. We loved the drama, the trauma, the action. And I DID. I LOVED it. The reason I struggle with this job is that it's relaxed. I can read or play cards with the guys. I don't get the level of therapeutic conversations I want or need (for billing), but it is cool. I like busy. I like fast paced and stress. Why???

Because then you prove something. You can take on the worst. You can handle the hardest kids or clients and you can kick ass. That's right and you have war stories to prove it. And then you're expected to just take it and come back for more.

I could not come back. My badges became nightmares. And this made me feel like a fialure. I used to work with new staff who would all but panic when the kids would blow out. I would console them and listen to their tears and fears and I would tell them a few things. First I would tell them their strengths and then I would tell them that it is okay if they don't choose to work there - that it doesn't make them less in anyway but probably more normal than all of us who chose to. I wanted to give them permission to opt out without feeling like they failed - something my boss refused to give me when I got put in a choke hold my first week in residential in LA. I mean I used discretion with these conversations, but nonetheless I remember telling people that they didn't have to be like me.

And what was, "like me" like? Someone with what we jokingly called the SubAcute Swagger. Cocky and confident. Sure I cried and bled and yelled when I got home and swore I would quit a dozen times - but I loved the kids, I loved seeing the best in the worst situations and I loved the drama. Not that I ever liked restraints - because I didn't - or ever thought they should be anything other than a last resort -and I didn't enjoy the sadness of their lives, but the chaos? Yeah, totally my thing.

But now what? I don't want to be around violence. I am scared of it. Even here - well before I get here - I have these moments of fear. Which is unwarranted.

Anyhow, the point was I was just thinking about how we play this game - those in this field - and it's like, "who can take the worst beating and still be there the next day?" It's ridiculous but, honestly, I miss being able to do it. Besides in a job like that there is comraderie like nothing else. At least little civilian work that I can think of where someone has to have your back. And there we always did.

Just the truth. My badges are getting rusty, but I hope not to get any more.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Santa, stories and a little sadness . . .

This morning we had our "final" at my professor Steve Bearden's house. Steve is this brilliant, kind, thoughtful, welcoming human who seems to embrace all that is best in the world while still knowing the depths of darkness and pain. At the end of Steve's classes he has his class over for celebrations. Today our Spiritual & Clinical Praxis class went to his home, ate lots of tastey food brought by my classmates, talked to one another and then Steve read to us.

One of my favorite things as a child in school was being read to every day after lunch recess. It was soothing. For me so much of my understanding of self, love, faith, life, comes from the words of others. Many don't think me much the reader, but I find that nevertheless my identity has been so influenced by the authors who have spoken their hearts and imaginations out onto pages that I have been fortunate enough to read.

Steve read The Polar Express, Polar Bear Scare, Santa Cows and Owl Moon. I had never read any of these books - I know, how have I never read The Polar Express? I thought it seemed boring - but he read it to us and it was wonderful. Then he asked if anyone had holiday traditions. And people began to share their family's traditions - cutting down trees, staring at lights, sleeping in the living room all together and watching It's A Wonderful Life - experiences, shared experiences. And I found myself crying. I was so very sad.

I don't remember us really having traditions growing up - and I really wanted some. We opened one present on Christmas eve - always pajamas and yet often seeming a surprise and I was ever enthusiastic about that one gift. But did we have more?

When I was married we decided that we wanted traditions, things for our family. And even though our family was just the two of us, it seemed right to begin our traditions when we were engaged. One was this "first christmas" ornament that had a scroll inside - every year we would write on that scroll. Another was how we got our ornaments - we got a special one for us each year - our tree was going to fill up with special memories building each year on the last and to the next - like our love was.

And I became so sad and I wept.

And I longed for my old life. That sense of family. That feeling of forever and building and togetherness, promises and hope.

Christmas to me is a lot about hope. Hope for new beginnings, for life, faith in something good and right. And since I love Christmas - the music, the lights, the smells, the traditions I have found that remembering can be bittersweet.

I couldn't understand why I wanted so much for this Christmas to be special for me and Kyle. Why I was so sad that we would be apart for 10 days - aside from the normal expectation of missing him. Why us not celebrating in some unique way just broke my heart. And I realized today in my professors living room, it's because I want to build on our story. It is hard when your stories have to change, when dreams end and starting over is part of life. And even when your identity is new and your faith renewed, your heart still has memories that your brain doesn't think of consciously.

So here I sit watching the lights twinkle on my Christmas tree and try to wrap my head around a world of feelings and I know, my lizard is not dead (if you go to school with me that would make sense). And it's okay for the lizard to still be alive - because then some of the kittens made it too. But some didn't, and for those and for parts of what the lizard meant, I cry.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"I'm sorry, but do I know you?" said the kitty

Apparently my cat is having some very Memento moments. Granted I have only been her human for . . . well, less than 36 hours (though barely that)so it makes sense for her to not be TOTALLY adjusted - but she seems to know who I am most of the time. Or she did until I went to bed and then when I could not sleep she was excited because I came out of my room, BUT then when cold I put on a sweatshirt and kept the hood up which apparently turned me into some sort of a monster. She was scared! I didn't realize it and it was not until I removed my hood that she began to like me again. THEN I went back to bed (some hours later) and when I again woke up she was on the stairs. I didn't turn on the light so apparently she didn't recognize me (again) and so she ran down the stairs and in the dark I could see her turning back to me and then walk/running backwards. Finally she scrunched back and it was like she was recoiling! It was sad. Then she tried to curl up with my computer and now she is missing. Well, she's not, but it's dark and thus she is out of site.

About Me

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Portland, OR, United States
I am a daughter, sister, friend, wife, counselor and colleague. I am a work in progress. There may be some pieces out of place and things might be messy, but it's okay. I would rather accept that I am still unfinished than think that this is it. You can find my comments on faith and spirituality on my blog: And my comments and anecdotes on life at:

Books That Matter. Well, some of the many that matter.

  • Magical Shrinking: Stumbling Through Bipolar Disorder, Chris Wells
  • Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • An Abudance of Katherines, John Green
  • Dave Pelzer
  • Franny & Zooey, J.D. Salinger
  • I Was Told There'd Be Cake, Sloane Crosley
  • The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris
  • The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, Daniel J. Siegel