Thursday, December 30, 2010


It's interesting to me how my writing takes shape--in different forms and phases--and why it turns out that way.  When I first started this blog, I wrote regularly; in fact, I wrote nearly nonstop, every day, about all sorts of thoughts both fun and serious.  It was supposed to be about my life.  But I very soon found it constricting.  How do I write about children while keeping their anonymity?  How much can I really obsess over Bobby Goren before it becomes a repeat of what I said yesterday?  After  starting this blog, I began writing fiction.  More specifically, fan fiction (if you don't know what that is, google it, and then feel free to laugh, because I sure did).  Then I tried my hand at true fiction before realizing I was comfortable writing about the characters I imagined--even if they were slightly based on fictional characters from elsewhere.  Following that realization came the idea of starting a for early childhood teachers and parents of young children.  Genius, right?  Well, maybe.  It depends.  Sometimes I feel like writing about the fictional antics of my characters.  Some days I feel compelled to write about early childhood issues.  And then some days, like today, I feel compelled to write about my life.

The one thing I keep coming back to is the thought that all of this--all of everything--is truly bigger than us.  Bigger than you or me or the people of any part of the world.  There has to be something or someone that holds it all together.  A common thread.

Like many people, I suffer from depression.  The last few months have been horrific for me--days I couldn't get out of bed--but I forced myself to write.  Sometimes I wrote about ideas people had given me for my blog on early childhood.  Sometimes I wrote the dramatic story I've been working on for the last few months.  Sometimes I even wrote poems or letters or notes.  But I wrote.

Admitting my struggle with depression in a potentially public forum is scary but I think it's necessary.  I realize that if a person like me, who looks as though she's got it pretty much together, is falling apart inside, it happens to more people than we realize.  Some of us are so good at masking who we are and our feelings that nobody has any idea there is anything wrong until it's too late.

Fortunately I was able to get in to see a doctor who is helping me with medication, and my new job has revived me in a way I hadn't thought possible.  It's given me purpose again for a good part of the day, and that means everything.  In those darkest moments, on those darkest days not so long ago, I clung to the vow I had made to myself to never leave my children.  To never abandon children who had already once been abandoned.

I realize by writing this it may change the ideas that some people have about me; it may frighten others and there's even the possibility it could one day be used against me in court, should we need to fight for custody again.  But I feel the darkness of depression that so many people live with needs to be aired and brought into the light.  The stigma of the idea that people who suffer from depression are incompetent or selfish needs to be corrected.  And the idea that we can identify those who are suffering by their overall mood and expression needs to be corrected.

In a year where I've lost a job I loved, moved halfway across the country, continued to parent an attachment-disordered child, spent months trying to find employment, and watched both of my older parents struggling with illnesses, it would be a miracle if I hadn't experienced depression.  That's the reality.  The other reality--that depression goes back generations on one side of my family--makes me more susceptible to the illness.  Living with that isn't always easy.

And whatever pulls me through it will be bigger.  Definitely bigger than me.  Bigger than us.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Holy Mother of any advice for me?

Oh what a night.  I think I'm stealing that from a song, huh?

Since our move, our son has done much better here overall.  His attitude has improved as have his grades and school relationships.  He has been more cooperative than he was a  year ago.  The progress that we have seen has been pretty terrific.  With the exception of his mouth.

Oh. My. God.  I've been warned about the mouth of teenagers, but I really had no idea until I experienced it myself.  Nonstop arguing.  Everything out of his mouth is smart-alecky and ugly and rude.  And I'm ready to plug my ears with anything for the next three years.

I have never raised a teenager before.  In fact, my only real experience with teenagers is when I WAS a teenager, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.  So I don't know how much of this is normal and how much is dealing with a chid who has a variety of different disabilities.  It's hard to navigate the maze of adolescence anyway, I think; but this is a bungled mess.

So take a deep breath, my friend.  Today will pass and tomorrow will come.  Hopefully he will calm down and we can try again.  I learned a long time ago that often, as a parent, you take two steps forward and one step back.  Sometimes you take one step forward and one step back.  Sometimes you do the fucking tango or the electric slide and you're not really sure what direction you're headed in.  But you have faith that at the end of the dance, you're in a better place than where you started.

Here's to hoping for a better dance tomorrow.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Bitch Session

I've been interviewing for a job over the last several months and have turned a couple down because they didn't fit me well.  I thought I had found one in higher ed that would work for me.  The only snafu was that they wanted to call a reference that I didn't want them to call--someone who I had worked with and whom I had a contentious relationship.  This was during my last several months at my last job and a big part of why I left.  I was on FMLA during most of that time and struggling to balance a very sick child and a terminal diagnosis for my mother, among other things.

Well, I was still offered the job.  I guess for that I should be thankful.  But I was subjected to a lecture about the importance of regular attendance.  I was biting my tongue until it nearly bled, because this is what I wanted to say:

Yes, I missed work.  Yes, I left early.  Those days, primarily, were used to take my child to therapy or to a psychiatrist's office.  There were days I was caring for my other child--an asthmatic with severe allergies--when she was too ill to go to school.  And in all honesty, there were probably some times that I was exhausted from it all.

I'm one woman.  I can only do so much and meet so many needs.  Caring for a child with attachment disorder full time is a huge job.  Getting an IEP written, taking kids to doctors, taking kids to therapy, taking kids to psychiatrists, not to mention medical and psychiatric specialists.  I would love nothing more than the idea that I could dedicate myself 100% to my job.  But that would be a lie.  I can't.  I don't live a typical mom's life some days and some days I never will.  That's the reality.

So the dilemma:  do I tell my new workplace or not?  Do I pretend I'm not the mother of two children who need more care than most?

I don't know what the answer is.  I hope I figure it out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And on to less serious subjects...

The last month has held some exciting news.  Goren and Eames are coming back to Criminal Intent!  It's as though the universe smiled upon me and gave me eight more chances to see my dream team together.  As much as I love D'Onofrio's work, I'm a huge fan of him and Erbe together, and was nervously biting my nails as I waited the three weeks it took for her to sign her contract.  But now it's done, and I'm anxiously awaiting the spring season.

In the last year, going through withdrawal of my two favorite detectives has been difficult..  I've been entertaining myself with the web.  It's amazing the things you can see on the internet.  It never ceases to amaze me some of the things people create in the name of fandom.  I've kept up on articles about my two detectives, but have wandered onto some other fan sites that have been, well, interesting, to say the least.  Most of them have made me laugh, because they're so overtly sexual in tone.  I mean, entire posts and pages of pictures of D'Onofrio's crotch?  Really?  And great discussion about dimensions as well.  I always wonder, if you really met him, is THAT what you'd be focused on?  How would that go?  "Hi, I'm (fill in the blank)...would you mind dropping 'em?  Nice package."

When D'Onofrio and Erbe unceremoniously left CI (or were actually not invited back), irritation among fans was high.  Several fans created a "binder project" with letters, drawings, etc. to show the actors their appreciation of their work over the years.  Although I thought the idea in and of itself was a nice one in general, I didn't think it was appropriate in this case and here's why:  both actors have dealt with stalkers.  D'Onofrio was stalked and his life threatened by a stalker several years ago.  Since then, he's exercised more caution for himself and his family.  Just this past April, a man was arrested for stalking Kathryn Erbe and attempting to contact her and her family through facebook, among other means.  He had stalked her on the set, had pictures taken of himself, Erbe, and his child together, then photoshopped his child out of the picture and posted pictures of him and Erbe together.  As nice as the idea of letters of appreciation are, I can imagine that as a human being, your first reaction is to protect yourself and your family.  The reality is a book full of devoted letters and drawings is bound to bring about anxiety along with appreciation.

Everyone's entitled to fantasy.  Sure, if you want to take a bajillion photos of an actor and focus on his privates, knock yourself out.  It's a free country, and I'll be honest--when I come across that stuff, I find it so silly I usually crack up.  But I can't imagine for a minute actually looking a person in the eye and trying to have a conversation after spending extensive time cutting and pasting their privates all over the web.

So maybe fans should be just that--fans, being careful not to blur boundaries between an actor's work and reality.

Okay, off my soapbox now...enjoy your crotch viewing and have a nice day!

Friday, October 15, 2010


Raising a child with varying emotional and behavioral diagnoses is a challenge, no doubt.  Actually, raising any child is a who have different disorders just take a different path.

Sometimes, depending on the disorder, the path goes up mountains, down through valleys, crosses oceans on a rickety boat and requires tremendous skill and dexterity.  Other times, it's like skipping through the park.  I think when you're used to sailing on a rowboat through a hurricane, you're so much more thankful for those days you get to skip through the park.

I actually shouldn't call it days, because with my son, it's often moments.  We have skipping moments mixed with mountain climbing followed by swimming the English Channel and finishing with watching the stars.  You just never know what life is going to bring with that kid.

Today we had a wonderful skipping through the park moment.  I'm so thankful for that, and for him to experience that success.  He came home from school and announced that his dad and I would be proud of him, then produced two school papers that had been graded 100%.  Yes, I was proud (insanely proud, actually, because although he's incredibly bright he struggles to interpret information and get it on the page accurately).  But more than my own pride, I was so pleased for him.  The sound in his voice--that he believed in himself--was worth a million bucks.

I've blogged for over a year now about our much this child struggles, my fears and dreams and wishes and goals for him.  His fears and dreams for himself.  A year ago he was in a residential facility, struggling with daily living and making appropriate choices that should have been easy for a child much younger than him.

And today he brought home two 100% papers from school.

God is good and we are blessed.  My son is an inspiration to me, and I'm so proud to be part of his matter where it takes me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


This morning I had a meeting at my children's new school regarding my son's IEP.  There apparently had been some confusion and the school was "unaware" that he had an IEP.  I could launch into an irate tirade about this, especially considering we gave them a copy when he was enrolled, but I won't.  It's not really what I want to write about.

The woman I met with was very nice, and it was the first time I had ventured into this particular school.  Considering it's very large--four floors with eleven hundred students--it seemed new and clean and well-organized.  Everyone was polite and pleasant, including the security guard (security?!? yikes!).  Overall, I got the impression that it's a decent urban school.

Afterwards, I came home and took my dad to the grocery store.  He likes to shop on Thursdays because he gets a senior discount, and so off we went to his favorite store.  He usually uses a motorized cart these days, as he can't stand for very long without fatigue in his legs and pain in his back.  So I basically followed him around, helping him find whatever was on the list that he couldn't reach.

We came home and I unpacked the groceries, checked my email and message boards, and began to write this blog.  In another fifteen minutes,we're off to the neurologist so she can monitor how my dad is doing regarding his gait.  He has had difficulty with walking and balance.

This time in his life is difficult for everyone.  It's hard to watch people you always saw as being strong and competent slip into a level of no longer being able to care for themselves.  But one of the life lessons I'm learning is to enjoy the time I have left with him.  No day is one to take for granted.

We might have months or we might have years.  Either way, I'm thankful for his good days when he's sharp and can joke with me and carry on conversations.  I'm sad for the days when he can't and devastated for the days that bring increasingly more tests and more serious prognoses.  But we've got each other, and that counts for something.  I'm thankful for that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Life Lessons

Okay, so it's been forever and a day since I last wrote on this blog.

Life's a funny dog.  This has definitely been a year of upheaval for me.  A year ago, my son was in a residential treatment facility and we were dealing with the ramifications of that.  I was loving my job and busier than ever at work.  My daughter was struggling in missing her brother at home.  My husband was working part time while looking for a job in his field.

Now I've left the job I once loved, moved halfway across the country to live with my aging parents and help care for my father, who is pretty ill.  My husband and I are both currently unemployed but both kids are doing better than ever.  Weird.

Oh!  And who could forget...on the fringes of my life, my love for all things Criminal Intent, and a year ago when the series was massacred with a quick, unceremonious exit for my favorite detectives.  Now both have signed back on for an eight-episode final season.  It's like the TV gods smiled on me.

There's a lesson in here somewhere, I just know it.  I'm still figuring it out.  But here are some of the things I'm learning.

1.  Never underestimate your kid.  Just because he struggles in one setting doesn't mean he'll struggle forever.  And kids can rise to meet some amazing challenges if given the opportunity.

2.  Never pass up time with your loved ones, even if it's painful.  I'm well aware every time I look at my father and he's having trouble walking or remembering things or performing basic functions, that he is in the process of dying.  I know it, my husband knows it, my mother knows it.  I'm not sure he knows it, though.  But every Tuesday he and I have a lunch date, whether he's sharp as a tack or having trouble recalling what's going on.  And I know that when the time comes, I will cherish those moments with him.

3.  Don't underestimate yourself.  In this job market, I took a job initially that seemed safe and I had done it before.  It was during the second day of training that I realized how much I had changed in ten years and how unhappy I would be trying to return to myself ten years ago.  I ended up turning down the job.

4.  Don't be too picky.  On the other hand, I'm so incredibly ready to get back to work.  I miss being useful, being involved.  Finding something useful to do with my time is critical to my well-being.

5.  Nobody's meant to cocoon for forever.  Just as butterflies metamorphose, so do we.  I spent three months holed up, depressed and trying to come to terms with the changes in my life.  One day I suddenly realized I was free to do whatever I needed to do, and what I needed was to get out and breathe.

6.  Family is everything.  Both extended and nuclear--family means the world to me.  I love my kids and my husband tremendously.  As difficult as all these changes have been on all of us, I feel so blessed to have made the changes with these people.  That despite the fact that I'm far from a perfect mom and wife, I have three wonderful people who love me and I adore them, more than ever.

7.  Everybody needs space.  I thought at first it wouldn't bother me at all to live with my parents again.  I was helping, right?  What I've learned is that everyone gets annoying after awhile if they're too close to you in proximity.  A separate home is a top priority as soon as we can do it.

8.  It is absolutely possible for hell to freeze over.  After all, Goren and Eames are back on Criminal Intent.  Need I say more?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Alternative Jobs and Criminals

Well, it's another Monday, and I am working while watching Criminal Intent.

How is that possible, you ask, puzzled expression on your face. People go to work to work.

Well not me!

After applying and applying and hearing nothing from one too many jobs, I decided I would have to make my own opportunities, and have done so. I'm opening my own business that will include, initially, an e-newsletter (subscriptions are ten dollars a year), a blog, and training materials for child care centers. I set today as my first day of work, and I did so. I worked. I began my blog, posted it on facebook, sent notices to some of my friends, and can't wait to see what happens.

Ironically, after making the decision to start my own business, I got a call the other day for an interview to adjunct at the local community college. Hopefully that will pan out well for me. I have been surprised by how much I truly miss teaching in a college setting. As much as I miss working with young children, I almost think I miss working with college students more.

Obviously, I didn't choose this so I could stay at home and watch Criminal Intent. But it's been a rough weekend, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't glad to be able to work at my own speed while watching my own eye candy.

My son has had a rough couple of weeks, and is struggling with the transition of our move. Heck, I'm struggling with it too. I was thrilled, though, when he came home on Friday and announced he really likes his new school. It was what I thought would happen, and what I believed would happen...but hearing it from his mouth made it worthwhile.

Well, if you're reading this blog and you want to check out the new one, feel free. You can find it at Hopefully it will be my opportunity to affect my little corner of the world in a positive way.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Doing Good

One of the best parts of my last job was all the wonderful people I met on a regular basis. I was joking with a friend of mine the other day about how I feel like some sort of "mama" to my former students at times. It's amazing how we mature over time, and how the people that I saw entering my courses with enthusiasm and a desire to conquer the world are now teachers, mothers, wives, and all around amazing people. I love to hear what they're up to, to share their joy as they marry or bring a new life into the world. It's exciting to watch their children grow and to see them accomplish their professional and personal goals.

One of my former students, Kellee Tomlinson, is one such person. She and her husband Doug set a goal to be missionaries to Thailand. They have been working doggedly on planning a successful mission trip to serve the needy in Thailand--including opportunities for education. I first met Kellee several years ago as an undergraduate student in one of my classes. Quiet but thoughtful, it was clear that she took her responsibilities as a student very seriously. I had the opportunity to coteach with Kellee as she advanced in her program and found her to be a dedicated, impressive young teacher who understood the developmental needs of children and held herself to a high standard to challenge them.

Kellee and Doug are making tremendous progress toward their goal of moving to Thailand. I admire their tenacity and dedication tremendously. I see so many of my former students doing good in this world, making a difference in the lives of children both locally and around the world. What we put out, we get back.

Recently, in my own search of where I'm supposed to be going professionally, I was talking with Kellee and trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. Our conversation gave me fire and encouraged me to start my own business. I asked Kellee if it would be okay for me to link her Thailand missionary information to this blog, and she said yes. She and Doug need support in many ways. Even if you are able to send your support through prayer, it is greatly appreciated. If you'd like to read more about what they're doing, click on the link. (This is my first attempt at linking anything, so hopefully with my dear husband's help, we shall be successful!). You can also look them up on facebook: Tomlinsons to Thailand.

It's often said that students are inspired by good teachers. I would argue that teachers are also inspired by good students. And we're all inspired by good friends. Here's to Kellee and Doug and their little boy...and the great changes this family will bring to the world.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Listen up

I am currently writing this from my bed, where I do a good deal of my writing. Unfortunately, this time I'm in my bed because I feel like somebody has stretched me on a taffy machine, kicked me in the gut, and stuffed a worm in my ear.

This is my fourth day going on feeling like crap. It started out with general muscle discomfort, which I'm used to. I have some muscular issues that flare up from time to time, and so I initially wrote it off as that. Then I started to get tired. As in, no energy to do anything tired. As in, if I didn't know better I would think I had mono tired. Hot and cold flashes accompanied this...for five minutes I was burning up and then I thought I was in the tundra. Then I started having stomach cramping and nausea. The muscle aches continued, along with an unrelenting headache on my right side--the same side where I have muscle pain in my neck and shoulder. The final straw was when I woke up from an unintended nap this evening with the imaginary worm in my ear. I hurt. And nothing was making anything better.

So I threw on my shoes and asked my husband if he'd take me to the urgent care. He agreed and fifteen minutes later, we were at the urgent care our family uses the most. Unfortunately, we had arrived twenty minutes before they closed, and the doctor wanted to send us to another urgent care that was open later--my guess is because he knew I'd need labs drawn. Practically in tears, I agreed, because I just wanted to see somebody. If you've ever been incredibly uncomfortable for days, then you know how it feels. At that point I was willing to do just about anything for some relief.

My husband took me to the other urgent care a couple miles away. After a short wait, I was taken to the back, weighed and measured (I still don't understand the necessity of this unless it's for medication) and put in a room. A very nice lady came and drew labs on me, explaining that they wanted to check for infection and make sure my electrolytes were fine, since I had been so nauseated. After that, I waited. I watched a doctor help three other patients, two of whom arrived after me. I tried to take a nap but my body hurt too much. Finally a doctor appeared and asked me what was going on. I explained my symptoms to her, and she explained my bloodwork was fine so I couldn't possibly be sick.

Now--if you are a doctor, or you know a doctor, this is a key point--if a patient is telling you they feel like shit, chances are they aren't lying to you. There is Something Going On. Whether you can identify it in a CBC panel, who knows? But most people don't make random trips to an urgent care center at eight p.m. on a Friday night so they can toss a hundred bucks in the trash can. Or because you, the doctor, are cute and adorable. In this case, the doctor wasn't even male, so she wasn't my type anyway.

She checked out my ears, one of which I was holding because of the pain, to tell me everything was fine. I explained again that everything most certainly was NOT fine...I am holding my face for a reason, and it isn't because I'm planning to be photographed. She admitted I could have some sort of infection in my inner ear that she could not see. Hmm...possibly???

Since everything else seemed to be a no-go, she insisted on testing other things, of which I won't name here, but trust me when I say it's nightmarish to me and all of it came back negative. She came in and announced everything was perfect, I was fine, and if anything, I might have a minor stomach virus. Then she gave me three medicines--one to help with stomach cramping, one to help with nausea (which apparently works in exactly 23 minutes--who knew) and another to deal with the potential ear infection. Nothing for muscular pain or discomfort, nothing to help me sleep or make it through the next several days until this bizarre thing goes away. I was so incredibly frustrated I was crying when I left. If nothing else spoke to that doctor, my tears should have been a clue.

And this is what they should have said: Hey lady, LISTEN TO ME. I'm your PATIENT. I didn't come here for fun. I came here for relief. I'm telling you I'm in pain, and more pain than you're giving me credit for. You have a responsibility to run tests and interpret results. But you also have a responsibility to ME, your PATIENT. You have a responsibility to listen to me. When I tell you I've been in constant pain for four days, that I can't get comfortable, that I can't eat, that my head hurts and my ear hurts and I'm coughing and feel like I've been hit by a MAC truck, that I'm doing downward dog to relieve the muscle pain throughout my body, you have a responsibility to do more than run a blood test. At the very least you have the responsibility to listen and to help me find out what is wrong...and if you don't know, to send me to someone who might.

I'm a teacher. Part of my job is listening to nineteen preschoolers about what's important to them. What is funny, what they want to do, what they're trying to do, what's not working. Another part of my job is to listen to their parents--about their worries, their hopes, their dreams. In my last job I also listened to college students--their goals, their successes, their problems. And we worked together to make those things happen successfully.

Perhaps it is this drive in me, this need to help people meet their goals, that causes my lack of patience with those in other professions such as this woman tonight. I cannot stand a doctor who doesn't listen to what I say as a patient. My last doctor, before I moved, was fantastic. His philosophy was that I knew my body, and he knew body processes. His job was to educate me so that we could make decisions together about what was best for my care. His approach was refreshing and very rare. I never felt like he didn't listen to me. I never felt like he glossed over things I felt were important. He set a high bar, and this urgent care doctor fell extremely short.

So all you people who work with other people out there, like I do--LISTEN UP. Part of your job is to LISTEN. Whether you work with a two-year old who's mad that he can't have the broom in dramatic play or you're talking to an adult who's come in with acute pain, you'll learn a hell of a lot more--and be a hell of a lot more effective--if you shut up and LISTEN. Put down your test results, your assessments, your holy grail to unlock what's going on, and LISTEN to the person in front of you. You might just be shocked by what you hear.

And maybe the person you're talking to might help you find the answer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Moving on

So this has probably been one of the most difficult summers on record in a long, long time.

First, I quit a job that I had absolutely loved. Until six months ago, I never imagined leaving that position. I was happy there and knew I did good work. It's funny how life can turn things on its head so quickly, and how isolating those experiences can be. By the time I quit my job, I had come to the conclusion that it truly would be best for me and my family if I were to resign. It was not something I ever imagined I would do, but here I was, doing it.

Then we moved across the country. Fourteen hundred miles, to be closer to my family. Well, we're close all right. We're currently living with my parents. So far that's going okay. There's kinks that have to be worked out, but so far it's been livable. Definitely better than what we left behind, anyway.

Out of fear of having to COBRA our insurance, I accepted a position with a company I had worked with previously. I started that position last week and found that things have changed a LOT in the last ten years, both for the company and for me. During our first day of orientation, after child abuse prevention training, several of my new coworkers got into a discussion about how hilarious it was to beat their own children, and as long as they don't leave marks, it's okay and funny. Many went on to describe how they hit their kids, to the cackles of one another. Anyone who knows me can imagine how disgusted I was by the end of that day. One of my children has special needs, and the children in this program were there because they were considered "at-risk" due to a variety of circumstances. THESE children are the most challenging, and if you routinely can't come up with anything better for your average child than to "beat" them, how in the world will you handle a child at-risk--or a child like mine, who's more challenging? Needless to say, my time at the job ended that same day.

So I'm still looking for a job. My kids are going to be enrolled in the public school system shortly, and school starts in two weeks. We received standardized testing scores on my youngest child, and she scored advanced in nearly every category, showing a particular penchant for math and science. She'll fit in well here, because those are the areas this school system pushes tremendously.

My son is still homesick. He's thirteen, probably one of the harder ages to move anyway, and is struggling with ADHD and depression. His ADHD is more noticeable some days, as he has trouble controlling his impulses and making good choices. No amount of talking seems to help sometimes, and the frustration of seeing your child make the same mistakes repeatedly is hard. My husband and my parents have been tremendously helpful in trying to provide consistency and appropriate consequences when needed.

I do believe my son has a variety of diagnoses that work together to make life more difficult for him. But ADHD seems to be the one that is most in our face these days, the one that never lets go and makes our lives difficult. His boundless energy is hard to harness. His inability to calm down after exciting experiences makes it hard to take him places. His naiviety and immaturity, mixed with the average thirteen-year old attitude of knowing it all is a constant concern to me. When I hear him talk as though he knows it all and dismisses what we say, I actually rejoice in thinking he's acting like a typical kid his age! But his inability to discern realistic scenarios from unrealistic ones concerns me. He believes most anything other kids tell him.

One of my biggest challenges personally this summer has been trying to move away from thinking in diagnostic terms when it comes to this child, and to look at him as a person, and deal with the behaviors that come our way appropriately. I'm extremely analytical and want to compartmentalize his behavior. His inability to discern reality from fantasy, for instance, could be due to fetal alcohol syndrome. His constant movement, ADHD. His up and down mood swings, bipolar disorder. All of these disorders, along with many others, have been tossed around and even listed as positive diagnoses for him. But none of it changes the fact that at the end of the day, he's not a multitude of diagnoses--he's a thirteen year old boy, who's been moved away from his world, and is struggling to make a new world work for him.

Moving is hard. Last week I spent the majority of the week in heartbreak, crying off and on, over leaving the job I had loved. You see, last week I would have gone back to work, to the same pattern of things that I had done for the last ten years. Things I knew and loved to do. But instead I didn't...instead I found myself in a new teacher orientation with unsavory people who think it's funny to hit their own children.

Any move is going to have missteps. I keep my fingers crossed and say my prayers that we have fewer missteps and more finding our way. In the end, I believe in my heart and soul this was the right path for us...and I hope in the end, my son will too.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Marvelous Mondays, We Are Again Reunited

Well, my last post talked a lot about giving up my very enjoyable Mondays watching Criminal Intent. I started a new job today, one with a company I had worked with before, in a position I had worked with before. In fact, in the past, I had worked with this company for six years, and I really loved the job I had then. I loved the people I worked with, the setup of the day, everything except the pay--which was somewhat dismal but in education, that's kind of expected.

Yet today, I quit. My first full day, and I came home after a revelation. One of the most profound revelations I've had in quite some time. Well, I probably shouldn't say that, because my last revelation led to a cross-country move two months ago. But one of the things I have done in my life is chosen to listen to God. I know in my gut when something is right. I knew it when I took my last job. When I moved across the country the first time. When I moved back to care for my parents. Oh, every time there were huge adjustments and tears, difficulties that needed to be ironed out, but in the end, I don't regret any of those experiences. And today, as I sat by myself eating a horrific lunch of cheese-filled soft pretzels and coke zero, I realized that God was telling me again this wasn't for me. This wasn't where I was supposed to be.

One of my very dear friends had told me before that God had put me here, that this was where He wanted me to be. I know myself well enough to know that this was where *I* wanted to be, not God. I took over that process and drove full speed ahead to get that job. It had always been my "fall back" plan, and of course it came very easily. But what I realized today is that I'm not the same girl that I was twelve years ago, when I last worked there. I'm not the same. Since then, my world has grown tremendously. My professional skills have multiplied and I wouldn't be happy in this job any more. And because there were children involved, I had to let it go as soon as possible. Which meant today.

I'm sure those children will end up with a teacher who is wonderful and able to give to them fully. At least I hope so. And me? I'm back out there peddling my wares. Figuring out where I'm supposed to go, what I'm supposed to do with my life. At the end of the day, after the guilt of letting everyone down leaves me, after the fear of not being needed or not finding a job I can live with in this economy is gone, I'll go back to hitting the pavement with a better understanding of who I am and what I need to do. So for that, I'm thankful for the last few days. Clarity is always a good thing.

So is a paycheck, but that will come soon enough.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Marvelous Mondays, I will Miss you!

So yesterday was Monday. I have gotten a position teaching again and had to go in to fill out paperwork. No big deal, right? Of course not. So I did what I needed to do. They kindly let me bring it home to finish it and gave me a huge three-inch binder of stuff to read.

Now, I know most people strongly dislike Mondays. Start of the work week, end of the weekend, yada yada yada. But not me. At least not MOST Mondays...because on Monday, USA network plays--ta da-- back to back episodes of Criminal Intent!

Yes, it's a strange reason to enjoy Mondays. Actually, my excitement begins on Sunday nights, when Bravo plays three to four episodes of my favorite show. Then Monday morning comes ad the party REALLY begins. An entire day with Goren and Eames. I putter around the house, doing laundry, picking up, writing, while I watch my two favorite detectives solve the unsolveable crimes of New York City.

Well, I am going through mourning. After next Monday, it will be a LONG time before I will get to revel in my special time. Instead of watching reruns of my two favorite detectives, I'll be teaching children. Ha! Why, oh why!

Now here's the part that is REALLY hysterical. I have all of the first five seasons on DVD. I can watch ANY or ALL of those episodes at any time I choose. That means my wonderful detectives are never far from me. But there's something exciting about switching on my television and seeing Bobby and Alex there, without me having chosen the episode, and getting into whatever's being shown at the time. Or maybe it's the rhythm of a slow and easy Monday...picking up the house, doing the laundry, and catching some eye candy during.

Either way, it won't matter, because in two weeks, I'll be working and separated from my very enjoyable ritual. It's time. It's needed. Obviously, you can't compare the importance of living an actual life actively--contributing to a child's growth and learning--to sitting passively in front of the boob tube lusting over a fictional character. But alas, I will miss it.

Summer, oh summer, where have you gone? And taken my sweet detectives with you?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Reality of the World

My husband and I have both been looking doggedly for work. One of the connections he made is with a friend of my mother's, a local podiatrist who volunteers once a month for a Native American tribe sixty miles north of here. When this podiatrist learned of my husband's Native American ancestry, he was intrigued and asked him to join him for a volunteer day with the tribe.

My husband isn't usually the one who volunteers time in our family. Usually that's me. You name the cause and I've probably given something to it. Since having children, volunteering time has become more important--and more valuable--to me. I've taken my kids along for several experiences, and as I've mentioned before on this blog, I've planned and implemented a variety of fundraising and service learning projects for the preschoolers I've taught. I'm a firm believer in giving back to the world. My husband is as well, but his giving back more often comes in the form of money rather than time. So I was a little surprised, but much delighted, when he told me the other day he would be accompanying this podiatrist to the reservation today.

The guys planned their trip yesterday. My husband is a former respiratory therapist and offered to bring his equipment in case anyone needed assistance. The podiatrist was bringing his equipment to help as well. They left early this morning with the plan of staying for the day and coming back this evening.

My husband is a member of one of the five civilized tribes. Both of his tribes are well-established and receive state and federal funding. Although Native Americans often live in poverty and are one of the most repressed minority groups in our country, my husband's tribes are funded enough to be able to offer various programs to their members. These programs sometimes include assistance with housing, education, healthcare, and social services.

Imagine his shock when he arrived this morning at the reservation. This particular tribe consists of only sixty or seventy members. They are not federally recognized, which means they receive no federal or state funding. The average income is six to nine thousand dollars per year. There are no additional services to access.

Even my husband, who is well-educated and more aware of the struggles of Native Americans than most of us, was deeply moved.

Having accepted a job yesterday that pays far less than what I was making previously, I had been focused on money and worrying about making ends meet. There's nothing quite like knowing there are still groups of people in your own country who are making less than ten thousand dollars per year to help you gain perspective.

I could go on and on about the political, social, and economic implications of repression of large groups of people, but I won't. All I will say is that this experience has served as a reminder for us to be grateful for what we have, and to continue to work for social justice, a value that is critical in our family. The idea that America is the land of opportunity won't be true until the opportunities are equal for everyone.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Measuring Your Worth

I am happy to report that I was just hired for the position I spoke about in my last entry. I'm actually pretty excited about it. I've missed teaching. Not just the actual teaching aspect of the classroom, but the children and families I worked with. I miss seeing my preschoolers, experiencing life with them, exploring new concepts and learning ideas. I miss my school.

Now I'll have a new classroom, with new students and families, and an assistant. I'll be responsible for planning and implementing my own curriculum. I won't have to share space or time with other teachers. I've always told my preschoolers that I have to practice sharing too--and truthfully, I'm not always very good at it. So I'm kind of looking forward to not having to share as much for awhile.

I know, going in to this job, there will be two things that will be challenging for me. The first will be to table my analyses of other people's work with children. I've spent the last ten years helping beginning teachers analyze their work. That's a skill that can be very useful when it's welcomed but pretty destructive when it's not. Learning to table it will be an important lesson.

More importantly will be my ability to measure my own worth in something other than dollar signs. So often our culture focuses on the bottom line--the almighty dollar--as a measure of how valuable we are. We look at our net worth, our 401k's, our annual income (gross or net) to determine our contributions and how much we should value one another. After all, you don't generally look for a doctor or dentist in a dirty, rundown medical practice, do you? You look for the professional whose surroundings communicate wealth. That signifies cutting edge resources and success.

Measuring my own self-worth is important to me. It's important to feel like I'm achieving goals and taking care of my family. Just as important, though, is the ability to contribute to the greater good, to know that something I have done has affected somebody else in a positive way. Given someone something they wouldn't have had otherwise. Those measures--ones that are more abstract--are life altering and powerfully defining.

Going into this position, I hope that I'll be able to remember that. Keeping in mind the reasons I took this job that didn't have to do with money is going to be important. Figuring out how I'm worth something that doesn't have a dollar attached to it.

I'm keeping it in mind.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How much does an education really cost?

I interviewed for a job today. I was excited for the interview because it's with a company I've worked with before. In fact, I've held this same position before (a teacher with at-risk kids) and I absolutely loved it. It was, in my opinion, one of the best jobs I've ever had. I loved every minute of it and found it to be quite rewarding. The only drawback, of course, is the pay.

Nobody goes into education to get rich. If they do, they're highly misinformed. Teachers as a group across this country are underpaid and underappreciated, yet held to continually higher standards each year. Given that many standards are simply developmentally inappropriate and for some children just downright unattainable, it's ridiculous to punish teachers for what children do or don't learn.

The push for accountability in education has caused a wide array of problems that the average adult may not even be familiar with. Schools lose or gain money based on their test scores. Teachers are forced to forego teaching certain subjects or interest-based learning to cover material that will appear on standardized tests. Gone are the days of exploring children's natural curiosities--there's a test that has to be taken, one that will determine how much money the school system receives. Most children in elementary school spend the majority of their days focusing on reading and writing. If you're asking what's missing from that equation, let me tell you: creative writing, art, music, science, social studies, and opportunities for social skill building and critical thinking.

We want our children to be critical thinkers, to be able to solve the problems of tomorrow, yet we give them very little time to build and practice those skills. The majority of material young children are bombarded with is the type of knowledge that requires rote memorization. In other words, don't think about it, Johnny--just tell me what I told you, in time for the test.

In areas where there are socioeconomic concerns, these problems are intensified. Factors such as hunger and poverty strongly affect school outcomes. If you didn't eat or you don't have a place to live, it's a lot harder to focus on learning your ABC's. What a surprise that schools with higher levels of poverty score lower on standardized testing! And the answer? Punish those schools! Take away their money! They're not using it correctly anyway or those kids would be learning!

The reality of the situation is that some schools do misuse funds. Many kids go to school hungry or dirty or for whatever reason, not ready to learn. Our social policies meant to address these problems have instead blamed an already burdened school system rather than proactively addressed the needs of people who cannot adequately provide for their families. We are a nation that insists on throwing bandaids on gunshot wounds instead of taking steps to ensure nobody gets shot to begin with.

So back to my interview. In my heart, I have always loved working with kids from at-risk environments. The pay is terrible. Often the materials in these programs are limited, the support is limited, there can be cultural misunderstandings and political and social issues that arise. After doing the math, I've figured that if I take the job I interviewed for today, I'll be able to pay for my family's medical and dental insurance with a little left over each month--possibly enough to pay the rent.

Like I said, nobody ever gets rich in education. For people like me, you walk a fine line between discerning what you need to provide for your family and what you need to do your calling. I have long believed that my students are also my teachers. And despite my concerns about financial savviness, I can say one thing for sure. I'm ready, once again, to learn.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Church of the Poison Mind

Tonight I helped my mom prepare a meal for Vacation Bible School.

When I was a kid, I loved VBS. It was a highlight of my summer. I loved learning about Jesus and the culture of the middle east at that time. I enjoyed the games and most of all the crafts that we would make. The snacks weren't half bad either. All in all, it was a fun way to spend a morning--or several mornings--for a week.

My kids have attended VBS for a few years at different churches. My favorite, of course, is my home church in the city we just moved from. That particular church shared my values more closely than any church congregation I've ever known. This year there was the option for the kids to attend VBS at my parents' church. I thought it might be a fun time. The theme had something to do with traveling around the world and the teacher in me was intrigued. What an opportunity, I thought.

Unfortunately, my kids thought otherwise. Neither was thrilled at the prospect of going, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe it wasn't such a hot idea either. You see, currently there are several individuals in my parents' church that can't seem to get along. Most of these individuals head different committees. One sent an ugly email last week that literally called others names.

It has always been a puzzle to me the things that people do in the name of God. The most horrific wars, torturous acts, and painful moments can almost all be attributed to being committed in the name of religion. For this very reason I avoided church for years. I consider myself a loving, spiritual human being and I believe fully in God and His word. I know He has acted in my life in multiple ways and has a guiding hand on me. But for some people, religion seems to poison their thinking. It seems to cloud their judgment to the point that the most important messages get lost and control takes over.

Control and submission. For so many people, that's the name of the game when it comes to religion--where you fall in the pecking order. Some religions even have pecking orders in relation to who gets into heaven and how. It never ceases to amaze me the million different interpretations to the Bible, and how the more into control and submission a person seems to be, the more into the belief that there is only ONE way to interpret the bible one seems to be.

Tonight the children were learning about the middle east, and we prepared food that was somewhat representative of the region--flatbread, tzatziki sauce, hummus, veggies, figs. It saddened me to see that a large portion of the lesson this evening focused on bibles being illegal in the middle east. It saddens me to think that these children, who had the potential to learn about the native homeland of Christ, to learn about cultural differences and diversity, will walk away with their primary focus being possession of a bible equates to prison.

I choose to attempt to live by Jesus' message. I choose to try to love others, to live a life of compassion and morality and making ethical choices. I don't choose that life because I fear an eternity in Hell, and I don't choose it because I think it makes me better than someone who lives in Jordan or Pakistan. I choose it because in my culture, in my own life, it is what I know to be true. That's all any human being can do.

I often look at our world today and wonder what God is thinking about it...if it weren't so completely sad I'm sure he'd be having a good laugh at our expense. But I cannot wrap my mind around the idea of a God who would support the idea of one culture controlling another, of a person submitting to something against his or her belief system. Because ultimately, the only one who knows what is right is God himself.

So VBS this year? No thanks. I'll take my church with a cup of love and support, thanks.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Aches and Pains

Today I was witness to something that most people will never see. I was present when a suicide note was read.

My mother is a therapist, and has worked with many clients over the years. I distinctly remember the first time one of her clients committed suicide. It was early in her career and very, very painful for her. As with most people, she blamed herself to some degree for not being able to stop the attempt, for not seeing it coming, and probably for a myriad of other things. That was several years ago, and fortunately my mother hasn't had a client commit suicide since.

A few days before we moved out here, my mom told me that one of her former clients who had chronic pain and had suffered tremendous physical and psychological damage, had committed suicide. My mom had maintained contact with this client over the years, even though they were no longer in a therapeutic relationship. She considered herself to be a support system to this person who had very little emotional support in her life. Upon this person's death, her family informed my mother that the former client had left a letter addressed to her and they would send it, along with a momento.

The momento arrived a couple of weeks ago, but not the letter. It appeared the letter had been misplaced after the funeral, and the family was looking for it but hadn't been able to locate it yet. Today, as she was sifting through the mail that arrived over the week, my mom gasped and said, "This is's from (-)." She opened the envelope and found two pieces of paper inside. The outer piece was blank. The inner piece had only two lines written on it. For the sake of confidentiality, I'll paraphrase: We've known each other long enough that you know why. Please pray I rest peacefully.

For most of my life I have struggled with depression. I think many people do, far more than talk about it. It's still highly stigmatized. Mine can be traced genetically through one side of my family. One of my parents has struggled with it; one of my grandparents struggled with it; a great grandparent committed suicide. There is a definite genetic component to this illness that I deal with. I have to manage it the same way a diabetic manages blood sugar or someone with high blood pressure manages that. I take medication, practice stress relief techniques, engage in talk therapy as needed. Yoga is a great tool, as is writing. Different people practice and find success with different treatment options.

I was eleven when my parents first noted concerns about depression, and rightfully so. I suffered from childhood depression. I had intense fears, as young as four or five, of being left without my parents. I remember long crying spells and feeling sad and scared. Most people don't become depressed until adolescence or adulthood, and most will experience shorter bouts or even situational bouts with depression. Mine has been long lasting; I do not know what it is like to live without it. It's a disease I manage on a daily basis.

I understand the risks of writing about this on a blog. If you're unfamiliar with what depression is; if you have fears of mental illness or its stigma, then this is for you. Because I'm just your everyday person--I work, I have a family, I live and I love and most days I do an okay job of it all. It's a risky proposition to discuss something so personal because of the stigma and the misconceptions people have of the disease. I can assure you though, that I'm absolutely the same person I was before you read the above information and I'll be the same person when you're done reading this entry. I'm a good person and live a good life.

Those misconceptions are not only held by your average Joe. As my mother read the letter she had anticipated receiving, I couldn't help but note it was only two sentences long. Two sentences to say all you had to say to someone who loved you? I tried to imagine, and couldn't, what I would write in two sentences to sum up my feelings for any of the people that I love in this world. And yet, in those two sentences, there was such intense pain and emotion communicated. Those sentences were about what had already been said. What these two people already knew about each other.

I have long held the belief that people who suffer from depression make a choice each day to live or to die, and it is one of the most basic choices we make. On this particular day, this person could no longer do it. My mother understood why, even if you or I don't. It's not up to us to say. This person's pain--both physical and psychological--was real and intense and raw. And there was no escape. No hand holding, no talking, no amount of anything would take that pain away in that moment. People say suicide is a selfish act, and perhaps it is; but to those who take their own life, it is often viewed as the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, to no longer be a burden on those whom they love.

Those two sentences have stuck with me today and I have shed more than a few tears over them, not for my mother, but for this person who could no longer find the strength to hold on any more, to live and love and breathe and do the things that most of us take for granted each day.

And I pray for anyone who may read this and is having trouble breathing and living and loving that you are able to hold on until you can catch another breath, for one is always coming after the last one, even if you fear it won't.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bobby, Bobby, where are you?

I'm in mourning for a person who isn't even real.

Yes, I'm mourning the passing of my beloved Bobby Goren.

Tonight my family betrayed me and my vow to be true to my favorite detective. I had fallen asleep on the couch for just a bit, and I woke up to a horrific sound. Could it be, or was it just a dream? No, it was real!!! Jeff Goldblum was on my screen, playing Zach Nichols! In an episode from THIS SEASON!

I tried, God help me, I tried. I tried to find something interesting in the new CI. I made myself watch for fifteen torturous minutes. It turned my stomach. Now I know the feeling I would have if I ever tried to cheat on my husband. Like I need a good, hot shower.

USA, does us all a favor and bury that show. NBC/Universal cancelled the original Law and Order just weeks ago. Fortunately for Sam Waterston, he gets to ride out on his white horse, maintaining his role as DA (and former ADA) Jack McCoy. How could anyone not love Jack? My God he was amazing. Less amazing were the string of assistants he went through. Everyone had their favorites, but geez, some were bad enough to make you want to stab your eyes out with your dinner fork and plug your ears with some sort of cotton balls (remember Serena Southerlyn and her famous line--her last line handed out as she's been fired--"Is this because I'm a lesbian?"@@ No honey, it's just because you're a terrible actress.) I have to admit I loved Jill Hennessey and Angie Harmon. Alana de la Garza has been okay, from what I've seen, but I kind of gave up on the show a couple years ago. So to the cable graveyard it goes. If only Universal had the same sense when it came to my beloved Bobby. But no! Certainly we can revive Criminal Intent by breathing life into it with a new set of detectives. Somebody OTHER than the two who built it, who saw it to its crescendo.

If Universal wants to know what went wrong, look at your writers. Look at your scripts. Look at what you replaced--the quirkiness, the fun, the integrity--with as one writer put it, a "let's beat Goren down for an hour each week" (I paraphrase). Seriously, by the end of the series could it really go anywhere else? Who else could live through child abuse, a schizophrenic mother, a dead alcoholic and gambling father, a drugged out brother, the death of mother and brother, (one murdered, the other dying a long and painful death due to cancer and the inability of her cop son to afford new treatments), finding out the alcoholic gambler is NOT the father, finding out a serial killer not only IS your father but beat and raped your mother within an inch of her life, the death of the serial killer father, and if that all isn't enough, a crazed mentor who shows up, kills two people (one being said druggie brother) and pins the murders on you to "get your mind back in the game". Well shit. Don't those people usually end up in long term therapy, if not mental institutions or committing suicide? If you write a storyline like that and we're supposed to believe any of it, you've got to take the guy's gun away at some point. And detectives don't do well without a gun.

I miss you, Bobby. I wonder what you did after Eames was forced to fire you and you wandered off in the sunset. Did you go join the FBI? Did you move to your rediscovered family in Minnesota? Did you quit and buy a bookstore? Are you selling Eames books right now? Did you ever ask her out...we all know you wanted to!

Anyway, sometimes I miss that guy. I'm sure Vincent D'Onofrio was more than happy to let him go, and I certainly can understand how after eight years you can be ready for a change. But I miss him.

Me to Bobby! Shine your flashlight this way if you get this!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Who wants to pay for me?

I'm looking for a job.

Like millions of Americans, I'm currently unemployed. When my husband and I made the decision to move back east, we knew we'd be giving up our jobs and the security that goes along with them. I was okay with that for a lot of reasons (see previous posts that I'm sure outline said reasons ad nauseum). But now it's been a month since the Great Job Search began (or what I not-so-lovingly refer to as God It Hurts). And I'm not getting the bites I had anticipated. Hell, I'm not even getting friendly little nibbles.

Maybe I have an overinflated sense of myself and my job skills. That's always possible. And in this market, goodness knows it's super competitive. But I like to think I'm fairly employable. I've got an advanced degree and lots of experience. I'm not too old. I'm fun and smart and gosh darn it, people like me! So what's the deal? Why isn't my cell phone ringing?

The reality is that I haven't exhausted all my resources; instead, I've been mentally exhausting myself. I've been knocking myself out just making mental lists of everything needing to be done and letting my fear get in the way of my future. If that sounds all cliche, it probably is. But it's true. I'm fantastically skilled at talking myself in and out of things, and putting an intense amount of mental and emotional energy into all sorts of things that don't necessarily bode well for me. It's something I need to work on.

This summer hasn't exactly gone how I had planned. Lack of finances, living with my extended family, having the kids around full time, caring for my aging parents has all been more difficult at times than I had anticipated in my rosy dreams. But every time I take my father to another doctor's appointment or one of his ongoing lab tests, or hear of more potential illnesses my mother may have, I know in my soul we made the right choice.

I have always believed that a job doesn't define a person, even though many people choose to let that happen. My job has always been an important part of who I was, or at least I thought so. Now, I'm beginning to ponder the idea that the skills I have developed are who I am, and I take them with me, wherever I go. My abilities to think critically, to analyze information, to relate to many different people with kindness and tact and honesty are who I am. My job is just an outlet that allows those traits to shine. Thinking like this allows me to feel more empowered and to remember that a job, while important, isn't all encompassing. At the end of the day, I'm still myself and everything really important comes home with me.

That being said, I'll be very happy when I find someone who's willing to pay for me....and if they're willing to pay what I think I'm worth, even better.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Moves and moving on

It's funny how you can get motivated to write a new blog entry. I actually have thought about it several times over the last few weeks, and even visited my blog site yesterday, but didn't write anything. Today, one of my friends said, "YOU HAVE A BLOG AND NEVER TOLD ME???" So now I feel the need to write something for her to READ, should she actually visit!

There's so much I could write about to catch up on our lives in the last month, but instead, I want to write about the life I've left behind. Facebook has been an amazing tool for me. It's enabled me to stay in contact with many people that I otherwise would have left behind. Our move to Virginia has had its moments, but it's so wonderful to know I can keep up with my friends and former students in Oklahoma.

As an undergraduate instructor, one of my hard and fast rules has been to have clear boundaries with my students. I don't drink with them, go out to dinner with them, have friendships with them. I always saw my role as a facilitator in their learning and not as a buddy. Most students are respectful of this (in fact, I'm quite sure many of them never had any interest in me farther than a grade! I know I never did with my instructors!). But sometimes, some students did have trouble understanding why I couldn't do these things. College campuses are places where there is a lot of free exchange of ideas between adults, which often leads to friendships, and boundaries can get crossed very easily. Over the years there have been many, many students I've met that I just absolutely loved as people. These people were smart, talented, and gifted in their fields. They were often hard workers and shared the same values and ideals as I did. Getting to be their instructor was such a gift for me. I got to share their journey, if even for only a semester, and watch as they were growing and developing into someone even more gifted, more talented.

The great thing about being a college instructor is that eventually everyone leaves your course. You're no longer bound by the rules that you felt were important to encourage student success at the time. And then you get to move out of the role of instructor and into the role of, sometimes mentor, and if you're really lucky, friend.

I've been really lucky. Some of my absolute favorite people in the world are my former students. I've seen them go through so many life changes--graduation, moves, relationships, marriages, and children--and feel so fortunate to know them. What so many of them don't realize is the effect they have had on my life. How they have encouraged me to continue to learn, to want to be a better teacher and person. How they continually inspire me to live a better life.

Leaving Oklahoma was a hard decision. The easy part was knowing I would be with family in Virginia, that we had a life waiting here for us if we wanted it. I miss my friends and I know in a few weeks I will desperately miss my role of teacher in a classroom, with a group of young adults looking at me as though I hold some sort of answers they're seeking. I always knew the truth--that I didn't know the answers but we would learn them together. And eventually they know that as well.

So as much as people complain about Facebook, I'll say this: I feel incredibly blessed to be able to keep up with the people who have energized me, challenged me, and changed my life forever. And yes, Erin, that includes you. :-)

Friday, June 11, 2010


Well, it's been a busy two weeks in our house.

Two weeks ago, I came home from my job devastated, knowing that I couldn't work there any more and be happy. There were many, many reasons for that, but suffice it to say that it was clear to me that my time to move on was now.

I hadn't arrived at that conclusion quickly. In fact, I've been working on it for quite awhile. Should I get a doctorate? Should I apply for a more advanced position? Should I dedicate more time at home with my children? Should I spend more time writing (a rediscovered, passionate love of mine)?

In the hours following my conclusion about my job, my husband told me that if I felt it was time to move back east, he would support that. He, too, has struggled this year for a lot of different reasons. And suddenly, quickly, the decision was made that we would move east in August. In the meantime, my daughter and I would go visit my parents beginning June 1st and come back at the beginning of August, hopefully scoping out jobs and whatnot and having a relaxing summer.

Then came the night, five days before our departure, when my husband sat me down and told me he thought we should all move. Not in August. Now. And I found myself, selfishly, thinking, "I wanted THIS summer! This summer to enjoy!"

As I thought about what he was proposing (basically a move in two weeks), I realized he was right. Neither of us are employed at the current moment. This gives both of us the opportunity to get settled over the summer and be looking. It gives our kids a chance to get used to a new place before school starts. It saves us rent money, because we'll be residing in my grandmother's house. And I found myself excited.

In the past two weeks, I've gone through a wide array of emotions, spanning everything from God-I-can't-wait excitement to the despair that comes in recognizing you will be losing so many wonderful people in your life. I have a strong belief that God brought us here for very meaningful reasons, including the love and care of the two children we call our own. I have just as strong a belief that He is bringing us back east to be near and with my family, whom I dearly love and who need our emotional support. But it is difficult to think of giving up relationships with so many wonderful people I have come to know. Some days it's just downright overwhelming to think of the distance between so many of these people who have changed my life. And because a lot of these relationships have stemmed from my job, it makes me even more sad to be giving up the opportunity to teach the students I work with. I'll miss all of them.

Life is full of difficult decisions. Preparing for this move has shown me that I have to prepare not only physically but mentally as well. I've had to give away a lot of our material possessions and have done so without looking back. It has also humbled me to see how much a family of four can accumulate. Is it really what we need?

I have talked with my children about this move, and all that we will have waiting for us, and that the most important thing we need to have is each other. I know that kids don't get that, but it's been a good reminder for me. All I need in this move, really, are my husband, my kids, and my sweet Gabi...and my parents and brother waiting for me on the east coast. Everything else is extra.

But boy, even after giving away so much, do we have a lot of extra!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Post #60

Ah. Post number sixty. The big six-oh.

You'll have to excuse me a bit. I went to bed a little early last night and woke up way early this morning. A little after midnight, to be exact. So I'm operating on very little sleep and feeling a little, well, what we would call "slap happy".

This year has been a tough one for our family. I've blogged quite a bit about my son, as well as my own struggles. But our whole family has struggled, like most families in our country, trying just to make ends meet in this horrific economy. Coupled with my husband's physical problems and my parents' health problems, my husband and I made a decision--rather suddenly--to move closer to my family.

So we have approximately twelve days to pack our tiny, nine hundred square foot house. We can do it, I have no doubt. But I'm overwhelmed just thinking about it. Our daughter is excited about the move--thrilled actually--and wanted to begin packing right away. She's referring to it as an 'adventure' and I'm so glad she's looking at it that way. Her brother's response has been more the opposite, although he's growing more used to the idea. Me? Apparently I'm not sleeping!!!

Truth is, I hate moving. I've hated it every single time I've done it, back to when I was seven years old, although that move wasn't quite as bad because I didn't have to lug all this junk everywhere. The worst part of that move is my favorite teddy bear--you know, you had one too...the one you slept with every night of your life?--got lost in the move. I never found him again. Devastation. Ironically, my other favorite teddy bear, which I had given to my son a few years ago, also disappeared. Maybe they're hanging out together in some bear club.

Here's another thing. I'm really missing Criminal Intent. No, not the old ones and definitely not that crap they're passing off as a TV show now. I'm missing my Goren and Eames, even with the crappy writers and storylines and whatnot. I miss seeing them every week. Like good friends you know you'll be getting together with every week. Eh. I've watched reruns quite a bit lately to destress. But there's something missing. Oh! It would be the element of SURPRISE!!!

Well, I'm going to go back to relaxing as I watch Billy the Exterminator. Billy is my solid proof that Andy Warhol was right: there is definitely fifteen minutes of fame out there for everyone. I've never watched this show before. It's amazing what you'll watch in the early morning on no sleep. Anything beats the news, though--even Billy.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010


My son has been struggling quite a bit, especially over the last couple of months, not to take things that don't belong to him.

It started out focused on food, and that still remains a big problem. The thing is, he won't take just ANY food...he takes food that is somebody else's. For instance, if you have a piece of pie leftover from dinner the other night, and everyone else ate theirs, including him, he'll eat your pie later. If someone buys a treat with their own money, he'll eat it. Now we've been having him replace the things he eats that are not his, but this seems to have very little to do with discouraging him from continuing the habit. He replaced two items on Friday and by Saturday noon, he had done it again.

So I talked with his therapist about this issue yesterday. As frustrating as it is, and as much as I felt like I didn't handle things appropriately for him (I grounded him on Saturday), I'm smart enough to know that in all likelihood there is something brewing under the surface when a behavior like this continues frequently AFTER we've tried various consequences.

His therapist pointed out that the food he is taking is forbidden to him, rather than the cabinets full of food options he has. This tendency comes from the mindset of not having enough. If you're worried about not having enough, then you take the most forbidden things first, because you know the "community" food will still be available. You have to ensure you have enough of the hot commodity. I know this is how he thinks, particularly about food--if he has something that he really likes, he wants a promise that he'll get to have it again in the future. He worries that he won't.

His therapist went on to compare this behavior to that of hoarding--the feeling of never having enough, or being in that one situation where a piece of two-inch twine is going to save you. Unless you're MacGyver, that's probably not going to happen--but how many people live their lives like that? My son has a tremendous issue with empty space and hoarding. The first time he went to the hospital, I decided to clean his room. I usually stay out of my kids' rooms--it's their own space--but since he was gone I thought I would make it nice for him. Instead it was I who got the shock; every little pocket of empty space in the room, whether it was around his mattress or under his bed or in his desk, was packed with something. Marbles, balls, rubber bands, scrap paper, paper clips--anything. It was then that I realized his problems extended even deeper than I knew.

When a child grows up in an early environment of neglect, they develop instincts to survive that are beyond what most people can imagine. This child learned how to make his own meals by age three. He knocked on doors of strangers to get food. He collected whatever he could--and still does--because you never know when you're going to need it. You never know when you'll be out there with nothing again.

The therapist offered me some good suggestions which I plan to use to help this child refocus his need to hoard in a more positive fashion. I hope it works.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pain and humiliation

What are you willing to do to support your family?

How much of your pride are you willing to swallow? How much of your dignity? At what point is it too much? At what point is it time to throw in the towel and have faith in God or whatever you believe in to point the way for you?

Having a family makes those questions harder. I don't know what I'm willing to do anymore. But not what I'm doing.

I can't sell my soul for a buck. I can't do things I don't believe in, no matter what people above me tell me to do.

I can't be who I am not.

I've worked too hard and come too far to live my life this way. I won't do it. I can't.

It pains me to see the end of things that I have loved, invested in, desired and wanted and been a part of. It hurts to watch everything falling apart. It hurts to be somebody's whipping boy and to know I have to do it to support my family.

I've gone from feeling self-confident and strong to useless and inadequate. How does that happen? How does it happen so quickly?

I don't know. I may never know.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Happy Birthdays

Today my son turns thirteen.

Nine and a half years ago I brought this tiny preschooler home. He came from an emergency foster care situation, so he pretty much had the clothes on his back. Our foster care system is extremely overburdened, but I don't think most people realize that when you take on a child from the system, you receive nothing but the clothes on the child's back. He had no bed, no carseat, nothing. We had, in a frenzy, collected as much as we could to prepare for him. Garage sales were our best friend.

I couldn't imagine then what he would be like now. That this little child would grow into a handsome, funny young man. That he would have amazing talents in art and sports. That he would be so attached to me. I also never imagined that whatever was going on with him, was more than I could love him out of. I was incredibly naive but wanted more than anything to be a good parent. Foster, kinship, or otherwise. I wanted to do right by him.

Looking at him today, I think I have done my very best. His life will always be challenging. He faces challenges most of us can't imagine, but he hasn't given up. He's courageous, this boy, and I admire him for that.

I don't really have a lot to say about who he is that won't sound contrived and passionately "motherly". What I can say is that I love him more than I could have imagined ten years ago. And thirteen is a wonderful number.

Happy birthday, sweetie. Mom loves you. Always.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rock stars and therapy

As I was looking at this blog today, I realized my last post was the one I posted at the end of my beloved Criminal Intent. Goren and Eames had ridden off into the sunset, somewhere in Mahattan. I hope in that alternative universe they both got good positions and could keep their pensions.

I'm writing this post as an ode to my therapist Scott. I'm home sick today instead of processing my crazy life with him. I'm sure he misses me. I'm also pretty sure he thinks I'm dicking around on him and not really sick. Trust me, Scott. I'm sick this time. You really will rest easier without me around today.

Scott is the rock star of therapists. Trust me, I should know. My mom is a licensed clinical social worker. I went to school for a master's in social work for two years. I've had tons of therapists and tend to be from the school of thought that everyone can get something from therapy if they're teamed with the right person. And I've been teamed with some good ones before. But this guy? Every time I leave he's given me something new to think about. And I'm a pretty analytical person, so it's hard to give me something different to chew on.

But he does it. And he's incredibly respectful of me as well. When we began discussing a topic I really didn't care to discuss, I said so and we backed up and changed direction. Altered the dance steps. Like I told him, it's not as though i don't have a bajillion things we could talk about--take your pick.

At any rate, most of my life I've worked with female therapists. Personal issues from childhood made me more comfortable disclosing my feelings to women. When I was a young teen, I had a male psychologist for awhile and he was terrible. He stared at me for what seemed like forever, every session, and then would say, "Penny for your thoughts." Dude, if you were really giving me all those pennies then my parents would have been bankrolled on your business.

What changed my mind about trying a male therapist again actually had very little to do with me and more to do with my son. During some of his struggles, my son has seen several different therapists. Three of the four were excellent. And two of them were men.

When I started therapy this time, my goals for myself were to get clearer about who I was and what I wanted in my life. I also wanted support from someone who could understand what it was like to live with an attachment-disordered child. I decided that if a man could do those things, I would give it a try.

Enter Scott. Honestly, we're still getting to know each other. Our first meeting would have been awkward if I hadn't been a time bomb about to blow. I think I cried the entire session. I remember him saying one thing to me that stuck, and made me commit to come back. He told me, "I've worked with children who are severely mentally ill. I believe everything you've said to me. "

So I came back. Every time I go I cry, but now I cry for a few minutes instead of forty-five. In a matter of weeks, Scott has helped me to view some of my perceived weaknesses as strengths, helped me give myself permission to be a human being, helped me figure out how to be a better mother. I've never had a therapist that gave me so much good food for thought. This guy is good. This guy is a rock star.

I quit my own program toward a degree in social work because I knew I couldn't do what Scott does. I don't have the skill to delicately pull truths out of people and weave together a healing portrait. In fact, it's been my experience that most people don't have that skill--even therapists. That skill is rare. But when it's done, it's gently and nuanced and feels more like an art--like rearranging delicate pieces of a mosaic to make a new picture. Like an artist. Or arranging chords and keys to make a masterpiece of music.

You know. Like a rock star.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


So it's over.

Yes, all my friends who hate Criminal Intent, you can rest easy now...I will no longer be able to regale you with stories of the insanely clever Bobby Goren or the loyal, intelligent Alex Eames. With a firing, a hug, a kiss, and a resignation, there they go. Out the door.

I found myself wondering today, after the airing of last night's final episode, what it would feel like to be the actors. Knowing that it's finally over. Whether the end came about as a need to move on and engage in other creative ventures (kind of D'Onofrio's claim) or the well-known fact that USA network planned to cut the actors' salaries in half if they stayed, how did it feel to wake up today and know that it was done? Weird, I bet. I just watch, and I feel weird.

Our economy sucks and most people wouldn't be thrilled at the idea of staying in a position where their salary was literally cut in half while their work expectation remained the same. Some people have the ability to walk away from that situation, as in our two actor friends, who are already dipping their creative geniuses into other projects. Not so much for us people in reality. When your household income is less than a third of what it costs to buy a house in your area, you're not likely to be walking away from your job anytime soon.

Regardless of the myriad of opinions to follow the last two episodes, mine is simply this: I'm grateful for what I got. Two episodes of semi-closure for two characters that I enjoyed watching tremendously. How many shows just disappear into TV wasteland without even that? And while part of me curses the writers for leaving the future of both Goren and Eames so open, I'm partly glad. I can forever imagine that somehow Goren finally finds his happy place (yes, OUTSIDE of an asylum) and that Eames does too.

Even cops should be able to find some happiness. Even testy, middle-aged, lonely cops.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

LO:CI--So long to Bobby and Alex

I never post two posts in one day. Bad karma or something, I think. But today requires a special second post. So without further ado, here it is:

Dear Bobby and Alex,

Well, tonight's the night. The night we begin to say goodbye. The night you'll blow our minds with some sort of massive way out of a show your characters have created and maintained for eight seasons. Eight seasons that I've watched you, laughed with you, cried with you, gasped with you, and felt every emotion that goes along with seeing some of the worst that people can do to one another,and sometimes the best. Remember the doctor who poisoned his poor lovers with zoonotic drugs after making them sleep with his vet friend? That was pretty disgusting. And in "Jones", when Eames got her man just by taking her jacket off. Griffin Dunne's character was more than willing to jump through any hoop laid in front of him. Size 13 shoes, eh, Bobby? What writer came up with that one? Classic.

The desperation of Neil Patrick Harris' character in "Want" is one that has stuck with me for years. What happens when people lose all control over the social norms that make us human? How do we live with the guilt of wanting, more than anything, to avoid loneliness and be loved? Or when Eames was kidnapped by Jo Gage and got out of her own accord, her own wits, despite Goren's desperation to find the one solid cornerstone in his life. Gage's need to be loved, to be needed by her own father, overran all logic. Bobby understood that. He lived it himself. And Eames always returned, no matter what that goofball did. God, Bobby, you may be a genius but you have the common sense of an idiot. Loyalty is something that both of you guys have loads of...more than most people will ever know.

Watching Bobby's self-imposed exile in seasons six and seven was as painful as it was intriguing. Why? When you have people who can and could and will and would love you, why do you keep them away? Questions that we all can relate to. And Eames, facing the death of her husband once again, together but alone. It never goes away. How do you compartmentalize, keep going, despite the pain that haunts every bit of your existence? A loss that has always been there but never known about?

Of course, all fans will remember the episode Frame as it seemed to culminate seven years' worth of storyline. The death of Nicole Wallace, the one woman Bobby probably, as sad as it is, felt worthy to love; the death of his brother; the one person he felt responsible for loving; and the ending of Gage, his mentor, the one he had seen disintegrating before his very eyes...the one he used to love and trust, like a parent. Pain from all sides. How does one recover from that?

My favorite scenes--more snark than I can mention. Alex is the queen of snark. I love it. I would live my life that way if I could. And Bobby, willing to play the wild card to the hilt, living in his brain ninety percent of the time yet unleashing an absolute montage of hilarity just when completely unexpected. What would you have done with a partner who had a bigger ego? One who wasn't willing to let you go through trash cans without bomb squads, who wouldn't let you poke dead bodies and sniff wounds and explore seminal fluids on kitchen floors?

That's why for forever, in my mind, Bobby and Alex go together, like every other famous couple. Yin and Yang, Cheech and Chong, Bonnie and Clyde. You guys made each OTHER work. I know D'Onofrio's a brilliant actor and Erbe has a solid record as well. But the magic you brought together to make this show memorable won't vanish after April 6th.

It doesn't matter if you sleep together or you don't; if you end up going separate ways or not; if someone quits the NYPD and someone is promoted (personally, I would've quit the NYPD a long time ago, but that's just me!). You guys made for fascinating television. Good watching, good thinking. Things I could relate to. You brought ideas to the screen and made a memorable coupling. I will miss you. Armani suits and low rise jeans and tank tops and fancy ties and all. I'd like to say it will be great to see Vince and Kate move on and do other things, but since this is a letter to two fictional characters, that statement is moot.

I hope beyond hope the writers see you out with a fond farewell. Regardless, the fondness I feel when I watch your interactions on screen is deep.

Much love-
A real life fan

Half empty to half full

I have a perpetually half-empty glass.

I can tell you forty five different things going wrong in my life at any given time. Real things, mind you, not imaginary. Not exaggerated. And boy, do I feel it. Number 32 sits on my left hip. Number 12 is on my right shoulder. Number 45 perches right on my head, probably looking at you. I am the master of all glasses half empty.

I have this friend, Christy. I've written about her before. Now, Christy is hilarious. Probably more than anyone else, she can make me laugh because she calls you on BS as soon as you breathe it. You don't even have to SAY it, just breathe it into existence. And she'll tell you, in Christy language, how it's all BS. She doesn't SAY BS. No, that would be too easy. Instead, she asks you probing questions that get you to realize you're full of BS. And that you insist on seeing your glass half empty.

I've known Christy for seventeen years. In all that time, I can only think of one time she hurt my feelings. I won't get into the hows and whys, but she knows and I know and when she was able, she apologized for it. I'd like to say I was gracious and forgave her right away, but I didn't. I held onto it for awhile. It fit--glass half-empty type. You know, poor me. How could my soul sister hurt me? How terrible she would be human, like me.

Time goes by, and I let go of it. Ironically, I don't remember Christy ever holding on to any of the hurts I've given her. Things that would probably have bothered me. Things I feel guilty about. But she's not that kind of person. Her glass is half full. Anything else is just, well, icing on the cake? Maybe extra ice in the glass?

Today I had a ridiculously bad day. And I fell into my glass half empty pattern that I am working so hard to fight against right now. It was almost too easy. Yesterday sucked too, and I was more than willing to let the stress on my body take its toll and feel sorry for myself. Who's been sucking out of my glass, people??? Funk mood. And I stayed in it all day. At work, and even at home. I talked with my dad and continued with my funk. Sipping the water lower in the glass. See how empty my glass is??? See how much it sucks???

I don't know what suddenly happened for me. Reading my email, petting my dog, watching my daughter...but suddenly I realized that the glass really is half full. I have this beautiful child who actually WANTS to spend time with me. Another child who puts forth effort in situations that are so easy for the rest of us but hard for him. My tiny little Gabi who thinks I hung the moon, especially if a treat is involved. A husband who is willing to run errands on days I feel like today. A mind that works and the ability to write, write, write.

My friend Christy is the bravest person I know. Although my son struggles with diagnoses that are frustrating at best and frightening at worst, her daughter is facing the possibility of loss of life in a few years at such a young age. And yet when I talk to Christy, her focus is on making her glass half full as much as possible. Laughing with her family, bussing her two teenagers to every event they have planned, playing with her toddler whenever she has the chance. And it occurs to me that maybe a glass half full is equivalent to a glass full of life and love. Glasses half empty are filled with fear and suffering.

When I first started therapy, my goal was to gain clarity. Now I find it changing. I want my glass to be half full. Despite the struggles I face, I want to be able to look at them with the mentality of blessedness, love, and gratitude. Little steps will get me there. Little steps and tiny sips from a glass half-full.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Big little sacrifices

In a week, I will go to working part time.

I haven't worked part time since I was in, what? college, maybe? The reasons behind my decision are many, but basically boil down to feeling like my life has taken control of me, instead of the other way around. My son needs more care and patience than I can give him at the end of an eight or ten hour workday. My mother needs care and attention. My daughter needs support in adjusting to her brother being home and all of the inevitable issues that arise. My husband is still struggling with his foot. And I-- *I* need some time to figure some things out.

So this is my last week, this semester, to work full time. FMLA allows up to twelve weeks unpaid leave for family situations such as mine. My son requires intensive care and therapy interventions, and thank God for FMLA in this economy. I'm only taking six of the twelve weeks, and only going part time at that, instead of taking the full amount off. I do think that some work is grounding for me. Plus I hate to leave my students--whether they are adults or children.

I am comfortable in my decision and know it is the best one for my family. I am hopeful that my son will flourish with the extra adult attention and extra therapeutic time this break will allow. I'm hoping that I will learn some better strategies in dealing with his disorders, as well as discovering some meaningful things about myself. I'm hoping my mother will continue to improve, and feel comforted knowing that I can go to see her more easily now if needed.

The most heartbreaking part of this process for me is leaving one of my preschool classes. You see, at my school, some of the children attend my class for up to three years. I have several right now who have been with me for three years, others for two, and of course there are some that this is their first year with me. Community is very important to me. I want my children to feel a part of the classroom--to love school, to love the curiosity of learning and the learning process, to feel confident to share their thoughts with the group. We are nutty bunch together--our days filled with lots of learning and fun and explorations and adventures. We laugh together every day. We learn new things about the world. We are friends.

Leaving your friends is never easy. The idea of leaving these children for the last six weeks is heartbreaking. Tomorrow, I will begin talking with them about how they will be getting a new teacher. And we will begin to count down the days until I leave.

I don't know a way to make life easier for them, other than a positive attitude and a great new teacher. They will have both. They'll have a fun week of learning with me before I hand them over to a hand-picked long term substitute. Knowing that I'm doing what is best for my family, and that I have to put my family first, is of little comfort when thinking of these nineteen children I have come to know as my own little teachers, learners, adventurers. My buddies. I will miss them.

I am fortunate that FMLA will protect my job so that I can return, hopefully full time, in the fall and resume teaching that same class. Some of my buddies will still be there. And I am thankful for that. They are too young to know how difficult this is, how I agonized over this decision because of them. I know they will be okay in the end, and so will I, but saying goodbye sucks. And in this instance, it sucks royally. Like raw egg-sucking sucks.

Love and purpose are guiding factors for me. I find both in my work, especially with this group of children. But what I recognize, which has been most difficult, is the need to find and hone in on these two factors in my personal life. Love and purpose have to cross over for me, into the arena of my personal world, more clearly. And hopefully the next six weeks will do that.