Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Poem for my brother

We came from the same spool
for my brother Jon

We came from the same spool.
Fibers connected in fireside ghost stories,
cardboard castles, daisy chains, mud pies, trees climbed.
There is no before you; there should be no after.
Always we shared a special glimpse of
what we might have been if a different day
was conception.

Our threads in one canvas,
weaved filaments of moments and time;
kicking each other under the table, your first crush and mine, heights on a door-frame.
I am not me without you.
I always imagined a woody porch to
rock on while we laugh and correct our versions
of yesterday.

Together we built a tapestry
shaped and driven by separate paths:
Romances, rebellions, moves, marriage, sorrows, serenity.
We begin each other.
Our unique sameness and difference
mapping out the landscape of those who came before
and after.

Snipped from that spool,
our very ends carry the other.
They hum alive, no matter how vast the canvas becomes.
In this tapestry we are intertwined irrevocably.
Touching forever
at the junctions of our souls.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Birthday Lunch For Grandma Dayle

We have been lucky enough to have a visit from Eric's parents and brother for the last week. It's been wonderful to see them and since Dayle's birthday is the 29th, I had the chance to get a little creative and make a nice birthday lunch and cake. Everything was super yummy so I thought I'd share my menu and recipes for these somewhat eclectic dishes :)

Cold cucumber mint soup
A summertime favorite that is light and refreshing on a hot day.
A nice light accompaniment to cold soup for summer lunch
Mother's Chocolate-Maple-Bacon mousse cake
This is one of my creations, mixing three of my favorite flavors. This produced a well-balanced and rich cake that I intend to make over and over again.
Indian-style tea
Great hot or iced, the subtle spice and richness is always a yummy treat!
Cucumber-citrus water
A great refreshment when it gets hot. The cucumber and citrus blend adds a pleasant floral note to the water and eating the cucumbers out of the water is one of Lily's favorite treats.

Cold Cucumber-Mint Soup
1 large cucumber, skinned & chopped
2 cups Buttermilk
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in blender, blend until mostly smooth. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with mint leaves or cucumber slice.

2 strips of bacon for each sandwich, cooked and cut in half
2-3 slices of tomato per sandwich
3-4 slices of avocado per sandwich
Spring mix as lettuce
whole grain and nut bread, toasted

We arranged all of the ingredients on pretty platter and let everyone make their sandwich as they liked it.

Mother's Chocolate-maple-bacon Mousse Cake
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 c butter
1/2 c buttermilk
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c strong brewed coffee
1/2 c maple syrup
1 egg
1/2 tsp. maple extract
1 c flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. bacon cooked and diced
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. melt chocolate with butter in small pan, let cool.
  3. in a large bowl, combine sugar, syrup, coffee, and buttermilk. Stir in egg, maple extract, then chocolate.
  4. In a medium bowl mix flour, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture into wet ingredients. Blend until smooth. Add 1/2 c. of diced bacon into batter and stir well.
  5. Pour batter into lightly greased 8" round cake pan (springform works best) and bake for 25 mins. or until toothpick in center of cake comes out cleanly.
  6. Let cake cool completely, preferably in fridge.
2 c. Heavy whipping cream (divided- 2/3 cup + 1 1/3 Cup)
2 1/3 tsp. maple syrup
8oz semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips (or chopped)
1/2 c bacon (to garnish)
  1. bring 2/3 cup of heavy cream to boil in small pan. In heat-safe bowl combine chocolate chips and maple syrup.
  2. Pour boiling cream over chocolate/syrup and let stand for 1 minute. Stir well then add in other 1 1/3 cup of cream. Stir completely.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. Mix with hand mixer until mix has a fluffy, mousse-like texture.
  5. Ice cake with mouse then top with reserved diced bacon.
  6. Refrigerate before serving
Indian style tea
3 black tea bags
6 cups of water
8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 tsp. sweet curry (Cinnamon, cardamom, and turmeric mix)
1/2 c. evaporated milk

Bring tea, water, and spices to boil in medium saucepan. Remove teabags and cardamom pods with slotted spoon and add evaporated milk to boiling tea. Turn off heat and stir well. Allow to cool for a few minutes and add sugar to taste. You can serve this iced, but be sure to add sugar before pouring over ice.

Cucumber-Citrus Water:
1 cucumber, sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced

Combine ingredients in pitcher and add water to fill. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to meld. Serve over ice.

If any of you make any of these I'd love to hear about how they worked out for you. I don't cook often but when I do I usually like to experiment and make something new (at least to me). I am currently thinking about making rice pudding in hollowed-out citrus as bowls. If I can figure out how to get them to work correctly I will post a recipe for all interested parties.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

But remember the sunlight

Rereading my last post I realize I speak only of the melancholy and forget to share the sunlight.

In re-finding that once me, me, there is also joy of recalling friendships, moments, and loves I had forgotten. It's sometimes easier to bemoan the darkness than it is to exclaim the beauty of life. I've often been excessively guilty of this in my past and I would like to become an exclaimer instead of the bemoaner.

Getting to know who I once was

Because I have a very spotty memory of my life, and always have, I made it a point to try to keep all of my journals and letters and writings throughout the years. My intention was always to one day organize these artifacts and read the story of my life through my own thoughts and words, artwork, and also the letters I received from others.
The time has arrived when I have started the archiving and reading. I guess I didn't quite know what to expect from this journey; it is both easier and harder than I imagined it would be.
I always had this image of myself, even when I didn't have a connective narrative, as an essentially kind and generous person. I've also always thought of my past me as a victim and never as a victimizer. I knew I was damaged in many ways and full of pain and neediness. I knew I was lonely, disconnected from the world and reality, lost a lot of time, likely insensitive to the emotions of others, and severely limited in my capacity to experience and understand my own feelings and experiences. I was right about all of these things; I was not seeing the other truths of who I was.
I do not blame myself for being the person I was, even at my most awful, because I was simply the person I was shaped into being. Not blaming myself, though, does not mean that I can so easily excuse myself or maybe even forgive myself for the things I see I have been. Perhaps the real truth is that I can forgive who and what I was but it is not so easy to forgive myself for all of the people I injured along the way.
Yes I was a victim and had all of the pain and confusion I recognized. I was also an abuser. I may not have hurt anyone intentionally, but I see that I hurt many people and maybe it was worse for them because I never even understood the hurts I caused.
It truly pains me to read these journals and know I may never remember who I was writing about; I will never have the chance to apologize to many of those I hurt. Now I read these things and wonder how my behaviors affected the people involved; I simply did not connect my actions with other people's feelings unless I was acting directly to their face. The vast majority of injuries I caused may have been due to a disconnect inside of me. I couldn't understand that people actually existed when they were not in my presence.
As a student therapist I can see this and say; I did not develop real object permanence until maybe 2 years ago, and I still struggle with it to this time, I also wasn't able to form secure attachments to other people until then. I understand this was not my fault, this is the kind of issue that develops in the first 2 years of life, and the instability and violence of my family life in my first years of life certainly explain this very well. Since I was only able to achieve secure attachment and object permanence once I began taking Cymbalta it is also clear that my brain became chemically incapable of producing and/or processing the neurotransmitters associated with these emotions; I truly did not have the ability to change this until I found this medication.
The fact remains, though, that I can be responsible for my actions regardless of whether they were my fault.
As I read the thoughts and experiences of that me I was once, I am no longer full of shame or disgust (the emotions that always stopped my attempts before) at who I was. Now it is with profound sadness that I discover the pitiful child I was into my late 20's. Sadness for her, yes, but even more sadness for everyone who loved her and had to witness or endure the results of who I used to be.
I've had a lifetime to know and understand the burdens I carried and the hurt I could not escape, but it is only now; as I face myself as mother, therapist, and adult; that I can wonder what it must have been like for my mother, brother, sister, aunts & uncles, cousins and friends. What must it be like to love someone who cannot really know you exist when you are not with them? What must it be like to love someone who cannot consistently accept or show love, who sometimes loves you unbearably--like a child-- and sometimes doesn't even recognize or acknowledge your existence at others.
I will probably never be able to understand what it must have been like to care about me then. I can only imagine that it would hurt, a lot. I will probably never have the chance to make amends or even apologize to everyone who suffered by my actions; this truth makes me very sad.
As I read these things, with psychologist eyes, I can begin to label and quantify all the chaos and confusion of that me. Disorganized attachment, failed object permanence, features of borderline and also schizoid personality disorders. These labels give me the comfort of understanding better, of knowing I am not the only one who has been like this, of knowing how to continue to improve and heal.
They cannot, however, soften the sadness of having hurt so many beautiful people. The regret of destroying so many relationships that could have been amazing parts of my life, and of forgetting so many relationships that are a part of this person I used to be.
I wish I could remember all of the people who have once been a part of my life, and I wish I could apologize for the pain, confusion, and damage I have inflicted in the lives of many. Maybe one day I will find some way to accomplish one or both of these things. Until then, I can only continue to get to know that me and find the courage to accept and understand the whole of who I was instead of the idealized version I've carried along with me thus far.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Intentional community

For a long time I have dreamed of making a kind of "intentional community." I have visions of a beautiful property nestled between the beach and mountains of coastal California. It began as a dream of a neighborhood of wonderful people, friends and family, who shared a piece of land together and had a safe place to raise their children to be free and unencumbered by the worry of kidnappers or pedophiles. A property big enough for us to have our individual homes, a central community clubhouse and meeting center, and a cluster of cottages where our parents could live when they retire.

My vision has slowly expanded to include some other ideas I have and is now more of a village than neighborhood. In the current vision there is a central circle of retirement cottages that ring around a community center/dining hall. the rest of the community spreads out from this center, there are private residences of course, a community garden and fruit orchards, playgrounds, and even a lodge/hotel for some extra income. What is most exciting to me, though, are two nonprofit ventures that seem likely to not only give our community a bigger sense of purpose but also improve the lives of people who are in great need.

The first project is based partially upon the practical consideration of exceptional schooling for the children of our community. We would have a community school that allows children to learn at their own pace, modeled after the Montessori method, perhaps, but make it something larger than that. We would open our school to also be a group home for gifted children who are in the foster system. Perhaps some people would object to offering it only for gifted youth but there is currently no system in place to address the specific needs of gifted children who enter the foster care system and the individualized education seems best suited to gifted kids in these situations. Anyway, I think this would be an ideal setting for a group home because it would give them the ability to grow up in a safe place with a strong sense of community. They would have the opportunity to be raised by a village of loving adults (including our retired residents) and have mentors to help them reach their full potential.

The second project I would ideally place in this community is a family reunification center for incarcerated women and their families. This idea is based upon some research I have been doing into the plight of families who are split up when mothers go to jail. The numbers of women in prison is rising dramatically and up to 80% of incarcerated women are also parents of dependent children. more than half of these women are incarcerated for drug related crimes, usually nonviolent, and 50% of their children will also become criminal offenders without intervention. Most of these families are in an intergenerational cycle of poverty, substance abuse, and incarceration; I think a community like this would be an ideal place to have a reunification center to help highly motivated women and their children learn how to break out of this cycle.

This project would begin near the end of incarceration with a pre-release educational program to prepare the women for the reunification project. It would not only begin the process of helping them become ready to succeed (get their GED, parenting, counselling, recovery etc) but also allow us to ensure that applicants are capable of succeeding in our program. Upon release from prison the women would come live in our reunification center. For the first month or so they would be restricted to the center while they settle in and learn some important occupational and life skills. Before and during this time we would also move their children into the reunification building, but they would live in a dormatory setting while they restore their relationship with their mother and receive individual and family counseling.

Once the mother showed that she is capable to independently care for her children she would move with them to individual family housing for up to one year while she prepared to take her family back out into the world. One important part of this program would be an employment requirement that, after month 1, has the woman working full time in our community or outside. She would receive money management training and also be required to pay rent for her accomoddations. 90% of her rent payments would be put into a savings account to be used for housing and transportation needs when she graduates from the program.

I think this program would be ideally suited to an intentional community/village setting because it would provide a safe and stable environment for these families to heal and flourish. The sense of community and opportunity to be a part of a healthy and giving atmosphere would be helpful for them, and the mothers would have great role models within the parents and grandparents of the community.

Perhaps all of this is a dream that cannot come true but I like to think it might be possible. I wonder if other people would enjoy my dream as well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grad School Ambivalence

As I am wrapping up my second quarter at JFK I am really beginning to question the logic of completing this program. I know I want to pursue an advanced degree in psychology, but I am not at all sure that I want to be a full-time therapist.

I knew, entering this program, that I might not want to be a practicing therapist but figured that the only way to find out would be to give it a try. As I get deeper into the work of this program I find that I am much more interested in the research and theoretical ideas of psychology than I am in the practical application of therapy. This program, though, is clinical, not research oriented. It likely will not even transfer into a phd program, which is where I'd need to go to be able to do research and teaching, and would then end up being a waste of 45,000 and 2.5 years of my time.

On the upside, I would leave with the opportunity to become licensed, though not for 3 years after graduation... I could get a job as an intern though.

A couple of considerations: 1)having lived in California for a year now, I qualify for in state tuition at the public universities. This is more like 6-10,000 per year instead of the 20K+ that JFK charges, and in a phd program I am more likely to get funding to pay tuition (at some programs it would be free tuition plus a stipend!).
2) If I stay in the MFT program I will graduate with my Masters and as an MFTI (intern) in July or so of 2012. As an intern I might be able to get a job making 30-40,000 per year (though many interns are not finding anything nowadays) and will not be eligible for full licensure until sometime in 2015.
3)If I leave the masters program I will not be able to enter into a PhD program until fall of 2011, assuming I am accepted into a program, and would not finish my degree until probably 2016 at the earliest. With a PhD, though, I will have much greater earning power and have the option to teach at major universities etc.. and write/get published more easily.

It kind of seems most logical to leave the program and apply to PhD programs, especially since I'm only 2 quarters into the degree, but I guess I just feel disappointed to have wasted time, energy, and money just to find out that it will really not count for anything (except maybe a few good recommendations for a PhD program). I am also unhappy about the idea of having to wait a year and a half to get into a different program!

Then again... If I stay, I will be spending 40,000 more on a degree that is not going to get me where I want to be. I would love to do 5-10 hours of therapy a week but that is not adequate as a real career unless I'm able to do research, teaching, and paid writing as well. The MFT just isn't made for the rest of what I want to do...

Arggh! I have three weeks to decide... guess I better make some appointments to talk with people at those PhD programs and make sure I'd be competitive for admission.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fun get to know you thing-ey.

I'd love to know your answers to these fun questions! Please post them as a comment here so I can get to know you better!

01) Are you currently in a serious relationship? As serious as any relationship with me can be—I’m not known for seriousness 
02) What was your dream growing up?—To be a scientist and make a lot of super-exciting discoveries about the world.
03) What talent do you wish you had? I really and truly wish I was able to be and stay organized; especially in my domestic life.
04) If I bought you a drink what would it be? Alcoholic: Frangelico or Sherry, Non-alcoholic: Diet Dr. Pepper or Sugar-free Red Bull
05) Favorite vegetable? Hard one! Either Asparagus or Grilled Brussel Sprouts
06) What was the last book you read? Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”
07) What zodiac sign are you? Libra
08) Any Tattoos and/or Piercings? Explain where. Ears pierced, too chicken for anything else.
09) Worst Habit? Getting so stuck in my head that I am oblivious to everything and everyone else.
10) If you saw me walking down the street would you offer me a ride? Either that or ask if I could walk with you 
11) What is your favorite sport? Intellectual/ conversational Judo
12) Do you have a Pessimistic or Optimistic attitude? Perhaps a bit overly optimistic.
13) What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me? Play catch-up then compare notes on our respective theories and projects.
14) Worst thing to ever happen to you? Having waited 33 years to move out of Missouri
15) Tell me one weird fact about you.
16) Do you have any pets? I wish!
17) What if I showed up at your house unexpectedly? After I recovered from shock I’d invite you in and offer you some tea.
18) What was your first impression of me? B- That you were frighteningly intelligent and very fascinating. R- I was intimidated by your powerful mind, self-confidence, and was afraid you would not like me.
19) Do you think clowns are cute or scary? Stuffed (not by a taxidermist): cute. Real ones: kinda scary. Stuffed by a Taxidermist: Not sure.
20) If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be? I would have smaller, more delicate-looking bone-structure.
21) Would you be my crime partner or my conscience? Most likely your crime partner.
22) What color eyes do you have? Green-hazel
23) Ever been arrested? Yep
24) Bottle or can soda? Bottle—trying to avoid aluminum (linked to Alzheimer’s)
25) If you won $10,000 today, what would you do with it? Buy a reliable used convertible with a backseat big enough for Lily’s car seat.
26) What's your favorite place to hang out at? The Beach
27) Do you believe in ghosts? I believe in the ones from our past.
28) Favorite thing to do in your spare time? Theorize.
29) Do you swear a lot? Not anymore.
30) Biggest pet peeve? Intentional unkindness
31) In one word, how would you describe yourself? Mercurial
32) Do you believe/appreciate romance? Probably yes.
33) Favourite and least favourite food? Fave: Persian. Least fave: Sushi.
34) Do you believe in God? I choose to believe, though I find it illogical, because I don’t want to have to worry about things I cannot control.
35) Will you repost this so I can fill it out and do the same for you? Yep
36) Favourite band(s) of ALL time: The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, The Dadaists, and the Existentialists.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fasting and Enlightenment

In late 2005 I devised a plan for losing weight. I was, at the time, about 220 lbs and wearing a size 18-20. I had low energy and a troubling skin condition called Hidridenitis supporativa. I wanted to be able to wear beautiful clothes, feel sexy and beautiful, and create a new image for myself. While researching different methods of weight loss I was particularly concerned about having extra skin because I wanted to lose about 80lbs. What I discovered was that if one loses weight by fasting (water only), there is no extra skin from the weight loss and that, while low calorie diets result in loss of 25% or more of weight loss through loss of muscle, in fasting the loss of muscle is less than 2% of lost weight (as long as you have not reached the point of starvation, after fat is gone).

My plan worked well for me. I lost 80 lbs in about 5 or 6 months by fasting for 4-10 days at a time, eating whatever I wanted when not fasting, but exercising regularly on non-fasting days. I got down to a size 6, had no extra skin, my skin condition went into remission, I had a lot of energy, perfect bloodwork and bill of health by my dr (who was amazed that I had no extra skin!), and gained a sense of self-mastery and control by practising the great control necessary to overcome the basic urge to feed oneself.

I regained most of the weight I lost while I was pregnant with Lily, eating far too much and having low energy from pregnancy made me sedentary... then, after she was born I kept up my somewhat sedentary lifestyle and intemperate eating and settled into a weight of about 180. I am not terribly unhappy about my body or weight now, though I know I am not as pretty as I could be, but I am bothered by my lack of energy and motivation, plus I am again plagued with the skin condition HS.

More than that, though, I have discovered a kind of emptiness inside. A part of myself that I have actively dismissed since the attacks of 9-11; the spiritual part of myself.

As I am building my new world and Life in California, I have finally gotten around to looking outside of my mind for ways to improve myself and increase my happiness. After the ugliness of 9-11 I had simply shut down my soul because I couldn't bear to contemplate the incongruence between a loving and merciful God and the ugliness of the world. I did not want to lose belief in a higher power, so I accepted that while I may not really believe, I could decide to believe anyway... and this was enough for the last 8 years.

Finally I am ready to contemplate my soul.

Today is the second day of my first spiritually focused no-calorie fast. Instead of focusing on the goal of looking good, I am focused on the goal of purification and personal transformation. I am using the sensations of hunger and other bodily feelings as a way to transcend the way I perceive my reality-- physical pain as a neutral sensation to be experienced, accepted, and overcome by the will of my mind. And I'm finding that if I look at my hunger, headaches, etc.. as sensations divorced from positive or negative meaning, they no longer hurt or cause me discomfort... they become fascinating evidence of my humanity, to analyse, to understand, and to appreciate for the meanings they can give.

Perhaps this understanding that negative sensations are only perceived as such because we believe them to be so is the first part of a path to true enlightenment (whatever that is). For in learning, understanding, and accepting this to be true, it is necessary to consider all of the other things that we believe to have a specific meaning in this life. If physical discomfort, nearly universally agreed to be a negative experience, to be avoided if possible, is subject to different interpretations and potentially transformed into a positive or neutral sensation by will of mind, then what about the less "objective" facts of life?

I have but one firm belief in life: Do not harm anyone. This used to be "do not harm others" but now includes myself as well. Even more, I think I am developing another belief which may become just as firm as that... The limits of human potential are bound only by time and natural law... in essence, we each have the potential to become anything we believe we shall be.

If we look at our limitations rationally, what justification exists for believing in them? History? Other's opinion and experience? fear? insecurity? tradition? experience?

In each of the justifications we might find a way to estimate the difficulty of overcoming the limitation we are considering, and perhaps the difficulty of overcoming is higher than the benefit of overcoming that limitation; then we can believe it is not worth trying to overcome but we cannot rationally say that it cannot be overcome at all. For example, if I believe I cannot quit smoking, my experience tells me that I have not been able to permanently quit, other's wisdom tells me that it is harder to quit than heroin and also that other's have done it, and I fear failure as well as missing the pleasure I get from smoking. I might rationally decide that I don't want to quit, but not that I CAN'T quit. Thus it is with the rest of our lives.

For the truth of the matter is that we, every day, choose to be the person we are. We have habits, patterns of thinking and acting, desires, needs, and wants. All of this, and our memories etc.. make us into the complex and unique people we are, but we are never "stuck" with ourselves. We can always choose to change who we are, to change our thoughts, patterns, habits, needs, and desires.

We can choose to follow the path we are used to, it is comfortable and we know what to expect from our lives, or we can choose to create a new path-- the path of being the best human being we can possibly be. That path is scary, though, because we do not know what is down that road... what if we discover we are not cabaple or competent enough to become the person we always dreamed of? Of all the failures in life, this might be the worst we could face. I believe, though, that it is not possible for any of us to honestly realize that failure... the person of our dreams is necessarily the person we can be, if only we chose to be them.

For our mental dreams, fantasies, and desires may be nothing more than the honest whispers of our truest self: the self that wants to be realized but can only become reality if we transcend our fears and insecurities.

For me, this fast is about preparing to earnestly follow the path to the Juliette of my inner fantasies. In gaining control of my physical reality, I also gain mastery of my inner reality. By overcoming the physical limitations of myself I can concentrate on and better see the transparency of those inner boundaries I have feared for so long.

I don't know if that is enlightenment, but I do know it is a joyous thing to think of.