Monthly Archives: February 2011

Laughing over Tuna Salad

Friday I spent a lot of time with an 18 year old, I’ll call her Heather (she’s the one with the Cinderella like step-mother which was confirmed again today). I can’t help but smile to myself when I think of her naiveté and awkwardness. We learned today that her family has received numerous social security payments in the past months which they have not given her. It’s not a small amount and their phone line appears to be in a continual state of disrepair. Internally I began to stew again about how she continues to be mistreated. Yet Heather was laughing in my car about practically anything I said. She made me feel like I could be a stand-up-comedian. She finds practically everything funny. What triggered the most laughter was our lunch. I took her out to lunch at a place that has great grilled cheese sandwiches and I shared with her I was excited about this. At the last minute I changed my order to chicken salad. She questioned me about my change and I told her “well you inspired me with your tuna salad order.” She thought this was hysterical and was laughing to the point I encouraged her to be a bit quieter. She repeated the humor of my comment probably 5 more times in our time together. Each time was followed by animated laughter.

When we checked in with the staff at her program she told them the “joke” as well…. to which they looked quizzically at me. Yeah… so I don’t get what was so funny about it either.

It’s not that I don’t love to laugh with kids, joke with them, and use humor a lot but stand-up comedy is not in my future. Sometimes I even make a mental note to myself to lighten up and laugh more. Heather somehow found laughter in my comment. (if you understand the humor you are welcome to explain it to me). I kept thinking she is finding humor in such a simple thing which in her life, of abandonment and essentially betrayal, is remarkable. She has not become hardened or bitter and though she does get angry at times that is not what she exudes. We laughed a lot over silly things – American Idol, that I finally got rid of my “old school” flip phone, and tuna salad. I don’t want to miss out on silly laughter that doesn’t make sense. Heather doesn’t realize that she truly does inspire me. The inspiration is not to change my lunch menu, but to find laughter in the mundane. More importantly her laughter inspires and reminds me not become hardened or bitter when I recognize injustice rather to keep moving forward, laughing often.

Advertisements

Teaching Skills for Life

The young adults I work with as a social worker have endured some tough challenges. Today was a day in which I realized though I don’t want to miss out on life and what God has for me I am humbled this is what I can ponder. I don’t feel like I am floundering to figure out how to manage my day to day life.  Much of the day to day “life skills” have come quite easily to me.  Most often my parents didn’t explicitly teach specific skills I would need for adulthood.  However through their stability and being available always to ask questions this allowed me move into the world of adulthood with more confidence than anxiety. Because of this I believe I have more energy to ponder deeper questions and also work on answering them for myself.   Does that make sense?  If you are just trying to figure out how to navigate the daily challenges of life such as laundry, grocery shopping, banking, how to register for a class, etc. the deeper questions in life – your goals, faith, values, etc. are important but most often put on the back burner.   

I have a great advantage as well when I get a bit stuck, my parents continue to be a call away.  They still answer questions that I would rather ask my Mom or Dad then Google. “Mom, how do I make the gravy thicker?” “Dad, what type of stain do you think I should use on this project?”

In contrast all of the young adults I’ve talked with this week have significant developmental areas they have missed out on. Today I met with the 21 year old that missed out on a stable family, has been bounced from residential school program to residential school program.  Tons of money spent to help him manage and overcome his emotional/behavioral needs yet despite it he missed out on so much that he can’t pass the tests to graduate high school. Even a basic GED program would be a stretch for him. Another very smart young woman who was raised by her grandmother shared she isn’t sure when she is pumping gas how to know when her gas tank is full. It’s a silly thing, super easy to learn, but knowing that’s a skill most often that would be taught by a parent saddens my heart. There are lots of moments in her life she has needed a parent, and not a grandparent, to guide her through. Another 18 year old young woman today asked me if she could get money to spend at the mall when we go to social security (to work on her benefits) tomorrow. She wasn’t aware that social security is not a bank, doesn’t hand out checks at the counter, cash, or anything else that might help her go shopping at the mall. She doesn’t really understand why she doesn’t have money but also has shared she really doesn’t know how to count change when she does have it. We’ve been working a lot with her on being an adult as she was told that she can’t return home (some challenging family dynamics which can be explained best by imagining Cinderella like step-mother). She proudly told me that she was in her new (supported) living situation for 2 hours alone “and nothing happened” and “I was safe.” This has happened before with young adults I work with, they have never spent time alone, and it’s a skill they need to learn as they’ve missed it.

Today I am grateful that I have not missed out on learning skills I can in turn pass on to the young adults I work with. Though it saddens me that they have missed out I am humbled that I can offer some stability when they feel they are floundering… I don’t want to miss out on teaching skills that will help them be successful adults and give them space to ponder deeper questions of life and faith.

A site I often use to find resources for young adults – resources for young adults, often geared for those aging out of the foster care system: http://www.caseylifeskills.org/

Planning a Birthday Year

This year I am turning 40… It’s a bit hard for me to say some days. Its months and months away still, but I’ve already been planning. My goal is not to accept it rather embrace it and celebrate it. Part of the reason for starting this blog is embracing it. I had thought of blogging for a while and finally decided to put a stake down. A friend from college turned 40 this past year and she had an inspiring idea calling it Forty for Forty http://sharpteamblog.wordpress.com . 40 Experiences in the birthday month for Turning 40. What a great idea to hijack (giving credit of course). So I’m putting my own tweak on it. I’m still working on my 40 for 40 list. Some are experiences, others one time goals, and others are hopeful bigger changes in my life. The complete list is yet to come. But starting to blog is on the list. It’s not a simple experience or task to check off as anyone can sign up for a site and pick a theme. I’m guessing that signing up really doesn’t qualify as blogging so I’ll have to evaluate at the end of this year. I’ll give it a 1/10th of a check so far. The list is in process and new ideas emerge as I dream and reflect. There is a difference in this list than the one I make nearly daily to prioritize my day at work. It’s different than my weekend to-do list which I put on special paper so I don’t lose it. Those lists are not made or completed with the great anticipation and expectation of joy that my 40 for 40 list has. The 40 for 40 list makes me smile when I read it over, affirms my commitment to grow, and helps me feel that I am embracing rather than missing out on this year. I don’t want to miss planning a great 40th birthday year.

Celebrating Healing

I’m sure this will be one of many times I share about one of the young adults I work with. I wish for everyone to have a glimpse of their strength, struggles, and stories. As a social worker I’ve walked along some of “my kids” for 10+ years. One young woman who is dear to my heart, I’ll call her Beth, has a personal story that I explain this way…think of all the bad things that can happen to a little kid… that’s it. Due to the severe trauma she turned to self-injury. When a little kid finds self-injury and makes it her own personal way of coping it is a bit overwhelming. She did not hear about self-injury from a friend, at the lunch table, or on the internet, rather as an elementary age student she found a way to harm herself uniquely in a way that still makes me wince. 100’s and probably 1000’s of times she has tried to manage pain and memories. It is not exaggerating when I say that due to being removed from her family (safety-wise a good thing) and the subsequent care, but also trauma and treatment, she has had millions of dollars spent on her by the state… her surrogate parent. She did not find her way into a permanent home or family and by the time I met her at age 12 ½ they had stopped looking for a family (though technically they weren’t allowed to say this until age 14). I have been humbled to walk with Beth and she helped me grow. This past week I was visiting with her. She was feeling good and we were just shooting the breeze before we started a meeting. And then she said it . . . like we were talking about the weather . . . “Remember when I used to cut?” I looked at her and started laughing, she did too. Yeah, we both remember, it’s pretty hard to forget. There is not that much distance between the last time and our present day and I wonder if it will last. Today though I don’t want to miss celebrating…. she is healing. On the best of days Beth lets me into her world through her journal and some amazing talks. One of her life goals is to learn more about God and grow closer to him. This past year in simple faith she made a step to follow Christ. That story in and of itself is amazing (I’ll share another time). So Christ’s healing continues to come… and not just to Beth…and I don’t want to miss it. Beth has a long road ahead of her yet today I celebrate healing.

 

Treating Self Injury by Barent Walsh, PhD is a recommended book if you need more information on self-injury. Dr. Walsh is extremly knowledge and having sat in on an assessment I can say he is amazingly repectful and skilled.

Sledding without Kids

It was a beautiful New England day and President’s Day Holiday as well. The light was streaming through my windows perfectly. A dose of Vitamin D was calling my name but I didn’t really want to go walking or snowshoeing, and it had been too icy to go downhill skiing today (I’m picky about my snow). What I wanted to do was go sledding. There is a perfect sledding hill that I drive by on my way to work. It’s huge and often filled with kids yet with so much snow this year there hasn’t been the urgency to get out and sled. I have actually seen the hill empty at times. So I don’t have kids and couldn’t think of any kids (or parents) to call to come out and play. Yet I didn’t want to miss out on sledding this perfect day so I headed out solo. I did think to call my friend Karen on the way there. With a little encouragement she found a snow tube and joined me for the second round of runs. (Karen is a mother of college age kids and she had a doctorate from Harvard – she’s also a great softball pitcher and soccer goalie).

The sledding was fast (I clocked 16.1mph on my GPS but it seemed faster) and my sled doesn’t really give. The bruises on my backside will make me smile all week as I think of the wind and sun on my face. I don’t want to miss out on activities that I love that are not necessarily associated with adulthood. Yes adults go sledding but most often with kids . . . today not me . . . and not Karen . . . it was all about the joy of sledding . . . and without kids. I encourage you not to miss out.

Beginning

I don’t want to miss out on beginning. Sometimes I get caught in trying to get everything “just right” or perfect. I want to write the perfect first blog post with the perfect (for me) blog name. Yet I don’t want to miss out on starting something because I get caught in a false perfectionism.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life..” Anne Lamott in Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

This quote is above my desk at work. I have a problem with perfectionism and it impacts me starting things or sometimes ending them. I always have in mind how to do things a bit better. Maybe making a present just a little nicer, a note more personalized, a work project more complete, my office more organized, a workout harder faster or longer. Sometimes this idea of perfectionism nearly paralyzes me. The gift isn’t given before the baby has suddenly turned 6 months and can’t be squeezed into the 3 month outfit. I don’t have time to work out for an hour so I decide 30 minutes just wouldn’t cut it. I rewrite a thank you note twice because my handwriting seemed messy. Did I mention I have some perfectionism challenges. I do however start and finish many projects and end up being happy with them, content, joyful, and often wishing for the feeling to last. There is often a feeling of accomplishment and that I have embraced, rather than missed the opportunity in front of me. There will be more on why I chose the domain name for the blog and what I was thinking but for today it is about beginning and that I don’t’ want to miss the opportunity to start blogging as I expect it to be wonderful. The blog, and journeying is not about perfection (in this case a perfect blog name or design) but moving forwarding and not missing what is in front of me. More than that though… in the coming posts I will explore what it means for me not to miss living out faith day by day.

Welcome!