Saturday, December 30, 2006

Life in prison

The holidays have been so busy; I admire those who have been diligent with their blog postings.

I had a nice Christmas. Enjoying my grandchildren, enjoying their gifts, was a true joy. To paraphrase a quote, having grandchildren makes having raised children worthwhile. The granddaughter and I attended Christmas Eve services at my church, as we usually do. And as usual, she entertained herself by twirling, dancing, laying across the chairs, and a new one this year, crawling under the cookie table. You may be wondering how we are not asked to leave. I believe the answer lies in the fact that we are a VERY small church. Losing even one member would make a serious dent in the membership. On the other hand, Unity is a very tolerant religion. On yet another hand (if I had one), we were at the big Unity one year at the Christmas Eve service and we WERE asked to leave. In particular, they asked me to remove my granddaughter. Since I thought leaving her outside alone in the snow -- yes, that was the year it snowed -- would be less than wise, I chose to leave with her. Hence, we don't make the trek into "town" for church anymore. I certainly don't blame the big Unity, after all, they can afford to lose a few folks, especially twirling in the aisles folks.

Other than enjoying those frolicking grandchildren of mind, I've also been getting acclimated to working in prison. Here is quick list of positives and negatives I've found:

+ The food is free - The food is not that tasty
+ I can wear jeans - I only have one pair of jeans
+ There are a lot of men - 1500 of the men are convicted criminals
+ I get exercise - The floor is concrete and the stairs are narrow
+ I get to counsel folks - There is a great deal of malingering
+ I'm BUSY all day - I don't have time to go to the bathroom

I could go on but you get the idea. I also have lots of interesting stories to tell. Personal and professional ethics prevent me from sharing them with my readers though. If I can find a good way to fictionalize them without them losing the incredulous nature of their origin, you bet I'll write about them.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


This last week at work, my first at my new job, has been overwhelming.

To put this in perspective, the prison to which I'm assigned, my unit, is one of three in a "cluster." Each cluster is supposed to have one master's level therapist and a bachelor's level caseworker. Very short-handed. My unit has no caseworker so those from other units come to help when they can. My supervisor, who is training me, was the therapist for my unit but is moving to one of the other units which has no master's level person. He's really been hopping around to all three, along with attending to meetings and other administrative duties. In case it has not yet been apparent to my readers, this has made my training fast and furious.

My unit is the largest among the three, with over 1500 offenders housed there. Of these, 175 are among the official caseload. That's right. I have 175 patients. But that's not all, any time someone gets transferred in, I have to do a chart review to see if they have any mental health needs and see them if they have a history. Offenders are almost constantly moving in and out. Also among my duties, is talking to each offender who is housed in what they call, "special housing." It is also called, "the hole" in prison movies. Looks a lot better than the movies. I don't think it's so bad right now but I hear it gets much worse in the summer when there is no air conditioning.

Friday evening, my boss left a bit early, and I attended to my patient charting. Suddenly, an officer appears along with a suicidal offender. Major mental illness. After I instruct the officer to remove the weapon the offender was going to use to commit this act, I then had to figure out how to transfer this patient to a psychiatric hospital. Fortunately, folks helped me. Turned out, I was the referring physician. Got promoted fast, didn't I?

Trying to leave, (it was way past quitting time) I then got a call that an offender in special housing was demanding to see someone in psyc immediately. So there I am, counseling a guy who is serving a life sentence. No chance for parole. At Christmas time. Talk about a bad case of the blues. No sunshine for months (how's that for Seasonal Affective Disorder?) and feeling hopeless.

I did the best I could and hope that it helped. I was warned that since the guy has nothing to lose, it was dangerous to stand too close to the cell. After I left for the day/night, I thought of other things that might have been helpful. Hope all has gone well this weekend and I'll have another chance to talk to him Monday.

I feel like I'm doing counseling on the front lines. You're right, tigger, things do come back to you. Feels like I never left counseling.

Now I've got to figure out how to refuel 'cuz it feels like I'm drained. Any suggestions?

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Sugarland Express

That was the title of a very old Goldie Hawn movie set in, you guessed it, Sugarland, TX.

And I feel like it describes my trek back and forth to Sugarland all week for orientation. Except there wasn't much express to it. An hour and a half each way. Plus sitting for almost 8 hours. I managed to rush through most of my online orientation so that I can not have to go back on Monday. Talked them into letting me finish on my unit.

I was a bit surprised at how much I remembered about working at UTMB. And pleased that I remembered as much clinical info as I did when completing a mock mental status exam for an electronic record. I'm ready to get to work!

Enrolled Baby Luke in daycare today. He starts Monday, his 4 month birthday.

As tough as things still are financially these days, I'm feeling very blessed.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Prison life

I learned today that we call anything outside prison, "the world." I learned a lot of other things today that I'm not yet ready to discuss. If ever. Tomorrow promises more of the same. Then two days of electronic data capture training. I won't even get to my unit until sometime next week. My "unit" refers to the prison I'm assigned to. As opposed to my world. Or something like that.

It's exciting to have a job and a paycheck coming. Also exciting to have benefits for the first time in a looonng time. And I'll get used to life behind bars. Tomorrow I learn what happens if I'm taken hostage. I think the entire lesson can probably be summed up as, "you're screwed."

They keep asking us if we're scared yet. If we're coming back. They don't know scared. Try wondering how you're gonna pay the rent and put food on the table for your family. That's scary. Maybe I should teach a class on how to pray your way to survival. Other class topics:

How to hide your car from the repo guys (Lessons in making a car disappear)

How to apply for and actually receive food stamps (Persistent Groveling)

Stretching your food shopping dollar (Use at least 2 coupons for the same item, shop late at night when the clerks are young, inexperienced, and hopefully a little wasted)

Avoiding Eviction (get your landlord into a lengthy conversation on the day she had planned to file evictions - she misses the deadline, repeat as necessary)

Entertaining the Kids (Attend every free event no matter how boring until they beg to just stay home and watch TV)

Yeah, and they think prison is scary...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

New beginnings

So I'm starting the new job tomorrow and eager to get started. Not so eager to be leaving Baby Luke. I'm sure he'll do just fine without me during the day but I know I'm going to miss him. I was fortunate when my kids were very small to be able to stay home with them. And even though I practically raised my granddaughter, I only worked part-time and went to grad school until she was 2 years old. Sending her to daycare then was hard enough. Of course, she loved it. And we were both better for it. But here I am. Feeling what zillions of working mothers feel leaving their infants.

I guess it's a good thing that I'm starting a new job in a new place. I'll have a lot to occupy my mind.

Just imagine: for at least 8 hours a day, I won't be smelling like spit-up. I bet I'll miss it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Christmas things

I channel Reverend Alicia here:
Holiday...Holly day...Holy-day Blessings!

Did you ever wonder why the whole "Christmas thing" works? Why do people get all caught up in the whole thing, anyway? Why do they fall victim to over the top spending, etc. Why is it that there seems to be no limit to the spending? Is it an evil spell woven by materialists in the name of Christmas?

Well...I think it is about the deepest, Spirit-level, fundamental Divine Idea of Christmas that stirs within us, and we our present level of touch; to embody; to manifest this idea. We have attempted to create it in our lives. We have woven stories, and myths and legends on the loom of this basic principle.

The basic principle goes back beyond time and space to the formulative moment of the universe...the purity and principle of Oneness with God...with all that is good. It IS the principle of all-good; of hope, love, peace and joy.

As clumsily as we may try to manifest this Divine spite of our errors in thought, word and action... there are a few things that do come through:

At this time of the year, hope is in the air...hope and anticipation for a season of peace, love and joy. At this time of the year people are more friendly, smile more, and exhibit more kindness than typical. At this time of the year, we believe that all things are possible. At this time of the year lights shine and twinkle and remind us of the brilliance that ultimately brightens even the darkest night...the illumination of understanding. Bells ring and the timeless vibration brings us to cathedrals of days past, the bell tolls...calling us to acknowledging that perfect something in which we can find love, peace and serenity.

You see...there really is a Spirit of Christmas. It is the Spirit of Christmas that LIVED and MOVED and HAD ITS BEING in the "real" Santa Claus...Saint Nicolas, who lived the principles of unconditional love, acceptance and sharing. It is the Spirit of Christmas that will bless our holidays with meaning when we cut through the trappings and feel the Spirit.


PS...I found a radio station that plays Christmas music all day long...100.5 FM here in Connecticut. If you don't live in the area...find your station and love it. CHALLENGE EXERCISE: Sing! Sing the songs as you drive to work, to the store, or wherever you go. Sing alone!

Me again, I'm going to accept Alicia's challenge and sing Christmas songs all day. This might put me in a bit of a pickle considering I'm expecting guests today. Oh well.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

being a psychotherapist again

So I've been thinking. Next week I go back to being a psychotherapist when I start my job at the prison. The thing is, just because you're not practicing, does that mean you ever really stop being a therapist? Is it like riding a bike? Can I just jump back in and expect those skills to still be there?

I imagine that being in prison during the holidays really sucks. I don't normally use that word but just can't think of anything that fits better right now. So if you're in prison and you need a therapist, how will it be to get someone who hasn't practiced in almost 4 years? Maybe refreshing. Maybe it will just suck even more.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


After a really great discussion group at church on Sunday, I decided to start a gratitude journal. Again. Anyway, the idea is to write down 5 new things to be grateful for each day.

One of the first things on my list is my church. Notice how we say, "my" church? Why is it that we take ownership like that? Anyway, I am proud to be a member. A tiny little thing, we don't even have our own building, we just rent space from a community center. But I think it just makes us realize even more that our "church" is just us. Whoever we happen to be that Sunday.

And I'm grateful for friends. I miss some friends I haven't connected with in a while. I can only hope that improves soon. I believe, though, that true friendships can weather minor separations. And I am grateful for the friends I have through my women's group. Come on, is there any more solidarity than having a bunch of women friends who share the same spiritual beliefs you do? They're the best.

So, back to the gratitudes. I've learned there's an even bigger way to do this. We can start by blessing all situations in our life, then expressing gratitude, then love. That's really easy for the situations that appear to be good, but I can see where I'll really grow spiritually when I learn to bless the situations that appear to, well, not be so good.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Advent thoughts

Sometimes not having a lot of money to do early shopping with can be a real blessing. The Friday after Thanksgiving (and the following weekend) have traditionally been busy shopping days for me. I do enjoy it. Getting up before dawn. An excuse to stop by for fresh donuts and hot coffee. Dressing in festive clothes. Lining up outside favorite stores with other earlybirds. The rush of excitement when the doors open and you see all of the holiday displays and begin your search for the best gifts. The joy of finding what you want at an incredible price! One year, I was almost frantically searching for a toy for my granddaughter (it was half price!) and when I actually found it (okay, I may have wrestled it from another shopper), I shouted out to my friend and fam that I had it! They couldn't quite hear me, so other shoppers between them and me helped out by passing the word. So everyone in the store heard how happy I was! I even enjoy standing in the long lines. It gives me a chance to see other shoppers, hear their success stories, and see what gifts they've chosen. Yes, I do love holiday shopping.

But I have a habit of seeing the silver lining in almost everything. It serves me well. This year has been lean financially. But oh so rich in other ways. Self-growth, deepening spirituality, closeness with my women's group members, watching my grandchildren grow, and the special gift of Baby Luke.

So I choose to look at the holidays in the same light. Yes, I enjoy shopping -- and buying bright shiny things! But when I think of my favorite holiday memories, I seem to think of other things. I remember....

Christmas with my Daddy
How special the Christmas tree looks at night
My daughters' first Christmases
Sewing holiday clothes for them
Taking the girls to church for weeks just to practice songs for Christmas eve
The Advent services at church
Christmas Eve candlelight services
Our home Advent wreath and candle lighting
Playing Christmas music at home, in the car, and hearing it everywhere
Decorating my home for the holidays
Cooking and baking special holiday treats
Wrapping and decorating gifts
Hearing the Christmas Story

I can honestly say that I have tried to keep Christmas every year of my life. And as a grandmother, I have had many Christmases. I have instilled special memories in my children and now my grandchildren. That's a good thing to be remembered for, isn't it?

This year, my older grandchildren are ready (I think) to understand the Christmas story. I'm breaking out the Advent wreath and devotions. We begin tonight with the first Sunday in Advent. We'll do something, now matter how small, to celebrate Christmas every day.

I have subscribed to a friend's holiday email messages. She was our minister at Unity before she moved to New England to care for her aging mother. She's writing special emails all season long to help all of us celebrate Christmas. I'll share some of them after I ask her for permission.

I'd love to hear other ideas for keeping Christmas.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Believe it or not...

the folks at the prison offered me the job! I got the call two days ago and have been going through a rapid background check in order to meet the first of two possible start dates. If everything gets completed in time, I'll be starting on Monday. If not, two more weeks. Either way, I feel blessed.

I'll be therapist for one of the state prison units. I've worked with inmates before and at least I know a little of what to expect. Contrary to what some people believe, folks incarcerated are mostly just folks. Okay, many have antisocial personality disorder but I know a few people on the outside who might also fit that diagnosis. This way, at least you're not going to meet them in a social setting. Or in a dark alley.

As a surprise to me, I found that even people who have committed what I consider to be atrocious crimes can also have the same thread of humanity in them that we all share. So I expect to find many more similarities than differences.

When you get right down to it, therapy is just helping the patient -- any patient -- live a healthier, better adjusted life. In this case, that life will be behind a prison wall.

The doctor who hired me talked about me getting a license. I expected to get work on my hours and get an LPC licence. She mentioned that an LPA might be quicker. Not that she cares so much. She just says I can get more pay with a license, either one. I do know that I have to get a supervisor for my hours. Time to start shopping.

I'm trying to push through the daycare search and placement. I've found a daycare that offers special needs care for Baby Luke. And I checked the state site for daycare inspections and found they have a history of very few violations -- and no serious ones at that.

Again, I feel blessed. It's great to know that I'll soon have a job and can earn money for my little family.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Interview: Part Two

Let me preface this by saying I am sick. The feverish, achy, head and chest full of things you'd rather never know about, kind of sick. I said that partly to explain my negative view of yesterday and mostly just to get sympathy. I'll take it wherever I can get it.

If the first interview was funny bad, the second one was just bad.

To begin, do my readers realize that with small children, just getting to an interview is monumental? There's babysitting to arrange. And meals to prep. And sleep schedules to arrange. Diaper bags to pack. Instructions to give. And add an extra 30 to 45 minutes for getting to and giving instructions to the babysitter. So I was already tired when I started.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm not so good with directions. I need a map. I thought I had circumvented my direction impairment with getting directions verbally, from Yahoo, and from Google. After all, someone has to have it right, don't they? Nope, they do not.

So on the way to Rosharon. Who knew there was even such a place? None of my directions mentioned that I would have to turn off of FM 1462 to get to the prison. After driving 15 miles too far, I stopped for directions. So add an extra 30 minutes drive time. I'm almost there eventually and notice the electrical stuff on my car going haywire. Okay, more haywire than usual. My spedometer works about half the time. The gas gauge about 25% of the time but I compensate by remembering when and how much gas I've put in. The temperature gauge hasn't worked in over a year so it can really surprise a passenger to know that my engine temperature is either 0 degrees or way past the highest mark. This time, however, when I finally pull into the parking lot, my driver's window will not raise.

Now at this point, 1:45 p.m., I'm thinking that I'm 45 minutes late. Even though I left at 11:30 to give myself adequate time, I've run into lots of problems. So I stopped in Alvin to call about being late. Having no cell phone (not by choice), I have to stop and find a pay phone that works. Then call all three of the numbers that this guy gave me. I think the cell number is wrong because I get a message left by someone surly. At least I hope it's wrong. The other numbers keep ringing back and forth between different departments. Finally I leave messages saying I'm late but on the way. This took a while 'cuz I had to search for quarters during all of these calls. Which probably contributed about 15 more minutes to my late time.

So back to pulling up at 1:45. I can't get the window up which I think is probably not a good thing at a prison so I park very near the guard tower. I walk up and this guy is out there waiting for me. I start out by apologizing for being late. To which he looks puzzled and says that I'm not late, I'm early. Then I remember that the interview was at 2 not 1. So I stop talking about being late, thinking he'll not notice my mistake.

We take the tour through the prison and I notice with relief that the building has no sloped walkways. The slopes at the Harris County jail contributed to my severe chronic knee pain. I'm feeling better now and he says he has a cold and I mention that I do, too, so he won't feel bad about the germs. And I'm thinking, good for me, maybe he'll get confused about that late comment and think it was just sinus pressure or something (on either part).

As we pass one of the nurses in the medical department, she mentions, oh, I forgot to tell you that your interviewee called and said she's running late. So much for my hopes on that.

We sit down in his office for about 2 minutes then a guard runs in, asking if I am driving a red Chevy. Yep. Well, it is apparently the end of the frickin' world that the window is down. I try explaining the electrical problem and she doesn't care. Got to fix it right now. To which the guy interviewing me says, well, we'll just finish the interview on the way out. Finish it? We've barely started. As we're walking he expresses surprise that they even noticed it. Well, I told him, I did park right in front. As we're walking, every guard we pass mentions the car with the window down like it's the worst thing they've ever heard of. "Who leaves a windown down in a PRISON?!!!" I figure out it's worse than I would have thought since they have trustees bunked in a camp house of sorts without any gates or security outside the fence. So any one of them could have jumped in my car and left. Yep, I did that. I get to my car and lo and behold, this time, the electrical thing works and the window raises. Does this make me look even worse? It doesn't matter, the interview is over. He walks away saying he'll get back to me. Right.

Think it's over? nope. I'm driving out of the prison and right before I get to the main road, my car runs out of gas. I realize that my daughter has been driving my car and I really have no idea how much I had to start with. So not only am I thinking that I'm stranded but also thinking that I'm endangering freakin' security again by having a stranded vehicle there.

Now here's the good part. Not one minute after I turned on my flashers, a woman in scrubs stops her car and offers to help me. I show her my driver's license so she'll know I'm not an escaping prisoner. She knows. They have no female prisoners housed at any of those units. We drive to a gas station, they actually have a loaner gas can, and we drive back adding gas to my tank. It starts. We both have gas all over our hands but she has wipes. So nice. She even says good luck on the interview. What a nice woman. I tell her she's an angel and I honestly believe it.

I get to the babysitter ( a mother of 3 and a friend of Rachel) and find that she has let her children "play" with the baby. All of the things I so carefully packed in the diaper bag are scattered throughout her apartment. She brags that she gave the baby 8 ounces of sugar water. I don't scream here nor do I hit her. No, I didn't tell her beforehand that the only thing the baby eats is formula, but who would think I needed to? He's only 3 months old for god's sake! To top it off, she's dressed him in some awful clothes her 9 year old son wore when he was a baby. they smell like they haven't been washed in that time. To further the sugar theme, I find a BOWL of marshmallows and ask her about them. Yes, she's given them to my other grandson that afternoon. And she wonders why he's jumping like a madman around the room.

The sugar water she gave the baby evidently raised his blood sugar dramatically and then lowered it. Way low. I couldn't wake him until 2 this morning. I was feeding him formula with a dropper all evening. He's fine now but I can't keep from kicking myself for leaving him with her. I want to say all kinds of nasty things to her but don't see that it will do any good. Luke will never stay with her again. Rachel later says that the marshmallows are not a surprise to her; she has seen these parents give their children candy bars for an evening snack. Has anybody heard of fruit, people?

So if I do get offered this job at the jail, will that mean they're really desperate?

On another thought, my women's group had a really powerful meeting last Wednesday night. Discussing a good book by Chopra. I'll save that for another time.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A second interview!

I got a call early this morning about a second interview at the prison. He wants to see me tomorrow so I'm taking that as a good sign. Of course trying to get childcare on short notice is something else. But I'm not complaining. Well, I am complaining but who wants to sound like they are?

So I was talking to this nice young man (I hope he's nice). Had to leave the room cuz the baby was screaming bloody murder that I put him down. He doesn't quite get the concept of alone time. I thought I was pretty clever going outside on the patio. Nope. Dog and other grandson follow me. Dog starts barking. Push him back inside. Noisy grandson not so easy to push. Then ran to pantry and closed door. Grandson can't turn door knobs. But he sure can bang on the door and yell. "What are you doing in there, Nana?!!!!" So I pretend nothing is happening over here. Maybe he'll think we have a bad phone connection.

Another thought, why do they have a position to fill so quickly? I forgot to ask what happened to the previous counselor. Hope she just left (and not in a body bag). It's a medium security prison. What exactly will that mean for my own personal safety? Oh well, I survived working in one of the busiest county jails in the nation. Sort of.

Happened to check out my horoscope for yesterday. A day late and a dollar short, as my aunt would have said:

"The stars give you the ability to think, talk and act at the speed of light. However, you might want to make a conscious effort to slow down so you can gauge other people's reactions as you strut your stuff. "

The first part not so true. As for slowing down to check other reactions, I WAS slow. Just not thinking quickly. Funny, funny, stars.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I found avatars on tigger's bog!

Yahoo! Avatars

The gods...

they have a funny sense of humor, those guys. So I decided to read an interviewing book I had picked up at the library last weekend. No, I didn't have an interview then, just thinking positively. Felt rather prepared for any of 101 different interview questions (that was the name of the book). Went in to the prison - Jester IV - for the interview, and was told I'd be interviewing with two of the head docs and that it was a CLINICAL INTERVIEW. Yes, I just shouted.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think I'm a pretty good clinician. Just a rusty one. These docs had a list of questions to ask me about different diagnoses and even had a scratch paper and pencil ready for me to make notes if I needed. No, I didn't need those. But the very first question threw me. You want to know what that little beauty was?

"Name three mood disorders and describe diagnostic criteria for each one."

Three? For the life of me I could only think of the two most obvious ones. They gave me time to think and waited with their pens in hand (they WERE taking notes). Finally we skipped that one. After several more clinical questions we came back to that one. I finally came up with dys - something. So I start sounding out words like the folks on Wheel of Fortune do. I came up with Dysmorphic Disorder. No, that's not right. Then, Dysmenorrhea. Uh-uh. So the docs try to help, saying, yes, the dys part is right. They take turns saying, dys... to me. I still drew a blank. They gave hints. The disorder less than Major Depressive Disorder. Uh-uh. The disorder that's less that Bipolar. Nope. Finally, one said, well, do you know what the disorder is, even if you can't name it? Yep. So I proceded to describe (appropriately) one of the current disorders. Do my clinical friends out there know what the other two were?

Cyclothymia and Dysthymia.


But I did get one question right that the docs said no one in 12 years got right. I needed that. The question was, if a person presents with hallucinations and or delusions, what 3 diagnoses would you consider? I chose bipolar, schizophrenia, and substance abuse. I felt pretty good about those until the doc asks me to explain why I chose the last one. I explained, holding my breath when I got finished. Finally she says that no one else ever got substance abuse right. Yea me!

Anyway, I qualified for a second interview - at the facility itself. That one's got to be easier.

I feel okay about going back to counseling. Maybe that's why I haven't got anywhere with research jobs. Who knows? I just know I want to work. In my profession would be great.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A job interview

I have a job interview tomorrow for a counseling position. I'm just putting this out there: I want an opportunity to do this job. I truly want an opportunity to earn a regular paycheck again. May the gods be with me.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On being a Nana

Quite a busy day around here. Seems like I was preparing for trick-or-treating since I got up. Took care of the 3-year-old (big boy) and Baby Luke. Baby Luke's mom was coming over to help and to be around for trick-or-treating. Her first time ever (and her daughter is 5). Only thing is, she didn't get over until late and she brought 2 friends with her. She cooked dinner for herself and them and then helped a bit with costumes and make-up. Again, I took care of Baby Luke and cleaning up behind her. The two friends were watching TV with the volume turned way too high. Combine that with my 5-year-old granddaughter being brought by her grouchy grandfather with the baby crying with the baby mama messing up the apartment with the other daughter coming in and out (she's getting ready to start a new job) and add in one baby daddy who calls every 30 minutes just to make everyone miserable. Add that the big grandson decided he didn't want to be a soldier and wanted to be a vacuum cleaner instead. He has this cleaning obsession. I thought we had talked him out of that costume idea though. So I'm really talking up the soldier thing. Then the granddaughter decides she doesn't want her hair fixed. Normally, you'd just let that go. But she's a wild child and her hair goes crazy. So I had to convince her that snow princesses always wear their hair up. Then she didn't like the make-up colors I chose. Wanted white blush and lip color as well as white eye shadow. Do they even make white blush? So I gave up and let baby mama have a go. Soon she was wailing for me to come back. I ignored that. She got to yell at baby mama. Some things are really sweet.

Yeah, by the time we actually went candy hopping, I was a basket case. Then I got to bring baby mama home to Pearland (her friends left early). Read books to the 3-year-old. Okay that part was fun. Did I add in that I had to bring the 5-year-old home to Seabrook? She cried forever not wanting me to leave her. Now that I'm home, it's time to feed the baby.

Somehow I thought that being a grandmother would be a bit more fun and a little less frantic. Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful that I have 3 healthy beautiful grandchildren. And I'm glad they live close enough that I get to watch them grow up. So I guess I don't know what I'm really complaining about. Oh, yes, I'm tired, have a messy kitchen, and will be up for some time yet and still get up early to take care of both little ones.

On the other hand, you know, I don't think I really had time to think about what it would be like to be a grandmother. This happened much sooner than I expected. I get really tired, though, of people telling me I'm too young to be a grandmother. Really? Would you tell my kids that? How about my grandkids? Do they think I am just an early achiever and forced this role?

I'm through with whining tonight. Almost. After writing this, I've decided that it's not so much the grandmother thing. And not even that my grandkids are high maintenance right now. It's that their mothers are high maintenance ALL THE TIME. Did I do this? And am I fostering another generation of needy children?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Just for fun

What is your favorite Hallowe'en activity?
Dressing up
Crafts/Food Preparation
Free polls from

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Seems like a lot of things are changing -- or maybe it's just my view? I like the cool-weather days. Always try to get out and appreciate them. Baby Luke and Nick love going outside, too, and our courtyard makes a perfect place to play and hang out.

Luke is growing and had his 2 month shots last week (a week late). He still has most of the same problems: body jerks, restlessness, difficulty being soothed, crying episodes that seem to last forever, and spitting up several times a day. Hey, the Prevacid he takes does keep the forceful vomiting to a minimum. The good news is that he is making great eye contact now and following us with eyes. He smiles and coos and I swear he's trying to laugh.

Rachel is getting a a job that pays very well (considering she has only 1 year of college) and we're looking forward to being able to pay our bills. How's that for a great feeling of wealth, tigger?

I've had a few emails and phone calls in response to my latest slew (is that real word?) of resume's sent. I have a job interview for a Clinical Research Coordinator next week. Doesn't pay much but it sure beats what I'm making now, right?

Rachel has a new beau and I couldn't be happier. He lives right across the sidewalk from us. So if I'm babysitting Nick, I can easily go get her if I need to. And the guy seems nice. A military guy and he's from East Texas. Can't beat that twang! To top it off, he cooked dinner for all of us tonight and even took care of Luke while I baked cookies with Nick. Wow! Says he'll do anything but change a diaper. I couldn't care less about that. If he'll just hold the baby, I'll be more than happy.

I'm really excited about Hallowe'en this year. We have all of our decorations up and this is my second batch of Hallowe'en cookies to bake. Both Martha recipes.

We went to a free pumpkin patch festival last weekend with all three kids. Had a great time. Did some Hallowe'en activities at the library. Reading lots of fun kids' Hallowe'en books every night. And I'm watching some of the old scary movies on TV late at night. What a fun time of year! I hope some of my friends are dressing up and going trick-or-treating this year. Maybe they'll come by and let me see how scary they are. That's a hint for anyone reading this :)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Nice people

As a new post and as a reply to Nora, yes, there are some incredibly nice people out there. I am so grateful to all. Thanks to their help, I was able to pay rent today. I could tell the apartment staff was relieved; they didn't want to evict us. So we're still here and things are looking up.

For the first time since he was born, Luke has been sleeping without me holding him. I mean REALLY sleeping and resting. Thank you, God. He's been sleeping on his stomach --before anyone says anything, yes, I am very aware that babies are supposed to sleep on their backs now. Problems with pockets of carbon dioxide than can lead to crib death. So I don't take this lightly. But I watch him sleep and he is very capable of turning his head from side to side. I think by laying on his stomach and not his back, he doesn't have the problem with his flailing arms waking him. It's so nice to see him getting rest and feeling better when he's awake.

I'm determined to take some new pics of him tomorrow and get a recent one posted.

I have found homes for two of the kittens -- just got to get them to their new families -- and still have two little ones left. Anyone know of someone who'd like a cute fluffy kitten? They're 6 weeks old and eating kitten food well. So well that they'll eat me out of house and home if I don't do something soon. If I can't find home by this weekend, I'll take them to the animal shelter. Someone will see them there and want them.

Time for Luke to eat now.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Feeling miffed...
Actually, feeling rather ticked off but the first word sounded better for a title. I've been searching online for resources for say...grandparents who have guardianship of their grandchildren? Turns out there are a lot of possibilities out there - even in Texas. And, again, out CPS caseworker should have been helping us. Found a number for an ombudsman. That sounds good. And there is apparently a Grandparents' Bill enacted by Congress to give a one time payment for help with initial expenses. Never heard about that. Anyway, this week I'm going to be very busy on the phone and in person at the local DHS office. For those of you who don't know that acronym, first, be glad. Then, it stands for the Department of Human Services. Except you don't exactly get treated like a human there. More like a sub-human. That's okay. I can take. Bring it on, folks!

On another note, I'm feeling a bit conflicted about the upcoming gubernatorial election. I'm thinking I might vote a different party than I've ever voted before. How about that? If anyone reading this cares to comment, I'm up for your opinions on current candidates.

And I realize that after not posting for a long time, most folks don't know I'm back at it. Doesn't matter much. I'm using this more as a forum/journal/treatise anyway.

Friday, October 06, 2006

It's much one's life can change with the advent of a new baby. Luke is sleeping now -- ssshhh! -- this is the first time he's slept without me holding him for almost 24 hours. I am so incredibly grateful for this time that I'm carefully choosing what I'm doing. Made more bottles -- that's first. Cleaned up dishes (from lunch) - well, I just stacked them - but it looks better. Then took the plunge and showered. Kept poking my head out of the shower curtain to see if he was screaming. Aaahhh...what a wonderful shower. I now smell like neither spit-up nor Bengay. Of course, I may well be wearing both of those smells again by morning. My arthritis flairs up terribly holding him all the time. And he hyper-extends his little body so much of the time that he's a handful to hold on to. And he frequently bangs his head back against my left forearm. I think if I got x-rays, there would probably be a dent in the shape of his head. Hence, the Bengay.

I had two job interviews for the research position. Then got an email today notifying me they had hired someone else. As badly as I need a job, I think this was divine intervention. These docs are a little...well, let's say DIFFERENT. Not that I wouldn't have taken the job if it were offered but this means the universe has something else in mind for me.

It was nice to get a comment from someone I don't even know. Good tips on foster family stuff. I'm planning to call the supervisor of our CPS caseworker on Monday. I'm really tired of being given excuses and told it's not her job to help me with resources.

And Rachel and I have decided to spend every day next week if we have to, trying different community resources for help with rent money. We have until maybe the end of next week before we get the actual eviction notice. The manager told us she would wait as long as possible. Once the notice is posted, that's it. They can't even accept money from us even if we beg them. Interesting how eviction works. Strange to be talking/thinking about it like this.

Folks on the Board of Directors at my church voted to give the September tithe to me. That's nice and will go toward that rent money! More than the money, knowing people care is really important right now.

Rachel talked to the Attorney General's office again today and finally got news that her ex will have his paycheck garnished not only for current child support but also for back pay. That's really going to tick him off. He's been trying to get her to sign an affadavit that he's been paying her all along. Ha!

And another bright note: after reading about other infants born from drug abusing moms, I realize that Luke is not nearly as bad off as he could be. For example, one baby whose mom abused crystal meth, was born with gross physical deformities. And since Luke's mom used a lot of shared needles, he certainly could have been born HIV positive. Thank God he's not. And even with other babies exposed to crack, he seems to stand up pretty well. Luke craves human contact and really responds to my voice and singing (go figure on that one!). Some of these babies become over-stimulated so easily that they cannot be held, talked to, or looked at directly in the eye all at once. Some shut down immediately and fall asleep when eye contact is made. Luke took a long time to become comfortable with eye contact but he's doing really well now.

I guess the theme of this posting could be: the glass is half full. Not wanting to push my luck, I think I'm actually going to sleep for a few minutes. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

2 months grandson was born August 11. My estranged/strange daughter called me when she was in labor and I joined her in the operating room for the delivery. Luke was born 2 weeks early, weighing in at 6 lbs 9 oz. Not bad for a baby exposed to as many teratogens as he was. Due to her history of drug abuse, testing positive for cocaine at one of the few prenatal visits, and abandonment of her first child, my daughter was not allowed to leave the hospital with the baby. CPS was called in and asked me if I wanted to take the baby (for now) or should they find foster care for him? What could I say? Well, it doesn't matter what I could have said. I did say yes. Hence 2 months of no blog entries.

Luke is an amazing child. He is a bit behind developmentally. His CNS is damaged and we don't yet know the extent of it. He has a heart murmur (which the pediatric cardiologist declared benign). He has colic so severe he was changed to a special formula. And that only helps. He has acid reflux and takes prevacid daily - again, it only helps. If he cries for more than a moment, he becomes frantic, flailing his arms (which only increases his panic), and requiring a lot of soothing to calm. He won't sleep anywhere but beside me. He screams sometimes even when I'm doing everything right. So I just start from the beginning and use the same tools over again until one of them works.

He's not amazing because of his problems. He's amazing because through it all, he is trying so hard to just be a baby. He can now focus on my face for a long time. He smiled at me for the first time four days ago. Since then, I've caught him smiling when I look down at him.

I'm holding him now which is what I do most of the time. Panic, remember? I don't bathe everyday and sometimes can't remember when I've eaten last. Those kittens are pretty much on their own as far as I'm concerned. They've got a mom to look after them.

Rachel was helping me with Luke. Mostly while I worked. Then I took over evenings, nights, and weekends. But she told me the other day she can't help anymore. I'm on my own. Had to quit my job. I'm not getting any financial assistance with Luke. Only foster families, not related families, get help.

As I see it now, I'm only a few days away from having to call CPS and send him to foster care. Rent is past due and there's no hope in sight. I have a job interview this afternoon but not sure how I'll get childcare for him even if I do get hired.

As a bridge from the last entry to this one: Luke's mom decided not to give him up for adoption. There was trouble finding a family who would take a "crack" baby anyway. So unless she gives up her parental rights, I can't find an adoptive family for Luke.

I welcome possible solutions but not pity. Anyone out there?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Gosh, it was exciting to see my first reviews! I sure do have intelligent friends. Not a long post tonight. Just got home from my temp to hire job at the construction company. Got to remember to avoid using good diction and grammar. Note to self: try to work "ain't" into my conversations tomorrow. My boss said "onct in a while" today, haven't heard that one in a while. I wonder if I could pull that one off?

My cat is pregnant. I don't know any other way to say that. I'm terribly ashamed that I didn't go to the mobile spaying unit or followed it around before 6 a.m. and waited all day in the car to get her spayed. I'm trying to think happy thoughts, like maybe she'll only have one kitten since she's so young. Her belly feels awfully full, though. And I've learned that she's now called a queen since she's pregnant. Rachel has other words for her. Devil cat is her favorite. She thinks her spawn can only be mini demons. I asked her if she would help birth the kittens and she said that if she sees her walking around with one stuck halfway out, she might pull on it or something. For her, that's a very humanitarian statement. Due date should be the end of this month. Erica is having her baby Aug 30. And if you aren't aware of it, putting him up for adoption. So I'll never know my second grandson. But I'll have mini demon kittens. Is that a consolation prize or something?

Since I've got haircolor on my roots now I should probably stop. Otherwise part of my hair will be purple. It does beat gray but gets a few odd looks when it happens.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

initial musings

As most people who know me realize, I'm an opinionated person. Not so as you would notice right away, but underneath it all, I have my ideas. I am, however, an equal opportunity listener. I welcome others' opinions -- if they use logic -- and have been known to change my mind on occasion. Anyone who reads this is requested to give their own ideas on these and other subjects.

I have a lot on my mind. Not just personal stuff but world stuff. Like our political leaders and the world economy and things going on in the middle east. And mental health care -- or the lack of it in Texas. And how we tend to overpay those folks who are in the entertainment industry and shortchange those who work to save lives and minds, to teach, to care for our children, and others I can't think of right now.

I also wonder why so many research breakthroughs take so long to get to the public sector. I understand about meds but what about psychological theories that could actually help everyday people lead better lives?

Why is Dr. Phil getting so rich and so famous off of other professionals' research? Most people think he is the embodiment of psychology and the epitome of mental health professionals. What a sad icon!

Why are so many ideas considered "new age" or "new thought" when they've been around for such a long time? And why does that nomer have such a negative connotation with so many people?

I also want parents to be required to take courses, pass tests, and be issued a license before they can raise children, by God!

And while we're at it, how about more how-to manuals? You know, for things like "Baby-Daddy for Dummies?" I'm open to suggestions for other such manuals.

Some jobs ought to be mandatory for every person who turns 18. Like they can choose 1 year of waiting tables, working in retail, or changing bedpans. I believe we'd have a much more humble, understanding, and appreciative workforce.

And I can't end this initial posting without recommending Madelyn Albright's new book, The Mighty and the Almighty. For the first time in my life, I think I might have an understanding of the connection between religion and politics in the Middle East. Um, maybe we could ask our elected representatives to read this? I don't know, just thinking it would be nice if a few of them knew what the heck they were talking about when they make speeches (that the whole world hears).