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?