Friday, October 11, 2019

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

I just finished a book that was so surprising that I had to run over here to write about it immediately! I have to begin by saying something about Joshilyn Jackson, the author of The Almost Sisters. Namely, how did Jackson escape me all of these years? Her writing is fresh and fun and dark and bright and nuanced and insightful and, as it happens, quite popular and well-selling. Again, how did I miss her?

It turns out Joshilyn Jackson has at least twelve titles out there with quite a following. Who knew?

Somehow, on my ereader, I randomly bought the book The Almost Sisters, and I can honestly say that from here on out I will completely trust my instincts when purchasing an ebook, even without ever picking up the real book and sniffing the pages. Now, on to the book.

The Almost Sisters is a story told from the perspective of Leia Birch Briggs, a comic book writer and illustrator, yes, you read that right. Leia is a bit wayward, a bit lonely, a bit lost, and a bit pregnant when she gets the family trumpet call to head down to Alabama to step up to help her very beloved grandmother who is beginning to exhibit some serious dementia.

Leia, in Alabama, discovers that her grandmother is in a far more serious condition and situation than she could have expected because family secrets are being unearthed all over the place at Grandma Birchie's house; watch OUT for that attic! Leia settles in for a long bout of protecting her grandmother, getting her own personal life into some semblance of order, and helping to solve the family mysteries that she feels all around her. As the reader, I had a mystery of my own to solve, exactly who or what are the almost sisters? I had a number of ideas as I read this one and I was, I'll admit, rather surprised at the revelation.

Enter a hot Batman, a Southern Old Bitty of a neighbor, and a precocious niece, and Leia's humor and wonderful nerdiness prove her to be totally up for the challenge.

I don't want to say more about his book, only that I can highly recommend it if the weather is getting cooler in your neck of the woods and if you're a hot tea drinker...this is the book for that rainy, cold Saturday afternoon. I have to give this surprising find a high rating of 8 stars, see if you aren't as generous with your stars after reading this little I'm off to read something else by this author!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

ME: Across the Years

Check it outI've been scrolling through a few old pics tonight and found some that I absolutely have to share. These pics are all from different times in my life, times that bring back such love and warmth into my heart...
Interested in seeing them? I thought I'd just share them here because I haven't been writing here much lately from being so dang busy and these pics are so very special to me, thought I'd write a post with a real bang.  LOL

I decided to stick with pictures this time that I actually appear in simply because I'm feeling a bit reminiscent this evening and it's been making me feel incredibly happy, and isn't that nice?

This first one is a Polaroid pic (of course) that my sister took while I was taking my five month old daughter Elizabeth to meet my dearest great aunt, and Elizabeth's namesake, Aunt Elizabeth Becker. When I look at this picture I immediately get tears in my eyes. Aunt Elizabeth was super special to me. In this picture she was about 100 years old, living at home with her dear son taking care of her. Although this shot didn't catch Aunt Elizabeth smiling, she was usually in such high spirits and incredibly happy whenever family would visit. How much I wish I could visit her just once more...

I visited her at least once a week, more if I was able, and Aunt Elizabeth always loved and kissed on Elizabeth. Sitting here looking at this picture at this very moment...I'm choked up. See the smile on my face? That's because I always felt like I was presenting Aunt Elizabeth my dear baby girl as a gift to her somehow... At this point in life I was working part time, Elizabeth in daycare, still nursing her, and yearning for her so much during the day. I will always remember how loved I felt when Jerry suggested I stay home with much I felt he understood my need to be there with her...

Yeah, this pictures brings me great joy.

This next shot was taking in 1980 when I was a Junior in high school. I remember this exact moment for some reason. Dad had a decent camera back in those days, an Olympus OM10, and he took lots of pics of my sisters and brother and I. He would take those pics to work, to every event he went to, shuffle through them, show us off to everyone. Yeah, Dad always had the camera and a stack of pictures with him all of the time...I remember this particular moment of sitting on that hideous chair in the summer time, feeling happy and in love with my boyfriend. LOL

Dad was teasing me and my sister was mad at me for wearing her shirt. At this point in time I was about, what 16-17 years old, feeling pretty optimistic, generally happy. When I see myself there, I want to tell that girl "Hang on, you're gonna make it!"

This last one was taken in 2017 when my dearest Elizabeth was graduating from community college. She and I were out running around taking pictures of her in her cap and gown...can you see how freaking BLUE her eyes are in this pic? If you've never noticed that before, for some reason this pic comes close to really showing how amazing her eyes are.

I remember this moment specifically because she was SO freaking happy and so in love with me in this moment.  lol We were in a gorgeous garden building here in St. Louis called The Jewel Box all by ourselves, just shooting pic after pic of Elizabeth in her cap and town...feeling so happy, accomplished, pretty ecstatic, actually. lol
I remember this moment because my heart was so full of love and pride for her...

I love pictures. I have often thought that, were my house to burn to the ground, my pictures are the only thing I would miss. I actually miss the days we would take the film, mail it away or drop it off for developing, waiting anywhere from 5-15 day to get them back, pay our $3 per roll, then have a handful of pictures to shuffle through...I loved getting my film developed. Now every single pic I've taken in the past decade or more are stored digitally somewhere and, now that I think of it, that's kind of sad.

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Friday, September 27, 2019

The Kids Should See This

Do you or does your child always want to know HOW, WHAT, WHY?

This video is super interesting and I, particularly, LOVE factories with so many stations and whatnot. But, in addition to this video, PLEASE check out the main website called TheKidsShouldSeeThis. The site has THOUSANDS of videos of so many different subjects, from sciences to musics, to particles, to animation, to, well, you name it, with a special focus on STEAM—science, technology, engineering, art, and math! 

Created and developed by Rion Nakaya, a photoblogger-turned-design director that loves storytelling, sustainable tech, well-designed spaces, and wandering the halls of small science museums and science center...sound like someone else I know... Rion's many interests and works include practicing some of her interested by producing excellent videos for exhibits and projects for children's museums around the world. She created The Kids Should See This website in 2011 by bringing in videos from all over the webverse to create this amazing website for your kids! Rion's website is dedicated to kids and adults and seeks to inject the WOW  factor into learning in all facets!

The website is a true gem; it is fascinating and will occupy you and your kids for literally YEARS. My sincere THANKS to Rion for occupying my kids and ME for nearly nine years.  💗

Pass it on! 

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Monday, September 9, 2019


Continuing a theme, I know. And possibly getting repetitive and boring, but I will NEVER ever EVER wear pantyhose again. I will never again select the so-called flesh tone (NO ONE is actually that color), purchase something that, in no conceivable way, one size fits all, pay way too much, pull each leg up, fingers-over-thumb, slip my toes in, repeat for the second foot and leg, pull them up gently but firmly with a high likelihood of running them, adjusting the restricting ultra-thin fabric over my legs, masking them completely, shimmy into the chafing control top, adjust the placement of the crotch area to the not-too-loose and not-too-tight itchy perfect spot, pull the binding band up and over the belly, deal with the continual roll down waist band all damn day, and the sit down/stand up adjustment.

I absolutely refuse. Just WTF.

Is the skin on my legs not perfect enough? Are they not smooth enough? Is my abdomen not tight enough? Is the color not uniform enough? To whom do I owe this effort to present a defect less leg? To whom do we owe such binding?

You know that some business spaces require pantyhose to complete a professional look. You know, to wear with the high heels. Some special or formal events have dress codes that presuppose pantyhose with your high heels if you are a female. Pantyhose are de rigeur in nearly every social etiquette situation.

Is this an issue of feminism?
Or of the ruling patriarchy?

Do we owe it to someone to have attractive legs? 

Whatever it is, I simply refuse it.

In fact, the last time I wore pantyhose, several years ago, they were so completely uncomfortable I tore them off the very second I got into the car. The restriction was just too much to bear any longer. Hot, itchy, binding, weird feeling, chafing.

Also, the name. Pantyhose. Ick.

Nope. I'm done.

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Friday, September 6, 2019

The Perks of Being 55

Last year I turned 55, the same number of the 1974 National Speed Limit Law*. I remember when that was crazy big news in 1974.

Anyway, I'm 55. As in Years Old.

Man, that's weird.

Inside, I often feel waaaay young. I think most of us feel this way, super young and vital and ingenue...until we walk past a large picture window... At the same time I feel 55. Totally 55. In fact, I think I've felt like I was 55 inside for most of my life.
Weird, huh?

I actually think I've felt 55 inside for decades, but I didn't know it until I turned 55. I've been a very responsible person for most of my life and I've been super-adulty since I was twelve years old, the year my parents split up. I mean, really, about the only reason a young person "acts adult" is because their adult person or people aren't doing their jobs. That was me.

And this is me.
I'm 55 and I love it.

It's so much more than AARP and senior discounts. 

  • I feel completely and authentically myself now.
    I feel so much more personally powerful than ever before.
  • I'm far more trusting of my instincts and ideas.
  • I'm healthier than I've been in years.
  • I get to be a grandmother.
  • I'm married to a gorgeous guy.
    (For 24 years now!)
  • I'm participating in volunteer work that I love.
  • I love my job.
  • I feel no need to apologize for ANYTHING I have chosen.
  • Or explain.
  • I'm better able to stand up for myself and for my needs.
  • I have confidence in my abilities.
  • I'm super, super completely happy.

I'm 55 and I love it.

* The National Speed Limit Law was repealed in 1995.

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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Marsha Linehan

Back in the 80s and 90s when I was practicing social work, things were SO different than they are now. I worked in many different places back in the day, but most of the jobs were in the mental health field. Back in those days I was mostly a student or a total newbie, always flying by the seat of my pants. I really had alot to learn.

I mean, don't we all.

But the great thing about those days is that I learned so much...totally in the trenches.

Time: Early 90s. One day I went to a random staff meeting and we were being introduced to a total new treatment model called DBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, developed by a psychotherapist named Marsha Linehan. This treatment was focused on treating a particularly difficult type of problematic coping pattern style that is sometimes referred to as Borderline Personality Disorder. This disorder is one of pervasive and chaotic relational patterns (very unstable relationships of high intensity), dysregulation in emotion (very powerful, painful emotions that can feel out of control), and a distorted sense of self (I'm valuable beyond measure or I'm worthless, or both). Oh, and feeling suicidal. There's more to the disorder, but that's the gist.

Marsha Linehan developed this completely revolutionary treatment model for suicidality and borderline personality disorder; that amazes me because the mental health culture in those days, at least the culture that I knew of, was more shaming than helpful with this particular population. But we were confused and overwhelmed. That day in the early 1990s when I went to the staffing to learn about it, little did I know what a revolution I was being exposed to. I remember half of the room of clinicians scoffing at the so-called successful approach to treating this population and the other half of the room feeling excited about the new approach.

And then I moved away, took a job at a hospital, and proceeded to forget about DBT completely. But now I'm truly in awe of the wisdom and brilliance of Marsha Linehan and her treatment protocol called DBT.

Dr. Linehan spent the first part of her life being a client. And the majority of her adulthood being a student, doing research, and becoming an award-winning author, and, now, Professor Emeritus of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington and is Director Emeritus of the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics. And there is more to her, way more. She is truly brilliant.

Her DBT model is now considered the foremost, preeminent treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder and for some other disorders too. Now DBT is an evidence-based, structured approach to working with these clients who are so very challenged.

The more I learn and the more I read, the more I realize Marsha Linehan is a real hero.

In the 1990s, at that staffing, if you had told me I would be training to be swimming in the deep end of her pool, I would have never believed you. 
In 2019, I'm proud to be here.

Thank you, Dr. Linehan.

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Weird and Honest: Death

When you lose someone in your life, in addition to entering into the so-called grief cycle, you also enter into a complete cover-up culture of your own thoughts and feelings. Let me explain what I mean, because, as usual, I have had to come to this awareness slowly... 

But first, please read the cautionary comment below.

 And please, be aware, this blog post might trigger you 
if you are in a place of grief...
yet it is a freeing post for me 
because I plan on being entirely transparent 
in my usual TMI, weird, awkward, honest way.

OK, let's first start with the so-called Grief Cycle. 
Look, I'm a huge fan of Kubler-Ross. I think she was brilliant. I've probably read far more K-R than most people have simply because of my field of study and because of my own interest. Her book On Death and Dying was a landmark book at the time because it, first, looked at an almost taboo subject, death, it also sought out to normalize what is, in fact, normal. I'm sure you have at least a passing knowledge of the stages of grief.

Her five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) are pretty universally accepted, though some offer criticism of these stages that the stages are not universal and, in fact, have no empirical evidence to support the theory. But most people, lay people and human behavior researchers alike, can acknowledge that the stages are very relatable. From the loss to death of a loved one, to one's own journey toward an expected death, to losses of all kinds, like moving from place to place, major breaks ups, loss of personal reputation, to loss of important objects, etc, the stages of loss tend to look pretty similar.

Other critics of K-R's Stages of Grief Theory simply suggest that the so-called stages are undefined and fluid and, therefore, not useful. The critics also remind us that the tasks of grief are never really behind us, as the concept of a stage might suggest, but remain ongoing in our lives for most loss. On other hand, their usefulness as predictive points of grief cannot be denied and have been a real comfort to me.

Before and After
Second, and I'll be brief here, the idea that the grieving process actually leads to a place, a place of new meaning, seems counter to my own experiences. Many losses really have no meaning. We each might have to move toward a new reality or understanding of ourselves in the world, but the idea that loss actually has intrinsic meaning...let's just say that I'm skeptical about this one.

Kudos to you if you have found new meaning. But please understand that that new meaning is not the purpose or the point of our loss; it is our own need to move forward into our continuing life without our lost person, object, or personal loss.  That idea of before and after a loss or major life-changing struggle. We do have to move forward, right?

So there's that, the fact that our grieving is never really over, never really past, never really apart from ourselves...but my next point is the real crux of this post, so beware. Be. Ware.

Ever since my parents' deaths, one of the thoughts that I have had in my head, in spite of trying very hard to push the thoughts away, is the propensity to imagine the actual physical stages of decomposition of my parents' bodies. In their metal, hot caskets. Under the ground. 

I know.
How can I actually say this one out loud?
I've given it alot ALOT of thought and I actually think that MOST people must have thoughts like this, but they do every single, solitary thing they can to push the thoughts out of their heads...I simply refuse to do that anymore. I acknowledge that I have obsessed about this because I've tried hard to push the thoughts out of my mind. I have looked on line for stages of decomposition of a body over time because I needed to know...for some reason.

Don't, DO NOT Google this subject unless you think you can handle the truth. The truth: the body decomposes in a very predictable, normal way. There are images of these stages of decomposition... No supernatural stuff. No fear. Nothing unnatural. Just the complete natural aspect of nature: non-living tissue breaks down into smaller and smaller particles until those particles disperse and become a part of the natural world around them.

And, actually, writing that just gave me sincere comfort because I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. I'll bet more people experience these thoughts but are CERTAIN that they are weird or alone in this. When, in fact, why wouldn't we think of this? Right?

I'm sorry, I simply can't not say it and, as I was thinking about it again today, I decided to simply OUT myself as human. I'm sharing with you a thing that I've pushed out and pushed away and tried to eradicate from my thoughts for years now...with no success. The thoughts are still there and, this is key, I honestly think we all struggle with this part of our mortality. With the physical part of our own death which, of course, leads directly to decomposition.

But what a taboo thing to write, say, THINK.
It's dark but it's real.
And, here we are and I'm feeling a bit calmer now simply calling this out, simply writing the thing that has consumed so much energy to avoid thinking about...WOW. 

A glass thing
with ashes
And so, with this in mind, I've talked to my husband and kids and I've told them that I do not want to be buried. I don't want them to have these disturbing images in their heads as I have know, the very real and predictable stages of decomposition. Sorry, you do know... Anyway, I told them that I wish to be cremated and to have my ashes either put into a cool glass thing or spread somewhere that means something to each person. It's their choice and they will have to live with it.

I THINK this will prevent each of them from having the potential gruesome thoughts that I, myself, have fought for so long...

What do you think?

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Mid-August Gratitude List

I've been having a non-relaxing summer as I really dig into my new job and to all of the learning that I'm doing to get up to speed. 

I have to admit that I'm not the strongest person, I'm not that person who has unlimited back bone, and I'm not that person who has large reserves of grit. No, I must admit that I can only take so much challenge before having to stop and take a rest. 

I'm at that spot.
This week I've had a day or two of mental exhaustion from actually doing what I love to do. Which brings me to the part where I have to lay out some things for which I am extremely grateful.

Beginning with a HUGE #1: My Husband.
I was having a very rough day, lots of feels, lots of exhaustion the other day. Lots of self doubt. And there he was. Fresh and ready to support me with every bit of energy and every bit of time I needed.
When I asked him if he would support me if I wanted to quit work, without a second's pause, he looked me deep in the eyes and replied YES.
I don't want to quit and I have no plans to quit, but his total and complete support of me was a balm to my heart and mind.
I'll never forget that moment.

#2 - My kids.
I know I talk about them nonstop, but the truth is, they are my very heart. With my struggles and challenges, they are both there, solid, and supportive. No mom to cook, clean, hug on a daily basis and these two have stepped up and I SO appreciate it.
I needed to know that they could do that.

#3 - Melatonin.
I have a lifelong issue with sleeping at night.
I don't do it, sleep at night, it's not a thing I do.

And, you know, if you have a job in the day time, it's better to sleep at night. (I'm pretty sure that this issue is a huge part of my difficulties this month.) Melatonin isn't fixing anything in the long run, but it's taking a small bit of the pressure off of me and helping me to function on a daily basis.

#4 - My Heart and Mind
This job uses every single bit of me on most days. The good thing is that I have a good heart and a good mind and they serve me well. I've learned so much and I'm getting so much of the information organized in my head. I enjoy this job and I'm glad I have the chance to have it. And my heart and my mind? I'm grateful for them.
They're rare and fine, and I know it.

So, Thank you, Life.
Thank you for the beautiful people.

What are you thankful for?

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Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Secular Therapist Project - #400

If you are a freethinker, a skeptic, an atheist, an agnostic looking for either a therapist, mental health services, or a recovery program for yourself, have you been thoroughly discouraged by the absence of similarly-minded people in these roles? Back in the day, when I was in therapy hot and heavy, I was ALWAYS discouraged and annoyed that therapists were almost all exclusively Christian or almost all unable to keep their religion out of the therapeutic session.

With the caveat that I was almost 100% happy with my therapy those years ago, the religion thing was an ongoing issue. Some of the people who I saw were unable to keep the religion and woo out of the session and I just, often, gave up on those therapists and went looking for someone else... Even those who, when questioned, would say that they were capable of doing secular sessions with me, could simply not keep up that part of the original bargain. Some people even brought in their New Agey woo, in spite of my specific requirements that all of this woo remain outside of the relationship.

Some of these people honestly can't help themselves and have no idea of how to help people without their magical ideas. It's incredibly discouraging. Especially since the vast majority of people in the mental health field bring their religiosity to their work when, I believe, clients would benefit from evidence-based practice one hundred percent of the time.

Because of my frustrating experiences from Back in the Day, I'm sharing here, with you, the Secular Therapist Project (STP), a sub project of the Recovering From Religion  (RFR) people. The project started in about 2012 when the founder of STP, Dr. Darryl Ray started realizing the problem in the mental health world.  Not only do secular, Humanist, atheist therapist EXIST, they are often concerned about advertising themselves in these categories because of their fears of not getting referrals from churches and other religiously-based agencies that frequently make referrals to professionals. So it's hard to find them, us.

Dr. Ray started and grew the STP and has passed it on to the current director of the project, Dr. Caleb Lack.

I've been in contact with Dr. Lack a few times this year as I went through the process of getting myself registered on the site as a clinician. I'm proud to be the 400th professional added to the list.

So, if YOU are looking for mental health services that are totally WOO-FREE, check out The Secular Therapy Project! It's there to connect you with a mental health professional in your area who has been vetted and who is 100% on your team.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

I Give Up

Oh yes, I tried. 

I've tried to please certain people for far too long. I've tried to please the unpleasable. I've tried to be more together. I've tried to be a day person rather than a night person. I've tried to keep the house clean. I've tried to listen to country music. I've tried to be a pet person. I've tried to explain atheism to believers. I've tried to decorate my house. I've tried wearing high heels and panty hose. I've tried to read Anna Karenina, several times. I've tried to keep my hair all nice and brown. I've tried to hide my loud laugh behind a dainty laugh. I've tried providing a hot, cooked meal to my family each night around the table. I've tried to hide my sensitivity. I've tried to whiten my teeth to the perfect shade of white. I've tried to lose my competitive streak with word games.

But I give up on all of these things.
None of them are parts of me and, eff it, I claim that fully.

I hope you give up too.
Give up on any false, non-authentic parts of yourself.
They waste time and emotional energy.

And, if you're competitive in WWFriends or Scrabble, contact me!

 What do YOU think?.

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