Sunday, June 25, 2006

Whatcha doin'? Just reading...

Little Ol' Swingfield, Mo has an incredibly cool library system. The buildings are cool in the literal sense, of course, as many folks without air conditioning (or homes for that matter) know well. They're warm in the winter, too.

The libraries are also cool in the groovy-crazy-phat realm as well. In addition to the usual books, audiobooks and videotapes, our local libraries have toys and games to check out, e-books, even an on-line rating system and homework help. The links from their teenspace site are crazycool, too, I understand.

With my spiffy orange iBook and airport card I can search the virtual catalog and put books on hold without leaving the house. Even though I live about two blocks from a branch library, I can't seem to manage to get books back on time to save my life, and I pretty much always owe a fine, so being able to pay my fines online is also a bonus.

One of my favorite library perks is the "best sellers list." They'll automatically put on hold new books by authors chosen from a large list, and email me when they're ready for pick up. The only downside to this is when three or four "best sellers" are ready at one time. With only two weeks to have them, it means zipping through rather than having a "leisurely read." Since I am usually reading another not-so-bestselling book at the same time, as well as doing other stuff like, oh, mowing grass, washing clothes, catching up with the Young One--you know, living a life--zipping through a John Sandford, Dean Koontz and Patricia Cornwell requires a time commitment.

But hey, lots of best sellers don't require much intellect to power through. The new Koontz novel The Husband was definitely a quick read. Engaging, sure, but thought-provoking? Ha. Same with the recent Sandford. The plot was a little more intricate, but the simplistic character development made it easy to read while eating, waiting at stoplights, or listening to Anderson Cooper prattle on about Angelina.

I am number 86 out of 187 holds for the new James Lee Burke, and that one could be worth the wait. Being #428 out of 459 for the newest Robin Cook doesn't worry me much-- recently his stuff is formula.

Even the formula books provide a great escape, though. I had a conversation recently about why I choose fiction over non-fiction. I use fiction as a mental escape valve. Whether it is a novel, a movie, a Lost re-run...avoiding my reality can be a Good Thing. Kind of like blasting the iPod while enduring a Wal Mart trip, it is essential to have these coping skills.

Seriously, after inspecting bruises on a 3 year old's cheeks, or listening to a grandparent talk about how, at age 55, they are raising their grandchildren because their adult child is incarcerated for meth; watching Tom Hanks try to locate Jesus's offspring, or reading about an intrepid female detective finding the Edgar Allen Poe visitor is pretty much gravy.

Even an old Stephen King horror book is a great escape--getting caught up in a fictionalized account of the battle between good and evil beats the heck out of waking up in the night obsessing over the real evil that turns children into punching bags.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Denial ain't no river...

In the year 2003, a 19 year old woman who, although she was not overweight, did not know she was pregnant until she gave birth.

Not surprisingly her child has developmental delays and behavior problems.

Here's the thing...when we don't provide funding for family planning or sex education, we will be funding more entitlements, prisons, special schools, etc. for the unwanted, unplanned children being raised by teenagers. Or the teenager's parents. Or the State.

And you can't sell me the line about teaching it at home--if that is the case then why do we fund the DARE program? Shouldn't parents be expected to teach their kids about drug use at home, too?

How is it that no one, including this girl's mother who reportedly is a healthcare worker, did not "notice" her pregnancy?

Denial is powerful tool.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Parents say sweet things, too.

Cassville restaurant: mom, grandma, baby girl about 14 months old.

Child is chewing on a cucumber and cheerios. Sweet giggles. Mama often touches baby's hand, her cheeks. When she cries over spilled cheerios, Mama doesn't yell, doesn't say shut up. Mama gets new cheerio, smiles at baby and says "it's okay sweetie."

ahhh...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What Parents Say...continued

Dillons grocery store 6.13.2006:

Sounds of loud, serious sobbing. Young child plaintively cries "I'm sorry!" Parent replies "SHUT UP"


Why do people think it is okay to talk to their kids like they are just dirt on their shoes?

I know, people will say that without the history of what the kid did, why the parent was mad, etc. I shouldn't be down on this. I say "bunk!" I don't care what the kid did, or how tired the parent is--telling your child to shut up, calling the child names, etc. is beyond the pale.

It is not okay.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Here's a story...

I'd been driving the gravel road for five or six miles when I saw the little trailer park. One of the trailers was burned out, a couple others were clearly abandoned with toys and trash still in the tiny yards. When I turned into Jody's yard, two big black dogs barked and bared their teeth, straining against their chains--it looked like they were going to pull the stake out of the ground. My Hyundai seemed like really safe place to stay for a while. But that's not the job.

The baby was crying. The older three kids were in school--a good hour's bus ride away. Jody came to the screen door with the baby on her hip, her diaper sagging with weight. She hushed the dogs and ushered me into her home. The trailer was so hot. No air conditioning on this blistering July day, but the fans were blowing and the windows were open wide.

This is one gutsy mother. She had her first child at 14, and says her mom forced her to have an abortion at 13--maybe because it was her own stepdad who was the father. Now Jody was 21, and had just gotten the three older kids back from state's custody. Even though she was desperately poor, her trailer was clean and so was the baby. She'd decorated the trailer with pictures of wolves and native Americans, with a big deerskin covering the threadbare recliner. The only TV was black and white and no satellite dish graced the trailer's roof.

So we sat and talked. She offered me kool aid, but when she reached out with her fingers to squish a cockroach that was skittering across the wall, well, I just couldn't do it.

Jody is one of those rare souls that believes people will help her. She trusted her family services worker. She trusted the school prinicipal. She trusted me. And for her, this worked out well. The people she chose to trust also trusted her. We knew she was doing the best she could for her kids, even though she was so young, and had no support outside the system.

Her treatment goal--to keep her kids. To learn how to be a parent, which in her case simply meant learning how to set limits, how to discipline, how to manage her time with four little kids, and how to keep herself alive. Lessons we can all learn, you know?

When I last saw her, the kids were in her custody, still attending school, still wearing clean clothes from the free store. The view outside her living room window was a burned out heap of metal that used to be a trailer.

The view out her back door was a wide open field where the kids could play, catch grasshoppers and not worry about shoes.

What parents say to kids

6.10.06: "You Twerp!" Dad to kid, while waiting in line (Steve and Barry's--Battlefield Mall)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

To Protect the Innocent

My first ad as a private practitioner ran in the Pulp: Life Sucks, We Can Help

I was hoping I'd get an office full of college kids coping with existential angst. Ha. Instead I got hit square in the jaw with real life. And I didn't get the stories from folks on a couch in the office. I went to the trailers, the country schools, the houses with gaping holes in the ceilings and floors. I got the stories from some very strong women and children who've survived more before age 10 then an angst-filled sorority girl could imagine in two lifetimes.

Sometimes it is too much for me to carry in my soul. That's why I started this blog to begin with--a place to unburden myself, and even more important, a place to show how, for lots of folks, poverty and pain aren't enough to weaken the human spirit.

Confidentiality is all-important in counseling. So to paraphrase Jack Webb, anything remotely identifying has been changed...to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the rest of us.

Now I want to tell you some stories...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Living on Tulsa time"

The rented Aveo got 34 miles per gallon on the way back from t-town. Just 32 on the way there, but the rain storm in Miami (mi-yam-u for the uninitiated) no doubt expains it. That, sports fans, beats the heck out of the usual 22 mpg I get driving the "10 county area" trying to fix violent 4 year olds.

Tulsa Time today meant road construction with no signs--the on-ramp at Yale and I-44 was closed up tight, but the only notice was the sign on the orange barrels blocking access. "You cain't get thar from here" had real meaning this trip. I guess the $7 toll is to fund the huge concrete barriers that separate lanes for construction. How disheartening, though, to realize these projects are going to take so long, they can erect concrete fences--just setting those up must take months.

Perry Como's Biggest Fan--that's the momster. She is also the poster child for using calcium. Seriously, how many bones can a person break in 6 months? Of course she lives on canned peaches, canned new potatoes, chicken, "minute steaks," american cheese and white bread. And then there are the cartons upon cartons of cigarettes, purchased on the Indian Reservation, and dated in ballpoint pen, lest she use the fresher smokes first.

After each visit I start up with the calcium again, and promise to cut down on caffeine--and increase the H2O intake. Ah the best laid plans of mice and men.

Tulsa is a cool city, but I sure don't want to live there.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Lost Re-runs!

Boy was it cool to have the reruns of Lost's second season start last night. Now I can finally figure out what happened between Season 1 (which we watched on DVD) and when I caught the Lost fever this past March.

It was good to have more of Jack's back story--he was really getting on my nerves by season's end so seeing him as a teeny tiny bit more human was a good thing. And it was oh so trippy to discover a Desmond-Jack connection. I also enjoyed Hurley's innocent little poke at Jack's bedside manner. Hurley tends to pretty much get stuff right where it needs to be and his valley boy lingo cracks me up.

Of course now I can't wait till next week's re-run. Hope they play them every week or my withdrawal symptoms may become intolerable!