... my consultant, Miss Rebekah!

(Sorry ... I just realized that the first line could have been mistaken for the Big Fat News I've been waiting on since last July ... but I still wait!).

A few days ago I had posted on Facebook that I was terribly and horribly grumpy.  Really, though, it's just that time of the term - Week Five - exactly halfway through.


In any case ... the grumpiness comes from this Biopsychosocial Assessment I'm writing on one of my clients for school.  This client does not make me grumpy, but the lack of options I'm finding for him resource wise does.  It's complicated.  And I'm stuck.

I'm almost never stuck with clients.  Not completely.

Enter my friend Elizabeth, who said Rebekah could make me feel better.  I asked Elizabeth if she could please ask Rebekah, in terms that would make sense to her, what Rebekah would recommend for somebody who's having a sad day.  (Sooo planning on using my own future children's crazy antics for blog fodder one day ....)

Elizabeth asked Rebekah would Rebekah would do for her daddy if her daddy was sick.

Rebekah, being the great humanist that she is (mind you - she's 2), was  very concerned with the fact that Daddy was sick and wanted to know why.

After that hurdle was passed, however, Rebekah recommended the following:

1.  Give him medicine. 
2.  Make faces at him.
3.  Give him a blue face and a green face (this is certainly a new, innovative counseling technique - look for it in the peer reviewed journals!)
4.  Give him food - specifically, cereal.

Then Rebekah turned her chair into a pulpit and started telling the story about God.

Rebekah, I just love your sunny, lovely little face.

Let's hang out soon!
(1)  Counselors really do go around saying, "And how does that make you feel?"  Only, this counselor, knowing that stereotype, goes around saying, "Mm hmmm.  What were you feeling when that happened?"  Really different, right?  (I'm not as clever as I pretend to be).

(2)  Mom was right:  bullies are mean to you because they don't like / are scared of / are insecure about / themselves.

(3)  It takes one to know one.  Ouch!  But it's true!  Often the things that just drive us up the wall about other people are the very things we're noticing in ourselves.  (This is also what I use to put people at ease when they're concerned I'm analyzing them.  "What?  Are you serious?  I'm in mental health because I RECOGNIZE! ;)).  And just as my emoticon suggests, sometimes I do wink.

(4)  This, too, shall pass.
It (probably) will (if we work at letting go).

(5)  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a step / You'll never know unless you try.  Well, we have to start somewhere, and starting somewhere means shelving fear.  Easier said than done (another one!), right?

There are more, of course.  And there are some that I find horribly untrue.  And there are idioms that just drive me bat crazy (E.g.:  "I'm not gonna' lie."  Really?  Somebody suggests in the normal course of events they would, in fact, lie?).  Shoes shares in my distaste of junk language.  His least favorites are "whatnot" and the misuse of "Literally"  (E.g.:  "I literally died!"  Shoes says, "No you didn't.").

Your language peeves?  Favorite or least favorite cliches? Things you find yourself saying that your parents said?
Kiiiiiiind of.

Last pick of last year:  Winter's Bone.

Blurb From the Back:  "Ree Dolly's father has skipped bail on charges that he ran a crystal meth lab, and the Dolly family will lose their house if he doesn't show up for his next court date.  With her two young brothers depending on her, sixteen-year-old Ree knows she has to bring her father back, dead or alive.  Stalking him through the blighted wintry hollows of the Ozarks,  Ree discovers unforeseen depths in herself and in the Dolly clan -- a family network that protects its own at any cost."

General consensus:  it's a go.

Also:  it reminds me of when I was doing rural, rural social work.  Somewhere in the early years of my social work, I spent my mornings working with a Child Protective Services Unit (on a contract) in the wilds of Eastern Oregon (think:  mountains and desert and few people instead of the Gorge and waterfalls and the coast). 

Main character Ree Dolly is part of an extended family network that is stricken by poverty and the use of crystal meth and crime .... but is, in part, strengthened by their relationships with each other.

About an hour outside of the town I lived in in isolated Eastern Oregon was an even more isolated commune of a very close, very cloistered "neighborhood" of people looking out for each other.  The "founder" of this community had come from rural Arkansas about 60 years prior (best guess?) for reasons we rumored about.

Think Annie Oakley and Billy the Kid.

And this founder had attracted to himself people on the down and outs with society. We had quite a few domestic violence arrests, child welfare referrals, etc., come out of the community -- a community where a few of the homes had running water and electricity ... and a few did not.  One house made entirely out of straw.  (I know that many environmentally conscious contractors are experimenting with straw as an insulator, but trust me, this is different).  Somebody made an independent movie about the founder - if you're curious, let me know and I'll figure out a way to get the movie title to you.

When we did have to go out on a CPS referral to this community, we would have to take the Deputy, Roger, with us.  Roger knew the founder and knew the community and they knew him.  Seeing that he was part of "The Law" they probably didn't like him, but I don't think they were entirely distrustful of him.  Roger was a likable guy, even if he did drive a county car and carry a rifle.   The first time I went out there with Roger and the CPS worker, the founder of the community was waiting outside the straw bale / horse gate entrance to the compound with a couple of cars, a couple of young men, and a couple of guns.

Turns out they knew we were coming.

Turns out the founder was now in his 70s (best guess), tiny, and missing all of his teeth.  But the pistol on his hip told a story that argued against any of his apparent physical frailty.

This is also a story about bending the rules to support the client, in case I forget to tell you later.

Roger pulled up first and got out of the car, greeting the founder with a "Founder" and a spit of tobacco.  Turns out the CPS worker I was with had also never been to the community.  But the CPS worker I was with knew what she was doing.  She also got out of the car and slowly walked up to the founder,smiling brilliantly, showing lots of teeth and said, "Founder?  I'm Worker.  It's so nice to meet you.  I saw the movie about you!  I've never met a movie star before!"

Toothless, tiny founder with the pistol on his hip broke out into the biggest, toothless grin I've ever seen.  I'd tell you what he said next, but truthfully, I couldn't understand a word he was saying.  It was enough for the2 young men (who were not tiny) to relax their grip on their rifles.  Building on this movie star theme, Worker held up the evidence camera and said, "Do you mind if we take a picture with you?"  Another engulfing toothless grin.  Roger looked over at us and shook his head (I think I can imagine what he was saying to himself).  Still shaking his head, he lumbered over to us, gave us A Look and took the camera.  Founder in the middle and Worker and I on either side, the picture was taken.

Turns out social workers aren't the only ones who bend the rules for the good of the order.

I still have that picture. 

I don't think the Supervisors at Child Welfare were all that pleased when they heard the story, but what I know is that the Worker managed to explain where we needed to go on the compound and that the Founder cheerfully let us pass.

For better or worse, this community was close and attempted to take care of each other in the ways they knew how.  Oppressed by poverty, generations of drug use and generations of violence, they succeeded in creating a place (value judgments aside) where they felt accepted by each other.  (The flip side of that argument is that,oppressed by poverty, they had nowhere else to go.)

So.  If you happen to pick up Winter's Bone, I'll be curious to know what themes you pick up on.  What buoyed you.  What depressed you.  What challenged you.  It was a good pick.

Next pick:  We're joining in the rest of Multnomah county in reading "The Other Wes Moore."  Follow the link and join us!  I found my copy at Powell's, discounted, for $10.00.  I'm a book klepto, but this one is getting some press, so I'm confident your library will have some ideas on how to track one down.

Read well!

(Elizabeth, I hope this was a little more engaging than the hoarding post! :D)
from (what i hope to be) a forthcoming marriage proposal to hoarding.  it's how i am.  how i think.  what my days are filled with.

it's not so bad.  but, fair warning, this is kind of a random post.  well, ok.  they all are.

i was reading an article several weeks ago about an American man whose home was being torn down by any american city due to severe (read:  *severe*) and chronic hoarding.  as is the case with every news article i read, i became more immersed in the comments than the article.  the news article shows the viewpoint of just the author; what's interesting to me are the opinions of the masses.  over and over and over again i read well thought out, articulate, well informed and gracious comments like,

"Nasty.  They should have torn it down and kicked him out a long time ago.  Obviously he has a serious mental illness!"
so let's think about that - hoarding as a mental illness.  of course it is.

only. it's not.

television shows like TLC's "Hoarding:  Buried Alive" and Animal Planet's "Animal Hoarding" are very good at creating very good, dramatic, shocking tv.  it's enthralling, really.  i don't mind sharing i watch shows like that all the time.  but let's be careful, loved ones.  these people are, in fact, people.

when need to be careful when we talk about categorizing people who hoard as having a diagnosis.  hoarding is not included in the DSM IV as a diagnosis, and the work group for the DSM V is just now recommending it be included in the new manual.  (this should be a testament to how fluid the DSM is and, while it can be a very good tool, it is just that:  a tool.  as a side note, the DSM is the same manual that removed homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973.  it is also inherently American.  and some would argue white American.  in short, it is a tool.  read again:  it is only a tool.)

in addition to that, the work group is still considering whether to recommend it for inclusion in the manual or in the appendix as an issue for further research (by the way, i lifted that wording almost verbatim from the link above - check it out - i'm not passing it off as my own.)

hoarding?  it's kind of scary, depending on how dangerous the clutter is.  as a social worker, i've been in some homes that were very much affected by hoarding.  we won't go into detail (watch TLC like i do if you're curious!).  but who is the clutter and collecting scary for?  the home owner?  or family members?  what's the line between bizarre collections and dangerous clutter?  see, now i have you thinking about your aunt martha, who just can't seem to throw anything away.

the question for aunt martha should be, is she safe? can she safely exit her home in the case of a fire?  is her kitchen sanitary (and i mean sanitary, not just it rubs up against orthodox notions of cleanliness)?  if the clutter is a nuisance, consider who it's a nuisance for.  and don't take my word for it - i'm not really trying to do a safety assessment on your aunt martha.  get a counselor who's not a grad student writing a rambling blog post half asleep for a professional opinion ...

so let's say that aunt martha's china doll collection is overtaking every room in her house.  but let's also say that she so are her belongings from every family member since said family members were children.  and let's also say that garbage is also piling up in her home because she can't stand to throw things away.  now what? 

consult a professional.  chances are you're pretty emotional.  a little scared.  beyond frustrated.

which is 1/100th of what aunt martha is feeling.

and you're probably also asking why, which is a question only aunt martha can answer.  it's also  a question that might be better asked by somebody outside your family, because i'm pretty sure aunt martha knows how you feel about her collecting and may not answer from a place of trust or honesty.  lots of potential reasons:  being emotionally attached to objects, the items feel a void, not wanting to be without, the items give her a sense of control ....

and while hoarding doesn't, right now, exist in the DSM IV, interestingly, it often occurs with other diagnoses that do:  Depression, OCD, Autism, Anorexia, Personality Disorders (the list goes on for awhile ...).   but this is just correlation, which, i don't have to remind you dear hearts, is certainly not causation.

it's complicated.  just like everything in our lives, there's not an easy answer.

i'll leave you with some web resources in case you're concerned about aunt martha (or you are aunt martha) and you would like some additional reading. 


also, if you would like some help tracking down additional resources, please let me know and we'll look together.

i have now have this strange, overwhelming urge to clean out my own hall closet ... ;)
this holiday season, this year, wrapped up beautifully well, with the last of 2010 spent playing charades (o, i play a mean game of charades ....), raising glasses and ushering in 2011. 


it is no small surprise that i had fully been expecting something super big, super amazing, super life changing to happen.  (*cough* - this is because shoes intimated in OCTOBER that something super life changing would be happening before the holidays).

it didn't.  no news.

i did, however, have a slightly frantic man on New Years Day pestering me to know if i had heard him and his brother talking about "things" in the next room the night before long after i had gone to bed.   "this is something," shoes says, "you cannot control and something in which there has to be a fair amount of spontaneity."

also, shoes says, "i know what i said.  don't be disappointed.  it's stunning.  but let me handle it."

sure.  dance, promise boy, dance. ;)

i'll keep you posted.

(i am a little bit controlling ...)