Shoes is in between Pullman and the Vineyard Town, which will continue for awhile.  The helping and the shoring up and the getting things figured out will stretch out.  All of the boys and the sister will be involved, I'm sure.  Shoes just happens to live the closest.

Can I share something?  After this week, I am even prouder of Shoes and his character.  He digs in, does the hard work and does the right thing ... patiently and kindly.  It's no small thing to know that he can absolutely be counted on.  And in true Shoes' fashion, in the midst of chaos, he's still able to quell my meltdowns in his teasing, witty way.

O, those wildly witty ways.

{It snowed here Wednesday  night.  A lot in my hilly, SW Portland neighborhood.  And for the first time, the weather won.  I spent years in Eastern Oregon and Washington, and I always won.  It was no small assault on my pride that I could not make it out of my neighborhood and had to call in to my internship.  But insult to injury, I couldn't get the car back in the driveway and left it parked next to the curb, facing headfirst down a long, long hill.  And in true Lisa fashion, I started worrying massively that it was just going to start sliding down the hill, even though it was parked, e brake set.  So, of course, the logical thing for me to do was to call Shoes, who is 5 hours away, crying, while he's dealing with his own grief, and even if the car DID start sliding down the hill, what was he going to do about it?  And on the phone, Shoes started laughing.  Because there's nothing else to do and we're ready for the Spring in every way imaginable.  Meltdown quelled.}

So now.  Back in Portland.  Trying to keep this tiny apartment warm.  Studying for my finals in two weeks {the first term I've ever had real tests for finals and not papers.  Did you hear that?  That was me trying to swallow the lump of epic proportions that's formed in my throat.} Gearing up for my internship evaluations.  Looking over me and Shoes' Spring Break trip plans for this year {we'd been planning to get out of here, but now everything's up in the air as to whowhatwherewhen (but not why)}.

How many more weeks until the Shoes & Lisa Spring Break Adventure of 2011?  Let me check.


Blessed Be.
It was Thursday.
It was 4:30.
I had just wrapped up with my last session for the day.
The text from Shoes said, "I know you're busy, but please call asap.  I have a huge problem."

The conversation didn't make sense.  "My step dad had a heart attack.  They've air lifted him to Spokane.  It doesn't look good.  I'm going up now."  Jim has been Shoes' step dad since Shoes was four years old.  There is a legacy of family there and "step", as Shoes says, is a surface level label that largely just helps others keep things straight.

It was Thursday at 4:30. I got in the car and started driving from Portland to Spokane.
It may or may not have taken the recommended 6 hours.  (But probably not).

Jim has been ill for years.  Shoes and I have spoken many times about what to do in this situation.  There was never any other option.

It was late when I got in.  Shoes was there with his mom and we all went to bed.
Which is a misnomer.  There was no sleeping.   Instead, we listened to Gretchen toss listlessly and painfully for four hours in the early morning. We listed to the silence in the room.  We listened to our circuiting, painful thoughts.

The doctors had cooled Jim's body temperature  in order to minimize the swelling in the brain.  The plan was to begin warming him slowly on Friday evening with the warm up concluding early Saturday morning.  That's when the doctors thought they might know what type of brain damage, if any, Jim had sustained and what the prognosis was.

Family began trickling in, driving down / around / over / up, flying immediately out.  Flying standby.

And then it was Saturday.
And it was 6:30 in the morning; the warm up complete.
And Jim was having grand mal seizures.
And that was when the doctor told Gretchen that it was time to take the tubes out and let Jim go (it was in his advanced directives).  His brain would not be able to regulate his bodily functions.

I would tell you about that moment.  I would tell you how even though Shoes, his brothers, Gretchen and myself knew that that was probably coming, it felt like somebody had punched us in the chest.  How the air felt like it was sucked out of the room.  How the tears came in waves and the pain rolled over us again and again. I would tell you all about that, but the truth is, no matter what I write here, it will look, feel and sound wrong.

Jim has fought his disease processes for the past 15 years and he continued to fight until the very end.

It was a Saturday morning.
It was 10:30.
And we watched Jim take his last breaths.

Jim knew more about me as an adult than my own father did.  We had many conversations about the inherent and constructed differences between social work and clinical psychology (he was a successful clinical psychologist and educator at Washington State University).  He always asked me about classes.  He always worried about my safety.

He had a daughter, a son, and 3 step sons, all of whom he loved fiercely.  He had 3 grandchildren (and one on the way) he adored.  He took care of Gretchen (Shoes' mom) with tenderness few can match.  He was mischievous and wickedly smart and, in his royal, dignified air, loved a good joke.   His social conscious was a force to be reckoned with and he had a heart and a passion for the ignored in our society.  As a "bleeding heart liberal" (a man after my own heart), he was diligent about watching the  political news, which would inevitably make him furious.  His penchant for pocket knives, batteries and flashlights was prolific (we've been finding them everywhere).   The sum total of his life was gigantic.

 He was a big man.  And this big house feels very, very small without him.
... and in my previous post the reason why Shoes had court first thing Monday on a DUI is, of course, because he is a Deputy P.A. and it is his job to go to court for DUIs.

Shoes himself is DUI free.

Just thought I should clarify.

... ah safer and smoother and smaller was my heart."
     - Mark Halladay

Shoes and I, for "Valentines Day", had a charming dinner out at one of our favorite, laid back, Southeast Portland secret places.  And after that, he said, "We should go dancing.  We should go dancing downtown and live it up a little."

Only, I don't know where to go dancing.  Safely.  And truthfully, I was being a little bit of a girl and sulking because I had dressed for, "Let's have dinner classic SE Portland style where we can drink a beer and maybe take a dog."  Not so much, "Let's put on a little black dress and live it up downtown."  But Shoes gets the urge to dance maybe twice a year.   What can I do?  Then he said, "Watch this.  I've got this."

And he called a cab.  And got in.  And said to the Cab Driver, "Hey man.  We're travel writers from Pittsburgh writing a piece on downtown night life from Cabbie recommendations.  What can you recommend?"  And our Somalian cab driver excitedly told us he had just the place, but that we should definitely write the name of our hotel down before we had  a cocktail in case we didn't remember it later.

Because that, according to Cab Driver, is awful.

So he dropped us off and we danced.  And danced.  And danced.  And if you have never seen my darling Shoes dance, well.    It's pretty much the most adorable, most painfully awkward, best thing I've ever seen.  Women, and I'm not kidding here, eat it up.

And then he went home much earlier than usual the next day because he had court first thing Monday.

What better way to celebrate love than by district court DUI hearings?

Happy Valentines Day!
in case you're wondering.

The other part of why I'm careful is that I genuinely like my clients and have enormous respect for them.

I never blog about what happens in session with clients.
I do not blog about what happens in groups.
I do blog about light hearted, casual conversations that happen in passing or by chance in the agencies I'm working in.
But even in that, there is no identifying information.
(About half the time I change gender).
I prefer themes and patterns.

(I still find my stories about teaching kids in juvenile detention how to use toilet plungers funny.
I'm also still amused by their "Yo' Mama" battles and their terrible dance offs.)

I do not blog to degrade.

Granted, I have state statutes, a code of ethics, my licensure on the line and many, many examples of case law to dictate what I say and when about clients.

there will probably come a time, after graduation, depending on what type of work I find next, that I will feel more comfortable avoiding all talk about agency work and instead blabber incessantly about my rather mundane personal life
(Shoes is less than excited about this prospect)

Even at the juvenile justice center, I never blogged about take downs, restraint chairs or temper tantrums OUTSIDE the context of, "I had to take a kid down today, and it made me feel ...."

(Sometimes I feel guilty that I make it so much about me.
But better me than my vulnerable clients.)

We all get frustrated.
And burnt out.
We all disagree with administration (at least at times).

(Because there usually is not a stark dichotomy, this or that, black and white juxtaposition).

There is a call for professionalism.  For dignity.  And for one of my core beliefs:  While we need emotional boundaries, there is no Other.  Personally, I feel as though I gave over a little part of my first amendment when I chose this work.

And I'm ok with that.

And boy, do the residents know it.

In my time in assisted living, the residents continually ask me, as I walk by, who my Valentine is.  If my Valentine and I have Valentine's Day plans.   If they can be my Valentine.  {It's very distressing for them ~ especially one in particular ~ that I am 32 and unmarried.  "Do you have a fella'?  He'd better not wait too long ... he'll lose you!"}

Last week I spent some time in the secure (read:  locked) memory unit, casually chatting with the residents around one of the tables.  The question came up, "What is the secret to true love?"  All of these lovely elders have advanced Alzheimer's; all of them had very concrete and specific ideas about the meaning of true love:

Honesty.  Mutual Respect.  Kindness.  Sweetness.
 "I'll take care of you, you take care of me."  
A good bed partner.
"The itch".  (I'm not sure what that means, precisely, but I think I can imagine.)
A good supper on the table and clean clothes in the closet.

And my favorite:
"True love?  What's true love?"  

I do so love these elders.  I especially love these elders with advanced Alzheimer's.  I love to connect with them visually.  I love to hold their hands.  I love to hear what's bothering them that day (even if they happen to be using a made up language).  I love their spiciness and the way they make me laugh.  I love using my creative brain to help find ways to calm agitation while honoring their reality and their sense of self.

My actual Valentine's Day will be a quiet, non-event in which I work at the Very Large Hospital all day long and then go to my Social Work and the Law class for 3 hours Monday night (and get a paper back, so I'm hoping this prof is showing me the love right now as he's grading it).  

Shoes and I will celebrate Valentine's Day with a dinner out Saturday evening.  We've been doing long distance longer than when we dated while living in the same town, so my time with him (any time I get to spend with him) is Good.  It's Good because we choose to make it good.  Not Perfect, but pretty darn Good.

I hope it's still Good after I tell him about his competition in the assisted living unit .... ;)
ooooh oh!  Living on a prayer
Take my hand and we'll make it I swear
ooooh oh!  Living on a prayer

Last post I shared that I am halfway through this MSW program.  Halfway!  It's been a long haul!  And while I would like to take credit for using Bon Jovi's lyrics to mark this momentous milestone, I have to give credit to Shoe's brother, the Artist, and his sister in law, the Gardener, for the spontaneous, simultaneous serenade they belted out for me last time I was up visiting them in West Seattle.

Love them, too, in case you're wondering.

Not that the last year and a half have been easy, but now the real work begins.  Now I have to choose which internships I want to apply for next year and that process is far more intense than I thought it was.  See ... we do our homework about all of the internships available and we submit our top three choices (in rank order) to the Placement Team.   Then, Placement Team sits down with our Generalist Professors (our How To Be a Social Worker Class  professors) in committee and they discuss each of us (all 150 of us) in detail. 

THEN we're given the green light to contact a field placement.  Hopefully it's one of the ones off our list.  And for some of them, depending on where we've chosen, it's just the green light to formally apply.  (It's been suggested to me by my Advisor that, if I choose to apply for one of the competitive internships, I'd be a very, very strong candidate.  So I'm not worried.  Only.  I'm completely worried.)

Now, I'm not suggesting it's anything like Medical Residency, but the inside of my head feels like it's being pummeled from the inside out.  I've been extremely, singly focused on my goal of providing counseling to children from low income families.  Now I have these options in front of me and I have no idea which one I need to put in the Number One Spot.  Which one will give me the best clinical experience.  Which one will give me the most exposure to counseling with kids.  Which one has the best chance of employment after grad school.  If the placement working with kids who exhibit sexually deviant behaviors is too sexually focused to do me much good after I graduate.  If the placement that involves visiting schools to counsel kids is too school-based.  It goes on and on and on.

(Which explains why I've been doing quiet, meditative yoga lately -- too many thoughts marching through my head.  It's getting awfully noisy in there.)

Decisions, decisions.  

At the very least, for right now, I'll just focus on that Biopsychosocial I still haven't finished and I'll focus on the fact that I can say, "I graduate next year."

Because I do!