I mean, really.  It's been a couple weeks and it's not like nothing has happened, or no thoughts have crossed my head or Rosie hasn't done anything outlandish.

It's more like:  we closed on the house and then it snowed a lot and then we tried to move in the snow and that didn't work so well but we did it as well as we could and then work became insanely busy because our crisis worker went to Nicaragua to get married and then it was Christmas and it was Christmas with a blended family and it was so super busy and then I had the crisis night from hell (almost literally) and we've been trying to unpack and get our house together and Rosie is very upset by the move and she took our Christmas tree down twice and we didn't have internet or cable for a week and a half (#firstworldproblems I know) and then all of our lovely friends were in town and then our sewer backed up and we found out the pipes are disconnected and we might have to excavate our backyard to fix it and now it's almost New Years and we have this lovely little gathering to attend ...

I have things to share.  A few pictures.  Some thoughts on the state of mental health services in the nation. My end of the year post.  I do.

But right now I am frying a chicken that's been soaked in a buttermilk brine and then the Mr. and I might see a movie.

Because life is very full.  Full of movement, full of joy, full of busy, full of laughter, full of horror at what Rosie does next, full of questions, full of dread about the cost of an excavation.  It's just full.

It's what I've been waiting for since 2007.

It couldn't be sweeter.


Welcome home, M.'s...

So it's my day off.  I work four 10 hour shifts.  But I commute an hour each way.  So I work four 12 hour shifts.  But I always end up staying late.  And technically, I'm on call every weekend.

So this is my day off.  I had big hopes for today.  Take Rose to the dog groomer (check).  Get the car title in my name (check).  Do some Christmas shopping (check).   Meditate.  (Oops).  Yoga.  (Oops.)  I am excellent at taking care of business.

I am not always excellent at taking care of myself.

It is my day off and I am waiting for Shoes to get home for our date night.  While I wait, I'm lost in Ted Talks.

How I love Ted Talks.

When I interned as a geriatric counselor, the activities director used to show Ted Talks and lead discussions in the auditorium.  It was a beautiful time of learning from people who knew far more about living than I do.

This is the Ted Talk I love the most today:


Ms. Adichie speaks for approximately 18 minutes on the danger of a single story (looking at a situation, a person, a culture from a single narrative).  I wish I could explain to you how strongly this resonates in my spirit.  I wish I could tell you how I was struck with the sheer ingenuity of her thought.

Although Ms. Adichie primarily addresses the story of our cultures, I couldn't help but link it back to my own experience in social work.  I wish I could tell you the bizarre and irritating things people continually tell me about the people I partner with in my job:  People who cope with mental health issues.  People who are living in poverty.   People whose children are in the custody of child welfare.

There is no one single story and our human lies are varied and complex beyond measure.

Here's what Ms. Adichie writes:

"The consequence of the single story is this:  It robs people of dignity.  It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult.  It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar."

How are we looking at people?  What are the unspoken value judgments behind our emotional reactions?  What are the stories we've heard and continue to tell?

Let's examine those.

 
Only, it is.

But, it's not.

This is about community, but in my weird rambling way that you all are very used to, it's going to take me a bit to get there.

(Disclaimer:  I understand all of the criticisms about football and I respect those opinions.  This is going somewhere different, though.)

Shoes and I moved to Rural (RURAL) E Washington this year.  Most of you know that.  Our rural E WA town happens to have a major PAC12 University in it.  Random, right?  Our town's regular, non student population is about 30,000 (but the county's population is just over 40,000).  This is, as I've said before, a company town.  (Editor's update:  Shoes firmly believes that the year round, non student population is only about 7,000.  I can't find this data anywhere, but Shoes is rarely ever incorrect about these things.)

Shoes grew up here, did his undergrad here, has always wanted to come back here. 

Well, we're definitely here. 

Shoes grew up watching Cougar Football.  As in, season ticket holder with his father since Shoes was in the 3rd grade.  I made him miss the first home game in something like 15 years last year when I asked him to go to a wedding with me in the Vineyard Town.  I don't think I've been forgiven yet for that. 

When Shoes was in law school in Seattle, he came home for every home game.  When he worked in the Vineyard Town, he made every home game.  When I moved to Portland, he did not come to see me on home game weekends.  During my school breaks, I went with Shoes and his father to home games when possible. I'm not a veteran Cougar Football Fan.  But, I have been going as I've been able to for 4 years now, and I went to all but one home game (and we went to one in Las Vegas!) this year. 

Shoes loves Cougar Football. 
Many WSU students and alumni love Cougar Football.
But in the past several years, Cougar Football has brought nothing but heartbreak.
You who follow the PAC12 know this.
They've turned "Coug" into a verb.  A derogatory verb.  As in, "They're going to Coug it."  (That does not mean things are going to go well.)
The school even adopted a new slogan a year or so ago:  Undefeated Fan.  (Because the team, well ...)

WSU hired a fancy new coach this year at the tune of 2.2mil a year.  (Don't start.  You'll be preaching to the choir.)  At the beginning of the year, Cougar Fans were hopeful.  Waiting.  Anticipatory. 

The season did not go well.
Defeat set in.

And then there was the Apple Cup.

Most state universities have this, I think -- some type of rivalry game between major universities.  Apple Cup (because Washington grows Apples, right?) is WSU and UW (and please don't get them mixed up because blood may be drawn ...). The last time WSU won was in 2008.  I wasn't even dating Shoes then.  We went this year, of course.  We always go.  Even when it's in Seattle, we go.  We weren't expecting much.  It hasn't been a good season.  Shoes has been saying things he doesn't at all mean (things like, "I'm done with Cougar Football.  This is BS.")  ESPN scheduled the game the day after Thanksgiving in a town where students LEAVE for the holiday.  We were also expecting a low turn out.

And this is what happened.  Fast forward to about 12:47.

Apple Cup 2012, WSU over UW, 31-28 in OT

(I tried to embed.  It was disabled.  Humor me, though, it's important to the real point of this post, which I promise ... I'm getting to ...)

I've posted about this many, many times, but the one thing I've always missed in my life is the experience of having a home town.  A tribe.  A tradition.  Something  I  belong to.  When Furney scored that winning field goal, something electric fried the entire stadium.  Well.  The Coug Fans anyway.  The UW Marching Band stood there with their clarinets hanging from their fingertips and their mouths open, stone silent. Who could blame them?  It was a surprise to all of us.  Shoes (who is slow to show emotion) was literally jumping up and down with his hands on my shoulders shouting and complete strangers were hugging.

This is something they belong to.  They shared in ownership of the experience of the entire season, and then shared in the experience of the win.

I've been having a hard time in this little town.  And again, I've spent lots of time in rural communities, so it's not just that's it's small.  Although it was just a football game (and in the big picture, it is, in fact, just a football game), it spoke to something that has been running through me for a long time.  The need to settle down.  The need to develop roots. The need to share in something and belong to something.

Coug Fans, I think, know this.  (And let me just say that whomever shoved UW player Sefarian-Jenkins does not represent the mindset of the fan base.)  They belong to the each other.  They belong to the University.  They belong to the team.

Are there more important things in life than football?  Sure.
Are there more important things in life than finding your own tribe?  Maybe.
Are there more important things in life than sharing in life with others?   World peace?

I'm not a Coug.  But I do find myself settling into this shared experience and connecting with others.  Maybe this company town has something for me, after all.  Maybe here, which in many ways tops the list of odd places I've lived, is where I'll start to settle down.  Maybe this is the start.

Isn't that a novel idea.
... is almost.

Almost.  3 more things (as of today, which might change by tomorrow!) to get together and then we'll be ready to "get the docs signed."

I have never lived in a house that my family owned.  I don't yet know what it means to be tied to a town in such a fundamental way and it will be the closing on a year I'm still struggling to understand.

Blessed be.
And that's certainly not because I'm not thankful for anything.
Also.
I've really loved reading the everyday (and not so everyday) blessings that you've enjoyed (and I have enjoyed through you).

This Thanksgiving, there's a few things I find myself being deeply grateful for ... right now ... this year brings a host of blessings, but let's save those for the end of the year post ...

So, right now ...

...the opportunity to humbly partner with my clients as they develop new narratives
...the absolute courage of said clients
...grace
...forgiveness
...humility
...kindness
...love
...listening
...sacrifice
...stillness

Also ...

...raucous laughter
...winter air
...Rosie galloping in the snow
...orange mochas from Thomas Hammer
...text pictures of my sassy Goddaughter, Rebekah
...the smell of Rosemary (don't know, just love it)

Above all else ...

...a God who loves humanity more deeply than I will ever figure out
...a partner who is more deeply fantastic and wholly good than I could have ever asked for
...this life.

(ellipses don't work here.)  This Thanksgiving, I am also reminded that I am placed in a position of privilege -- privilege awarded to me due to absolute no merit or hard work of my own.  What I'm thankful for is fundamentally shaped by this privilege because my experience as a human being is shaped by this privilege.  This privilege is a slippery slope, and I am thankful for the daily opportunity to deeply examine it and, in any way I can, to use it as an ally.  I am grateful for those in my life who are not at all afraid to call out this privilege.  I am grateful for that discomfort.  I am grateful for the opportunity to realize how much I do not know.  I am humbly grateful for the learning.

Tongue in cheek ...

I am grateful that the Cougar Football Season is over and that my wonderful Shoes will be returned to a place of non dispair.  Please join with me in praying for Coug Fans the nation over.  May they know a season of less heartbreak next year.

Be blessed.  Enjoy your families this holiday (those blood and those you have chosen).  May we move forward in the rest of the year truly remembering how grateful we are today and not lose sight of that in the upcoming weeks.





... it's ok to enter your name.  It won't bring down your computer, I promise.

http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~geoffo/humour/flattery.html

I just finished the last of our wedding Thank You cards.
 
Just in time to get our Holiday Cards out.
 
I realized I never posted some of the images I had meant to.  I also never posted the details of the DIY projects I meant to.  I'm going to go ahead and let that go.  It was a super busy time - the week before the wedding I was actually out of town, attending a state training on how to involuntarily detain people on a 72 hour psychiatric hold.  I got into town the night of the rehearsal dinner. 
 
It was a whirlwind of a few days, but, in the end, I  married Shoes.
 
Now we're living daily life.
 
It couldn't be sweeter.
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Underwriting department.

Oh man.

Stuff gets real now ...
I live in an extremely rural area where my options for employment, especially without a social work license, are extremely limited.  I wanted to work for Community Outpatient Mental Health (a Medicaid Vendor), and there are just two agencies within a one hour commute.  One agency wasn't hiring.  The other, a miracle!, was.

I'm not sure if this post will be helpful (what kind of "n" is one interview?), but to graduating MSW students, here's a little of what you can expect in the job interview process (at least for a mental health agency!  I'm not so sure this will be helpful if you're interviewing for community building positions ...)

1.  I interviewed with the clinical supervisor, the HR director and the Executive Director.  I only had one interview, but I hear from my friends who have entered the field that completing two interviews is common.

2.  Be pleasant to the front office staff when you arrive.  Seriously.  This is not a group of people with whom you want to start off on the wrong foot.

3.  Know your therapeutic approach.  My own therapeutic approach is rooted in social constructivism / narrative therapy; however, the agency I work with is a cognitive behavioral therapy clinic.  I researched this beforehand and, thus, it wasn't a surprise. I was able to speak to when I found CBT most helpful.  However, the agency is also open to creative work with clients (an excellent thing in days of limited resources and funding!), so I felt free and confident in explaining when and how I use narrative therapy.

4.  Be able to speak to an ethical dilemma you've faced in the field, and more specifically, how you addressed it.  What was your decision making process?  Who did you consult?  Whose interests were you taking to heart?

5.  Be able to address a DSM dx.   I mean, really address it.  It depends on the agency, I suppose, but I was given free reign to choose a dx, speak to the criteria and explain when I might diagnose a person appropriately.  This means knowing the criteria fairly well (no worries if you don't know it exactly, remember, the DSM is only supposed to be a tool for the clinician and it's impossible to memorize it!), being able to speak to how functioning would be impaired, and being able to speak to differential dx.  Here's the bottom line:  Do you know how to use the DSM?

6.  Know your values.  What's most important to you?  When I was asked to tell a little bit about myself, I confidently spoke to my belief in the change process and my investment in anti-oppressive practice.  As a social worker, I felt this was imperative to commit to early in my days as a therapist.

7.  Know how comfortable you are with ambiguity.  That might sound a little odd, but I was given several hypothetical situations in which there clearly was no "right answer".  I knew I hit the nail on the head when I wrapped up my response with, "There's not always going to be a clear cut answer, but you do the best you can do with the information you have at the time.  You commit yourself to the client and doing good work, and in the end, the power you yield over any given situation is somewhat limited."  Smiles and furious scribbles all along.  We can't control the outcome.  We can only contribute our best to the process.

8.  This one isn't actually mine, but I have several friends who have completed interviews in which they were puzzled over the seeming simplicity of the interview questions and wondered if they had responded fully.  I remember when I used to ask fairly basic questions to potential Guardian Ad Litems; I wanted to see their response style.  I wanted to get a feel for their ability to use common sense.  If it seems too easy, take a deep breath.  Don't get arrogant or over confident, but rest in your abilities.  You're letting your interviewers know who you and what your style is.  Be comfortable that that's more than enough.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment here.  If you have any ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment here, too!  And please know that I'm so grateful to be able to call you a colleague in working to the empowerment of others.  Be blessed!
Appraisal! Progress!
Into everything.  Only 5 months old, but she just crashes everywhere.  She also licks the walls for no apparent reason.  We're concerned.

Photo update of the dog who has become a family member:

 
She is terrible at helping me change the sheets on the bed.  So lazy.

 
The look she gives us from the couch while we're eating at the table.
 
 
She does not support my self care plan of once weekly yoga.
She does not move from the mat.
 
 
She steals dryer sheets.
And underwear.
And socks.
It is quite embarassing.
 
 
She's been known to jump in the shower with you.
 
 
And get a requisite shot of warm air after.
Because, you see, she stinks when she's wet.
 
 
She stares intently at boxes that come in the mail.
 
 
 
Because she's already figured out that with packages come packaging ...
 
 
We took away her ability to have puppies.
(Shoes almost didn't go through with dropping her off at the vet...)
So pitiful in her cone.
 
 
At the park near our (I dearly hope) soon to be house, she loves playing with Shoes with this ...thing. 
 
She knows how to sit, wait, lie down and shake hands.
She does not know how to not rip up paper like she's possessed.
She prefers Shoes.
That's ok with me ... that means Shoes gets to handle her when she gets a little insecure and needy.
She's naughty beyond all belief.
And then she lies down next to you on the couch and falls asleep on you.
I'd like to give her away.
But instead, we'll keep her.
 
 

As I deal with the inevitable semi shock of leaving my nurtured, protected cocoon of graduate school (where we talked about empowerment, micro aggressions, and anti oppressive practice) and entering the work force of crisis mental health in a very rural area (where examining our values is all too often replaced with "we just received another call from the ER, we have 2 other workers out on crisis, who's got this?"), I find myself struggling with the classic symptoms of overworked social workers everywhere:

Fatigue
Feeling overwhelmed
Waking up at 3, wondering if I turned paperwork in
Failing to keep a work/life balance (and not being the most popular professional in the room when I bring that up)
Feeling resentful that my time is never really my own
Letting my other interests lie dormant

It's different for everybody.

Self care is a strange topic in the helping profession, I think. We know that we need to care for ourselves as we respond to the critical needs of others. We know we need to at least try to pretend to prevent burnout. So we throw around ideas like "take a warm, relaxing bath" or "read a good book" or "exercise at least 3 times a week."

Cough.

I know very few workers who actually do these type of things.

My own personal belief is that most of the workers I know are female and have also taken the responsibility of caring for their partners and children as well. They'd love to take a bath.

There's no time.

(That paragraph was astoundingly gender normative. I apologize and acknowledge that families are complex and varied. And I would like to applaud my dear MSW friend, B., and her husband, The Mr., for what seems to be a beautiful blending of responsibility sharing and mutual support in their family).

I've no doubt that things like baths and walks and reading books help some people. Truthfully, though? As I start to address my own needs as I continue to respond to dear souls near suicide (as that's now the limited scope of our crisis mental health agency), "taking a bath" just doesn't even feel close enough to what my soul needs.

My soul is a hungry, thirsty little creature that needs much more than that.

We talked about this in grad school. I had an advanced practice instructor who believed, absolutely, we should get enough sleep and eat good food and take care of our bodies. And she didn't believe it was enough.

Because here's the problem, dear hearts: when you work with people for so many hours during the day, and then sometimes visit the ER again at 2:00 am if it's your on call night, the emotions and metaphors you start to have and identify with aren't full of peace, love, and unicorns tooting glittery, anti oppressive rainbows.

I'm tired. I'm frustrated. I don't know if this person's situation will change. I'm upset with the police / nurses / docs. I'm scared I don't know what to do right now. I can't be a part of this dysfunctional social service system anymore.

But we're professionals who are continually trying to advocate for humanity, right? So how can we possibly admit that sometimes we have human emotions and that sometimes we are just so over everything. All of it.

This advanced practice instructor I had believes this is where the heart of self care is. We must know what we're feeling. We have to take time to check in with ourselves so that we're not completely overwhelmed later. We have to know that we're feeling exhausted, infuriated, grieved ... And instead of warring with ourselves (you're a terrible social worker who should never feel irritated; your co workers never do; keep it together, genius), we need to be gentle with ourselves and meet these feelings with compassion.

It's like this: if a child we loved came to us with a serious problem, our hearts would be moved with compassion and we would immediately respond, most likely, without judgment because we would just want her to feel better. We would join with her and nurture her and soothe her.

We are deserving of that same compassion.  We need to truly know what it means to accept whatever we've got going on in that moment (for better or worse) as what we've got going on in that moment.  If we don't know that for ourselves, we will, dear hearts, have a very difficult time modeling that for our clients.  I like myself needs to be more than a pop psychology phrase.  I like myself is more I understand what I'm going through right now and I meet that need with compassion.

I think Susie (the instructor) is right.  I think this is the heart of self care.

Here's what else helps me for self care.  This is my frosting:

1. I remember my faith roots.  I am a progressive, left, social worker.  I am a Christian.   For me, these two things do not compete.  (If you have questions about this, please let me know.  I'm happy to expand and engage in dialogue about this.)  On my way into work, I spend time in prayer. 

2. I also meet with a meditation / walking meditation group. Sometimes my days go from 4:00am to 9:00pm (from the commute to work, to making dinner and taking care of the dog at night) and I don't always have time for a daily practice. That's ok. That's where I am right now. So I meet with a group on Sundays. This is an hour and a half of clearing my brain and breathing. Sometimes I spend time in formal prayer during this time, too. A little unorthodox, but I have to do what works for me.

3.  Remembering to communicate well with my husband and to voice my feelings / needs.  Sometimes, at the end of the day, I am so very tired of talking about emotions.  I'm exhausted, but I still have needs.  Taking a deep breath, and honoring and speaking to my needs actually honors him:  he's not a mind reader.  The more open communication we have, the more I am fulfilled in  my marriage.

4.  Vinyasa Yoga.  I have chronic shoulder pain that is exacerbated by stress.  I usually only have time to do this once or twice a week.  That's ok.

5.  I take time on Sunday evenings and plan my week.  A look at the planner, especially as we're trying to buy this house!,  helps me focus on what the week will look like (as much as I can.  Crisis work is crisis work.).  I also use this time to plan our menus for the week.  This helps a TON with not eating out at night.  Additionally, because I commute an hour each way to my job, it helps me think about what food I want to be eating for lunch (and therefore avoid fast food) and what snacks I want to put in my crisis bag.  This is a little tricky; fruit and veggies are perishable and mashable (and oh, man, is that gross when that happens).  I like nuts.  Power bars.  Bottles of water.  Sometimes I'll cut up veggies and put them in a Ziplock bag; I just don't always remember to eat them.

These things help.  But, as I've mentioned, it's the frosting.  The heart of self care is taking care of the center of us.

Sometimes this blog gets quite a few readers, but few commenters.  That is perfectly ok.  I've kept this blog for six years with commenters coming and going.  But if you, who are involved in social service, are reading, and you do have a moment to share, what do you do to take care of yourself?  How do you know when you've forgotten to?  How can we honor each other and support each other in doing this?
... When you have a community outpatient mental health clinic that's been slammed with crisis?

A bunch of harried therapists, closed office doors and rushed comings and goings. The need is great, my friends.

To cope, I'm in denial and writing this post. Later, though, I will hug my husband and my dog and write emails to dear friends.

Here's a pic of Rosie in her Yoda Halloween costume. Why? Because this is my moment of self care and she makes me smile.

... Is escrow!

(I see my post titles getting shorter. I get lazy.)

We accepted the seller's counter offer, handed over our earnest money and we're now.... Waiting again!

But what a good wait this will be. We're projected to close on 12/5 and we feel so ready to be in our own home.

Four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a big downstairs, a backyard. Privacy. A a great view of campus. It's not over till it's over, but this is what we're trying to come home to at the end of the day:
... Is wait.

And it will probably be "wait" a lot in the next several weeks.

We made our offer and are now waiting out the 48 hours the seller has to respond...
Vomit.

As in, we have a meeting this Friday to make an official offer and I think I'm going to vomit. Is it normal to feel this nervous?

My family was in the military when I was a kid. We didn't own houses. I've never owned a house before. I've never really been committed to one place long enough to justify owning a house before. This is new. Is that what is making me nervous?

Blargh.

Any advice?
Because, alas, I have no shows for right now.

Last week's word of the day: house inspection.

This week's word of the day: radon and radon mitigation system.

My hope for later this week: finalized pre qualification ...
Using the blogger app on my phone means I can't check to see if I spelled existential correctly.

First world problems.

I'm sitting here outside the house Shoes and I are dying to make an offer on, waiting for the house inspector. Why, you ask, are we paying for a house inspection before making an initial offer?

It's a long story. So, I'll skip it.

We really love this house. Big love. I hope it works out. If it doesn't though, what is, is. And we're ok with that.

The main point I have is... In one year how did we go from long distance, me in grad school, to graduating, moving to the same town, getting a dog, getting married ... And now we're trying to buy a house?

Am I old enough to buy a house?

6 months ago I was living in a studio apartment in an area of Portland I loved, working as a research assistant in psychiatry at OHSU, completing a great internship and wondering what in the world my life was going to look like.

So this, for now, is what my life looks like.

What a strange year.

Is it just me or does life seem like it's starting to move very, very quickly?

In other household news, Rosie gave up her womanly parts and is now wearing a cone of shame, which she finds unbearable. If you ask me, she's being just a touch dramatic, trying to kill us with those sad eyes...
So I searched for something lighter for this week.  Something stupid and pointless and lighthearted.  And besides Rosie's weekly (daily) antics, I came up short.  I mean, I laughed a lot this week.  Had lots of lovely client moments.  But couldn't come up with something super amazing to share.

So I decided to do some maintenance on the blog instead.

List to the right - "I visit here often" is about to be updated.  I know.  You were just WAITING for that! Listen up:

1.  Katelyn.  Katelyn has a new blog; the new blog is no longer private.   It's worth your time.  I'm not just saying this because she's been my friend forever and forever; Katelyn has a writer's heart.  The precise word, the exact imagery, the use of irony and metaphor ... I feel comfortable saying (because I'm the expert on everything, obviously) that Katelyn is bound for big things in the writing world.

2.  Gweenbrick. I find Gweenbrick's writing beyond humble and honest and clear and hilarious.  As I'm writing this, I'm having trouble finding a precise way to describe how his blog hits me.  I just appreciate his transparency and the way he knits together his fabulous writing and his creative illustrations.

3.  Andrea at take joy.  Oh my word.  What a loving, sweet, genuine soul.  Her story is beyond inspiring (I kind of wish she could come give inspirational talks to my clients( (I haven't told her that yet, though).  I also adore the lovelies she creates and has available in her etsy shop... I don't have that type of creativity and I'm in awe of her ability ....

4.  socialworkingmom.  There's just something about this lady's writing I find I connect with.  Of course, the obvious connection is the social work.  And how difficult being in a social work agency can be.  But she just does such a fabulous job of committing to Bikram Yoga and seems to understand what balance is for her.  (Do you know how hard it is for counselors, cops, social workers, etc. to find balance?  We have such crisis driven careers.  Some of us (cough - me) are always de facto on call.)

5.  Words From Willow.  Willow is a dear hearted soul and a comrade from my first days in the field.  And now (although she's been doing it for awhile) she's blogging!  Lots of reviews, as well as her love and courage in raising a son with specific needs and details about her travelling adventures.

5.  Dog Shaming.  This is not a blog.  It is a tumblr site that was pointed out to me by one of my dearest friends in my graduate program (who is also a major dog lover; however, his dog training skills are light years ahead of mine).  I swear to goodness, this site helps keep me sane.  I will not admit how many times I briefly check in on it during the day.  I will admit how much better it makes me feel about Rose's behaviors.  It's like ... my own little doggie support group.  It normalizes my feelings.  See?  Therapeutic benefit!!

Now.  Off to get that monthly massage for the shoulder pain and to work on more wedding thank you cards.  Will those ever be complete?  We had a super tiny wedding and I still haven't finished them all....
And that's only when sometimes = all the time.

I'm a planner and an organizer.  My closet is organized by color hue and everything faces the same way.  Workout clothes in one dresser drawer; work slacks in another.  I have an Excel spreadsheet for our dinners for the week.  Part of this is necessity; working four 10 hour days (but seriously, more like 12 hour days with the commute) means I have to be on top of my game.  I don't have time to scramble at the last second.

Part of that is just me.  It just is.  I like The Plan.

When we got Rosie, I made 2 (!) Excel spreadsheets, formulated a daily schedule for our 8 week old ball of fluff and read multiple training books.  Then I got my job, went to a week long training out of town and got married and all of my plans went out the window.  That was hard to swallow.

I digress.

Shoes and I took Rose up to Spring Lake Reservoir for the first time last weekend.  It was a gloriously sunny, crisp fall day.  Rose bounded out of the car and took to the trail like nobody's business.  (Well.  She took to the trail after she took a potty break to poop out my foam ear plugs she had eaten the night before).

And this is where planning gets tricky.  I have all of these ideas of how to do things in a step-wise fashion.  Steady as she goes.  One thing at a time.

Most of my steps are completely unnecessary.

Rose has never been outside of the yard or neighborhood with us before.  She just got all of her big girl shots, though, and one of the reasons we got such an active dog was to ... well, be active with her.

This was me:

"I don't know, hon, let's keep her on the leash.  She might just bolt off.  She doesn't know what she's doing. Let's just she how she does today and maybe next time we can be a little more lax with her."

This was Shoes:

"Wife, she'll be fine.  Calm down."

So we left the leash on her.
And then let go.
That was a scary first 15 minutes for me.

And you know what?
She was an absolute champ.
She walked behind me on the trail, but in front of Shoes, stopping every so often to look back to make sure he was keeping up.  She leaped over fallen logs like it was no big deal, sniffed appropriately at bushes, did not terrorize the ducks and she came when she was called.  (Good night.  She never comes when she's called at home!).

She was fine.
And it was just another example of how all of my best planning just sometimes doesn't make things go any more smoothly.

I gave her a few extra puppy snuggles that night.

She deserved them.



...of gratitude.   And remembered the successes.  And prayed.  And thought about everything in the bigger picture.

I'm still here.

Of course.

In case you hadn't guessed, I'm a little neurotic.  One of those neuroses is I hate (so hate) to be thought of as anything but kind and compassionate.  And I can't, of course, control other people's feelings or thoughts (and they are, so often, entirely separate from me or anything I could have said or done).

I think we might be on the other side of the accusations.  Time will tell.  No formal complaints were filed.  Yet.  I know my character.  There were other therapists and law enforcement present that will attest to my actions.  All of that is pure and logical and, even if a formal (false) complaint was filed, my hope is that  my past work, my current work, and the witnesses that were there would cover the allegation.  (I obviously can't speak about it in detail.)

But still.  It still grieves me a little.

These things have helped:

a therapist team that has stood by me.  a supervisor who essentially told me to get over it.  whispers that i was hired so quickly because the agency couldn't bear to pass me up.  messages of competence.  good (i mean, heart breakingly good and productive) sessions with clients this week.  finding stillness in the storm, and in that, re-finding the love for human beings that drives my work.  text messages from BreAnna and Katelyn (thanks, girlies, you have no idea...) and messages of love from Cherrie.  a husband who snorted and said, "good grief, wife.  why are you even worrying?"  a husband who then said, "Of course you wouldn't do that.  you're more the steal children type of worker"  (said tongue in cheek, dear readers).  a sister who said, "are you joking me right now?"

All of these things help remind me of who I am and what I'm really trying to do. 

Big picture.  I think that's my life lesson of late.  Keep in mind the bigger picture and don't let the worries (of which there might be several) of the minute chain me.  It's funny that I'm focusing on that right now, as this is the same lesson that's being paralled by so many of my clients.    We're all just focusing on being here, right here.  Right now.  Breathing in.  Breathing out.  Figuring out our true selves. 

I adore this poem by Thich Nhat Hanh (1978) and have been meditating on it often.  It's displayed in my office and it often catches the eye of co-therapists and clients alike.  It helps me stay connected - to you, my husband, my co workers, my clients .... and even those who don't yet know what it's like to speak truth.


Call Me By My True Names

Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.


Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.


I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.


I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.


I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.


I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
Uganda.


I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
loving.


I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.


My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.


Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.


Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.


Thich Nhat Hanh



I graduated school in June, not sure if I was ready, but entirely sure I was ready.  I've said it before so many times:  this time in the field isn't my first rodeo. 

This is my 11th year in the field.  Those 11 years have seen ups and downs; births and deaths (literally) and dry spells and periods of amazing growth.  I have experienced, with clients, situations that have helped me seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living and client situations that have made me think the good Lord is hiding.

I can't really blog about this job.  I wouldn't want to lay people's most vulnerable selves out for others to see.  The trust that I'm trying to build in the therapy room is sacred.  I'd do almost anything to protect it. 

But these past few weeks on the job have kind of knocked me down.

And that's been surprising.  Because this isn't my first rodeo.  I've looked into how hurt people can be and how serious mental illness can be and how violent human behavior can be.  I've already seen that. 

What it comes down to is this:  these past few weeks I have been lied to and lied about.  The lies told about me are big, absurd and somewhat scary .... this is such a sensitive button for me ... few things bother me more than having the character I have worked so hard to build up attacked.  All of my clinical skills have been deeply challenged.  I find myself starting to questioning my previously unwavering belief that people can change and grow and heal. 

Most of you know that I am no longer truly a part of the church.  I don't attend on Sundays.  I don't serve a ministry.  But as I was driving into the valley on Wednesday, a relic from my early 20s popped up, and I find myself putting on the helmet of salvation ... the breastplate of righteousness ... the belt of truth ... the shoes of peace and readiness ... and picking up the sword of the spirit ...  And I'll tell you what ... that morning, I was clinging heavily to that breastplate and the shoes of peace.  

Please just let me just bring peace into this job.  Into the agency.  Into my therapy office.  To my coworkers.  And especially, especially, especially ... into the lives of people who are learning how to overcome and deal with mental health issues ....

I am one month into this job.
I  just received my Master's diploma in the mail this afternoon.
I am somewhat ashamed to say I am already wondering how long I'll be able to do this.
And I know it's just too soon to be this defeated.
It is.
It is too soon to feel this defeated.

So I'll take these next three days and I'll re-boot.  Recharge.  Rethink.  I'll sit and be and wait for the peace.  I'll breathe deeply.   I'll cling to what I know.  I'll remember the hard times that I have had in the field (and some of them have been horrid) and then I'll remember that I'm still here.   I won't avoid these horrible feelings of self doubt and fear and mild exhausion that I'm having now (exhaustion = 7 hours on the same crisis call over the course of an afternoon / evening).  I'll treat these feelings with love and compassion.  I will find something to be grateful for.

And I will remember and list out all of the success I've experienced with clients (or they have experienced without me) over the past decade.  Because people do grow and change and heal. 

They do.
Viva las vegas with you neon flashin
And your one armbandits crashin
All those hopes down the drain
Viva las vegas turnin day into nighttime
Turnin night into daytime
If you see it once
Youll never be the same again

Im gonna keep on the run
Im gonna have me some fun
If it costs me my very last dime
If I wind up broke up well
Ill always remember that I had a swingin time
Im gonna give it everything Ive got
Lady luck please let the dice stay hot
Let me shout a seven with evry shot
Viva las vegas, viva las vegas,
Viva, viva las vegas


Well.  The gaming (there was no dice involved in our visit) didn't stay hot.  The Cougars won, but not by enough to cover the spread.

And the whole stadium cried just a little.

This is how the trip started:



Promising, indeed.

But this is how the first night ended:



4 hours in the sweltering Vegas heat, calmly smiling and negotiating with very drunk students in the student section.  Defusing conflict.  Not getting mad when beer was spilled on my Dooney & Burke bag for the fifth time.  Ok.  Maybe that was a little irritating.

You know what?  I've never been to Vegas before.  Never had the early 20s experience of sharing a room with 75 people, staying out until 6 in the morning and not remembering what happened.  I knew that wouldn't be my experience this time, either.  We're getting older.  We like to go to bed at 10pm.  The Vegas of this weekend is, no doubt, worlds away from the Vegas I would have known 14years ago.

It wasn't quite the Vegas of Oceans 11 (12 or 13), Rain Main,  or Honeymoon in Vegas either. Somehow, I thought it would be.  Somehow, I thought a city so richly  detailed in so many pop culture media images would feel familiar.  We have, after all, spent our entire lives seeing images of Vegas.  It was a strange city, though.  One that felt unfamiliar.  One with secrets.  One that was reluctant to unfold.  Vegas had not been waiting for me.

Turns out, I had not really been waiting for Vegas, either.

But it was beautiful and strange and exciting in an unfamiliar, not believing that human beings made the environment that was there.  Seriously.  Human beings thought it out, paid for it, and executed the town.  (Disclaimer:  all we saw was the Hard Rock Hotel, where we stayed, and the Strip.  Next time, Shoes and I want to see the original downtown and feel the real heart of the city.  What do you expect from a therapist/social worker and an ex-prosecuting attorney?).  What did we do?  The game.  Brunch the next day.  A day by the pool for me (which I normally don't love, but found sitting in the shallow end of a pool that was made to look and feel like the beach - complete with sand at the bottom of the pool -- completely and utterly relaxing) and a day at the Sports Book for Shoes.  Dinner that night.  An  impromptu trip to the Strip.  And a flight back home.  Time moves fast.

For some reason, I have always wanted to lay eyes on the Venetian.  At 2 in the morning, it is a good, quiet place to be.  Minus the girls puking in the potted plants.  Apologies I don't have pictures of that - it certainly rounded out in the experience. 




We were at the Bellagio the night of two huge boxing matches, and the streets were filled with wall to wall people.  We asked both of our cabbies if it was always that crowded.  Both of them almost started crying out of exhaustion and said No. 

I'm assuming it takes a lot to make a Vegas Cabbie that frustrated. 

And as crowded as it was, it was still impressive.  And for reasons I can't really explain, I cried just a little.  I wasn't the only one.  As big of a crier as I am, I don't know why.  It was just a spectacle.  Shoes and I are planning our honeymoon to Europe right now, and if a Vegas spectacle makes me cry, I don't even want to know what seeing European spectacles is going to do to me.




(Do you see all the people in the fountain photos?  Wall to wall boxing match fans.)

My recommendations?  (Both of these places were recommendations of our travel partners, who can scope this stuff out in the blink of an eye.  Love, love, love travelling with them.)  Brunch at Mandalay Bay.  At $30.00 a person, it's not exactly the cheapest place in Vegas you can eat, but, as we all know, it's definitely not the most expensive.  And what I loved most?  It's a small plate menu.  Love the small plate menu.  We spent a lovely, warm, Saturday morning outside on the patio with our dear friends, the officiant of our wedding!, musing over travel to Vietnam and wondering how we have become as old as we are.  (And we're not really, old, that is, but also, being in Vegas when you're not 21 is a different experience all together.) 

Also, Lotus of Siam.  This is not on the Strip, but it is, hands down, the best Thai food I've ever eaten.  Make a reservation, though, and keep an open mind.

Vegas and I haven't made any truces.  I'm not sure we're friends.  I'm not even sure we're acquaintences.  No real bad blood, but definitely a missed connection.  The spark just isn't there.  But like most relationships that don't work out, Vegas taught me a few things. The city really got us thinking about all of the places in the US we haven't been and all the places we've been dying to see.  On our list?  (Which Shoes refuses to call a Bucket List ...)   New Orleans, San Fransisco, Mesa Verde, White Sands, Maine, DC, NY, the Carolinas ... Many places one of us has already been, but the other has not. 

There's just so much out there.


I mean, one day I'm scooping her up and she's pick up sized ... and today she's so heavy I can barely lift her.  We had a friend who told us to take lots of pictures her first couple weeks home because she would never be that tiny again.

He was so right.  Our little baby is now a big puppy, with long jackrabbit like legs.

And we love her.  Like, love of our life type love.

Don't get me wrong.  She's been stressful.

Really, really stressful.

She went through a phase where she bit everything.  And by bit, I mean, biting.  Not soft mouthing.  Several of my work clothes pieces became Rosie Casualties.  She went through a phase where she ran around the house at break neck speed everyday at 4:00, knocking everything over.

She gets ... um ... a nervous stomach?  With accompanying issues?  A lot.  A LOT.

We have an all white carpet.

Oy.

When we went to Vegas (and that post is next!), we dropped her off at a kennel, and that first night, while we were packing, we did not say, "Oh, how fabulous Vegas will be.  I hope we see the Venetian.  I'd love to see the Bellagio fountains.  Let's go to Old Vegas."

No.

We looked at each other forlornly and said, "Where's our dog?  I wonder what she's doing right now?"

We always knew we were dog people.  Always.  We didn't know we'd be this into the little pup that's almost made us pull all of our hair out.  While we won't be throwing her a birthday party ... this year ... Happy Almost 4 Month Birthday, Rose.  You're terribly naughty.  Please don't change.


Shoes and Rosie siesta on a Sunday afternoon.


She's a natural born Cougars fan.  Naturally.



Somebody didn't mind her first bath.  Too much.


Rosie is not allowed on our bed.  Period.  Until today, when she decided that wasn't the rule anymore.  (It is.) 

There is a website one of my good friends from grad school posted on FB.  If you haven't been there yet, I strongly suggest you do.  I go there often.

It makes me feel better about Rose's shenanigans.

I have.  In very remote places.

It's not that I don't know what small towns are like.

I do.   Despite my paripatetic upbringing, I graduated from high school, and then undergraduate school, from tiny, tiny towns.

There were 72 people in my high school graduating class.

So I know what it's like.  And I know how it works.

But every day, when I drive the 45 minutes from Pullman to the valley for work, I largely, mostly, almost every day, feel like I've fallen down the rabbit hole.  Is it traveling from the fertile fields of the Palouse down into the paper mill dirt-scape by the Snake River?  Is it the way that the sun rises and sets in wildfire haze that makes me think of the landscape from "The Road"?

(ok... Maybe not quite that desolate ...)



Is it the work?

Is it because I am an adult mental health therapist, but because I am working in Community Outpatient Mental health, I work from the ground up?  (Think Maslow's hierarchy of needs ... how can we work on self actualization when we don't have food ... or shelter ... or season appropriate clothing ...)

Is it because I was told that I almost wasn't hired because nobody had heard of me or my family?  (I've been skating on Shoes' last name, it turns out ...)

Is it because I'm no longer part of a therapeutic team that shares their hearts about anti oppressive practice and a team that actively practices naming gratitude? 

Is it because there are no more vegan bakeries by my office, like there are in Portland?

It's different.
It's good.  It's good work.  It's vital work.  I love the work.
(Because I love the people.)
Shoes, on the phone to his brother yesterday, said, "She's liking it a lot.  I think she's having to adjust to the culture of the valley, though."

I am, dear heart.  It's not bad.  It is different. 

I'm still looking for my own Cheshire cat ... the being who speaks in riddles, but it actually lighting my path.

This is a strange rabbit hole, indeed.


It's been a week since the "I Do".  It's been a very sweet week.  A very busy week, but tender and loving in all of the right ways.

The professional pictures are being edited, but my lovely sister in law, Cori, was kind enough to pass this one along. 

Shoes and I planned for this day for a long time (long before we were actually engaged).  And I, as you well know, have been thinking about what it would be like to be married again for longer than that.

Remember the training that happened the week before the wedding?  Oh, that was torturous.  8 hours a day, sitting on my rear, re-vising suicide risk assessment, how to keep safe in unsafe situations and Washington laws regarding how to involuntarily commit a person to a psychiatric hold ... all while answering multiple texts and emails regarding the wedding.

(Very grateful for Shoes' generous graduation present of an I Phone.  It helped ... immensely.)

Left the training a little early on Friday and made it in town just in time to make the rehearsal dinner.  Busy, busy, busy ... and at that point, starting to feel a little strung out.  The rehearsal dinner was a lovely time of catching up with old friends, new babies and missed family members.

And the next day, we got married.  I married Shoes.  Shoes married me.  We married each other.  We finally did it.

I cried buckets at the ceremony.  Because God is so faithful.  Because it was a gorgeous (albeit 100 degree!) day.  Because my sweet friends helped so much the day before to get everything ready while I was gone.  Because I am wholly in love with Shoes.  Because our vows were meaningful and heartfelt (we actually did end up writing them together and, if we're FB friends, the video has been posted to my timeline). 

Shoes teared up a little, too, during our vows.

That made me cry a little more.

I cannot even begin to tell you  how grateful I am.  For Shoes.  For this life.  For everything.

Now, we are married.
And we have a dog.
And we are looking for a house.
And Cougar football season is about to start.
And I have this new job in a town that's 30 miles away (which, as all you social service / LEA / counselor types out there, is definitely advantageous).
And now that my life has a new rhythm, there will be more posting.

In closing, our going away car (also courtesy of Cori) and a new pic of Rosie.  Because we are finally, finally a family.




... in 4 days.

I am!  4 days!  Oh my word!
O, we've got it.
Her name is Rosie.
She's a handle.
She's one of the things my life revolves around.
She pawed at the glass for the first time today to be let outside.
I almost cried.
Potty Training a puppy is hard.
I know I'm supposed to be the leader of my pack.
And put her second.
But those brown eyes just kill me.
But we still try.
Shoes is In Love, too, and is the Master of Coddling.
(but i can't blame him ....)
Also, taking pictures of a puppy is impossible.


She likes to double fist the bully stick and the cotton bone. 
At least the bully stick is not my finger.  Or heel.  Or elbow.  Or toe.
Puppy teeth are razor sharp.


She likes to roll around on her bed a lot.
A lot.


She loves carrots.
After her first time outside after the carrot, I realized she only needed ...
half a carrot....


The brown eyes that slay.


She likes to be up in the gym, just working on her fitness.


She has also been enjoying the arrival of wedding presents.
For different reasons.

She is relatively mellow, except from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, where the devil takes over and she reminds us she is only 9 weeks old.  We're working on "Pay Attention" and "Sit".  She's exhausting.  And.  She's amazing. 

Here is messy.

1.  On Tuesday, Shoes and I finally brought home the Golden Retriever Puppy we've been dreaming about for three years.  We're in love.  She's amazing and sweet and smart (only I can't be sure about any of those things because we've only had her for three days).  The next post will be all things Puppy.

While we love her, and, o, how we do ... oh my good word.

What work.  What constant, vigilant, work.

2.  Shoes and I are getting married in 2 weeks.

3.  Shoes will work up to the day before the wedding.  New job = he can't ask for any real time off until about October.

4.  We have 14 people coming to stay with us at the Big House the week of the wedding. 

Fourteen people.  Five Children.  A new Puppy.  A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

5.  In a random stroke of amazing good luck and terrible misfortune, I've accepted employment as a Mental Health Therapist in a nearby town. 

That.  Is.  Amazing.  One month after graduation.  Awesome. 

Not awesome:  I have a mandatory training to attend in Spokane (one hour North) the 13th - 17th to learn how to complete the legal process of involuntarily committing a person to a psychiatric hospital.  This is the only time it's offered this year on this side of the State, and it's only offered twice a year. 

I get married on the 18th. 

I hope I make my own rehearsal in time.

6.  2012 is kicking my rear ... in the best, craziest, most unexpected of ways.  I'm breathing in and breathing out ... and breathing in ... and breathing out ...  And hoping for the best ... and believing that Shoes and I have everything we need, and a Supplier for what we don't, for the next few weeks...

Messy.
As in, mine quit.  My body quit. 
Well, kind of. 
I mean, my heart's still beating and I'm still breathing air.
Finishing school/job/internship to graduating to moving to getting ready for the wedding to frantic getting ready for Puppy are not restful activities.  They are not restful activities and they have continued well into my "summer vacation."

Which is confusing, because I initially thought I was resting.  I mean, I wasn't staying up until 1 and getting up at 6.  I wasn't rushing around the city at all hours of the day and night.  I wasn't fretting over human development theory and my counseling orientation or wrestling over appropriate diagnosis for my mental health assessments.

However, yesterday morning, I very innocently rolled over in bed, just like I have a million, zillion times before.

Only this time, something Very Bad happened.  My entire upper back twinged in the sharpest pain I can imagine, a pain so bad it felt like someone had kicked me as hard as he could in my stomach.  It took my breath away and the pain was so severe I ended up throwing up.  (Guess you didn't really need to know that last part).

And then I froze.

Like the hunchback of Notre Dame. 

Oh, how I wish I was kidding.  I managed to scoot my phone over to my feet to text Shoes to come home at lunch.  He had to help me put clothes on because I couldn't reach my arms over my head.
Shoes, despite all of his giftings, is very, very  bad at changing other people's clothes.  He better get some practice before we have a miniature human.

I spent 2 entire days in bed, moving very slowly and awkwardly because no matter what I did, it hurt.  It spasmed.  Nothing helped.   Luckily, since we're living with Shoes' mother in the Monster House, I've had her help, and oh my.  I didn't realize how much having help ... helps.  She's been helping me move around, helping me eat.   I don't know what I would have done without her, especially since Shoes left town on short notice for a day long meeting in Seattle.  What would this have been like if I was living on my own in the studio apartment in P Town?

It's getting a little better.  I can now sit up to type and I actually took a shower this evening.  It has to, has to, has to, has to get better by Monday though.  I have a frozen yogurt date with an old, old friend who lives nearby in Idaho and we have major giggling to accomplish.  Mom in law and I have to pick up Puppy on Tuesday.  !!.  Puppy has her first doctor's appointment Wednesday afternoon at the vet school.

And I have my first Master's level job interview for a child and family therapist in a separate town nearby Wednesday afternoon.

So body, I'll give you what you're demanding right now.  I'll try to take it easy.  I'll take lots of extra naps.  I'll spend extra time in the hot tub.  But.  You gotta' cooperate with me.  I'm getting married in 22 days.  This stuff's just not slowing down.  But I'll try to respect you a little more.

Now, in a random, nonsensical way to end this post, here's the latest picture of Puppy from the breeder, because it makes me happy:



She seriously makes me happy.
I usually just say no.  I mean, it's a good natured, good humored, realize my own limitations, would rather pay for things I like on Etsy, am in awe of those who can, just say no.

Obviously, then, the most natural thing for me to do when planning my wedding to Shoes was to  implement several DIY projects.  Well.  Maybe not several.  Maybe more like a few.  Maybe like no more than three.

Oh, but that's more than enough for me.

Just like 50 gazillion brides out there right now, we're having a farm vintage wedding.  Right, I know.  It's been done.  But.  Anybody who knows me knows my love for history and antiques.  And with our wedding set in the middle of the rolling wheat fields of the Palouse, there was no better setting/theme for me.

Because I don't craft, I also can't explain what I'm doing.

But I'm going to try.

Humor me.  I don't have any 8 year olds with PTSD or any depressive/suicidal 15 year olds to provide therapy to.  I have to spend my time somewhow.  (Besides this I also watch a lot of MSNBC and read The Nation.  I look for a job every day.   I get ready for Puppy.)

Lots of Burlap, lots of lace, lots of Mason Jars at the wedding.   And then I found this antique suitcase I wanted to use for people to put cards in.  So, logically, I had to make a banner that reads, "CARDS."  Right?  Because how else would people know to put their cards there?

Indulge  me.

Problem:  I had no idea where to begin.  So I went to the local scrapbook store, where the uber patient saleslady spent almost 45 minutes with me.

Here's a little hint of how it turned out (for absolutely no good reason, I don't feel like giving all of my cards away just yet!):



And here's the breakdown:

1.  Chipboard pennants.  I didn't even know they made these things pre-cut.  (I know nothing about crafting.)



2.  Paper.  I traced the chipboard out on the back of the paper and glued it on with a gluestick and alternated between these 2 patterns:




3.  Cutouts for the letters to be glued on to.  I spent $18 on the cutout thingie.  Looking back, I wish I would have just used the scrapbook store's.  Because I don't craft, Good Lord knows when I'll use it again!




4.  Cardboard Letters.  Also pre-cut and pre-packaged.  (Seriously.  Who knew?).  I painted them a lovely Marigold color with acrylic paint, which I actually had to go to Michael's for.  (This was an all morning kind of project.  Good thing I have that kind of time now ...)



5. And then I glued them one on top of the other.  Bam, bam, bam.  And added a little bit of lace at the bottom:



6.  A little bit of jute running through the top adds a little extra farm feel.  And again, the finished project:


Don't tell anybody, but I actually had fun doing this banner.  And, of course, felt like a genius afterwards.  That said, however, I'm only going to do two more posts like these, I think.  One on the terror that is painting canning jars to look like the vintage blue real deal (because at $15 a pop for the real vintage jars, I decided to spend our wedding budget on other things.  Like a prime rib station.).  The other will be the journey that is re-furbishing used windows to paint the wedding program on (already off to a rocky, glass shattering start).

Now, Shoes and I are off to hit golf balls at the driving range.  I plan on talking to him about writing our own vows.

Wish me luck ...