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.


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."


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.