Tuesday, March 30, 2010

overheard in southern Mississippi

Urgh... still failing at blogging. I had a few interesting ideas worth writing about throughout the day, but my energy is gone now, so I'm going to take a cue from "Overheard in New York" and just share something funny that I overheard while walking across campus today:

"I mean... we wasn't doing anything! We was just conversatin'..... we was just CONVERSATIN'!!!!"

Yikes. When I said funny, I really meant tragic.

....blogging isn't looking good for tomorrow either. I have TWO NEW clients to see on top of my normal busyness, and I just realized that I didn't really schedule time for eating. Oops. :/

Saturday, March 27, 2010

jazzing it up

live new orleans jazz
looks better in black and white
(but SOUNDS colorful)

Friday, March 26, 2010


it's both a fountain
and, yes, a dandelion,
so make TWO wishes!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

be her guest

Brigita of the etsy shop bluejules graciously allowed me to be a guest blogger today! She's starting a series called "around the world," in which artists and crafters introduce both their creations and the places where they live. Since my photography is so closely tied to where I live and have lived, I thought it would be fun to join in. See what I have to say here!

...yeah yeah, I know it's a bit ironic that I'm struggling with my commitment to blogging for Lent and yet have no trouble contributing to other people's blogs. It doesn't make sense to me, either.

Wait. Actually, it does. This was easier because it was like an assignment (albeit a voluntary one.) There was a deadline. And guidelines. Like graduate school. Like what I'm used to. I associate writing with duty and evaluation now and am having trouble linking it to my own mental health and spiritual growth. My guest blog is sort of personal and reflective though. Apparently I can still do that, but only on demand.

Graduates school is eating away at my soul.

I am kidding, but only sort of.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

victory is ours

I finished my work with a therapy client a couple weeks ago after fifteen sessions and have been on a bit of a professional high ever since. She set a goal for herself that was pretty overwhelming even to me, and I did not know how we were going to get there--if we were going to get there. It was really, really hard work. We had conversations that reached a level of depth and intimacy that I believe many people don't ever experience. I challenged her. I helped her to make connections that she couldn't see on her own. I asked her to describe some pretty horrifying stuff--stuff I can't really imagine living through. I asked her to acknowledge it, to face it. To face her own feelings--to face herself. I encouraged her, nudged her toward the goal, all the while feeling in over my head and fearing that it was just too big, too much.

It wasn't too much: she did it. We did it, and I am so, so proud. It's that funny kind of pride that's so paradoxically mixed up with humility, but it's on a level that I haven't experienced before. Because it's not really about me; I'm proud of her...and yet, I know that I was an important part, maybe even an essential part.

I'm not a parent, but I think maybe it's like that. I know my own parents act as if my accomplishments are beyond them. They think I'm smarter and more capable and more creative than they are. They think they couldn't have done what I'm doing. I'm always uncomfortable about this claim, partly because I think they don't give themselves enough credit, but also because it just doesn't make sense to me. Because, in the most basic way, what am I but the sum of my parents? Certainly I grew up as a person who is different from both of them, perhaps because I am not just a biological and genetic being, but have been shaped by experiences which aren't necessarily the same as my parents'. But still, my parents are the context for all of that. They didn't teach me everything I know, but they sent me to school and helped me with my homework. I did a lot of things myself, but I did them in the safe, nurturing, encouraging, secure container of my family, my home. I was the one achieving, but they facilitated my achievement, and that's a pretty big deal.

I think that's what I was for this client. She isn't me, and she is the one who accomplished this goal. It does feel like it's beyond me, like I couldn't have done it. And yet, it was done in a context that I created--the container of our therapeutic alliance. She may have gone further than I can go, but I'm still the one who facilitated her journey. I cannot imagine spending my life doing anything better than this.

And yet, I know this doesn't always (or even usually) happen in therapy. Highly motivated clients aren't the norm, and the modal number of counseling sessions is one. Some people "work on" the same things for years with no progress because they aren't really "working" at all. Or they are, but the therapist doesn't know how to facilitate this particular change for this particular client. It's complicated and messy, and it doesn't always work. I have certainly seen it not work a million times.

But I am so thankful for this client who unwittingly convinced me that sometimes it does work. This is not futile work. There is something powerful about therapy. About getting down to the real stuff of life, being ok with unpacking the huge mess of the soul with the confidence that it can be cleaned up, improved, maybe even healed. I am absolutely sure now that there is something powerful about me, in a room with someone else, listening, validating, understanding, guiding.

I will feel discouraged and frustrated and doubtful again (and again, and again), I know. Maybe even tomorrow. But I will always have this victory to remind that there's hope. I know that I will always be thankful for this client and our time together. If I ever don't think this work is worth it, I will think of her, and I will keep going.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

banana leaves

I was talking the other day about how even though I miss hills and fall leaves, I have come to really love some things about the southern Mississippi landscape. At the time, I was mostly talking about live oak trees and Gulf sunsets, but seeing this treasury, I realize that banana trees should be added to the list!

There are actually TWO banana tree photos in my etsy shop!

Thanks for the treasury love, oritoart!

Monday, March 22, 2010

living statue

completely still, unmoving,
but with a heartbeat

Sunday, March 21, 2010

second thoughts

Obviously, this daily blogging thing isn't going very well. The end of Spring Break was very busy and hectic (and fun!) and I just couldn't make time. This is probably my least successful Lenten commitment ever, and I've been observing the season since about 4th grade, I think. :/ I think I didn't really think this one through. Giving up something works well because you don't have to put a lot of mental energy into avoiding it each time...it can be meaningful without you having to go out of your way to think consciously about how meaningful it is every time you do it, or, you know, don't do it. But blogging is something that is not meaningful in and of itself. It's only meaningful if I write something meaningful, that I spend time thinking about. And apparently spending time thinking and writing about something meaningful every day in the midst of my stressful life was a bit of a tall order. I really don't want to write more "just because I have to" entries, because that kind of defeats the purpose, but I don't want to give up on this either. What a conundrum. I guess I'll just keep trying.

Friday, March 19, 2010

just because I have to

I kind of wish I hadn't promised to blog every day during Lent, because it seems stupid to bother when I am exhausted and am not going to say anything interesting, but here goes. I'm not sick anymore (thank the Lord), and we had a really fun (and delicious) day with Katie and Nathan. To New Orleans tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

grass is greener

Just randomly met someone who mentioned places like Bristol and Abingdon, and it made me feel nostalgic.

the grass IS greener
when the other side is a
place called Virginia

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

being here now

Still sick today. It kind of makes me feel like this:

Appropriately, this photo was featured in a treasury on etsy today.

Thanks, jeniferglagowski! Also appropriately, the treasury's title was "be here now," the ultimate call to mindfulness. I haven't been great at living in the present moment during school time (part of the reason I thought blogging for Lent was a good idea), but now that it's break time, I'm much better at it. Sadly, the present moments as of late have consisted of lying on the couch trying to feel better. I must say I'm pretty irked that I'm sick just in time for Spring Break. On the other hand, I guess it would've been worse to feel like this while I was supposed to be doing productive things. My main concern is that starting tomorrow evening, I need to be a co-hostess and have lots of on-the-go fun, which is a little inconsistent with my current state of being. But there I go getting ahead instead of living in the present.

Here, now, I am lying on the couch. My throat hurts less than before, and I haven't been coughing much. I can breathe through my nose. I don't have any energy, but that's ok, because I don't really have to do anything. I have a sweet hubby-to-be to take care of me. I think I'll ask him for yet another cup of chamomile tea with honey. Maybe being here now isn't that bad, after all.

Monday, March 15, 2010

color of the year

Still feeling crappy today (I'm on cup #5 of chamomile tea), so I don't think I'm up to organizing any coherent thoughts here. Instead, I'll return to an old blogging habit and express a little etsy gratitude. Many thanks to 'Chel of lavajewelry for featuring my "White with Foam" photo in this turquoise-themed treasury! She calls turquoise the "2010 color of the year." Works for me!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

sick leave

Another blog fail yesterday. :( Adding something to my life is proving to be much more difficult than giving something up. The sudden change to warm spring weather has my sinuses all messed up, so I spent most of yesterday curled up in a ball on the couch, consuming benadryl and vitamin-C drops. We'll just say I observed the Sabbath yesterday instead of today and call it even. ;)

I'm feeling a bit better today, but I'm coughing (and singing hymns an octave too low at church.) It's just my luck that I'm under the weather just in time for Spring Break, but I'm trying to look on the bright side. My future brother- and sister-in-law are coming to visit us in a few days, and I'm very excited to see them. Might be hard to make time for blogging while they're here too, but I'm hoping I can find time to post just a little something every day.

For now, I have to continue "getting the house ready." It looks as though I've been assigned laundry and kitchen detail. Maybe my head will clear up a bit so that I can think of something more interesting to say tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring has sprung!

I've recovered from my exhausting week, I think, but nonetheless, Spring Break could not have come at a better time. And now that I don't have to be trapped in a building all day, I can appreciate how beautiful the world outside has become! Spring has sprung, indeed!

"See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come..."
-Song of Songs 2:11-12

Thursday, March 11, 2010

these dreams

"These dreams go on when I close my eyes. Every second of the night, I live another life..."

Last night, two other lives. Neither of which I want to live.

Let me back up. Obviously, I didn't blog yesterday despite my Lent commitment. I'm not going to beat myself up about it because 1) I don't have the energy for that and 2) I think it's more righteous to "try harder next time" than to give up because I didn't measure up to some rigid but arbitrary goal I set for myself. That being said, I didn't forget to blog yesterday... but by the time I was done with everything else I had to do, I just couldn't make myself do it. It's been a really, really, exhausting couple of school/work days. I had only done one intake interview all semester, but I had to do two of them on the same day (Tuesday), and just that little extra time and effort kind of sent me over the edge. Being on the go for 12+ hours a day--especially in this environment where I feel like every move I make is going to be evaluated--is just too much for me. When I got home from school yesterday (and by school, I mean work, lunch, clinic paperwork, research meeting, dinner, yoga, supervision, more paperwork), I was completely spent. I can't remember being this exhausted for a long time. I didn't take any time to decompress or reflect or chill out or pray or even talk to Alexander. I just collapsed onto my bed.

Oh, how I wish I hadn't done that. I had horrible dreams. And I hardly ever have bad dreams. I dreamed, basically, that I was one of my clients. I was still me, but I was experiencing some really stressful interpersonal things that my new client is currently experiencing. I woke up at 3 a.m. (I don't think I've done that since I've been thyroid-less) and was exahusted, but so relieved that "it was just a dream." It took me quite a while to go back to sleep (again, hasn't happened since 2007, I don't think), and when I did go back to sleep, it got worse. In the next dream, I started having a horribly traumatic experience that my other client experienced as a kid. I can't even bring myself to say out loud (or type out loud) what it was. I woke up at 6 feeling more mentally exhausted than I was when I went to sleep.

Clearly, this is not a good situation. Therapists should not be unconsciously experiencing their clients' trauma. It might seem like I have no boundaries and can't leave therapy in therapy like I should. But really, I'm pretty good at that, usually, because I spend waking time reflecting about it so that I can put it away and move on. I've actually been pretty pleased with my ability to do that so far in my "career" as a therapist. I guess it's easy for me, because I naturally take time to reflect, which actually helps these sort of thoughts not to follow me around when I don't want them to. I give them attention when they need it (which is usually right after sessions or in this case, supervision), and then I file them away for next week. But my fatigue stopped me from doing that. The last thing I did yesterday was talk to my supervisor about my clients (and then get their paperwork in order.) Since I didn't have my normal decompression time, all that crap was still floating around unresolved, so it showed up in the worst way possible.

One positive: I have a whole new level of empathy for what these clients have experienced.

Another positive: I have a whole new appreciation for the importance of "self care" as it relates to clinical work. It is so, so important for me not to get so exhausted that I don't have time to chill out.

Lord, come quickly. And bring Spring Break with you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

exhausted haiku

two intakes, classes
eleven hours on campus
and there's nothing left

Monday, March 8, 2010


the sun is rising
on a day that is brand new
and i am ready

Saturday, March 6, 2010

jesus, sigmund freud, and me

I’ve been teaching some gifted teenagers about psychology for the last seven Saturdays as a part of my assistantship, and today was the last day of the program. I’ve enjoyed it; I love teaching, and I’m pretty good at it. I’ve even had moments of thinking that I “missed my calling” (like my boss told me), but today, I’m glad it’s over and that I’m going to spend my life doing therapy instead.

I brought my Sigmund Freud action figure today since we were talking briefly about psychoanalysis, and my kids got a kick out of it. I probably shouldn’t have explained the significance of his cigar, but I did. ;) I stopped short, though, of telling them how this action figure is part of my favorite metaphor for life. You see, someone who knew me very well bought this action figure for me several years ago, along with a Jesus action figure, and these two men have been standing side by side on various shelves in various places I’ve lived (Emory, Radford, Ashland, Hattiesburg) ever since. The point of this gift, of course, was that I am a psychology student and a Christian, so these two guys represent my worldview even though they look like a rather strange and humorous pair.

My worldview, though, is obviously not one half psychology and the other half faith. Faith comes first, and psychology is contained by it, guided by it, supported by it. That part of the metaphor has made itself concrete in the action figures too, much to my amusement and, well, inspiration. You see, the Jesus action figure has a broad base and two wheels on the bottom, so it’s very stable. Sigmund, however, has two skinny little feet that don’t always seem to be exactly level. He falls over backward quite easily. That’s why he has to stand so close to Jesus: Jesus’s hand is always right behind Freud’s, propping him up so he doesn’t fall.

It’s funny, yes. But it’s also such a clear picture of God’s sovereignty and love. Christ might appear to be just a part of the story, but none of the other characters would be around if he weren’t there first. Even things that are not “Christian” are able to exist only because of the life given them by God. Sigmund might not notice Jesus standing there at all, but Jesus’s presence is the only thing keeping Sigmund Freud (and me) standing.

Friday, March 5, 2010


sometimes a bird needs
a moment of solitude
to plan her next move

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

oh, for the love of color!

One of my favorite things to do online is to make treasuries on etsy. I'll use pretty much any excuse to browse this wonderful site (and drool over all the things I'd have if space and money were unlimited), but it's especially fun to feel like I'm curating my own little art gallery. If you've visited my etsy shop (or my apartment), you know that I love color; that was the inspiration for my latest treasury. I'm so in awe of some of these artworks that I can't resist sharing!

Check out this beautiful "Canyon Dreams" painting by Pam Van Londen! I could just stare at these rich colors all day long. I love how you can so clearly see the brushstrokes and that the minute details of the landscape aren't there, and yet this image is unmistakably a beautiful canyon and river. Pam says she's inspired by "the visual patterns and dance of light," and that definitely comes through in this piece. There's no big yellow circle of a sun, but the perception of sunlight really shines through! Perhaps that's because Pam does her painting "en plein air" meaning that she's outdoors while she paints. She also paints daily, so there are many beautiful canvases to look through in her shop! There's a lot of variety in terms of style, subject matter, and size (and therefore price), so go have a look! You're sure to be inspired.

Since I started my etsy shop, I have become more and more aware that I have quite a fascination with trees. Most of my favorite photos are of trees, and I always gravitate toward other artists' representations of trees, too. An example is this lovely little painting by Elizabeth Soares, aka elleven11. I love the thickness of paint and that each leaf is so distinct. If only leaves could turn blue and purple in autumn in real life! Elizabeth has a very consistent style throughout her shop, so I can imagine that several of her pieces grouped together would be just fabulous on a wall. Check out all the options in her shop!

This next piece by Amy Gibson and Andrea Read of colorstorydesigns combines my loves of color and trees with my favorite material to play with: pieces of old magazines! I love that it's three-dimensional like a diorama! These tree shadowboxes come in all different sizes and color schemes, so there's something for everyone's aesthetic. This shop also has some of the coolest mirrors and picture frames I have ever seen. Check them out!

Other color-loving artists included in my treasury were whimsyfish, bdollco, jlovesupreme, ChatonDesigns, MadeMary, woollyfabulous, missmosh, peacockandpeccary, and magicrayons. Exploring their shops will brighten your day, I'm sure. :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

a place to sit

there are some days when
all you really need in life

Monday, March 1, 2010

being > doing

In the field of counseling, we spend a lot of time researching, writing, and talking about different treatment approaches. Some disciples of certain theoretical orientations or interventions seem to be quite invested in making sure theirs are the “best.” But data (and experience) keep telling us that what we “do” as therapists matters less than how we do it—or maybe even who we are. We use the term “common factors” to refer to things like genuineness, empathy, hope, warmth, and unconditional positive regard—things that characterize good therapists whose clients experience improvement. Sometimes we conceptualize this as “being,” contrasting it with the “doing” of interventions.

I’ve always believed in the idea that the most important thing is that I care about my clients, but sometimes, in session, it doesn’t feel like enough. I can care all day long, but what if I don’t know what to do? I’ve begun to trust my instincts a lot more than I did at first, but sometimes I still wonder if the “common factors” are really all they’re cracked up to be.

But Alexander and I had our third pre-marital counseling session with our pastor on Sunday, and it really restored my faith in the idea that being is more therapeutic than doing. You see, our pastor is 1) very young and 2) not a counselor at all. He makes no bones about the fact that he is not trained in counseling and is largely winging it. I have to admit that I sometimes find myself silently assessing what he’s doing and thinking about all the ways I would do it differently if I were in his shoes. For example, this week, Alex and I completed a questionnaire about the “five love languages” (based on this book), and our session focused on a discussion of our results. Except there was no “processing” of our experience completing the questionnaire or even of our initial responses to our results. We turned them in, he interpreted them, he talked about what they might mean for us. It was several minutes before either of us had an opportunity to say anything at all. Our pastor didn’t ask us if his words made sense to us; he didn’t ask us for examples (though I gave some anyway.) Knowing what I know about using psychological assessment in counseling, I would say that he did it all wrong. And speaking in this technical sense, I might even say that what he “did” was a waste (at least for me), because the information that the questionnaire gave us was not news to me—I already know how I communicate love. I already know how Alex communicates love. I already recognize that these aren’t always the same, and I already work hard both to communicate love in the way he receives it and to recognize when he’s communicating love to me. From an intervention/treatment/ “doing” perspective, it was useless.

And yet… it wasn’t! At all! It was a really, really, really positive experience that I enjoyed quite a lot. Our pastor is very intelligent, and a really nice guy. He’s real with us. He’s present with us. He welcomes us, he likes us, he deeply desires for us to be blessed and fulfilled in our marriage, and he faithfully believes that we will be. We left our session feeling happy, refreshed, confident, supported, loved, and excited about what’s ahead. And what more could I want for my clients than that?