Friday, December 09, 2011

Year in Review: 2011

Happy Holidays! Boy, the years just fly by, don't they? We feel like we've been very busy but we have little to report.

We're still in Our City, still in the house we said we'd live in for 5 years before moving. We're heading into our 12th year here, so you can see how that prediction panned out.

Ben earned his yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do, and then promptly quit.

A. graduated Montessori and switched to a new school, St. J's. Unfortunately, he says he doesn't like it much and wishes he were back at Montessori, so, you know, that's fun. We're all still waiting for a growth spurt, too.

Both A. and Ben started Boy Scouts, and while the activities are fun, the uniforms cost an arm and a leg and the badges are ridiculously hard to sew on.

Lunasea is still in private practice, and hates insurance companies more than ever. Her goal in 2012 is to not have to deal with them anymore. She also is not crazy about sewing Scouting badges and is actively sabotaging her sons' efforts to earn more badges for her to sew onto the shirts.

G. is still at Kaiser and in private practice. He was hit by an appliance truck and totaled the car. We're still driving it, though, because it turns out the driver was the appliance guy's uninsured nephew. Oops!

The unfinished wood around the doorways of our house are still unfinished. After 3 years, we (read: Greg) finally chose a stain color only to find it had been discontinued. Isn't that always the way?

A. is trying out CYO basketball, and his team finally won a game. We couldn't say that at all last year with soccer, so things are looking up.

Dear friends died and we miss them, so that sucked. was your year?

Friday, March 18, 2011

A. Takes a Stand

A. has come out firmly against tiger extinction, in a letter to National Geographic.

Dear National Giograpic,

We should keep lions and other big cats alive because they want to live a big life. Think about it, if we were a big cat we wouldn't want to die (and of course not go extinct). We want to live a good happy life. Big cats going extinct would make a big difrence. Many contry in southern asia and  Africa would have to change state animal and zoos would lose a lot of anamals. Little kids would get relly sad, if there was no more "King of the Jungle." It would be a big loss if the big cats when to ecstinction.

Sincerely, A.

Please, let the countries keep their national symbols. Save the big cats.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Another Auld Lang Syne

I've written before about how much I love New Year's. I'm in the self-improvement business, after all, and although I realize there's nothing magical about January 1st that instantly makes all goals attainable, it's a pretty handy marker for starting something.

Every year my resolutions are similar - they focus around health, organization and finance (like 98% of the population). I don't see this as a failure. These areas are my cutting edges - they are what I will always be working on, and that's fine. Every year gets a bit better. This year I implemented a new bookkeeping system in my practice, which helped track payments A LOT. Next year will be even better as I moved my accounting online.

I've recently been reading about brain plasticity and am really interested in how it applies to positive psychology. I've been really interested in cognitive work on resilience, and how some clients manage to pull themselves past enormous roadblocks and trauma, and why other clients see their lives as a tragedy and have such a hard time motivating themselves to change, even though they express the desire to do so. After 20 years of doing therapy, the actual traumas and stresses the two types experience don't seem that qualitatively different, and I don't think the first group is just in denial. I think the growing field of research into positive psychology is fascinating, and I want to learn more about the practical application of these ideas.

Last year I ran a 5K. This year, depending on how my joints hold out, I will run a 10K. I will also eat less and move more. I'm going to start a binder of healthy, vegetable-heavy recipes since I need vegetables disguised if I'm going to eat more of them.

Last year I learned many ways to cut back on grocery costs. I'll keep that up, and started a separate savings account at ING Direct to save money each month so I'm not struggling at Christmas. This year we sold one of our cars right after Thanksgiving and that saved this Christmas, along with the bevy of frugal shopping sites out there that saved me tremendous amounts of money by alerting me to sales I wouldn't have found otherwise...but I'm not going to be caught wondering how not to go into debt next Christmas. I don't think we'll have another spare car to sell, so....I need to make sure I have enough cash set aside.

And, hey, here it is 11:11 on 1/1/11. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Kind of Superhero I Want to Be

I had fantasies of being a Superhero today. Mostly because some chick started yelling inexplicably at me at a gas station, other people left carts in the middle of the aisle at Target, and then I stepped in dog poop on the grass at the library.

So if I were a Superhero, I guess I'd have to fly, because I'd want to swoop in and correct all those little stupid annoying things we do to each other. I'd swoop into the gas station and make sure everyone was calm, took turns and waited in line. I'd have people say, "No, you were here first, go ahead - here, let me move out of the way for you."

I'd (gently) teach people how to move their carts to the side of the aisle when they stop to look at something. I'd jump in front of their carts before they barreled around corners and say, "Now, don't you want to check first to make sure someone isn't coming and the coast is clear?"

And I'd definitely swoop in and hand people plastic (biodegradable, of course) bags to pick up their dog's poop. "I know you want to pick up your dog's crap, don't you? Here, let me give you this to use."

I'd stop people on sidewalks and firmly suggest they pick up the fast food bags they just threw in the gutter.

I'd show up in people's cars (guess I'd have to add transporting to my list of powers) and say, "Now, you want to use your turn signal right about now, don't you?"

Oh, and an important one - I'd prowl parking lots and discuss bad parking with people as they got out of their cars. "Now, I'm sure you don't realize this, but your car is over the line on the other side. That's going to make it awfully hard for the people in that car to get in, don't you think? How 'bout you just jump back inside and repark within the lines?"

I'd arrive when people are talking loudly on their cell phones in inappropriate places and either bodily transport them outside, or hold up my power shield and cut off their signal.

Any I'm forgetting?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Could We All Just Stop Pretending We Know About Major Depression if We Don't?

Once a month G. or I have to go to a parents' meeting at the Catholic Church.

So this year they had a parishioner lead the first class of the year, and then asked him to do it permanently. He's a nice guy, a dad, and he tries to bring in real-life examples of his kids and family and trying to be good Christians. He reads the day's Bible passage aloud, then tells us what he thinks it means. There's not really any discussion, we just listen to this guy and his train of thought on the message for an hour, then if we're lucky there are doughnuts and coffee in the hall.

Last week (I forgot what the point of the lesson was about - I think it was "we should all pray" again), he said, "You know, sometimes people feel bad and they just start taking these antidepressants, and those mess with your emotions, when what I do, is I just go over there," pointing to the church, "and pray and look for answers there."

Aw, crap. It's the famous "if you were stronger/more faithful/less of a pansy you wouldn't need anti-depressants" argument. We've all heard it. I've gotten into arguments with family members over it. People (who usually aren't in the field) begin spouting all this stuff about how meds mess up your mind: They make you foggy, screw up your emotions, change your personality. It's all a big conspiracy by the pharmaceutical companies. By the way, why don't I hear ever hear this argument about manufacturers of pain relievers or chemotherapy drugs? It's always the companies making anti-depressants (or ADHD drugs) who are especially evil and want everyone medicated and sedated in their quest for world domination.

When I've unwillingly found myself in this argument with someone who's usually talking out of their ass, I've resorted to, "You're an engineer (or whatever), right? And I'm a psychologist. Which one of us do you think knows more about psychotropic medication, hmmm? And just so you know, I've never received as much as a Post-It notepad from any pharmaceutical company, so just don't even go there."

So that morning, I looked around at the people in the room at this parent's meeting, and wondered who who took antidepressants that morning. I know I did, and I would bet money there were at least two other people in the room who were taking them as well. I wondered if they registered what the leader had said or if it just floated past them, like so many comments that float around us all the time about depression and mental illness.

I had a young man in my office recently who told me, "No offense, but I think this psychology stuff is bullshit." Really, Dude-With-1-Semester-of-Community-College -Psychology-Under-Your-Belt? (aside: Does anyone else get told the entire field of study of their Ph.D. is bullshit? Just curious, not bitter...not bitter at all. I mean, it's not like my dissertation was on Area 51). So this guy's mother was seriously depressed and he was convinced that it was because she was just weak. He gets depressed, sometimes, sure, but he pulls himself out of it. He was getting annoyed with her and believed she just needed to "move on."

Here was a kid who thought he knew everything at 20, which I understand. So I gently educated him about depression and anti-depressants and he listened. He finally agreed that it might help more if he was supportive of his mother and stopped telling her to snap out of it. He did agree that telling her to snap out of it hadn't worked thus far. I was relieved, because that's really all I was asking of him.

So my question now is, do I say something to the leader of this parent's class, or not? I think I have to. I think I have a duty to confront the stigma. I'm not an activist, and there are very brave souls who are really working to change the stigma of seeking help for mental health reasons, but that's not where my energy has gone. But I wish I'd said something that day. Honestly, I'm so used to these views being thrown around that I didn't even really register that I could say something until I'd already left to pick up the boys.

I don't care at all what he thinks about my taking meds, because I'm sooo over caring what people think about my being on anti-depressants, but I know for a fact that there are many poor souls who have suffered for years before finally realizing they could indeed feel a whole lot better on anti-depressants. Many of these people have told me they wished they'd tried meds years earlier and then have to grieve the loss of all that time lost to depression. And those people shouldn't have to feel that here's another person, in a position of authority, although I doubt he looks at it that way, who also thinks they should have been able to do it on their own. I have no problem with this guy having that opinion in private, but if he's in front of a roomful of parents he doesn't really know, perhaps he should learn to keep it to himself. I'm guessing it didn't even occur to him. We all have to think before we speak.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Amazon, Don't Make Me Boycott You Right Before Christmas

So there was this maelstrom on Twitter today that was picked up by media and bloggers everywhere. Someone found a self-published book, "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure," being sold as an e-book on, and raised a ruckus. For some, the fact that it was available on the site at all led them to call for a boycott of Amazon. (update: the book's page on Amazon is now a 404 message; not clear if it's just down or if they're really removing it from stock).

So Amazon responded, in part, with: “Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.”

OK...except that it's not censorship for an outlet to refuse to sell an offensive book, just like it's not censorship when sponsors pull out of Dr. Laura's radio show. No one's coming to arrest this guy, or Amazon, for selling a despicable manuscript. No one's saying he doesn't have the right to be, well, despicable. (For a more in-depth look on why this isn't censorship or book-banning, see Backpacking Dad. Actually, see Backpacking Dad for all your logical rhetoric.)

Today I've been watching the back-and-forth between bloggers on this issue.

We as a society have a responsibility to protect our children. I also think we do a lousy job of it. Maybe I'm overly sensitive to it since my profession involves trying to heal abused children, but actually, I think most of y'all are in denial about how prevalent physical, emotional and sexual child abuse is.

Here we have a how-to manual on how to victimize a child, and how to get away with it. This is not a gray area. This is not a treatise on how incest and child brides have historical relevance and should therefore be considered normal. I'm sorry, but this is not an idea that deserves to be protected. And, as Backpacking Dad also points out, for the slippery slope argument to work, you have to prove that the slope is slippery, not that it's there.

Wringing your hands and asking, "But where does it end? Are we going to ban the Bible too because some people find it offensive?" is as ridiculous as wondering if gay marriage will lead to people marrying animals.

I am not in favor of banning books or restricting free speech, and on the whole I respect booksellers who try to offer as wide a selection as possible. If Amazon really believed in that, they'd sell porn. But I also believe there is a greater principle here, and that protecting children from anyone who'd buy a how-to manual on child molestation is more important than worrying about the rights of Philip R. Greaves II to sell it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dia De Los Muertos

I've always wanted to make an altar for Dia de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. I'm not sure how I knew for sure, since late summer, that this year would be the year I would make one in our home. I think it has to do with turning 45 next week and having the time clock ticking louder in my subconscious than ever before.

I took the boys to a fabulous Day of the Dead celebration in our hometown so they would understand where it comes from and its significance. 

Can you find the 5-year-old?
Outdoor altar at Meek Mansion Day of the Dead Community Celebration

There they boys made the skeleton masks that are now at the back of our altar at home, and Benjamin decorated the little sugar skull at another booth. We got some colorful fabric, cut out the flags, and made tissue paper flowers. I bought a Lady of Guadalupe (one of my favorite icons) candle at our local Mexican grocery store, and then it was time to add photos and symbols. 

The framed picture near the top is my mother. The two photos below that are of G. and A. meeting Grandma Gagnon for the first time. Grandma lived to 101 years, and when I met her, she was 93, healthy as a horse and walking 3 miles a day. The pic to the right is our friend Ralf, one of G's groomsmen who passed away suddenly a few years ago. There are more pictures, more people to add as I find and print them.

One of the most poignant things on the altar, to me, is the pregnancy test on the top to the left. I'm grieving the loss of my dream of having a third baby. It's not unexpected - as I said, I'll be 45 next week. But I always thought I'd have three kids. I always thought I'd have a daughter. Someone who claims to know such things told G. a few years ago that there was a "red-headed female" soul waiting to join our family. I'm sad that she either lost her way, or that I didn't hold the door open long enough for her to join us.

So, our family is now complete, and it's good. I am beyond lucky to have two such glorious boys. A friend offered me the book, "The Wisdom of Menopause" but I'm not ready for it yet. I have to still say goodbye to the ignorance, and other trappings, of youth.

And, as a bonus, here's Benjamin explaining Day of the Dead for you, complete with 5-year-old close-up. Then he goes on to the weather, which is why I stop recording. If you knew him, you'd thank me.

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