Monthly Archives: April 2013

Two Blondes Walk Into A Rental Car Agency

two blonds rental car agencyI have spent a good portion of my life trying to off-set the dumb blonde jokes and stereotypes. Only to finally arrive at a point where I think either it’s me or there is something different about being blonde. I’d like to think it’s just me. Otherwise, I’ll have every other blonde in the world writing me hate mail or telling me I’ve leaped into the dark side – um, make that the brunette side.

Anyway, here is my most recent blonde escapade. I can say two blondes because I’m with hubby who also happens to be blonde (Someone explain to me why blonde jokes and stereotypes only apply to females).  In this case…

Two blondes walk into a rental car agency. The male of the species gets a red (according to the tag) Chevy Cruze. I call it terra-cotta. On the Chevy website, it’s called Autumn Metallic. Why is this important?  It’s not, but calling the car red bothers the hell out of me and I can’t let it drop.  I mean, think about this. You are in a strange place in a rental car and you can’t find it. Someone asks, “well, what color is it?”  And you say RED. Look at the picture of the car! Would you go get me THAT CAR?

After sensing hubby’s frustration at my figuring out just the right-color adjective to describe our car (In his defense, I can be a bit obsessive at times and it was about midnight after a long flight), I decided to plug my phone into the car jack to recharge.

This car has a combination computer system in the dashboard that does a number of things. None of which is clear and there are no instructions.

Hubby says, “Find something on the radio. Looks like, it’s got one of those satellite radio features. You might find some station you really like. ” Hubby gets out of the car to pump gas and get a couple drinks from the local Kangaroo store (it’s a mini-mart gas station, in no-way selling kangas or roos).

I turned on the radio. There is no way in hell I’m getting any music. It wants to do something. I don’t know what. It asks my permission to do something else. What the hell? Okay, little whatever-you-are-in-the-dashboard-computer-thinky, go for it.

Hubby returns to the car with two sodas and a couple candy bars. “Did you find something?”

“No.”

“Oh well. I guess we’ll just have to figure it out tomorrow when we are less tired.”

All of the sudden the whatever-you-are-in-the-dashboard-computer-thinky comes to life and starts playing the song from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. You know the one that goes, Yo, ho, Yo, ho, a pirate’s life for me….  Now we both think that is pretty awesome. Here we are in Disney country and the radio somehow picked up some Disney song.

I’m listening and thinking this is really remarkable.  I’ve never heard the Yo Ho song on the radio and Johnny Depp is doing the singing!  Oh my g-d! Johnny Depp released his version of the Yo Ho song! How did I, a member of just about every Disney blog and web site out there and fan of Johnny Depp miss that? Sh-t! Well, I now know it exists.

Hubby and I laugh about that and sing a bar or two.  Tomorrow we are going to make a pit stop at Disney and we always ride Pirates and Haunted mansion – we have season tickets.  The song ends.

The next song is, This is Halloween, from the movie Nightmare Before Christmas by Disney and Tim Burton and the music by Danny Elfman. I’ve never heard this song on the radio either!  I love Nightmare Before Christmas! I love Disney! I think Tim Burton is a creative genius! I love the movie soundtracks of Danny Elfman! I can’t believe this!

I turn to hubby and say, “I can’t believe this! It’s almost like they know I’m coming!”

And he says, “I know. It’s really odd. Did you program the songs you wanted?”

“No!”

“Are you sure, because I’ve never heard that song on the radio.”

“Absolutely sure! This is fantastic! I feel like we entered the Twilight Zone!”

We start singing along. Yes, we know the words to, This is Halloween. Please don’t judge us. I’m sure if you dig deep enough you will find something YOU do that others might find … odd.

The song ends and I eagerly await the next song. What could the geniuses at Disney know I want to hear next?

The next is some ditty with a rumba-kindda sound to it. I don’t like it, neither does hubby. It does not last long so that’s okay. In fact, it’s the shortest song I’ve ever heard.

The next song is just as odd. It’s the sound of beeps and whirls and nothing else. It’s also extremely short. The one after that is … the sound of a telephone ringing.

Hubby says, “Those are your ring tones! The radio is playing all your ring tones! How does it know your ringtones? Why is it playing your ringtones? Where did you plug your phone?”

Okay, so the little whatever-you-are-in-the-dashboard-computer-thinky had synced with my phone.  There was no Disney fairy at some radio station reading my mind and sending me songs of my fancy.  Johnny Depp was not singing the Yo Ho song. It was an impersonator on some ring-tone site I paid  ninety-nine cents to download a while back.  In fact, it’s my main ring-tone. I thought it sounded really familiar.  The, This is Halloween, song is my ring-tone for when Hubby calls. He loves making up new words to the song to make me laugh. So, it’s his song.

This concludes the hap-hazard tale of two blondes walking into a rental car agency.

He Made Me Do It!

ImageNow that the Boston bombing suspect has been arraigned conversation on television reporters is the debate – what responsibility does a person have in their actions? What if any barring does being under the influence of another person play?

PLEASE NOTE THIS DISCUSSION IS NOT MEANT TO DEMONSTRATE MY OPINIONS ON THE CULPABILITY OF THE BOSTON BOMBING SUSPECT!

All the discussions brought me back to these very questions which I have had to address both in my work as a therapist and in myself.

So, what responsibility does a person have? Can another person really influence another enough to cause the first person to commit acts normally not within their personality and choices?

The answer to the first question is very difficult and has to be measured case by case. Even then, the judgment and punishment or rehabilitation of this person is really going to depend on the society in which the events occur. Said differently, there is no definitive yes or no. Defining the actions of the person, their mind set, their motive, the overall effect of their actions and how many people their actions affected all need to be taken into account. Not an easy task when you consider that most of us can’t sit around a table with friends or family and all agree on the definition of things dear to us like, is there a god and if so what is this thing we call god. How does God influence, control or look like?

There are many people eager to voice their opinion on the topic of culpability of the current bombing suspect.  What I have been hearing now, in cases of the past and in smaller circles such as in the actions of a friend to another or a spouse to another is, “I would never do that.” “No one could ever make me act that way or do that crime.”

I have bad news for this folks, you really don’t know until you have been faced with the manipulation strong enough to cause a variety of reactions known as Stockholm Syndrome, Helsinki Syndrome, Battered Person Syndrome to name only a few.

All these syndromes are named on events where there is an element of traumatic capture – bonding. Where for reasons of survival and coping, the target or victim bonds or becomes linked with their capture or perpetrator. It can range from: keeping the perpetrator’s actions secret, behaving in a way deemed by the perpetrator to keep the victim/target or their loved ones safe, to falling in love or having deep sympathy toward the perpetrator.

Horribly tortured victims (to use an extreme example) have gone to court to help their perpetrator because of this phenomenon. Whole groups of people have helped kill one another because they so believed in the cause of the perpetrator.  Victims/targets commit heinous acts of violence for their perpetrator because either they have been manipulated enough to believe in the cause even if it is totally against their norm.  Every day abused people stay with their abuser and tell you they love them and will not go to court to prosecute. I could keep going but I think this is clear enough.

Events where you might be familiar with this phenomenon might be Patty Hearst, Jim Jones cult, Charles Manson family, Salem Witch trial girls, Nazi Germany, some military hazing, college hazing, spousal abuse, child abuse, bullying in school. The list goes on.

I’d like to point out that the victim/target does not have to be in complete bondage (held without physical ability to leave) in order for this to happen.  This is because the definition of bondage is larger than physical location. Bondage occurs whenever the victim/target believes there is no way out.

How can this possibly happen to someone?

Unfortunately, it is easier then you might think. The very elements of what most of us would consider a model person make the victim/target shine like the noon day sun to a perpetrator. Traits such as trusting others, people pleasers (people who put others ahead of themselves), people who believe others can change and give them opportunities to do so, sympathetic, empathetic, the world is a wonderful place people, God will protect me people, it won’t happen to me, it happens to other people individuals. NOTE: not everyone with these traits will become a victim/target.

Should we go around not having those traits? No, what a horrible world we would have if we didn’t!  But what we need to know is that there are individuals who have learned the art of psychological manipulation and use it to the detriment of someone they know or seek out.

It might be easy to say you can just look at a person and figure out who are the manipulators.  Usually, the most dangerous kinds of manipulators appear kind, caring, helpful and claim they have your best interest at heart.  Families of these people often know the truth about them, but to the outside world they can appear wonderful, model citizens.

How does manipulation work?

This profile is generic but in my experience and research demonstrates most of the following steps typically used on a victim/target.

  1. They search for their target or happen upon them.
  2. They behave in ways to gain the target’s trust.
  3. They start manipulating information to confuse the target. i.e. “If you vote for this person, you will lose your house.” Knowing that there is no connection between who you vote for and the status of your home ownership.
  4. Manipulation of information increases and becomes more personal. i.e. “If he loved you, he wouldn’t work so long. I love you and I show it by not working all those hours. Why would you want to be with someone who does not love you when you can be with someone who does?”
  5. They set up situations so the information they are telling the target appears factual.
  6. They work to convince the target that it is in their best interest to listen and do what they say. This can be used through the manipulation of information or through threat and actual violence.
  7. They start to separate the target from familiar family and friends. Anyone who might be perceived as a deterrent by the perpetrator.
  8. The goal of the perpetrator is to cause as much confusion, cause an inability to reality check data fed by perpetrator to target, and wear the target down. This is typically done by causing lack of sleep, food refusal, environmental changes to make the target have to cope more to survive or violence /threat of violence. The key here is the target has to depend more on the perpetrator for their well being. Typically the target starts to trust the perpetrator more than family and friends.
  9. The target starts to see the perpetrator as correct, in their best interest to listen to and agrees to do what they say. Typically, this starts with small things the perpetrator wants the target to do and the target is rewarded. i.e. “If you agree to say nothing about what just happened I promise you I will never beat you up again.”  The target does what is asked. There are no beatings and reinforces that the request worked. Only the perpetrator changes from beating-up the target to some other form of torment.
  10. At some point the perpetrator may ask for the target to prove their worthiness or sorrow at making the perpetrator behave as they do. Notice, the perpetrator at this point convinces the target it is the target’s fault they are in this situation. This intensifies the shame and often prevents the target from searching help. They feel they deserve whatever happens to them.
  11. Proof activities or behaviors by the target can be typically radical, dangerous and demeaning.  The target is pumped full of information which propels them to act on the proof activity. At this point the target does the activity for one or more of the following reasons: they believe the lies told by the perpetrator, they fear retribution from perpetrator, they fear being the cause of something horrible happening to someone else (including the perpetrator) if they don’t comply.
  12. If the target manages to figure out what is happening and attempts to escape the bonds with the perpetrator, threats or actual extreme violence is not uncommon. Oddly enough, sometimes the perpetrator may fake a suicide attempt to guilt the target into compliance.

By putting these steps in numeric form, it sounds very concrete and easy to say, well I would easily see through that and it would not happen to me. Remember that these perpetrators have so confused the target that they trust the perpetrator, feel they need the perpetrator to survive or have to comply with them for the target to survive. They have convicted the target that people normally deemed trustworthy and helpful are the true enemy. They can even convince the target that they are in love with the perpetrator. No one is better than the perpetrator. No one else is more correct in their views, attitudes and desires then the perpetrator. No one else can save, help or care for the target like the perpetrator can. The perpetrator’s needs and wants and dictations are all that matter. The target is essentially brain-washed.

The result sometimes is devastating. Horrendous crimes are committed. The target allows horrible things to happen to them.  And in the end, if they get out of the situation, it can take years to un-due the damage. Families and marriages are destroyed. Career can be ruined. Lives lost.

If the event causes events ending in the court system, often the target is not able to testify accurately about what happened. Even after the perpetrator is gone, the effects of the manipulation are so strong, the target continues to believe the lies told them and in the actions they took on behalf of the perpetrator.

These targets – victims need extensive help to recover. Depending on what they did, how far from who their sense of ‘this is not who I am’, and the extent of the brain-washing typically determine rates of recovery.  But recovery with psychological scars is possible. I don’t think anything can totally remove the guilt, shame and shock when the target figures out and heals from what happened.

So, it comes down to the question: What responsibility does a person have for their actions when under the influence of a skilled manipulator? How do we as a society work with this?

I can still hear some readers saying, “I don’t get it.” I rather think unless you have had the unlucky experience of being in the shoes of a target, or worked extensively with the topic you probably will not totally get it.

When I look back at events in my life surrounding this topic, I still have a hard time getting it.  I’m a strong, independent minded individual. It didn’t matter. I was caught off guard and my personality coupled with shaky, stressful events in my family life made me a prime target. I used to believe that people are good and trustworthy. I always gave people the benefit of a doubt. I felt people can change and really, honestly want to. If they do or say something horrible to me, it is in accident or some other deeper reason they are not aware of.

It did not register that some people are none of these things and instead feed their own natures and desires on others. When I looked at historical events such as Nazi Germany or the Jim Jones cult suicides, I would think, those leaders were evil. Why didn’t anyone see it and do something? My experiences have taught me why.

So, I get it. I didn’t do anything resulting in legal action. Thank God. But I have worked with enough people who have. The personal damage is horrific. When I hear of events unfolding in the world where there is suspect of a manipulator in the background, my heart rips a bit.

Just remember, if you are like me and do get it, you are not alone. If you don’t get it, I hope the f… hell you never have to.

10 Reasons Why I Won’t Be Moving To West-Central Florida

ImageI’ve been visiting Florida for the past couple weeks. I do this on a regular basis. So it’s no surprise when people ask me if I ever plan to move to Florida, especially the west-central Florida area. My answer is, when pigs fly. Here are the my top 10 reasons why:

  1. I’ve seen a car accident every day I’ve been here
  2. Scorpions hanging around the swimming pool
  3. The Walmart old-people scooter-chair super-highwayImage
  4. Brown recluse spiders and really big insects
  5. Culture shock, VERY slow way of life
  6. How many years do you have left to live competitions
  7. Grass that hurts my barefeet
  8. Daily rain and high humidity
  9. Most of the houses look the sameImage
  10. WHAT DID YOU SAY? I CAN’T HEAR YOU BECAUSE THE (TV, radio, loud speaker announcements) IS SO LOUD!… I call this no-hearing-loss syndrome. The response from those with good hearing  to the inundation of loud stimulation causing headaches and agitation. … Or maybe it’s just me.

Boston Terror: We the Viewers – Coping

ImageBy now I think all of us know of the horrors that happened at the Boston Marathon on Monday. I’m currently in Florida and luckily (that I am aware) don’t know anyone who ran or attended the event.  My son, who used to live in the area of the attack, had the job of contacting friends to make sure everyone was accounted for. They were all fine.

I know there is a possibility that someone reading this does not have favorable news. To you, I send my deepest hope for healing and strength of perseverance.

The rest of us have the job of learning just how much television to watch on the topic. Dissecting factual information from fiction and how we can help.  None of which is easy.

The 24 hour news coverage concept I’m sure must have seemed like a good idea. My personal opinion is that it has done little to alleviate stress and much to exacerbate fear, anxiety and anger. News is no longer news but opinions, assumptions and exaggerations with some actual facts thrown in. As a relative of mine said, “Well, they have to fill air time with something.”

The Boston coverage has been on almost every station for the past couple days. Some reporters are more careful about keeping fluid in reporting facts. While others even when the two reporters standing are right next to each other at the scene report conflicting information as verifiable fact. Eventually the chaos of the devastating event works its way into our living rooms and lives. We react.

After 911, I was involved in post-trauma counseling and realized many people do not have the knowledge needed to screen themselves from becoming secondary victims. Nor did they realize the impact knowing, with or without watching coverage can have on their own lives. So, I came up with a couple guidelines I could hand out. I thought this would be an appropriate opportunity to re-look at this.

What you need to know: 1. Are me and my family safe? 2. Is there a specific plan of action I need to do to remain safe? 3. If I know or think I know someone involved, how do I find out? 4. Who can I contact to see how and where I can lend my services to help?

After you know the answer to these questions, the remainder of what you see on news reports is secondary. There is nothing wrong with secondary reasons but there is a time when you have to walk away from media reports to maintain your mental health.

When should you walk away from watching news reports: 1. You place your life on hold, afraid if you leave the report, you might miss a piece of important information. 2. You feel drawn or compelled to watch repetitive and more detailed footage of the event despite having seen it before. 3. You start arguing with family or friends over details as they are told in reports. 4. You have trouble eating, sleeping, thinking or are OVERLY upset or angered because of the images and statements.

There is something in the human condition that causes us to be drawn to explore disaster involving human beings. These are what I referred to as secondary reasoning.

So, possible secondary reasons you are watching the continuous reports…

  1. Need for survival: If I study this enough I’ll know what to do if it happens to me.
  2. Shock: I can’t believe this is happening. We watch over and over until it hits us, this is real.
  3. Desire for a reason why the event occurred: Part of survival thinking. I heard a lot of this thinking post-Katrina. New Orleans got hit because of…. (fill in ridiculous reason here). I don’t do that, so I am safe.
  4. Empathy and reactions from helplessness: Having faces to traumatic events connects us with our own fragility and humanity. Feeling helpless to change the unfolding events often causes both a passive and reactive reaction.  Passive: I’m not there but if I pray hard, think hard, watch enough, somehow those people will know that I know and I care.  I can’t do a damn thing to help. But I’m doing what I can.  Active: I’m donating money, going to the scene to wrap bandages, cleaning up debris, helping people find loved ones, making coffee for first responders.
  5. Sense of community: Human beings need each other. Media is a way to bring us to locations and a larger community then our normal existence. In life-threatening situations, this intensifies. Average citizens on the spot become heroic helpers. We want to think we would be heroic helpers too.
  6. Justice /Revenge or both: We want the world to make sense. If we decide (see #2) that the people in trouble did not deserve what happened – someone has to be held accountable. We watch to make sure that happens.

As we gain more details and faces concerning the Boston Marathon tragedy keep yourself in check. If you start having symptoms listed above or others such as crying spells, anger outbursts, panic, nightmares or feel like it is happening to you, pull back. If you can’t or your symptoms worsen, it would be good to talk or journal about what you are feeling –  and turn off the television! At least for large blocks of time.

54,500 Sheep… 54,501 Sheep… 54,502 Sheep… INSOMNIA!

ImageI’d love to sleep the hours I believe most Americans sleep. To be part of the: to bed at eleven, seven to eight hour sleep period and wake refreshed at six or seven a.m. people.

I’d love to sleep like this, but I can’t. Doctors have tried numerous over-the-counter and prescription aids. I’ve read multiple books on healthy sleep habits. I’ve used a sound machine, played a video of the ocean, ear phones and meditation music, hugged a stuffed animal. My diet was changed. I stopped drinking caffeine and alternated the temperature of my bedroom. Exercise, yep, I’m doing it. Meditation is great but not for my insomnia. I’m not sitting awake worrying. My life is going well. Nothing works. AHHHHH!

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 1981. Truth be known, I actually have Complex PTSD although at the time they didn’t have that diagnosis. The hows and whys of this are not important for this writing. I’m telling you this because it and some wacky thinking on my part are the reasons for my insomnia.

I am so hyper-vigilant (on edge waiting for something inevitably horrible to happen) that any noise or movement jolts me awake with a startle. Then I’m up for several hours until I can no longer keep my eyes open. With any luck, I will return to some kind of sleep. Some nights this cycle takes an hour or two, other nights I’m up all night.

The less sleep I get the more my thinking becomes derailed. Things that normally would not bother me become monumental. I start taking things more personally and become defensive. Skills and determination take a sharp decline and old thoughts of self-doubt and self-scrutiny flourish and will spiral out of control if I don’t intervene.

I’ve tried many techniques and mild to wacky interventions to help me or force me to sleep. Occasionally, I think I’ve hit the right combination of circumstance, rituals and mind-set only to find it was all a fluke. I can blame my mattress, my hubby, the cat, the noise level in the room, hormones or any number of elements. While some of this is probably a contributing factor the end result is me and a need to find a way within myself to work with who I am now in a non-judgmental way.

Sleep eludes me. So I try to spin it positive. The house is quiet, I can write. There is time to process my day and goals for the future. There is quality time with my cat. All nice things but sleep would be greatly appreciated.

So, I am curious both as an insomniac and a therapist, what have you tried when facing insomnia? Did it work?

Maybe there are some techniques or home reminds I’m not familiar with. If you have any I’d love to compile them for anyone who needs aid. Myself included. Sweet dreams!

Houston, We have a Problem!

ImageThe oh sh-t moment when life goes from wonderful to dread and we have to act fast. We all have them. Sometimes we handle the situation well and other times, well, we ponder for decades what we could have done differently. Can a person truly be prepared for those problematic moments?

We are all basically hard wired the same way. Note the word basically. It is rare in life when things are one-hundred percent. There are four things we are programmed to do in emergencies. They are flee, fight, freeze or flop. Pretty easy to understand. To flee is to run away from the situation. To fight is to attack the situation head-on. To freeze is to become paralyzed and not able to do much of anything. To flop is to faint.

Which of these tactics a person picks may be the same in all emergencies or can change depending on the circumstances. A woman who suddenly has the strength to lift a car off her child (to fight), might not attack an intruder inside her home. Can we know in advance which behavior we will chose?

Hard to say. The military trains our troops by using repetition. Instilling into them, this is what you do in the following situation. The lives of these people depend upon it. Firefighters, police officers and all other careers where lives are at stake do the same thing. But even then not everyone is able to follow that programming when needed. Why not?

It comes back to all our past experiences. Those experiences become chemical memories in our brains. When a situation occurs similar to a past situation, the brain compares it and acts based on what worked before. No matter how much training a person has, there are times the old experiences will over-ride the current situation. Why? Because, training that your life is in danger is very different from it truly being in danger.

Having said that, there are times, sometimes humorously, when our reactions are way off the mark. Like the picture above where the caveman is using a club to put out a fire. The fire extinguisher is right beside him. This is where feelings step in. Fear, panic and anxiety all play a role in how effective we will behave in an emergency.

Stress produces the same type of reaction. The brain thinks there is a problem. It is either a possible emergency or real emergency and tells us to react. As a result our reactions maybe over the top for the situation. Think about the person who gets road rage because he/she is running late and the person in front is going the speed limit.

Next time you know you are feeling stressed and you find yourself over-reacting (flee, fight, freeze or flop), try to pull yourself together and regroup before reacting. Good questions would be, why am I reacting this way? Is the danger real? How realistic is my thinking? The one I like the best comes from my husband. He says to me, “I think you are reacting to things not in evidence.” Meaning, I’ve either got the cart before the horse or I believe I know what is going to happen without having a crystal ball.

None of us have true knowledge of the future but some of us think we do and base much of our choices and behaviors on this illusion. It can’t be done.

Here’s hoping you have a reaction appropriate day.

Monument Rocks, Kansas: Molly and Bobo Take a Vacation

Kansas is the flattest place I have ever seen. Pancake flat. I-70 is one long stretch of flat, mile after mile of farmland speckled with occasional bouts of religious billboards. If you want to find your fate in the afterlife based on a billboard, I-70 in Kansas is the place to be.

It was just me and hubby. The kids and grand-kids weren’t going so we brought the next best thing, a stuffed family. In the video you will see part of the zoo-crew (as hubby calls them). The monkey is BoBo and the pig is Molly be Golly. You might be surprised how many grandparent type couples we saw with stuffed kids or perhaps grand-kids along on their trip. So, I didn’t feel too awkward dragging stuffed animals around to have their pictures taken.  Back to talking about Kansas.

Nestled deep in all this flatitute is a natural site that took my breath away. I called it the Monument Valley of the Mid-west. They call it Monument Rocks and Castle Rocks. We found it only because of a small sign on the side of the road and a reference in the Welcome to Kansas booklet.

It is located down a very long, meandering, dirt road through private ranches. There are no fences and cattle do have the right-of-way.  The monoliths are considered a National Monument by the Department of the Interior and one of Kansas’ wonders.

I was positive, despite the sign saying public monument; we were going to get shot for driving across someone’s ranch. There was no hiding. There were no trees or buildings for most of the twenty-some miles of dirt road to the monuments.

They seemed to erupt out of the flatland before our eyes.  Buttresses of chilling, lonely, death-white stone at least two stories high. We slowed the van down to a crawl and said nothing. There were no words to describe the awe in this eighty-million-year-old byproduct of the Niobrara Sea that once traversed from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada though this site.

I got out of the van and just stood. The only sound I heard was wind singing around and through the stone arches. The milky buttresses hungrily sucked in the rays of the bright sun leaving nothing behind. They were not quartz as I expected, but made of white chalk with streaks of grey lines.

I walked around the monoliths and arches trying to wrap my brain around my feelings. It was more than mere awe. It was spiritual. I was walking in the footsteps of countless others before me and walking over countless fossils of marine animals long ago extinct. I pulled out my camera, a video recorder and a digital voice recorder. I walked around for about an hour taking over a hundred pictures, a video, and recorded my thoughts and the environment.  I left knowing I had not succeeded in capturing the experience. Some places refuse to be captured.

As we pulled away, I felt remorse and watched the site disappear in the dusty trail of our van’s wheels. I often tease that I am a restless wanderer but in this place, I felt grounded. If you get a chance, go see it. I understand the land where it sits was sold late last year but I am under the impression, visitors are still welcomed. ** Beware of rattle snakes!  There are no bathroom facilities! *****

Directions: (derived from Kathy Weiser’s site, Legends of America)

Monument Rocks is located about 28 miles southeast of Oakley Kansas. Take U.S. 83 south, then 4 miles east on Jayhawk Road, 3 miles south, and 1 mile east (dry weather road only). From Scott City, travel 18 miles north on U.S. 83, east 2 miles on Dakota Road, 1 mile north, 3½ miles east, and 2½ miles north.

Castle Rock can be reached by taking the Quinter Exit #107 off I-70, traveling 15 miles south on Castle Rock Road to the intersection of GO-80 and GO-K, then 4 miles east to Castle Rock sign, and north across a cattle guard (dry weather road only).

Therapist Finds Marbles When Digging Pond While Painting

ImageI’m always getting messages from the universe (in various forms) telling me to slow my arse down!  Only apparently I have a very short-term memory.

I got up this morning with an agenda of a doable level of goals. Then I saw a water stain on the wall which reminded me the house needs painting. More specifically, since I’m turning the upper floor into an office, that wall REALLY needs painting. It all went downhill from there. It went like this:

Time: 7:30 a.m.

Me: Well h-ll, not only does that wall need painting but so does that one and that one and sh-t, look at the ceiling! I wonder what colors I should pick?  What mood, what message do I want to send with my paint color choices? I know, I’ll do an internet search.

Time: 9:00 a.m.

Me: Oh crap, look at the time and all I’ve done is look at paint colors on the internet and wait, I did watch a YouTube video from Dr. Oz on how to lose belly fat.  I’m not sure what I clicked to get there, but it was very interesting. Okay, I’ll just pop over to Lowes and get a gallon of paint and spend the day painting. (Forgetting the original goals completely)Image

Time: 10:30 a.m.

Me: Okay, there are way too many colors to pick from. If I get this one than what if… If I get that one that oh man…. Satin or semi gloss? ….. Quart or gallon. Wow, look they have Lilly of the Valley bulbs. I love those! Wouldn’t they look awesome next to the fish pond! And look at all the perennials! Wait a minute; I think I need a paint brush or something. Why is my stomach growling? Did I eat breakfast?

Time: 11:30 a.m.

Me: This is great. I’ve got my paint. I’ll eat a piece of left over pizza which I am sure is not on Dr. Oz belly fat busting program. Oh wait, I think the paint roller is in the garage (which is behind my house, not beside). Let me put this pizza in the microwave and then I’ll just go out and get it

I go outside and see the partially dug hole I started last week for a fish pond.

Me: Crap that looks horrible. I really need to get on that. Let me put down this paint roller and pull out the rototiller and shovel. It won’t take that long to finish rototilling the hole.

Time: 11:45

Rototiller hits massive granite rock. Go back in garage and get trowel. Now sitting in 4×5 foot by 1 foot deep hole.

Me: Wow, this is like when I worked as an archaeological excavator.  I wonder if I’ll find anything? … This is a lot more enjoyable that the rototiller. Better make sure my 4×5 walls are straight (an archaeological thing not needed for digging a hole for a fish pond). Check it out! There’s a marble!

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Seven marbles later…..

Me: Okay, that’s apropos that someone once lost their marbles where I’m going to open a mental health office. D-mn I’m thirsty. Okay, just rototill  another small section and I’ll go inside. Sh-t, I’ve got painting to do!

Time: 12:15

Rototiller has hit a long piece of steel wire and it’s now wrapped around the blade axle.  I’ve flipped over the machine and am trying to get the blade off. It ‘s stuck. I have to go to the basement to get the WD-40 and a hammer. I’m now in the basement having traversed through my clean kitchen floor with dirt caked shoes.Image

Me: There’s the WD-40. That was easy enough. Oh look, I forgot to put the clothes in the dryer. Let me just wash my hands and take care of that.

Time: 12:25

Back outside with the rototiller.

Me: You know, maybe this is another of those examples of the universe telling me to slow down. First I hit a rock, I get a steal wire hopelessly wrapped around the axle and now I can’t get the blade off.  I should take a picture of this and blog about it.

I leave the WD-40, the rototiller and go inside tramping dirt all through the house. Get the camera, pen and paper and go back outside.

Me: I wonder what angle I should shoot this? You know, I should take a picture of the fish, because they are the real reason I’m out here in the first place. They managed to make it through the winter in an above ground pond. Least I can do is put their picture on the internet.

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Okay, so perhaps, only getting three hours sleep last night is a contributing factor in this morning’s escapade. If I’m honest, probably not by much. So,  I think I’ll make some coffee and slow down. I have the rest of the afternoon to finish. Hey, maybe I’ll paint! But first, I think I’ll re-heat that piece of pizza I put in the microwave a couple hours ago.

Homemade Liver Sausage (An American Family Moment)

 

ImageSuzie Worley hated liver. That included liver sausage.  She was standing in the back room of her grandparents’ one-hundred and thirty-year-old meat market. It was now her market, handed down through the generations.

Almost daily she thought about closing the doors and selling the antiquated market despite continued faithful patronage. She had hoped Karly, her eighteen-year-old daughter, would become her apprentice and then take over the business when Suzie was no longer able to physically manage.  Her daughter showed no interest in the family business and refused to help in the shop.

Times have changed, Suzie thought. She always knew she would fall in line with the family business.  Suzie, like her own mother, understood the importance of family pride, responsibilities and tradition. That was why weekly, despite hating liver sausage, Suzie found herself in the back of the meat market pumping out and stuffing fifty-two pounds of liver sausage.  

“Eat your liver sausage,” Suzie remembered her mother mumbling through lips that didn’t move. Her mother didn’t like liver sausage either. They were seated around the silver and red Formica kitchen table for another day of liver sausage and eggs over-easy with toast just shy of black, along with her father and maternal grandmother. It was 1965.

“Just place it in the center of your tongue,” her mother continued, “and you’ll hardly taste it.” Her mother’s eyes widened and darted from Suzie to her grandmother. It was face language for, your grandmother is watching; eat your sausage.

Her grandmother wasn’t looking. She never was. She was too busy nodding her head in approval while slurping liver sausage juice back into her toothless mouth.worley 2

“Oh dear, Oh dear, I’ve ruined another lovely blouse,” Her grandmother commented after dribbles landed on the cleavage area of her blouse. She grabbed her napkin and failed in her attempt to remedy the situation. All Suzie’s grandmother’s blouses where stained in liver sausage dribbles.

“My mother had the same problem when she ate liver sausage.”  Her grandmother chuckled.  “Well, it was worth it.  Jesus himself couldn’t have…” Suzie mouthed the remainder of the sentence as her grandmother spoke. “… made liver sausage this good even if he used a miracle.”

No one had the heart to tell her grandmother that the pork in liver sausage is an abomination to God based on the Jewish tradition. Her beloved Jesus was a Jew and would be appalled if Mary and Martha served him liver sausage.

“Smother it in the fried onions and ketchup,” her father mumbled. Suzie estimated her father ate enough fried onions and ketchup to keep migrant, onion pickers and the Heinz ketchup company going single handedly.

She didn’t bother. It wouldn’t help. Once again Suzie slid the sausage under the table to her basset hound, Speedy. He liked liver sausage and ate a lot of it. This probably had more do to with his early death from heart failure than anything else, Suzie always thought.

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1973 was the year Suzie graduated from Kemper Senior High School.  She was going to drive her father’s old, mint-green, ’62 Dodge Dart with the big steering wheel and very un-cool side fins, to California. Since his stroke, it collected dust in the garage.

For months she secretly sent resumes to cruise ships berthed on the west coast for waitress positions. She was going to get as far away from the meat market as she could. She hated liver sausage and the family business. There was no way she was staying to rot and die like her grandparents and now parents. There was a world to see and it didn’t include liver sausage.

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“California!” Suzie’s mother yelled. “When were you going to tell me this grand plan of yours?”

Suzie pulled her headband further back on her head so her elbow-length, brown hair stayed behind her ears. It was a nervous habit. They were standing next to the old extruder, caked in oil and cooked pate remnants. A sausage casing hung from the nozzle.

“I can’t stay here, Mom!” She pleaded, crossed her arms over her chest and flopped down on a worn, wooden bench against the wall. She hoped her mother would understand.

Her mother hated liver sausage and the meat shop too. Suzie was well aware of this. Thanks to her grandmother. Grandma had no difficulty reminding Suzie’s mother in front of Suzie about the squabbles they had over family business vs running away to nursing school.  The family business had won.

In Suzie’s eyes, the store had been her grandparent’s and no one alive wanted it. No one dead cared.  Suzie could feel the tears welling in her eyes. She couldn’t believe her mother wasn’t getting it.

“Your grandparents saved their money to come to this country and buy this shop,” her mother said with a catch in her throat. “Hell, that liver sausage recipe goes back generations before them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got it from Jesus!”

Image“Mom, Jesus is a Jew!”  Suzie sprang to her feet, twisting her ankle in her hot pink, high healed clogs.

“Don’t you think I know that?” Her mother turned away and wrung her hands on an apron she was wearing. It was floral with ruffles at the shoulders and once belonged to Suzie’s grandmother.

“I need you here,” said her mother. There was a moment of silence between them. “We need to get five pounds of chicken and beef livers, two pounds pork hearts and some pork belly trimmings from the refrigerator.”

Suzie felt her world come to an end.  She thought, why did I bother to go to school, play the clarinet or get good grades? If my whole life is going to be this stupid meat shop, there is no sense in living anymore.

She had watched her grandparents slave over the machines, pumping out liver sausages. Watched her parents, who hated liver sausage, do the very same thing. It wasn’t a business. To her, it was a curse.

Karly, Suzie’s daughter, bust into the back of the meat market letting the door slam closed behind her. Suzie was startled from her reminiscing.

“I hate this crap, Mom!” Karly declared. She flopped herself down, arms crossed, onto a worn, wooden bench against the wall. Just like Suzie had done so many years ago.

Suzie realized she had become her mother, a thought that nearly paralyzed her. Maybe, times had not changed so much after all. “Then why are you here?” She asked her daughter. She opened up the refrigerator to pull out five pounds of chicken and beef livers, two pounds pork hearts and some pork belly trimmings.

“If I didn’t come help you, I’d feel guilty as hell. That’s why. I hate when you put me on a guilt trip.” She fidgeted causing the wooden bench to wobble.  “Why are you here, Mom? You hate this stuff and this market too.”

ImageSuzie paused inside the refrigerator door. The smell of raw meat once again caused queasiness. Her mother and grandmother were long dead. She remembered her own thoughts when having this conversation with her mother. No one alive wants it. No one dead cares. She shut the refrigerator door.

She wondered how many Worley women needed to devote their lives to ideas and traditions because the generation before had done so. Maybe, it wasn’t about tradition, pride or responsibility. Perhaps it was time to allow independent thinking in the family.

Suzie took off her apron and quietly hung it on the rusted nail that had held it for many decades. She ripped off a piece of cardboard from an empty, pickle jar box.  “Do you have a marker?”

Karly looked at Suzie confused. She shrugged her shoulders, grabbed her back-pack set at her feet and pulled out a black marker. She stood and gave it to Suzie.

Suzie wrote on the cardboard in big, bold letters, CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.   She pulled some meat-packing tape and walked out into the market front with Karley at her side. She tapped the sign to the front door and turned to her daughter.

“I think we’re over due for a meeting of the minds over coffee. What do you think?”

The Healthy Relationship Part 5: Alternate Realities

ImageA sign in an amusement park says; look in peep hole to see a man eating chicken. Now, if you saw that sign what image do you think you’d see through the hole? Is it a man munching out on a piece of chicken? Or is it a large chicken eating a man?

What about these sentences? The man saw the boy with the binoculars.  Did the man have the binoculars or the boy? Or, how about, hole found in changing room wall; police are looking into it. Are they investigating the incident or looking in the hole?  

These are called syntactic ambiguities. Why am I telling you all this? Because it is a good demonstration of how our brains perceive the world around us. For every person who sees a man eating a piece of chicken there are probably equal number who see a large chicken eating a man.

If we want to understand and navigate our behaviors we have to grasp the way our brains see our world.

ImageAll around us is the Real World. This is everything that exists; no matter if we realize it or not. The real world contains trillions of pieces of information bombarding us constantly. Our brains are not equipped to handle all this so it selects what is most important and screens out the rest. 

It is generally accepted that there are three filters used to screen select Real World information for our use.  They are called: Knowledge, Values, and Perceptions.

Whatever information remaining after screening is now evaluated and a decision is made. Either, this information is in-line with our wants and needs and we feel good. This information is neutral and does not matter to us. Or this information is not in-line and may threaten our wants and needs and we feel bad.

If we decide that the information is in-line and we feel good, we keep our filters screening the same way, and continue to behave based on this information. The system is working well.  However, if the opposite is true, we feel out of balance and our system goes into red-alert. Depending on how far off balance we feel determines how much drastic action we take.  

For example, let’s say you are watching your child on the swing-set at a local playground.  The weather is good, the park is not crowded, and your child is having fun. You feel good.  All of the sudden, the swing chain brakes and endangers your child. Chances are at this point in time, your brain could care less what the weather is like or how crowded the park is. Instead information such as speed and what angle to leap in order to catch the falling child would be more practical.

Problems pop-up when we feel bad or out-of-balance and the adjustments we make are not the best.  Our actions could make things worse. They could fix things in the short-run but not long term. Or the adjustments solve what we think is the real issue making us feel out-of -balance when it is another issue deeper down we have not addressed.

When we feel out-of –balance, we think, feel or do something different to feel better. The next step is, did it work? If not or it did not work the way we hoped, then a change in the information screened through the filters or an adjustment to the filters might be in order.

The filtering system is one of the easiest ways to get from out-of- balance to in-balance.

Knowledge Filter: This is a filter that contains pieces of information we already learned. I don’t think all information learned is actually in this filter. I think we have the ability to alter this. For example, I learned my ABCs in pre-school. This is always in my filter because I read and write daily.  I learned to fish when I was four-years-old but never fish. I really don’t think this is in my knowledge filter. But if I pushed myself, I could remember some memory of fishing and probably some terms from hearing others talk of fishing.   

If the information we are using to filter Real World information prevents us from acting in a way to feel good, get our needs met and be in-balance, we need to search for new knowledge. We can also reassess knowledge we already have and decide what needs to be added or subtracted. 

This is as easy as someone saying, “Hey, remember back when and you had this happen. You did such-and-such and it worked out. Maybe you should try that now.”

Your reply, “Oh, I’d forgotten that. I’ll have to re-pull that knowledge and see how it changes my options.” Now you have added old information to your active knowledge filter.

Values Filter:  This is the, how important is this information to me, filter.  When information enters this filter a value is placed on it. Is it positive information? Information that helps us become balanced, meets our needs? Or is it negative, something that has the potential to prevent or hinder getting our needs met? Some information is neither and we don’t give it a value.  

Perception Filter: This filter is the very selective, how we see the world based on everything that is us. This includes our gender, culture, experience, sexual orientation, parents, age, race, etc. The amount of inclusions in here can be astronomical.  Because no one is the same as anyone else, each person’s Perception is different. Like the other filters, it can change.  Perspective might be another good word for this area. To change our perspective is to change our perception filter.

All of the above is then evaluated against what Dr. William Glassier called the Quality World. The QW is sort of like the answer to the magic wand question many therapists ask. If you had a magic wand, what would life be like? In the Quality World we have pictures of how we think we can get our needs met in the most satisfying way. All our filters are balanced to provide the Real World information the system needs to best get to our Quality World picture.

For example: If I have a high need for love and a low need for power (see prior posting for more details), my Quality World might have a picture of me being adored by family and friends. There is never conflict. I do volunteer work and always put others ahead of my needs. 

It is probably more specific than this. Maybe, I’m a stay-at-home mother with three adorable, cherub-like kids and a dog named Elmo. My husband, who looks like George Clooney, works as a Podiatrist and I go to the Sisters of Perpetual Mercy Church three times a week.  I make an amazing meat-loaf. It’s to die for.

That picture is what my brain will use to set my filters and gather information from the Real World. It is through that information, evaluated against my Quality World picture that I will use to behave. I will use it to think, feel and act a certain way. My way, may not be your way.

ImageThat is why some of us see a man eating a chicken while others see a chicken eating a man!