Sunday, July 23, 2017

Adolescence, Interrupted

Do people always tell you things they've never told anyone before?” 

We'd just completed a 2-hr interview in a participant’s home and were headed back to the office.  
In the interview, I too, had been struck by our participants’ vulnerability 
but it was in line with what I typically encounter
{occupational gift / occupational hazard}
so by the time I climbed into the car, I was mostly feeling relieved the digital recorder worked and the interview was completed within the allotted time frame.
 My colleague {trained as a lawyer and social worker without clinical or qualitative research experience} was floored.  

Overcome by so many emotions"

The participants we are interviewing are my colleague’s clients.
They are individuals incarcerated for a lifetime at age 14 – 17 yo.
Then, re-sentenced & released following the Supreme Court determination that juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences are unconstitutional.
They have spent more time in prison than I have been alive.

My colleague has worked countless hours, without pay, to assist with his clients’ cases and knows the complex depth and breadth that accompanies each.

He knows the grief, sadness, and pain they’ve inflicted on others.
He knows the challenges they’ve had to face + overcome to be sitting in their home with us.
He knows the costs of their freedom.
He knows the importance of their stories to impact public perception and sentencing policy.

For months, my colleague has been worried the research won’t be able to get very deep given our allotted interview window.  I have been fastidious with developing the interview protocols and training our study team, which I think instituted a sense that the interview might feel constrained or artificial.  For months, I have assured him we would be able to honor their stories through this research project but as he expressed this concern again while we walked up his client’s porch steps, the only thing left to say was:

It’ll be okay, you’ll see

And it was.

During this, his first interview, he heard information and perspectives he hadn’t heard before – even though he has been listening for months and months.  
As we drove away, he was already generating ideas for ways their agency could immediately support their clients better during mitigation and re-entry.  
He was moved to attend to his work differently.   

Policy informs practice.
Practice informs research.
Research informs practice.
Research informs policy.

Trauma-informed, community-based research.
This is why I, as a clinician, feel compelled to do research.


This why I am doing the whole PhD thing.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Being True

We are at the end of the quarter and the final assignment in one of my classes is to write "an informal end-of-career journal entry."  We are to pretend we are at the end of our scholarly career and reflect on the accomplishments or impact our work has had.
None of you will likely be surprised by this, my entry:

Here’s the deal, 
I am not super comfortable with the idea of envisioning the mountain top – the end of my scholarly career – and looking back to reflect on where I have been and what I have done.  
That is not me.  
The process is me.  

Choosing how to live in the moment – that is me.  
In the end, what I accomplish is going to be based on decisions and risks I take along the way
what I have learned in my first four decades of life is this: 
I have no idea what those decisions and risks are going to be ahead of time. 
So, when thinking about impact, I don’t want to be looking back, I want to be looking forward.  
I want to be intentional and grounded.
I want to see potential in myself, in others, and in the landscape around us -
{even when it feels like a lost cause}

I am not satisfied with the reflection, “what have I accomplished?” 
I want to forge a pathway rooted in the question, 
how then shall I live?

This is how I want to live:
As a scholar, as a partner, as a mother, as family
{or framily, as my kids call friends who are our chosen family},
as a colleague, as an educator, as a mentor, and as a friend, I endeavor to co-create a society in which I want to live.  
I want to be authentic and gracious. 
I want to challenge and to be challenged – to do better, to be better, and to live fully.  
I want to have vision and purpose
I want to always feel responsibility for what I know, for what I learn along the way.
I want to choose to see the best in others & I want to fight for perspectives other than my own to be at “the table.”  
I want to know and to be known.  
I want to love and to be loved.   
I want what I do to be reflective of all of the intersecting parts of my personhood
I want to see the intersectionality in others.

When I look back
{which I fully acknowledge is developmentally appropriate}
I know I will be able to point to accomplishments
but I want those to be defined by how I choose to live. 

Day by day. 
Moment by moment. 
Decision by decision.

The process is my impact.

The process is me.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

This One Goes Out to the One I Love

It was dark and quiet as I walked into my apartment tonight.
no kids 
no partner 
no clutter
no chaos 
{except in my mind, per the usual}
My day has been full of writing, data sets, grant proposals, and going to class.
Back home, the kids went school, my partner went to work, they ate subs for dinner, and they all went to a middle school orchestra concert.
I am aware of their routine but not responsible for it.


Almost two decades ago
 - when he was still the illusive “church boy” and we were flirting but not flirting - 
{you know what I'm talking about}
we lounged in the back bedroom of his college apartment and talked about a zillion things.  
At the time he had sworn off marriage so I remember asking him:
 “If you ever get married and have kids, would you consider being the parent who provides primary care for the kids and home?” 

He thought for a moment and said, 
“I could see myself enjoying that role for a time.”

Photo Credit: Roni Lee Photography 2016

Well, that time has come.
While I live in another state pursuing a dream, 
he is taking on the role of primary parent and it is
His ability to partner with me extends far beyond any fantasies 
I conjured up in that dank, college apartment.

my heart, is full of gratitude.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

good enough parent confession #7: a family that dines together...

I will start with the confession:
I do not like eating dinner with my children.

Yes, me, the family therapist, does not like eating dinner with her children.
Coming together for dinner has been promoted as the holy grail of a healthy family for as long as I can remember but most nights, my husband and I choose to eat together after the kids go to bed.

I can go on and on about why we choose this but the long and short is this:
It is difficult to enjoy both the food and the experience when eating with a 5 yo and a 10 yo.
I want to have my cake and eat it too 
{story of my life these days
and so

We provide them with a meal and I sit with them at the table 
while my husband stands in the space between the kitchen and dining room.
While they eat, 
we chat about the day, we chat about current events, we crack jokes together, and 
my husband manages their additional requests for silverware, water, more food, less food, different food, and...

I don't know if it can be considered the golden standard of family meals but 
they get fed and we get family time - 
and later in the evening,
I also get to enjoy a meal and conversation with my spouse 
{without interruption}

Friday, December 12, 2014

ten minutes of joy

life is intense.
not just mine but those all around me.
a lot is happening,
all. of. the. time.

in my clinical social work class this semester i gave students this assignment:

every day, 
be intentional about giving yourself ten minutes to enjoy life, 
unencumbered by the things on your to-do list.
the "what" does not matter - i will not judge - 
but i will check in with you each week to see how it is going.

as one who is ruled by an unrelenting list of things to do, i find this task of intentionality to be difficult so i understood when my students reflected that "10 minutes of joy" felt like just another task on the list.  

every day, 
be intentional.

as one who is easily distracted into procrastination, i understood when my students came back reporting that "10 minutes of joy" turned into hours of joy and serves as an excuse for delaying the inevitable.  

every day,
be intentional.

as one who is loves a routine but hates feeling bound or stuck, i understood when my students came back to class to tell me that selecting one activity to engage in for their "10 minutes of joy" was boring and uninspired.

every day, 
be intentional.

we have been at this assignment for nearly 2 months and i think, have finally ventured to the other side.  our discussions are less about the barriers and more about seeing the assignment for what it is:

being intentional. 
carving out the time and space
to take care of our emotional and physical well-being.
it is not about the exact amount of minutes or even the actual substance of that time;
it is about our recognition that in the midst of life's insanity,
we all need some time to 
slow down, hold still, and remember:
who we are, why we do what we do, and where we are going.