Tag Archives: social

Back On The Struggle Bus And The Struggle Is Real


Hi guys.

So remember back a couple posts ago when I was all glowing and annoying about how I was disembarking the struggle bus and how great my life was going to be?


I kind of wanted to slap myself too.  It’s okay.

Anyhoo, as with most things in the universe, shit hasn’t gone down exactly as planned.

I HAD gotten off of the bus.  I walked for a few blocks, admiring the scenery of what a peaceful and grounded life looked like.

And then I got a dog.

And then I started a new job.

And then my dog died.

So, I sort of hopped back on the bus and have been riding around kind of aimlessly, passing the same stuff over and over again, feeling anxious and bored.

That’s how my mind works.  I hash stuff out over and over again and it makes me utterly neurotic, then I get bored with it.  Sometimes in the boredom I am able to drop it and move on.  Other times I pick it back up, rinse, and repeat.

Our family is still grieving for our little dog who we only had for two weeks before she escaped and got fatally hit by a car.  It happened on my third day of work.  So, not only did I lose my animal, and have to help my children with their intense feelings about it, I was also the flake who just started a new job and had to leave early because she lost her pet and was freaking out and hysterical about it.

I’d spent a lot of time, energy, and money on little Dog, helping her deal with separation anxiety and getting her settled in our home.  I’d been home for a week in between jobs and bonded with her.  She reminded me so much of my dog I’d had for 16 years.  They had a similar and soulful personality.  The love was immediate.

It initially struck me as hugely unfair that I’d lost Doggy so soon after finding her.  I could not understand why the universe would work in such a manner.  I grappled with this information as I longed to pet Doggy’s silky ears.  She had this little speck of white on the back of her neck that looked like a star.  It seemed impossible I’d never see it again.  It still doesn’t make sense to me.

It had taken me a long time to get another pet.  And had taken a long time for my family to feel we were all in a place where we could have a dog.

Could it be Doggy came to remind me of how special it is to live with a canine companion?  Could it be she was not meant to be my actual dog, but merely a messenger?

While I don’t necessarily believe in the typical notion of a “god” I do believe stuff happens for a reason.

Maybe it doesn’t.

Maybe shitty stuff just happens and there is no rhyme or reason.  I can understand how it would be much more comforting to imagine a divine being pulling strings and making things happen because there is a grand plan.

I do want to get another dog.  This much I know.

It has been hard to watch my kids grieve.  Jack has been pretty strong and surprisingly supportive of his younger sister.  He has told Emily there are four ways she can still see Doggy; in her heart, in her memory, in pictures and in dreams.  He has also shared with Emily that Doggy is now an angel.  Em was profoundly comforted by the thought that Doggy could potentially be right next to her side at that very moment!

If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is my pride at how my children have processed it.  They are really great kids.  It has taken me aback.  I wasn’t expecting them to turn to one another quite as much as they have, but in the long run I think they have been more of a comfort to each other than my husband and I have been to them.

And this, in turn, has comforted me.

So, this week I will start my second week of working at the new gig.  I’m excited to go back and try it again.  I’m excited to meet with the clients again and start forming relationships with new people.  I’m hoping to get to know my coworkers and connect with them as well.  And I’m eager for the new clinical skills I need to develop and perfect.

I’ve been struggling with how much I miss my old work buddies.  I don’t miss my old work so much, but I surely miss a few of the friends I made there and got really close to over the years.  It was especially hard to go through the loss of Doggy last week in a new place with people who didn’t really know me or my family.  My new supervisor was amazing and all, but still it felt really lonely.

It has been a mix of tears and fears and frustration and nerves.

A big ball of struggle I’m lugging around and trying to embrace even as it squirms in my arms.

Maybe I’ll let it off at the next stop.

And maybe I’ll get off at the stop after that because this bus is kind of stinky and stale and I’m ready for some deep gulps of fresh air.

Waving Goodbye


It isn’t every day I leave a job I’ve been at for well over a decade.  I took a lot of time to reflect on stuff, to feel all the feels, and to both celebrate and grieve.  My coworkers gave me a lunch and said a ton of nice stuff that made me cry both happy and sad tears.  

I came up with some thoughts about my experience and I shared them at the lunch.  I’d also like to share them with you.  Whether you are a social worker, or a mom, or just a human riding along on the human struggle bus, maybe they will resonate with you.  If nothing else, I just want to share the sentiment with you, because you are here with me and I am so happy.

Someone once told me I was precious.

Actually, she didn’t say it to me, but she said it to an entire audience as she was receiving an award for being a phenomenal social worker upon her retirement.

But I allowed myself to take it personally, and I eventually became very close and friends with the recipient of that award which in and of itself was pretty freaking precious.

Can you imagine that? You are precious. When you are on a dirty floor trying to play with a kid who is angry and defiant? When you are talking kindly to a parent who you secretly think is the most reprehensible and abusive person on the planet? When you are looking down into live, adult lice crawling around in a child’s scalp. When an overwhelmed mom forgets to change her tampon and menstruates on your office chair and you awkwardly offer her a lysol wipe.

You are precious.

It is not easy to feel precious in this job, which is often dirty, defeating, depressing, and filled with an array of malodorous messes.

It is not easy to feel precious when all you can do is show up and smile because you don’t have the power to change poverty or abuse or severe and persistent mental illness.

It isn’t easy to feel precious when you really feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and helpless. But you are. You my friends are precious. Sometimes the simple act of showing up is enough. Sometimes just being a smiling or compassionate presence in someone’s life fosters changes of which we are not even aware.

Some of you don’t know me all that well and you might be wondering why I am sharing this with you. I’m sharing this with you partly because I see how hard you work in the trenches and I’d like you to know that you are all amazing and doing great things, even when you think you are not.

I thought maybe you might like to know that you are precious too because you show up, even when you don’t want to, or when it is really hard and you feel tired and scared.

I’m also sharing this with you for some selfish reasons. I didn’t go looking for my new job. I wasn’t putting out my resume or job hunting. I had actually gotten to a pretty sweet spot here, right where I was. My program was fully staffed with a new and wonderful clinician and I felt like I had the breathing room to do some good work with my clients.

But sometimes the universe offers something too good to pass up. So, here I go. . .

I didn’t think it would be so hard to leave this city.

This city and I have not always been on the best of terms. It perpetually smells like turtle tank and it tried to crush me under tons of snow. Honestly, I’ve often felt like this city can go fuck itself. There was really nothing I learned in graduate school 15 years ago, that prepared me for some of the shit I have seen go down in this town. I don’t need to go into detail. . . I know you’ve all seen it too.

But over the past weeks, as I have terminated with a few dozen families, I’ve been really surprised at the emotions that have come up– both for myself and for my clients. I’ve been surprised and touched by the kind words of clients and colleagues alike as they have shared with me what our relationships have meant. And it has been really hard to say goodbye.

So, I’m sharing this with you because I know I what I am leaving, and I know you will take care of it in my stead as you always do.

I came here nearly 12 years ago, dewy skinned, wide eyed, and a whole lot skinnier. While I have been here, all of the big stuff that could possibly happen to a person has happened to me. I got engaged, married, and became a mom. I suffered a traumatic miscarriage, then had another baby. I bought a house. My dog of 16 years died.  I also met my best friend here– a relationship for which I will forever be grateful.

Many of you have shared in this journey with me, and have also supported me as I learned so many new roles as wife, mother, working mother, home owner.

I don’t know how to explain what it has meant to see your faces every day for so many years, especially those of you who were here from the very beginning and those of you with whom I share inside jokes about octopus, dog anxiety vests, hanging with bitches, and the healing properties of a lovely plate of eggs.

I’ve laughed, cried, freaked out, and raged with many of you. I can only pray my new colleagues will be as forgiving about my numerous quirks, strong emotions, and obsessive compulsive disorder. It is only just hitting me what it means to say good bye to you all. I’m sorry for all the times I took you for granted, but please know how special you all are to me.

And then of course, there is how this place has shaped me clinically, has taught me and forced me to grow. Growth is not always fun or comfortable. There are many moments I wish I’d met with more dignity, grace, courage, compassion, and energy. But at last I am leaving having seen my own face reflected back at me in the faces of my clients.

I think I have learned what I came here to learn.

So it’s hard to say goodbye. . . but. . .

Life goes on. It always does. It already is.

OK. Final words:

Take care of each other. Be kind. Take care of yourselves. Know you are precious. Show up. Find the joy. Those are the only things that matter, and if you get that all down, the rest will fall into place.

I love you guys.

Thank you.

New Territory– Accepting My Beautiful Shit


  While walking back to my office from a staff meeting today, I commented to a coworker that I did not enjoy the meeting.

“These meetings always make me anxious and paranoid that I’m doing tons of stuff wrong,” I said. “Ooohhh, is that new territory for you?  Anxiety?”  One of my coworkers snarked.

I have a reputation for being anxious.  It’s not a secret.

I tend to be highly organized, very sensitive, and sometimes compulsive when it comes not just to my work, but to life in general. But to hear my coworker mocking me for it left my jaw hanging open.

Of course he was just joking with me, and he didn’t know I was having a really raw week.  I don’t think he meant anything unkind by it, but it left me feeling sad and, yes, even more anxious.

I don’t need to read the book to know I am the poster child for the Highly Sensitive Person.  I’m introverted, emotional, and have a hard time not taking things personally.  I worry almost constantly about how I am presenting myself, what others think of me, and startle easily.  I spend hours contemplating things I’ve said, or how I’ve reacted to things.  I get almost unreasonably obsessive about little things like books and TV shows and dreams I’ve had.  I need a lot of alone time, and I’m a daydreamer for sure.  My heart leaps before my head.

I also have a hard time trusting not only that others will accept and understand the dimensions that the facet of anxiety adds to my personality.  I have a hard time trusting my own self, and my own instincts and intuition.

Highly sensitive people who are highly evolved own their traits as strength, and wear their empathy, creativity, and emotionality like badges. This is something on which I am still working.

I heard beautiful Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, describe our flaws as manure.  Our jealousies, insecurities, anger, fears, and sorrows may just be the shitty stuff about us, or about our lives.  But one does not just throw away the shit.  We use it to nourish and grow our gardens.

I am eternally grateful to Ani Pema for this little pearl of wisdom. Because a lot of the time, I feel like a pretty shitty person.

Anxiety is shitty.  Panic attacks are shitty.  If you have ever gone through a period of intense anxiety, you know it is not a naturally beautiful emotion.  It is not easy to accept.  This tender analogy has helped me be more accepting and nurturing of myself.

It’s not always easy. 

 I often feel like a shitty person because there are times, as a HSP, I don’t know where I am going to be emotionally from one hour to the next.  This is rough not just for me, but for the people around me, especially my spousal unit and children.  Let me make it clear that I do not spend my days ranting and raving–  I AM STABLE.  But there are days where life can feel like a roller coaster.  If you are a HSP, you get what I am saying.

It’s like this:  One moment I am driving to work in a bliss of music, and I catch some wild flowers on the side of the road and tell myself to bloom where I am planted.  And that feels incredibly inspiring and I walk into work feeling awesome and confident.  Ten minutes later when my phone is ringing and I have three intakes waiting for me, my heart starts to race and I am feeling angry and anxious because fear I won’t meet everyone’s needs and expectations.

But it’s not all bad. Anxiety and sensitivity motivate me to do better all the time.  I have learned to practice mindfulness, and when I start creeping down Anxiety Avenue, I know enough to tug myself back and slow down.  Anxiety keeps me organized.

My traits as a highly sensitive person also allow me to attune with my clients.  For some reason, it is harder for me to attune to my family, when I am exhausted and drained and prickly at the end of the day, but I am working on that.

I wanted to tell my insensitive coworker that if he knew anything about anxiety, (which he SHOULD since he is a mental health worker), then he would never, ever say something like that to someone WITH anxiety. I know he didn’t mean anything by it.  He was joking with me, probably because he feels comfortable enough with me to do so.  But I still felt belittled, judged, diagnosed, and mocked.

My first instinct was that I needed to do something to change myself, be someone different.  I ruminated on this as I tried to find ways to present myself as cool, calm, and collected.

My second instinct was to scream, “FUCK.  THAT!”

Have you ever looked at your own reflection and said, “You are beautiful and amazing, and you do incredible things,”?

My hero, Mister Rogers, said, “The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.”  He also said, “Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.”

There is something simultaneously grounding and liberating about accepting who and what you’re all about at any given moment.  It opens up a world of endless possibility and infinite love.

It’s not always easy.

While it made me uncomfortable in the moment, at the end of the day, I was grateful that my coworker’s comment gave me an opportunity to reconnect with my honest self.  So, yeah, maybe that was new territory, or at least another visit to a place where I am not yet overly familiar.

Winter Makes It Worse


For a brief minute or two, the breezy hum of my hairdryer drowns out the tantrum taking place in the kitchen.  Jack is pissed about doing homework.  Something has not gone to plan and he is freaking the fuck out.  While my husband is trying to butter waffles and shield Emily from Jack’s flailing pencil and fists, Jack is screaming, calling names, and taking swings at my husband.

This used to be an every day occurrence and now it is more like a couple times per month.  But still, when it happens, it feels like a freight train is racing towards me and I can’t move.  I don’t know what to do.  And I am supposed to know what to do because it is my job to tell other parents how to handle situations just like this.

He’s not giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time!  

Stay consistent!  

Be present with him.  Keep your composure!  

Try to be perceived as a helper!

Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  It frustrates me I am so inept in my own home.

Winter makes it all worse.  I don’t really know why.  We are still going out, getting physical exercise, staying busy.  Maybe it is the lack of sun.  Maybe Jack is as sensitive to this as I am.

IMG_7057While I am not one to complain about the weather, I have to recognize that this winter in New England has sucked in a giant way.  We have been pummeled with snow for weeks.  I stand nearly six feet tall, and yet there is a mound of snow TALLER THAN ME for crying out loud, next to our driveway.  Other parts of the country may be used to this type of precipitation, but for us, here, it is a little much.

The ice and snow are destroying people’s homes.  A bunch of my friends and coworkers have had slip and falls on the snow, have had to take time out of work, and have been sore and injured.  Businesses have had to shut down for state-of-emergencies, and have lost significant revenue.

My husband was in a fender bender a couple weeks ago, because he could not see around the enormous bank of snow at the top of our street.  While everyone was unharmed in the accident, it still required auto-body work on his car to the tune of a $500 deductible.  Since we don’t generally have $500 lying around, this represents an additional financial stressor in our lives which are already stretched very thin.

These are all real stressors.  These are all factors that tip the scales in favor of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

At least they have for me.

I’ve been noticing my patience is really thin with my kids, and then I feel like a total jerk hole for yelling or being short with them.  I’ve been noticing that my energy is low, my appetite is poor, and all I want to do is sleep and munch on chips.  I’ve been noticing it feels like an act of Congress would be the only thing to get me up off the couch to put the laundry in the dryer, or to get Emily a drink of water.

I look around outside and the big, crusty, piles of snow make me feel claustrophobic, like there is no room to move.

Then I get to go to work and listen to dozens of clients vent about their lives, the weather, and how insane their kids are acting.  At some point, I just want to say, Look, I’m not any better than this and I really have no advice for you because I am a total fraud.  So, good luck with everything.  Now go away and leave me alone.  

I was sick with bronchitis and then bronchitis induced asthma for the entire month of February, so any emotional buffer I might have had to tolerate aberrant child behavior, a hectic workload, and the third blizzard in as many weeks has been rinsed down the sink in a gob of greenish-yellow phlegm.

So, when I get pumped up with a tiny burst of pleasure at a nice hot shower, it just feels devastating to have that bubble popped by hearing a tantrum the second I turn off the water.

I know kids do crazy stuff and they get angry too. Believe me I know I’m not supposed to take it personally.  But it seems I’ve gone a bit snow-blind and have lost some perspective on things.  I’m trying to remember Jack typically has trouble at this time of year, then things get a little better with spring.

I just want my family to be happy.

I just want to be happy.

It sounds so simple, and yet somedays it can feel so hard.

Are you having a tough time this winter?  Have you ever been diagnosed with SADD?  What has been helpful to you during this time?  

Ps. Please check out my new creative writing blog, the Story of Blue. I’m so excited to see you there!

End Of The World– Getting Cozy With Dukkha


The world is ending right now because there are dirty dishes in the sink and a bunch of moldering, half-eaten yogurt cups and tubes strewn throughout the house.

I just got home from the Urgent Care Center.  It is 8 p.m., and any mom who got up as early as I did this morning knows that 8 p.m. is the middle of the fucking night.

My husband is engaged in a power struggle with our seven year old son, Jack, over universe knows what.  My three year old, Emily, is wandering around like a lost lamb because she wants mama milk and cuddles before bed.

But first things first.

Since a huge vat of Purell or rubbing alcohol isn’t available, I hop in the shower.  It serves the dual purpose of warming my chilled, aching body, and cleansing off the filth of the walk in treatment place.  I had anxiety upon anxiety the entire time I was there as people coughed, hacked, wheezed, and made all sorts of moaning cacophony.  In the curtained area next to me, there was a woman chanting, “Germs, germs, germs, germs, germs,” over and over in a haunted whisper.  True story.  I can’t make this shit up.

The chest X-ray confirmed bronchitis and the doctor wrote me a script for antibiotic and a cough medicine, but then changed his mind when I told him I still breast feed twice a day.  He forgot to call the pharmacy and change the prescription, which resulted in an hour-long wait in the parking lot of the pharmacy, where I sat in my car, heat on full blast, shivering and crying.

Wait!  Before you stop reading because you hate me for bitching about First World Problems, please know it was pretty much the worst week of my life, followed by an exhausting weekend of poorly behaved children, and ending in body aches that rate waaaaayyyy at the grumpy and sad end of that smiley to grimace chart.

A client killed himself last week, and it left me reeling in confusion, guilt, panic, and fear.  While I have forced myself to accept there was nothing I could have done to prevent this tragedy, my heart has not caught up with my head on the matter, and being sick wears down the professional buffer I might have for such matters.

After spending the entire week in the aftermath of suicide, another employee of my program gave me her notice along with a few dozen clients to reassign.  Since my other clinician quit my program before the holidays, I have no one to reassign these clients to.  When I went, shaking and sobbing, to my supervisor for support, I was basically told to figure it out.

I came home looking for some solace, only to find my husband intended to work all weekend.  This is good news, in one way, because we need the money and he is freelance.  But it is bad news in terms of having the children, house duties, etc. ,and so on all to myself for the entire weekend.

So, contracting bronchitis was just the frosting on the crap cake I felt had been baked for me this week.  I feel like a jerk even writing that, while knowing I have access to better medical care and pharmaceuticals than 87% of the world.  (Note:  that is not a real statistic.  I’m making shit up because like I said, the world is fucking ending and who cares anyway.)

Sometimes I just need to vent.  Then I get sick of myself and get on with my life.

Some people have real problems.  I know this.  People like the family who lost their child in the most confounding, shocking, and traumatizing way last week.

After my shower, I hustle to put on PJ’s.  I ignore Jack’s tantrum and go straight to Emily, who is sleepy and sweet. She puts her hand on my heart as she snuggles into my breast, and touches my chin as light as a butterfly.

I’ve been contemplating the Buddhist concept of dukkha lately.  Dukkha roughly translates as “suffering,” and it is an important concept in Buddhism.  There has been ample dukkha in my life over the past few months. . .  the dukkha of motherhood; the dukkha of clinging to things during the process of our move last November; the dukkha of family issues at the holidays; the dukkha of yearning for things to be a certain way at work; the dukkha of physical illness; the dukkha of my anxiety and depression which has been rearing its ugly head over the past few weeks like a powerful and frightening dragon.

The dukkha of wanting to change the unchangeable, and to understand the incomprehensible.

And tonight, the dukkha of dishes left undone at the end of the night when I am sick and tired, and have already done dishes 17 times over the course of the weekend.

Basically, Buddha teaches that life is dukkha—  not that everything sucks, but that by its nature, our existence is flawed, impermanent, and difficult.  We can struggle against it and fight with it as something bad, or we can accept it for what it is and go from there.

What does that mean?

I don’t know.  And at the moment, I don’t really care.

I started writing a post last weekend about trying to sit with the grief and anxiety I felt in the light of my client’s death.  It was hard–  both to sit with and to write about–  because it made me fiercely restless.  I didn’t end up posting it.

Kuan Yin sat with the dragons and made friends with them.  What would it be like to do that?

I guess I could do the dishes.

Or I could not.

Maybe dukkha and I will cuddle up in bed with some Ceftin and Mucinex and try to get to know each other.  And maybe the world will keep ending, and I will lie in bed and hear things screeching and banging and popping outside my window.

Panic at the Play date: Defining My Role as a Mom Among Moms


We recently moved into a house on a lovely street lined with pleasant people into which we are gradually settling.

Our first box hadn’t been unpacked before the little boy across the street came over to ask if Jack could come out and play. This thrilled me, as it did Jack.  The kids had a wild rumpus outside, and we counted our blessings at having such great neighbors.

We live close enough to Jack’s school that we walk some mornings.  The kid from across the street walks too, and his mom and I chat while the kids bumble down the sidewalk pointing out dogs and bikes and stale Halloween decorations to each other.

It’s charming in a way that begets thoughts of Norman Rockwell and cups of sugar passed over picket fences.

The other mom is so sweet.  She’s also hugely popular. Before we even moved, when we told people the street we were moving to, they invariably said, “Oh! You’ll live on Martha’s street!  She’s the best.

I’m grateful for the warmth she has shown our family as we went through the adjustment of moving.  She seems to know everyone on the playground, is very active in the PTA, and has energy for things like Pilates, baking, and book club.

In other words, she is very social and energetic.

Which is great.

But I’m sort of a socially-anxious introvert, and the whole dynamic has me feeling confused and insecure.

Questions rattle around like dry beans in the gourd of my skull–  How often am I supposed to invite them over?  Do we have to alternate and should I feel awful if she invites my kid over twice in a row?  What if she doesn’t like me once she discovers I only vacuum once a week?  How do I ask whether there are guns in her house before Jack goes over to play?  What if she tells all the other moms not to like me?  What am I supposed to do if she asks me to babysit her kids and I am just not up to it after a day in the social work sweat shop?  How will I handle it if my kid acts up on a playdate?  What if her son hurts my son’s feelings?  What if I get the reputation as the mom who is weird or stressy at playdates?   

In a way, it feels like the terror of middle school all over again, trying to figure out the social rules and expectations, and how do I define my individual role as a mom among this pack of my peers?

I was never the “popular” girl in school. I had a rag-tag group of friends, most of whom were exotic theater types or quiet dancers like me. My “best friend” was popular and spent most of middle and high school ignoring and bullying me, until I finally got a boyfriend and dumped her in tenth grade.

I’ve always been a bit mystified by and skeptical of popular people.

In another way, unlike middle school, I am more comfortable with myself, and don’t feel the need to know or talk with everyone on the playground. I’ve evolved into someone who is aware, strong willed and minded, with shades of that exotic and theatrical dancer. I consider myself to be a pretty cool person, and also a cool mom.

I’ve cultivated a group of friends who are caring, kind, open-minded, and accepting.  The friends I’ve made as an adult are people who find me lovable, neurosis and all.  My bestie thinks nothing of it if I text her in the middle of the night to report a recurring anxiety about polar bear attacks in my backyard, or if I forget her birthday.

But it is a cozy little microcosm, and in this new neighborhood, where I am formulating new relationships, I feel sort of out of my element.  Will other moms be as forgiving if I forget to RSVP for their kid’s birthday bash, or if I don’t immediately reciprocate the cookie tin at Christmas?

There is this nagging fear that people will find out just how neurotic and weird I am.

Much like the dynamics we enact and reenact in families, I am finding that social roles also seem to be a perpetuating pattern.  Of course, any pattern can be broken.  So, I could get out there on the playground and be my healthy, brassy self, not really caring what the other moms think.

But it seems like the stakes are higher now because it is more than just my reputation and popularity at stake.

I am also a representative for my children.

While it seems unfair their popularity or desirability should be linked to my political views or prickliness around new people, it also seems somewhat inevitable. I mean, what kid is going to want to come over to play at the house where the mom is weird and stressy?

Maybe I am way overthinking things, but I know enough about the social pecking order to know people are judged.  While I don’t really care how other moms judge me, I do very much care if they judge my kids.

Finally, since we do not plan on moving soon or ever, I need to figure out how to balance being a good neighbor and ambassador for my children, with being myself- quirks and all.

My advice to myself is to take it slow, take time to figure things out, and take one for the team.  I will be gracious and keep my chin up for my kids, even when I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

One thing I know about being a mom is you occasionally have to do things you don’t relish.  I despise legos, dread the playground, and think Hello Kitty’s voice is worse than nails on a chalkboard, but my children love them, so it is important for me to take an interest and be there with them.

If all else fails, I suppose I could bake some muffins for Jack to bring across the street.

Have you ever felt anxious about getting along with other moms/parents?  

The Post In Which I Use the Word “Transition” Way More Than I Should


There is no air conditioning in my office today, giving a completely new meaning to my sarcastic term, “social work sweat shop.”

I’m trying to stay as still as possible, like a lizard on a hot rock, because every time I move my asthmatic lungs decide they don’t really want to work.

Everything has been okay, well mostly, in my world since my midnight rampage meditation the other night.  I didn’t tell anyone to eff off, so I guess that is good.

I also turned 40, and you’ll be happy to know I still don’t look a day over 39.  So, that’s pretty cool too.

Summertime brings a lot of transitions into a mother’s life.  The kids are out of school, work ebbs and flows, and there are all kinds of new activities in which to partake.  Sometimes these transitions can be festive.  Other times they can be sorta’ frightening and frazzling.

My family is adjusting to our new summer schedule at, which for me is the same crazy pace of trying to get business casual and out the door in the morning while running the gauntlet of potty-training my daughter, fending off my son’s projectile insults du jour, and reminding my husband this and that about this and that.

Initially, school ended for Jack, and the tension in the house deflated.  We allowed him to stay up a little later, sleep in, and lounge around for a few days.  We were lucky to arrange child care with family, thereby avoiding the social transitions and high costs of summer camp for him.  Emily’s schedule does not change very much; she continues to go to daycare and is home with us when we are home, but she definitely caught the celebratory summer vibe and has been living it up on copious amounts of birthday cake.

But after a few days of easy, breezy living, the lack of schedule seems to be lending itself to tantrums and trouble transitioning from one activity to the other, mostly for our temperamental little bear, Jack.  Although these times seem to be less frequent and shorter in duration, they are still pretty intense when they happen, and being drenched in sweat and stink seems to make it even harder to stay grounded.

We also started Jack at a new karate dojo after the old one screwed with the schedule and changed his classes all around.  His new dojo is very Zen, and less pumped up and militaristic.  It is also much smaller, so he will get more focused attention on his technique and skill.  These are all good things, but it still felt awkward to leave the cult other studio after practically living there for the past year.  I was going to write a post about my mixed feelings on it, entitled Breaking Up is Hard To Do, but I never got around to it.

Which brings me to my next point:  Due to having the kids both home during my “down time” (aka the baby’s nap), I may not be able to post as early and often this summer.  I’ve had a few ideas of posting poems and photos to keep current and share my life with you all, but sometimes the demands of my schedule drains the creative right out of me and I lose a bit of my blogging mojo.

I also thought maybe I would invite some guest bloggers. .  .  anyone interested?

It’s hard.  Summer is nice, but it also brings about a lot of transitions, and sometimes transitions can just feel. . .  really. . .  transitional.  (I’m sorry.  It really is hotter than birth in here today.  Heat make brain no workey good.)

I’m trying to be aware of how not being able to post as often churns up anxiety for me, and to sit and accept that anxiety. I worry people will stop reading or interacting here with me, that I will get stale and uninspired, that I will miss out on connecting with other moms and bloggers.

But please don’t leave or give up on me!!  I will still be here, reading and commenting on your posts and writing when I am able.  As usual, please feel free to like, comment on,  share my posts and encourage friends and friends of friends to follow Momaste–  it means all the world to me!

How are you?  What are you up to this summer?  Does your summer schedule affect your ability to blog regularly?  How do you deal with this? 

Things Mommy-Social-Workers Think About


Doesn’t it bother anyone else that Curious George is always referred to as a monkey? 

I mean, he is a chimpanzee, and chimpanzees are great apes.  He doesn’t have a tail for crying out loud, that should be the first clue! 

There are distinct differences between apes and monkeys, such as intelligence levels (apes are generally smarter), preferred habitats, and ability to swing from trees (apes do it, monkeys do not).  It is a total misnomer to call Curious George a monkey, and I resent that PBS is perpetuating this error to our innocent youth. 

Speaking of which, why is it funny and cute for Curious George to get into all that mischief?  I don’t want my kids to think it is cool to be filling the entire house with water for ducks, taking someone’s boat on a joyride, or letting animals out of the zoo.  It’s just naughty. 

If Curious George were my client, I would probably diagnose him with ADHD and Disruptive Behavior Disorder. 

But I wonder if Curious George comes by all that disruptive behavior because of attachment issues.  Afterall, the Man With the Yellow Hat ripped him away from his mother, and out of his natural habitat when he was a very little monkey.  I mean very little ape.  That’s got to do some damage on a developing brain right there.  He was probably taken out of the wild before he was even weaned from his mama since apes nurse in the wild until five years of age.  That’s just sad. He’s probably traumatized from not being properly weaned.  

This was my internal monologue as I paced my room gathering various articles of clothing  for a “business casual” outfit.

I caught myself and rolled my eyes.

I’ve been a social worker for a decade and a half.  As a child and family “therapist,” I work with families that are considered “high risk.”  On any given day, I see children with sexual trauma, mood disorders, school refusal/truancy, psychotic disorders, fire setting behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, violent aggression, or severe behavioral and emotional disorders related to abuse and neglect.

I see kids who are placed in foster or residential facilities, either because their families of origin have been deemed unsafe, or because the child him/herself is not safe enough to be in the home.  I see kids who have lost their parents to cancer, suicide, drug abuse, or mental illness.

I think there is a mystique to my profession, for those who are not in it.  Let me be clear:  I am not an expert in any of these areas.  I know a little bit about a lot of things, and flex the skills I have to suit each situation.  When my lack of expertise on a certain issue, sexual perpetrating behavior, for example, borders on unethically slight, I make referrals to  specialists.  But often, insurance or logistics will not allow a child specialized care, so they are stuck with me.

Every once in a while, I get a teen who is depressed over a breakup, or anxious about applying to college, and just needs to talk it out.

I see parents who are struggling with intense pain as they try to help their child.  Parents call me in crisis, fatigue, despair, and anger.  I see parents with their own emotional and cognitive limitations who’s understanding of their child’s developmental issues will not come to fruition under my watch, if ever.  I see other parents who despise their children.

Often, progress is very slim.  Many clients “drop out” of care before we really get to the crux of anything at all.  It can be hard to show up and remember everyone has the potential for change and growth when we see so little of it.

In the beginning, it was a blessing to be let into the lives of these folks, to hear their stories, see their resilience, and share their growth.

Then I had children.  And it became more or less a nightmare.

Becoming a mom brought into sharp focus just how greatly social work shifted my internal monologue, and tainted my world view.

When we go to the playground, I am scared my children are being sexually perpetrated if they are out of my sight for a moment.  If they have developmentally appropriate tantrums, I am frightened they are suffering a traumatic reaction to that time I allowed them to cry just a moment too long.  When I get a migraine, I am certain it is a tumor and envision my children curled in my empty side of the bed, crying for mama.

It is a perverse hypervigilance that causes me concern over Curious George’s mental state and behavioral dys-regulation.

Some people call this “vicarious trauma”, or “burnout”.  Others call it “compassion fatigue”.

Whatever you want to call it, it is basically when a worker starts to feel increased levels of anxiety and discomfort, and sees a darker, more unsafe view of the world.  I do not have any specific statistics to cite for you, but anecdotally, most social-worker-mommies will tell you it is a pretty harsh gig to pull off as a mom.

I’ve struggled with it over the years, since Jack was born.  It has come and gone.  It has cost me sleep and my sense of humor.  It has made me walk down the hall at work, threatening to quit and go work at Trader Joe’s.

At its worst, it makes me see the client as an enemy because no matter how hard I work, they do not do what I recommend and they do not “just get better” like they would if they just “worked the program”.

Of course there are other forces working against us–  mainly poverty, and the appalling limitations of mental health care in this country.  That is the real enemy.  Not my clients, some of whom chose me, and some of whom get stuck with me because that is what the court ordered, or that is all their health care will pay for.

It humbles me that people continue to show up to see me, but it is also a delicate burden to carry.

The population I service is a discreet slice of the humanity pie. But it is the slice I see, day in, day out. Because of this constant exposure, it can be easy to lose perspective, and to believe that the slice is the whole pie. It makes it so much easier to fear the world, to feel unsafe, and most upsetting, to believe my children are in danger whenever they walk out the door.  To worry Curious George is setting a poor example for them, and they will not have the common sense not to climb up the dinosaur skeleton at the museum.

It takes a lot of effort to remain grounded.  It is a balancing act to help “world-proof” my children without indoctrinating them into a culture of fear.  It is almost impossible to find the time necessary for the “self care” involved in treating vicarious trauma.

Sometimes I do pretty well. Sometimes I suck.

I think, before I became a mom, I was on my way to being an amazing therapist.  I was dedicated, motivated, passionate, and had bounding energy.  Buuuuttttt. . .  balancing the responsibilities of being a mom with work and managing my own sanity takes its toll.  And being a mom is more important to me than anything.

Now, instead of pondering how I could lobby to make our systems better, or thinking about new and innovative techniques to use with my clients, I find myself musing on Curious George, because that’s about all my brain can handle.  It is a defense mechanism of sorts for when I am close to overloading all my circuits.

Are you a social-worker-mommy?  If not, how has motherhood changed your career?  What do you think about when you are bordering on burnout?  

Un-Friending With Mindfulness


Have you ever unfriended anyone?  Has anyone ever unfriended YOU?  What did it feel like?  Did you press that virtual “unfriend” button in a fit of rage and despair over a relationship broken beyond repair, or did you just do it as a matter of fact?  Did you contemplate what you were about to do, and why you were doing it?

Using the internet mindfully is one of my biggest challenges.  Technology often stands in my way of leading a productive existence.  I numb my stress at the end of the day with television, and my hand forever reaches out for my iphone to check “notifications.”

Of course sometimes tech is handy.  Texting my husband to let him know I am late, or texting my BFF to vent can be convenient and comfortable.

But there are so many other times when I click that button solely by force of habit, and scroll. . .

What could I be doing with the minutes and hours I log while logging on?

I have a love/not love relationship with Facebook.  I like checking in with friends and catching up with people from my past.  I was a shy loner in high school and had lost touch with friends from college as well, so when I first joined Facebook five years ago, it felt healing to reconnect with people, to see how far we have come, and to bind old wounds.

Initially, I wanted to “friend” as many people as I could.  It felt like a popularity contest.  I looked at other profiles that had hundreds of “friends,” and felt stabs of envy and wonder.

As time passed, Facebook morphed into a stream of memes and advertisements for other products and pages.  I find myself less engaged with my friends and more of a techno zombie, scrolling down through statuses and political commentary in which I am not really interested.

When I stop to check myself, I realize I’m bored and wonder why I allow social media to suck up my precious time.

The whole issue of privacy is also a curious conundrum.  On one hand I hold privacy sacred, but on the other hand, I put my private thoughts and pictures out there for nearly 200 “friends” to view (and I realize that is a relatively smallish friend list).

Or maybe I “like” a status or page that is controversial to someone and causes drama or harsh feelings.  Not everyone shares my intense feelings about breastfeeding and saving the orcas.

Have we all done it?  Scrolled down and witnessed someone’s hideous new tattoo or very public meltdown and either cringed inwardly or licked our lips in satisfaction?  I can’t speak for you, but I’ve done it.  It makes me feel judgey wudgey.  When I tune into the thoughts, I don’t like the negativity which leads to insecure anxiety–  what if people I consider friends are looking at my statuses, or pictures of my children. and thinking, “Oh wow, I feel sorry for her and her sad life.”

Or worse.

I admit to feeling supreme satisfaction when I post a photo and it instantly gets 20 likes, or when I write a status and people comment like crazy.  It feels good to be liked.  That’s only natural, right?

What is that all about?  What kind of validation are we seeking with all our selfies and photos of food?  It feels like on one hand we want to be seen and realized, yet on the other hand we only want to be seen behind this literal and figurative screen.  We crave closeness but tech is keeping us farther away from people in the physical world.

It gives me pause.

As I evolve with Facebook, I find I don’t want more “friends.”  I want less.

I’ve contemplated whittling down my friend list.  But how?  “Un-friending” seems such a harsh term.  Would people’s feelings be hurt?  Should I send a message letting people know it was nothing personal, but I was just trying to reduce my digital footprint?  Or would the people even notice?

I’m sure I’ve been unfriended plenty of times.  I only noticed or was hurt by it once.  When I first got on Facebook, I reconnected with my high school boyfriend.  We had not talked in over 15 years and it was cool sharing our life stories.  He married the woman he dated after me and had two children.  We chatted for a few weeks, and then I noticed he was gone.  Confused, I messaged him to ask if I had done something to offend him.  He let me know he wished me well, and I had done nothing wrong, but his wife was creeped out by our “friendship.”  I was incredulous, and it stung.

I pondered these issues, and in the end, I decided to just do it.  I found 25 people to delete:

  • That mom I met on the playground (four years ago) and was going to have a play date with but never did.
  • The guy I knew for five minutes in high school who became a big shot makeup artist and posts really snarky, narcissistic stuff.
  • Parents who had kids in my son’s daycare that I haven’t seen in two years.
  • The people I added from high school I never really knew.
  • A lady I worked with eight years ago who left the agency and we never talked again.
  • Someone who routinely posts negative and passive-aggressive comments.
  • That guy I dated 20 years ago.  Oh wait, that was my husband.  He can stay…

It felt uncomfortable for  a moment or two.  I was anxious I would offend someone, or that I would miss out on some important information.  The discomfort passed and I got on with my life.  My Facebook experience is already more concise and pleasant.  In a few more weeks, I may go back and delete a bit more. . .

At the end of the day, I don’t want anyone’s feelings hurt.  But I also don’t want to read all the exercise and diet-shake posts from that personal trainer.  They make me edgy.  I can’t tell you why; they just do.  I also want to be sharing with a more exclusive, intimate, and real group of friends.

How about you?  What size is your digital footprint?  Do you have any feelings/opinions about unfriending?  


Wintery Mix


Outside my apartment, the snow is mixing with rain or sleet or freezing rain.  I don’t know.  It is crazy precipitation out there.  I have a delay going into work and am spending my “free” hours in my yoga pants, watching TV with the children, doing laundry, drinking coffee.  I’ve always felt the snow gives the world a damp hush, and have never been sure if it is melancholy or comforting.

As the soft snow changes over, an icy crackle meets my windows.

Without looking up, I hear a behemoth snow plow trundle down the street and imagine its blade sparking against the pavement beneath the thick crust of snow and ice.

Memories and thoughts flicker and turn in my mind like so many snowflakes.

Should I write about excessive use of TV during a snow day?

Should I write a poem about the weather?

Should I write about the cocktail I invented by mixing pear infused vodka with ginger beer?

Should I write about all of the psychic space taken up in my head with horror stories from work?

Should I grab my Pema Chodron and try to find some peace?

Should I write about love long lost?  Or should I post a photo of a messy corner of my house?

The thoughts come and go, and part of me wonders what the difference is between insanity and inspiration.  I could write about all of those things, but mostly, I just want to sit here, with you, on this winter day, as the snow turns to ice and rain and back again.