Ha ha – I didn’t say that!

When I first started writing a blog naturally I began reading other blogs too, one of the first I started following was Breezy K’s “The Camel Life.” I couldn’t tell you exactly how I stumbled across her, since web surfing can easily take you away into clicks and connections you had never imagined.  Needless to say, I have been near tears time after time from reading the hilariousness of her twenty something, professional, Canadian life.  Breezy K has not only entertained me with laughter, I have  learned a few valuable things along the way too.

Many people who follow my blog are friends and family, then there are connections I have made through WordPress when things are published, and finally there is the good ‘ole internet search engines.  One lesson I noted from Breezy K is to check the searches to my blog to see what terms people have Googled their way to you. “The Camel Life” has been discovered through some shockingly unique search terms you can see by clicking here.

Searches to Inspired Living KC were relatively common sense and directly related to things I have written about specifically.  And then there was this: my husband makes the furniture stink.

smell

After the laughter subsided, I figured I had two choices. I could either keep it to myself or tell everyone and reinforce when someone searches this term again they will come here.  Just to be clear, with 100% certainty, I have never spoken or written the words “my husband makes the furniture stink,” (until today) and while sometimes he does make your nose run away screaming stink I don’t remember ever thinking it was effecting the fragrance of our furniture.

I am not clear about which post was related to this inquiry or if her interest was met from reading anything on my blog. But just in case someone is searching now, first I would like to give my sincerest apologies.  It must be a pretty heavy aroma to require an internet search.   I would recommend purchasing some hygiene products for the hubby and some Febreeze for your furniture.  If this does not suffice, consider purchasing some furniture of the plastic variety which can be taken outside and hosed down on a regular basis.  Good luck.

Advertisements

Bye Bye Bye Baby

Some weeks I look back and wonder, how did that happen? I had one of those weeks recently where in a mindless one activity to the next, I looked back and distraughtly noticed three major milestones conquered in days for my two-year old.

First, the adventures in potty training, I have written about them before just waiting for the momentum to really pick up and for her to grasp onto the concept. Finally it was me who committed hard-core, she wore big girl panties and a t-shirt at home most of the week. Strongly motivated by candies after successful tolieting and a rigorously timed routine of going to try about every 30 minutes she had very few wet accidents. She even stayed dry during an overnight in Nana’s bed, which after hearing about it made me panic since I had not warned Nana we were not there yet at home and she still wears diapers at night.

In the same week I assembled and painted her new big girl bed. With no plan or intention of making the transition, I just happened to have the time to work on the project. However, some days I end up being like the Mouse and the Cookie, with one step leading right into another. Before I really realized what I was doing her crib was disassembled in the basement and she was jumping up and down on her new big girl bed.

babaThe last major milestone was a completely happy accident. I don’t feel strongly about an age where pacifiers are unnecessary for other people’s children. For my child, I felt she was old enough and still she was hanging on to them. Despite chewing off the tips of the nipples and looking completely unappetizing, she would still cry for her “baba” to go to sleep or to ride in the car. She had been warned these would be the last baba’s she would have and when they were gone, they were gone for good. I frequently asked her if her baba was broken and if she wanted to throw it away, she did throw some away and as she realized she was down to her last one she lingered over the trash can a few times before deciding it wasn’t broken enough.

One evening before bed we searched the house together upstairs and downstairs, in the kitchen, in the bedrooms, in the bathrooms and through every nook and cranny to find her last baba, it went missing. I honestly did search hard, I was nervous about her big changes and adapting to life without her baba AND being in a new bed. At the same time I was silently cheering, the unnecessarily dependent relationship with this wrecked piece of plastic was finally going to be over.

After a good long search we had a talk about the baba being gone. My two-year old melted onto the floor for a few brief seconds and then went back to being excited about her new big girl bed. She asked for a baba a few times since and calmly settled herself when we talked about how it was gone.

A few days after the baba disappeared, it reappeared under the couch where I hadn’t been able to spot it before. I hurried to it before she noticed to keep it gone for good this time.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Some memories stand out as critical turning points in one’s life. In my life I can remember a significant time period of discovery and learning and it was the impressionable late adolescence/early teen years when I, for good or bad, faced lessons in trust. This is an awkward stage in life for most, the values provided from home compete with the necessity to be cool in school and on the social scene. At the time I don’t think I had much thought about what I believed to be right for how to behave, I was caught in the drama of keeping up and nothing else mattered.

Keeping up in middle school meant talking about friends behind their backs, ironically to try to prevent others from talking about me behind my back. There was a lot of best friends who didn’t speak for weeks and would be reunited again by someone else’s falling out later. It was a constant need to confide ugliness in others and repeating shock and devastation when the confidant divulged the secrets. Like a dog chasing it’s tail and gets hurt when she finally reaches it. This cycle of manipulation was vicious and isolating at that age.

By eighth grade I was well conditioned as a mean girl. I had a core group of friends who had withstood rips and tears into our relationships, and one friend of the group I shared the closest bond with. Beth and I had met the previous year and quickly grew tight, by 8th grade we had given up passing cleverly folded notes between class and began passing a notebook. (If only our notebook was staring Ryan Gosling this story could be so much more attractive.) Our notebook contained our diary of events, doodles, gossip and trash talk. We wrote during class, in the halls and even at home to each other. I drew a lot of pictures; cartoons mocking peers in my class, funny characters and my own imitation of my teacher as her alma mater mascot a razorback. We made jokes about our teachers – how they looked, what they taught and how they spent their free time. We shared middle school news of who was “going out” and our own crushes. And we talked even more personally about things happening outside of school and with our own families.

One morning Beth and I were in a class together sitting at separate tables, I could see she was writing to me when the razorback approached her and asked for the notebook. Attempting to be a reasonable 13-year-old, I respectfully went to the teacher’s desk and communicated an apology for not staying focused, understanding the need to be punished and how important it is for the notebook to stay private. I turned to go back to my seat and by the time I sat and turned to face the teacher’s desk the notebook was open in front of her. My mind raced to consider all the hateful things which had erupted from my adolescent head to my sloppy pen. I was enraged at the teacher for disrespecting me and my friend. Even more, the razorback took our notebook to the other teachers to encourage them to read our messages. When my mom, school social worker and principal all were involved the razorback pleaded to keep the notebook until after lunch. She was obviously very entertained by what we had to say, maybe she wanted to make photocopies?

On to high school only a few months later, friendships continued to evolve and my difficulty with trust remained. Except after the incident with the notebook I also became weary of trusting authority figures. Instead of making the naive assumption school faculty were there to help all students, I became increasingly aware of hidden agendas, personal priorities and governing rules which directed what happened in the classrooms. I tried to be polite in school and still I wasn’t afraid to call bullshit when I felt it necessary or lie to avoid trouble later. In high school I withdrew from joining activities, didn’t socialize much and put just enough work in to graduate and get into college. I didn’t make the connection about who I was becoming and why until years later when a college class required me to make a timeline of major life events and that 8th grade day came to mind as significant.

The realization of how the teacher violated my trust in her authority carried on to all authority figures, my eyes were wide open to understand the deeper meaning and not take for granted what I was told. This served me well in many areas of my life, to speak up for what I felt was right despite the popular opinion. To question for the facts and find what is missing from the explanation. And to advocate for individuals who don’t have the skills to speak for themselves. Over the years I have learned to differentiate discussions worth being had and battles worth fighting for. When I worked for state mental health it only took me a little over two years to realize there were too many illogical battles for me to take on and I couldn’t numb my ethics enough to continue to be a part of the system.

The other day I heard a remark my uncle said to my mom regarding me “drinking the kool-aid.” I respect my uncle greatly, I know that he loves me and appreciates who I am and not just because I am his first niece. My uncle and I have a wonderful relationship despite having very diverse images of the world, politics and religion. And I suppose the mere fact I would question major national events and the government’s involvement puts me in the category of loosing my marbles in my uncle’s mind. It would be absolutely impossible to imagine, given our government’s perfect tracked record of honest behavior, national situations which have happened in my lifetime could be reported to the public wrong. Because in my lifetime, I have already learned when there are hidden agendas, personal priorities and higher controls which dictate what happens. This is often not in sync with what is right, what is fair or what is true. When you consider the perspective of what one stands to gain and lose from the truth; power, control and profit. These are not the motives for truth seekers who question facts contrasting public perceptions. Those individuals deal with ostrification from family, friends and the majority of society. Valid questions go unanswered and most people continue on with their days unaware of what lies are making impressions on our lives.

Two of my uncles, my mom's brothers

Two of my uncles, my mom’s brothers

So yes, if you must look at it this way. I have been drinking the kool-aid, and I like it. Funny thing is, back in the 70’s my uncle appeared to be the guy mixing the kool-aid. I imagined him being the kid who always questioned authority and challenged what he was told in a puff of jolly green smoke. Makes me wonder if he had a similar yet opposite defining moment in his life. Perhaps a major governing official came to my uncle’s rescue, provided him safety and security in a way he never knew before. Maybe my uncle was reassured in his faith for authority figures and he learned to listen, obey and not question the facts which don’t correlate with the story.

This blog is where I focus on living inspired, finding appreciation for the ordinary and being aware of people, places and events which have shaped who I am. There is purpose in every experience, good or bad. The lesson I learned back in eighth grade helped program me to be aware. I can’t change everything I see wrong with the world, right now I can be at peace with really seeing what’s happening.

Borderline – An Outside Perspective

blogformentalhealth2013
“Borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of third-degree-burn patients. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. Even the slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering.”
-Marsha Linehan

I am human, I have emotions like all humans and at times I could reflect many of the diagnoses in the DSM manual for the behavior I exhibit to deal with my emotions – we ALL could. I currently do not identify with a mental illness, though I know plenty of people who do. Long before I started working in this field I felt a calling to try to help, protect and educate others for the mentally ill who could not do it on their own. This post is for people who want to better understand their friend, colleague or family member who have a borderline diagnosis.

Borderline personality disorder is diagnosed twice as often as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders combined, effecting six to ten million Americans. From experience, I know mental hospitals would prefer to treat a true diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar over an individual with BPD. The reason is – medication is the form of treatment for schizophrenia and bipolar. Once the correct cocktail of prescriptions is discovered, symptoms subside and a discharge is planned. Personality disorders cannot be medicated away, medication can only reduce symptoms associated like depression or anxiety, what is left is a continued thought disturbances. What’s more, the stressors which likely caused an individual with borderline to have a mental breakdown are still problems which will be present during and after a hospitalization (ie relationships, legal issues, financial crisis etc).

Personality disorders can arise in individuals for various reasons and no single person will have the same story or exhibit the same symptoms. Typically borderline personality disorder begins with a combination of mental and environmental factors. The mental side being a family history of mental illness, developmental problems or early severe neglect in infancy. And related to environmental problems, an individual has been subjected to invalidating environments throughout their life. In other words, past emotionally charged relationships, places and events were not properly recognized for the effect it had on an individual. Consider a child hearing “stop crying,” “you shouldn’t feel that way” or “it’s not that big of a deal.” After months or years of having emotions belittled, an individual internalizes these thoughts as their own. The conflict of feeling their emotions are wrong and not knowing how to cope effectively creates chaos in the mind of someone with BPD.

“The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition (DSM-IV-TR) defines borderline personality disorder… Five (or more) of the following:
-Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
-A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
-Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
-Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, excessive spending, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving).
-Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars or picking at oneself (excoriation).
-Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
-Chronic feelings of emptiness
-Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
-Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms”

It would be really difficult for a typical person with stable mental health to imagine the suffering a person with borderline might be feeling to engage in these types of behaviors. So I will offer you a mild metaphor some might be able to relate to. The game of golf is much more a mental game than physical, and those who play understand a round can be disasterous or successful depending on this condition. A golfer who begins a round with a stroke of bad luck can easily AngryGolferbegin judging each shot more critically. With each bad swing, missed opportunity and hazard found on the course a golfer’s frustration continues to grow. A golfer might resort to comparisons to others, feel they don’t have the proper equipment to be effective or disconnect from the others they are playing with to keep their misery to themselves. Golfers have broken clubs, cursed and yelled, thrown whole bags into ponds and even walked off the course giving up for the day.

Again this metaphor is mild compared to living with borderline personality disorder, the point is, the golfer is stuck in the emotional suffering of being defeated. Much like BPD, there is not separation from one event to the next, there is no rational thinking in an emotional state and there are actions taken one regrets when their mental game is not together. Now if the metaphor helped, imagine it’s not just a round of golf and it’s your life. Everywhere you go, everyone you encounter and everything you do can consume you with the same erratic thinking. Individuals with BPD are desperate for relief from the suffering, and from the outside we can sometimes see their actions making their situation worse. And for the individual with BPD they are doing the best they can with how they have learned to handle life.

If you know someone who is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder or who you believe exhibits some of the criteria listed above there is treatment which has proven to be successful for improving the quality of life for people with BPD and has been shown to reduce and eliminate many of the symptoms of the disorder. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, was created by Marsha Linehan who was quoted at the start of this post. DBT has been used effectively to treat a number of mental illnesses by teaching and practicing skills in the following sections: Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance and Interpersonal Effectiveness. There is a big commitment to treatment for individuals to follow including individual and group therapy. Additionally, participants are required to record developing awareness of their thoughts, behaviors and applicable skills on a daily basis. The skills help with problem solving, coping with emotions and learning to communicate.

And if the person you know suffering from BPD is someone who is very close to you in your life you might have been deeply effected by the words or actions of the individual. You might have engaged in conflicts with this person, got wrapped up in the chaos of their world or unknowingly contributed to making the situation worse. Knowing what you know now, maybe you can approach with a greater sense of empathy for where the individual is coming from. It is also reasonable for you to set healthy limits and boundaries with the individual to maintain your own personal mental health. And in the situations when you feel blindsided by the emotional outburst of someone with BPD, don’t jump into the emotional state with them.

Not escalating to meet someone else’s anger is vitally important and can be an emotionally taxing skill to practice, yet critical for maintaining relationships with people who have BPD. In place of trying to argue your point of view, trying to fix the situation or threatening the individual. (Think of the golfer’s response to another player adding jokes or belittling the game during the bad round.) The best practice to help defuse an emotional crisis is to validate the individual’s emotional state. This simply means reflecting what they are feeling, verbally repeating what they are saying and letting them know you see them suffering. You don’t have to agree with them or even understand their point of view. Validation will not fix the situation and it won’t treat the disorder. Validation will help deescalate an emotional state and prevent a situation from getting worse.

Finally, encourage the person you know to get help. Existence doesn’t have to be painful, life can get better.

If you are living in the Kansas City area there are many community mental health providers who facilitate DBT programs.
Lilac Center (KCMO) is specifically designed as a DBT program and can be contacted at 816-221-0305 or go to http://www.lilaccenter.org/
Synergy Services (Parkville, MO) offers a range of theraputic services including DBT. 816-587-4100 or go to http://www.synergyservices.org/
Johnson County Mental Health (Offices in Mission, Olathe & Shawnee KS) 913-826-4200 http://mentalhealth.jocogov.org/

Gallery

Quieting the Travel Bug

This gallery contains 10 photos.

I hate to set goals with deadlines for myself, I tend to miss deadlines, so by avoiding setting deadlines I can prevent the disappointment of not meeting them.  Still, I broke my rule and set a goal to achieve by … Continue reading

Color Comparison

I know, I know… Don’t compare your child to others. This is advise and knowledge given to parents all the time to calm irrational thinking about a child’s health, developmental progress, intelligence, creativity, athleticism etc. I understand my child is only two and has years to learn and grow. She will have areas where she excels above other children her own age and there will be other areas she may be average or below. Believe me, with my history of obtaining “below average” scores on standardized tests, from personal experience I greatly value not comparing. However, there has to come a point when you might potentially learn something important, something missing or a major discrepancy between what is normal and what you see happening… Right?

Here’s my confession, I have been stressing for 6 months pushing colors on my baby. It all started last spring, months before her second birthday when we hosted a play group at our home. One little brainiac friend of hers only a month older, was easily naming colors when prompted by her mom. I figured I’d boost up my tutoring of colors and within the next 30 days and she would be right up to speed with her smarty pants friends.

30 days came and went, the whole hot summer went by, her second birthday came and went… This whole time adding to the list of other 2-year-olds accurately responding “red, blue, yellow” to the command of “name that color.” I coached with blocks, in the bathtub with toys and with crayons. I tried naming, matching, providing choices and asking yes or no.

Her complete and utter refusal to get involved in the process had me worried maybe she really couldn’t see what I was talking about. Of course she wouldn’t know which color I was talking about if all along she was seeing shades of gray. Really all I was accomplishing was torturing a colorblind child?

In December I had an opportunity to get together with my cousin, his wife and their big eyed, squeaky voiced nearly two and a half-year old princess. He relayed the same stress I was feeling and admitted play-Doh was the incentive for his daughter to identifying colors. reinvigorated with hope, and coincidentally a freshly purchased barrel of play-doh from Christmas – I was ready to get back to color training.

Parker practicing color with play-doh

Parker practicing color with play-doh

The next week Parker was enthusiastic about her play-Doh, she appeared to be catching onto the idea of responding with the name of a color. I held up the yellow play-doh and asked “What color is this?”

“Lellow,” she said to receive applause and a congratulatory high-five. Testing again, I held up the blue container and again asked for the color. She paused before replying “Lellow.”

“No, try again PJ.” I said patiently.

“Lellow-ink?”

And so it turns out, she says yellow for everything. And as if yellow-pink were a color, this is always her second choice. Her other frequent responses to color related lessons are “I unno Mommy,” and when I tell her the color answer I was looking for “Oooooh, I see Mommy.”

Progress maybe, and yet nowhere near where many of her two-year old buddies are at with their art skills. Again, I know I shouldn’t compare, yet since we happened to be at the pediatrician earlier this week I went ahead and asked. Dr. Loeb reassured us not to worry about color blindness and typically kids don’t differentiate colors until around the age of 3. Whew, I guess I will give Parker another 8 months to study up!

Bringing in 2013

I love all the year ending lists, the ones that look back on everything from 2012 and rank the best of the year. Top movies, top songs, top sport plays, top storms, top grossing products, top celebrity feuds, top political disasters, top-selling appliances, top exclamations shouted into crowds – you get the idea. It’s bewildering to me to look back on lists and comprehend how so much has fit into the last 365 days, and how did it go by so fast?

2012 was a high-speed chase to catch up with, stay on top of and try to control. Who am I kidding, I just sent out the last of my Christmas presents in the last day of December (sorry nieces and nephews – late though not forgotten.) I wasn’t really on top of anything in the past year. A top list of accomplishments I would create for 2012 would include things like “Was able to continue breathing,” and “Kept child alive.”

The month of December happened to be the craziest whirlwind of the year. With my grandma’s passing, an unplanned trip to Minnesota to go along with it, and almost a full week of celebrating holidays interrupted normalcy for me. I am embracing the new year for a fresh opportunity to maintain a routine and achieve goals. I’d like to be able to look back at the end of 2013 and recognize real accomplishments out of the day-to-day grind.

00On Monday night, New Years Eve, my husband and some friends of ours made plans to bring in the new year bowling. We figured it’s close to home, affordable and a potentially fun and out of the ordinary activity for us. It has probably been years since my last time stepping foot in a bowling alley, though, I like to think bowling is in my blood. My grandpa and all of his brothers were bowling champions. Last month I, along with several cousins and my sister, took a bowling trophy from the home where my grandma passed. I never knew my grandpa so it seemed appropriate for me to keep something that used to be important to him.

bowlOn New Years Eve I naively imagined the trophy might actually bring me luck, that maybe my grandpa could reach down from heaven and help the ball down the lane for strikes and spares. My first game wasn’t too bad, then it got worse. I am guessing my grandpa never tried to play with fake nails, yeah I’m sure those were my only problem.

Losing - Big Time

Losing – Big Time

Or maybe there is a lesson in being the big loser at bowling. In 2013, I need to practice skills regularly, show dedication to my interests and my family, not blame others or objects for my own failures, and continue to find happiness in every moment (winning or not).

Cheers - FREE Champagne at the bowling alley.

Cheers – FREE Champagne at the bowling alley.

Bedtime Stories

Parker with Muno, one of two “Yo Gabba Gabba” characters she sleeps with every night.

Her second birthday was celebrated the first week of October, and we are oh so thankful for some shreds of baby we are hanging on to.  Mainly sleeping in a crib.  At some point parents have to make a decision about when the timing is right to make this transition to a big kid bed.  Some kids, like my nephew (now 2 1/2) make this choice for their parents by making it impossible to secure them safely in a crib.  Parker, on the other hand, has proudly called me in to her room saying “Look Mommy” as she got herself stuck straddling the railing with no where to go – and has not done it since.

In the last few weeks she has given me reason to hope she can stay in her crib until she goes off to college. I’d hate to think of all of the re-training of bedtime rules which will have to be implemented and reinforced when the time comes for her to begin sleeping in the toddler bed. Needless to say this might also trigger the end of nap-time, I just can’t imagine her staying mattress bound if toys are within sights and reach in her bedroom.

In the past few weeks there have been several nights of waking up after being asleep for a few hours. The first night I went in to find her baba (pacifier) and remind her it was bedtime. A few minutes later my husband gave the same thing a try. Finally for the third visit I returned and laid her back down reminding her it is time to sleep. As a final plea to get me to come back after her door was closed I could hear desperately “Mommy, peas, Foofa needs you.” As if her stuffed character resembling her beloved TV show cast could get me to come running back in. When this cry didn’t work she gave in to a good night’s sleep.

Last night my husband went in to check on Parker when he heard her calling several hours after she had gone to bed. “Wheremommyat,” she wanted to know.

“Going night night, PJ, it’s night night time.” He informed her. Only to be further interigated about the whereabouts of all the family pets to hear the same response. “Harper’s going night night, Macy’s going night night too. Everyone’s going night night Parker.”

He talked to her a bit more telling her he loves her and asking her if she loves him. Parker said “Yes,” and added, “Mommy loves me.” (insert the sound of my heart melting here.) I guess she really does hear me when I tell her these words on a daily basis.

Unfortunately it didn’t end with this for Parker, after Daddy left the room we continued to tune in on the monitor to hear various songs, pleading for us to come back and play, laughing at herself and the discouraged “ahh man” remarks when she was giving in to sleep. She sang “Be nice to everyone” from the TV show Yo Gabba Gabba and it sounded as if she was acting out “Ring Around The Rosey” while she sang it. The other song I remember hearing is her own version of a children’s song, though, rather than singing Thumbkin or Pointer, she fills in with mommy or daddy.

“Where is Mommy, Where is Mommy? Here I am, here I am. How are you today sir, very well I thank you. Run away, run away.” My ear is finely tuned to her language so I know what she is singing often by the melody more than the words.

Well, the new bed is due to arrive next month yet I don’t know how ready we will be to use it. Now is as good a time as any to give it a try.  I’m just crossing my fingers she will stay in her big girl bed when she is feeling restless and wants to sing.  And I don’t even want to consider what life will be like when she grows out of naps.

Pawnee For Life

In my last semester of college I was coming down to weeks before graduation still wondering what my next step in life would be.  I enjoyed every ounce of the college experience and probably didn’t give enough thought to looking past that.   Lucky for me, a peer in one of my psychology classes told me where and how to apply for a job at the community mental health center, where she had been working.

Not ready to abandon my college roommates or completely emerse myself into career minded adulthood across the country somewhere, I submitted my resume.  At the time I wasn’t so sure the interview went well, the boss lady seemed bitterly all about business.  I figured either I missed something good about the interview or there were few applicants for the position when they called me back to offer me the job.

When I went in to sign the initial hiring paperwork, I met a hunk who was hired on the same day.  He later became my husband. And the mean boss lady was a bridesmaid and is one of my best friends.  She told me she hired me because she liked my purse…

In the moment working at the community mental health center was the logical next baby step for me after graduation.  Looking back I understand how this job, the team I worked with and the people we served made a deep impact – much grander than a baby step.  The team consisted of dozens of bright and creative minds, all complimenting and balancing each other out.  We worked with children diagnosed with mental illness and their families, I witnessed growth and change for some kids I would have doubted possible.  In the workplace the team seemed to be synchronized like a grandfather clock, finding strengths and supports within each other to do our jobs well.  Of course our grandfather clock would be wildly colored, with constantly evolving pieces being added and removed, provide laughter every hour on the hour and have a tiny toy rat terrier in place of a cuckoo bird.

Working with kids with emotional issues did get a little cuckoo at times, and not only did we have the support we needed in the workplace we all got along outside of work as well.  All the credit goes to the boss lady for hiring some amazing individuals, with whom, I am happy to call my friends.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While we did have some great times and continue to maintain friendships, things were not all golden and drama free.  The team consisted of many strong-willed individuals who saw situations from opposite perspectives, though, I have never seen a group be more respectful in figuring out how to work towards solutions.  And I know I may be a little extra persuaded by the experience finding my husband there and all, though I think others share the same insight about the incredible group dynamics.

I worked there for three and a half years following my college graduation and left to further my education in this field.  Few of the staff I worked with are still there since many used the opportunity as a step like I did.  Those years were invaluable to me personally and professionally.  I appreciate everyone I worked with and learned from, unfortunately now my dilemma is being unable to replicate the fun workplace I remember, anywhere else I have worked since.

Let’s just say…  If I were granted a corporation to save the world, I know just the people I would recruit to be a part of the team.

Beaches, Temples and Whores – Oh My!

By this time in our Indian travels I was as accustomed as I could get to standing out in the crowds.  I did my best to be respectful of the culture, be polite and not act as though my values were better than what I was observing around me.  I was also feeling more comfortable and safe in my foreign surroundings, even with a language barrier I was gaining sense of who was trustworthy and who was trying to take advantage.  We had been cautioned before the trip and learned a lot during the month about Indian men – not all Indian men are this way!  We had been told when walking in crowded areas to cover our chests so they wouldn’t be grabbed, one of us could have also used a warning about watching her behind as it got slapped by a man on a moped.  We studied the disparities between the laws to provide women with rights/protection and what actually happens with Indian marriages, abuse of women and trafficking.  http://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/grassroots-for-women-children/

Not only do some Indian men look down upon females in their own society, we learned how Indian men judge American women to be promiscuous.  We get this reputation since American television and movies display women as highly sexualized and dressing provocatively, while Bollywood films don’t contain even a kiss.  While we drew onlookers where ever we went, I tried not to even consider they viewed me as a whore simply for being an American.  The only time this idea of how Indian men view American women came blaring with sirens was on our last weekend in West Bengal.

Our final excursion from Kolkata, during the month in India, was to Puri for beaches and temples.  Our instructor traveling with us from the U.S. was exhausted from the month’s adventures and hosting the students so she sent us with our Indian tour guide Amrit.  He had traveled with us on another trip to Darjeeling and on some sightseeing around the city. (https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/one-weekend-not-long-enough-darjeeling/).  “Come, come please.”  He would scurry us along like his little ducklings down sidewalks or through the train station “Come, come.

Our hotel in Puri was right on the beach and ocean fun was exactly what we needed after sweltering in the Indian summer temperatures.  It was slightly confusing for a group of American girls to prepare for what to wear to the beach and for swimming since India is modest and Indian women keep covered.  While many of us had bathing suits, we all kept clothed with pants and shirts for our water recreation.

Amrit reported there to be a dangerous undertow right off the shore and hired 3 lifeguards for protection.  These men were no Baywatch studs, middle-aged and scrawny, these lifeguards wore shelled cone hats tied to their heads in order to specify their hired rescuer status.  The guards stood over the American girls in the water and quickly put a hand on their bodies, even with no legitimate threat of drowning.  Once I saw this happening I chose to only dip my toes in so I could avoid unnecessary wandering hands.

Just being near the ocean and out of the city of Kolkata was wonderful.  We spent all afternoon breathing in the sights and sounds of the beach for a change.  As with so many beaches there were people who approached trying to sell something.  Some of us bought necklaces, massages and even rides on a decorated camel.

View from The Pink House

During our stay in Puri there was a restaurant down the beach from our hotel called “The Pink House.”  The eatery was a patio area covered with a thatched roof.  They served fresh fish and had a mural of Bob Marley on one wall.  From where we ate there was a picturesque view of a gate towards the ocean.

Beyond the beach in Puri, we went into the market area for shopping.  And getting the chance to be tourists instead of students for the weekend, we chose tourist type activities like taking a boating excursion on Chilika Lake with over 200 dolphins living in it.  Our boat of caucasian females quickly became the attraction on the lake and while our cameras were aimed at the surfacing dolphins, the other boating sightseer’s had their cameras pointed at us.   http://www.go2india.in/orissa/satapada.php

Our other tourist activity was visiting the temples and ruins around the area.

Sun Temple

Raja-Rani Temple

Udayagiri Khandagiri Caves

Monkeys at Udayagiri Khandagiri Caves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During our stay in Puri we were invited by Amrit’s friends to come for lunch.  I don’t remember thinking too much about the invitation before we arrived.  We arrived at an apartment on the beach where there was a small kitchen with a cook preparing our meal.  We were chauffeured into a bar area with swinging doors and crab netting hanging from the walls for sailor themed decor.  Our hosts encouraged us to sample the Indian beer and mix drinks however we desired.  Finally a chance to relax with a few beverages and my new fellow student friends, or so I innocently thought at first.

As we settled in and began socializing with our hosts my curiosity lead me to wonder why we were really invited over?  Turns out Amrit’s friends were two well-off men from the city staying at their beach apartment where they travel to on weekends.  The men were likely the same age as the fathers of most of the students in our group, and both admitted they were married.  One man proudly stated the apartment is off-limits to their wives.  At this point I quietly put down my beverage and tried to reserve my judgments for the remainder of the visit.  Did these men think they had won the jackpot with eight promiscuous American women in their bachelor pad?  Did they think I was a Pretty Woman who stepped out of American Pie to act out my Basic Instinct?

Though I sensed it to be odd, nothing happened during lunch to confirm my suspicions.  However, Amrit scheduled another meeting with these men before we headed back to Kolkata the last day.  This time we were to meet them at their country club.  When we entered the building, we were greeted by Amrit’s friends and some head people at the club including a president and manager.  Confusion set in, in my mind we were just students, nobody important enough to draw attention from important people…

Our group moved upstairs to a room where we would be eating lunch.  Us students observed the room quickly and looked at each other, the bathroom and closet as you entered the room along with two headboards nailed to one wall indicated this was a hotel room.  The furniture had been cleared out and large clothed tables had been put in place for the meal.  More guests began filing in and man after man introduced himself to us, soon the men out numbered our group of female students.  Similar to the meeting before alcoholic beverages were encouraged, except this time most of us declined.  Concerned by the hotel room and all male company, one of the girls asked Amrit to clarify what “country club” meant to Indian’s.  He informed us that Indian clubs sometimes have golf, pools, tennis and other sports along with rooms to stay (sort of like buying a timeshare to a hotel/resort.)

During the meal we did our best to make small talk with our hosts, some of the men hardly spoke English or were very difficult to comprehend.  Finally when the visit was over we all made our way out to our awaiting vehicles.  One of the hosts from the country club came running out after us to ask if everything was okay because he had seen a trail of blood.  All of us looked around assuming it was unrelated to us, except the last student to get into the vehicle.  She hadn’t realized she was bleeding despite a heavily dropping cut.  It wasn’t until the country club was in the rear view mirror when she finally explained what had happened.

Before we had left the building, one by one we used the restroom and then trickled outside towards the vehicles.  She was the last student and regrettably none of us realized we had abandoned the buddy system and left her inside.  One of the male guests from our lunch tried to corner her and kiss, she reacted in a haste and somehow managed to cut herself on the door in her escape.

Five years after my travels to India I am still trying to understand what that lunch, with grown men in an empty hotel room was all about.  Their intent in the invitation was unclear.  I feel conflicted between what my obvious fear was during the day, and not wanting to unnecessarily judge a situation to be negative out of fear.  I guess part of me just wants to hang on to hoping people I encounter are honest and sincere towards me.

Puri was quite an adventure.  The Indian beaches and temples were worth the trip, though, we were not American whores.

This post is part of a series I am writing about my month abroad in Kolkata, India to study the social welfare systems.  Feel free to look back on previous posts – here are a few:

https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/my-indian-summer/

https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/step-one-assimilation-to-traffic/

https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/lessons-in-love-the-mother-teresas-homes-kolkata/

https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/when-it-rains-it-floods/