Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Learning Curve

Learning Curve
 
We all start at 0 - and we hate it.

We wanna be at Mastery, feeling competent and in control.  We like being the go-to person.

In order to get from 0 to Mastery, we gotta go through lots of trial & error experiences - every dot on this graph represents trial & errors.  That's just the way it is.

The trick is being kind to ourselves in the process.

We only get stuck at 0 if we refuse to try because we are afraid to fail.

If our core belief (our belief about ourselves way deep down inside) is that we are incompetent, then we don't dare risking failure because then EVERYONE will know what we (mistakenly) believe deep down inside.

If our core belief is that we are competent - that is, we can learn even if we don't know something right now, right now - then we are willing to risk failure because we trust that we'll figure it out, eventually.

When we are trying something new, rather than being in the moment - present to what we are doing and what is in front of us - we are in our head and it is not pretty:  "Am I doing this right?  Am I doing this wrong? Do I suck at this?  Can the client tell I don't know what the heck I am doing?  Is the client judging me?  Do I look stupid/silly/dumb/awkward doing this?"

I guarantee you will make mistakes - lots of them at first.  Each mistake (trial & error) will get you closer to mastery.  Get the first experience under your belt and the next experience will be that much better.  You gotta trust the process. 

In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, he writes that it takes about 10,000 hours (approx. 40 hours a week for five years) to become expert at anything.  So sit back and be patient - this is gonna be a long ride.

Paulo is a bada$$

"Durante toda mi vida he entendido el amor como una especie de esclavitud consentida.

Pero esto no es así: la libertad sólo existe cuando existe el amor.

Quien se entrega totalmente, quien se siente libre, ama al máximo.

Y quien ama al máximo, se siente libre.

Pero en el amor, cada uno de nosotros es responsable por lo que siente, y no puede culpar al otro por eso.


Nadie pierde a nadie porque nadie posee a nadie.

Y esta es la verdadera experiencia de la libertad: Tener lo más importante del mundo sin poseerlo."

(en mi libro "Once Minutos") -- Paulo Coelho

Calling Out Names at Graduation

nice legs

I had the pleasure of calling out names at Graduation this year.  It was like being in the show, This Is Your Life.  I called out the names of all the students in the Children, Youth, Women & Families Concentration.  I knew all of them in a special way.  Also, I got to stand in the receiving line with other professors (in my cute dress & hot pink shawl instead of academic regalia).  It was a joy to hug and kiss every graduate that night.  I asked to french kiss some of them and freaked out one girl in particular  (I'd often say in class, "kiss your brain" or "I'm sending you M&Ms - shhoop" or "I could kiss you!" which quickly escalated to "I'm coming in for the french kiss" because of how passionate I felt when they said something particularly thoughtful).  Sorry about that V-Nasty, it didn't occur to me that it would come off as scary when I asked nicely ;)

(whistle sound)

I think our culture is way too uptight about sex, sensuality and intimacy.  I hope we loosen up a little - in a good way.  That is, in a way that is fun and responsible.  A guest speaker in one of my classes suggested that instead of proposing CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) for someone that is depressed, how about we put, "have more sex" on the treatment plan?  Makes sense to me.  I wish we were evolved enough to do it.

Friday, June 29, 2012

I am a writer.

I met someone new this week who asked me if I was a writer based on something he'd read that I'd written about myself.  I told him that I'd mostly written professional articles.

This morning, I got a care package from Loren with a pencil and lovely card inside.

Thank you, Loren.  I love it.


Beginning in the 5th grade, I dreamed about being a writer.  I loved writing essays and stories.  I wanted to write books.  Now, I just try to post every week.  Writing has been very good for me.  It's like the stories were popcorn and needed to come out.  Before I began writing regularly, the thoughts were trapped inside and wreaking havoc.  I've been told some of my stories are longer than others, but mostly I like watching people's eyes widen, sparkle and cry sometimes.   

My cousin, Josie, is a spiritual healer.  Only she says that in the Native tradition, you are not supposed to call yourself a spiritual healer.  That is, you are not supposed to say that about yourself.  But others can say it about you.  It's like how you can't be a shaman, no matter how much you wanna, unless the community agrees.

I guess I have been waiting for others to call me a writer.  The fact that you are reading this - even the one of you - is enough for me.

Writing is something I could do, quite happily, for the rest of my life.  Having more time to spend reading and writing the last three years has been a God-send and transformative.  I barely recognize myself and my life.  If you could see me right now, you'd see that I am smiling and sweaty from working out at the gym and about to soak in a bath with some Epsom salt.

It just doesn't get any better than this.  Cheers to you and finding a life, passion and relationships that are a really good fit for you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wendy's Fact Sheet

Wendy's pre-interview fact sheet - she is soo ready

Every May, I talk about the job search process with students and interns.

First, I suggest that you figure out what you want - in a job, of an organization, of a supervisor, of a team.  Imagine it.  Picture it.  This helps you to recognize it when you see it.  It also helps you to ask for it in the interview:  

  • What is staff morale like at this organization? What is the rate of staff retention?
  • Please tell me about the vision of the organization's leader?  What is their leadership style?
  • What kind of training, mentoring and promotional opportunities are available to staff? 
Second, don't take the first job offer.  Expect multiple offers.  My students and interns are very good and well trained.  I don't give this advice to just anyone.

Think of job interviewing like dating.  The question isn't just are you a desirable candidate?  The question is also, are they an attractive organization to which you can imagine yourself committing?   More important than salary, will this be a good fit for you?

Salary negotiation is critical, of course.  Don't be satisfied with the low end of the salary range if you can sell your experience and skills to drive up the starting salary.  Always ask and then back it up with your stats.

At that part of the interview when you are asked if you have any questions - ask your questions about the organization and what you are looking for in a work environment/experience.

When you are asked to tell a bit about yourself, don't wing it - be thoughtful.  Well before the interview, reflect on your strengths, experiences, passions, skills and every nice thing someone has said about you.  Write it down.  Organize it into categories.  Develop a fact sheet about yourself.  Practice saying all these nice and true things about yourself.  It may feel uncomfortable at first.  Say it again and again until it feels natural. 

Walk into the interview knowing, in every cell of your body, what it is that you bring to the table, what it is that you want to do and learn and how.  Then open your heart, mind and soul and let 'em see your essence.  You can't lose.  No one is better at being your true self. There's no such thing as the perfect job but I hope you find a good fit.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Music

Most teens will tell you that music is the backdrop or soundtrack of their lives and wild emotions.

My mentor, artist Roberto Gutierrez, says that music lubricates the emotions (I think it was him, I know someone said it).

Growing up, I did not enjoy listening to the radio - it left me feeling cold and alone.  I'd sometimes listen to my older sibs albums - David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, Alice Cooper, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, Paul McCartney, Earth, Wind & Fire, Motown, Peter Frampton.

Now I loooove music.  It is the soundtrack of my emotions, relationships, transitions, experiences and yearning.

My daughter "freaks out" at new experiences.  This morning I dropped her off at summer camp.  We decided to play, Lose Yourself by Eminem and Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine, in order to lubricate her emotions - that is, pump her up.

Music is a powerful mood booster.

At long meetings, especially after lunch, sometimes we will play a YouTube video of the song, Party in the USA, accompanied by a happy and adorable young man dancing and interpreting the song using American Sign Language.  You can't help but smile and try to move your hands and hips along.


What songs or lyrics boost your mood?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Intense is the New Hysteria

Maria dressed in black before Johnny Cash

A few years ago, my daughter and I watched a docu-drama about Maria Montessori (in Italian with Spanish sub-titles).

There's a scene in the movie where Maria locks herself in her room for three days - she screams, cries and wails on the floor.

Maria was the only child of older middle-class parents.  She attended medical school and had an affair with one of her professors that resulted in her becoming pregnant.  He came from a wealthy family with a controlling mother.  His mother arranged for their baby to be taken away from Maria and raised in the country by another family.  Maria's parents and lover colluded with this plan.  Maria had no say - no voice, no vote, no legal recourse even though she was a medical doctor doing important research, an adult woman and a mother.

I would wail for three days too - at least.

It used to be that women were supposed to go along, not rock the boat, be agreeable, do as the men said.  Any opposition was seen as hysteria.

Fu@k that $hit.  In honor of Maria and countless others, use your voice today.  I am speaking to any oppressed group, not just women.

Use your voice, speak your mind, vote, challenge, question, usher in change, progress and revolution wherever it is necessary.

You will be called impolite, brusque, unattractive, rude, intense, a lesbian, challenging, a bitch, and so on.  You will be told to keep your $hit to yourself.  Fu@k that $hit.

A beautiful multi-ethnic woman with hair dyed blond, breast implants and a fear of speaking her mind once told me, "I heard you are intense."

Damn straight.  I'd rather be intense if it means speaking my mind to protect my soul and our human rights.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Joke Contest

It's been said that laughter is healing because it releases endorphins (the body's natural pain killers) and all that jazz.  To that end, I have an array of jokes that might make you laugh.  Please vote on your favorite.  I have a dog in this fight.

A.     
Ants were working together to build an ant hill.  When they were finished, they looked upon their accomplishment with great pride.  

Suddenly, an enormous elephant came through and wiped out their ant hill with one lumbering step. 

Frustrated but undeterred, the ants set about rebuilding.  

The elephant returned and stomped on through their ant hill once again.  

This time, the ants organized to hatch a plan. The next time the elephant came through they swarmed him until he was covered in ants.  The elephant began to toss and shake sending the ants to and fro landing all over and askew.  

The ants were crushed that their plan had not worked out better but as they looked over at the elephant they saw that there was one lone ant hanging on to the nape of the neck of the elephant.  

They conspired psychically from their scattered positions and began to chant, "CHOKE HIM, CHOKE HIM, CHOKE HIM!"

B.
A woman was driving to visit a friend when suddenly she realized she'd run over a cat. She arrived at her friends house quite distressed. She feared that she'd run over her friend's cat!  Her friend asked her, "What did the cat look like?"  
The woman thought for a moment and then made this face ...
Her friend said, "no, no, no - after you ran the cat over."  The woman thought a bit more and made this face...

I assure you that no cats were harmed in this joke.

C.
A man with a giant orange where his should be walks into a bar and orders a drink.  

The bartender serves him and says, "I can't help noticing you have a large orange where your head should be."  

The man says, "Yes, well that's a story.  I was walking down the beach and tripped over something in the sand so I dug it up and it was a lamp.  A genie came out of it and offered to grant me three wishes.  My first wish was to have a billion dollars so I have a billion dollars in the bank now."

The bartender says, "Yes, but that doesn't explain why you have a large orange where your head should be."

The man replies, "Yes, I am getting to that.  My second wish was to have sex with all the Spice Girls."  

The bartender and man exchange smiles and the bartender begins to say, "I still don't get why..."

The man then says, "My third wish was to have a giant orange where my head should be."

D.
I used to wrestle when I was in high school.
I wasn't very good.
I gave up after I came.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do it Well


I have post-its all over my office window.  This quote comes from, "Writing your dissertation in fifteen minutes a day" by Joan Bolker.  Claudia took a picture of my post-it and texted it to me.  Now I'm posting it here.  Full circle.

Love Again


Don't become cynical or jaded.  Become wiser.
--Rose Monteiro

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lose Yourself


Look if you had one shot
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
One moment
Would you capture it?
Or just let it slip? 
You better lose yourself
In the music
The moment
You want it
You better never let it go
You only get one shot
Do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime 
You better lose yourself
In the music
The moment
You want it
You better never let it go
You only get one shot
Do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime
Last Thursday, I was driving to a pre-graduation banquet (running late, as usual) and obviously feeling nervous about giving my five-minute speech.  My daughter was in the car with me and attuned to my mood so she put this song on the car stereo and we sang it twice to get me ready.  She said I sounded like Martin Luther King, Jr. when I was giving my speech ("I have a dream..." - I wish you could hear the trill and bass in her voice when she says that).  I loove the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. but on that particular evening, I was channeling the incomparable artist, Eminem.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Shoop


One of my professors (who shall remain nameless for his own protection) told me this story about a doctoral student who was doing research at a hospital for the seriously mentally ill.  My professor was curious and wanted to observe the study at the hospital.  The experiment took place in the basement of the hospital.  The doc student had built a contraption that shot out an M&M to the study participant (hospital resident) whenever they uttered a word or sound.  The goal was to see if this promoted verbalization among the client population (apparently, a problem).

My professor is a sociologist so he asked to tour the facility.  He noticed that the staff seemed tired and frustrated - and so did the residents.  He approached a staff member who seemed very happy to converse with a non-resident.  During their conversation, he noticed residents approached the staff member to ask for things.  The staff member responded by, essentially, shooing them away and reprimanding them for interrupting.  My professor thought it ironic that in the basement an experiment was going on to promote vocalization among residents while on the third floor of the hospital, verbal requests were shunned and spurned.

After talking to students in class about the power of using their voice, I would often "reward" their emerging efforts to do so by shooting them imaginary M&Ms in class.  At our termination retreat brunch, I bought tons of M&Ms in many flavors.  They deserved every single one.

Friday, June 15, 2012

After the Rose Petals Ceremony


I invited my MSW students over for Finals Week Brunch.  We ate and laughed and talked and appreciated each other.

As a termination ritual, I read a passage from Father Greg Boyle's book - Tattoos on the Heart:

...With my backpack snug on my shoulder and spirit deflated, I began to make the long walk down the mountain and back to town.  But before I leave the makeshift soccer field that had been our cathedral, an old Quechua campesino, seemingly out of nowhere, makes his way to me.  He appears ancient, but I suspect his body has been weathered by work and the burden of an Indian's life.  As he nears me, I see he is wearing tethered wool pants, with a white buttoned shirt, greatly frayed at the collar.  He has a rope for a belt.  His suit coat is coarse and worn.  He has a fedora, toughened by the years.  He is wearing huaraches, and his feet are caked with Bolivian mud.  Any place that a human face can have wrinkles and creases, he has them.  He is at least a foot shorter than I am, and he stands right in front of me and says, "Tatai."

This is Quechua for Padrecito, a word packed with cariño, affection, and a charming intimacy.  He looks up at me, with penetrating, weary eyes and says, "Tatai, gracias por haber venido" (Thanks for coming).

I think of something to say, but nothing comes to me.  Which is just as well, because before I can speak, the old campesino reaches into the pockets of his suit coat and retrieves two fistfuls of multicolored rose petals.  He's on the tips of his toes and gestures that I might assist with the inclination of my head.  And he drops petals over my head, and I'm without words.  He digs into his pockets again and manages two more fistfuls of petals.  He does this again and again, and the store of red, pink, and yellow rose petals seems infinite.  I just stand there and let him do this, staring at my own huaraches, now moistened with my tears, covered with rose petals.  Finally, he takes his leave and I'm there, alone, with only the bright aroma of roses.

For all the many times I would return to Tirani and see the same villagers, over and over, I never saw this old campesino again.

God, I guess, is more expansive than every image we think rhymes with God.  How much greater is the God we have than the one we think we have.  More than anything else, the truth of God seems to be about a joy that is a foreigner to disappointment and disapproval.  This joy just doesn't know what we're talking about when we focus on the restriction of not measuring up.  This joy, God's joy, is like a bunch of women lined up in the parish hall on your birthday, wanting only to dance with you - cheek to cheek.  "First things, recognizably first," Daniel Berrigan says.  The God, who is greater than God, has only one thing on Her mind, and that is to drop, endlessly, rose petals on our head.  Behold the One who can't take His eyes off of you.
Marinate in the vastness of that. 

We stood in a circle around my backyard tree, each person with a fistful of multicolored rose petals.  Then we took turns pouring rose petals on the head of the person standing next to us - out of love and respect.  That is how we said thank you for showing up - as your true self.

When you do something kind for someone else, "the fragrance remains with the hand that gives the rose."  The bright aroma of rose petals lingered on our heads, hearts and hands.

Nury & Me (AKA Las Chingonas)
We also had a guest speaker, Nury Martinez, LAUSD School Board Member representing the Valley, former San Fernando Mayor and Councilwoman, and Executive Director of Pacoima Beautiful - an environmental justice non-profit organization.  I met Nury over 20 years ago when I hired her to be a Peer Educator.  She was in high school.  She says I made her teach peers to put condoms on wooden penises with their mouth.  Yikes.  I sent her to juvenile halls and probation camps to spread the word about HIV prevention among vulnerable populations.  She credits this experience as giving her confidence to overcome her shyness and fear in order to organize communities, campaign and challenge injustice in schools.  She inspired us all with her passion, chutzpah and voice.

Wendy & me

This is my career, this is my life, these are my relationships.  Thank you, Yesus.

Love, Dreams & Hope

Stuart A. Kirk, me & Gerry Lavina

Four years ago, I asked my friend & colleague Gerry to get me a copy of the doctoral program brochure for Social Welfare at UCLA.  He did one better.  He scheduled a meeting with me and the doctoral program chair, Stuart A. Kirk.

I was scared out of my mind sitting in that office with Stuart on August 12, 2008.  I told him, "You don't understand - it's scary to me just talking to you about the program!  I am trying to take baby steps."  In the warmest and nonchalant manner, he said, "Let's help you take the next baby step."

I am walking into my fourth and final year (big words backed by big faith) of the program.  I hope to graduate next June.  Then I can apply for Assistant Professor positions in LA.  Stuart believes I will get a job easily.  I am in love with teaching.  I am passionate about research.  My life makes total and complete sense now.

It all started four years ago, in Stuart's office, prodded by Gerry and the Universe and all my mentors, family members, friends and of course, my mom.  When standing in the middle of a blessing, my mother taught me to say - and now my daughter knows to say it as well - Thank You, Yesus! (Jesus with a Spanish accent).  It is a "Thank You, Yesus" moment for me.  Thanks, mom.  I love jou.

Grad Glam





MSW Graduation Speech, 2012



I was asked to give a short speech at the CSULA MSW Pre-Graduation Banquet.  I prayed to God for some inspiration.

One of my students, Claudia Lira, introduced me:
Hello again, as a graduate of the Children, Youth, Women and Families concentration, I had the pleasure of experiencing the sharp mind, the radiant spirit and the delightful laughter of our next speaker.

Although the past two years have tested our patience, our courage, and our beliefs, the many stories she shared (some longer than others, let's be honest) have reminded us that we started this journey with a raw desire and a fiery heart for change.

Thanks to her, we make our way out of Salazar Hall with full hearts and new-found energy to practice with intention, passion, and love.

Without further delay, Professor Alejandra Acuña.
Me & Claudia

I brought my daughter on stage for moral support.  Here is what I said:

You got me, Claudia!  First, I'd like to apologize for not wearing academic regalia tonight but I bought this dress for this formidable occasion and I hope you like it.  Okay, I'm going to stick to the script because as you've just heard my stories can go long...
Good evening, my dearest, dearest MSW graduates 2012, family members, friends and faculty. I have been asked to say a few words on behalf of the Children, Youth, Women and Families Concentration. I don’t trust myself with my own words (due to time limits and my penchant for colorful language) so I will borrow the words of Father Greg Boyle who reminds us of “…our common call to delight in one another.”

In his book, Tattoos on the Heart, Father Boyle includes a poem called,

With That Moon Language 

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud;
Otherwise,
Someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying
With that sweet moon
Language
What every other eye in this world is dying to Hear.

Anthony De Mello writes, “Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.”

Graduates, I’m going to ask you to close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine me saying this only to you while looking deep into your big, beautiful eyeballs:  
 “Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.” 

And so this voice breaks through the clouds and comes straight at us.
 “You are my Beloved, in whom I am wonderfully pleased.” 

Hear the words of the Universe saying to you…
“You, dear MSW graduate, are my Beloved, in whom I am wonderfully pleased.” 

Your family and friends here to celebrate with you today, they don’t just love you – it’s their joy to love you. 

Family and friends, here to celebrate your beloved graduates, I want to ask you to turn to them now – take their hand, look them in the eyes and repeat after me:
It is my joy to love you. 

One more time: It is my joy to love you.

Graduates, I hope that you feel yourself beloved.

Author and psychiatrist James Gilligan writes that the self cannot survive without love, and the self, starved of love, dies. The absence of self-love is shame, “just as cold is the absence of warmth.”

Mother Teresa told a roomful of people with leprosy once how loved by God they were and a “gift to the rest of us.” Interrupting her, an old man raises his hand, and she calls on him. “Could you repeat that again? It did me good. So, would you mind…just saying it again.”

Family and friends, please turn to your graduate again, take their hand and look deeply into their big, beautiful eyeballs and repeat after me:
You are loved and you are a gift to the rest of us.

And because it bears repeating, let's say that one more time:
You are loved and you are a gift to the rest of us.

There is no force in the world better able to alter anything from its course than love.

What the American poet William Carlos Williams said of poetry could well be applied to the living of our lives:
“If it ain’t a pleasure, it ain’t a poem.”

Father Boyle writes:  My director of novices, Leo Rock, used to say, “God created us – because he thought we’d enjoy it.”

And that’s why I ask, “Who says Social Work can’t be fun?” 

Enjoy, my dearest, dearest MSW graduates and colleagues.

You are effing amazing, I love you and it has been my joy to love you!!

Almost every word came from the book, Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle and of course the source of all things, God.

I have been harping for years about family engagement in children's mental health treatment.  No matter how old we are, our families (of our own choosing) matter to us.  In five minutes at a graduation for nearly 100 MSW candidates and their families - I managed to engage the graduates AND their families.  It is Fucking Possible, Dammit! When I hear people whine, "It's impossible to engage families at the secondary level" - I want to say, "Fuck that $hit!" with not one but two middle fingers pumping in the air.

Claudia emailed me the next day and wrote:
I'm ordering 'Tattoos on the Heart' TODAY! <3 My Dad said how beautiful that moment was. Thank you for facilitating such beautiful, loving, and healing spaces. 

Me, Hannah & her Awesome Dad
Me & the Incomparable Claudia
Me & Katrina's Beautiful Family
Me & mi chola, Yesenia - don't mess with me because she has my back (from day one and minute one)
Me & Hannah - I want Paolina to grow up to be just like you
Me & Melanie - In class one day, she asked me what my diagnosis was.  I am a Chingona who swears and cries and loves with all my heart.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rasputin, Darth Vader & Spiderman

Bad Shamans give shamanism a bad name just as Darth Vader gave the Force a dark side.

This reminds me of Rasputin, known as a Siberian mystic healer, poet, magician, prophet and holy monk.*  Interestingly, the word, shaman, comes from the Tungus people of Siberia and means, "One who sees or knows."  One of Rasputin's talents was his ability to calm people in distress.  Not everyone had a positive view of Rasputin, his "enemies charged that he was nothing but cynical, and that he used religion to mask his drive for sex, money and power" (de Jonge, 14).*

Clearly, power may be used for good or for evil.  We choose wisely or misuse power for our advantage.  Following the dark path can bring harm to ourselves and others, at some point. 

Darth Vader was once a Jedi Knight and son of a respected warrior.  Then, he swayed to the dark side. 

Some say that gaining control over special powers may be used to harm enemies.  Thus, the possession of such control is not always beneficial, but may be used also for purposes of witchcraft.  Hostile shamans may throw disease into the bodies of their enemies or they may abduct their souls.  They may do harm by sympathetic means, and control the will-power of others by the help of supernatural means at their disposal.  Witchcraft is everywhere considered as a crime, and is so punished.**

In the book, Sastún (about a healer in Belize), there are many stories about how people feeling envy or greed or lust used shamanic power to enchant or destroy their target.

In the words of Spiderman:
Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: "With great power comes great responsibility." This is my gift, my curse. Who am I? I'm Spider-man. 
If the goal is empowerment and embodiment.  How will we use our power and our bodies for good?


*http://it.stlawu.edu/~rkreuzer/indv5/rasp.htm
**Seeking Contact with Spirits Is Not Necessarily Shamanism by Frank Boas (1910)

Advanced Practice Course

MSW graduates, 2012
Last Thursday we held the final class of the Capstone course for MSW students in the Children, Youth, Women & Families concentration.

I invited two guest speakers that day.  Over the entire quarter, I've had eight guest speakers covering topics such as:  entrepreneurial social work, parenting and family therapy, grief and loss, a career in child welfare, adolescent substance abuse counseling, family engagement in children's mental health, Native American healing, and community organizing/policy advocacy.

After class, we met on the lawn and stood in a circle in order to be smudged by my cousin - a spiritual healer - Josie Montes.  She sang and smudged students with sage.  She asked me to assist by smudging as I stood behind them.  Many students appeared visibly touched by the ceremony and released strong emotions by crying.  It was beautiful.  It was an honor.  Students thanked my cousin for the blessings they received.  Students sent me notes of thanks and appreciation for this gift.

We, all of us, have been touched by painful life experiences at one time and another.  We, all of us, are in need of healing and support at one time or another.  This is what it means to be human and alive.  There is no shame in that - let's accept it.  In this way, we can accept the healing gifts and opportunities that present themselves.  It is our birthright to heal, be whole and happy.

I am soo grateful for my life and my life's work.  I get to do this.  Thank you, Yesus.

Monday, June 4, 2012

In one study:
"...results show that higher levels of maternal posttraumatic stress symptoms are associated with a higher level of psychosocial problems of infants, but not with delays in their mental or psychomotor development. The results also show that higher levels of maternal posttraumatic stress symptoms are associated with higher levels of insensitive, unstructuring, or hostile, but not intrusive, parent-child interactions. Infants show lower levels of responsiveness and involvement to their traumatized mothers. Parent-child interaction did not function as a mediator between maternal trauma symptoms and infants' psychosocial functioning. Results are discussed in relation to the dyad's regulation of emotions. Results implicate a need to reestablish attunement between traumatized mothers and their nontraumatized children."
Healthy and calm mamas, healthy and calm babies.

Reference
Title: War trauma lingers on: associations between maternal posttraumatic stress disorder, parent-child interaction, and child development
Author: Van Ee, Elisa; Kleber, Rolf J; Mooren, Geertruida Theodora Maria
Affiliation: Foundation Center '45, Diemen, The Netherlands ; Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Source: Infant Mental Health Journal, Published online 3 May 2012

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Divining



I attended a Core Shamanism Basic Workshop last weekend sponsored by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.  It was held at UC Santa Barbara (the beautiful weather and location was perfect for journeying).

The first exercise we did was divining.

We picked out a grapefruit-size rock from the environs and paired up with a partner.

We posed our own question for divining.  Sample questions included:  Is this the right time to leave my paid employment to pursue my life's passion?  What should I be doing to find my life partner? 

Career and relationship questions seemed to be the predominant themes.  Also, health-related questions emerged.

We each used our own rock and cosmology to divine the answer to our question.

The first step is to look at the rock and try to find a feature that looks like something else - say, a leaf or a mountain peak or the eye of a jaguar (some of the participants were very imaginative).  Then you figure out what that symbol says to you, based on your own associations.  For example, the leaf says growth and renewal.  Then, you say how that helps you answer your original question.  I need to focus on my own growth and renewal in order to...

We work in pairs, so it is our partner's job to see the feature we point out and serve as scribe for the messages we collect.

We pick out four features and their messages and meaning on one side of the rock.  Then we turn the rock over and identify another four features with associated messages and meaning, while your partner diligently checks out what you point out on the rock and writes everything down.

Then you review the eight features and their messages and meaning.

Then you put the rock behind your back and answer your original question based on what you saw in the rock.

This exercise was surprisingly powerful and guiding.

Some of us cried at the profundity of the messages.  After all, they were our own.  That is, they came from deep inside - they were our very own cosmology.

I took a friend out for dinner this weekend and she was struggling with a BIG life change decision.  After attempting to look at the pros and cons, separating the forest from the trees and all that jazz, I suggested we use the rock for divination.

It worked like gangbusters.  I noticed a peace and calm come over her as she reached her final conclusion.  This was a noticeable change from our earlier conversation at dinner using pure logic to decide.

Some people read the runes.  Others read tarot or angel cards.  We can all divine information for our own lives by consulting the rock and our own cosmology - the deep knowledge and metaphors inside us all.