What About It?

It keeps running aound in my mind. Why is it so hard to talk about it? According to  Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE, about 26.2 percent of people in the United States ages 18 and older  or about one in four adults  are affected by it. Have you ever walked down the street and seen someone in a suit, carrying a brief case and realizing she may have it? You look at a person who is homeless and automatically think he may have it. Our view of it is so affected about what the media says about it. We usually don’t think about it unless we have it or a friend or family member has it. If you don’t have it, you have a one in four chance that you will in some point of your life. Sometimes it is temporary; sometimes it is a life time. Sometimes the person is known around the world for her work in it has it. Many underprivileged have it. Or a person once in the mainstream but it knocked down by it has it. If it was really talked about it wouldn’t be seen as it is.  I want to talk about it, but fear fills my heart and mind. If you had it would you talk about it?

Posted in caring, Disability, Emotional Pain, Family, labeling, Life, Mental illness, Relationships, stigma | Leave a comment

Tick Tock – I Have 12 Clocks

gfa clockIt all started back in the 80’s when I listened to the tick-tock of my girlfriends Regulator clock. I noticed that each time I visited her the sound of the clock became part of her home rather than an auditory invasion. Before I knew it, she and I went shopping for my very own Regulator clock.  With joy overflowing, I hung the clock, wound it up and set the pendulum into action. I too had a heartbeat in my home. M desire to own more clocks sat in my soul. 

It took until 2011 that I began my quest to own additional clocks of different sizes and styles. Mantel clocks make up the majority of my collection. Right now, I have 4 mantel clocks. One I purchased from a man in Germany; its Westminster chimes make it the most active clock I have. One of my mantel clocks is “odd” being made of cast iron. You can imagine the deep chime on the half hour and hour. The clock dearest to me is my great-grandfathers mantel clock. Over the years, it was passed down in the family. My sister had possessed it for years. This past Christmas she asked me to close my eyes and put out both my hands. I did as I was told; she placed something in them. When I opened my eyes, I was in awe. She felt that as I had a collection and a love for clocks, she wanted me to have it. I could only cry and hug my sister.  The last clock I have is one I got from my girlfriend; it keeps such accurate time.

I have two bee hive clocks. Beehive clocks are shelf clocks with a case whose sides curve upward and meet at a peak.  It is reminiscent of a beehive shape. One is what you would call normal size the other is a miniature, only one fifth the size of the other. Like all my other clocks, they chime on the hour and half hour.

In my heart I wanted a cuckoo clock. I knew I had to as the man who repairs and cleans all of my clocks.  When I called Atlantic Clock Hospital in Timonium, Maryland, he said he had three I might want to look at the following weekend. That was one of the longest weeks I had in years. On Saturday morning, I jumped into my car and drove over. There on his wall were 3 German cuckoo clocks. He told me about each. I decided on a clock made in the Black Forest of Germany about 140 years earlier.  He told me of the process of cuckoo clocks made there. Each piece, the face, the body, the ornate carving surrounding the clock, the hands and the workings of the clock are made by individuals who them bring them all together and create a unique cuckoo clock.  I felt the history of my new acquisition. Listening to the cuckoo once for the half hour and then cuckooing once for each hour is exciting each time. 

Just this month, July, after a long search, I bought a full size Grandfather clock. Oh the beauty of it. The clock’s Westminster chimes sound each 15 minutes. On the hour it soulfully chimes once for each hour. I get chills when I hear it. 

Clocks run faster or slower than each other; I try to time them to all sound as closely as possible. When the hour comes, within about 5 or so minutes of another, all the clocks chime. For me, it has become a sound that does not interrupt my thought or my ability to continue what ever I am doing. This all is fine with me, but when I have friends or family over and the clocks begin to chime, what ever is going on ceases. I just smile. 

I have 4 additional clocks of differing sizes and shapes.  I wind them weekly and listen to them daily. All my clocks receive the care a precious part of my home deserves.

Having a collection of 12 clocks soothes something within me. They are constant companions 24 hours a day. I care for them as I wind them weekly and tend to the weights of the cuckoo clock twice a day. Although I have a continued desire to look for and purchase more clocks, I believe my clock buying is done…for a while…maybe.

Posted in Beehive Clock, caring, clocks, Cuckoo Clock, Grandfather Clock, Home, Joy, Life, Love, Mantel Clock, Satisfaction | 1 Comment

No More Ex Gay


Last night, I was watching the news and it was announced that the largest group that claimed that a person can be healed from homosexuality, Exodus International, disbanded.  They did this because they determined that the shame of those who weren’t healed was

so great that it even drove people to suicide – actually a friend of mine did commit suicide as a result of finding a balance between his healing and his faith.

It is actually funny because I had been contemplating posting my story of being an ex-ex gay. So…here it is.

“I admit I am powerless over my homosexuality.”  As part of a Christian based group, I spoke these words with the understanding they would be the “first step” in overcoming my sexual orientation.

I write as a survivor of “ex-gay ministry”, ministries that proclaim being able to “heal” people from being gay.  My experience began with a conversation with a minister who described “ex-gay ministry” as a way of being “healed” of my homosexuality.  As a young, vulnerable adult eager for social acceptance and the support of the church, I became involved with Regeneration, a Baltimore based group under the auspices Exodus International.  I participated in group meetings based on a 12-Step model.  Within a year, I became part of the “ministry’s” leadership team.  I ran group meetings, offered “teaching” in the 12-Steps, addressed groups on the “ex-gay” experience, and provided “ex-gay” therapy to others seeking “healing” and “freedom”.  Throughout this time, my thoughts, feelings and relationships never changed.

To further promote my “healing”, I needed to deny my sexual orientation, become more feminine and terminate relationships with gay men and lesbians.   Although I did not realize it at the time, this became very damaging to me.

When I finally left Regeneration, I continued to wrestle with the painful feelings of self-doubt, self-condemnation and shame brought on by participation in this group.  As I began to deal with my own internalized homophobia, I fully rejected the notion of “ex-gay”.

What followed was a the beginning of a long, hard struggle with spirituality and in genuine self acceptance.  I began to wrestle with what it means to be a lesbian.  I wondered if my sexual orientation and the church were compatible.  Reality quickly raised its head.  Within a couple of weeks, members of the church I attended began to harass me.  Phone calls at work, unending questions, and bible bashing became a regular part of my life.  Finally the leader of Regeneration requested that if my partner and I would not change our ways, we needed to leave the church we were attending; we did.  Throughout this time, I often looked for support, but my support system failed; their perception of my “sinful” life divided us.  I was forced to make a choice between my sexual orientation and their allegiance.  My confidence of rebuilding relationships outweighed the extreme sadness of losing all of my “friends”.  In a matter of eight months, my church and friends disappeared into the shadows of self-righteousness.

As a result of the brutality I experienced, I began to question both the higher power called God and the church.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to be involved in an institution that promotes such hatred and fear, sexism and homophobia.  Because of the pain and anger I feel when I even entera church, I no longer participate in institutionalized religion.  My journey continues…

Posted in Emotional Pain, Friendship, Lesbian/Gay, Life, Love, Relationships, strength | Tagged | 1 Comment

Joy Came through Simple Words

images-1Joy. I think of that word and it’s simple meaning. Is it looking at a brook babbling through the woods? Is it watching a child take a first step? Is it finding a watch you thought was gone forever? Recently, my joy came through simple words.

I work with young adults and their families moving through the transition from the school system to the unknown system of post-secondary services. It can be scary. On several occasions when doing an intake, parents cry in response to the fear that overtakes them. I give an analogy. When a woman is pregnant, she has not choice but to give birth – it is like being on a cliff and having to jump – there is no other choice. The same with the transition; there is no choice. The client is going to be 21 and State law says, “That’s all folks”. The client and family MUST jump into the unknown. It is my job to make sure there is a safety net to break the fall and help make life “post jump” as smooth as possible.

I work with clients for about 3 years, depending on the time they choose to accept the service. We work on supports like having to apply for Supplemental Security Income once they hit 18 or locating funding for an iPad to facilitate communication. When year 2 hits, the walk to the cliff begins.

Trying to make the jump easier, I meet with the client and family on an ongoing basis. I have to tell you where I found my joy. I visit with a family starting at 6:00 pm. I am a bit tired so my Jersey accent is showing a little bit. I get hung up on words like call (cawl) or talk (tawk). The family finds this a bit amusing and while visiting and when they say the two words, they talk in a Jersey accent; it seems like David listens. David is a young man who experiences Autism in a more involved way than some other clients. At times, he “stims” by shaking a flexible stick in his hand while rocking. It is amazing that I have never seen him hit himself or anyone else. He speaks when prompted or encouraged. Oh, “stimming” – many individuals have movements that meet sensory stimulation needs. The stereotypical movements seen on the media are rocking or flapping on hands. David finds rocking and his flexible stick calming, meeting his sensory need. Back to the David.

One night as we talked over the final process of the transition, David walked over to me. He stared me straight in the eye – something he routinely does not do – and says, “Have your people cawl my people and we can tawk”. What?! With a perfect Jersey accent, he filled me with laughter and joy. David certainly had been listening, joining our interactions silently until he threw out a sentence that filled me with such joy. My heart filled with happiness knowing that David and I had connected in a way I would never had thought. A young man who found it difficult to connect though eye contact and words, blasted through the barriers and tawked to me in a way that was personal to me.

A gush of joy came to me imagesthrough simple words.

Posted in Accents, Autism, Communication, Disability, Joy, Relationships | 2 Comments

Are You Listed?

I went to the MVA to get my license renewed – by the way the picture came out unbelievably good for a license picture – and was asked if I had any of the listed conditions. Get this:

  1. Cerebral Palsy;
  2. Diabetes requiring insulin;
  3. Epilepsy;
  4. Multiple sclerosis;
  5. Muscular dystrophy;
  6. Irregular heart rhythm or heart condition;
  7. Stroke, “mini-stroke”, or transient ischemic attack (TIA);
  8. Alcohol dependence or abuse;
  9. Drug or substance dependence or abuse;
  10. Loss of limb or limbs;
  11. Traumatic brain injury;
  12. Bipolar disorder;
  13. Schizophrenic disorders;
  14. Panic attack disorder;
  15. Impaired or loss of consciousness, fainting, blackout, or seizure;
  16. Disorder which prevents a corrected minimum visual acuity of 20/70 in at least one eye and a field of vision of at least 110 degrees;
  17. Parkinson’s disease;
  18. Dementia, for example, Alzheimer’s disease or multi-infarct dementia;
  19. Sleep disorders, for example, narcolepsy or sleep apnea; or
  20. Autism

So tell me who can drive and why would a person self- disclose some of these conditions. After seeing the different conditions on the list, I thought I would go over the list and play point counter point, but it seems a bit useless to me.  Many of us have a permanent condition or passing experience listed on the report list. Think back to the drinking days of our youth. Tell me number 15 couldn’t be part of the experience, but you never were specifically diagnosed. So only those with a specific diagnosed condition applies. What about those not yet given a medical label?

Yes, safety is the utmost although I find difficulty for a group, in this case the MVA’s Driver Wellness & Safety Division and/or the Medical Advisory Board, to put together a list. Does it promote stigma? Does it put aside the strides may have been made to manage a condition? I think of other conditions that certainly could be listed for example Intermittent Explosive disorder; this may address those prone to road rage.  I am sure there are more, but I cannot play, as I see it, a game that becomes guidelines that separates, a game that lumps people into black and white categories. The have and have not’s – of course this all depends if people choose to or not to disclose a condition. What would you do?

Maybe I am wrong, but this is my story and I am sticking with it.


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Sweet Memories

I see her in the kitchen large knife in one hand a wooden spoon in the other. After putting the knife down near the shelled lima beans, Grandma wipes her brow with her worn with her white aprons faded forget me not’s floating across its folded belt. The family all sat in the living room Great Grandpa sitting on the maroon couch in his sacred place. On that far right corner he sat like the patriarch of the family lighting and relighting his fifty-year-old pipe. Once I asked him why he didn’t get a new pipe. He told me to always stay with what works. My two great aunts sat one knitting the other doing cross-stitch. For years these women – more like my aunts as I only had one – kept busy their hands. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop was their mantra. I often sat with them wondering what part of that workshop I was in. In the dinette, I hear my mother telling my brother to leave the egg noodles alone. Each noodle was made with love. First the eggs were added to the flour and mixed until there was a ball lightly covered with the flour that also was on the bottom of the bowl. The rolling pin lying on the table sat by a container of flower. With hands like a conductor, my mom lightly tossed it on the table before she grasped the ball. Putting it on the table, she pressed it down with the palm of her hand. The rolling pin then took its place and danced back and forth. When just the right thickness, the mix was lifted in placed on the back of the chair to dry. To help the drying happen faster, a tea towel lay under the thin large circle. I can remember wanting to pull off just a small piece of the dough, but every time I was caught and given a warning. The noodles finally dry were cut and placed in boiling water. Poof. Before I knew it the noodles were being drained and almost thrown into the well-buttered black iron frying pan. The sizzle only meant one thing – the once flour ball in the large mixing bowl – transformed into egg noodles browning in a pan. The family scurried to get the table set, ready for the feasts my grandmother could make out of the smallest amount of food. Although the table was full of mashed potatoes, carrots, creamed cauliflower, green beans gravy and noodles, every eye in the room focused on the noodles. I felt like I was in heaven. I was seated right in front of them. Ah, life was good.

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Listen with your heart…


Often you do not know why people act the way they do or the expectations they place on you. I had an experience the other day. A parent of one of my clients pushed me to get all in place for her son, my client, immediately. This did not make sense as we have a year and a half to accomplish securing the services. I listened, trying to understand the why of her demands; I was not successful.

As we seemed to come to an impasse, she reached into her pocketbook and pulled out her iPhone. She sat silently. I did also. About a minute later, she showed me a picture of her son and then her daughter. Her pride beamed from her face. She then looked at me and showed me a picture of another beautiful little girl. I didn’t know her relationship to the child. She raised her head and told me this was her other daughter. I asked how old she was; she responded that the young child had died. Grief filled my heart. The mother began to tell me the story of how her daughter was sick one day and died two days later.  Shock them filled my being. I could see the pain in her eyes. She stressed that we never know what will happen next.

Then it struck me. The family wanted everything done now because they could not trust the future to provide their needs. To provide for their son, they wanted the best and to meet his future needs. They were not stunted by their loss instead it drove them to plan and get all they could out of life. Although I have been a social worker for over 28 years, I needed to be reminded to listen not only with my ears, but also continue to listen with my heart. All of our actions are driven by experiences.

There is a saying, a foundational premise, in social work: start where the client is. In work and my life I continue my commitment to seek the heart of those who touch my life.

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