Just One Thing

In Compathy With Lily Hobbs

Tag: Work

You Are Enough

This is my rewritten first blog post because it fits the theme of the Writing Contest I’m entering: You Are Enough, hosted by Positive Writer.

“Just write,” he said. “She can write,” said another years later. And, again, “You missed your calling,” my supervisor said when I was 52 and still writing minutes for doctors on the hospital staff. Dreary, mind-numbing ramblings and he found them fascinating to read. But I’ll take the compliment.

Why didn’t I “just write” like my friend once said when I was in my thirties? Didn’t he know that it’s not that simple? What would I write? What if it’s terrible? What if they criticize me? They have, and they will. Doesn’t he know I’m too shy and sensitive to bear it? And the brain won that battle. Insecurities and overthinking won the first sixty years of my life, but I was now retired early and ready for something new.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

In the first grade, I sat next to a boy whose test papers matched mine exactly every time. We were called the “Bobbsey Twins” after a children’s book series in the early 1900’s. In hindsight, we obviously had some type of learning disability because we were clueless about the subjects being taught. So, we copied each other’s answers on every paper, right or wrong. My twin and I were in trouble and I was moved to a different class. The new teacher had no better understanding of my difficulty and I became fearful with no partner to participate with in my uncertainties.

In second grade, pressure to learn continued when the teacher held a book reading contest, i.e., pure hell for the ADD mind, something I later learned I had. The pressure I felt from my parents and teacher were probably just their attempts to encourage me, but it only made things worse.

I think I was in the fifth grade when the teacher was explaining the meaning of theme during the English period. My young, ADD mind couldn’t grasp it – I simply had no comprehension. So, writing something with the assigned theme was unachievable. I felt lost in class, again.

Intentional Focus

After high school, I scored 15 percent in English on my community college entrance exam. I was embarrassed and required to take basic English rather than the college level English class. However, as a young adult, the drive for success and perfectionism set in. I wanted good grades in my college classes and I wanted to keep up socially with friends reading the latest books. I became intentional about my desired goals and purposely focused until my reading and comprehension improved over time.

Business classes helped me land office jobs and eventually led to my career as a Medical Staff Services specialist in hospital administration where transcribing minutes was the larger part of the job. This helped me develop writing skills. In my mid-thirties, I finally took that college-level English class I couldn’t take as a teen. To my surprise, I excelled. The professor held my written final exam to use as an example of good writing for future classes. I was a happy gal.

I Am Enough – And So Are you

I acquired a love of writing, but I held back, not doing anything about it for more than twenty years after learning I just might be a decent writer. The difficulties in my developmental years probably played a role in my fear of taking that initial leap.

Disability or not, many of us received the messages of not being good enough, disbelief that we’ll ever amount to anything, shame or being unworthy of grander aspirations – it seems to be the human condition. Now, eight years later, I have my own blog with several posts, had a short on-line article published, started my first book and participate regularly in critique groups (yikes!). It’s not a lot, yet. But for my first year of stepping out into the great big world of writing, it’s more than enough!

Just by sheer determination, I found that I’m able to accomplish whatever I decide once I do so with intentional focus and purpose. This proves I am already enough, and I always have been. You are already enough – it’s only our decision to take that first step that decides the outcome.

I heard about a high school in Chicago where students had to pass a certain number of courses to graduate, and if they didn’t pass a course, they got the grade “Not Yet.” … if you get the grade “Not Yet”, you understand that you’re on a learning curve. It gives you a path into the future. ~ Carol Dweck

Is Quality Craftmanship a Thing of the Past?

Jim was a machinist at a small manufacturer near Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. I was 20 and did some of the bookkeeping for this company that provided specialized parts for airplanes and motorcycles. Jim worked independently, uninterrupted and was allowed to do his thing which was perfect according to the other employees. They admired the 65-year old’s ability and precision.

Diane was the Purchasing Department Manager at the cardiac-care hospital where I worked as the buyer in her department. One of my tasks was to reconcile the shippers’ packing slips with the quotes they provided earlier before forwarding the paperwork on to Accounting for payment when the invoices arrived. Upon finding a five-cent difference between the packing slip and the quote one such time, Diane asked me to contact the shipper to resolve this tiny discrepancy. As an impatient young woman just starting my career, I was irritated at what seemed a huge waste of time. The bigger picture I missed that day was that Diane ran a tight ship saving the hospital loads of money. In time, it was easy to see she was my best teacher preparing me for a successful career using the same perfectionist characteristics crediting me and my employers with our own acclaim.

Fast forwarding 40 years, I’ve hired a few handymen and had some projects done in a new house my husband and I recently purchased. The most recent was yesterday when a local company installed the shutters on a few windows. Before they left, I checked them out, admiring how beautiful they were. “Oh, they don’t open all the way?” I asked. The installer immediately explained why they weren’t opening which was an obvious excuse for simply not lining them up correctly. He had to remove them and reinstall them after which they worked perfectly. And it took him less than five minutes.

After another local business delivered and set up our new refrigerator, I noticed the double doors were uneven and one side stuck up higher than the other side. I called them, and they returned to adjust them accordingly. Before they left, I asked if they could level it so that both doors would stay open instead of one swinging shut making it difficult to gather my armfuls of ingredients to prepare a meal. Their reply was that they could not because it was my house that was not level. That was indeed true; however, my son was able to level it for me later.

I found a handyman on Angie’s List to do some jobs around the house like painting shelves and baseboards, repairing broken items and installing door handles. I had to leave before he finished the last job, so I just left him a check. Upon my return, I found the baseboards in the same mess than before I hired him, and closet doors still rubbed against each other when opening and closing. Also, a new door handle he installed left a large mark where a painter painted around the old door handle. Even though the new handle was the same shape as the old one, it didn’t cover up the inadequate paint job. Upon talking with him, the reasons for these discrepancies were legitimate, he just never bothered to ask me how to proceed considering the circumstances and left with unsatisfactory work.

With so much admonition to “think positively,” “see the good in others” and to “be tolerant,” I’m scratching my head. These are only a few of multiple experiences with workers lately. Furniture deliverers who break bottoms off new furniture and telling me to pick them up at Home Depot myself, handymen installing curtain rods and other wall décor without anchors and the items pulling out of the wall and gardeners pruning back bushes about to bloom cutting off fresh spring blossoms. What happened? What am I missing? Maybe instead of feeling slighted, I should feel sad for them because they never had Jim or Diane to teach them. Maybe I should just be grateful that I did.

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives, the cumulative experience of masters of craftmanship. ~ Author Unknown.

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Yes, Mavis, Me Too

I saw Mavis Staples in concert last night at World Records in Bakersfield, California. I love her feisty spunk, gravelly voice and dimpled face. She was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2014 and the broadcast of the award show was the first I’d heard of her. Researching and listening to her music, I fell in love. This photo was taken from her biography on Entertainment Weekly.

“Build A Bridge” from her new album, “If All I Was Was Black,” is a new favorite:

When I say my life matters
You can say yours does too
But I betcha never have to remind anyone
To look it at from your point of view

These lyrics caught my attention and inspired me with the following.

Yes, Mavis, Me Too

I never said my life matters, Mavis

But I’ve had to remind others

To Look at it from my point of view.

 

When the man flying high his flange

In Napa for all the world to see

Empowered the girls who opened their lips

And limbs for his pleasure

The ones he said made him rich

And delighted him

While he ordered from us more bricks without straw

And then cut the widow in her distress to pieces,

 

I indeed asked him

To look at it from my point of view.

He laughed, mocked, derided.

The next time I told him my point of view,

He thought his loud roar, red face and popping veins

Would scare me off.

But I saw he was just a senseless drunk,

And I’d seen greater rage before.

 

Mavis, he still had the power to take my wages,

To remove my livelihood, to send me into poverty.

He broke another widow and robbed an orphan.

Your life matters, Mavis.

Mine does too.

And we all must keep saying it

From our point of view.

 

Oh, you cuss around women and you don’t even know their names and you
Dumb enough to think that’ll make you a big ol man

“Respect Yourself,” Sung by Mavis Staples

Songwriters: Luther Thomas Ingram / Mack Rice

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He’s Just a Simple Man

Keith and I are celebrating nine years together next month. Right after we met, Keith told me he’s just a simple man.

I learned in time what he meant by “simple.” He’s down-to-earth, easy to get along with and can get by minimally in the way of materialism, food, etc. Just let him have a beer on the weekend and go fishing from time to time, and he’s a happy camper. He’ll eat anything I make – good or bad – and he won’t hear me criticize myself on the occasion a meal doesn’t turn out as planned.

He’s blue collar, a truck driver, and I’ve worked in administrative roles my whole life. I’ve learned, though, that his street wisdom trumps my brainy logic any day of the week. Even though Keith is a quiet man, he’s also a verbal lover. Shakespeare said, “Men of few words are the best men,” but the words Keith does utter are showering me with adoration. Keith is not only warm hearted, he is physically warm. Keith’s touch brings a warmth and calming that feels healing. He also loves his hummingbird feeders and rejoices at the first sight of one.

We love our weekends together because we grill our dinners outdoors. We put everything on the grill; squash, potatoes, steaks, chicken, tri-tip, stuffed pork chops and he’s delighted when his creations melt in our mouths. He makes grilling his own personal party, playing his blues and swaying to the crooning. One of his favorites, Stevie Ray Vaughan, was playing at this writing, “Tin Pan Alley.” Neighbors at the few places we’ve lived since being married comment on his good music, hollering for him to turn it up as they turn theirs down.

His love for music includes Leonard Skynard who sings a song perfectly describing Keith – appropriately titled, “Simple Man.” Keith was very close to his mom and reminisces about their talks over coffee at her dining room table. I didn’t meet her, but I’ve heard from others at the church we used to attend in common that she was a sweet and kind-hearted woman. The apple doesn’t fall from the tree. Lyrics begin,

Mama told me when I was young
“Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say
And if you do this it’ll help you some sunny day”

Having a strong background in faith was one reason Keith “winked” at me on Match.com leading to our meeting.

“Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
You’ll find a woman and you’ll find love
And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above”

If we’re trying to decide between more than one brand when shopping for something, anything from mayonnaise to furniture, he’ll invariably choose the least expensive. He takes cookies with him on his road trips as a trucker. If I’m shopping, he instructs the Chips Ahoy must be the original. “Not the chewy ones?” I ask. “No, the original in the blue package.” I shake my head as I see the different varieties – the fudge-filled ones or those with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in them. “Who would want the plain, hard ones?” My simple man.

“Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold
All that you need is in your soul
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

Something that intrigues me about Keith is when he’s angry, he doesn’t lash out or react in anger. He goes outside for a while and dwells upon things. I know because of the changed demeanor when he comes back inside. If he was angry with me, he’ll tell me he loves me. I finally realized that, after reflecting on the matter for a while, he concludes to himself what’s important.

“Boy, don’t you worry, you’ll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

In our nine years together, we’ve had some trying times; illnesses, unemployment and the usual unexpected curve balls that life periodically throws. “Everything’s gonna be OK,” he comforts me once again.

“And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

Oh yes, I will

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves. ~ Alan Watts

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Excuse Me, Someone Forgot to Ask Grandma

Watching Angie, my nine-year-old granddaughter, walk by the car into the pizza parlor was like watching a different person when my son and his family made a surprise visit last weekend. All three of the so-called “little” grandkids that we hadn’t seen since Christmas showed up taller with matured, leaner faces than when we last saw them. I wasn’t ready for them to give up their baby fat.

After their arrival, we surprised his oldest daughter, Ilena, at the pizza parlor where she worked. This was my first time seeing my oldest grandchild at work, and I was caught off guard at the difference from always having seen her playing as a kid or lounging in my living room at family get togethers. She also has a boyfriend who’s going into the service next month. And, getting ready to graduate high school. This is all too much for a grandma for the first time just a short 18 years ago.

After ordering my pizza, I went to join the others at the table and caught my six-year old grandson’s eye. The look on Evan’s face as I walked up to him tried to hide his delight anticipating the squeeze and kisses he knew I’d give him. My heart was full, nearly bursting, as I hugged his neck and loved on him. I’m tickled that Evan is still young enough to be obsessed with Legos and Zoobs, but I push back a sentimental apprehension about my pre-teen grandgirl. Let’s just say I’m glad that, with Angie’s striking beauty, she has a somewhat overprotective dad.

My daughter’s daughter, Evie, my 13-year-old granddaughter, brought the toddler she was babysitting. The last I remember, I was babysitting her – and still should be as far as I’m concerned. They ran into friends at the pizza parlor who had a baby that Evie asked to hold. Next, Allie, my three-year-old and youngest grandchild, arrived to join the group of littles. So, I snapped a picture of Evie with all the kids around her, and appropriately titled it, “All the babies love Evie.” I do too.

My oldest grandson, Adam, wasn’t there because he was with his first girlfriend. They forgot to ask grandma for approval. My sentiments – we need the whole clan together. He came to dinner the following day, though, so I got my Adam love. The only person taller than grandson who is 15, soon to be 16, is his uncle who is 6 ft 3 in. Adam will be driving independently in three months – I find this unfair, it’s my job to taxi him around.

My son brought their puppy, Zeke, along. Back at the house, three-year-old Allie was hugging Zeke, rolling him around, and petting him often. He was eating up every second of it – these young ones were in sync. Allie used to be afraid of dogs, including Jessie, my dog. So, this was quite a change as she couldn’t leave Jessie alone either. Jessie wasn’t as patient as Zeke and none too happy that Allie kept petting, hugging and kissing her. But Jessie hid in the bedroom for much of their visit, so it worked out fine.

Around the dinner table, moms shared stories about the heartache of seeing their kids grow up. Theresa, at discovering not too long ago that Evan stands up to potty like a big boy now, started bawling. Arya remembered when she dropped Adam off on his first day of high school. Filled with a host of emotions, she sat down to breakfast with her friends and sobbed realizing the grief she was experiencing from the growing up of her baby boy.

Excuse me ladies. How do you think this grandma, not to mention also a mom, feels? How did it go by so fast? Who do I see about no one asking Grandma?

I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child. ~ Anne Lamott

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A Trucker’s Wife Sings the Blues

My husband is a trucker. It can be quite lonely for both the truckers and their partners. Many wives have a hard time adjusting so there are on-line support sites and Facebook groups for truckers’ wives.

Having been single for 15 years before we married, it wasn’t as hard for me to adjust to his job when he went on the road. Amie Taylor offers some great tips for managing our lives as truckers’ wives. I was glad to see I’d naturally fulfilled her suggestions and was doing just fine most days without him around to help with the trash, dog doo… well, you know the drill.

We’d both just simply prefer to be together daily, though. And then I missed him today, so here’s an ode to my trucker man.

A Trucker’s Wife Sings the Blues

I’m jealous of the road

That takes him from

My arms

Down long stretches of

Highway and adventure

That I could not

Compete with.

 

It gifts him with

Visions of sunsets

And sunrises that

I can only dream of,

Deserts and forests

Only in my imagination,

Lakes and mountains

I long to gaze

Upon with him.

 

The road guides his days

And his nights

Changing his landscape

With every mile

While my days are

Filled with visions

Of the same four

Walls, as I look for

Companionship,

conversation,

A touch.

 

Waiting for the road to

Decide when to release

Him back to me

For a day or two

Of warmth, of love,

Laughter interspersed

With squabble,

Bringing life back to

These four walls

Only to snatch

Him up again

Leaving me jealous

Once more.

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My Pinterest Obsession

My daughter’s friend asked, “Do you know how many Pinterest boards and pins your mom has?” “Yeah, I know. She’s obsessed.” Ok, ok. In my defense, I was recently retired after working my entire life and, being sick and not able to do a whole lot, I really needed something to occupy my mind and time. I’d heard of Pinterest a few years before, but it didn’t really peak my interest. I guess a difference in timing and circumstances led to how I became so infatuated with Pinterest.

Of around 175 boards and 58,973 pins, I’ve collected pins for gardening, dream houses, black and white photography, barns, humor, the four seasons, the six continents, 13 colors, favorite celebrities, great movies, jewelry to adorn me, health, poetry, creativity, inspiration, and so many more.

My old cookbooks and recipe cards rarely get used now that I’ve collected so many recipes on Pinterest – meals, desserts, drinks, paleo and ketogenic. When shopping, I collect potential purchases into one board, so I can remember what I like as I continue looking on different on-line retail sites. Lately, since we recently bought a home, I have boards for curtains, rugs, lighting, and shelf décor among others.

Most prolific are my writing boards – how to’s, blogging, inspiration, humor and publishing. I’ve learned a lot about writing from Pinterest posts. Another favorite is a board titled, “Words,” which I created after seeing many cross my feed that I’d not heard of before.

I planned my granddaughter’s sweet 16 birthday party, my husband’s 60th birthday party, Christmas gift shopping and the music playlist I want to make on Pinterest. We have a new family favorite game from planning on Pinterest – the plastic wrap ball. A great feature is making boards secret so they’re not available to the public and only to those I invited to pin to it. That way, I could plan for the parties without those we were celebrating seeing what we were arranging.

Another feature I’m no longer a fan of is being able to post a pin to Facebook at the same time it’s being posted to one of my boards. Once checking the box to post to Facebook, it must be unchecked to stop posting subsequent pins automatically. I caused quite a stir during one of my Pinterest-posting marathons one night. Another of my daughter’s friends, also a friend of mine on Facebook, asked her what was going on with her mom. She messaged me to let me know what I was doing. I then went back and deleted the dozens of pins I accidentally posted to Facebook and apologized for my frenzy. Unfortunately, I forgot a few more times before I learned my lesson. All this technical/social entertainment was just too darn fun, especially in the face of being newly retired and not knowing what to do with my days yet.

Of course, boards include several of my favorite things like a board for each grandchild, simple joys, coffee, really cool stuff, cityscapes, notes to self, heroes and meditation. Longer-range planning includes boards for my bucket list, our next trip, aging inspirations, products I want to try, books I want to write and books I want to read.

I’ll leave you with something from my board, “Hmmmm,” where I put weird and unusual pins I can’t pass up. If you love this lippy animal art, find out more here.

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Trauma Informed Care: Part 3

Trauma-Informed Care (TIC), which was discussed in my last two blogs, is provided by organizations and healthcare workers who equip themselves to understand the effects trauma has upon individuals, how to aid recovery for traumatized persons and how to avoid re-traumatization. You can watch the 60-Minutes episode with Oprah Winfrey discussing TIC on line.

The TIC theory has six components that contribute to a healing practice (Alameda County TIC). Individuals seeking help for developmental trauma should look for environments embodying these competences.

  1. Trauma Understanding from which compassion, and well-informed actions can be offered
  2. Safety & Security providing stability in the daily lives of victims of trauma
  3. Cultural Humility & Responsiveness so that differences can be responded to sensitively
  4. Compassion & Dependability to help re-establish trust
  5. Collaboration & Empowerment to provide confidence and a sense of equality
  6. Resilience & Recovery to live a thriving life rather than simply surviving

Trauma Specific Treatments are interventions “specifically designed to treat symptoms or syndromes related to trauma.” These include education, treatment and recovery for PTSD, addiction, trauma and mental health issues; peer-to-peer approaches; individual and group interventions; resiliency and empowerment programs; teaching practical skills such as de-escalation and emotion regulation; and other methods. Find out more at SAMHSA at www.samhsa.gov/nctic.

Community Involvement

Tim Grove of SaintA, providing TIC for families and children in Milwaukee, got the community involved by giving training and education about trauma to over 50,000 people and agencies. “Among those trainees are … teachers, … the Milwaukee Police Department’s trauma response unit and judges in the city’s children’s court. What the judge now knows to ask a child is ‘what happened to you?’ before asking ‘what’s wrong with you?’ SaintA repeats that mantra to any Milwaukee organization that will listen.”

When traditional methods for dealing with “issues like homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse and drug abuse” weren’t working, Tarpon, Florida, former city council member, Robin Saenger, developed Peace4Tarpon based on her research on trauma. Community leaders are involved in this Initiative for a Trauma Informed Community as well as the Juvenile Welfare Board, the local police and fire departments, schools, the hospital, the library, churches and many others.

 

The Permanente Journal states the criminal recidivism will decrease when treatment interventions “focus on the effects of early life experiences.” The Trauma Informed Care Project reports “the 5th Judicial Unit of the Department of Corrections has made several changes to improve services and include Trauma Informed practices.” They provide reports of the success of these changes.

Project Kealahou works with state child-serving agencies in Hawaii for girls who’ve experienced trauma. With more and more growing TIC communities like these, we have hope for America; for a decrease in mass murders, crime and media reporting that sensationalizes crime, which can be traumatizing in and of itself.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

This post is a look at the general concepts of recovery from developmental trauma. In Part 4, I’ll discuss healing from a more personal, in-depth approach. There is hope.

Allow me to talk about my past without saying, ‘Stop living in the past.’ A listening ear for the moment is all I need. ~ Tatauq Helena Muma

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Trauma Informed Care: Part 2

Following up to a recent post regarding Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) and interviews by Oprah Winfrey airing on 60 Minutes on March 11th, this is a look at the effects of trauma. Interviewed by Oprah was Dr. Bruce Perry, whose research reveals how trauma changes the biology of the brain and, thus, behavior later in life. The take-away from the show is to ask people who find themselves in dire life situations, “What happened to you?” rather than, “What’s wrong with you?”

The Cycle of Trauma

SAMHSA reports from a three-year study that 93 percent of homeless women had experienced trauma in their lifetimes. The Homeless Clinicians Network says that homelessness is both caused by trauma and causes additional trauma. “Individuals flee abuse at home only to rediscover it on the streets or in shelters.”

But at the Nia Imani Family Center in Milwaukee, Belinda Pittman-McGee breaks that cycle by helping homeless women and children re-establish themselves. She began helping other women just like her after she left an abusive marriage. Her husband, like many men in Milwaukee, couldn’t hold a job during an economic upheaval in the 1980’s, according to the Journal Sentinel. Belinda tells Oprah that 90 percent of the fathers of the Milwaukee center’s children are incarcerated.

Besides homelessness and incarceration, there are oodles of information showing how trauma leads to mental illness, addiction, illegal activities, joblessness, etc., as well as how these consequences of trauma are also traumatic events in and of themselves.

Trauma Victims We Know

Eddie Ray Routh, former marine with post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) shot and killed Chris Kyle, former Navy sniper.

A baby born to a 16-year-old alcoholic prostitute who named him “No Name” was traded for a pitcher of beer. Charles Manson’s psychological and behavioral problems escalated into some of the most tragic accounts of murder in US history.

Manson’s family members were victims of trauma. Dianne Lake, who admitted to killing Sharon Tate, lived much of her childhood at a commune with her hippie parents. Before turning 13, she had participated in group sex and drug use including LSD.

Emotional abuse and neglect resulted in James Hancock’s grades deteriorating which caused more harsh punishment by his father and prevented him from joining the track team. He spiraled downward until he stole his grandmother’s gun and shot two students, injuring them and two others from the shrapnel.

Is Compassion Toward the Assailants Possible?

Something I try to remember; the offenders are most likely trauma victims themselves.

I saw Dr. Perry’s theory displayed long before I saw the 60-Minutes interview. A friend of mine who studied the book, “A Course In Miracles,” which teaches that people do things either out of love or fear (a lack of love), said that he had compassion on the murderer of a little girl. “When I saw her on the news, I just wanted to wrap my arms around her and ask her what happened to her. She had to have a hole so deep to do something so horrific.” This was a new thought to me, an enlightening moment, seeing the depth of this man’s compassion.

This friend is my hero. These people asking others, “What happened to you?” and helping them to heal and rescript their lives are my heroes. They are breaking the mold from the routine of unconsciously labeling, blaming and punitively demanding justice in situations we know little to nothing about. I’m grateful for these seeds of light and I seek within myself in the hope that I may soften my own heart and contribute to reversing the cycle of trauma in the world.

No monster, though, is born from nothingness. Charles Manson was a child once, and that childhood was littered with tragic moments. No one would claim that these stories are sad enough to justify what he did, but they might shed light on how monsters are formed. ~ Mark Oliver

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Trauma Informed Care: Part 1

When Oprah Winfrey told her friend, Gayle King, on CBS This Morning that she wanted to dance on the table to get attention about her 60-Minutes segment on Trauma Informed Care (TIC), I wanted to join her. The TIC episode aired on March 11, 2018 and shed light on the root cause of the individual and collective sufferings affecting us as persons, as a nation and as a world. Among several interviews was one with Dr. Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist and world-renowned expert in childhood trauma and behavior. His clinical research has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain (Wikipedia).

What is Trauma-Informed Care?

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines it as “an evidence-based practice that teaches service providers and their organizations about the triggers and vulnerabilities of trauma survivors, and effective interventions. It involves understanding, anticipating, and responding to people’s expectations and needs, and minimizing the chances of re-traumatizing someone who is trying to heal.” In short, it meets people where they were wounded and helps them heal from those wounds.

Dr. Perry’s “work has examined the cognitive, behavioral, emotional, social, and physiological effects of neglect and trauma in children, adolescents and adults.” People with developmental trauma are more likely to have physical, mental and social health problems and are often in a state of acute need and are easily triggered. Social Work Today (SWT) reports healthcare workers need to be aware of the possibility of a history of trauma, regardless of whether the patients are being treated for trauma or something else: and, to be appropriately trained to intervene.

Trauma and Our Society

Child Trauma Academy, which is founded by Dr. Perry, recognizes “the crucial importance of childhood experience in shaping the health of the individual, and ultimately, society.” SWT also reports statistics from 1995 research citing over half of the US population experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives, while 15 percent of those experienced three or more such events. A more recent study in 2013 found that nearly half of the nation’s children have experienced trauma.

The 60-Minutes presentation noted that the cycles of poverty, joblessness, homelessness, incarceration, etc. cannot be resolved without addressing trauma. Oprah interviewed representatives from two Milwaukee organizations that pattern their treatment of troubled families and children after Dr. Perry’s groundbreaking work. Tim Grove of SaintA, a family and children’s center, said, “We might not be able to ever prevent the stuff that happens to kids, but we’re fully in charge of how we respond when we see it.”

Belinda Pittman-McGee of the Nia Imani Family Center in Milwaukee recognized early on that clients needed to learn how their traumatic experiences were directly related to their aggressive behavior and homelessness. Focusing on experiences before trying to change behavior, traumatized individuals for the first time in their lives feel heard, feel seen, and can begin “re-scripting their lives and the lives of their children.”

The take away from the interviews is that, instead of asking, “What’s wrong with you?” we should ask, “What happened to you?” Healing can begin from there.

Forecasting the need for TIC can be done through the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) test, a crucial tool predicting physical and mental health issues later in life.

This is Part 1 of a three- or four-part blog series. Check back for more information about TIC, including how people can be healed from developmental trauma.

In order to prepare a truly human future, it is not enough to reject evil. We must build the common good together. ~ Pope Francis

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