Screen House Rules

On the eve of our kiddo’s thirteenth birthday, we collectively decided she was ready for the wild and sometimes emotionally dangerous road of the SMART PHONE (insert the ‘Duh-duh-DUHHH’ sound bite). We had spoken over time about the pitfalls and responsibility that comes with allowing something so potentially pervasive in her life. This took place as needed over the past year and concluded with her reading a great book called Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen Jensen that discusses the problematic invasion of pornography on the internet and the larger issue around how much of what we use on our phone is purposefully wired to make us addicted. Collectively, we agreed on ground rules that would, in general, apply to everyone in the house to ensure we did not allow our devices to take away from the most important aspect of us as a family- our ability to connect. I share our credo as a way to consider and explore your relationship with devices as well as how we can work at both recognizing and engaging with technology in a more responsible way.

Screen House Rules

As a family, we agree that our smart phones and other digital screens can distract us from real connection. With that, we mutually agree on guidelines to maintain healthy use of our digital devices.

  1. We agree to stop looking at our screen (phone or Ipad) when another person is talking to us and make eye contact. If we need to complete some task we are doing, we will ask for a pause so we are not attempting to listen and write/read at the same time.
  2. If someone is sharing a story/interacting with you, we will not text or pick up our phone until the interaction is done.
  1. We agree that if you are under 18, no screens will be used in private areas to protect from others who may intend to infiltrate your life inappropriately. This also helps reduce unhealthy behaviors like needing to repeatedly check the phone, even in the middle of the night and immediately upon waking.
  1. We agree that if at anytime another person is harassing, sending inappropriate photos or experiencing any pressure or bullying; we will share it without any consequences. We will support each other in keeping the internet as safe as possible.
  1. We agree that all our social media will be mutually agreed upon and the ability to see what each other post will remain open to each other. If anyone disagrees with a post, it will be discussed and potentially removed. This could include any photos or information that make another person uncomfortable.
  1. We agree mutually to have reasonable limits on our social media screen time and will consider an App limiting our time to ensure we do not overuse distraction. In general, we will actively work to remain below averages.
  2. We will stop all screens when we each move towards ending our day and getting ready for bed. That time may vary, but will be accountable to ourselves and each other.
  1. It is understood that privacy is important and each will respect privacy overall. However, to ensure healthy and appropriate online behavior is sustained, parents will occasionally check the child’s phone.
  1. With #8 in place, no history or text streams can be deleted to ensure proper and appropriate use of smart phones and other digital devices.

The Legacy of O’Riordan

My sweet spouse looks in my direction this morning and makes a sigh that closes in on the room for just a moment and tells me she is gone. At just 46. An icon and anthem to our college years; my ongoing love for boots with dresses and even a secret wish I could pull off a bleach blonde pixie cut came from her. One of the few reasons my husband learned to play the guitar was to make their music. He can still strum out some of their chords with pursed lips and pained finger tips. The loss of Dolores O’Riordan is yet again another long list of losses (most likely) for the same damn FUCKING reasons. I would like to be wrong, but I’m not.

O’Riordan was a sexual abuse victim.

She attempted suicide in 2013 recognizing her history as part of her struggle.

Now, another member of my survivor tribe is gone.

I am heartbroken. She had this wild robotic wide legged ‘dance’ only an Irish girl could get away with. She could sing, dance, play guitar and call down an audience with her heavy rock rhythm like so few women in rock could. In today’s cultural moment of women empowerment, her lyrics of “you’re so pretty the way you are” were some of the foundings of the beautiful ‘lovin yourself’ moment I continue to be inspired by. You almost wonder how could this person who appears like a baby thumbnail in my music play list have made such a powerful impact on my life.

And yet, The Cranberries was the first song our daughter ever heard

as we traveled home with her from the hospital just days after her birth.

How’s that for music memories?

And here She is. Gone. Sexually abused for years while a child, suffering mental health issues most of her life. The therapist in me wishes I could have scooped her up, held her in my arms and beg her to see the way home. Why is it that I could and not her? I will never have an answer to that.

I want to be bitter, swallow a thousand limes and puke on every image of a perpetrator I can muster in my mind. I want to scream and be ugly. But instead, I vow, with every single cell I will ever make- I will make every SINGLE effort to get in YOUR FUCKING way.

You want me to be quiet- forget it.

You want me to be pleasant because it makes you uncomfortable- NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

I am taking up too much of your space and my presence makes you want to look away- BYE Felicia.

You think the cussing and loud clothes are not lady like- I eat your lady likes for lunch.

Perhaps this one life of mine will not account for much, I will never be a Dolores O’Riordan, but I will carry the legacy of her life and I will never forget that she was a surivor just like me. I can tell you the one beautiful, crisp bright spot to his horrible loss was watching my Donovan listen to her videos and playing her live concert in Paris today on the television while playing right along with her, strumming his guitar. To see a man not just listen but truly celebrate the beauty and magnificience of women remains astounding. Many of the female feminist musicians I love today were found, shared and revered first by him.

Dolores, you may have physically left us today; but two little people in a small town called Gray, in the middle of nowhere Georgia, celebrate you. We will hold both you and your sweet children deep inside us- Forever. Watch for the clouds. She makes her music from there now.


When I am Declared Queen Of Christmas

When I am declared Queen of Christmas, we are SO doin’ this shit differently. And before you get all fussy about whatever part you like, it will not be a complete cut up your credit card kinda cancellation, but definitely a moratorium on the crazy. Perhaps some would be deeply disappointed by my changes. Of course people in the business of participating in the great giveaway would be deeply annoyed. I’m sure a few lawsuits would swiftly be on the way to attempt a return to fluid consumerism.

But the truth is- We Have Lost Our Way.

Every year from about mid-November to the New Year, the anxiety and pressure to perform according to our made up expectations (that seem to climb exponentially) creates a kind of emotional vibration culturally unseen at ANY other time. Our therapy practice bears witness to the rising tide of anxiety soup, choking all the joy out, including an ability to recall why we celebrate. Not until the New Year arrives at the stroke of midnight do we sigh the only sigh of relief-oh-joy in a month! We have somehow forgotten to take in the beauty and depth joy can offer us and instead it gets convoluted in just being glad things are over. May I suggest a moratorium on the crazy? All the scrambling to meet the culture of scarcity’s expectations, when we step back, makes utterly NO sense.

We already have enough because We Are Enough. Our incessant need to fight over the pie leads us to forget it is really PIES (plural) of endless compassion and not at all attached to stuff. Compassion does not tie itself to the prettiest lights or biggest tree. Not the bestest nativity scene. Not all the most elegant wrappings under the tree. Compassion is a verb of choice that is driven by the love we offer one another. I desperately want us to be able to give up what does not serve us. If slogging out thousands of ornaments and garland makes you cringe, LET IT GO. If cooking for an entire army (and frankly most of it gets wasted) makes you unhappy, then can we just stop?

The vibration of the season may be best served through our ability to get quiet. Setting our intentions on recalling and being a part of what we love will free us from this season of stuff. I fear that without focusing on remembering where love resides, we will be forced into allowing others to reign over your holiday and we shall not ever remember our way home again. If I were able to provide a detailed picture of the kind of loneliness I witness in my treatment room during these dark months, leaving the holidays behind as we know it would be the most logical and compassionate answer we may have to the crisis of depression and anxiety that plagues Americans.

I want instead to give gifts that are lasting and matter. I want to slow down the moments of decorating and cooking. I want to relish the experience of who I am sharing my time with and not the requirement of a quantifiable mass that I pass out to others. And since I personally have so much to offer, I want to spend time with the lonely and offer my most precious gift of time and smiles. What would it be like if we left behind the strange expectation of the ‘hottest toy’ and pulling out the most expensive china and instead recalled that family and serving in a way that feeds us is the greatest gift we have to offer? I keep waiting and hoping that our sight will return and we will relieve ourselves of the madness that has become this holiday.

In the deep dark of winter, while the light is short, we are called to quiet and yet somehow we have used this holiday to distract ourselves from our own needs. We do not need more lights. We do not need to add to the glow (as we are glaring instead of glowing) and certainly we do not need MORE busy. We crave the quiet in the dark and when the loneliness is great, we have the ability to offer an honest gift; one of the light in our eyes and in our smile. This needs no wrapping paper or blinky lights.

Perhaps we return from this terrible distraction and come back to ourselves and each other. I will offer my hand and my warmth of presence during this dark time. And when I am Queen of Christmas (which will likely be never….) perhaps there will be lights, mangers and food, but offered in the spirit of Self Love first, something bigger than money can buy.

So I ask, during this holiday, remember the lonely and in our ability to be present, perhaps we can let go of this maddening distraction of stuff and offer something of substance– our wholehearted presence.

When Father Comes Around, Part II

He’s Alive. And despite the permanency of death, it may have allowed me to finish the grieving process and move on. In that moment, I am afraid I regret he still exists. And for those who may have believed my brain has only room for compassion, be prepared for a major disappointment. I wasn’t prepared to invite him back into my life. I was prepared to send a card and tell him I was out there and happy, thank you very much-Bye (add vigorously waiving emoji here). I was NOT ready to open the door to relationship.

Get ready. There are lots of screaming capital letters and cussing.

Walk away now if you want pleasant.

I once AGAIN had to come to terms with the fact that my family history is so fucking complicated. I couldn’t be sure if I wanted yet another layer to it! REALLY!!! Really GOD, GODDESS, UNIVERSE, WTF!!!?? Now I have to talk to him. Oh wait. Can he even talk? I dunno. This was a call from a head trauma ICU after all. I am a complete asshole and I don’t care. This shit is a protruding fucked-up mess.

I paced around the house before remembering to breathe and then dialed the number. I quickly understand the alternative of just not knowing would leave so many things lost and dangly. How many thousands of children would give anything to just see their missing parent? I’m certain my hesitation makes me a little selfish, but then perhaps if I had a father who decided to fucking grow up and show up, maybe the years of sexual abuse I endured would not be the most prominent lens in my life. AND…and…and IF I invite this NOW sick person into my life, it would mean I have to give something I may not be willing to do. Hell- I may NOT want to and then who is the runaway asshole now?

You see; it gets thorny fast. I warned you. Now ya in and stuck with me.

Esther shared with me (once we passed through the HIPPAA keyhole) he had a stroke and was currently paralyzed on his entire left side. There were attempts at rehabilitation but he had been lying in a hospital bed for months. The Board & Care home kicked him out for being too sick, dumping him at the hospital. Now who wants to take in an angry paralyzed convicted felon? I am not even sure if I emotionally want to.

So we speak for the first time and he cries. He’s depressed and lonely and now the only human who will consider showing up for him is me and guess what—I AIN’T SO Sure! What kind of fuckery is this? Like seriously, who in the hell dealt these cards? Damn it. FUCK IT.

It’s my job to show up in this life even if I decide to kick God off my team.


Jason was homeless for many years in Northern California. I learned quickly how incredibly smart he is sharing how he created a way to power his television (in his tent) using solar power and how he showered everyday (in the woods) with his own hot water system. He even built a custom deck to keep his house-tent dry. Of course, this came along with regular methamphetamine use in between years of prison. I swear, I cannot make this shit up…even though it sounds like I did, even to myself.

Once the police caught him squatting deep in the Red Woods, he eventually got out of jail (again), got clean and sober for several years before the fateful day. Now biking 20 plus miles a day and living with a roof overhead, he had a massive stroke while biking and was subsequently hit by a car.

Yeah. I don’t know whether to be like ‘Hand over my mouth’ or ‘Holy shit. Karma.’ I cried touching my deep sense of compassion and wonder if anyone deserves this outcome? Permanently paralyzed and has burned every bridge from here to Egypt. That quickly dissipates returning to ‘What in the FUCK have I gotten myself into?’ I have reunited with the messy Jason-Father I knew I always had. The question lingered, what do I do and can I even see him if it is possible?

As I shared this unfolding story, my Mother shared how he was never without a paperback shoved into his back pocket. She was deeply saddened to hear of his physical demise but recalled knowing how awful his family was and the drug use that ensued even while he was an adolescent. Nothing surprised her more when I asked her to go visit him. She cried and was flooded with the sadness of our past. Jason was abusive and mostly unavailable to my mother, just a teenager herself. Unfortunately, I did not know when I would return home again since I was just there and I wanted someone I could trust to lay eyes on him and tell me how he REALLY was doing. Funny how I could be suspicious of even hospital persons. My lack of honesty with this man runs deep.

After some consideration and an honest ‘You CAN say No’ from me, she went. And my grandmother. AND MY DAD. And I revel in knowing that when all is said and true about the wild crazy that is my family, here is the heart of who they are………

Each one of them showed up, spent time and brought him chocolate cake. My Dad and I were texting while he was just outside Jason’s door, informing me that my Mom was there and he would not go inside the room. But he did. And in a most powerful moment I can only witness in my mind, my Dad stood in front of my Jason-Father’s bed and told him what he missed out on. PURE GOLD.

My mother was genuinely so sad about the state of what had become of his life that she wanted to know what he needed. She wanted to send reading glasses and books and has from since that time kept tabs on how he is doing. She even told me she was proud of me when he got pissed off when I didn’t call him on Father’s Day later that year and my response was “What am I going to say Jason? Happy Father’s Day?” I stood my ground in that he had met my DAD. I finally opened myself up to a relationship, but there were certainly limits.

It’s funny how courage is born;

Sometimes born out of the composted love we have buried

in roots way underground while others,

appear in the cracks of an aimless sidewalk.

This change opened me up to love my parents and grandmother more than ever. And as for Jason, we are friends and although so many more stories to tell, we have reconnected on my terms and will do my best to see the rest of his life through. What vibrates sweetly in my ear is the unexpected moment of gratitude from my family. I asked them to show up for me.

And they did.


Drowning in Denial

I stood on top of a tall lumpy rock overlooking the Benicia Bay while my baby sister climbed down and went for the sand. She was barely seven while I had already left childhood long ago. Reaching into adolescence and ready to die.

The ocean is majestic. Drinking in the salty waves and noticing the sweet breeze run along your cheeks takes most of us to smiling places. But perhaps its enormous mystery felt equivalent to my damaged heart while my mind regularly wandered away for its own safety. I would often burn things including myself. I was finding tiny ways to inflict pain; attempting to bring my body forward to finally greet my mind. I desired to be home, but it was a deep hole with an endless sea of shame so only visiting on special holidays was allowed.

On that day, at the precipice of adolescence, I was done. My second family had fallen apart and my first stepfather was greeted by another man in my so called home soon after. My stepfather had retreated to his family and we were left with mounds of spoiling leftovers to stare at. My sister began her career at eating the pain while I dug in, literally, until I could take no more.

So, THERE. There I was swallowed up, desperately wanting it to all be taken back, swish over this broken and damaged body. Let someone or something else be accountable to this life as I just could not do it any more.

It’s cold since the Pacific Ocean is rarely for lounging in the sun and the lumpy rock looked like a good place to lay this tired body to rest. I watch my sister edge to the water, feet wet, staring back at me, making sure someone was not far away. Yet…..I had been a million miles from a grounded place since she was born. Do I leave her? Would it matter? I just don’t know. I am not even able to touch my own emotions to understand what hers must have been like. She separates farther from me, like one of those wobbly watery force fields and to see her clearly I have to poke at the space between her and I.

I was ALONE. Not a soul had gotten close to this dangerous and treacherous heart. Not even myself. I wanted desperately to belong, but to what? I did not have a family. What once was family now brought trauma and shame into my life. I was so frightened of what may come next. What if this was not the end of the horror? How much more could I take?

I stood a little longer on that lumpy brown rock and edged just a little closer to the end. My heart did not race. I felt at ease and perhaps was breathing normally for once. I could end this madness and stop flirting with pain like it really offered me more than a mere 50 cents of release. I had become someone’s play toy so why not throw the used up rag doll down this rock and into the ocean?

The sea spray picked up and my sweet sister laughed and ran away from the waves playing tag with the bubbly water. She took her tiny fingers and dug them in the wet sand drawing her name…..and then mine. I don’t even know her. My baby sister was trying to craft a life in this moment out of the brokenness that she must have felt. This was her father and her family. I was just along for the bodily ride.

Then, my body must have startled in the wind. Did I hear my name and the warbled water divide and disappear in the sea?

I don’t know. But I took a broken-winded breath from my chest and sat down on that lumpy rock. For today dying was over. Perhaps I would be brave enough to take my own life and spare myself the lifetime of agony that I foresaw ahead. Today, I felt like a coward. I couldn’t speak my pain and I couldn’t stop it. I would continue to be forced to swallow it for many years to come.

Inside that deep darkness, suicide seems logical and brave. It appears to the mind as the one way to have some control over what has puked havoc over your life. The chaos of trauma is like carrying a soaked wool blanket over your entire body. One might think this was a cute trick or a funny attempt to play Halloween ghosts; instead it makes your body and mind unrelated, unknown and separated from yourself. And despite the confabulation of bravery in suicide, it was not a story I took off the table until adulthood.

I had to learn how to die internally so that I may rise again and fly.

This way is not easy or simple like a crash onto lumpy rocks in the Benicia Bay. I was so long away from understanding how courage worked, but as I reflect back, I thank my sister for remembering how to live in the moment. All the while I am attempting to die, she played, calling the waves to dance with her, scribbling her name in the sand with those stubby cute fingers. She carried such loss in that moment too, but perhaps had not yet lost the ability to remember to RISE.



Feeling Helpless in the Idolatry of Whiteness

I just had to watch. Normally, I NEVER watch. Not even pictures. Sometimes I have to wait to see much of anything beyond the radio reports. But this time I had to watch because I was just there.

A dear friend began to clearly and purposefully make their way farther north in an attempt to escape some of the hatred that has been petrified in our culture. We agreed it may have not been far enough. Now, white supremacists are radically showing their faces in an attempt to take back areas that have grown progressive. It’s appalling and strange for a community to be punished for seeking something beyond blind acceptance of a mono culture.

So I had to watch what unfolded in Charlottesville, VA. Unfortunately, this is unlikely the end. I foresee the rise of the unspoken beliefs of hatred and racism (along with other divisive belief systems) bubble back to the top and it become trendy to carry tiki torches screeching about blood and “the many sides”.

And the helplessness continues to settle in. I am often named as a strong woman, often outspoken; but this continues to rock me to the core. I feel naked and unstable as I waiver watching the idol of whiteness make its way through scores of people. To be clear, I am not surprised. I live in a southern white strong hold where it is clear that the ‘other’ will be placed in tiny houses without access to resources and your only ticket out of that state is to enter it with money from your inception. I am so undeniably aware of the #usandthem phenomena that I mostly feel internally isolated and unable to share who I actually am. I am aware that if I am silent, I can hide.

I am a white upper middle class female who on some days can just blend in, but I don’t want to be associated with, not even by a single stray hair, with such hatred and bigotry. But it gets complicated very quickly.

The United States, a country I am grateful to be a part of, was built upon the backs of bloodied slaves. This horrifying system was put into place as a result of the sin of whiteness. We seem to collectively forget we will continue to pay for idolizing whiteness as an equivalent to greatness without change. And, without a doubt, I know I have benefited from this system as a white person. I feel desperate and clingy as I imagine myself being dragged forcibly by hands and feet at the back of the tiki torch line. I want to disentangle myself with a kind of force and rage I have rarely felt in my life.

And yet as I watch, I am so frightened I cannot undo what I do not fully understand. I still remain a gifted one while this idolatry parades itself around in both private and public arenas. I find every crevice I can, but I suppose in many ways, I cannot be released fully until collective salvation and justice occur in communion. I suppose strands of my hair and a few fingers will have to remain attached to this collective sin. For that I am heartbroken.

Because we created and love our country as we do, we ALL become a necessary part of the change. We cannot use the bullshit lines, ‘my ancestors didn’t have slaves’ or ‘that was a long time ago’ or my very favorite line, ‘I’m not a racist.’ I hope you can see my hazel eyes rolling DEEPLY in the back of my head. My fear and helplessness settle in as I look around and worry that the complacency of some white people is born out of the silent agreement with the collective sin as to not upset their pretty lives.

I don’t EVEN know what all that is and I still say, ‘BRING IT! I NEED EVERYONE TO HAVE A SEAT AT THE TABLE!’ Because I feel so little power in following the best path, I get stopped. I gasp for air, try to breathe and stall out in a stand still. I am a parked car on the Highway 5 at 5pm. And so here I am, doing the only thing I know. Say it. Write it. Let it be known that the helplessness is rising and although I am fearful, I know I am not alone.

I just keep waiting for our collective salvation. I am in it and hopeful. We desperately need to grow as a people. We are responsible for learning and transforming the past. I ask my clients to wake to it every day.

So can we? Together? RISE.

Therapist Days Hidden in A Treasure Box

At times, this therapist’s work can be lonely. And it’s a rare occasion to experience the kind of positive or negative feedback even a formal performance review may offer. We are instead stuck with the ever constant looming audit from insurance companies and oversight boards. We fret as the “not good-enough” barfs on us sometimes.Tiny letters carry threats to return “their” money in an act of shame for our lack of paperwork perfection. Time and again I want to call my my faceless-nameless overlords and demand they spend time with me and my people before they lay down their box checking judgement.

Yet- the alternative is to become pretentious and only see those who can afford to care for their mental health out of pocket. And for that reason alone- I refuse. As a therapist, I am responsible for serving my community- ALL OF IT. So, (per usual) I own my giant rebellious size 11 personality and do my best work and say, ‘Just Bring It.’

We are good at what we do. But the outcomes are elusive. Did I truly have an impact and participate in my client’s meaningful change? Did I have anything to do with that lifting of depression and anger? Did the examination of profound loss lessen after being carried for years?

What’s even more tricky is that if done well- the work MUST ALWAYS be theirs. And so the gratitude that may show up cannot be gobbled up like you’re some damn super star! My people must revel in their own pride because they are the ones in it for the long haul.

I tell my people that the goal is to no longer be needed. Those are sad days for me. Good! Wonderful! But still sad melting right over the top. It’s not my job to see ‘til the end of the story- but I still wonder. I sometimes still want to hold their hand when the moment is rough shot with pain- but I shouldn’t. And I won’t.

No matter our presence, sometimes dark days will turn bleak and then to death. We have lost many in what would be a seemingly short career, but we are all too fully aware that if we genuinely sit with the shame of abuse, deprivation, rape, domestic violence and not just the exaggeration of life taking but the real fear of being killed; there isn’t always a simple answer out. These are breath taking days, ones where even this avid yogi forgets to breathe. I want just one more chance to tell them that they mattered to me and in my less enlightened moments, believe that somehow my words would count to create a change and the darkness might share a moment with the light.

On many of those dark days when I ache and I am certain the imposter police are coming for my precious credentials and perhaps my whole career, I turn to my treasure box. As many of my people have grown—taken in sweet deep breaths of happiness and moved on, many have given me small gifts and cards. In full disclosure, one did give me a pair of shoes (which is beyond hilarity) and I still wear them when I need to be brave with this often alone world.

I will find a quiet moment, open my treasure box and read my cards and am reminded that although I may feel lonely, I am not alone. Perhaps in that moment I have forgotten that I can do good work or even that my work matters. Reading love notes of kindness allows me to come back home again to myself, taking deep belly breaths.

Even more elusive is this space- my writing. I could just jot my wild thoughts in a journal and leave it just for me. But I have just kept figuring that if I can and do feel alone – Can I possibly be the only one? I cannot be the only human that worries that their work will just not matter? I don’t care if you are the up and coming Mother Teresa or local hired hit man, we all want to believe the work we put out into the world matters! So I write. I write to the masses of crickets chirping but I mostly write – and love – and be my own therapist. The entirely altruistic act fades quickly on me. I am well aware of the deep interconnectedness we experience and just the chance for good will trickle down towards my daughter who I love more than anyone.

My performance reviews are found in watching someone emotionally wake up to their lives and from time to time in a card found in my treasure box.

In those notes I cherish, I will return to my breath and rediscover my way. But like my brave face shoes, there have been a few things that won’t fit snugly in my treasure box. I cherish not the thing or even the card, but the words and sentiment in the giving. If I cared for things, I would have been a banker and fretted over my money rather than people.

Those words are reminders that just perhaps we matter. Perhaps the daily grind does have a purpose. Perhaps I am not alone and I have and can continue to use my transformation in the service of this one little world we inhabit together.

In my previous armored up and angry Mean Self life, it was easier to be confrontational than it was to offer gratitude. It can still be difficult today. So when I receive it or give it in my own words, I relish the bright red glitter magic it brings.

Absolute – PURE – MAGIC.

And for that, I am Grateful.

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