Monday, September 21, 2009

Trust and Faith

Talking to one of my kiddos, he tells me he wants two new tattoos. One on each arm: Trust and Faith, because he has learned that is what keeps him going. He also revealed he wants to be a therapist someday. He wants to help others because he knows what it is like to come up through the system and to grow up wounded. Plus he says he can make big money. I laughed and said "well make sure you become a psychologist and not a clinical social worker then!" he laughed too...

But it was a nice moment. I had a couple of those with my kiddos. One was angry and took it out on me for about 15 minutes and I realized we were getting nowhere, so I cut the session short and rescheduled for the next day. I asked her to give me a chance tomorrow. Then I tossed and turned all night trying to figure out how to address the disrespect and anger, the hurt she must have been feeling, trying to be firm but still caring...
When I saw her the next day I greeted her as usual and as we walked across the hall, she apologized to me. Told me she was having a bad day and had taken it out on me and was sorry. I validated her feelings and praised her for be accountable for her actions. We talked more that day than we had in awhile. She gave me a chance and I gave her one as well.

My third kiddo has been moved, disrupted again in foster care. We talked about a lot of things. He asked me if God was angry at him. Why? I asked. He said "I pray and pray and He turns his back on me and never answers my prayers." This led to a discussion of sometimes even God says NO and we don't know why. This kid is processing the murder of his dad. We relate because we both grew up as teenagers without dads. He told me I was one of the few people who ever showed up when I said I would. He told me trust is hard for him. He also said he has realized its not the environment that creates the trouble in his life, its his choices. He can choose trouble or not. I told him he was becoming a fine man that his father would have been proud of him.

Life is bittersweet at times. Making these connections is both beautiful and heartbreaking. I am honored and humbled at the trust and faith these kids place in me. I am by no means a hero, I am so afraid of wounding them further. I feel that sometimes I am too easy on them, not firm enough. I am trying to find that balance of firmness and boundaries but also of caring and believing.

It is about choices. Choosing to believe them. Choosing to believe in them. To see beyond the anger, the fear, the tough exteriors into the scared and scarred hearts.
I have discovered my strength is also my biggest weakness. Loving.
Its worth the risk though... because in the end there is trust and faith to see me through.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happiness returns

I have had a few moments of happiness lately. The new meds are working, the darkness is lifting and I am feeling hopeful again. Depression is such a horribly complex disorder...

Lately I have begun to cherish my Friday afternoon drives. One of my kiddos got moved to Richmond. He is the last appointment of the day. I drive down on I 75 to get there, spend an hour or so with him, talking and listening. Mostly listening, as that is really what he needs because he has more than enough adults talking at him. Then after my session with him, I head back on the old road. The road that is 2 lane and quiet, tree lined, and curved. I blare the oldies station and I sing loudly and drive just a little fast with the windows down and the wind blowing through my hair. I feel free, light and easy. I am singing songs from my youth, from a time I was innocent and believed I could make a difference and save the world. When one could actually understand the words to the songs. I crank the bass up and turn the volume up high, I fly down the blacktop, past cows and fields of hay, startling crows and squirrels. I drive past farms and old wrecked houses, imagining the lives that have passed through the dilapidated buildings. I see ghosts of happiness in the ruins. I pass graveyards where people sleep in peace no longer troubled by life's toils and troubles. The sun slants westward and shadows grow long, the scent of autumn swirls about me, the dry crispness of leaves, drying tobacco, hay ripening in the field. During this drive, my work is done, and I am ageless. I am suspended in time. I may be 16 again or 49 or any point between, for the music lifts me and takes me back, takes me to a time when I was happy, when I was free, when it was just me behind the wheel of a car, cruising along, alone and singing, happy to be me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

power of words

I love words, reading, writing, saying certain ones, the feel of them in my mouth, the sound of them, the poetry and cadence, words have power.

To help, to heal, to wound, to destroy. Sometimes in innocence we wield them and cut deeply only later realizing the damage we have caused. Then there are times we purposefully seek to hurt or to heal...

Today I sat and listened to a young teen pour out his heart. He told me things that had happened that had caused him to explode, to act out and to get into trouble, pretty serious trouble. Things that had happened years ago in foster care. I asked why he didn't try talking out the problem with the other party, explaining the situation, reporting his point of view to the authorities. At that point he raised his eyes to me and said to me, " I am just a kid. No one believes a kid. Adults think we always lie." Without thinking I reacted, and said, "I believe you."
We talked for awhile longer and I told him I was sorry bad things had happened to him. I agreed it wasn't fair and that frankly it sucked. He said "Well its the past, its over." I agreed but I also said it still hurts you and you can tell me about it because I am strong enough to hear it and sharing it will help make it less painful. He shrugged. We talked a bit longer and he went to class.

Later that day I got a phone call from school. He got in a fight and wanted them to call me. He had been pretty upset and had spent some time with the school psychologist. She called to tell me he had revealed that he wanted me called because "MaryMartha shows up when she says she will, she does what she says she does and she believes me..." The psychologist said she knew I worked in a thankless profession and wanted to share this with me. That this kid valued my belief in him. That I had a profound effect on him. I sat there listening amazed. I had spoken earlier without thinking, saying what was on my heart. Because I do believe him. I do believe all my kiddos when they tell me they hurt. I know they lie to me at times, and I can usually spot those times. But I can also tell when they are not lying. I can tell when they are in pain. I know when to believe them, when to believe in them. I just didn't realize the power of those words today.

I am amazed at the power of words. I need to remember that and use them wisely. I am grateful that God walks with me and gives me the right things to say. Because it isn't me. I am not that good or wise...

Monday, September 7, 2009


Changes are coming, I can feel them. I do not know whether they are good or bad...

That is the perplexing thing. I am a creature of habit. I used to think I was whimsical and spontaneous, and perhaps once I was, but no longer. I yearn for predictability. I want order in my life. I want to know where things are and what is to be expected. I no longer love surprises.

Anxiety has gotten the better of me. Fear has jockeyed for the number one spot in my mind. I hate this. I know that this time will pass, that things will get better, but the uncertainty is so hard. The not knowing kills me. I am the person who reads the last page of a book first just so I can see how everyone gets there. I figure out the endings of the crime shows 20 minutes before they end. I am a fixer, a problem solver. A control freak. Who currently lives in an unsteady, unsure world. Where everything is an illusion.
Or perhaps all this time, control has been the illusion...


I took a long Sunday afternoon drive today, one of my favorite indulgences in spite of gas prices.

And I noticed it was coming. Autumn, fall, the end of summer: my favorite time of year. I hate summer, always have, always will.

Oh there are some moments that are nice. Some things I love: the first strawberries, the first tomato, corn, squash, mushmelon, watermelon, etc. the lightening bugs, the crickets and cicadas calling in the night, thunderstorms and the smell of rain. Still those glorious moments don't make up for the long hot torturous days of endless sun and heat...

But fall, ah that lovely season brings with it a coolness and a promise of change. Anticipation. I always equate it with new pencils, new shoes, crisp cotton dresses and a box of 64 crayons. Ripening persimmons and the smell of leaves drying. Driving today I smelled the barns with tobacco curing and was transported to my youth again. I remember the crisp tartness of apples, the first night it was cold enough to burrow under a quilt but still sleep with the windows open.

I love the crunch of leaves under my feet. Watching the squirrels get fat and slow. The smell of black walnuts, sharp and bitter, pungent as perfume. I love seeing the trees start to show colors, amber, gold, red, orange. Waking to find a lacework of frost on the windshield of my car.

It is the season of soup and stew, hot cornbread and crockpot meals. Simmering and baking, slowing down and savoring the day as the light fades faster and faster leading us to winter.

I don't mind heading into fall, finding my sweaters, digging out the afghans and quilts, getting ready to cuddle and curl up in the sweetness of the evenings.

Goodbye summer, welcome autumn. I have been waiting for you. Anticipating your arrival and today I saw you were just around the corner...

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Years ago there was a man who loved a cat. I got to know them both rather well. Or so I thought. I was there through the cat's last days as she succumbed to kidney failure and old age. I helped nurse her along, admiring her stoic spirit, marveling at the love between the animal and human. I felt humbled and honored to witness such a strong and unconditional bond. I was there when it was time to break that bond as well; when it was time to let her go from this world to the next. With one last injection, one last sigh, she was gone and we were all there watching this man as his heart broke, alone in his misery, alone in a way that not one of us could reach him...
Later I attended a funeral for her, my husband came along and read a poem. We buried her in the animal graveyard and again I watched as this wounded man sat and cried. Another link slipped into place. I was called to help. I was being led to be a therapist. To walk among the wounded, to ease their pain and suffering. To try to break through those walls of grief, fear, loneliness to help heal. He and his cat were not the first link in the chain of broken hearts that have led me, sometimes pulled me onto this path, but they were two of the most memorable links.

A few weeks ago at the dog park with Jake, I listened to the glorious baying of a beagle mix. I have a weakness for baying as opposed to barking. There is something about a baying dog that sounds soulful and soothing all at once to me. It reminds me of cool fall nights, persimmons, leaves crunching and the first fire in the old black stove. As we were leaving, I saw the old beagle mix trundling along near us, and I stopped to compliment his voice. The man with him said "Martha?" and I looked into the eyes of the man who had been such a long ago link. It had been over 10 years, but he remembered me. We started chatting, and discovered both our lives had taken some pretty major hits. He had adopted this dog the day before he was going to be euthanized, same as Jake. We talked about other things. He had been through a lot since the last time I talked with him. He had written a book, and gave me a copy. I couldn't put it down later that night when I read it. It made sense to me: why our paths had crossed so many years ago, and maybe why they were crossing again. He had discovered he had a diagnosis of Asperger's Disorder . Now, I work with kids with Aspergers disorder and it seems very fateful that someone like him had started me on a path that led to kids who had experienced what he had once experienced. And it took me 10 years to finish my degree, start the work before I found him again and could thank him. I finally got to tell him that he had made a difference in my life. Actually, not just in my life, but in the lives of kids he would never meet. By our paths crossing years ago, hopefully the future will be brighter for kids like him.

This is why I believe in destiny, kismet, fate, God. No one but a higher power could plan these things. Sure someone could say it was all coincidental, but I choose to see it as more than that, as part of a bigger plan, as the truth of we all matter, we all have a reason for being, we all are linked by the divine. We all are part of the incarnation of the Christ. In each of us, no matter how wounded, how battered, bruised and broken there is a tiny shard of God, reflecting and beckoning, shining out a light that calls one to another, that draws us together out of the darkness of our world. A light that heals. A light that shines dimly, but still shines over the years, over the miles and through the tears...