Saturday, March 26, 2016

What if...

The other night I watched the movie "Selma". It was incredibly moving and eye opening. The event in the movie happened in my lifetime. Seriously, in my lifetime! And I am not that old.

I am amazed at how much and how little our world has changed. Today the emphasis is on LGBT issues and Muslims as the whipping boys; racial prejudice is real and alive today in 2016.

The images of people being beaten and killed based on the color of their skin broke my heart. I grew up in the South in the 1960's but I never experienced the degree of hatred and violence portrayed in the movie. I know it existed in the world, there is documentation, photographs and news reels of it happening. But in my small insulated world it didn't exist to my knowledge. I lived next door to a black family. There was a cluster of houses down the road that the Barlow family lived in. I walked to and from school with those children. I was never taught to hate them because of their skin color. I don't remember segregation in school. They went to a different church, sure, but in school and community they mixed with us without interference as best as I can recollect.

Harking back to the movie, set in 1964, chronicling Martin Luther King's march to Montgomery from Selma, I was astonished at the politics. President Johnson was portrayed fairly, I think; a man struggling with his own conscience and a myriad of issues, Viet Nam, poverty, civil rights. It was a divisive time in the USA. JFK was dead, the world was challenging belief systems and no one was sure of who was safe. J. Edgar Hoover was still active although becoming more virulent and paranoid.

I started to wonder what our world would be like now if both JFK and MLK had lived. Would we be a more peaceful, idealistic nation? Would we have overcome the prejudice that ripped us apart? Would there have been a huge shift in the world's culture of war?

If they had lived, would there have been a Nixon? A Reagan? Even speculating further, would a Trump be this far along in the Presidential election process?

I think about the "What ifs" a lot. What the world would have been like if so many men had not died in the Civil War which effectively eliminated many children being born; that loss of potential inventors, diplomats, healers, helpers... On the flip side, perhaps there was evil that didn't come to fruition too.

But still, what happens when idealists die?

I know that both JFK and MLK were human with their own foibles and faults, particularly having affairs with multiple women. But what if they had lived to carry forth those ideals of justice and equality? Would we be living in a different and possibly better world?

And what of the other people, not as well known, but just as important in the civil rights movement. What of the ones who marched and believed and fought and died who did not make the history books?

The world is so large and yet so small that every life is interwoven and the loss of one has far reaching consequences. It is easy to write off one life at times. It is easy to lull ourselves into thinking we make no difference in the world; but we do. Even a quiet, low key life has import and meaning.

"What if" is a question with no answer, only repercussions.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Approximately every 11 years I have changed careers...

Career #1: Stagehand/theater technician
I majored in theater in college with a double minor in folklore. I was heading to NY and would either work at a museum or in theater; whichever job came first with a living wage.
Theater won that round. I had a great experience and learned a lot, had fun and had a pretty decent income. BUT after 11 years in NYC, this KY gal got homesick. So back to KY I came. No steady theater job for me in Lexington so I thought about what else I wanted to do. And I got a job at a veterinary clinic for cats.

Career#2: Veterinary Assistant
I started out as the receptionist who kept wandering back to watch surgery and to pet the cats. Finally I asked to move to the assistant role and started training. I LOVED it. Working closely with animals, witnessing how strong the human/animal bond could be. And I started taking home cats...
After about 9 years though, I felt I had gone as far as I could both training and salary-wise. It was time to pick a new profession. So many people liked talking with me and a few had suggested I was a natural therapist. So off to grad school to get my Masters in Social Work with the intention of becoming a grief counselor.

Career #3: LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)
I was hired out of grad school at a nonprofit agency that provided "wrap around" services to children and families in home, school and community settings. I was a therapist for 5 years when burnout hit. The work with the most at risk kiddos coupled with a lot of personal/family issues took its toll and I moved into a supervisor position within the agency that allowed me time to regroup. Now I am 9 years in and a new job is in the works. I was thinking this is off by 2  years, it's not 11 years yet! But I am adding in 2 years of Grad School to make the pattern work! ;-)

Career #4: Still an LCSW but...
So I have recently accepted a new position with UK Healthcare. It's exciting and scary and possibly my dream job that takes me to retirement. UK Clinic has come up with a groundbreaking concept and I will be the LCSW helping to create and implement the program.

In a nutshell: Every patient that comes through the clinic will have a team at their disposal: a doctor, nurse, psychologist and LCSW. They will not be passed from doctor to doctor like some clinics do. They will have interventions and resources available to address their total healthcare: physical & mental. The clinic has onsite exam rooms, x-ray, labs, pharmacy, dental, vision and a gym for physical therapy. There are rooms for counseling too. My role will be to provide brief therapeutic interventions along with some case management and resource linkage. It is a bit daunting having no explicit job description but it is up to me to create that along with the help of the other team members. If I do this job well, then it opens up possibilities of hiring more LCSW's to staff the new teams being created over the next year. The goal is to have 5 fully operational teams by 2017.

So, the next 11 years will be exciting and should take me safely into retirement... or some other new adventure, "God willing and the creek don't rise!"

March Madness

Yet another friend from my youth has contacted me. 

Keeta was always the prettiest girl in our class; she had curly black hair and deep blue eyes and dimples. There was no way to compete against that in elementary school!

We were friends, not best friends but the kind of friends one becomes in a small town in a small school. There were some petty arguments and snubs from both of us. But there was also that shared experience of growing up together with our siblings mingling and families overlapping.

I worked with one of her brothers in high school at the Jr. Food Store. It was a convenience store/market and we opened at 6 am and closed at 10 on weekends. Robbie was a year younger than me. He was a sweet funny kid in a souped up Chevy who liked sports, especially basketball. He lived and breathed bball. I think we even went to the Sweet 16 tournament together once? Or maybe we just saw each other there as we went to different schools. But I remember him most clearly  talking about basketball. 

Robbie had just graduated high school when he was killed in a car wreck. He ran off the two lane highway that wound from Glasgow to Summer Shade and hit a tree head on. It shook all of our crowd pretty deeply. Especially Keeta. She was closest in age to him and I imagine missed him more than I can even imagine...

Late last night while watching the Wonder Years and  feeling nostalgic, I was cruising Facebook and a chat message popped up from Keeta. She now lives in Lexington, having recently moved here with her daughter and grandbabies. She too is divorced and ready for a change. We made a tentative date to get together in April after she gets more settled and I get my new job off the ground. And of course once March Madness is over! 

It seemed like good timing from the Universe or maybe a sign because during March Madness I always think of Robbie. He would have loved watching the games...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

One of the sweet boys of my youth

I reconnected recently to a "boy" from high school. 40 years have passed since the last time we talked. And oddly enough I can still see the 17 year old I had a huge crush on lurking beneath the grandfatherly exterior.

He and I worked together at Burger Chef. He was funny and sweet and a smart ass who always made me blush and laugh outrageously. He played football and was solid both physically and emotionally. He drove a Mustang and was up for almost anything. After work we would drive out into the country, sometimes drag racing along empty roads. We explored abandoned "haunted houses" and scared ourselves silly. We went looking for the legendary Slash Monster who was probably modeled after Bigfoot. We played poker and despite not knowing anything about the game, I consistently won. Of course later I found out he had stacked the deck just so I would win. He was a sweet kid.

He was also one of the first boys I kissed. Talking the other night we both reminisced about the one night when we went out on a wild goose chase with friends, came back and sat in his car talking. I remembered how he leaned over and kissed me, looking deep into my eyes and smiling his cocky smile. He was a bit more experienced than me and definitely someone I wanted to kiss...

That was probably one of the most memorable nights of my life. I was smitten. And the next day I was scared. I liked him, really, really liked him. I was 16, he was 17 and I was terrified of falling in love and getting stuck in the tiny town I lived in. I was terrified I might not go to college. I might end up working at a factory or having babies. I played out a whole lifetime in my head and scared myself right out of dating him.

He ended up dating my best friend instead. I was devastated...  She eventually married someone else, had babies, stayed in town. I went off to college, off to NYC, off to travel, got married and traveled some more before ending up back in KY. He ended up going to college, going into business, marrying, and traveling as well.

Then one night on Facebook, he popped up as a friend request through the old Burger Chef crew who had been linking up over the past few months. At first we just commented a bit, liked each other's posts but then one night we talked for a long time and started remembering our time together.

It's funny, how he reminded me of that girl I once was. How in many ways I am still her in my heart. He joked that he wasn't surprised I was a therapist as he remembered what a big heart I had and how I always listened to my friends' problems. He still saw me in a positive light.

The gift he has given me is that of remembering who I was and who I still am. I believe that there is a core being in all of us that doesn't change. I had lost sight of mine over the past few years. But somehow, the Universe is putting people into my life who reaffirm my innate being. He can't really say I haven't changed but he has told me I still have "it", that quality which was attractive, which was sought after, which was loved. I don't think he is talking sex appeal as much as he is talking soul appeal.

Maybe I am a middle aged woman trying to recapture my youth. Or maybe, it's just nice to be remembered as someone who was innocent and daring and free with her whole life ahead... and to be in touch with someone who still sees that 16 year old free spirit and encourages her to rage on.