Second Year Counseling Student

Today begins my fourth semester in Regent University’s Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) program. I just returned from residency at Regent so now the semester begins for real – papers, group projects, tons of reading, quizzes and exams, and much collaboration with cohorts. The journey has been amazing since Fall 2017. So much valuable information, incredible peers, challenging content, and tremendous amounts of self-reflection. According to my degree program print-out, I am 59% done with classes. I cannot believe it! Also exciting, I begin my one-semester practicum this coming January (working at a local mental health site) under direct supervision then I will begin two semesters (summer and fall) of internship at, most likely, a different mental health facility with less supervision. By the end of 2019, I will be eligible to take Virginia licensing exams to practice in the commonwealth and begin accumulating counseling hours in order to meet Virginia’s minimum experience requirements for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). It is still pretty far out but I am getting there and, as I have learned, it is best to take it all one day at a time.

The journey has been both highly rewarding and significantly revealing. On the one hand, I have been exposed to much opportunity and resource to help others with counseling skills and methods. I feel like a kid in a candy shop – there’s just so much! On the other, this journey necessarily requires me to spend much time in personal reflection and self-evaluation. I have had to come to grips with my own personal biases, cultural persuasions, and religious intolerances. As I dig deeper into who I believe I am, I both feel some regret and shock even as I sense a feeling and urge to heal and become better. As we are often reminded, a good counselor necessarily needs to be a good counselee.

My area of interest has primarily to do with crisis and trauma counseling for those who are marginalized – refugees, immigrants, those in the LGBT community, and recovering addicts. The pain and neglect that these individuals experience is beyond anything I have ever known or experienced. For me, when working with these individuals, it will not be a matter of judgement. Rather, it will be a matter of actively empathizing and walking along side. I can do this. I desire to do this.

More later. There’s just much going on now. I have never climbed a mountain like this but every day brings, with the challenge, much accomplishment and satisfaction unlike most anything I have ever done.

· 1 Comment. Posted in psychology, retirement.

2016’s Post

It is the end of another year. What a year! I will not review because, seriously, so much trauma happened to so many people all over the world that I do not like to think about it.

In one regard, I have termed 2016 as the Year of Self. By this I mean, people seem to have felt a need to hunker down, worry about themselves only, and felt empowered to tell everyone else that they were now worrying only about themselves and their self-interests. It is an interesting development that appears to still be taking place in many locations here and all over the world. It very definitely seems that much energy and effort is being applied to separating exclusively rather than uniting inclusively. For me, I become distressed when people decide that they only want people around them who look, act, believe, and live the same as they do. Since when did we loose our desire to tolerate, love, forgive, and see the best in each other?

Life happens, as has been said by those wiser than me. This is my fifth Christmas without any Christmas spirit. I enjoy being around others who embrace the season and I love the colors, sounds, tastes, and meanings behind the season but I personally am not ready yet to jump back in. Almost, but not yet. Maybe next year.

I continue to sit with hospice patients, I am finishing (two classes left!) my undergrad work with graduate school starting in 2017, grandkids get bigger and older, sons keep pushing through, and friends keep changing and adjusting as time moves on.

The stream current of time is a beautiful and scary thing – all at the same time. I feel privileged to be sailing it, however.

· 4 Comments. Posted in 250 words.

Passing By

loingtimeIt’s been awhile.

There isn’t going to be a writing resurrection of any kind here but for some reason I wanted to post a few words this evening to add to the din of words that already exist in your world. Consider my words more racket to filter.

It’s a week away from Christmas. I’m not sure what I will be doing. I’m glad that so many seem to have a nice time during this time of year – it can be special. Context is everything, isn’t it? A day on a calendar doesn’t mean much of anything but if one attaches traditions, beliefs, memories, or relationships to a day then a calendar day can become very special for some. Good for everyone.

Well, since we talked last there have been more divorces, weddings, funerals, new babies, new jobs, very happy people, very angry people, classes, tragic world news, silly newsmakers, lunches, dinners, movies, vet visits, trips, patients, professors, trash mail, and so much more. The thing is, once a person (like me) gets over the newness of living in new ways then one realizes that it happens all the time and everywhere and it always has and it always will. This being the case, my story isn’t much different than the thousands and millions that swirl around us all the time.

You know, though? I kind of like how things work out. There was a time not too many months ago when I felt I needed to tell my story – probably more for my sake than anyone else’s. But now, anonymity is my friend and companion. In fact, I find a comfort and solace in not being seen, heard, or otherwise noticed. I find I need very little acknowledgement or notice to do what I feel and need to be doing. Instead of being analyzed, rated, or compared to what others do, I can pursue my dreams and hopes without worrying or wondering about what someone else is thinking. It’s actually quite freeing.

I’m doing okay. It’s just different. Still. I’m happy to know that I no longer stand in the way of anyone else’s success or failure. I don’t have to guide or lead nor do I have to be looked at and considered. Perhaps this might change in the future but for right now – where I am – I can do with the small support system I have around me and what I am doing for myself and a few others.

I hope you are well this Christmas season.

· 4 Comments. Posted in 250 words.

Break Time


· 2 Comments. Posted in daily goings on.

A-Minor Pentatonic

My assignment from this past week was to work on improvising against this backing track. I demonstrate my proficiency (or lack thereof) today at my weekly lesson. Hope I make it.

· 1 Comment. Posted in daily goings on.

Bad Stories

leyeI wish to share a reality – for me, anyway – that I am continuing to deal with. When a person is alone – like me – with little accountability to anyone, it is very easy to lie. There. I said it.

I’m not sure if this is a problem for others who are alone. I haven’t talked to anyone about it and no one has talked with me about it.

The secondary problem with being tempted to lie about things is to wonder more if other people are telling the truth. The problem of lies seems to further develop into a case of mistrust – is everyone else telling false stories, too?

Here’s the thing. There isn’t anyone who knows my schedule, finances, plans, motivations, private thoughts, or hardly anything else about me. I don’t tell them and they don’t ask. It might seem nice to some of you (I wondered in the past what it would be like to be alone) to be unaccountable to anyone, but for me, I am finding it brings up more than the obvious issues that might be associated with being alone. I would have never thought.

Yes, I have lied and I feel bad about it. I don’t think anyone has been hurt somehow but this makes it even harder – if there aren’t any apparent victims, then it makes it easier to lie? See what I mean?

It’s like a disease. I acknowledge my weakness and I am working on it, praying about it, and hoping that I won’t lose the trust of my family, friends, and acquaintances.

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Two Things

Alzheimer patient Tomaz is caressed by husband Dos Santos in their house in LisbonI visit with my patients on a regular basis. What I see and hear often can be emotional and moving.

Harold (not his real name) sits in the memory unit of a local facility every Fri morning holding the hand of his wife. They sit together in the common area – her in her wheel chair and he on the couch. She can’t speak nor does she seem to recognize Harold. They’ve been married 43 years. She became a resident this past Jun after suffering a massive stroke which mostly immobilized her and left her unable to communicate or remember much of anything.

His touch is tender, he talks to her as if she understands everything he is saying, and he smiles at her all of the time.

I went to a movie a few days ago. I had peeked ahead to see what it was about. I knew it would be hard to watch but I felt I needed to see it for a number of reasons.

Vincent goes to the assisted living home every week. Before entering a room down the hall, he puts on a white doctor’s lab coat. Upon entering, he greets the woman in the room with a strong “Good morning, Martha. You look beautiful as always today.”

Martha responds, “Hello doctor. I feel good today. Aren’t the tulips wonderfully colorful outside?”

“Yes, so amazingly colorful.”

After what appears to be a very cursory check-up, Vincent declares, “You check out excellently again today. As incredible as ever.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Martha says.

Each time that Vincent leaves the care facility, he takes Martha’s linens and clothes with him in a laundry basket. The aide at the front counter says, “You know we can take care of her wash, Vincent.”

Vincent says, “No, it’s okay. I want to do it.”

A few weeks later, Vincent (as the doctor) and Martha are outside sitting on a bench next to a pond looking at the ducks. As usual, the two are talking about the pretty settings and splashing ducks.

Martha says, “Vin, do you see those ducks diving?” Vincent’s voice catches and his eyes well up with tears.

He responds, “Yes, Martha, aren’t they something?”

Martha casually responds, “Yes, doctor. They are truly amazing.”

The moment passes quickly and without notice by anyone except Vincent.

Vincent and Harold are in the same situation. Their spouses are aware – but not of them. In story or in real life, it is heartbreaking to observe.

Two things. What is worse? Having a loved one who is present but not aware, or simply not being able to sit in the presence of a loved one?

· Leave a comment. Posted in grief, hospice.

Highlighting Light

hugliteI spent another day yesterday working on my icon at the studio near St. Maximos the Confessor Skete. I know I have been discussing the writing of my icon quite a bit in the last month or so but it has been, for me, a moving experience and an experience of much learning and education. I’m happy to report that I probably have another 3 – 5 hours to go and my icon will be finished.  I then can bring it home for display and discussion.

In our devotional yesterday before we began working on our icons, we talked about the light that is highlighted in our icons. Coincidentally, I was completing my final highlighting (the third one) so as I was later working through the subtle highlights, I considered several items about light that we had talked about.

First, there is deified light that emanates from within each of us who live in faith. In our actions and words, the light comes from within and not only exposes us, but it also exposes that which is around us. As I was highlighting the creases and folds in St. Michael’s garments, wings, and hair, I was reminded that we have the ability and responsibility to let light shine from inside all through and over us in everything that comprises our being. It is often the light that many will recognize in us first before they even know us. It is important that we let light radiate from inside of us.

And second, I highlighted St. Michael’s garb in such a way as to also demonstrate the cosmic light that surrounds us all. God is in us but he is also all around us, too. God is the essence of the universe and, with this being the case, we all experience, so to speak, the influence of the cosmic ambient light of God. It’s as if we all are swimming in God’s light all of the time.

I am far from being an accomplished iconographer but I have learned this about the symbolism of iconography – God’s light is everywhere. It emanates from within the faithful and it pervades the universe that we exist in. We cannot escape the lighting influence of God.

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Communication Breakdown

Social-Media-ConfusionI can’t put my finger on it but, more and more, I find less satisfaction in communicating with friends via electronic communication. I grow weary of spotty, sporadic, and sometimes vague bursts of words from everywhere that somehow are meant to pass for conversation but often simply add to the otherwise ever-present droning din of continuous words all around me that have questionable meaning and value sometimes. Oh certainly, there is occasionally important and very clear communication that takes place so it isn’t all bad by any stretch. But sometimes I wish there was more.

Perhaps it’s because there isn’t anyone here at home to have a conversation with whenever I am so inclined. Or maybe it’s because I get tired of haggling over the meaning of words and sorting out confusion electronically when a few verbal sentences would take care of things. Or maybe I simply want some companionship.

Regardless of my reasons for thinking I need more, here is what I think I miss. First, it’s important sometimes to hear voice inflection and tone, isn’t it? How something is said is often as important as what is being said. I also like to see eyes during a conversation. Eyes also often say as much or more than what is being said. Volume in voice tells much about what is being said. It’s good to know, by observation, that someone is listening. A good conversation requires both appropriate talk but also concerted listening. And sometimes, when appropriate, touch is important to a conversation, is it not?

Maybe I simply desire more meaningful conversation and less ambient words. I don’t know. But whatever the reason, I am much more inclined to have a conversation over some coffee than having conversation in blasts of electronic words.

Just me…

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Choice Time

choiceThe idea is that the moral freedom given to us by God is meant to be used less as an opportunity to experience anything and everything in this world that we can but, rather, it is meant to be more of an opportunity given to us by God to eventually realize and come around to God’s way of thinking. God doesn’t change us without our awareness, permission, or knowledge. Instead, God gives each of us the freedom – to work over time – for each of us to realize that God’s ways are the better ways.

We’ve all heard about the erroneous thinking that some spouses think that their purpose and role in life is to change their spouse. The end of the story, of course, is that rarely can one spouse really and intentionally “change” his or her spouse. Rather, the better way to “change” a spouse is to exhibit love, patience, and understanding all while giving plenty of time and space to the spouse. With time and space and more often than not, two marriage partners will, over time, come to a much better level of relationship.

It’s the same with God. He isn’t going to strike me with a bolt of lightning and change me in an instant. Instead, he gives me love, patience, and understanding along with time to learn and grow to appreciate the ways of God. With God setting the world at my feet, he waits for me to understand God’s ways over time.

Freedom isn’t as much about making choices as it is about taking an opportunity – or not – to come to God’s way of thinking.

· 1 Comment. Posted in 250 words.