Archive for January, 2007

I was a contractual therapist with a church-affiliated non-profit agency, and they had dispatched me to an office in a church on the edge of the city. “Office” is a generous label; I suspect if I had not been there, they would have been using it as a utility closet. It was winter and since I worked evening hours, the place had been dark and deserted long before I arrived for my “shift.” There was a “security” man (I use the term loosely; he was the brain-damaged relative of a church member, and he used to look me up and down, seemingly assessing whether I was fit to be in his church; if I were thoroughly covered up, he would nod; if I wore less than a turtleneck and long skirt, he would smirk and shake his head) who prowled the perimeter of the building and grounds, but he did nothing to add to my sense of security. It was a creepy place to be, alone at night.

The agency that employed me had an undergrad psychology student to do telephone “intakes,” meaning that he screened the clients I would be seeing. He asked about things like chronic mental illness, suicidality, substance abuse. Because this interviewer did the intake questions and the scheduling, I would welcome new clients into my office/closet without ever having had even telephone contact with them.

On this particular evening, I opened the door to see a clean-cut, casually dressed man, in his mid-twenties. His name was Guy. He didn’t look me in the eye, even when he shook my hand. This, and something about his aura of fearfulness and extraordinary strength, made me uneasy. He wasn’t very tall, but portrayed a large presence due to his musculature. Very thick, roped body type. And short, very curly brown hair, which I suppose pushed my “aw, a cute little boy” button. That’s probably the only thing that made me feel comfortable enough to bring him in and shut the door. And maybe that was also the thing that made me overlook (until he sat down and took great pains to position it) the large, heavy gym bag he carried in his left hand.

It could hold a gun. Or knives. Rope. No, duct tape. And chloroform.

I began with the initial interview and assessment, as Guy’s eyes avoided mine, instead casting furtively all around the little room. He was depressed because he was having trouble with his live-in girlfriend. She had many complaints about him and was threatening to throw him out. They had a child together, a toddler. He showed me a picture of his daughter, and for the first time, he looked right at me, to see my reaction. She was gorgeous, indeed, and I told him so, and he blushed, then put his head back down. He continued talking about his depression and life at home. And I tried to stop looking at the gym bag. We agreed to work together, seeing each other once a week.

I saw Guy and his gym bag for only about four weeks. When he would get angry while talking about his girlfriend, the veins in his neck would stand out and he’d clench his fists, in ways that made me glance at the gym bag, which I sometimes forgot about as I got to know him better. His love relationship continued to deteriorate, and it became clear that he would need to move out of their apartment. He decided to go to a neighboring state where he could find work and where he had some relatives. I was sad to end our time together; I had come to care for him, and he was making progress in therapy. At that last session, I finally said to him, “Guy . . . what do you have in that gym bag?”

He blushed only slightly and said, “My dirty clothes. I work construction, and I come here right after work. I thought it would be disrespectful to come here all dirty, so I stop in the gas station down the street and wash up and put on clean clothes.”

I felt about this big. Here I had been thinking that this sweet, vulnerable man-child was possibly capable of harming me, indeed that he may have been coming to our sessions armed and dangerous. And instead, he was being astonishingly considerate and respectful of me. Shame on me.

Then we continued our “termination” session. At the very end, I said to him, “Will you be seeing your mother when you move back to Pennsylvania?” I knew they weren’t close.

“No. Ever since what happened with my step-dad, she doesn’t want anything to do with me.”

We had only focused on the here-and-now during our brief association, so of course I had to ask what had happened.

“I beat him to death with a baseball bat.” In the remaining few minutes that we had, Guy elaborated only enough to say that he had been in prison for five years for that crime. I don’t remember much else of what was said in those last few minutes as I shook his hand and wished him well.

The next day I called the intake worker, David, and suggested a change to the initial phone interview. “Hey, David,” I said, real friendly-like, “I want you to add a question to the intake form” (I could almost see this eager, conscientious, wannabe therapist on the other end of the phone line, preparing to write down my suggestion verbatim). “I want you to add DID YOU EVER MURDER ANYONE WITH A FREAKIN’ BASEBALL BAT?!” I told him the story, he apologized profusely . . . No harm was done. But I would have liked to have known that.

Years later, in my private practice, I decided that I won’t meet male clients alone for the first time at night when there aren’t other people around. Sometimes that means I can’t accept a particular client. Oh, well. They can take time off, or come in before work, or whatever, if they’re that motivated to see me. After I get a sense of them, usually just a session or two, I will give them an evening appointment if that’s more convenient.

And of course, I don’t ask someone who calls for the initial appointment, if they’ve ever murdered someone with a baseball bat. I just casually go down my list of innocuous intake questions, and somewhere between “on any medications?” and “any known allergies?” I ask, “Ever had any trouble with the law?” That should cover it.

file under: &Work &Can’t Make This Stuff Up


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The whole time I’ve been dealing with WTF Disease, two things have remained rather constant: I have said that I believed I was as likely to be diagnosed by a blogger as by a medical professional, and I have longed for someone to look at me as a whole, at the big picture, at my history as well as my current symptoms.

Finally, I believe there has been somewhat of a breakthrough. You may recall that recent lab reports indicate that my Vitamin D level remains curiously low. Just this morning I received an email that may shed some much-needed light on my condition. Dr. mrtl, who has been following my case for months, and who does know my background in a way that other medical professionals do not, has offered her considered opinion that my Vitamin D deficiency could be due to lack of sunlight. Of course, everyone who knows anything about Vitamin D knows that this is possible; the mystery was, how could that be, when I get about as much sunlight as any middle-aged woman in the mid-Atlantic region. Dr. mrtl may have solved this mystery, with her speculation that my gigantic ass is, in fact, blocking the sun, preventing me (and perhaps countless others on the Eastern seaboard) from experiencing its life-giving properties. If you live anywhere near my ass, you might want to get your D-level checked.

(Yes, I know that I will attract quite a circus of pervs who arrive here after searching “my gigantic ass;” but it was worth it, you know?)

OK, for real. I mean, the above is for real, that’s what Dr. mrtl said. But the other doc I saw today had no clue. But she seemed smart, and kind, and she said — wait for it — no other doc has said this to date — “I am going to do some research and see if I can find something that would tie all these things together. Call me on Friday.” Translation: “I give a rat’s ass. I’ll see if I can help you.” So, that’s good. I’ll let you know when I know something.

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Sunday Post


“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” — Benjamin Franklin

And some song lyrics, because I know how you love to read song lyrics 😉

Yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
Yesterday is a promise that you’ve broken
Don’t close your eyes, don’t close your eyes
This is your life and today is all you’ve got
and today is all you’ll ever have
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes

This is your life, are you who you want to be?

from “This is Your Life” by Switchfoot

Ephesians 5:15-17

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Even though I’m often preoccupied with thoughts of WTF, I do sometimes think other things. Brilliant, profound things, of tremendous value to mankind. Or not. Here are a few recent ponderings . . .

  • I ate an embarrassing number of Oreos. If you people (Jif, LG) would buy normal size Oreos, I would not do that. But if you insist on buying “mini” Oreos, I can’t be responsible for how many I eat. Haven’t you ever heard the expression, “take two [hundred], they’re small”?

  • You know how the little muscles in your thumb sometimes twitch, and if you pay close attention, you can actually see your thumb moving, involuntarily? And it’s actually kind of cool? Yea, well, when that happens in your triceps, your quadriceps, your transverse obliques, your soleus and your latissimus dorsi and uh, oh yea, your eye . . . cool, not so much.

  • Cleaning out some papers from the desk drawer. This was written about two years ago, when LG was playing school with Biscuit:

Dear Mrs. Fairchild,
Biscuit got an F in chours [chorus]. He will not pay attention or sing. I am concerned there is a problem at home.
Ms. [Teacher]

  • I think my favorite tagline on a blog is Twixie’s “your mind may be somewhere else but your ass ain’t.” Spoken like a good teacher.

  • LG, in her never-ending effort to be more grownup than I want her to, has taken to calling me “Mother.” I was “Mama” for several years, and that was my preference. Thanks to the influence of peers, in about second grade, I began to get “Mommy,” with “Mama” reserved for when she is scared, sick or sleepy. But “Mother?” Maybe I’ve spent too much time in blogworld, but that sounds about half like a dirty word to me. Or like half a dirty word.

  • I just wrote a short, but angry, venting email to someone, about another someone, and before I could send it, it disappeared! The screen was still there, the address and the subject were there, but the words just evaporated from the screen. I’m thinking that was a sign I should shut up. At least for now. So I will. You ever have things like that happen, you seem to get a sign that you ought not to do what you really want to do? I get that a lot, in various forms. I guess that means it’s rather often that I want to do what I really ought not to do 😦

  • I like Queen Latifah. But sometimes I worry that I won’t handle it well if I ever meet her. What should I call her? Queen? Your Highness? Ms. Latifah (that can’t be, if she wanted to be “Ms.,” she would have named herself that)? Dana? That seems a little presumptuous . . . oh well, I probably have a little time to figure this one out . . .

  • LG asked me the other day what WTF stands for. We’ve never really said. I mean, of course assumptions have been made. I told her, “Where’s the frog?” because WTF makes me very hoarse, like I have a frog in my throat. But that was kinda lame. What else might it stand for?

  • “Defensive” is the only “name” you can call someone that, even if it’s not true up to that time, the very act of their telling you that you’re wrong . . . sorta makes you right. Kinda.

  • I think blogging makes me spill. Not like Lynn. I mean really spill things. Like red wine (yes, I, too, love Jesus but drink…) on my Follett software company (you know who you are 😉 mousepad; chicken noodle soup on my new keyboard. It could be WTF . . . but I don’t think so. I think it’s blogging.

  • I haven’t documented this in any professional journal (yet), but years ago, in collaboration with a client, I came up with a very reliable test for depression in women. The SLT. The “shaved leg test” for depression. I asked this client how her mood was, on a scale of 1 to 10 (standard depression question), and instead of answering, she put her leg up on the chair, pulled up her pant leg and said, “See!? I shaved my legs!” And I knew exactly what she meant. She was doing better. For women who do shave (wax, whatever) their legs, the level of leg hair can be a very accurate barometer of mood. I need to do more research before I publish.

So, what have you been thinking?

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(a theological discussion of intercessory prayer)

I was telling Jif about what I’d seen on “Ellen” one day last week (btw, Ellen is the best anti-depressant I’ve encountered). There was this 88-year-old woman, Gladys, that Ellen called on the telephone, and Gladys says, among other things, “Listen, I’ll be honest with you, I love Jesus, but I drink a little . . .”

Jif: See, that’s just like me. I love Jesus, but I drink a little, too.

Susie laughs

Jif: And Jesus loves ME. This I know . . .

Susie: Yea, Jesus loves you. But I’m His favorite.

Jif: I . . . don’t think so. In fact, the last time I talked to Him, He didn’t even know who you were . . .

Susie: Oh, yea? Well . . . well . . . DAMN! That would certainly explain a LOT! DID YOU AT LEAST POINT ME OUT TO HIM?!

Jif: Yea. I did.

Susie: Well. Now maybe we’ll get somewhere . . .

Seems we had a bit of a failure to communicate there, Ratsasstafarians. Now we should be OK. Keep praying.

(And if you didn’t hear Gladys on Ellen, go there now. I promise you’ll laugh.)

file under: &Family &WTF Disease &Sharing

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Sunday Post ~ “The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.” — Mark Caine

Psalm 107:13-16

file under: &Sunday Post

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Biscuit Friday ~ Happy Hour

happy hour

Enjoy your weekend. And remember to bark, sniff, scratch, hump, and pee on mailboxes responsibly.

(No VBDs were harmed or intoxicated during the making of this post.)

file under: &Biscuit

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Taking Names

I didn’t think I could be surprised and/or amused by a strange name anymore. I thought I’d heard it all. Today, though, I encountered a young woman called “Kleshea.” Pronounced like (I kid you not), “cliche.” When I told Jif about this, it led us down memory lane, through a few of the unusual names we’ve heard in recent years.

Jif reminded me of an old favorite, a story told to me by my friend, Elaine, who is an obstetric nurse. She helped with the delivery of a wonderful baby girl, born to a very young, unmarried teen, who arrived at the hospital without friends or family. The new mom had not decided on a name for the baby before her birth. My friend knew this because during labor, to help pass the time, she had discussed baby names with the mom-to-be. After the baby girl was delivered, Elaine went in to check on mom and baby, and once again asked if the baby had a name. The young mother said, “I didn’t think of one, but the people in the nursery gave her one, and I like it, so I’m going to keep it.” My friend found that odd, but the girl seemed so pleased, she didn’t argue, just inquired as to what the nursery staff had named the baby. “They named her Famolly,” said the girl, holding up the baby’s tiny wrist with tiny ID bracelet. Elaine looked at the bracelet: Female Smith. Fe-ma-le.


A few years back, I was at a community service fair at a local high school, representing the counseling agency where I now work. A surly-looking student approached my booth, and she said, “I know where you work. My family got counseling there. We used to see Miss Theresa.”

I said, “What’s your name? I’ll tell Miss Theresa I saw you.” She told me her name. It was unfamiliar to me, and I wanted to check that I was hearing her correctly. “Serenna?” I asked. She repeated her name. “Saranna?” I tried again.

She was losing patience with me. “I GIVE UP!” she said emphatically.

For just a moment, I thought she was dismissing me as too dumb to get her name. But then I got it: “Surrender?”

“Yea. As in, ‘I give up.'”

Instinctively, I said to her, “No! Don’t give up!”

She smiled and said, “That’s just what Miss Theresa used to tell me.”


Jif belongs to a business networking group where one of the members is a restauranteur. He told Jif about a woman who came in and interviewed for a waitressing position. Her name was, or so it seemed, “Chataid” or “Shahtayd” or something like that. Unusual, but that wasn’t a problem. Until she wrote it down for the man: S-H-I-T-H-E-A-D. He said he didn’t hire her because he couldn’t put that on a nametag.


Then there was the one that has us both (and I think most of our church congregation) shaking our heads every time we remember it. Now you know I am not a prude, I am not particularly dignified (OK, that’s an understatement). But in church . . . well, I try not to use vulgarity in church. At least not when I’m speaking from the pulpit. A few years ago, our church was in high celebration mode because we had completed a wonderful, long-awaited addition to the building. The time came to have a ribbon-cutting, and to dedicate the new wing to the service of the Lord, and whatnot. It was a big deal in our little community, and a state delegate came to speak. He was not (nor will he ever be, now) a member of our church, but he was a local boy, made good, so we were delighted to have him. His name was, and is, James. He spoke about the importance of faith, and family . . . and he told some cute stories about his own family. And he told one that probably went over very well in other groups, but in our particularly setting, it went over like . . . like a fart in church.

He told how his young son, James III, refers to himself as “Jimmy, the Turd.” He waited for the laugh that didn’t come. Silence. Except for the sound of jaws dropping, eyebrows raising, and such. Although, I must say after a few seconds of silence, I was stifling some serious laughter, not at “Jimmy the Turd,” but at James the Second, for apparently forgetting where he was when he used that anecdote. I guess it actually went over more like a turd in church. You just don’t hear the word “turd” from the pulpit, you know?


Then there are, of course, those names that are funny because of how they do or don’t match the person’s profession or personality. I was referred by my internist to a gastroenterologist, whose name I thought was “Dr. Bott.” When I went to look up the number, though, I realized I was actually being sent (for a colonoscopy) to “Dr. Butt,” and I just couldn’t go there. Some things just aren’t funny.


So tell us your funny name stories!

UPDATE: OK, Shithead is just a little too bad to be true. Jif thought the guy was telling the truth, because, as I say, he’s not a joker. But I just googled and while there is some suggestion that Shithead is a Finnish name (pronounced shuh-teed, which would be sorta consistent with the guy’s story), there is also a lot of mention of the name Shithead as an “urban legend.” So. Don’t want to mislead anyone. Particularly any of you looking for baby names 😉

file under: &Can’t Make This Stuff Up

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Original Glazed

No, there are no Krispy Kreme donuts here. I’m referring to the appearance of your eyes in just a few minutes, if you hate reading medical crap the way I hate reading medical crap. If so, just move along, and I’ll try to do better in a few days or so. If you stay, and your eyes glaze over . . . don’t say I didn’t warn you.

It’s been about two weeks since my last new-rollogist appointment (it was the old new-rollogist; I went back to him after being so thoroughly turned off by Dr. Christmas, the one I saw on 12/22). There is no reeeeeal news. There’s been a bit of a change in perspective and a possible lead in another direction.

What the neurologist said: He will no longer commit to any percentage of certainty that I don’t have ALF. (He started out being 99% certain I don’t.) He does continue to say that he doesn’t believe I have it, though. He has done all the blood tests he knows to do. Actually, there was one he hadn’t done, and I asked him for it, and he ordered it, just to humor me even though I could tell he doesn’t think it will show anything. That one had to go all the way to California to be read, so it’ll probably be a while before I hear anything. My symptoms continue to be consistent with a particular type of ALF that begins in the throat and tongue muscles. (I am deliberately not using medical terminology here because I am not ready to become a stop on the search terms for people researching that illness. When and if I can be of some actual help to such seekers, I will certainly do so, but I am not at that place now.) However, he says that IF I have it, I have a very slowly progressing case of it. So he asked the question again, that he asked, I think it was back in August: “Do you really want to know that you have an illness that you can’t do anything about?” And I finally have an answer to that question.

He said that he can do a test called an EMG, during part of which he would put a small needle into my tongue and shock the muscles there. Their reaction would give him some information. Essentially, a “positive” on the EMG would be “confirming for ALF.” However, a negative on the EMG would not rule out ALF. It is not that reliable, and it may simply mean there has not yet been enough muscle degeneration. So, in short, if I have the test, which he said will be very painful, I may learn that I have a nightmarish (paralysis, loss of speech and swallowing, eventual respiratory failure) terminal illness. Or, I may learn nothing at all. Just endure a painful test and still be left wondering. And, as he said, if I have it, I have a slowly progressing case of it. It is an illness that would become quite undeniable at some point, test or no test. I cannot imagine that knowing I have “it” could do anything but make me feel worse, less able to function than I do, than I am, right now. There is no point in seeking evidence, just to have a label to replace “WTF Disease.” Remember, there is no treatment for ALF. So, no point. That’s my (and Jif’s) decision, at least for now.

POSSIBLE new direction: When I saw Dr. Christmas and he sent me for some bloodtests, I asked him if he would throw in “Vitamin D level” just as an aside, because back in the summer my internist discovered that it was very low. We regarded that news as incidental to everything else that is going on, but I did begin faithfully supplementing with the maximum recommended dosage of supplements, and I just wanted a re-check to see if I was within normal range yet. But guess what? Even after months of maximum supplementation, it’s still deficient. This means something. I don’t know WTF it means, but it means something. Next stop, an endocrinologist. Jif did a little online research and discovered that prolonged deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to neurological symptoms. Muscle weakness. This is just a tiny bit exciting. Because maybe it means that what looks like ALF symptoms could be the result of Vitamin D deprivation (this is what Jif and I are speculating/hoping; no medical types have said so yet). That doesn’t solve the problem, because there is some reason that my body is not processing the massive amounts of D I’ve been feeding it for all these months. BUT, it may suggest a more manageable problem than ALF. I mean, cheez whiz, as far as I know or can imagine, any medical problem is a more manageable problem than ALF.

So. More blood drawn today. And an ultrasound of parts that an endocrinologist will be interested in — thyroid, parathyroid. I’ll keep you posted. (Oh, and for those of you who’ve followed this whole long, strange trip, the room-at-all-ogist did all the tests he could think of to do, and came up empty. But he was kind, and interested, and asked me to let him know WTF WTF is when I find out. Kind helps.)

There’s more I want to say about all this, but I hate writing medical; so I’ll do the rest another time. These are the highlights and lowlights right here, for right now.

As always, I thank you for your prayers. Maybe, maaaaybeeeeee we’re getting somewhere. Maybe some answers — hopeful answers — are coming soon. So don’t stop now. Or if you have stopped (and ohlord, I know it’s been SUCH a long time), start again! Thank you and much love to you.

file under: &Partial Nudity &WTF Disease

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Sunday Post ~ “He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Matthew 5:23-24
Matthew 6:14-15

file under: &Sunday Post

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