Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Blog has moved

Our new blog address is here

Change comes in many packages and sizes.

Many of us despise change. Much of the work that is done with clients is discovering the part of them that will resist the very change they seek help for.

-A client who asks for help with procrastinating on homework, and on further investigation, really doesn't like the course she is taking. If the procrastination is reduced, she'll be doing homework she doesn't want to do and isn't really interested in--why kind of fix is that!

-A couple wants help reducing the conflict in their marriage. But as tensions decrease, they find themselves sharing more deeply and intimately--which has its own terror. Suddenly, the conflict seems attractive--it's connecting at a safe level.

Suffice to say, resistance to change isn't just about wanting to stay stuck in an ugly place. It's about difficulty letting go of the underlying adaptive process that has something that looks like it's not working actually serve a valuable purpose.

All this thought about change comes up because I have been learning more about how websites work, and I "took the plunge" and transferred my blog to the same web address as my website. I really liked the look of the other blog, the usability of the features of blogspot. But I'm working at being open to the change, and finding ways to embrace it. I think it will be a good decision in the long run. We look forward to see you over there--please change your bookmark to the new location.

How will you make your change decisions that you are facing?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Osborne House--35 years strong

I was at Government House today to attend a reception celebrating the 35th anniversary of Osborne House. Osborne House is a women's shelter providing a 24 hour crisis line and emergency short term housing for women experiencing domestic violence.

The politicians gave wonderful and humourous speeches, the board chair gave a recount of the early days of starting up--no government funding was used to start Osborne House. It was created against all odds and now receives strong governmental support. However, the real stars of the show were two women who are passionate spokeswomen for the organization as past participants in the program. They told us of the difficult past they left behind when they went to Osborne House for help, and the tireless staff that provided input to them. One of them, a retired teacher, now does "payback", working in their programs and providing a face and voice to the value of the organization.

She was humourous and strong, clear and bold--a survivor.
The other quietly read a moving poem read on the first anniversary of her new life--confidence and new life oozing out of her.

I was fortunate to end up sitting during dinner with one of the pioneers of shelters in the province, who shared memories of starting a shelter in rural areas. Her city pioneer joined us for dessert, and they laughed at the stories they told. Out of date facilities, ceiling leaks, broken toasters, a dumped bottle of curry in the Thanksgiving stuffing one year...lots of laughter. Bold conversations with politicians, long travel up north, long hours fundraising to make it happen. Lots of strength.

Osborne House is 35 years old. It is the second oldest shelter in Canada. Since the 1970's, the murder rate of women in domestic situations has been cut in half.

50% --that's a lot of lives saved. Yippee for women's shelters...that's huge.

50% as many still being killed--that's a lot of lives still being lost.

In the old days--just 40 years ago, there was no where to go, nothing to do. Too many women who "walked into doors", or "fell down the stairs".

There was a hope shared this evening--that in 35 years from now, Osborne House is not needed. That intimate partner violence be a relic of the past. That Osborne House will be transformed from women's shelter to senior's housing.

The pioneers of women's shelters were confident, outspoken, courageous women who advocated for what they knew was needed...may those of us who follow in their footsteps continue the battle to eliminate the fear of domestic violence.

Stand up. Speak up. Get help. Give help. Talk. Give. Now.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

With appreciation

Last week was Administrative Assistant's week--a chance to formally recognize all the behind the scenes work that makes our practice happen.

The work in the counselling room is the "main course" of the therapy experience. Melanie is the appetizer and dessert. Before a person is in the room with the therapist:
  • s/he had to get information from the website--Melanie updates it.
  • s/he has to call and find out information--Melanie answers the phone
  • s/he has to provide information so the therapist can prepare for the client--Melanie captures the information
  • a new client needs to be welcomed--Melanie is right there.
  • s/he may want to change an appointment or be reminded of the time--Melanie does that too
  • the therapists need copies of things, a supply of books to provide to clients--Melanie does this
  • then I need help with bookkeeping, connecting with suppliers, preparations for the new office--Melanie, again
If you've got the impression that she makes it all possible, you're right. And she does it with a smile. It's fun to come to work because she welcomes us as we come in the door. She is a calming soothing presence on the phone, and provides good information, returns your calls, and looks for the answers and gets back to you if you stump her with a question (and that doesn't happen often). She lets us think that she likes us--and that's a good feeling--and I think she really does, too. Melanie is a gift to Bergen and Associates and the people we serve. If you gather that we are a little fond of her, you're more than a little correct.

I treated her to a special afternoon last week. It was fun to spoil her and remind her of how we value her.

I remember hearing someone say a long time ago that encouragement and appreciation are fuel to a person's soul.

Fuel up someone today!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Perspective 101 - as taught by Donald, age 7

So life has had a few more downs than ups lately--the most and recent obvious one is the rather large and purplish toe on the end of my left foot. The toe that doesn't really bend--or at least without serious discomfort. The toe that is really a small part of my body, but was to have played a rather significant role in the half marathon on May 2nd. This would be the half marathon that I, rather proudly, must say, ran 11 miles on Saturday to prepare for--without collapsing. (Though with more stiffness the next day than I really care to admit). But Sunday I did an ungraceful unintentional pirouette on the stairs that has me hobbling.

So, in the middle of this painful toe thing... (Did I mention that there were more than 25 people ahead of me in line at the minor emergency clinic--and that's before priorization. I'm no fool--sprained toes are well down the priority list--it might have been Thursday before I was seen. Forget that.) Anyways, in the middle of the afternoon with this painful toe thing, as I have a half hour of time to kill, an almost empty computer battery, and some electronic marking to do, I stopped at a local KFC for a soda and an electrical outlet. I hunkered down to the grading, and then he came.

He. Donald. Age 7. Adult teeth--too big for his little mouth, and in various stages of arrival that gave him this curious, beguiling grin. He hopped up in the chair across from me and started talking. It seemed he'd driven in from the out of town for some medical appointment. While what I thought were his grandparents were ordering their food, he chatted with me--whether I wanted to or not. (I did not want to) Told me about his school (didn't like it), favorite subject (gym), and a recent field trip into Winnipeg (I didn't quite follow that one). Told me that the people were his mom and dad, not grandparents (Oops on my part). His mom grinned at him and I as she went to the table, not seeming at all surprised at Donald's choice to visit with a stranger. A while later he scampered off for his chicken and fries...freeing me to work (or so I thought). Letting me get back to the work that I so needed to get done (or so I thought).

Donald came back a few minutes later. After a few more random disclosures, he told me that his "real" mom had died when he was 2, and his "real" dad had also died in a violent tragedy, which he nonchalantly described. He couldn't remember his dad, but sorta remembered his mom. He told the tale of how CFS had placed him with his current family. Then he told me about the sister he had with this family. He wants to be a taxi driver when he grows up. He asked me some questions about my computer and my family. He showed me how a person plays badminton. The work I had to do suddenly seemed insignificant as the two of us talked openly with each other in a refreshing and innocent way, he more honest than any adult.

Suddenly, my toe seemed something to giggle about. The marathon--a minor missed opportunity that will come again. The other "downs" lately...chump change compared to the challenges little Donald has and will face. He didn't seem to be aware of the courage he had to face the day, or the pluck he demonstrated in choosing to visit with a stranger, or the matter-of-fact way he faces his life. The conversation changed from an annoying interruption to a life lesson and a new friend.

Half hour over--time to move on. I stopped by his table on my way out to greet his parents, and compliment Donald with them on his charming demeanor. And I headed out to my car. I had the engine running and was about to pull out when I saw him running up in my rear view mirror. One word, with outstretched arms: "Hug". A quick embrace, and he was gone again.

I had a fun evening gait is neither comfortable nor quick, but there was an unexpected lightness to it. Thank you, Professor Donald.