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Saturday, February 28, 2009A Matter of Principle
If it seems I’ve been bitching about my internship alot lately forgive me, this is yet another one of those venting posts. I promise next week I’ll be back to posting about some of the funnier moments of my life.
I enter this place and a dark ominous cloud settles shrouds me. My salvation lays in my clients, a clinician that has befriended me and a therapist I highly admire. Luckily for me I remind him of his daughter and he has appointed himself my protector. I feel imprisoned. I’m counting down the days until I am out of there. If it weren’t for the clients I feel I'd be abandoning I would’ve gladly risked injury and climbed the barbed wire fence and escaped months ago.
Can someone please remove the hair shirt this female is rocking? My gawd she's all doom and gloomish!
Hi y’all we’re The Supremes no, no, not those Supremes. None of wear wigs and we abhor those shiny dresses. Allergies you know, the fabric gives us a rash. We are the voices in Mia’s head. We say the stuff she wants to say aloud but because she’s on her best behavior decided to keep to herself. We’ll be hijacking this post at will and providing side commentary because poor Mia has been stressed lately which means we got alot to say.
Allow us to formally introduce ourselves to the newer readers (even though you leave no comments we do see you return again and again) and re-introduce ourselves to the regular crowd. Collectively we’re known as The Supremes but individually we are…
Conscious, Subconscious, and Superconscious.
My sensei had just left the room he was frustrated with me. I hadn’t given him the answers he’d wanted. I had refused to go along with what his interpretation of things. I had held my ground. He hates when I do that.
That’ll teach your ass to tell the truth. What can you say about a place where the therapists make fun of their clients behind closed doors in front of your sensei their supervisor and he says nothing? Lovely ain’t it?
As punishment he decided that I was to redo all of the paper work I’d done last week, work that he'd gone over and approved. It's an action meant to intimidate me to show me who is boss. Just like refusing to allow me to type the paper work. He insists I write it manually.
If you ask me that damn cracker is control freak. He had you walking around for 2 weeks with a bunch of folders in your hand. You had to take them with you every where including your lunch break. And what did these precious folders contain? A sheet of paper with the client’s name, one fricking sheet of paper, one single sheet of paper that served no purpose. He made you schlep those folders around simply because he could.
I think he’s trying to break me. To him I am too sure of myself, too proud.
(Russian accent) He will not break you!
He’d just read my process recording notes about a client (The Clementine Orange man ) I’d helped earlier in the week and was questioning my true motive for helping the man.
Dude sometimes a cucumber is just a cucumber and not a sex toy.
Sensei: Why did you help him? What did you gain from it?
Mia: I helped because no one else was around to help him. I gained nothing from it.
Sensei: No Mia what I am asking is what motivated you to help him. What counter transference caused you to help him?
The sensei was trying to say that Mia helped the man out of her own need that she helped him because she identified with an emotional need of the clients. Therefore by helping him Mia was actually helping herself. The concept of helping someone out because it’s the right thing to do and not because of some psychobabble is a foreign concept to this man. Mind you Mia’s the one who actually has a BA in psychology and counseling not him.
Mia: There was no transference. It was just that he needed help and it’s in my nature to help people.
Sensei: No, Mia I want you to examine the real reason you helped him.
(sigh) You’re absolutely right sensei. Mia helped him because no one helped her when she was 8 years old and her mother made chicken gizzards for dinner.Mia hates chicken gizzards! She’s never gotten over the great chicken gizzard tragedy of 1990, when she was forced to consume chicken gizzards because no one reached out to help her and hand her a fucking hamburger. That’s why Mia helped the man it was the inner child in her craving burger but forced to eat chicken gizzards instead. It was that child’s need that Mia was actually responding to when she helped The Clementine Orange man.
Mia: The reason I helped him was because he needed help. Period, no ulterior motive.
Sensei: How did you feel when he said he wished there were more people in the world like you?
Horrified. We shudder to imagine the word filled with a bunch of 4ft 11 smart mouthed, sarcastic individuals like Mia .
Mia: I was surprised and touched.
Sensei: Did it boost your ego?
Oh yes indeed sensei (inhaling deeply) his words stroked her ego to the nth power. At that moment Mia felt like a God capable of vanquishing legions of evil from this earth with a mere glance of her amber colored eyes. Go stand over there in the corner like a good sensei so she can vanquish you.
Mia: Sensei my ego is not so famished for praise that it sucks it up like a hungry babe at a lactating teat.
(snicker) Got Milk? Whoa. Keep up sensei!
Sensei: You’re not understanding what I am telling you.
Here we go again. It’s the same old crap. Since Mia doesn’t agree with him something must be wrong with her. She’s dense.
Mia: I understand what you’re telling me sensei it’s just that in this is not a case of counter transference.
Just tell him it’s about the chicken gizzards girl, ‘cuz you know damn well it is!
Sensei: What about your ego?
What about ego? He’s not here at the moment he’s watching ESPN.
Mia: Look what I got from his comment was this. He was grateful to me for helping him. In his life not too many people have taken the time to help him out when he’s needed it.
Sensei: What makes you think that?
oh shit now done did to yo’self. You gonna make her get all insightful on your ass.
Mia: Well, if he was used to having his needs being met consistently in terms of receiving help he wouldn’t find it so amazing when someone does takes the time out to help him.
Uh huh it’s like if you’re used to meat on a regular basis it’s not a big deal when someone puts a steak in front of you. However if you rarely eat meat the day you get a steak you’re damn skippy you’re going to be happy as all hell. Shit you might even do Michael Flatley’s River Dance.
Sensei: He said that he saw the offering of the orange as an offering of friendship. You do know that you’re not his friend don’t you? He’s just a patient. If a clinician can’t differentiate between the two they are ineffectual.
Ho-ho snap she narrowed her eyes and is shifting in her seat. She’s getting ready to educate your ass son so pay attention!
Mia: Sensei I am aware that I am not his friend in the sense that outside of this clinic we will not be hanging out but while we are in this setting I am his friend. At John Jay…
Oh shit she’s whipping out her psychology training.
Mia: At John Jay we were taught the newer methods of psychology. We were taught that while you’re treating and interacting with your client you are their friend . The reason behind this is that when you treat your client as a friend it promotes bonding and trust between the client and therapist thereby facilitating treatment. It makes it more effective if they can relate to you as a friend rather than a clinician. Research has shown that therapists viewed as friends are seen as warm, caring and inviting whereas clinicians are the opposite and that is when they are ineffectual.
Booyah! Take that homeboy. The girl made the Dean’s list after all. 4.0 baby 4.0 ! Oh man look at the way he stiffened up like someone rammed a poker up his butt. He looks mad.
Sensei: Mia, I feel you’re too casual and informal with the clients. From now I want you to be more formal with them.
Sensei: Yes, you heard me.
Mia: Sir are you asking me to change my personality when dealing with the clients?
How the hell is she supposed to do that? She is supposed to be someone else, someone that’s not her? What the hell ever happened to thine ownself be true?
Sensei: Yes. You’re too informal for a clinician.
Mia: Is that all sir?
Brrrrr is it us or is it freezing in here?
Sensei: For today, yes.
My sensei left the office satisfied with my punishment. He can kiss my hybrid ass if he thinks I’m changing the way I treat the clients. I’m pretty sure my grade will suffer for it but something’s are just a matter of principle.
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2 comment from: christina/ohio, Mia,
Thursday, February 26, 2009The Tradition
There’s a great tradition on the maternal side of my mother’s family. That side of my family is very big on tradition. The tradition i'm writing about today is particulary touching and sweet. One meant to tie us to past generations and remind us of our roots.
The tradition is as follows, every child that is born into the family carries a first and middle name indicative of our heritage. All names by the way are recycled meaning that we are named after one or more of our ancestors. Ancestors that at one time or another settled in Spain and were very, very, amorous and fertile. For example my real name is in homage to the Spaniard and Basque roots. For those tuning in late, Mia has been my nickname since birth. My sister’s name is a shout out to the Irish and French roots, my brother’s to the Scottish roots, and my mother’s to the Bedouins.
My dad is a Nuyorican (Puerto Rican born in New York) of full blooded Puerto Rican descent. Sadly his family abandonded their culture as soon as they set foot in this country. They are so Americanized that they never bothered to continue their traditions in this country. In fact the newer generations don't even understand Spanish. Still pa is very proud of his roots.
My generation on mom's side so far has been very prolific in adding branches to the family tree but they are also Americanized and as such many have forgone the tradition and that worries my mother. As the family historian she worries that future generations will be ignorant of our history.
One of my friends is having a baby and I was discussing the names she had in mind for the little guy with mom when she brought up her family’s naming tradition. Mom expressed her wish that I continue it and just as her grandmother had selected her name, and her great-great-grandmother had chosen my grandmother’s name mom asked if she could select the name of my first born daughter when the time came.
“What would you like to name her?” I asked.
“I was very close to my great-grandmother as a little girl. Remember I told you she was 103 years old when she died? “
I nodded my headed remembering that my mom had told me it was at her feet that mom had first learned of their complex roots and history.
“Isa, right?” I asked.
“That was her nickname, her real name was Isabella de los Ángeles Delissalde ”
“Hey Delissalde! I know that name!”
“Yeah, it's my aunt's name the one we call ya-ya, it’s French.”
"How the hell did she get a nickname like ya-ya from Delissade?"
“ I have no idea. Anywho I’d like your baby's name to be Isabel de los Ángeles.”
I rolled the name around my tongue for a minute. I couldn’t front I liked it. Besides I’d always been fond of the name Isabella. I thought about the name meant in English.
“oh that is pretty…Isabel of the angels. Wow. It sounds better in Spanish ma.
“Yeah it does. You can call her Isa or Izzy for short.”
My boyfriend who until that moment had been quietly listening to our conversation voiced his opinion of the name. He didn’t like it.
“That’s a horrible name.” he said
“This coming from a man whose sister’s name sounds like a nursery rhyme. Clary Mary what the hell is that Sounds like she was named by Dr. Seuss.” she shot back.
“I don't know what my mother was thinking with that name.” He said he prefered a Japanese name for the child he planned on having with me someday.
"Are you of Japanese ancestry?" she asked.
"I see." she said,and to me those 2 words spoke volumes. Honor your own history seemed to be what she'd really wanted to say.
“Still I wouldn’t name my daughter Isabella de los Ángeles.” he sulked.
Mom flashed him a mischevious look with those intimidating black eyes of hers, “and who said that you’re the one that's going to be the father?”
The look on his face was priceless. I couldn’t help but laugh especially since I knew mom was just messing with him. She'd rubbed her thumb across the cleft in her chin, a tell tale sign that she was suppressing a smile. He blushed and then started back pedaling at tremendous speed.
“No, no, I didn’t mean any disrespect m’am. Mia’s right it’s family history. That stuff is really important I wish my family was into its history like yours is. We don’t know squat about ours.” He said.
Mom arched an eyebrow, “Oh, really?” she said her voice dripping with mockery.
My boyfriend broke his eyes away from hers first. He was shook. I bit my lower lip and watched a dimple form in her cheek. Yeah she was going to burst out in laughter any minute now. She turned her head and pretended to look out the window while she twirled one of her auburn ringlets around her finger. Yeah she was defintely teasing him.Finally her shoulders started shaking and she turned around and let loose a peal of laughter. My poor beau didn’t know what to make of it.
“I’m sorry honey.” She said, “I didn’t mean to scare you like that. The naming of a child is a personal. It's just that in my family it really is a family decision.I was just hoping Mia would continue the tradition. I really am sorry I didn't mean to scare you.”
"You're mean." he said releasing a sigh of relief.
"Na, I just got a wicked sense of humor plus I love seeing you blush." she said as she patted his hand.
I looked at my mom and clued her in on something I’d decided awhile ago.
“I love the name and will continue the tradition ma and I’ll make sure my kids do too. As a matter of fact I plan on giving all of my kids your maiden name as part of their name no matter who I marry.”
My mom has a very unsual maiden name even is Spain it is rare. Documentation has shown that the name is of Celtic origin and that after several generations in Spain the Mc suffix was dropped from it. That would also explain the staggering amount of redheads, auburns, and strawberry blondes in my family. I shot my boyfriend a look daring him to say anything derogative about my choice. Unlike my mom I wasn’t playing around. My mom smiled she hadn’t expected that. Seriously the woman is priceless and her entire name deserves to be handed down from generation to generation and remembered as part of their history,after all she does manage to keep this generation on our toes with her sense of humor and wit.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009You Know Nothing About My People
I’m learning a lot from my internship. Things that I’d never been exposed to before as a student.Now that I am considered one of "them” therapists and the likes let their guard down around me and honey, let me tell you the things I’ve seen in this place have saddened me. Racism,class bias, and stereotyping the likes of which I've never seen run rampant in this place. I’ve even been the victim of it myself but when it’s directed at me I shrug it off. I actually don’t mind shattering people’s perception of who and what I am supposed to be like based on my ethnicity. My sensei by the way is one of the people whose perception of me as a Hispanic I am constantly shattering but that's for another post,a funny one.
The thing is that this is coming from professionals who’ve supposedly know better. Who've dedicated their lives to‘scuse me while I twist some of Lady Liberty’s words here… to helping the poor, the disenfranchised,and the huddled masses yearning to be something or other than dysfunctional. As students we’re obligated to take cultural awareness classes and told that we must check our prejudices at the door. I get the distinct feeling the group I work with skipped those classes.
Other than the clinical diagnosis of the clients they service they make no effort to learn about their clients or their culture. They keep themselves apart and ignorant. The result of this is that they aren’t able to connect with the minority clients. Naturally they blame the clients for this,citing it as a lack of trust. They ignore the fact that they make their clients feel way small. They talk in big words on purpose, it's an intimidation tactic. I know because they tried it with me and were stunned to find that my vocabulary was just as extensive as theirs. I don't feel the need to flaunt my education. I'm just Mia from the block and I revel in it and my clients know this which is why they seek me out and open up to me. My superiors are amazed this. I try to tell my superiors that the clients accept me because I am one of them. I know their stories; I have borne witness to them my entire life.
My superiors have never gone to bed hungry because the pantry was bare; they’ve never had to wear third or fourth hand clothing. They’ve never had to pack up their stuff up and move because they’ve had a 72 hour eviction notice taped to their door. They’ve never had to “borrow” electricity because Con Ed shut off their electricity. I may have never gone through this personally but I grew up in a neighborhood where this was a part of every day life for some. Where we were often the one who "loaned" electricty, made care packages for those who were short on food, and gave the evicted a place to sleep until they could get back on their feet. I try to educate my superiors so that they'll better understand our clients but all I get is a patronizing smile and a pat on the head. Screw them.
The other day during a group session we were talking about defining moments in our lives; moments that made us realize that we’d grown up. One of our clients shared her story with us. The young woman revealed that as a homeless teen mother she was once forced to degrade herself for a box of diapers and a couple of cans of infant formula.
Her baby’s father had abandoned her with no warning and she had no family to turn to for help. She couldn’t stay in the furnished room they’d been renting because she didn’t have the money to pay the 75.00 weekly rent. She was dead broke and not due to get paid for several more days. She tried getting a loan from her fellow employees but no one could spare the cash. She'd only been working there for a week so most likely it was a trust issue she figured. Still she counted herself as lucky because she at least had a friend who was willing to let her stay with her and take care of her infant daughter for free while she was at work. Unfortunately her friend was as broke as she was at the moment and couldn’t help her out with what the baby needed. She didn’t want to go to social services and ask for help because she'd run away from the group home she'd been in and afraid they’d put her back in the system and take her baby away from her.
She’d gone to her local bodega hoping to establish a line of credit something bodegas do for good customers. Since she’d been a steady customer, lived on the block, had a job, and a gold chain to leave as collateral she figured it wouldn’t be a problem. She met all the bodega’s requirement for credit. When she’d explain her situation to the owner of the store instructed her to get what she needed.
She only took enough items to hold the baby off until she got paid. When she was done the bodega owner took the formula and diapers from her and motioned her to come to his office in the back of the store. She figured he'd brought her back there to sign a page in the black and white marble composition notebooks that bodegeros used back then to keep track of running tabs. Instead when they got there he locked the door to his office and unzipped his fly. "You know what you have to do.” He told her and motioned for her to get on her knees in front of him. She had no choice, so she did. That’s was when she knew she’d grown up, she was all of 15 years old. “I did what I had to do for my baby. I closed my eyes and pretended it was an ice cream cone.” She said and shrugged her shoulders.
As she told her story I saw several of the women nod their head knowingly. Sadly it's all too common women bartering their bodies and pride for material gain. When they do it for drugs we can shake it off after all it's their choice but when they do it to ensure the well being of a child well that's different. That wounds to the heart. Some of the men hung their heads, anger and shame playing on their faces. I wondered if some of them had abandoned their babies or had taken advantage of woman’s desperation like the bodegero had. I looked up at my so called superiors and saw the look of horror and revulsion on their faces. To their credit they quickly wiped the looks off but I’d already seen it and it made me mad that sympathy had not been one of the looks on their faces. The girl head her head high, as well she should. She looked defiant as if daring anyone to say anything bad about her. I reached out and grabbed her hand and gave it a tight squeeze. "If I had to do it all over again I still would've gotten down on my knees." she said.
Later on alone in our office my superiors discussed the young woman’s revelation not bothering to hide thier feelings from me. They were disgusted. The things that were said weren’t pretty and do not bear repeating here. They mistakenly assumed that the young woman’s revelation would affect her negatively with the other clients in her group. That somehow her story would make them think less of her. They were judging my people by their standards. Even though it was unsaid it was obvious that in their eyes she’d gone down a notch. “How could she?” they asked. “How could she not?" I replied. "You know nothing of my people. No one will shun her. On the contrary they'll treat her with respect because she made the ultimate sacrifice for her child." Of course they didn't believe me.
When we stepped out of the office the group was sitting together having lunch. Some of the older women were around her fussing over her like mother hens. Even the men were being extra gentle with her. I could tell that the group’s behavior towards the young woman surprised my superiors. It wasn’t what they’d expected. The young woman looked up when I came into the room and beamed at me, “Come on Mia come eat with us” she called out to me. “Yeah Mia we’ve got plenty to go around get your ass over here little girl.” One of the older men added. I looked up at my superiors before walking away, “Like I said you know nothing about my people.”
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Monday, February 23, 2009Mr. So & So and The BBM
The names in this story have been disguised to protect the embarrassed. Personally I thought it was one of the funniest things ever. Especially in light of the fact that the main character had been mistakenly detained by the police a few days earlier after a fight broke out in the subway station between 2 rival high schools. The main character however doesn’t seem to share my sense of humor but I love him anyway.
It was late afternoon and Mr. So and So was hard at work in his cubicle when the big black man walked into the office a determined look on his face. The man was tall and built like a pro-wrester he looked around the office, his eyes darting around in search of someone. Several heads popped up out of their cubicles.
“May I help you?” someone asked.
“I’m looking for Mr. So and So” BBM replied.
Mr. So and So slowly unfolded his 6ft frame from his chair. He looked over his cubicle and stared at the big black man. He didn’t recognize the man and was clueless as to how BBM knew his name.
The office manager approached BBM and asked, “Why are you looking for Mr. So and So?”
It was obvious to everyone there that the big black man wasn’t part of the Clearinghouse Publisher’s Sweep Stakes prize-mobile crew especially since he wasn’t carrying a huge card board check and Ed McMahon was nowhere in sight.
“Are you Mr. So and So ?” BBM asked.
“No” the office manager replied in his crisp British accent.
BBM stared at the office manager. Mr. So and So was Hispanic obviously this white man standing in front of him was not Mr. So and So.
BBM noticed the turning of several heads in the direction of Mr. So and So and he smiled. Thanks to them he was certain he knew who Mr. So and So was.
“Who are you?” the manager asked .
“I’m the nigga that’s going to beat the shit out of Mr. So and So.”
“Why?” the manager asked.
“He’s been fucking my girl.”
“Who’s your girl?” Mr. So and So asked, not the wisest query when faced with a jealous BBM if you ask me but nobody did. The fact that Mr. So and So was bumping uglies with so many women that BBM’s girlfriend was just another insignificant piece of tail seemed to enrage BBM even more than he was already.
BBM glared at Mr. So and So as he stormed his way across the floor his long legs eating up the carpet. Given the size of the two men this would go down as the clash of the titans.
BBM was feet away from his goal when Mini Man (he’s barely taller than me and rather wiry) came out of nowhere and flew through the air like an avenging ninja and judo chopped BBM right across his windpipe. Deprived of air BBM went down like a ton of bricks. Security arrived within seconds and circled BBM and Mr. So and So was ushered into his supervisor’s office.
“ I must admit I’m surprised given the fact that you’re always talking so much about your girlfriend.” The office manager said to Mr. So and So.
Mr. So and So looked up in astonishment at his supervisor he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His supervisor stared back waiting for Mr. So and So to say something.
“Are you fucking his girl?” he asked.
“No! I’m not fucking anyone! I don’t know what he’s talking about. Ask him who is girl is.”
The manager stepped outside the office and spoke to BBM. He came back in and supplied Mr. So and So with the woman’s name. Mr. So and So shook his head, he didn’t recognize the name. Until that moment he’d assumed that BMM must have been the new boyfriend of one of his many female friends. Since the police had shown up and were ringing BBM the supervisor felt safe in placing Mr. So and So in front of BBM.
Mr. So and So addressed BBM, “Dude, I don’t even know her.”
BMM scowled at Mr. So and So. He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket found what he was looking for and tossed the cell phone at Mr. So and So’s feet.
“So what is your number doing in her cell phone?” BMM asked.
The office manager bent down and picked up the cell phone and handed it to Mr. So and So. It was the number to his direct line. Mr. So and So stared at it for a second.
“She must be a customer." he told BMM.
The supervisor walked over the nearest computer and accessed Mr. So and So’s accounts and sure enough the woman’s number appeared there. After looking at his notes Mr. So and So remembered her.
“I’ve never met your girl friend. She called about renting one of our storage units. She said she was leaving you and wanted to come into the nearest facility. I scheduled a visit for her. She must’ve kept my number in her phone in order to call me back.”
BMM looked heart broken. What a crappy way to find out you’re about to be dumped. No one wanted to press charges against him considering the circumstances so BMM was free to go.
Later on while Mr. So and So and I were talking I joked that considering his police detention and this incident he was living his life wrong and just in case he should inquire as to where Mini Man had gotten his judo skills and sign up for a few classes. Mr. So and So was not amused. Of course it didn’t help that I was laughing hard as hell picturing Mini Man flying through the air. "You're so messed up Mia!" he fumed making me laugh even more.
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Friday, February 20, 2009The Clementine
In her quest to make us better people my mother has always taught us that for every action there is an effect. People are affected by what we say and do no matter how inconsequential we consider our actions.Yesterday I had viable proof that the woman knows what she's talking about. So take heed people!
Last year I was walking down the hall of the clinic I intern at and I spotted one of our older clients. I’ve always liked the man he is sweet and soft spoken and every time I see him he makes me smile. I admit it I have a soft spot for the man. From the very first time I’d met him I’d sensed an aura of sadness and loneliness around him and because of this always went out of my way to greet him and talk to him before the start of our group sessions.
On this particular day I was rushing to a session when I saw him. As we walked past each other I pinky waved and smiled at him, “Hey would you like a Clementine?” He stopped dead in his tracks and seemed hesistant. “Stay right there” I told him as I ducked back into the office. Several seconds later I popped back out with a beautiful Clementine orange and handed it to him. “Here ya go, enjoy!” I said. He looked at the Clementine and then at me and gifted me with one of his rare smiles as I walked away.
Yesterday as I was getting ready to sit in on a group he came in looking for my mentor or his primary therapist, either one suited his purpose. I asked if he needed something and he explained that he’d been instructed by his group counselor to look into some support groups. I offered to help him since both his primary therapist and my mentor were busy elsewhere.
“Aren’t you busy?” he asked. “I’d rather help you” I said, “Come on let’s go into this empty office. I have my laptop with me.We can Google what you need.”
As we researched the support groups he was interested in and Googled directions he paused to look at me. “You know Mia I still remember the time you gave me that Clementine.”
To be honest I had forgotten all about it, to me it wasn’t a big deal. I'd remembered he loved oranges and because he adheres to a Kosher diet he couldn’t eat a lot of the snacks we keep on hand at the clinic that was all.
“ It tasted so good." he continued “But it was more than just an orange to me. It was the symbol behind it. I needed that that day. Seeing that you took the time to think about me and go back and get the orange just for me touched me. To me the act was an extension of friendship; it was an offering, physical proof about how much you truly care about us and I thank you for that.”
“It was nothing” I replied. He shook his head and smiled, “No, it was something and the fact the you do things like that all the time without realizing how you affect people makes it all the more special." The way he said it made my heart shift a little.
“Mia, you’re very helpful to people and there should be more people like you in this world. The world would be a much better place if there were more Mia’s in this world.”
That statement pretty much did me in.You have to realize that this was coming from a man who rarely speaks. He prefers to sit silent in the background as if he's afraid to be noticed and here he was sharing his feelings with me out of the blue. I had to look away and focus my eyes on the laptop screen because his words touched me so deeply I felt tears forming behind my eyes. My first impluse was to hug him but you know we have boundaries at my internship, things like that aren't allowed so instead I touched his shoulder and smiled. "Thank you" I said he ducked his head and smiled at me, "It was nothing." he replied in yiddish.
But it was something to me. His words came at a time when due to sensei I'd been filled with doubt about my choice of profession. Later on when he'd gone and I'd reflected on our conversation I realized that his heartfelt words had left an imprint on my heart. I knew that I’d remember that moment for the rest of my life. Just as my simple offer of the Clementine had affected him the sentiment of his words had affected me.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009It Was A Good Day
According to the family grapevine the bad days had been out numbering the good. She hoped he was having a good day. She studied the photo. It was a recent photo and his face still bore traces of the handsome young man he’d been. He was one of the few men she’d ever met in her life whose name suited him. Angel, his name was Angel and next to her grandmother, his mother, he had the prettiest blue eyes she’d ever seen. But it wasn't just his striking good looks that made her think his name suited him, it was his personality as well. He was laid back and had an aura of kindness and gentleness that always surrounded him. In all her life she'd never heard him raise his voice in anger.
He’d always been quick of wit and smile flashing the deep dimples that were the family trademark. He’d taught her how to ride on his ranch when she was a little girl and when he saw that she’d inherited his love of horses he gifted her with a chestnut brown gelding of her own. For as long as she could remember he’d called her La hija de mi Corazon (daughter of my heart).
Mom took in a deep breath and steadied herself as she dialed the number to her cousin’s home in Aragon. Her cousin answered the phone she was happy my mother had called. It would do him good to hear his favorite niece’s voice she said.
“Prima he’s not very strong I won’t be bringing him back to the United States, he’s gotten worse.”
My mother nodded her head as if her cousin could see it on the other side of the phone. She swallowed hard fighting back tears. She’d recently lost one of her beloved uncles, Angel’s younger brother and she knew she’d be losing this one as well.
“I understand prima.”
I listened as my mother’s Spanish took on a different accent from the Spanish she speaks at home to my father. My dad has a hard time understanding Spanish but when she speaks it with the Castilian accent she grew up speaking Spanish with it’s harder for him. As a result she’s adopted the Puerto Rican accented Spanish of his family. Still there are times when she’s unguarded that she has a slight accent. This was one of those times. I love these times. Her Spanish is soothing and gentle.
“I’m going to put you on speaker phone he’s been having a hard time holding onto things” her cousin said.
“’tabien (ok)” mom replied.
“Bendicion Tio Angel ” (blessings uncle)
“Dios y la virgin Maria te me bendiga” ( God and the Virgin Mary bless you), y que los angeles te favorescan (may the angels favor you.)
"Gracias, tio." (thank you uncle)
“Who are you?” he asked.
“She’s your niece Maggie papa.” his daughter said.
“You’re my niece. I’m sorry I don’t know who you are. I can’t remember much anymore. They tell me I’ve been sick.”
“It’s okay Tio I just wanted to hear your voice.”
“Whose child are you?” he asked
“I’m Delia’s daughter."
“Yes. Your sister.”
“Delia, the little one, my sister.”
“Do you look like Delia?”
“No sir I don’t."
“ You have such a lovely voice. You sound just like mama.”
There was some noise in the background as his daughter pulled a frame photo off the wall to give him a visual of my mother.
“Here papa this is Maggie.” his daughter said.
“You have beautiful eyes, very dark and you’re very fair. You are the spitting image of mama except you don’t have blue eyes or blonde hair. ”
“You are very lovely. Oh yes we are definitely related, you look like me.”
“Yes I do.”
“You take after the Irish side of the family just like me.”
“That’s what abuela (grandmother) always said.”
“Whose child are you?” he asked again.
“She had long red hair, beautiful hair. So tiny. Are you small like her?”
“No, I am several inches taller.”
“My mother is tall.”
“Yes, abuela was 5ft 10, very tall tio.”
“I am tall too. Though I think I am shrinking.” he joked.
Mom frowned, she couldn’t imagine her uncle shrinking.
“Is he really shrinking prima?” she asked.
her cousin laughed.
“Ay dios mio, this man! No Maggie he is not shrinking. He’s still 6ft 8.”
“I feel like I’m shrinking or maybe it’s just that I’m old. Old people shrink. We leave this world the same way we came in, small, baggy skin, bald, toothless, and wearing diapers.”
“Hija, Where are you from?” he asked mom.
“I live in the United States in New York tio.”
“Why are you over there? A young woman should not live far from her family, especially her tios. You should come back home to Spain. How can I watch over you if you are over there?”
“It’s okay tio I have someone to watch over me here.”
Mom sighed, her uncle did not remember her being married, and she doubted he’d remember my father or her kids today. The last time she’d spoken to her uncle he had asked about them all, recalling them in great detail.
“Yes, tio I am married.”
“Are you happy mi bella (my beauty) does he treat you well?”
“I am very happy; he is a very good man.”
“I’ll have to meet him. If I don’t approve of him I will bring you back home.”
“Yes sir. I heard my cousins have been calling to check up on you.”
the last time her brother had called he hadn’t remembered him at all and he’d been hurt.
“People call me all the time but I can’t remember them all. “
“That’s okay papa; they all love you and just want to hear the sound of your voice.”
“I’ve been ill.”
“I know” his daughter replied.
“Do you love me too mi bella?” he asked of my mother.
“With all my heart” she replied.
“I know I love you very much as well. My chest feels warm.”
“Are you okay tio, are you feeling sick?”
He laughed it was a weaker version of the deep laugh he’d always had.
“I am fine nena. It’s the love I have for you that is making me warm.”
Mom and her cousin laughed. He was always a charmer.
“Tan Bella que eres mi nina ( you’re so beautiful little girl).Will you come visit me in Spain?”
“If I can tio.”
“I’ll take you riding in the mountains hija de mi Corazon. You always loved horses . We won’t tell mama I let you ride bareback. You know she hates that. Young ladies are never supposed to ride without a saddle.”
Thirty minutes later ma hung up the phone and sat in silence. It was a good day. Tio Angel had remembered her. He remembered how they rode and how they’d painted side by side. He remembered how she’d snuggle in his lap and star gaze. He remembered the charm bracelet he’d brought her as a child and how every year on her birthday he’d added a charm. Most of all he remembered how much they’d loved each other.
Mom was far away in her thoughts when dad approached. “Babe, how’d it go?” he asked with more than a hint of concern on his face. Mom looked up at him and smiled wiping a tear from her eye. “It was a good day, a very good day.” She replied.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009The Body of Christ
Is accepting Holy Communion under false pretenses a sin? If so my grandfather is going to have some ‘splaining to do.
Grandpa had been in the hospital for five days, five days with no solid food. He was living on jello, apple juice, tea (which he hates), and clear chicken broth. He was hungry, cranky and didn’t give a flying fig who knew about it so when the Catholic priest entered his room and asked if he wanted to receive Holy Communion a light went off in my grandfather’s head. Never mind that the last time he’d been in church was over 50 years ago.
There was no love lost between him and the Catholic Church. The church had made it very clear what it had thought about his illegitimate status when he was a child. He’d only made his first communion at the age of 14 in this country because his mother begged him to and the priests here didn’t care about the circumstances surrounding his birth, they only cared about his soul. He never set foot in a church again after that day but this Sunday the church had come to him and grandpa was determined to take advantage of it.
He watched as the priest approached him with the communion wafer in hand and instantly remembered what he was supposed to say. My mother shook her head slightly not quite believing what her father was about to do.
“This is the body of Christ” said the priest as he placed in my grandfather’s mouth.
“Amen”, my grandfather replied.
The priest kneeled down and began to pray not taking notice that my grandfather was furiously chewing the communion wafer. Mom opened her eyes wide and arched an eyebrow at her father. He continued chewing and smirked at her when she covered her eyes with her hand.
When the priest left the room my grandfather smiled, “Ahh that was good!” he exclaimed.
“Daddy you’re not supposed to receive the Eucharist unless you’ve made your first communion.”
“Maggie, my mother was a Spaniard; of course I made my communion! I gave in to my mother when I was a teenager. She was afraid I’d get killed out here she wanted to make sure I’d get into heaven if that happened.”
“So then you know you’re not supposed to chew it daddy!”
“Maggie that was the first piece of solid food I’ve had in five days. The priest was lucky I didn’t ask him to smear some butter on it.”
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6 comment from: christina/ohio, Mia, Goggles Piasano Ritardo, Mia, Goggles Piasano Ritardo, Mia,
Monday, February 16, 2009Who's On First?
The Bengali security guard had just given us a lecture on Bangladesh and its history when he turned his attention to one of the social workers.
“What are you?” he asked.
“I’m African-American” she replied
“Really? I love Africa I spent time there when I was younger. Where are you from?”
“No, I mean where were you born?”
A look of confusion crossed over his face. He decided to try another tact.
“Where are your parents from?”
“Down south.” She quickly replied.
“Where were your parents born?” he asked certain he would receive the answer he was expecting.
“What about your grandparents?”
“Alabama” she confirmed as she unwrapped a stick of gum and slid it into her mouth.
He narrowed his eyes and stared at her.
“You’re African-American right?”
“Uh huh” she said in between cracking her gum.
“Where in Africa is your family from?”
She stared up at him as if he had insulted her.
“My family is from the South!”
“Hell no, they’re from Georgia!”
“But you told me you’re African-American!”
“Where in Africa?”
“What? I’m not from Africa! I told you my family is from the south!”
I chuckled and walked off leaving them to sort it out for themselves.
I was reminded of the Abbott and Costello comedy routine ”Who’s On First”.
Labels: a day in the life
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3 comment from: christina/ohio, , Mia,
Wednesday, February 11, 2009If You Can Laugh At It, You Can Survive It
One of our support group clients sat across from me casually discussing her sister’s drug addiction. “I’ve got a funny story to tell you.” She said reaching for my hand. She squeezed my hand and closed her eyes recalling the event. I knew it was going to be a good one, she hadn’t even started her story and she was already laughing. Her laughter was infectious.
I smiled in anticipation.
Her sister’s drug addiction had gotten so bad that she was not above stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down in order to get drugs. My client had been in a deep sleep when she awoke to the sensation of one of her eyelids being pried open. My client looked up at her sister and asked “What are you doing?” the sister responded that she wanted to borrow my client’s contact lenses. My client was shocked that despite being caught her sister continued to calmly poke her in the eye in an attempt to fish the lens out. My client yelled at her sister,“Well can you wait 'til I’m up to get them; they’re still in my eye?”
My client knew that her sister didn’t actually want to borrow the lenses she knew her sister wanted to sell them for drugs.“I can’t believe she wanted to sell them for drugs.” She said and laughed. By the time she’d finished her story everyone in the group were howling with laughter so much so that one of the other therapists at the clinic came into the room and asked that we keep it down. Slowly the other members began opening up and shared some of their funnier moments in dealing with addicted family members.
Even though the circumstances that had brought them together were sad they were all able to laugh and I admired them for that, it reminded me of a Bill Cosby quote, “If you can laugh at it, you can survive it”.
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Friday, February 06, 2009Pissed Off As Hell
It was rush hour and the bus was crowded yesterday morning so when I felt someone nudge me I didn’t give it too much thought. I turned to see who it was and had to look up in order to look into the face of the person that had nudged me. Something about the way the tall man looked at me didn’t feel right. I moved away from him and made my way towards the rear exit of the bus, my stop was coming up.
As I made my way down the stairs I felt a heavy weight in the middle of my back. Someone had pushed me with all their might down the stairs and into on coming traffic. I'll give you 3 guess as to who pushed me. If you guessed the tall man you're correct. Maybe I would’ve been bounced between a car or two, or maybe I would've only lost some teeth and busted my face open when my face finally made contact with the road.
Luckily for me my guardian angel was on the ball; a truck stopped right in front of me as I flew through the air and broke my fall preventing me from falling directly in front of traffic. Ever heard the expression "I feel like I've been hit by a truck"? I kind of sort of now know what it means on a small scale. I hit the side of the truck full force with my body. OOmph! That hurt!
Thinking he had knocked the wind out of me the man jumped on me and tore the book bag off my shoulder. I managed to turn myself around and hold onto one strap of the bag with my hand and fight him off with my other hand. The dude was trying to hit me. “Cabron, let go of my fucking bag!” I yelled at him and then let loose a string of curses in English and Spanish thank you very much that would’ve made a sailor proud. Our struggle continued until my grip slipped and he took off running. I quickly gave chase; he looked over his shoulder and seemed shocked that I was running after him and gaining on him. Jogging does the body good. I wasn’t chasing him because the bag contained essentially my academic life. I was chasing him due to the principal of the matter, hello the bastard had pushed me into rush hour traffic! I was pissed off as hell .
“I am so going to fuck you up when I catch you!” I yelled at him. All of a sudden a Mass Transit Authority worker came out of nowhere and tackled the would be robber from the side. My book bag flew through the air and I was sure the lap top would be shattered on impact. I snatched my bag off the floor and rushed towards the man ready to dispense a very thorough ass kicking when a pair of arms wrapped themselves around me , “Calmate nena, calm down little girl .” where the hell did he come from? Another MTA worker said as he pulled my back towards his chest. By the time the cops got there several people were restraining me in order to keep me from hitting the guy. When he saw the approaching cop cars the robber panicked and tried to fight his way out of the situation and got his ass handed to him by the MTA guy.
The officers were pretty quick about it and as soon as I’d given my statement and thanked everyone for their help I got on the next bus and headed to my internship. My laptop by the way survived without a scratch. I wasn’t so lucky, I am all sore and bruised from running into the truck. I'm still pissed off as hell.
Labels: bus stories
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5 comment from: Tapsalteerie, , christina/ohio, Goggles Piasano Ritardo, Mia,
Wednesday, February 04, 2009I’ve Got Some Real Good Second-person Singular Pronouns For Sale
“The patient can’t be seen here he doesn’t speak a word of English and none of the social workers speak Spanish.” My sensei informed the substance abuse counselor at our weekly staff meeting. “I’ve been saying this all along we need to refer him somewhere else. We’ve wasted valuable treatment time here.”
There was no mistaking that when the counselor said “we” he actually meant “you”.
My sensei didn’t take kindly to that. He ordered the new counselor to write a letter in Spanish no less to the client referring him to another treatment center. The counselor glared at my sensei, “I don’t know any Spanish. No one here knows Spanish.” He muttered. “Just do it.” My sensei replied.
When the meeting was over we all spilled out into the hallway. The counselor was fuming.
I had to do something for him because he's a good guy. He's the type of therapist I aspire to be. I had to do something because time was of the essence for the client seeking treatment. He'd hit rock bottom.
I cleared my throat to get the counselor's attention and motioned him to follow me to the other end of the “L” shaped hallway where it was dark and we were certain to be alone.
“What’s up?” he asked.
I glanced around making sure no one was within ear shot. I didn’t want us to be over heard.
“I can help you with the letter. Write down what you want to say and I can translate it into Spanish for you.” I whispered.
His eyes opened wide, “You speak Spanish?!”
“Shhh keep it down. I don’t want,” I jerked my head in the direction of the program director,
“ her to know.” I whispered.
“Oh my god”, he whispered back, “you speak Spanish?”
The level of astonishment in his voice made me smile.
“I read it and write it too.”
His eyes were about to pop out of his head.
“You’re bi-lingual!” He said with a huge grin on his face.
He made it sound as if it was something exotic. Hiding in the shadows of the hallway and whispering made me feel anything but exotic, I felt down right criminal.
My eyes darted nervously around the corridor.
“Uh yeah I am. Don’t tell anybody. ”
He gave me a look of pure reverence. I swore he was going to go down on a knee and kiss my ring.
“Shit you’re like gold in this place. Why are you keeping it a secret?”
Several months ago the director rounded up all of the interns with Spanish surnames like cattle and locked them away in the in-take office. The majority of the interns protested that they weren’t fully bilingual they couldn’t read or write it but she didn’t care. If you could string more than 5 sentences in Spanish it was good enough for her. When she approached me my fight or flight instinct kicked in. I had a feeling she was up to something so I fibbed, I said I didn’t speak a word of Spanish.
Look I know it wasn’t right but c’mon I haven’t busted my butt in school for all these years just to sit in a poorly lit office filling out paper work because no one had the foresight to hire bilingual staff to work that department. It seems I made the right choice when I fibbed, the interns with the Spanish surnames haven’t been seen since. Oh sure occasionally one will wander out of the in-take office in search of a signature shielding their eyes with paper cut scarred hands but as of yet not one of them has worked with an actual patient.
“Seriously why are you keeping it a secret?” he asked again.
I arched an eyebrow at him. He looked over to where my sensei and the director stood talking.
“Do you see any other Hispanic intern at this staff meeting; heck do you see any them at any staff meeting? For that matter how many are actually treating patients? ”
His mouth formed a perfect “O”. I watched as his thoughts flittered across his face. Finally it dawned on him.
“Oh shit they’re all doing in-take.”
I slowly nodded my head and smiled.
“It’ll be our secret.” he said. " I promise I won't tell you're bi-lingual."
We stopped talking when one of the interns walked past us.
"I'll be in touch." he whispered.
I nodded and left him standing alone as I walked away from him and deeper into the shadows of the hallway. Our transaction was done. I felt like a drug dealer. Pssttt oye, mira tu I’ve got some real good second-person singular pronouns for sale.
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Monday, February 02, 2009The Sky
I often find myself staring at the sky from my window mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of colors, the sun, the moon, and the stars. I find that it calls to me, soothes me, and spurs me to dream.
The sky also dares me to hang out my seventh floor window camera in hand hoping to capture the beauty I see on film. Did I mention that I’m afraid of heights? Here are a few of my favorite shots from the past couple of months. No special filters were used, the special effects were provided by mother nature herself.
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