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Archive for October, 2010

we’ll take some crab cakes to go

I just got back from a trip to beautiful British Columbia with my mum. We spent just under a week touring the lovely cities of Victoria and Vancouver. I think I kinda fell in love with Victoria. Just a little. Downtown Victoria had lovely shops, beautiful views of the Pacific ocean, sightings of the mountains near Seattle, kind people, and amazing hiking trails. And because of the fantastic people I know living there (or in the area), I would seriously consider moving out there, save for one problem: the amount of rain and lack of sun. I am not sure how I would manage going sometimes for over a month without seeing the sun. Even though I am not a big fan of snow, at least I still can count on seeing the sun a few days a week even in the winter months. So for now, Victoria will have to be a favourite vacation spot, and not my next home.

The trip itself was quite fantastic. Mum and I kept ourselves quite busy.

Itinerary
day one: flight, grabbed rental car, toured Butchart Gardens, made it to the hotel after getting quite lost, drove into downtown Victoria and went to dinner at Ferris’ Oyster Bar with Mysha, crashed for the night
day two: 8:30am hike to China Beach, lunch, hike around East Sooke Park, dinner at The Garlic Rose, and sleepover at Mysha’s apartment
day three: toured around downtown Victoria, did some shopping, and had dinner with Mysha at Nautical Nellie’s.
day four: took a bus and the ferry across to Vancouver, checked into hotel, found our way in the wind and rain to the tugboats to take us to Granville Island where we shopped, toured the local market (FRESH SEAFOOD GALORE), had dinner at The Sandbar (wonderful restaurant!), and took the last tugboat back just in time to discover an old episode of Buffy on TV!
day five: toured downtown Vancouver, in the Gas Town and China Town areas, where I bought myself some unique  jewellery, then met up with Donna and her mum for some tea & dessert, afterwhich they dropped us off at Stanley Park where we toured around for a bit, and had our final dinner abroad at Joe Fortes.
day six: home!

During the trip we met some interesting people. At our hotel, one of the staff, Brianne, made us feel so welcome. She always approached us upon our return to the hotel to hear about our day, and genuinely had a good laugh at our crazy trek down Willis Point Road  (yes, we went to the end of the road) and Ross Durrance Road. We met a First Nations man whose beautiful wood carvings we admired in a store in downtown Victoria. Mum loved one in particular and bought it, but the carving was actually done by the man’s cousin, who taught him everything he knew about carving. This man told us about the craft of carving, what types of wood he used, and the stories behind the animals in the carving. Alex, one of the hotel staff in Vancouver, impressed our socks off with the knowledge he had of the area. He was born in Toronto but moved to Vancouver and now lives in Gas Town. He recommended many shops to visit, and restaurants to eat at — all of which were just fantastic. And on top of that, he was able to cheer my mum up when she was in a royally-grumpy mood! Our tug-boat driver was a very talkative gentleman who told us all about the Olympics when they were in Vancouver – he showed us Athlete’s Village (which was the set of condos that the athletes stayed in), the remnants of the Ocean Construction Supplies cement factory (which is staying as a cultural reminder that Granville Island used to be an industrial-complex), and the new condos lining the waterside which are very pro-green. We also briefly chatted with two women, one of whom had travelled to literally 8 different countries in a matter of days on business, and had managed to stop in Vancouver for dinner with her cousin (one of her last remaining relatives). We wished her safe travels. All of the people we happened to meet during our travels were very kind and interesting. This idea helps to quell (BtVS reference, anyone?) the fears I have of travelling alone, as solo travel is definitely a goal of mine.

For pictures of my trip, check out my facebook album.

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ROLE-PLAY. I’ve never been a fan of role-plays. While I absolutely understand the importance they hold for learning and practicing skills, I cannot bring myself to feel comfortable doing them. It might be the ‘acting’ part of it. Regardless of my feelings about role-plays, I am going to use this opportunity to reflect on the session we did in class.

When I took on the role of the counsellor, I had no idea what type of client to expect. The peer whom I was working with, T, indicated she had read her client profile and was ready to begin. We started the session, to which I introduced myself, briefly reviewed the time limits and confidentiality with her, and then asked how she was that day. As the session progressed, the facts and responses that T was passing along to me were really confusing me as to what the situation was. On the one hand, T was saying that she had a current boyfriend whom she was having troubles with, because he was reminding her of her ex-husband. When she continued to go back and forth in discussing these two men in her life, I asked her if she would like to focus on her ex, or on her current boyfriend. She replied neither, but that her current situation had to do with her current boyfriend. So I inquired into her situation, and discovered she was a 52-year old woman living in a shelter who had been arrested for assaulting her boyfriend. I wanted to make sure T felt supported, and so I asked she would like an advocate to support her through the court process. T also expressed feelings of worthlessness and not having many friends, but that she enjoyed baking, and so we briefly discussed how she might use baking as a means to make friends (particularly with the other women in the shelter) and as a means of self-care. During the session I had forgotten about time-keeping, and therefore wrapped the session up quicker than I had wanted.

Overall I was quite happy with how I handled the role-play activity. One thing I noticed, was how utterly lost I felt throughout the session. I think I felt that the client was feeding me all this information, but I did not know exactly what she wanted from me, which was throwing me off. While I am no stranger to women calling the crisis line just to talk (ie: give a run-down of their day), in this role-play session I felt as though I should be discovering some ground-breaking revelation of what the client needed. But I should have just focussed more on what she was telling me, as I think I would have felt more calm and grounded had I done this.

In terms of the feedback I received from my peers, they all indicated that I did well. They noted that I had a calming tone to my voice, that I conveyed openness, made good eye-contact with the client, and was able to build comfort. My peers also commented on my attention to detail, as well as the analysis of the client’s situation from a feminist, intersectional, anti-oppression framework. What I need to work on is remembering to check the time, to avoid saying ‘umm’ and ‘like’, and to check in with the client’s feelings more (as I was confirming factual information more than asking about T’s feelings).

I’d like to take this feedback and use it for the next role-play counselling session. Also, I have been transferred into the counselling program at my placement (very exciting) and therefore I will be gaining more practice in one-on-one counselling which will be beneficial (and scary!).

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The Man I Used to Know

Running, laughing, screaming, falling, crying.
Picked up, dusted off, spoken to, hugged.
As a child I admired and feared you.
You stood tall, strong, and seemed to control the way the world turned.
A smile for when you were happy to see me / an even bigger smile when I was happy to see you / a mischievious grin when pulling a prank / a silly grin when telling a joke / a giant’s smile accompanied by a booming laugh, this is what I remember about the man I used to know.

Cement walls and crowded halls.
It’s been too long.
Where are your puzzles, your fish, your reading glasses, your jokes?
“You staying out of trouble?”
“Is it free?”
“It’s those damn ducks, they’re back again!”
These are the things I miss about the man I used to know.

Lying there, I see only a shadow of what you once were.
Eyes blank and glossy.
A smile, once permanently etched on your face, now creeps up so infrequently and briefly I question whether it was there at all.
The man I used to know is gone.
I see fleeting glimpses of him.
I hope he is reminded of this man when he looks at the pictures.
Because this man was brilliant, witty, caring, considerate, strong, and warm.
As a child I admired and feared you.
As an adult I admire and fear for you.
The man I used to know.
My grandfather.

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1. Someone’s blog entry today read:
“It’s GREAT to be alive!” When is the last time you woke up in the morning and felt like saying that expression? When is it that you woke up with a smile on your face? What would it take for that to happen to you again? Do it!
What I love about this is how simple and instructional it is. Think hard. When were you last real happy? Like REAL happy! Not just pleased, or content. When did you last smile without realizing you were smiling? When did you last laugh so hard your stomach hurt? Who do you feel most happy around? Why were you so happy? What will it take to feel like that again? Got it? Now go do it.

2. In response to the multiple youth suicides over the last month and a half, I came across this article which looks at the tolerance of hate in Western (specifically American) culture.

3. This pizza looks absolutely mouth-watering!

4. On Thanksgiving Monday I went to visit my grandpa, who I had not seen since the end of May. My grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago, and this past June he moved out of the home he shared with my grandma and into a government-run facility for long-term care of seniors. The facility is called LeisureWorld. Sure, this name is suitable for the half of the facility which houses seniors who are still mobile, still active and essentially still ‘with it’. But for the other half of the facility, it really doesn’t work.

To be honest, I had not gone to visit my grandpa because I was scared. When my mum had moved her dad into the facility, I remember the look on her face when she was describing the facility, his room, his surroundings, the other people there. It freaked me out. And the thought of going there to see my grandpa in a place where he didn’t really belong, where he was separated from his loved ones, where he would eventually die, was effing scary. So yeah, I put off going to see him, I made plans and excuses and didn’t find the courage to go until this weekend. Thanksgiving dinner just wasn’t the same without him there — we didn’t hear the usual “as long as it’s free” jokes, or hear his booming laugh, or feel our hearts give a little sigh when he would call Grammy “little girl” after so many years together. So I felt it was time to go.

You know what? It was just as scary as I thought it would be. It was extremely intimidating walking into the facility, where hallways are clogged with seniors in wheelchairs, most of them staring blankly, some asking you to help them, others asking you to take them with you, and still others just happy to see people. As we entered my grandpa’s room, we found him asleep on the bed, and I immediately noticed how skinny he was. He hasn’t been eating much over the last few months. My grandma gently woke him, and we all hugged and kissed him our hello’s, to which I got a smile, and silently hoped real hard that he remembered me as we embraced.

Anyway, overall the visit went well. My grandpa made very little eye contact, and most of what is said to him does not always register. He’s trying though, I can tell. My mum and grandma decorated his room with pictures of his family, of his life as a pilot, of his favourite dog, and other pictures. I snapped a few quick shots of these. I’m in the process of a poem, but it’s not ready yet.

5. I’ve fallen behind on posting about my yoga challenge. I’ll get back on that soon.

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I was very happy that today’s class focussed on revisiting counselling skills from first year, as well as elaborating on those skills and terminologies. What I want to focus on in this journal entry is the need for counsellors to be self-reflective in their work and practice. In class we talked about women in crisis and crisis intervention. Margaret then posed a question for the class: she asked us to think about how we, as counsellors, have managed in our field thus far. What emotions do we feel equipped to handle from our clients? What issues can we openly and non-judgmentally discuss? Do we harbour any biases or judgments? Do certain issues make us uncomfortable? So I began to contemplate my position on these questions.

During my time on the crisis line, I have encountered many different kinds of women, each of whom expresses themselves and handles stress and crisis differently. I have spoken to and/or provided support to women who are very open about their feelings and thoughts, to women who are so angry and frustrated they do nothing but yell/scream/cry into the telephone, to women who are completely silent on the line, to male crank callers, etc. From my conversations, there are a few things I have learned about myself, what I can deal with, and what I struggle with as a counsellor. I feel comfortable (maybe not the right word) speaking with clients who are angry, who are yelling, who are crying, or who are very open about their feelings/lives. I also have developed my skills at setting boundaries and limitations with male crank callers, which was something I initially felt very uncomfortable with. What I struggle with (ie: sometimes I find myself not knowing how to respond) is speaking with clients who are in a deep sense of despair or who engage in self-harm behaviours as a coping mechanism.

I interpret despair as hopelessness, as the complete loss of hope. It is an emotion that has the power to send people into crisis and can feel as though it is all-consuming. I find it difficult to know what to say to a client who is in a state of despair, because all I want to say is “Don’t worry, everything will be alright”. But I cannot say this – I don’t have any authority over her life, nor do I know if things will be alright. I know that I should offer support through reflecting on her strengths and referring her to resources in the community, but most of the time this doesn’t seem like enough.

While I do not harbour any judgments on self-harm as a coping mechanism, there is something about it that I find difficult to discuss. Particularly, I have struggled to respond to clients who discuss their cutting behaviour. I understand that cutting provides relief of emotional/psychological/physical pain by substituting it for an intense focus on the physical. It can provide the individual with a sense of control when perhaps they feel none. What is interesting however, is that the calls I have taken in which suicide was discussed, I felt more able to handle that discussion than a conversation with a client about cutting. This is something I would like to investigate further in my own self-reflection.

This week in Mandy’s class, in Working With Women Experiencing Sexual Violence, we watched the film The Many Trials of One Jane Doe. The story of Jane Do really got me reflecting on the social systems that we as citizens trust and rely on for our safety, protection and well-being. If in our most vulnerable states, we have to depend on systems that are racist, sexist, classist (etc), how can we expect proper maintenance of our rights and proper care of our safety, health and security? This is why we are going through this training and learning in the AWCCA program –> because our clients will be women/men/youth/children who will be struggling against systems that are oppressing them, and as counsellors we need to be aware of this.

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Naomi Rose Ebersol, aged 7
Marian Stoltzfus Fisher, aged 13
Anna Mae Stoltzfus, aged 12
Lena Zook Miller, aged 8
Mary Liz Miller, aged 7

On October 2nd 2006, Charles Carl Roberts entered an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and shot 10 young girls, aged 6-13. This man shot all 10 girls execution style, leaving 5 of the girls dead and the other 5 girls with wounds and memories to last the rest of their lives.

What makes this a feminist issue? We might assume that the schoolhouse was in fact an all-girls school, and hence we have the reason why it was only female students that were shot. But we would be wrong. When Charles Carl Roberts entered the schoolhouse with a 9mm-handgun, he ordered the female students to line up against the chalkboard, and sent the male students (along with a pregnant woman, and three parents with infants) out of the schoolhouse. However, this was not before he instructed the male students to bring inside items from his pick-up truck, which included: a shotgun, a stungun, wires, chains, nails, tools, and a bag which included sexual lubricant and flexible plastic ties.

This was an act of gendered violence. And it does not stand alone. Yesterday was the “Sisters and Brothers in Solidarity – A Walk for Justice, for Missing and Murdered Native Women”. The list of missing and/or murdered Native women across Canada has now reached 582 names. No one paid any attention until bodies began turning up on the farmland of Robert Pickton in 2002. On December 6th 1989, Marc Lepine shot and killed fourteen women at L’École Polytechnique in Montréal. While most people recognize the internalized hatred and sexism within Marc Lepine, others have praised his actions, hailing December 6 as St. Marc Day: “It has been established that it should be a day when we remember the first counter-attack against the feminazi’s war on men. By celebrating Marc Lepine and embracing him as a hero, it was believed that this would disturb the feminists’ plans and enrage them”. To most people, we see these acts for what they are: violence enacted against women based on their sex.

I came upon an article today reflecting on the Amish schoolhouse massacre, whereby the author posed the question: Was this act considered unforgivable? To be quite honest, I do not know how I would react if these acts had been committed against my sister, my relative, my friend. Thinking about it, I feel as though the anger and sadness would consume me, making forgiveness impossible. No amount of justification or explanation could lead me to extend my forgiveness to the now-deceased murderer. To the family, friends, and loved ones of the murderer? Hard to say. But this is exactly what the Amish community did: “though their hearts were filled with grief and shock, they reached out with compassion to the killers’ family”. It seems unfathomable to me at the moment. But we never really know what we are capable of — both in terms of our ability to be compassionate, and our ability to project anger and hatred — until we are faced with a situation of extreme sadness or grief.

Although I find the author of this article spends a little too much time contemplating if ‘the Amish have it right’, he closed his piece with a lovely idea:

“I can get as angry as the next person, and I think that a capacity for healthy and constructive anger is a necessary part of our emotional wholeness. Sometimes injustice needs to be corrected, and there are people in the world from whom we, and our children, need protection… Yes, there is unimaginable anguish and violence in the world. But when all is said and done, love might still have a strength that hate can never defeat.”

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on religion

I am sitting, mindlessly feeling his words enter one ear and exit the other. I hear nothing. I have lost more time listening to him — to many men like him — than I care to count. Wasted time I won’t ever get back.

He preaches about good versus evil. Right versus wrong. God versus everyone else. All I hear is buzzing with undertones of conformity and fear. I have no intention of conforming, and what I fear does not concern this man nor his word.

I must admit I do pick up a line or two when my fantasies fail me, or when a phrase grips me. Times like these are when I need be most careful.

Times like these I get angered easily and my fantasies become revolutionary, rebellious, vengeful and slighly psychotic. I can’t help it — it burns my insides to cooperate, to sit silently. Silence assumes agreement and compliance. Yet I sit here, listening to his words, silent and angry. That’s it. I’ve had enough.

*note: this was written several years back, when I was falling out of the religion I was raised with.

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