Flake-out Friday–Contest Winners and A Tribute to a Co-worker

Hey gang! The moment you’ve all been waiting for is here. That’s right. It’s time to announce the WINNERS of my 300/500 followers contest!

First, I’d like to thank everyone who participated and spread the word. You guys and gals are AWESOME!!!! (I totally felt the love.)

The FIRST winner of a 20 page critique and a novel of your choice:

AMPARO ORTIZ

The SECOND winner of a 10 page critique and a novel of your choice:

AMY TUPPER

The THIRD winner of a novel of your choice:

CiARA KNIGHT

CONGRATS to the winners!!!! You can DM me via Twitter or give your email address in the comments section and we’ll get the prizes distributed.

Now, a tribute.

So, I’ve been working on the inpatient psychiatric unit for about a month now and I’m really enjoying it. I have kept my outpatient load and hours at the HIV clinic, so my time is divided, but so far so good.

One of the nice things about working on the inpatient unit is the sense of teamwork. And the members of my team are all talented, caring, knowledgeable, funny, hard-working, and supportive people. I really feel fortunate working with them.

One of the most treasured members of our team is Mayor. He’s a seeing-eye dog and offers me pet therapy every Friday afternoon when he’s allowed to be out of harness (AKA on a break) for a few minutes.

Isn’t he CUTE!!!!!!

Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog–What Makes Storytelling Important?

The lovely Danyelle Leafty starts of this month of the traveling blog with the following question:

Stories have existed in every time and every culture. How come? Why are stories so important?

Human beings are such inquisitive and imaginative beings that I think it’s impossible NOT to tell stories.

To take a “scientific” point of view, early storytelling was a way to teach others, a way to create a sense of comradery, and probably a way to pass time. Storytelling has an element of entertainment, right?

Evidence of storytelling abounds. Drawings on cave walls, hieroglyphs on papyrus scrolls and stone walls, and, of course, books (hand written and later printed on a press). In a way, a story extends the life of the teller, even beyond the grave, depending on how many generations hold onto a particular tale. It’s a sort of immortality, if you will.

Storytelling means much more than this, though. It also shows our need and desire to share with others that which we create. It symbolizes a curiosity that speaks to our souls. It evokes emotions, creates pleasure and longing. It allows us to escape to a different reality. It provides catharsis.

My goodness, stories provide so many things, ti’s hard to encapsulate in one post! Tell me, friends, what makes a story important to you?

Check out Lydia’s take on the topic next Wednesday!

Sunday Slammer

Failure is not Final.

Just remember that when you’re working on some goal, whether it be improving your health, substituting a more positive behavior for a negative one, walking the road of faith, or when you receive yet another rejection on a query letter/partial/full manuscript.

As an aside, I must say this is why God is awesome. Because He’s always there to help me stand back up when I fall. And thanks to Awesome Pastor, who reminded me about it today.

Failure is not Final.

Attitude Matters

This past week, I have seen this idea at work in the three major spheres of my life: Work, Spirituality, and Writing.

Awesome Pastor tripped off my thoughts and I reflected on how it applies to my life. I know each person’s belief system is personal and up to them, so I won’t get into the details here, but the upshot is he spoke about the motivation with which one gives. Not only does the amount (money, time, etc) mean something, but so does the reasoning behind it. I don’t have to go on to say that the topic of “giving” is apropos to the astronomical need in Haiti right now. Every day, I witness people’s generosity. It’s fantastic!

Moving on, in my work with patients, I have come to understand just how important attitude can be. Environmental stressors, biologic factors, and all around “bad stuff” notwithstanding, a person’s attitude can make all the difference.

I thoroughly acknowledge that when life looks negative, it’s almost impossible to see the positive. Sometimes it’s as if “good things” never existed. The world is black. Dark. Empty. Hopeless. Is there a way out of the pit? In the throes of depression, it’s hard to figure out a reason to care.

On the flip side (and this usually occurs after some hurdle has been overcome or a sense of mastery over one’s life/perspective has been obtained), one could think instead: Life has been tough. Traumatic experiences have happened. Nightmares and flashbacks still pop up. But…

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Please know I’m not advocating people take on a fake mask of joy. In some sense, that is more dangerous than acknowledging “real” feelings. However, flipping things to the positive softens the blow, makes optimism easier, and fosters hope.

I’ve met people who have encountered horrible tragedies, endured tremendous abuse and torture, found themselves hurdling headlong toward their grave. A particular population of patients I work with has taught me more about focusing on the positive than I ever could have imagined. They literally have been brought back from the brink of death to be given that rare “second chance at life.” Sure, they get down from time to time and good days are mixed in with the bad, but they continue to strive to improve themselves every day. There’s nothing more inspiring than that.

Lastly (thank you if you’ve hung in ‘til the bitter end, I’ve got a bit long-winded), let me discuss how attitude has affected my writing. This week I tuned into a Tweetchat hosted by St. Martin’s Press for their New Adult contest finalist announcements. Back in November, seventeen other writers and I were chosen out of 383 submissions to be “winners.” Surprised and quite in shock, I sent off my partial manuscript for further review, hoping they would then request the full.

The upshot is: I made it to the semi-finals, but not the finals.

I’ll be honest. I was bummed. At the same time, I realized getting that far was an accomplishment. (And the finalists have some pretty awesome stories that I can’t wait to read, so a big congrats to them!)

So, considering the importance of attitude, how do I share this news with others? What behaviors will I express?

My choices are—and I stress CHOICES:

1)    Stew in “failure”—perceived, not actual.

2)    Drown in sorrow. (That’s not melodramatic or anything. * grin *)

3)    Throw in the towel, no more writing for me! * folds arms and pouts *

4)    Enjoy significance of accomplishing something.

5)    Feel excitement about the WIP I’m about to query.

6)    Eat lots of chocolate. (Okay, that goes without saying, amen?)

7)    Other (You ALWAYS need an other category. It’s true.)

Let’s see, I choose: 4, 5, and of course, 6. Guess what? It worked! My confidence didn’t take a nosedive. I didn’t hyper-focus on, “I should have done this or that.” People cheered me on! It brought me closer to others.

Wow. Attitude does matter.

Tell me friends, what are your experiences with and thoughts on attitude?

Is Praying With Patients Okay?

Can we just forgo the fact that I’m not talented at verbal prayer, especially in front of, you know, people? Okay.

Oh, boy, this question has been on my mind for a while. As a psychiatrist, it is important to maintain a safe environment, a containing frame, where patients can talk about anything and everything without fear of judgment and/or feeling shame. (Wow. I rhymed. That’s the closest to poetry y’all will see me come. No, seriously.) I’ve said this before, but it precludes me from sharing personal information about myself—like my religious beliefs! Or the fact that I watch waaaay too much South Park and Family Guy. Really, no self-respecting, well, anybody would do that to themselves. Yeah. Moving on.

Keeping that “rule” in mind, please consider the following: I receive online updates from Psychiatric Times (a popular newsletter sent to shrink-types) and one of this week’s feature articles was titled: Should You Pray With Your Patients? Cool! Something I’m interested in!

Below is a link to the article including a podcast from ethicist and psychiatrist Cynthia Geppert, MD, PhD. Should you be so inclined to give a listen, she discusses situations where it is okay to pray with patients as well as situations where a psychiatrist needs to be careful.

Link to podcast: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/display/article/10168/1483619?verify=0

The upshot is that primary care doctors (and really all other specialties) do not have the level of boundaries required in psychiatry. In the therapy session, people are vulnerable and every situation needs to be handled with care and empathy. Now, you may say, “What’s the harm in praying?” Well, it is considered a boundary violation (meaning, a crossing of the line). It may lead to collusion with the person’s illness—Ex. What if the patient is delusional or, gasp, hyper-religious from a manic episode? Praying in that case could, in fact, harm the relationship and lead to worse outcomes. Eep! Furthermore, what if the patient isn’t religious, what if the psychiatrist isn’t religious, what if the prayer is about winning the lottery? What if the patient and psychiatrist are of different religious backgrounds? (This is all covered by the podcast, by the way if you have eight minutes to listen.)

Um, as a believing Christian, winding my way through life, navigating the balance between interfacing with secular culture while at the same time sharing my beliefs without sounding like, ahem, Pat Robertson, the situation gets sticky. I don’t stop patients when they tell me about their belief systems and I am quite happy to listen when they bring it up. Actually, a belief system can be a support in and of itself—bonus! Or, it can lead to a lot of guilty feelings (Psst, what if you’re gay or an alcoholic and your religion doesn’t “allow” that?).

So, what to do? What to do?

Confession: I actually started a Bible Study class (haven’t done that since…college, a decade ago), specifically on “friendly evangelism.” Not the shove it down your throat, believe this or else kind of thing, but, hey, this is how I look at things…and why.

Eh, I don’t think it’s appropriate to spout off Bible verses in a therapy session. I’m not a Christian counselor, so it’s outside of my arena. But it is important for me to let people know that I am “working for God.”

How? How?

Ugh… …had to take a break. Checked my e-mail, and here’s a message from a friend:

May there be peace within you today. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

Okay, God. I’m listening. I need to stop fretting it and just keep my eyes and ears open for opportunity. Will do.

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Mom Dropped Jesus…Again

Welcome to a new year and another Communion Sunday. We have open communion at my church in Capital District Land, which means anyone, whether they are a member or not, can partake in the distribution of the bread and wine (grape juice in our case).

Today, as we come to the feet of the Lord, in reverence and humbleness, my mom, upon the breaking of the wafer, promptly drops half of it on her scarf. She fumbles around in the dark, searching. I watch, biting my tongue and clamping my lips. If I start laughing, several people nearby are sure to be irked.

With a sweep of her hand, Mom dislodges the rebel piece of wafer. Our mouths drop when we see Jesus’ “body” fly off said scarf to land on the floor. Mom stifles a giggle and I whisper, “Mom, you dropped Jesus. Again.”

“I know!” She says, while sticking the fragment into her purse for safe-keeping (no one wants to step on Jesus). “Why does this keep happening to me?” Several months ago, Mom’s thimble-sized cup had a hole in it and when she drank from it, the juice spilled down her shirt.

So she dropped Jesus. Again.

Amen.