Saturday, August 16, 2014

Go forth and create!

Hi blog readers and folks that continue to be art supporters,

As summer comes to a close and school restarts, I'm taking this moment to create a post of gratitude, a memento of my favorite summer moments.  I am compelled to share a glimpse at the art, the trips, the family love that happened, that touched me in some way.

Here's some art progress in my series:

My life is not cryptically sophisticated, as what is in vogue for the artiste, but philosophically, I'm on a quest for "simplicity on the other side of complexity" 

Here are some art that came across my path that beckoned my attention:
Queen Mother of Reality by Althamer in Socrates Sculpture Park Queens, NY
So appropriate for how I often feel--"pieced together"
A sculpture in San Francisco that beckons homeless people.  Vaillancourt Fountain, San Francisco, California. Built by Armand Vaillancourt. This sculpture imparts a feeling of going nowhere 

Both sculpture above expresses hopelessness. Why is that the subject of so many artist?...It's not the whole truth. So, I look into other forms of artwork. Here's fresh Flower arrangement by Polly Joseph in Joseph Farm Charlottesville, VA.  I love the way this lady arranges flowers (this is but a small example of what I saw)

The explorations that came to be: 
Mini-sailing and fishing trips 
Learning about boats, particularly the Balcutha, San Francisco

Checking out the Manhattan sailing scene and recalling the old days, the Manhattan highlife

From the city jungle to the country jungle: in a rusted old truck where currently a 5 ft long black snake resides

And of course, random fields of sunflowers blooming required random car stops

A little glimpse of my inner family for whom I am most grateful for:
As always Noah is the highlight of summer, and my life.  My fav moments are with him

And there were some heart warming procession that brought tears to my eyes
And portentous signs of blessings and love in the air
We paused in a corner of a rock and swam by a river 

And a here's some honesty.  Summer days had me dealing with obstinate, cluelessly stubborn people, one in particular.  I thought it appropriate to end the photo sharing with a nod to a goat-like friend, an acknowledgement that my life is far from perfect.  (You know who you are and what a pain you've been.) But nonetheless, life wouldn't be the same without you.

A treasure trove of memories, and time flies (but I'm not sure if time exists--discuss).
I attest to the truth that we shape our world how we like and we choose to create feelings moment by moment.  This is an active endeavor.
In the beginning and as the lore goes, the Creator said:  "go forth and *create"!

*multiply in some translations 

Friday, August 1, 2014

My two cents worth on visiting NYC with kids!

I lived in New York City for five years and moved out around a time period that coincided with becoming a mom. Having this firsthand knowledge of New York City was immensely helpful to my visit as a mother of a toddler. Yet, I still hesitated and was nervous about a visit. There are many challenges involved to a NYC trip.
So if you're planning to visit, here's a few tips to consider for new parents. It's not easy but overall it's doable and still fun.

1. Be prepared for schedule changes for your child. For example, if your child has nap time at 2 pm, chances are, when you are sightseeing, you'll forget the time, or may not make it back to your hotel for naptime. In terms of naptime, with appropriate planning, there are ways to ensure that your child still gets one. Visit places that are conducive to naptime in the stroller. Like Central Park, or the Hammock Grove in Governor's Island (only open during summertime).

2. Trains, trains, trains are absolutely fascinating to kids. But make sure you have a good stroller that is easy to fold, lightweight and able to handle potholes, uneven side walk, and the unexpected. It has to fold easily and be lightweight, because believe me you'll be folding and unfolding frequently and going up and down flights of stairs in order to get to the subway. (You can use the elevators, but some subway lines are ill-equipped or have stinky, nasty elevators).

This is a photo Noah in Central Park.  Coincidentally, this also shows the umbrella stroller I brought along.  It was rather "the mode" in NC to use this super cheap stroller because it's very lightweight and easy to fold and dare I say, disposable.  But it looked too cheap in Fifth Avenue and the wheels were simply inadequate and infuriating! 

3. NYC is a convergence of sexy people who do their utmost best to avoid having kids. Hey, you've seen the show Sex and the City. I did my best to look for family friendly restaurants in Manhattan. Even the restaurant Alice's Tea Cup is frequented by single ladies looking to have that dainty afternoon cup of tea, and I felt that they were ill-prepared for the unexpected behaviors of a toddler.
Your best bet for eating out? Rooftop barbecue!!

You'll most likely see spectacular sunsets too!! 

4. So you've heard of FAO Schwartz? How every kid deserves to grow up in FAO Schwartz.  Yabba, yabba.  It's really the place where kids throw tantrums if they don't get what they want. So be prepared to spend some $$. 

5. There are lots of parks, lots of friends, and lots of germs.  Bring your moist wipes and alcohol-based antibacterial hand cleansers, you will need it.
6. Also, take a look at Noah's backpack which conveniently doubles as a hiding spot for his leash.  Say what you will about leashes for kids, but when you're in the city and you have a kid who is not afraid to explore without you, that leash is a handy tool to keep him nearby while your busy folding the stroller, or hunting your pockets for that metrocard that you're sure you placed in a safe and accessible spot! 

I won't bore you with my opinion of best places to visit because there are other blogs and trusted websites that serve that purpose.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and take a bite out of The Big Apple!! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Filipino Palestinian Cousins-- Faces in the Perspective

In the wake of the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the rising death toll especially on the Palestinian side, currently New York Times reported that, as of noon, 655 people had been killed since the operation’s onset, 4,220 wounded and 1,090 homes demolished, of which many are women, children, and elderly men--I'm moved to write about my three Filipino-Jordanian cousins, who are Palestinian. The current conflict is justified by Israel as a measure of "self-defense after days of restraint, warnings, and pleas—as rockets continued to land on its cities and later when militants sprang from tunnels to kill its citizens." In 2011, my cousins used these same tunnel to escape to Egypt and eventually be reunited with their Filipina mother, my father's cousin.
When I visited the Philippines, I met them in 2011 in Manila. Sherene is 18, she is studying to be a nurse. Sisi is 13, she became the Manila figure skating champion in her age bracket also in 2011. Lafi is 15 and has a strong interest in photography. We swam in the pool, we ate a lot, we visited different tourists sites in Manila and just had a wonderful short time spent together.
I also had an opportunity to hear about their home life in Palestine, the suffering and deprivation they faced on a daily basis because of the blockade that Israel has put on Gaza. The blockade is considered by UN officials as illegal in March 2014. The Palestinian demanded that the blockade be lifted, and since Israel refused to do so, peace talks were futile. Details of the conflict from the American Al Jezera network is causing me more anxiety.

My cousins friends are targeted, their family left behind in Palestine have evacuated, homes demolished, and their grandfather, who is paralyzed has nowhere to go. Hamas is purportedly using human shields. But what if these human shields are also people who wanted a better life, end to the blockade? Would they then be classified as Hamas, and valid targets? My cousins, who are currently living a wonderful life in Manila are mortified by what is going on.

Living in the USA, particularly in the Bible Belt South, there is a pro-Israeli sentiment because of religious traditions and affiliations. It's easy to go with the flow and stop asking questions.

In going to war, these questions should be asked: Are the reasons for the war morally compelling? This in philosophy is "the right to go to war" (jus ad bellum)
The second question to ask is: the "right conduct in war" (jus in bello)--This principle is meant to limit excessive and unnecessary death and destruction.

I've scoured the news to try to understand what is happening. I think for both philosophical questions, the Israeli current conduct is not justified. I don't think it's useful to look at this from a religious perspective. Both groups of people live there, and both equally have the right to exist, the right to pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

However, Washington seems committed to Israel, and with this commitment, there is no enforcement mechanism to hold Israel accountable. And accountability is important, CRUCIAL, in world peace.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Working for the Lee County Health Department

Working for the Lee County Health Department was an eye opener.
I'm not sure how other health departments are structured but this one primarily 1. keep food and physical environment safe by visiting restaurants, hotels, day cares, monitor lead and water pollution 2. prevent the occurrence and spread of disease by working with community partners 3. prepare for and respond to disaster and emergencies.

I worked in the #2 capacity--preventing the occurrence and spread of disease.
This began with a community health assessment (CHA), which occurs once every four years in Lee County. The assessment is 20 minutes long. So I would call different business and locations to see if we could conduct a CHA or set up a drop box with surveys. I conducted CHA at food banks, free clinics, employment security commission, chamber of commerce, pharmacies, libraries, post office, fairs and many more different places. At certain point, this job was repetitive in some aspects and yet it continued to be challenging.

Another aspect of #2 was to attend monthly meetings of taskforce composed of health organizations, school districts, farmers cooperative, etc. The meeting serves to discuss past actions, and future plans and main community problems. One such problem is the rate of obesity in Lee County, which I found to be a shocking >50%! One project that I worked on to address this issue of obesity is to organize a pilot exercise in the park program. I served as a coordinator, planner, diplomat, promoter to help bring the project to life.

Another job that I performed with #2 is to work as a student nurse in the health clinic. The health clinic serves a majority of people from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The wait times occasionally was greater than 2 hours due to lack of interpreters. The clinic helps to screen pregnancy, STDS, help maintain healthy course of pregnancy, vaccinations, well-child visits, etc. I think the most interesting experience in the clinic was to meet someone who was recently diagnosed/treated with an STD and a day later encounter that same person trying to hook up with an obese woman. Ugh. I am bound by HIPAA and confidentiality. But I'm looking into finding out what measures we have against preventing/stopping this kind of reckless behavior?

Finally, I'm attending a Crisis Intervention Training for Law Enforcement Officers. This CIT helps police officers recognize psychiatric illness and crisis and help them form appropriate response. The ultimate goal is to bring the person to seek medical attention, rather than to incarcerate the said person during an acute psychiatric crisis.

These are but a few of the projects I've been involved with at the local government level this past summer. There are many ways to be involved, if any of the above sounds interesting to you!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Communication Techniques and Therapeutic Listening Exercise

Lately I've had some friends tell me that they want exercise in nuanced listening, or emotional reading. Some friends have also expressed that they are struggling with a relationship, particularly with communication. 
It all starts from listening and really tuning in.

This is something I learned from the psych class I took Spring semester 2014.
I don't want to forget this skill of therapeutic listening and communication techniques because it improved my relationships with everyone at the time when I was consciously practicing the skill. I still need to practice. So, to help me recall what I've learned, I'm going to summarize it and share it with you today.
It's a useful technique to practice with family members and strangers alike, helps to resolve communication problems, improve relationships, and grow as a human being--listen deeply to what isn't stated.

Accepting EX: "It makes sense you feel that way" "That's understandable
Translate words into feelings EX: I'm way out in the ocean -->"You seem to feel lonely"
Encourage expressions of feelings EX: What are your feelings about that?"
Making Observations EX: "You sound angry" "You seem tense"
Validating perceptions EX: "This is what I heard you say...Is that right?
Verbalize the implied EX: Are you feeling no one understands?
Silence (With Empathy)
Active Listening (Be aware of your posture/nonverbal cues)
Brief Disclosure followed by return to client's issues
Broad Openings EX: What would you like to talk about today?
Clarifying EX: I'm not sure I understand...Help me to understand?
Encourage Comparison EX: Have you had similar experience before?
Focusing EX: Let's foucs on your feelings rather than your husbands"
Forming a plan of action EX: How might you handle it differently in the future?
Offering self EX: I'm interested in what you think.
Open ended questions EX: Tell me about your family
Paraphrasing EX: So far we've discussed...
Reflecting EX: I think I should tell her BETTER: Do you think you should tell her?
Voicing Doubt EX: "I'm not sure that's possible. From my experience..."

Agreeing/Disagreeing EX: You made the right decision.Better: "How do you feel about it?
All knowing EX: I understand how you feel Better: It makes sense you feel that way.
Belittling Expressed feelings EX: Everybody gets down in the dump sometimes BETTER: You seem upset. Tell me.."
Challenging EX: You didn't mean to say that! BETTER: You must have been upset to say that!
Changing the topic EX: I don't have anything to live for-->STAY with the feeling/explore
Close ended questions
Defending EX: Nobody would lie to you. BETTER: Let's clarify
Giving advice EX: "I think you should" BETTER: What do you think you could do?
Giving approval/disapproval
Imposing personal values
Inappropriate self disclosure EX: When someone tells you their story, you tell them a worse personal story. BETTER: No disclosure, translate words into feelings
Leading question EX: Do you drink because you're depressed BETTER: Tell me what you're feeling when you need a drink
Parroting EX: Frequently repeating what someone is saying to a point of annoyance
Patronizing EX: Come on honey, eat this. This is yummy food. BETTER: May I help you with your meal?
Probing EX: Tell me how you feel about your mother now that she's dead
Rejecting EX: I dont want to hear about that. BETTER: Let's look at it a little more closely
Requesting an explanation EX: Why did you do that? BETTER: Tell me about your feelings before that happened
Cliches/Stereotyped comments EX: Everything will be fine BETTER: This was really bad news
Using denial EX: Of course you're somebody. Everyone is! BETTER: You're feeling that no one cares?

STEP 3: RECORD THE CONVERSATION PROCESS-->Spend a few hours going through the conversation. Look at the conversation and analyze the verbal/non-verbal cues and give yourself points for when you use only Therapeutic Listening. Also analyze when and why you used nontherapeutic listening and Avoid it next time.

ADDITIONAL USEFUL STEPS: To begin to understand where someone else is in the continuum of human experiences, look over Erikson's psychosocial stages. Here's a handy dandy chart.
Finally, you're ready to start classifying disorders. Invest in DSM-V. You'll start diagnosing everyone. Literally, everyone!

Grim, T.(2014). N477--Psychiatric Mental Health Concepts for Broad Clinical Application. UNC-Chapel Hill.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

"No work, no boiled chicken"--kung walang tiyaga, walang nilaga

"Kung walang tiyaga, walang nilaga"--which literally translates to "No work, no boiled chicken". One of my friends from nursing school gave me that quote because he couldn't find any other quotes that conveyed "take it easy" "chill and relax".

I'm very grateful that the hard work of nursing school should end in one more year! :) This hard work should help to find me a job that would allow me to eat all the boiled chicken that I want.

I remember my dad's stories of hard times, when chicken was so difficult to come by. Kids would not be allowed in the dining room because guests would be served first. And the kids would stare wistfully at the chicken disappearing.

Nowadays, chicken is jammed packed full of antibiotics and hormones that I find the thought of chicken unappetizing...unless of course it's range-free, shredded into pieces, cooked with rice, ginger and green onions in a traditional Filipino dish called Arroz caldo, then I'll gulp down a bowl faster than you can say "chicken".

My point in this blog, and in the pictures below, is to encourage my kababayans in the Philippines to grow a vegetable garden. I still sing "Bahay Kubo" despite living away from the Philippines and hold true to the lyrics of that song, living in small cottage surrounded by assorted veggies.

Lately, I'm disappointed to find that my younger cousins are decorating their photos with flowers using an app, rather than be surrounded by flowers they grew from seed. I don't accept the excuse that "I'm too busy to plant".

I was so busy this past year with nursing school and a baby, that I thought it was impossible for me to have a garden. But somehow, one step at a time, little by little, I was able to put the seeds to the ground, weed here and there, transplanted the seedlings to the garden. Let the plants grow wild.

Today, I made a squash casserole for my family and I'm happy to say this is the squash I grew from seed. It's so beautiful to be greeted by green and yellow squash, and to eagerly anticipate the fruits from other plants I planted a few years ago--grapes, blackberries. To have my mom greeted by a blooming rose bush for mother's day because I planted one for her.

It's a beautiful feeling and I'd like to share it. Maybe it will inspire someone to get out there and plant something beautiful/useful today.

This is the yummy squash we ate today. Organic. Noah poked a hole in the squash in the middle because he really wanted the yellow one which he called "nana" or "banana"

This is the wild garden--squash, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, green onions, peppers in the mix, unsorted. It will be a surprise what bears fruit this summer.

This is the young grapes. There's a lot of young bunches that I can't wait to taste.

This is the green beans crawling upwards. And behind the photo is the "bahay kubo"

This is a picture of the flowering blackberries that I'm looking forward to eating this summer.

This is the rose bush I planted for my mom, that bloomed on Mother's Day

Thursday, June 5, 2014

First Flight with a Toddler, Visiting San Francisco

The contents of this particular blog post is a couple of useful insights on traveling with a toddler, and the joys of San Francisco.
This past week, I went to San Francisco for a family event. Since this was to be our first flight together, I did some research and found out I had 2 options. Purchase a seat for my son, or have him on my lap (option available until he is 2 years old). I opted for the latter (lapseat) and purchased a ticket for someone (his dad ;)) to accompany me and help babysit my son throughout the whole journey instead. Travelling by myself would have been nightmarish.
In terms of packing, toys always take a bite out of my luggage space. So I called my sister ahead and asked for a couple of *used* (and washed) toys to greet us during our visit. I packed very lightly because I wanted to save room in our luggage for purchases, since I always like to purchase new wardrobe item/s during vacations.
In retrospect, I recommend checking in all carryon except the basic essentials (2 diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, snacks and minitoys) and bringing an umbrella stroller.
I also prepared my Ipad ahead of time for applications to play with during a long flight. I recommend I write words. My son learned the letter "C" and "Cat" during the flight.
I was tempted to put my son to sleep during the flight but followed the warning on Benadryl's box. So I took the non-pharmacologic route and purchased a vial of Motion Eaze--good stuff. This aromatic vial was so relaxing and useful. It even worked on the trip back when my son had stuffy nose. Additionally, it's like gum--easy to offer to a fellow passenger. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a friendly seatmate.
I also had a couple of goodie bags--a bag full of never-before-seen small toys, and a bag of favorite snack treats.
All these preparation helped minimize the stress of travel. Thus, I can enjoy sharing photos of our wonderful journey :)

There are always wild flowers around the beaches

San Francisco is a big boating community. Boats and wildlife everywhere.

Parks and Recreation help teach kids about teamwork and history, at Hyde St. Pier

Spectacular views and surfers everywhere

My son, my little darling prince

Small and affordable, fishing boat tours around San Francisco--includes views under the Golden Gate Bridge

Sunday, May 25, 2014

How Nursing Study Has Rewired Me

RIt's been a year since I began my study of nursing.  I am looking back at my blog posts this past year. I suppose my blog jumps all over the place. That's the nature of my interests--which I'm glad to say is somewhat reflected in my study of nursing.
In nursing school, we cover a whole spectrum of subjects, from breathing, to alternative medicine, to breastfeeding, to opiates, to analyzing styles of family interaction, public policy regarding health, to mechanisms of analgesia, genetics, approaches to bereavement--this is simply the tip of the iceberg of the breadth of subjects we study that is related to the health and well-being of a person, a family, a community.  We try to become experts at teaching, evidenced-based interventions of these wide range of subjects. The evidence comes from research and clinical trials. We are taught to be critical connoisseurs of research too!
So the study of nursing is making me a better human, with a wider range of knowledge related to the physical, psychological, social, spiritual aspects of being human.  I assess situations and set priorities.
A couple of weeks ago, my dad injured his finger with a fish hook while we were boating at the lake.  I simply stepped aside and allowed my mom (more experienced nurse) to deal with the situation, while I continued to play with my son who was playing by the water.  It's not a medical situation that requires everyone to drop what they're doing, and attend to the finger, despite my dad's loud cries of pain.  Nursing priorities=toddler playing by the water!! Sorry dad :)
Additionally, my nursing study also trained me to be more critical of my perspectives and my approach at conversations.  For instance, a friend told me that she had GI upset.  I put on my nurse mode immediately and made some assessments. After the initial assessment and recommendation, because this friend and I always talk about politics and what we hear on the radio, later down the conversation, I related my fear of the drinking water contamination incident in West Viriginia, and how far that spread out, perhaps reaching central Virginia.
Later, I felt like I could have kicked myself for talking about water contamination with someone who has GI upset.  As a nurse, we have to be aware not to fan the flames of hypochondriac-isms.   Maybe I'm being overly critical of myself, but my ability to be a credible source depends on how seriously I study, and how careful I am to impart my knowledge, not simply impart hearsays.
Another incident where I became aware about the changes that have occurred regarding my approach to people was when I saw a little boy wearing sunglasses in the farmer's market hanging out with his mother.  My son approached the little boy, curious because of the sunglasses.  I noticed that the boy's sunglasses was covering a black eye.  Since nurses are mandated to be reporters of domestic abuse, my radar went up.  I thought and still am thinking about the approach I should take towards parents (who are not my patient) who's child exhibit evidence of abuse.  What should I do?  I'm still thinking about what I could have done or said to the mom.
Another new development is with regards to friends who recommend natural products.  They are also subject to my scrutiny.  Just because a product is natural, does not mean it is safe!!! I can't emphasize this enough.  Natural products, over-the-counter herbs can interact with medicine, or existing physical conditions like age, pregnancy, kidney or thyroid disease.  Please be careful when you recommend something that works for you to others! And please be careful when using herbal products on young children. Please!!! 
Finally, the study of nursing improved my ability to play music.  Because of the insane amount of nonsensical words we have to master (drug names) and their side effects, my memory has improved, along with my approach to how to learn something.   So this has translated itself to better ability to play music.

Photo above is an example of the creativity involved in memorizing new terms. FAST! There are many more improvements and brain rewiring that has occurred due to the nursing study, but that's all the time I have to write for now.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pop culture strategy insight moment

I found myself reading about the Kardashian's today.  I didn't really even know much about who they were, aside from Kim marrying Kanye.  I really liked Kanye's music a while back, way before Bonaroo incident.  Though I don't listen to Kanye's music now. So my radar was piqued by Kim pregnancy, which coincided with mine, but the interest was not sufficiently piqued for me to read about her.
Today, I read how she used to massage Paris Hilton's feet, and arranged her closet, and be the Paris slave.  I guess I have an unexplored loathing for Paris Hilton and felt briefly sorry for Kim?  I was dragged into the article and voila, I wasted a solid 20 minutes reading up on the Kardashian's!
In terms of writings, today, I've been thinking about this strategy of latching on to trendy/famous people/posts/reading materials in order to get some buzz on my blog reader count.  I consider myself colored by feminism, I subscribe to news outlets that espouse Feminism, i.e. Jezebel.  I fell victim to trashy content wrapped up in feminist twist in order to raise the readership numbers. No wonder it's called Jezebel--betrayer.  Goodness gracious! I'm seeing many more actors/musicians/posts/news utilize this strategy. 
I haven't decided yet whether to unsubscribe from pop news because I have a thirst for this new form of communication--blogging, and technology know hows.
Wow, I have to actually say thanks Kim example for waking me up to one strategy to pull you in trash content on the web!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Love Deeply

Faeries come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the disheveled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.

W.B. Yeats

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Small talk

Small talk is an art that I am still far from mastering.  
Ok, confession.  I should be! Should be a master at small talk because I was a bartender for almost a decade.  But here's my excuse for not being a sensei at this.  People like to talk in a bar anyway, and with a drink or two, people loosen up.  
But anyway, having been a bartender, I do have a few VERY basic tricks up my sleeve about this topic that I'm going to share.
First stop--Don't sweat it if you're shy. I wouldn't consider myself as shy. Not being shy can be a plus, but a downside too because shyness can be a good thing.  I mean, who wants to talk to the obnoxious loudass?  *not me*
Secondly, small talk has something to do with rhythm.  You can't just randomly say hello, etc. You gotta say it at the right time--like when someone is listening, otherwise you waste your move and get left hanging.
Here's another good trick, don't do all the talking.  Sometimes people really want to be the one talking--and then you'll be finding all sorts of ways to get out of listening to that one fast!  Yikes!
But the challenge comes when you're small talking with someone who's got these rules down.  Then they expect you to have some kind of arsenal of cool things to say.
1- witty repertoire
2-really cool/funny quick story
3-information, but related like you lived it, not like you read it
4-if all else fails sarcasm (I'm not a big fan of this one because this one is tonal, and people who aren't careful and smart about sarcasm, can end up hurting feelings.  The whole point of sarcasm is what, upperhand? Lame.

Anyways, that's my small talk for now.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Psychology Perspectives--Cultural Opinions and Such

Psychology is a cultural direction that is steeped in logic and pseudo-science. Why I say pseudo-science is because any psychologist/psychiatrist worth their salt will tell you that medications they prescribe are not specific--it targets multiple pathways/neurotransmitters and may not necessarily pinpoint the actual disorder, but treats the symptoms of that disorder. Neural pathways are not completely well-understood.

I am in an excellent position to compare and contrast cultural aspects of psychology. Thirteen years of my life was spent living in a different country where what is considered visual or auditory hallucinations in the psych ward, is normal part of everyday life.

Ghosts. Yes, ghosts. Who hasn't seen ghosts? Or who hasn't had a close encounter? When I returned to the Philippines two years ago, I almost laughed out loud when my host told me a story of the appearance of the ghost in her car. It took me a while to figure out she was serious. This is a woman who is smart, savvy, well-connected and well-to-do. This was not a solitary episode of someone who needed some antipsychotic meds. A week or two later, I re-visited my mom's hometown, where a single large rock is said to be the house of the ghosts of the village. None of my cousins dared to go walk in the dark, for fear of this rock.

Fast forward a few years later, I am in clinical conference role playing, discussing what to do should a patient reveal that they see ghost. “Hm....Let's talk about your medicine. How's that working out for you?” (Well, not exactly in that order of approach for psych patients.) But we are trained to say, "I understand that you see something, I do not see what you're seeing" “Do you have any questions about your medication?”-- Or something to that effect. Of course, in the psychentific world, ghosts do not exists. And there's a label for me creating that word "psychentific" that is not exactly complementary to my state of mind.

Other things that are drastically different and can lead into psych hospitalizations: Anger Expressions--It is absolutely not acceptable to threaten your neighbor. "Papatayin kita" or “I will hurt you” is not acceptable, taken very seriously and could land you jail time, not just a psych evaluation. It is also not kosher to chase your neighbor with an ax--which by the way occurred in our neighborhood when I was growing up. This is called "Homicidal Ideation"—well, perhaps, not ideation, more like intention.

There are many more happenings that are simply not acceptable. One particular cultural phenomena that I am curious as to how it would be interpreted by my Psych professor is the annual ritual of hundreds of people who re-enact the death of Christ by actual hanging on the cross each year, right about this time of the year. I approached my psych professor with these questions and concerns. My psych professor countered that these cultural phenomena do not necessarily indicate that the whole country would need psychological evaluation. She gave an example of the practice of circumcision--an aesthetic procedure that continues in the first world despite lack of beneficial evidence. The procedure, should you get a chance to watch it is precisely brutal. (And blast it! I’ll say that it’s cruel and unfortunately usual!)

But what makes one thing acceptable, and not the other? I go back to the lecture and the subsequent conversation--the crucial point to consider is that how much of one's behavior impedes one's ability to function within a cultural/social context. This is why threatening your neighbor is unacceptable, cutting a little baby boy’s foreskin doesn’t impede normal functions, and believing you see ghosts can land you a prescribed antipsychotic dose, in a society where logic and science has been embraced as the-end-all-be-all.

And I step back a little further and I start to wonder, how much of the "outsider" belief is discarded when one moves into the "melting pot". Is it really a melting pot? Social scientists have described this country a "tossed salad" phenomena--that is to say that many people manage to retain their flavor/consistency/characteristics despite being mixed into the whole, retaining their unique belief or beliefs and cultural practices.

By no means am I trying to discount psychology. This branch of thought has been very useful in clearing the cobwebs of many minds, including mine. It has been a life-saving tool and I could keep on and on about the joys of psychology. But too much logic can be downright boring, i.e. Gwyneth Paltrow’s conscious uncoupling. Where’s the fun in that? Talk about muted colors of washed out greys.

The core of America—is a true lack of cultural homogeneity (regardless of the colorful and loud Miley Cyruses, the Kanye/Kardashians, etc). TV aside, many withdraw from society, deep into themselves, isolated in thought, magical thinking, hiding in the potential sickness of the mind, coloring themselves with their most favorite fantasies. Because we all are-- stars-- though momentarily embarrassed or without the spotlight.

I also see psychology’s attempt to mute down the colors of personalities by labeling, grouping, classifying, and predicting behaviors. This process sometimes help people tone their colors down by co-creating new schemas and logical lenses from where which to see the world. Frequently, this process is not enough because for change to occur, it requires insight, digging deeply that is frequently a lonely process, a long personal quest. Subsequently, steady the mind so that insight might could occur--Meds!

And the most common patient complaint I heard is “why the f* do I have to take this meds?!?” Well…they have a point, considering the side effects such as Tardive Dyskinesia, and Serotonin syndrome, to name a few. Why choose to see one way to look at life (the psych way), when they can pop an illicit pill that gives them stars in their eyes, sensational textures, and damn the side effects. Considering the pills from both choices (illicit or prescribed) have side effects! Just my two cents.

PS. The above written piece is just a quick survey of my thoughts. I promised to share this writing with my psych professor so quite possibly I'll have to do part deux or edit and I'll have to write more scientifically considering my audience.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A change of self

My art direction---for a moment I just replied, Just pretty--an expression of pretty.  Then I thought abut how tattoo artists do it.  They ask the person what they want and draw the inspiration from that...the skill/talent is a tool for others' self-expression.

So art--I just released "a change of self"--a definition of where my art is...where I am...

pursuit of increased self-awareness.  

One of the things I love about nursing school is the constant self-analysis and analysis of other people and their feelings.  For self analysis, we look into how we handled the situation--was it centered, best-action, and therapeutic? how was our tone of voice, what we said.  Did what we did, match up with what we desired to do?  

So, I'm applying the process to myself regarding my art.  I'm examining my purpose--

Sometimes, there's a part of me where I feel that if my art is ignored, I am ignored.  But then I remember that I'm making art for's my cathartic motion.  

....And oftentimes a change of self is more needed than a change of scene....

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Creating a Comfy Cottage--Part 2

Creating Comfy is a process. Unstructured mess has no place in comfy, at least in my opinion. Too much structure, OCD--isn't comfy. So I create little partitions in my head--this desk is the messy desk, for a period of time. This period of time when I have a lot of work to do, is a messy time.  And yes, I find it's more convenient to be organized when I have a lot of time. Oh, and organizing time is another story. Bottom line is, sometimes structured times and structured spaces are not possible when one has a little fellow. So a cottage w/ toys everywhere happens. (I have strategic toy bins where everything is thrown in for a quick organizing spree). But because of the number of toys, we had to build in a little sunroom/play room. Here's our result.

Also, if you want to talk about true comfy, you have to go with a wood stove. There's nothing like real, live fire warming your bones in the dead of winter. We found this wooden stove on Craigslist for a steal. Even with the unavoidable work that comes with a wooden stove like cleaning the hearth, and getting the wood, ---building and watching the fire, is deliciously primordial.

This is my son's little wagon which serves to deliver wood to our cottage when it's not be used as his "vroom, vroom"

 Some new additions--I love this rug! It adds a feminine touch to our unfinished kitchen.

Finally, don't forget, you can't have comfy without a garden. It's almost spring and it's time to plan a garden!  This is what is in our garden forecast.  I've got some okra, cucumber, squash, Brussels sprouts, red peppers, and mint for the summer mojitos....

Let me know how you create your comfy home. :)