Her Face Lit Up

I talk to people every day. They come in with problems and hope we can offer some help. My job is to figure out what is wrong and provide what help I can. This covers a wide scope, but the variety of it keeps me both interested and on my toes.

It is a special thing to have someone's trust, and to be the one they momentarily place their faith in. Many of these folks have given up already, but have somehow mustered one more smidgen of hope for one more try. They take the risk to hope, to believe once again things can get better. Too often the things on which they placed their hope did not deliver.

The other day, I had a moment with someone. I could tell I got through to her, and that I said something to lift her spirits a bit. It happened like this:

I will call her Donna. Donna had a rough childhood. She tried to escape it by getting married young, but she only left one abusive circumstance for another. Donna has been very depressed for a long time. She lacks support. She is not physically abused by her husband, but she is often ridiculed, demeaned, belittled, threatened, discounted, and called names with a voice of disdain. Her steady diet was contempt with only occasional morsels of support, or compliment, and those never from him.

In the assessment I ask a lot of questions and try to gain an understanding of the individual's life - the Reader's Digest version. As Donna revealed her life to me her mood was down, her face expressionless, and her voice was quiet and passive. Then she talked about her children. As she did, her face brightened. The frown was a smile. Pride and affection washed across a previously depressed face. I made a mental note of that and continued to gather the information I needed. 

As we talked, I began to discuss her abuse. I explained that a steady diet of abuse slowly chips away at one's dignity and self-image. It is a strange phenomenon, but the abused accepts the ridicule of the abuser. "You are no damn good, you are fat, you are ugly, you are stupid, you are lucky I even stay around. No one else would ever have you." These things are pounded and pounded until there are no defenses left.

After I gathered the information I needed, it was time to explain what I thought was wrong and give her guidance to fix it. "Donna," I said, "Do you love your children?" She responded quickly, "Of course I do, more than anything."

I asked her, "What would you do if someone talked to one of your children the way your husband talks to you?" The very suggestion stirred anger in her and it was evident in her face. "I would . . . I would. . .well, it wouldn't be pretty," she said. 

"Well then," I responded, "Why do you put up with it? Are you not as worthy as they to be loved, to be respected, to be treated with dignity?" "Try this," I told her, "I saw your face light up when you talked about your children. Focus on that feeling for a moment. Now take that love welled up inside you that is so easy to feel for your kids, and then give it to yourself." "You need to begin protecting yourself the way you would one of your girls."

She got it.

I had to call her the next day for something and she sounded better. She thanked me for talking to her. She is off to a good start and we can only pray she sticks with it.

Love is a powerful thing especially if we learn to turn it on ourselves.

Until the next time

John Strain


Bear Speaks

Hi Everyone! It's me Bear.

It has been a long time since daddy let me write on his blog. I have missed you. A lot has happened since the last time I put paw to pen. How do you like my Mardi Gras beads? Parades are fun and during the Mardi Gras season, two parades pass by our house. Daddy always has a party and people come over to pet me and give me treats.

I watched the parade from LJ's pickup truck. People in the parade liked me and threw me lots of beads and even some footballs. Daddy and I played with one of them tonight. 

Speaking of football, did you hear about the Saints winning the Super Bowl. Wow, people sure get excited about that game around here. When the Saints made the game clenching interception in the 4th quarter, everyone at my house started running around, high fiving each other, hugging each other, crying, and laughing. I like to watch people have a good time. Because when they are happy, they throw me treats.

I got in trouble around Christmas. Daddy left his bowl of M&M's on the coffee table. He eats them when he watches TV. When they went to work, I gobbled every one of them down. I don't know how they found out, but they knew it was me. Mommy and Daddy told me I was a bad dog. Then they ignored me. I was really hang dog for a while, but that is in the past.

Did you see me all covered in sawdust in daddy's shed pictures? I spent a lot of time watching daddy work on that thing. I was not real sure what he was doing for a while. He spent a lot of time on the roof and all over the shed. Every now and then, I would hear a lot of bad words. Once I looked up and daddy was holding his hand. He told mommy that he had hit the wrong nail.

OK, my paws are getting tired, so I am going to wrap this up. It was fun telling you about some of my experiences. 

Bye for now,




The Shed

Check out the shed photos here: Shed Renovation

I have a detached shed next to my house. It became the receptacle for clutter Barbara would not permit in the house. I had everything in there from tools to toys, sporting goods to air mattresses, paint, lawn chairs, lawn equipment, and most items found at Home Depot.

Everything has a limit. We learned that around here, when our area code filled up and 504 became 985. Zip codes and even Internet address have limits. My shed was no exception. On second thought, maybe it was. When I began taking things out of it for the "Great Shed Renovation" I think the pile of shit stuff was greater than the maximum. Science fiction movies have envisioned space ships that have a larger inside than their outside, why not my shed. I will leave my previous shed capacity to forensic archaeologists for further study.

Well, not only was my shed full of unorganized stuff, it was becoming unseemly. Every window on the thing had been broken years ago, unable to survive John and friends journeys through adolescence. The right front side of the roof was damaged in Katrina when a tree fell on it. I just never got around to fixing it.

I can let things go for a time, but I eventually reach my fill. Now then, me and the shed had reached a capacity of sorts and something had to change. It was annoying when I had to buy something from the hardware store, I knew I already had, but just could not find. To illustrate my point, when I removed and sorted everything, I had three toilet tank repair kits.

One of the problems I had to address to fix the shed was: What will I do with the stuff that is in it when it is getting fixed? Solution: Order a POD. You have probably seen a POD or one of its cousins. They resemble a box car sitting on one's driveway. One pays a monthly fee and you have yourself another room. It is interesting the POD people felt it necessary to include the admonition that human habitation in the POD was not allowed. I imagined the guy who made this rule possible. Maybe it was a hunting camp or shelter for an ice fisherman. Maybe it was a guest room at a trailer park.

So with the POD firmly anchored on my driveway, I could begin. I spent two weekends taking things out of the shed and putting in the POD or kicking them to the curb. In the process, I moved my shed to the POD and though it may have looked like chaos to anyone but me, I could go right to anything I needed. This was a useful necessity, because in the forthcoming renovation, I needed to know where my tools and other items were.

Now with the shed empty, I took out all of the shelves and did not stop until I had the pristine 15' x 12' slab and structure down to the walls.

I will spare you the blow by blow details on what I did, but with a little help from some friends, the shed went from an ugly duckling to the beautiful swan. I coordinated the renovation with having my house painted.

It is not a storage shed anymore. Now it is a workshop. I found ways to organize my stuff, I built a closet next to my house to hold a few things, and ended up with something I am really proud of.

The shed is just the beginning. I plan to do some renovations inside. Working on my shed was a chance to work on my skills. It is a good feeling to make something or to fix something. Although I worked my tail off for a long time, November to February, the finished product makes it well worth it.

So if you have wondered where I have been and why my writing had stopped altogether, the shed must share some of the blame.

So here's to the do-it-yourselfers. We may not be the fastest and we may not be able to do it as good as the pros, but a level of satisfaction cannot be any higher than when you can say, "I did it myself."

Until the next time.

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