Thursday, July 17, 2014

To Live.

There are so many good ideas out there about life and work. Some ideas that I nodded along with and I'd say I agreed with to varying extents throughout my life included:

Money can't buy happiness.
Everyone has a gift. Find yours and use it.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Work hard at work worth doing.
Do one thing every day that scares you.

And mostly, something like: If you find something you love to do and you work really hard at it, good things will happen.

And something like: It's better to work in a job that you enjoy - that is fulfilling to you - than to work in one that does not resonate with you but pays better. (Back to that "money can't buy happiness" thing.)

That's all well and good, right? But like so many things I've been noticing in my life over the past year or so, there's a huge gap between my intellectual understanding of all of these ideas and actually feeling and believing these sorts of sentiments.

It's easier to do the safe thing. And the safe thing is probably, maybe, the less fulfilling thing. For me, the safe thing for the past 20 years or so has been to achieve. To plot a course and follow it relentlessly, with zero tolerance for exceptions or excuses and zero flexibility. It served me well. I jumped through the hoops. I got the As and the practicum placements and internship and postdoc.


I kept finding myself a triangle trying to squeeze through a circle. Trying to cut myself so I'd fit. Or
letting other people look at my insides and click their tongues and swallowing their assessments whole.

I could work in the schools. I could do good work. But I could never see myself there in the long run. I have friends and colleagues who are phenomenal school psychs who can thrive and excel in the schools and that is wonderful. But I just didn't see myself there.

I could do the postdoc thing too. I could run statistical analyses and write manuscripts, create Gantt charts and coordinate projects and write screenplays. But I had to laugh because I always* said that research was not really my thing, and wasn't where I thought I'd end up. I gave it a try because maybe I was dismissing it out of hand, and I'm glad that I did it. But I just didn't see myself there.

So on a whim? Or maybe not a whim - maybe it was after lots of work and thought and meditation? I decided to see what would happen if I did the scary thing. The one I really wanted. The thing where I work in private practice and my income is unstable and my hours are unstable and I don't always know what I'm doing and I'm learning and helping and growing every day. And I did. And it's terrifying. And incredible.

It's easier to do the safe thing, but we can do hard things. It's messy. It's scary. It's maybe not the right time? But is there ever a right time to do a big, scary thing like, say, doing what you actually want to do with your life instead of what you think other people want you to do or need you to do?

I don't have it all figured out or anything. I just have this feeling that it's the right move. It's so difficult and scary that I can't even adequately describe it, but at the same time as I feel terror and panic about the unknown with all of this, I feel such a real sense of peace about the whole thing. I can feel myself light up just talking about what I'm doing now. I am patient and compassionate with myself in this role. There is so much right and good. And I can see myself here. And I can actually be here.

*except during grad school interviews, when everyone says they want to be an academic for life, obviously

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Somewhere in middle America.

Alternate title: This Post Has Eleven Bajillion Photos Because I'm Not Feeling Like Getting Rid of Any of Them. You're welcome

Here's a funny joke for you:

Q: What's worse than driving for 22 straight hours in a cozy Prius with two 31-year-olds, a 4-year-old, and a 2-year-old?
A: Spreading that drive out over two days. 

I'll spare you the details, but for those of you currently planning your next cross-country drive with a toddler and a preschooler, just ask yourself whether you'd like the pain in one nice 22 hour dose, or whether you'd prefer to spread that pain out over 36 hours? More importantly, ask yourself, "What is wrong with me? Why do I think it's a good idea to drive three million miles with two children who only sometimes have complete control over their bladders and bowels?" And then answer, "If Sallie Mae weren't taking every last scrap of my money, I would do it up and buy four tickets to Kansas and we'd fly." And then shake your fist at Sallie Mae and at the same time love her a little because she's the best scapegoat ever. 

That whole section got really long. Anyway, it wasn't really that bad. See?

So, we drove back to the motherland for the beautiful wedding of Kristine and Henry. And it was, as Evelyn loves to say, absolutely worth it. 

We left around 4:30 in the afternoon last Thursday. SO excited to hit the road. I decided that I'd take a picture as we crossed into each state. This little project went really well! See? 

*Not pictured: West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, and (on the way home) Tennessee

The nostalgia enveloped me. Engulfed me. Pretty much the instant I saw this.

Then I discovered the prairie, and a slow healing began. - Stephen R. Jones

We made it to Nebraska. The kids were great. Jonathan and I were in full zombie mode. But the grandparents were there and it was time to feast on Valentino's and do some shopping. Beatrice is adorable. We attempted to nap, checked out the hotel pool, and then went out on the town with a trip to Risky's. And did they have Boulevard Wheat on tap? They did indeed.

Family photo op in front of Beatrice's very own Statue of Liberty. I think it turned out really well. 
I think children are born knowing that when on vacation, you jump on the bed.

On Saturday, we were up with the dawn and it was time for adventuring. To the skate park we went. 

Little man

She was a bit shy about going down the ramps at first. 

Get it, GOB!

And then, some delicious Chinese food. A nap. And wedding prep. 

That's why we made the trek, after all. To celebrate with Krstine and Henry and enjoy their touching and wonderful and fun and gorgeous day. It was so wonderful. Evelyn was enamored with Kristine and she got to hold court at a table of Bartels clear across the ballroom from her parents and brother. 

Anna, Evelyn, and Kristine
Gideon, Jonathan, and the Matron of Honor, Lisa

We stayed until they kicked us out (the kiddos went back to the hotel early with MeeMaw and Pop Pop). Talked, and laughed, and drank a lot of wine (that might have been only me). Saw a thunderstorm roll in and ran through the downpour. Stayed up late in the hotel room catching up. 

And then on Sunday morning, we got to join in a perfect Brunch at Larry and Kathleen's. There were so. many. people. It was awesome. We discussed hand measurement technology and Nick's baton, we gave Mark ample grief for his new status as a Jayhawk, we ate. And ate. And ate. Played Kubb. Took a walk around the farm and found deer skulls and antlers. 

She was so eager to see corn up close. 
Checking out raccoon tracks with MeeMaw
Kimberly has some strange fondness for the nasal swirl. You should ask her about it. 
I just love this picture. 
And this one. Prob my favorite. 
Lisa, Sherri, Mark, Kim, and Josh playing Kubb
Henry, who may or may not be an official Bartel (last I heard his application was still pending?) and some other menfolk playing Kubb
Unfortunately, we had to leave to get a start on driving home. We planned to make the nice little drive to St. Louis to meet up with some grad school friends, Liz and Pete. I thought we'd get to STL around 6:30 or so. A little 6 hour drive, no big deal.


Luckily, Liz and Pete (who Evelyn would only call "Pete the Cat") are flexible and they were totally fine with us being late. We had some delicious pizza at a local place, caught up on the past six years, and then packed up and hit the road again. We made it to Mount Vernon, IL that night and crashed at a hotel, telling ourselves that the next day would be a piece of cake because go us we'd already gotten a bunch of driving out of the way!

And the children were nestled all snug in their seats, distracted by electronics as we headed East. 
 What happened next? I think I'll blame the GPS? It kept changing our route. It couldn't decide whether to send us on the 64 route through WV, or the other route through TN. And we had to find a McDonald's with a playplace in Frankfort or something in Kentucky, and that took us way out of the way. And no one could coordinate bladders with one another or the gas tank so we were stopping all the time for restroom and/or fuel breaks. And it just took forever. And by forever, I mean about 15 hours. And that's pretty in line with how long it took us to get there, but it felt like so much longer on the way home.

Friends, that is how you turn what could have been a post about a beloved cousin's wedding into a whiny attempt at humor. The wedding was fantastic. Seeing everyone was really wonderful and overwhelming and beautiful. Jonathan was so happy. He's been wanting this for a very long time, and he kept telling me how grateful he was to be there and to see his family again. And I was so happy too. I was sipping coffee at Kathleen's house at the brunch, and my father in law (Richard) turned to me and said, "Chelsea, I haven't seen you look so peaceful in a long time." And it made me stop and realize that we have things really, really good. So if I'm going to be stuck in a car for 44 hours in a four day period, there's really no one else I'd rather share that adventure with.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I have this great blog post brewing. (I mean, I don't know whether you'll think it's great, but I mostly write for me and I think it's going to be great.) But right now I just finished a report that I wrote in record time, I'm having pretty much the Best Work Week Ever, and I really should be packing to drive 20 hours in a car with a 2 and 4 year old. But just writing that makes me want to sit on the couch and eat ice cream and binge on The Wire. Adulting is so hard

So you get the usual blog post today. Children. Doing things. And stuff. 

Pelican's Sno... probably the best snow cones on the planet. 

Our fav cooling off spot - the Into the Mist exhibit at MLS. 

Cool new amphitheater area in Into the Mist! The kids all love to do a song and dance and have the parents watch. 

Olive was trying to eat this baby bird in our house (not sure how it got in), so we relocated it. The poor thing died the next day and now the kids check on it and tell us how the ants are eating it. Circle of life lesson, I guess. 

Fourth of July at Koka Booth Amphitheater... Jonathan played his part as the Jungle Gym.  

He loves it. 

More climbing!

Our tiny man on the Fourth. He screamed his way through the fireworks a couple hours after this was taken. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Port City

Last weekend, I had a highly anticipated trip to Wilmington with my friend Emily. She grew up there and most of her family and friends still live there, so it was pretty sweet to get an insider's tour of the city. The highlight of the weekend was having zero parenting responsibilities. Jonathan and I did some time swapping and I'd banked some serious solo parenting hours, so I got to cash them all in and take the whole weekend off. I'll give the full rundown just so I don't forget. 

So Friday after work, we headed over to Emily and Calvin's to get packed up, and get Lola (their dog). We left Raleigh in a strong spring thunderstorm around 7:30, and got to Wilmington around 9:30. Emily drives really, really, really fast. After dropping stuff at Emily's parents' house, we headed downtown to Slice of Life for some pizza and beer, and then did a bit of wandering around in the rain until we ended up at Lula's. The pizza at Slice was amazing. And Lula's is down in a basement underneath The Little Dipper, and it reminded me so much Auntie Mae's in Aggieville. We met up with various friends of Emily and Calvin, and friends of Emily's sister Betsy (who is doing her residency, so all her friends are doctors and they were talking about assisting with laproscopic cholycystectomies and such). 

Blair and I both wore blue maxis and orange cropped cardigans... always fun to walk around town with your twin.

We headed back to the house for some sleep. I woke up at about 7 on Saturday and felt AMAZING. I didn't know I could sleep that late. I thought it was not actually physically possible. Of course no one else was awake, because 7 isn't exactly "sleeping on a Saturday" for most people. So I just hung out and watched HGTV and no one said MOMMYMOMMYMOMMY and it was so very nice.

After a trip to Trader Joe's to get a birthday gift for Emily's older sister, we got ready to head to the beach. We grabbed some amazing sandwiches at Chops, some cheap beer from the Food Dog, and took the back roads to reach Kure Beach in pretty much no time at all.

Wishing I could just eat my computer screen. If you to Wilmington, eat at Chops!
Commence the hanging out on the beach, listening to music, people watching, jumping in the Atlantic to cool off. Repeat. Amazing. I told Emily that if we could all just live on the beach, no one would need therapy. It was so, so, so nice. After we were sufficiently hot and my legs were on the verge of lobster status (note to self: SUNSCREEN), we packed up and headed back to the house for a birthday dinner for Emily and her sister. I got to meet her nephews and more friends, we did a bit of swimming in the pool, and then we geared up for the proper downtown Wilmington crawl. I had to visit all the places I've heard so much about from Emily and Calvin. We stated at Jacob and Kim's house and then walked to The Goat, where we pretty much had the place to ourselves. 

The gang, minus Emily, outside the Goat. 
 After that we made the long walk to The Blind Elephant speakeasy lounge. Because walking is always more fun with music, I decided to play Girl Talk the whole way there. I think it really spiced up the trek. The Elephant was really cool. Lots of people in flapper gear and incredibly strong, tasty cocktails. We didn't stay too long because it was packed, so we headed to another place nearby where I ordered water and got the scarlet letter of water-in-bar orders: the red solo cup. You could tell at a glance who was drinking water. Anyway, this bar had skee-ball, which is brilliant. But we had places to be, so we finished our drinks and walked over to the infamous Duck and Dive. I met Fred the cockroach, hung out on the patio, and sipped my delicious water while people-watching and noticing that my legs were literally (not literally) on fire. We grabbed a cab home, I tried to sleep on the kitchen floor but Emily convinced me to go to bed, and we all woke up around 10 the next morning.



A miracle.

And then, it was time for Sunday brunch. I have been on this planet for 31 years. I have eaten millions of approximately 33,945 meals. But brunch at The Basics? It was without question the best meal I've had in my entire life. I'm not kidding. I had the crabcake benedict. And coffee. And a mango mimosa. And all I can say is that if you're ever in Wilmington you HAVE to go to The Basics for brunch. It's not even an option.

I'm so sad that I'm not eating this right now. 
Feeling much more alive, we walked off brunch, checking out the Riverwalk and various little shops, until we made our way to the Shuckin' Shack Oyster Bar

River Walk

I decided to try an oyster. The flavor was fine. The texture was like chewing on a ball of semi-solid nasal mucous. Would not repeat. We watched North Korea and Algeria in the world cup. We ate delicious shrimp. We were exhausted and went back to the house for a nap. 

I woke up from the nap in time to see Portugal make that last-minute goal and tie the game. We packed up, grabbed the Cook-Out (did you know that they have tasty chicken quesadillas?!), and headed home. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

A long, long time ago, I can still remember.

Some of the finest therapists around way back in '08: Michelle, Chelsea, Cassandra, Rosemary, Jessie, Jess,
Julie, Kira, Tony, Liz, Lindsay, Pete, and Vijay. 
With the big job switcheroo turning my world upside-down these days, I've found myself digging through archives of meticulously organized and labeled three-ring binders (thank you again, former Chelsea, for your attention to detail) to find notes on the MMPI-2 validity scales and the Mini Mental State exam and evidence-based play therapy exercises and assigning GAF scores and differential diagnoses and... so on and so forth. And I've stumbled upon some of the most detailed and descriptive notes I've ever read from when my cohort did Yalom group therapy on ourselves (a practice with questionable ethics indeed). And frantic scribbled notes from comps time. And doodles and notes between myself and others in the cohort about what color tie our stats prof would wear that day, and when would this lecture ever end, and ceilings on IQ tests.

It's funny how life goes sometimes. I was so in it during the three years it took to get the degree in clinical psych. We all were. My cohort was really big, and we had our issues, and in the end it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns but we were all wiser and ready for what was next. For some of us, it was psychotherapy (in the therapist role), for some of us it was more school and then on to various things.

I pretty much went straight from graduation to moving across the country, and didn't really stop doing and going and rushing to the next thing. School, Evelyn, school, internship, Gideon, internship, job, dissertation, graduation, job, stop for a minute and breathe and... here I am.


Not so frantic.

Here I am, still loving assessment. Here I am, connecting with kids in therapy. Here I am, remembering diagnostic criteria that I didn't even know I'd encoded in the ocean of information I somehow ingested over the past 8 years.

I know it'll be hard, and the sparkle of something new will wear off. But it feels so good, and so right, and I'm just enjoying that right now.

"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. " - Theodore Roosevelt 

Monday, June 9, 2014

I'm a timeshifter!

Apparently it's called timeshifting. Not sure whether that's one word or two. Probably two, but one makes it more superhero-y so I'm sticking with it. Um, anyway... I read this week that when you prep a bunch of meals ahead of time so that you have time on weeknights to do ALL THE THINGS, it's called timeshifting. So that's my superpower. I'm not quite back to the amazing once a month cooking thing I was doing pre-Jonathan's pancreatitis, but I'm inching in that direction. 

Time for a life update? Yes, let's! Brace for some random stories because my brain can't form a coherent narrative. 

Evelyn had her very first dance recital on Saturday. At the dress rehearsal Friday night, the whole dance school practiced the finale first and after that Evelyn's class practiced their tap and ballet routines, and then they were free to go. Pretty much everyone left, but E insisted on staying to watch all the dancers. I finally pried her out of the auditorium around 8 PM, well past bedtime, much to her dismay. We made it all the way back to the car when she tripped over her feet, fell, and skinned her knee. Pretty sure we didn't get our money's worth on that pair of dance tights that she wore precisely two times. Poor E was so dismayed at the hole in her tights - she was far more upset about the tights than she was about the blood running down her leg (I might have been warning her not to mess up her costume all night). So, Saturday was crazy. In the end I was the only one there to see her tap routine. Who knew they'd actually start the show at the scheduled starting time?! But everyone made it to watch the ballet performance, which was the highlight because it was Baby, Take a Bow and all four girls' dads came out and danced with them at the end. The adorableness level was overwhelming. 

All ready for their tap routine: Baby Face
Gideon taught us an important lesson. I'm sure you'll be shocked to hear this, but two year olds don't really love sitting in an auditorium for nearly three hours watching a dance recital. We might be lining up a babysitter for that one for the next few years. 

In addition to my mad timeshifting skillz, I have been rather occupied of late with an exciting series of events. The conclusion of said series of events is... 

... wait for it... 



... be patient... 



... a new... 




... job! 

I know, right? Pretty terrifying/exciting. Terrifiting. Excitifying. 

I don't know whether it's the unlimited supply of therapy gently nudging me toward believing that I'm actually capable of doing things I want to do, or Jonathan's awful illness and the terror associated with it, or a number of increasingly stressful and disheartening events in postdoc-land... or some combination of the above... but I decided to throw my hat into the ring and see what would happen. And I ended up having a handful of (mostly) great interviews, reminiscing about writing psychoeducational and psychological evaluation reports, and getting more excited than I thought I'd be about the possibility of shifting gears. I felt a pretty immediate connection with the owner and staff of a small group practice and decided to take the plunge. 

So I resigned (current employer requires four weeks' notice, so I'll finish up just before July 4). I sent in everything to the state board to get approved as a provisional Licensed Psychologist. I made a list of all the stuff I need to get done at work. Started cleaning out my cube. Started thinking about the EPPP. Started feeling really excited that this is real and right and good. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A farewell to facebook.

"Where we all share out best bits, but leave out the emotion." 

I didn't leave Facebook to make a big statement, so I hadn't written about it on ye olde blog. I didn't leave as some nod to the new hipster wave of facebook exiles. I just decided one day that it might be better for me to try not being there.

And it hasn't been some big life-changing thing. But has been a little life-changing thing. I've found that I know a little less about the daily details of everyone's lives. I've found that I crave face-to-face interaction and conversation more, and I'm more engaged and present when I'm with people. I'm really there.

I'm still here. I'm on G+. I'm on Twitter and Instagram (kinda). I'm not off the grid, and I don't have hard and fast rules for what I will and won't do in the future. But for now, living without facebook has helped me to be more present and more grateful, and I'll take it.