Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Intelligence? Meh...

Intelligence is overrated.  It's necessary to get through school, into college, and hopefully into a meaningful career.  But as I've matured (ha!), I have learned that the ability to relate to other people and to really listen and talk to others as equals is a much more meaningful and important skill.  I'd rather spend my time with someone with a kind, open heart and empathy than someone with a 148 IQ in a heartbeat.   I come from a very intelligent family, and ironically, intelligence tests are something I give and interpret as part of my job.  Within my own family of origin, I'd probably score the lowest.  Not dumb, not Forrest Gump...but relatively lower than my other family members.  However, I believe that the skills that I have honed in dealing with people, ALL kinds of people, is so much more valuable than mere intelligence.

I remember telling a first year school psychologist, "you can know theories, tests, stats, and laws forwards and backwards, but if you don't know how to talk to people, you won't do well in this career."

So I can't help my 10 year daughter with her math homework, so what?  People know they can trust me, people know they can talk to me, and that I will listen with undivided and rapt attention. The people who have been given to me as gifts from God in my life have the same skills.  Did they go to college?  Do they work in a gas station?  I don't care.  Beautiful people are hard to come by, and I'm not referring to people who are beautiful on the outside, although I know many who are both, lucky suckers!

Praise Jesus for helping me to recognize this skill in myself, as well as blessing me with so many wonderful people who do the same for me, every day.  What is intelligence anyway?  Who cares?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Did my freshman year in college really happen?

LORD, I was a lousy student! I was the poster girl for the classic underachiever in high school. I was bright and capable of so much more than I actually produced. I was probably the only student in the high school who was GATE identified, and took AP classes in English and History, but finished high school with a whopping 2.5 something GPA or something equally unacceptable.  I still have my transcripts, but I'm kind of afraid to know the actual figure. I did well in English because I loved it. I gave minimal effort towards everything else, although I had random, floating A’s that would appear when I suddenly felt behooved to try. My mathematical brain had been hermetically sealed since a humiliating experience in the 5th grade. Consequently, I failed Algebra I twice, including summer school. The third time I took it, I’m pretty sure my teachers threw their hands up and gifted me with a D just to get me out of their hair. Thankfully I passed Geometry, and in those days, that’s all you needed to graduate. I nearly did not graduate from high school at all, for a reason so stupid it still makes me laugh at myself on a regular basis. I failed gym. And then I failed gym. And then I failed gym again. Who the heck wants to change your clothes and then run around when you could sit in the sun and talk to your friends? My friends were smart enough to do the bare minimum to get through it. During my senior year, I was thrown a bone I totally didn't deserve…I got to be a TA for one of the coaches for PE credit. I kept his desk organized and I entered scores and stats into a ledger. I discovered one of the athletic office ladies was stealing from the hopper from the candy sales. I passed PE, and graduated from high school. Standing aside my friends who graduated with honors and earned scholarships, I got an actual diploma.

Looking back, it probably would have helped somewhat if I had actually attended school from time to time. I remember clearly our AP English teacher telling my best friend Renee on one of the many days I was absent, “If you talk to her, remind her that school is every day.” This is a phrase she still teases me with to this day. I was “sick” frequently. When we were able to drive, forget it…it would be McDonald's or Winchell's donuts during 1st period Spanish.   Renee and I would routinely arrive 10 minutes before the period was over. We had a lovely little Japanese lady who taught Spanish, and every day we’d try to come up with new excuses. “The car broke down!” “We ran out of gas.” “We forgot homework and had to drive all the way back and by the time we got here…” Oh, that poor lady. She bought none of it of course, but would listen, roll her eyes and say, “Pobre sitas!”, which is roughly translates to “poor babies”.  She passed us with C's, I have no idea how.

It also probably would have helped if, ummm, my parents had paid the slightest bit of attention to what I was doing with regard to school. I do remember my mom getting me an Algebra tutor at one time that I hated. He only came once. Beyond that, both of my parents appeared clueless regarding how I was doing at school. At one point, my mom did discover that I had been cutting classes on a regular basis and came up with a consequence. “If I find out you ditch class one more time, I’m disconnecting your phone.” Side note: I had my own phone line. I did not deserve my own phone line. These were the old days before call waiting, and I got my own phone line for one reason only. My mother wanted to occasionally use the phone, and that wasn’t happening with me on it at least 3-4 hours a day. 798-2729 should have never been, and certainly didn’t help my study skills since it was in my bedroom. Disconnecting my phone would have been like cutting off my arm at the time, but here’s the sad part. I was so 100% sure that my mother would not take the time to call the high school to see if I was attending my classes, that I cut class the very next day. I was right, she never called to check, and I continued to ditch. I’m not blaming my parents for my scholastic failures, I was totally responsible. I just intend to do things differently with my own kids.

So I continued to have my undeserved phone line in my own room, something that I would now consider for my own children in high school, maybe, if they are earning a 4.0 or above. Oh wait…they won’t need such a thing because they’ll have cell phones by then. In any case, they have the disadvantage of having a me as a mother who: A: Is so determined that my children do not follow in my footsteps in this particular area and am so adamant that they work up to their potential that it sometimes makes my head spin, and B: I work in the same school district in which they attend, and due to the remarkable technological advances of the present day, I can check to see if they attend each and every period by computer. I can check to see if they’ve gotten into any trouble. I can even see their report cards before they’re officially distributed. They’re screwed. Mwah ha ha ha!!! They’re going to college, come hell or high water, hopefully one they can choose from several options.

I’d always thought that I would go to UCSB in Santa Barbara, which was my ultimate goal. For some inexplicable reason, I thought it would just “happen” without having to work for it at all. Seriously. At some point during my senior year, I remember accepting that this dream was not going to happen and being crushed and confused. I wish I could remember how I found this place, but I learned about a small, Catholic, private, junior college in Palos Verdes. I applied, and was miraculously accepted. It was very expensive, and I wanted OUT of the house. I got to go away to “college”!

Marymount College Palos Verdes is not Loyola Marymount, which is actually a very good reputable school. Marymount College, where I attended, was a bit of a joke. I quickly learned that it was where rich parents sent their rich children who had been just as lazy and irresponsible as I had been. Maybe after two years, their kids would get their heads together and be able to transfer to USC, and the parents would no longer have to hang their heads in shame. I was in for the biggest culture shock of my young life. I was about as prepared for the people I was about to encounter as I would have been if I’d been dropped off for my freshman year in Mongolia. The first day I pulled into the parking lot of the school in my brown 1982 Datsun 210 amongst the Mercedes, BMW’s and Porches, I knew I had landed on a foreign planet. Although it was before the show’s existence, it was very much like a scene from Beverly Hills 90210. Every school I had ever attended in Pasadena was totally diverse and integrated, with every possible culture represented. My dad and mom’s neighborhoods were the same. I had friends who were Black, Hispanic, Japanese, Chinese, you name it. It was normal, and I thought the world was that way. I got to Marymount and everyone was WHITE. Really, really white. Wait, I stand corrected…there were some black students, I think there were 12, many of whom comprised the basketball team. Not only was everyone white, everyone was a kind of white I knew nothing about or had experienced. Rich. Arrogant. Racist. Entitled. Okay, okay, I’ll just say it. Assholes. I didn’t know how to talk to these people! The college itself sat up in Palos Verdes Estates, an unbelievably beautiful community with enormous mansions with expansive views of the ocean. The “dorms” were actually apartment buildings down the hill in San Pedro, a tad less upscale of a community than Palos Verdes. The apartments themselves were really nice, two bedroom, two bath, 4 students to each apartment. My first three roommates could not have been more different. A beautiful, wild party girl from Hawaii. A low-keyed, slightly arrogant chick from Alaska. And then a girl from Chula Vista with whom I shared a bedroom and bathroom, and the most descriptive word I can use for her is "stupid". That girl was just not a smart person, and she was a slovenly as she was dull. Very quickly,  the beautiful Hawaiian girl found another Hawaiian girl and wanted to switch apartments. She was replaced by an absolutely beautiful black girl (one of the 12) who was somewhat stand-offish. We became friends ultimately, but it took a long time. In the meantime, we experienced grocery shopping, paying bills and utilities, and cleaning our own apartment for the first time. It was…interesting.

The college itself was filled with people I just could not relate to. I became friendly with some, mostly who lived in the same apartment building, but they knew nothing of my background or upbringing. As a result, some would let the most offensive, revolting racist jokes fly in my presence. I was shocked and offended, and I let the joke teller know. The next time we were all together, he began to tell another joke and then said, and I swear I am not making this up, “Well, I can’t tell this in front of her (me), she likes black people.” Why, yes, this is correct. As a matter of fact, I know every single one of them and like them all equally. I'm their white ambassador.  For the love of God!   One of my closest friends from high school, Mona, helped me move into my apartment during this time, and she happens to be black. She came around a corner holding some of my hand weights and genuinely frightened some of our fellow students. Rarrrrrr!!! Here comes a big beautiful black woman carrying weights, she’s probably going to jump us, run for your lives!!! We both got a pretty big kick out of it, actually.  What had I done in deciding to go there? There was a period of time when I was writing letters to my best friend Renee and in each one there would be “An Actual Marymount Quote For The Day” segment. I only remember two. One young man, upon entering our apartment building to visit a friend had to show the supervising adult his ID. Sniffing with disgust, he said, “Oh my God, I could sell my WATCH and buy this building!” I remember that kid, and I hope someone eventually kicked his ass. The other was when I asked a classmate if she was ready for finals. This poor little thing said, “Oh my God, I was up doing lines all night just to stay awake and study!” ?????? Really? Is cocaine a study aid? I do know that cocaine was absolutely everywhere, I wrote to my friend that when you turned on the faucet in our apartment building, cocaine came out instead of water.

However, wonderful things were around the corner. I would like to thank two beautiful women for saving me that year. Cheryl was from Seattle, and we kept bumping into each other…she lived in the building, and we had some of the same classes. She was sweet and friendly and, amazingly, did not snort cocaine, so that was a plus. We became friends very quickly. Second semester, I changed apartments and roomed with her and her two other roommates, who were also very sweet, nice girls. We had a blast together. Granted, we drank like fish, so I don’t want to appear overly virtuous just because we didn’t snort cocaine.In fact, we concocted our own "cocktail" of Crystal Light and Bacardi.  Yuck...makes me shudder, even to this day. I remember one night we were all at the beach, drunk, and trying to find each other as it was really dark. I yelled, “Where are you?” She yelled back, “Just turn left and keep walking!” I replied, “If I do that, I’ll walk into the ocean!!”  There was a trip to Tijuana, that I probably wouldn't have a lot of recollection about due to the level of intoxication, other than the fact that I still have pictures. Yikes. There I am, 1988 or 1989, in my acid washed jeans and gigantic hair, flipping off the camera in almost every picture. Sniff... I'm so proud. During that trip, we were staying in some horrific motel and we came across a big spider or roach and I promptly sprayed in with my hairspray (which, according to the pictures at least, I had an endless supply of), and lighting it on FIRE. Oy.  In the morning, we all woke up horrifically hung-over, but we thought we'd misplaced one of our friends.  "Where's Jon?"  Off in a corner, we heard a pathetic whimper, "I'm in hell..." A memorable experience for sure.

I  also remember planning a trip to Catalina Island with some other folks, and Cheryl knocking on my door (this must have been first semester) and I’d overslept, and was hung-over (shocker). I tried to get out of it, but she made me go. The boat ride over was a little rough, but it ended up being one of the best days I remember from that bizarre year. We rented a little motorboat and went fishing in the harbor, actually caught some fish, and brought them home and grilled them up for dinner. It was delicious, and just one of those beautiful, perfect days. On my 19th birthday, she and our other roommates made me a cake and then she and I went to see “Say Anything” in the theater. We still quote lines from the movie to each other, actually, since it took place in Seattle and so much of it was filmed in Altadena, blocks from my dad's house. Crazy coincidence!

The other close friend I made I had at least one class with, but I honestly don’t remember exactly how we became friends. Lisa was from Boise. She lived in the building too, and in getting to know each other, we discovered that she also came from a much more middle class, integrated upbringing, and that Marymount was throwing her for a loop too. We became very close, so close in fact that she often joined my family at my dad’s house for holidays when she couldn’t afford or didn’t want to go home. She was regarded as family by my father, and they bonded quickly. This support was invaluable at the time, as she didn’t have a particularly close relationship with her own father at the time. She actually lived with us for a number of weeks one summer while we were both working part time jobs and trying to save money. She is a dear, dear friend to me, and flew from Idaho for my father’s funeral last year.

Cheryl and I only lasted a year at Marymount. I went back to Pasadena and attended the City College, planning to transfer to a 4 year school when I had enough credits. She retreated back to Washington and finished her schooling at Washington State. Lisa from Boise stuck it out for another year, during which we kept in constant contact, as Marymount was only about 45 minutes away with no traffic. After that, she transferred over to Loyola Marymount, the “real school”,and completed her degree there.

Without the friendship of these girls, I would have lost my mind, quit school entirely, or perhaps tried cocaine myself. The three of us never did, as we watched our other friends, one by one, get sucked into the trend. As a matter of fact, and Cheryl just reminded me of this, a number of these kids ended up getting hauled off to rehab my their parents.  In fact, we got into the habit of singing "Another One Bites The Dust" every time we'd hear of another one.  It was almost as though it was a crazy, rich white college kid rite of passage, going to rehab.  Cheryl also reminded me of how tempted we were to run through the parking lot at the college and intentionally set off all the car alarms.  Keep in mind when this was, the only cars that had alarms in 1988 were very expensive ones, and most of these kids had expensive cars of their own, or were driving their parent's cars after they'd decided to "upgrade" after a year of driving it.  We never did it, but I sure wish we had!

I think we all kept each other strong, and reminded each other where we came from. We remained fairly grounded and kept each other from  turning  into strange, snobby pod-people. I am still very close to both of them to this day, and we’ve been friends for more than half our lives now. They were both to be in my wedding, but Lisa had a baby, and his first birthday was on the same day as my wedding. She was crushed, but I understood. Cheryl flew all night to Sacramento from Miami (where she had been living at the time), and was exhausted. She made it through the rehearsal, but I know she was fried. She stayed with my dad and I in our apartment, and on the morning of my wedding, she got up early and drove around in a city in which she’d never been to find a supermarket. She bought me yogurt, bagels, and juice, and made me eat them. THAT is a friend. I remember when Cheryl was in a long term relationship, and was horribly mistreated.  That was the first time I actually felt like getting on a plane and getting into a physical fight with this dude, and I've never been in a physical fight.  She is just a nice person.  The word doesn't do her justice, but there are those people out there that are just sweet and good natured and don't have a mean bone in their body.  So this jerk treating her badly wasn't just about hurting my friend, it was like a crime against humanity to me!  She met a wonderful guy not long after this, got married, and had two of the most beautiful children I have ever seen.  I'm so glad she got these things in her life, because in her goodness, she absolutely deserves every bit of it.

When my father passed last year and I was down at his house a couple days after, it occurred to me I hadn’t called Lisa yet. I sat at dining room table in my father’s house at which she and I had numerous home cooked meals and long hilarious conversations with my him and gave her a call. It was a Tuesday. She answered with, “Hey girl, this is bad news, isn’t it?” I validated her question, and she said, “You know, it’s weird. I was thinking about your dad on Sunday all day, I couldn’t get him out of my head. I almost called you.” I was silent for a few moments and said, “Lisa. He died on Sunday.” She and my dad loved each other so much, and they had a special connection. She was able to visit him in his last year of life, which I am so very grateful for. Lisa's son is 15 now, and while I have not had the privilege of seeing him for a number of years, he sounds like an incredible young man, and I know how proud she is.  If I could choose one word for her, it would be strong.  She has been through a lot of tragedy and heartache, but perseveres no matter what.  I admire her more than she could possibly imagine.

So…my underachievement and laziness lead me to two of the best people, as well as the best friends I have ever had. Grace abounds. I’m convinced that God puts certain people in our lives for specific reasons. I don’t have the joy of seeing or talking to them that often, but they are always there in spirit, and I know that.  Ten years could go by, and we pick up right where we left off.  Those kinds of friendships don’t come along often. To the two of you, you know who you are, I love you SO much. Thank you for helping me keep my sanity. So had I applied myself and gotten into UCSB or Cal, I never would have met them. My life would be a much less rich place without them in it. God knows what he’s doing.

The irony, of course, is in having been such a joke of a student, I ended up in a professional career in education.  Maybe it isn't ironic, maybe it's the reason why.  I wanted to be a good counselor because I'd experienced such ineffective hacks calling themselves counselors as a kid.  Maybe I want to encourage kids to reach their full potential in school despite family turmoil and possible disabilities because I never took advantage of the gifts I had to fully reach my potential.  In any case, I know all of this was within God's hands, and I wouldn't change a bit of it now.

And just in case anyone was wondering, I really do like black people. ;)

Friday, February 4, 2011

1980ish...or, The Year My Family Imploded

This needs editing, my apologies...but I had to get it out of my head, I haven't been able to sleep, thinking of what I wanted to write.

The problem with being so diligent about keeping journals since the age of 10 is, well, you get to go back and read them.  Some are absolutely cringe-worthy.  But some of them are so sad, hearing the voice again of my little girl self, so confused about everything that was changing around me.

The chronology of all of this may be wrong, most is from memory.  But I do know that these things happened in relatively quick order. My mother was running for city office of some kind, and our home became her election headquarters. My sister had a psychotic break and was committed to a mental hospital.  My brother was kicked out of our mother's house and went and lived with our dad.  I decided, in the midst of all of this madness, that I wanted my dad to have joint custody of me. And, living in a four bedroom house with only two people left, my mother decided to rent out the spare rooms to strangers.  I was around 10 when all this went down. 

When my sister was a senior in high school, she was accepted as an exchange student and spent the second semester in Japan.  She became very close with her host family, particularly her host mother.  However, when she returned, she had a rude awakening.  Her friends had moved away to college already, and beyond Japan, she hadn't really made any solid plans.  She was also having a lot of confusion about personal issues in her life, and she needed her mother.  But our mother was running for office...out of our home.  She didn't have the time for my sister that she so desperately needed at the time.  I remember, clearly, my mother asking my sister to make an appointment to talk with her.  I'm not blaming my mother for the events that followed, no one knows what would have happened if things had gone differently.  But my sister began to act very strangely, erratically.  She hid in my closet and while I was listening to records one night, burst out speaking something in French and scared me to death. She was feeding my dad's dog spices to see how he reacted..  She stopped making sense.  My dad was flummoxed, and had no idea what to do, so I'm pretty sure he just drank more. I knew about a lot of things earlier than I should have and was exposed to things that were inappropriate, mostly at my dad's house.  He should have tried to enforce some sort of sane boundaries, but it was probably easier for him to just keep drinking. At some point, my sister was sent to live with our grandparents, who were wonderful and nurturing, but she was already in the middle of this storm of a breakdown.  After this behavior had been going on for awhile, my mom decided to take her to a mental hospital, a day that she still describes as the worst day of her entire life. My sister was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depression back then) with Schizophrenic episodes.  I had no idea what was going on or why.  I have a VERY vivid memory of going to visit her in the hospital with my mom.  In the waiting room, (lobby?), there was an older woman, curled up into a ball under a table, giggling to herself.  I remember thinking, "what happened to her??"  We walked down the hallway to my sister's room, and she was not in a good state.  Knowing what I know now, she was cycling in her manic stage...she had a rubber stamp of Susan B. Anthony, and she had made some kind of cosmic connection in her mind between herself and the civil rights leader.  She began stamping everything in sight, including the walls, and she was constantly talking, ideas, theories, nonstop...none of it was logical.   That evening, they had to move my sister back into the intensive care unit, ironically called La Siesta.  The grounds of this hospital were incredibly beautiful, with amazing gardens overflowing with flowers.  As we walked through these gardens accompanied by a nurse, I looked up at my mother and saw an expression that I can't describe, but don't want to ever see again.  She looked like she aged ten years in ten minutes, just complete despair and pain.  We left my sister there and went home.  I don't remember anything else about that evening, the drive home, or what my mom may have said or not said to me.  But I was so scared that night. Who was this person we just visited?  Is this going to happen to me too? But it also planted the very first seed of curiosity about psychology for me...I wanted to understand.  Too much for a ten year old to digest at the time, but the interest did begin that evening.

My mom lost the election.

Somewhere around that time, my mom lost control of my brother, who was around 14 or 15 at the time.  He was sneaking out at night, not adhering to ANY rules, and there was one night when my mom swung to hit him and he caught her arm in mid-air and lowered it back down to her side.  She realized he was bigger, and stronger.  So the decision was made that he go live with my dad.  "Decision".  So many interpretations of what happened, and I'll never know the exact truth, I wasn't there.  My mom has said that she discussed it with our dad and they both agreed it was the best thing.  My dad has said he showed up on his doorstep with his suitcase.  My brother maintains that he was "kicked out" something I think he's still wounded from, deep down.  I was left with mom.  My sister had gone crazy.  My brother was kicked out.  Crap, what was going to happen to me? Hmmmm...okay.  My 10 year old self decided that I wanted my dad to have joint custody of me.  Mom was often gone in the evenings, dad was always home.  I missed my brother.  It made complete sense to me.  Mom was NOT having it, and we were going to go to court over it.  I actually wrote a letter to Dear Abby about this, and recently while cleaning out our dad's home after his death, my brother found the letter.  I remember writing it, and deciding not to send it.  I never knew my dad must have found it at some point and saved it.  In it, I described my brother being kicked out because my mom thought he was "impossible, but I don't think that's true."  I also described how my dad, my brother, and myself all wanted me to have equal time with my dad, but my mom did not.  I signed it "10 in Pasadena" and "P.S. And please don't suggest counseling, because it's already messed everything up."

Oh my GOD, that was supposed to be for me.  It was through Fuller Seminary, and it was two interns, they may have been married.  They did not have the foggiest idea what they were doing, that was clear to me, even then.  After maybe one or two sessions, they decided that my counseling needed to become family sessions.  Ummm, powder keg, anyone?  I don't remember if my dad ever went, he may not have.  My sister didn't because she was still hospitalized.  But I do remember one session with my mom, brother, and I.  My brother was SO ANGRY with her. I remember he kept banging the arm of the chair he was sitting in, so I started doing the same on my chair.  The focus quickly transitioned to the conflict between them...then these amateurs decided that they needed to get both mom and dad in there to talk about the divorce...7 years ago!  They were hired to help me...and I was totally pushed aside and essentially forgotten about, which proved to be a common theme in my childhood.  Counseling didn't last long.

We never went to court.  My mom threatened to say certain things about my dad that were untrue, and my dad didn't want to put me through that, so he dropped it.  She told me later, "I fought for you!"  I just couldn't figure out why.  I  know she loved me, but she was never home, not even in the evenings.  I spent a lot of time by myself during this time, the typical "latch key kid" of the early 80's. Did she just not want to lose all three of her children in a year?  I would have been there half of the time, dad only lived ten minutes away, but it was not to be.  She then made another major decision...she would rent out the vacant rooms in our home!  Then I wouldn't be alone at night, someone would be there, and she could generate some additional income.  I was never asked how I felt about it.  And for the next 7 years, until I was 17 years old, I lived with strangers, at least they were to me.  There will be a longer chapter to come about those years.  I need to try to remember all their names, there were men and women.  Let me say that no harm ever came to me as a result of living with these people...but BOY it could have.  It couldn't have been easier, the stage was practically SET for it.  God was looking out for me, and I spent a lot of time in my room.  Books, friends, and music became my constant companions, and are what kept me sane.

So sister recovered, but in subsequent years was hospitalized two more times.  We've talked a lot over the last several years, and determined that we never really got much of a chance to get to know each other growing up.  She is 8 1/2 years older than I am, and we're about as different as two women can be.  When I was a baby, she doted on me, and I have lovely pictures to prove it, but I don't remember.  She still sometimes calls her own 11 year old daughter by my name because she resembles me at that age.  We're at a good place now, but it took a long time.  As we've become closer, she's shared her own stories about what it was like at those hospitals, and they are horrifying.  She described hallucinating in the shower that the streams of water were knives and the water running down her body was blood.  As an orderly rushed in to help her when he heard the screams, she was convinced he was going to rape her. She told me of forced medications, Thorazine and Lithium, and having her jaw completely and painfully lock as a side effect.  She told me of waking up one day and realizing it was about 2 days later.  Her descriptions of complete loss of control and human dignity hurt my soul now.  She was sick, I remember.  But I wish she hadn't had to experience such horror, and I know she's still holds some resentment toward our mom for initially putting her there.

Now, at 40, I'm trying to see things from my mother's perspective.  If my first born child was acting the way my sister was, and I'm sure there is a LOT I don't remember, I probably would have done the same thing.  She didn't know what else to do!  My dad was of no help, the situation seemed to paralyze him.  I'd like to say if they'd caught it earlier and gotten her into counseling and perhaps on some less severe meds, it could have been avoided.  But things were different back then, and she still may have had her break from reality, despite the interventions.  My brother probably WAS impossible.  I remember the fights that went late into the night.  She couldn't raise him alone, that was clear, but maybe that could have been handled differently too, by facing the problems head on and trying to work them out, and maybe have him spend more time with our father instead of all of his time. But I do know that my brother still deals with some deep-seated abandonment issues as a result of being kicked out. I don't think either of them have ever truly worked through that, maybe it isn't possible. My mom has historically not been very comfortable or skilled at talking things through. However, as close as my dad and I were, and as much more attention I likely would have gotten, I can't help but wonder what kind of person I would be if I'd been raised by him more so than I was.  He spoiled me mercilessly.  I had NO rules.  As I got older, we drank together and he knew I drove drunk frequently. Would I have ended up more of a mess than I did?  As much as I still have a major problem with the mere notion of leaving your ten year old daughter alone in a house full of strangers, I do believe it taught me independence and resiliency. I had to grow up very quickly, and that may not have happened otherwise.  Now granted, no rules were enforced there either, no one was home to do so at my mother's house, these weird adults sure as shit weren't going to try and tell me what to do, and I got away with a lot.  And finally, in addition to being a combination of horrified and fascinated, what happened with my poor sister IS what lead me to be a psychologist.  That, and the fact that through the years, I went to counseling a lot, and realized how many of the counselors out there SUCKED. The intern experience wasn't the only one...when I was 13 or so and my sister was being hospitalized again, I saw another counselor.  I remember describing the evening when we had to take my sister back to the intensive care facility at the first hospital and how scared I was, and the counselor interrupted me with , "You were scared a monster or something would come out of the bushes?"  Are you serious?  "No.  I was scared about what was happening."  She asked, "Were you scared of the dark?"  "NO!"  I was scared that my sister had become the monster, you stupid shithead!! I knew that at 13...what an idiot.  So BAD counseling led me to want to become a good one.

My own sweet daughter is 10 now, which is probably why this is all coming up and out of my brain with the force of  a fire hose. I can't imagine her going through what I did, and I'm so thankful she'll (hopefully) never have to deal with such turmoil at such a young age.  Does all adversity lead to lessons and new directions and healing?  Not all of it, no.  Am I okay?  Generally speaking, I like to think so.  But big, big mistakes were made, by many involved parties.  Despite this I have to believe that good came out of that horrific year.  I just have to.