Why weird things happen to us

Hi Everyone,

 Still writing to you all from the school library’s computer. At least I know what the problem with my computer is now: the hard drive got mysteriously damaged.  Staples has to back up my files manually, and then I’ll be getting a new computer as soon as possible.

 But this whole thing makes me think about why these totally weird and unexpected seemingly random things happen. My  good friend  Wendy has this theory that everything happens for a reason to teach us lessons and stuff. Maybe she’s right. I’ve learned a lot about myself this week. I’ve been able to  navigate this totally stressful situation with the support of so many kind and helpful people, including people who were strangers until this week like the very kind library staff. I’ve been making difficult  decisions by myself which I think is very grown up of me. So I  guess in the end this  whole situation can be seen as a learning experience.

 Well I have to go very soon back to my house. The library is closing. Talk to you all tomorrow hopefully.



Computer Crash Shows Sam’s maturity

Hi Everyone,

First of all, I did some work on here yesterday. Made things a little bit neater and more organized with the help of my friend Lisa, who’s a professional  blogger! Let’s all say hi to lisa, ready? “Hi  Lisa!”

 Thank you. (smile)  Cool, all right moving on.

 Oh, I’m in kind of a silly mood today. Perhaps it’s my way of dealing with the stress  of today just not being my  day. I got up early enough today with every intention of “finishing” (actually really doing most of the writing on is more accurate,) a chapter summary for world music class. A really pointless assignment, if you ask me. We’re getting tested on the material anyway, can’t we  show that on a  testand  that’s it rather than just writing about the  chapter here  too? Anyway, so I went to turn on my computer and it wouldn’t log in. This error mesage  kept coming up and the screen was flashing and stuff. 

 So my  roomate, Ginny, tried to trouble shoot. When she ran out of answers we called the university  technology center. They’re pritty hopeless. I think the woman on the other end of the  line was just  googling stuff on the internet and  had no idea what to  even do. She told us what she  thought it might be, and said that the only way she found to fix the problem was to download something off the internet. She didn’t even offer to send a technician over to help. So I asked if Staples could maybe fix it and she said yes. There happens to be a  staples about ten minutes from the school.

 Ginny was kind enough to take the time out of her day to walk with me to  Staples. It was really nice spending time with her. Though we’re roomates we’re  often in and out of our dorm, and I felt this whole crazy adventure really gave us a chance to bond. It was even a little bit funny because it would have been a nice walk, but it was raining out. This made the uneven brick sidewalks even more slippery. And there were always puddles to go around.  We eventually made it to the store.

 I really do trust Staples. When I had a virus on my laptop a few years back they had it fixed in just a  few days and did such a  thorough professional job. The techs we spoke to were both very nice and had such knowledge of computers. They  took a look at the computer, said it wasn’t the problem that the woman on the phone thought but that it could be anything and  that they’d need to figure  out what it was. They’d also need to back up my data. I decided this was the best thing to do and that the cost, (over $200) was certainly worth it.

 I filled out a detailed form and then  payed and we were out of there, pritty quickly all things considered. They said it could take two to three days to figure out the problem and that they’d call with any news.

 We walked back home with a rather empty computer bag  and just hoping the problem  will be sorted out quickly.

 I had two classes shortly after getting home, (world music, and alternative and complementary  medicine,) so didn’t have much time to reflect on the situation, which was maybe a blessing.

 I spoke to the disability  coordinator at my school, who suggested it may  be time to  bug  my case worker at the comission of the blind for a new computer, since mine  is over  five years old. This is trickier than it sounds. Much as you’d want to you can’t just be like,”Hey I need this piece of  equipptment,” and then they give it to you. It took me a while, a lot of advocating both on my part and by my supporters, for me to get the laptop I have now and my  note taker, another computer type divice for the blind. On the other hand, though it’s kind ofan uphill battle, by law they just can’t deny people stuff. I will eventually get a new computer if it’s clear I need one, and this is reassuring.

 What’s even better, (and this brings me to my headline like title) is my own  adult handling of the situation. As I’ve thought about this in quiet moments after class, I have to say I’m very proud of myself. I’m someone who’s known  by those  close to me to get overwhelmed when suden crisis comes up or when situations don’t go my way. For example when my mom accedentally plugged my braille lite, (older version of the braille note,) into the wrong charger and sparks came out I literally cried. Kind of silly, but I’m a sensitive girl, and I just got overwhelmed by thinking that my braille lite was really  broken. As a side note, it did come back to life and last a few more weeks before it fell off a van seat and finally died.

 Anyway, the situation I described happened just a few  months back. Today, faced with a similar situation I handled things in a much more grown up way. I didn’t cry, not even to myself. I thought through what the best decision was and then took action. I payed for what needed to be done myself, which I’m very proud of. I didn’t call my parents and get them in a panic, (particularly my mom,) and don’t plan to unless it’s necessary that I’d need  their help. So maybe this happened to show me just how far I’ve come in my ability to handle  stress.

 And, so you know, thanks to the school  library  having screen reader software on their computers, I won’t be totally disconnected  from the internet world while my laptop is being fixed. For that I am very grateful.  Off to actually do  some homework now before the library closes.

 Still, I would apreciate good thoughts/positive healing energy sent to my computer, it really needs it!

 Good night all!

Music Therapy Group

Hi Everyone,

Sorry I haven’t written in a few days. I’ve had so many ideas for good posts I couldn’t settle on one for a while there.

 I had an  interesting experience today. There’s a local expressive arts therapy center that I sometimes go to. They’re a  wonderful group practice, consisting of two highly trained and dedicated  expressive arts therapists who are commited to providing high quality and affordable therapy and other  artistic  experiences to anyone who needs them. Today was there weekly music group. It’s basically a music therapy group, but the person who runs it I don’t think can technically call it that since she’s not a board certified music therapist. But having taken a music therapy intro class, trust me I know it’s music therapy! She follows the  typical protocol for a  group session pritty closely.

One of the main reasons I go to the group is to listen  to the leader sing. She’s originally from   Affrica and has such an amazing and flexible voice. She also plays the guitar very well, and the drumms and probably other instruments.   You can tell music and singing are a  real driving force in her life. When she sings and plays she just lights up from the inside, you can tell how much it energizes her. To me, this is theraputic in and of itself.

 She started off the session off by singing a “hello song,” a very common thing in music therapy. It’s a way to get everyone settled into the session, and establish that it’s music time. Some people need that grounding  and obveous transition, like those with dementia, and those with developmental delays, two populations that happened to be in our group. The group consisted of myself, and about four or five men, (who I believe were elderly, though without being able to see them I can’t be sure of their age,)who either had developmental delays, or some sort of pritty obveous  issues with communication and staying present and focused in the group. There was also an elderly woman with dementia, who has been to the group  before. And that was all of us. I was the most engaged of the bunch.  I was the only one who sang with the group  leader. I enjoyed  playing the drum and singing along with the songs I knew. I also enjoyed observing how the therapist lead the group. At one point, one of the other members got confused and tried to leave the group. The leader continued playing the drum and tried to  sing to her,”stay here, stay with us, (her name)” When this didn’t work, she sang a song in this person’s native  language  which was  familiar and allowed them to be able to stay in the room. I thought this was an excellent intervention, and showed the power of music to reach people, even those who become so inaccessible due to  dementia and similar problems.  The leader also had to deal with issues of group member’s short attention span, and barriers  around communication. Again I saw the power of musical interventions to help with this. She was good at reading the group and switching the activitys quickly when necessary. Her background in theater improvisation makes her very flexible and  adaptable , which was a great help here. She praised and encouraged everyone to play their instruments and/or sing, especially those who at times were  doing neither. She praised even the smallest creative act, and this  ensured that by the end of the group everyone was more expressive than at the beginning. One of the group members showed off their skills on the piano, as is the traddition in this group. It was enjoyable for everyone, as we supported their playing with drumms and  our voices.  One of the group members wanted to make up a song, which we all helped him do. At the close of the group there is a “goodbye song” with a similar purpose to the first song of the session, to emphasize that the group is ending but will be back next week.

Overall I enjoyed the group. Despite our varied backgrounds and abilities, there was a certain magic that I think always exists when  a group of people comes together to sing and play. I left feeling more energized and like I’d expressed myself and felt connected to the group, even for brief moments during the music. As I said before I enjoyed watching the therapist lead, and thinking about what I would have done in those situations. I think she certainly needs an assistant, there were just so many different needs in the room that I’m sure it was hard for her to keep up with it all. And maybe if an assistant could have given more one on one attention to  certain people, there might have been more expression and improvements in communication across the group.  The therapist said an intern will be at the group maybe next time, so it’ll be interesting to see if that makes a difference. 

Lastly, I’m just amazed that you can do all that theraputic work with music and not  have to call yourself a music therapist! I guess the therapist does have her masters in expressive arts therapy. Couldn’t I just magically get my masters without having to  deal with the hard work of more school? Please? Oh well, guess not!  Anyway, it was just so inspiring to be a part of that session. Maybe I’ll go  to another one just so I can post about it. If anyone out there is a music  therapist, or  interested in the subject I welcome your thoughts. Or anyone who just liked what I wrote as well. Have a good night all!


Songs for A New World

Hi Everyone,

 It’s going to be a quick one tonight, I have to be up early tomorrow.

 Anyway, today I wanted to talk about the musical “Songs for A New World.”  It’s a favorite of mine, and it’s mesage is I think something many people can relate to.

 Jason Robert Brown, (composed the score for “Parade”) wrote this musical in the 90s. It’s unlike traditional shows in that the musical is a collections of songs, with no real  “characters” as we would normally think of them, and no  actual plot. The overarching theme of the show is this: How do we as humans manage when  transitioning from the old to the new in life? How do we deal with the moments when just when we think everything’s all set and we’re pritty secure in our relationships, jobs, ETC, everything changes. Each song in the show deals with a particular scene in which someone is going through that challenge, and shows the different, helpful or sometimes harmful ways of coping.

One thing I like about the show is that though there aren’t  “characters” in the traditional sense, each  actor goes through a transformation from the beginning of the show to the end through the songs that they sing. For example, one of the women starts the  show singing, “Just one  Step,” in which she plays a woman threatening to jump out her apartment window in order to manipulate her husband. Then she plays a woman who thinks she knows what she wants in a marriage, but soon discovers, ”  Be careful what you Wish  for,” in Stars  i and The  Moon. Next she plays, of all people, Mrs. Clause! In this song she expresses her bitter almost hateful attitude towards Good old St. Nick. Finally she plays Betsy Ross, sewing the American Flag as a way to fuil her hope that her husband and children will return  home safely from the revolutionary war. So obveously, though these characters are by no means related, one can see the journey  the actor takes from beginning to end.

 I think the last song summs up the broad solution  for what we can do in those hard times of transition. “Hear my song” sends such a clear mesage of hope. It talks about the importance of reaching out to one another and offering and receiving support. It emphasizes community, and holding the wise positive words of others close to our  hearts when we feel most lost and hopeless. This boosts our spirets, and allows us to make it through the hard times knowing we are not alone.

 In my own personal experience I know this to be true. For much of my  teenage years, and into  young adulthood, I felt very much alone. I’d say since I came to college, and certainly in the last year or so, this  is changing for the better. I have a group of people, that’s growing  steadily, where I know that I can reach out to them if I need to, and I would hope they would reach out to me for support as well. Having this circle of support in my life has improoved things for me so much. A friend of mine, (a social worker with such a way with words,) says  that humans are “pack animals,” and not meant to go through life alone. This is totally true. Isn’t that why we’re always on our cell phones and e-mail so much? We have such a strong need to be connected to people and feel a part of things. That’s why we have support groups, and 12 step groups, and why people are always talking to one another, even strangers on the street sometimes. To me, whenever I listen to “Hear my Song,” I am reminded that I can get through my problems  as long as I have the support of others. And I’m reminded of the value  of connection in general in people’s lives.

I may post some youtube links to the music, and a link to a very good analysis of the show, (the guy who wrote it does a much better job explaining this than I did,) at a later time. Now it’s really time for me to  sign off. Have a good night all!


My Local Young Adult Resource Center

Hi  everyone,

Hoping you’re all having a good Saturday. I don’t have very much time to write now, but thought I’d post something quick.

Since the beginning of the summer I’ve been going to a local young adult resource center. It’s for all young  adults ages 18 to 25, and in particular for anyone with a mental health concern. It’s totally free, funded through the department of mental health, we even get free dinners and lots of snacks! Drop in hours are in the early afternoons tolater evening, (closing around 7 most  days,) and they’re open four days a week, and hoping to be open all week soon. We  have an amazingly dedicated center coordinator, who’s made it her mission to put this  community resource in place. We also have  recently gotten a peer specialist, someone who has been a part of building the center to where it is  today. A peer specialist, is someone who has lived experience of a mental health concern, and feels solid enough in their own recovery to be a role model and provide hope and support  for others on their journey.

 Things are pritty relaxed at the center. During drop in hours people hang out on the computer or in the living room. Dinners are usually well attended and the food is good. I’ve found the connections I’ve made in particular with the peer specialist and center coordinator to be so valuable.

 There are different workshops and groups held at the center each week. Some are more well attended than others. My favorite group is peer support on Wednesday afternoons. The peer specialist leads it. She provides a safe space where everyone has a chance to be heard  and seek support. Often this group isn’t very well attended which can be frustrating. But there was a recent group I went to that was so moving. We had about 8 people, some of which were new to the center. Everyone was open with one another, and very supportive. The peer specialist did an excellent job of afacilitating, and I felt everyone  came away feeling more connected and with hope.

The thing I like most about the peer specialist is that when I haven’t been to the center in a couple weeks she’ll call to check on me. I guess she does this with everyone, because she cares and wants to make sure everything’s ok with us. She called me on monday as I was hanging out on my first day in the dorm. I told her how the end of my summer had gone, and that I was busy this week but would hopefully come in next week or the week after. She said if I didn’t she’d be sure to call me. After hanging up I felt so happy knowing that she cared enough to take  time out of her day to call, and that I’d always have her support, and the support of the center.

 I’d encourage  anyone who has a local center like this to take advantage of the resource. It’s a safe nonjudgmental place to connect with others going through similar struggles and to get support. It’s also just a lot of fun.



How therapists are portrayed in fiction

As someone majoring in counseling, I pay close attention to the ways that therapists, (and therapy in general,) are  portrayed in fiction. I’ve found some cases, in both adult and young adult fiction, where the therapist and therapy process was portrayed as being helpful, or at least not something that made the situation worse. In lots of other cases, I’ve read fiction where the therapist is really shown as a pritty bad therapist, and nothing good comes out of the experience for the  character. In young adult  fiction in particular, this bothers  me. I have one particular book I’m thinking of, that I’ve been re-reading recently,

 In After the Wreck by Joyce  Carol Oats, Jenna is involved in a car accident, in which she is seriously injured and her mother  is killed. She goes to live with relatives, and falls in with an emotionally unstable, drug addicted “friend,” who she even admits she can’t trust. Her increasing need to be “in the blue,” in a disconnected drug-induced place away from herself and her feelings, leads her to overdose on Thorazine, an anti-psychotic. After this incident she is sent to therapy with Dr. Freer.

 Dr. Freer, listed in  her town’s yellow pages, is supposed to specialize in  adolescents and young adults. But I wouldn’t go to her, or send any of my friends to her.   Throughout her last session, (only her second full session,) she insists that the overdose was just “an accident” a “stupid mistake,” not a suicide attempt. 

 Dr. Freer’s response, (on page 155) is:

 “An accedental  overdose of a potentially lethal drug, Jenna, on Christmas  Eve in circumstances like yours, you suggest isn’t in some  legitimate way    representative of you? Is that what you’re suggesting dear?”

 Ok, first of all, who talks like that? Particularly to a teenager? Particularly to a teenager who has no desire to be there. Wouldn’t be a better idea to come down to   earth, cut out the big words, (It took me three tries to spell legitimate and it was right in  front of me!) and actually try to build rapport? Even if I were the most  cooperative client in the world, I wouldn’t want to talk to that woman after hearing that mouthful. I would shut down just like Jenna did. 

  Shortly after  this question,  Dr. Freer askes Jenna to tell her  what associations she has with the words ”  accedent” and “accedental.” So she’s possibly a freudian on top of it all! This bugs me too, because it’s how therapists are     stereotypically tereotyply portrayed in movies and books, and perhaps there  are people who don’t know that there are many different  orientations to therapy out there. 

That aside, what is she  expecting the girl to do? Go, “ok, huh… let me think. Accident. Wait, it’s coming… I was in a car accident… with my mother… she died… about six months ago. I think I have PTSD, that’s why I took that drug on Christmas. Wow, it’s all so clear now!” Come on! 

 I think the most disturbing thing about the session was that while they were talking, Jenna was distracting herself from her feelings by clawing at her arms with her nails, discretely of course. When she went to the ladies room, her arms were all marked up and even bleeding. Self-injury, not exactly theraputic!


 No big surprise, Jenna skipped out on her next two  sessions, and never came back. What bugs me about the whole thing is that a teenager reading that could come to the conclusion that all therapists are like Dr. Freer.  Not that there aren’t bad therapists out there. Still it would be nice to have a balanced view.

 Does anyone have  any thoughts? Has anyone read any books where the therapist is portrayed as reasonable? I’m not saying that the therapy has to be successful or that the character in question has to enjoy the process. Results vary  in life, and that should come across in fiction. I’d just like to see some therapists portrayed where they’re not a total useless fluffball.




World Music Class

Hi Everyone,

 I’m so excited about the comments I’ve already gotten on my first blog post! Today I’d like to talk about my world music class. I’m taking this course called  World Music:  folk and  Popular. We’re going to be studdying all the different types of music throughout the world, such  as middle east, indian, African, native American, ETC. I think it’ll be very interesting to listen to  such a wide variety of music, especially since I haven’t been  exposed to very much music from different cultures. We had to read the first chapter of our text for today, and it was actually an interesting read. The chapter talked about the different things all music has in common, and ways to studdy music: what it sounds like, how the audience experiences it, (in a concert hall sitting quietly, jamming at a rock concert, at home  listening to a recording, ETC) and finally what ideas the culture has about the music and how the music is used within the culture. I learned some fascinating things:  that the most common instrument across cultures isn’t the drumm, but the rattle, and that all cultures have some form of vocal music.

  I like the professor. I didn’t realize until he started talking that I’d actually met him before, he’s the concert choir director. He’s a really nice, soft  spoken guy. He could do with a little  bit of that “commanding presence,” I was talking about yesterday. Our class is kind of roudy, with a lot of kind of obnoxious boys in it, and he really can’t get people’s attention. He’s like,”Ok, everyone, time to settle down,” but the way he says it is  kind  of in the same voice that he says everything else, so you don’t know if he means it or not.  And he really does need to get louder if he’s going to be heard above the construction work that was going on outside our window. 

As an aside, (another post for another day,) it is possible to help someone in a situation like that  (only if they wanted help, of course,) learn to speak louder and command attention with their voice, through the process of voice movement therapy, a real “favorite thing” of mine. You know, like the song? Anyway, I digress.

 So aside from the class possibly being a bit chaotic, I’m looking  forward  to what we’ll be learning, and to telling you all about the many different kinds of world music!

The Importance of First-hand Experience

Welcome to my  blog!  I guess today I’d like to write about a recent experience I had that reminded me once again that   it’s not a good idea to judge something by  rumors you hear, firsthand experience is always best. As a senior, I have to take a course required for all counseling majors, that other students have described as boring. It  focuses on understanding things like how welfare works, social security, nutrition programs like food stamps, and other  laws put in place to help solve social  problems. It can be kind of dry stuff, but is important for those going out  into the field to have a big picture understanding of these key issues. In adition to hearing that the course would be boring, I heard that the professor was strict and intimidating. So I had negative feelings about the course going in. I met her yesterday and was pleasantly surprised by her personality. She has what I would call a “commanding presence,” when she talks, you listen, but your willingness to listen doesn’t come from being intimdated at all, but rather from her self-confidence and obveous comfort level she has with expressing herself. I’ve seen this trait in other  professors, and I think it’s a good trait to modelto students. I left the meeting  feeling very positive. Today, I was even more surprised at how much fun the first class was. She had an   authortative, (firm, clear expectations,) yet easygoing way of working with us all. We laughed a lot, as she’s also gifted with a good sense of humor. There was a lot of lecture as it’s the first day, but again I was fascinated by her  low,  resonating confident voice, and  ability to   comunicate ideas. Towards the end of the class we did a group activity that allowed  us to get to know each other better.  It’s a two and a half hour class, from 9:30 AM until noon, and I was so  surprised when it was noontime already! Though the subject matter isn’t something I’m wildly excited about, I’m confident that I’ll have a good class experience because I have a professor with a wonderful personality, and years of experience to share. May this be a lesson to me (and anyone else who happens to  read  this,) in the importance of not  believing rumors and getting first hand experience before jumping to negative conclusions.