Unrealistic Guilt


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Here’s another huge counseling issue.  Yesterday’s prompt, assumption, took me to marriage counseling.  Today, this word takes me to the ugly realm of abuse.

I understand why victims of abuse feel guilt.  At least, I think I do.

The woman whose husband beats her for no discernible reason accepts the burden of guilt for his abuse. “I just need to be more careful,” she’ll say.  “It’s my own fault.  I aggravate him, and I need to try harder.”

Wrong at every level, but it’s nearly impossible to convince her that she is NOT guilty. Only when she “gets it” that he doesn’t beat up anyone else will she begin to question his right to knock her around whenever he feels the need of a punching bag.  He can control himself at work or anywhere else but all his anger and aggression gets unleashed on her.

She is not the guilty one.

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Victims of sexual abuse often feel guilty. “I must have done something to make him/her think it was okay,” or “Well, I shouldn’t have been wearing shorts” (when I was three or four!) or “I was flirtatious” (when I was too young to know what that meant).

Unreasonable guilt. Sexual predators do what they do because they can. So, so many times I have told a suffering adult, molested as a child, “You are not defiled by what someone does to you against your will.  You are NOT impure. The offender is.  What he did is a felony!  You are not to blame. No matter what a demented society may say or think,  a predator ALWAYS has the choice NOT to sexually assault or abuse someone else.”

It makes me crazy when a woman who was raped becomes the guilty person in the eyes of so many people.  “How was she dressed?  Was her skirt too short, her pants too tight, her top too low?  Where was she?  Why was she alone?  She was probably asking for it.  She probably enjoyed it.”

Good grief.  Rape is a crime of power, not lust.  It is a violent assault, and it makes a woman into nothing but a piece of meat.  Rape has been perpetrated on NUNS,  who are totally modestly clothed and, I promise you, were not “asking for it” nor “enjoying it.”

It shocks me, every single time and even though I’ve lived long enough to know better, that when a woman is raped, she has to endure the torture of being put on the witness stand and being exposed in her most personal, private life if she dares to report the crime and bring the predator to justice.

And please don’t give the tired old argument that sometimes women lie and accuse innocent men. Yes, that does–rarely–happen, and it’s appalling. The topic here, though is not the innocent man who is accused;  it is the innocent girl or woman who is assaulted, and then assaulted again when she reports it; the one who lives with a burden of guilt that society gleefully allows her to carry.

I hate it.  Really hate it.




Marriage Counseling


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This is a word that takes me right to the marriage counseling I often do in my office.


Image result for counseling an angry couple


To assume anything, in this context,  is to believe, not always with a factual basis, that another person thinks, feels, or reacts negatively toward you because he has nefarious motives.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard one spouse say to another, “No, that’s not true!”  “No, that’s a lie!” “That is NOT what happened!” and so on. The assumption is always there that the other person  has negative motives, and is trying to win at all costs.

Sometimes she is.

However, both individuals are equally frustrated, equally angry, equally quick to assume the worst of the other.

I often wonder how that happens to two people who profess to love each other.  Does it start before “I do”?  Or does it come along with the very first disagreement, and just slowly escalate into such venomous behavior?  There is a point at which so much anger and hatred have developed that I don’t know if there’s any hope.

Many times, I point out to a couple that if one person always has to be right, then the other always has to be wrong. That’s a really terrible imbalance of power, and the “wrong” person is going to become bitter, hopeless, and angry.  That person will eventually leave the relationship, emotionally if not in physical reality. There are more couples than you would believe who share a house, but nothing else.

Assumption is a dangerous thing.  It is NEVER true that you know what someone else is thinking. When you assume that you do, you’re making it impossible for that other person to convince you that he/she doesn’t actually have those thoughts at all.

Very rarely do I believe that divorce is the best option. If the one who always has to win, though, refuses to leave that position, there really is no hope.

I hate that.



Disappear to Lie/Lay


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Maybe you’re old enough to remember this 1954 television series, maybe not.  It was quite an innovation at the time.  It concerned a couple who were killed in an automobile accident, but who came back to complicate the life of their friend Topper.  They could appear and disappear at will, which made poor Topper crazy and created a lot of laughs for the loyal viewers.

I’ve often wished I had the gift of being able to disappear, haven’t you?  There are times when I’ve wished I could simply vanish, without making an awkward entrance or exit. Perhaps during a long, tedious, and excruciatingly boring lecture of some sort, it would be nice to just POOF!  Or maybe you happen to be on a date with someone who makes your skin crawl. POOF!  You’re gone, and the nasty guy has no clue where you went.  (It was a blind date, of course. No one who has any sense would choose to go out with such an unpleasant sort.) (I don’t remember ever going on a blind date. If I did, I’ve shoved that memory into oblivion.)

Or maybe you’d just like to make PART of yourself disappear, like however many pounds you’re overweight.  Now, that would be  a vanishing cream that anyone would pay money for, wouldn’t it?

Are there some people you’d like to POOF! out of your life?  I don’t have many of those these days.  The older you grow, the more selective you become–at least, that’s what has happened for me.  The annoying types I run across now and then aren’t really a part of my life, so I can comfortably ignore them.  Like the guy last Sunday who was riding our bumper down the main street of a small town.  We were looking for a particular restaurant, found it, slowed down to make a left turn. Idiotman behind us (way too closely behind us, driving way too fast)  layed/laid on his horn so hard and long you could still hear it after his truck had disappeared.

Layed?  Laid?  Hmmm. After giving myself a short remedial course on the principal parts of these irregular verbs, I’ve come to the conclusion that neither is appropriate, and that this  is an American colloquialism that  isn’t grammatically correct no matter which verb you use.

Aren’t you glad you know that?  You’re very welcome.  And no, I’m not quite sure how I got from disappear to lie/lay.  It probably doesn’t matter.



Turned the Wrong Way


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This word is a great example of onomatopoeia.  It kind of sounds like what it means.  Awkward, backward, perverse, clumsy.
I’ve had many awkward moments in my life, which I won’t embarrass myself by repeating here.  Anyway, I’ve shared plenty of them in the four+ years I’ve been writing this blog 🙂
I can tell you that I’ve been good at very few sports.  Some, but not many.  I’m not fast, and I’m not a good strategist.   But I loved volleyball, and I was very good at tetherball.  And hopscotch.  And the hula hoop.  But no one wanted to pick me for their basketball team, or softball, or football.  I wasn’t disappointed to be chosen last, because I didn’t expect anything else. That’s life.
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This would have been me
I think being socially awkward is more difficult, though, than being physically unathletic.  Some people just seem to be  born with social grace, and others have to learn it the hard way.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve blushed after realizing I’ve just said something stupid, hurtful, or inappropriate.  Or, perhaps, failed to respond to the whole “how are you” ritual because my mind was elsewhere.
I was a teacher for many years, and teachers talk a lot.  When you talk a lot, you easily get into trouble with your words.   Now, in the counseling office, I’m still doing my share of talking.  I’m thankful that I came to this career later in life, and had learned a few things about how to listen, what to say and how to say it.  Sometimes you really need to be tactful in counseling others.  Sometimes, my innate tendency to bluntness is actually the best tool I have.  It may seem awkward at the time, but often, blunt words are exactly what is needed.
Here’s a favorite video of mine that I like to show clients who are worry warts by nature. I hope it makes you laugh on this lovely (here in Pa) Monday morning.

Keep it Simple


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This word is from the Latin complicare, to fold together. 

The first thing that comes to mind is Danish pastry.  I used to make it from scratch, and it required a process of incorporating lots of butter into sweet dough, chilling, rolling, folding, rolling, etc. until the specified number of layers had been created.

It smelled like heaven while it was baking. It tasted like ambrosia, and it didn’t ever last very long. I’ve had good danish from bakeries, but there’s nothing like homemade.

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All those layers you see folded together and replete with butter makes melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  And yes, it’s complicated to make, but not really difficult. You just need patience.

I’ve noticed in the last couple of years that when someone is asked a question they may not really want to answer, they’ll dodge it by saying, “It’s complicated.”  And sometimes it really is.  Layers of events, emotions, details, all folded together to create a complicated situation. Sometimes, the person who is asking really has no business knowing the answer. “It’s complicated”  works quite well in that case.

Complications do arise in life.  I’m reading a book right now about the current political atmosphere here in America. Layers upon layers of deceit, maneuvering, misleading, and misuse of power.  Will we ever know the real truth of all the accusations and counter-accusations?  Probably not.  One thing our politicians are quite adept at doing these days is dodging the simple truth. Then you toss in the added complication of a news media that is no longer simply reporting.  It is interpreting, explaining to meet their own agenda, assuming that we the people are too ignorant or just plain stupid to see the obfuscation of which the press is guilty.

Even in my counseling office, I have often asked a question–a simple, clear question–that elicits a response that avoids the question completely. Sometimes I will stop the person and say, “A simple YES or NO is really all I need at this point.”  They don’t like that.  I will usually get, “Well, yes, BUT yadayadayada.” While I am fully aware that there are complications, I do try to get to a starting point that is clear and without layers folded all around it.  People often are confused, puzzled, even angry when I ask for a simple, uncomplicated yes or no. 

Maybe I should just stick with making pastry.



Not MY Babies!


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From Latin,   pre- and maturus, “before ripe.”

To be mature is to be ready, complete, fully formed,  We use it for lots of things.  Ripe fruit, ready to pick, is mature.  A child who is wiser than his years is said to be mature for his age.  Someone who has reached a ripe old age is mature.

Babies who have not spent the necessary nine months in the womb are considered premature.   They are not fully formed, not ready to live without the protection of the umbilical cord and the womb.  It is amazing what can be done these days to save these early comers.  Tiny little things no bigger than a couple of pounds can be kept alive and thriving until they reach a point of maturity that allows them to go home with their excited parents.


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I had four babies.  One was right on time. The other three kept me waiting for at least two weeks past their due dates, definitely not premature. Back then, there was no question of inducing labor unless there was a medical development that endangered the life of either the mother or the baby.  You just waited it out,   planning revenge on the little person who kept you waiting, wishing, hoping, praying that THIS would be the day!  And fending off the people who kept saying dumb things like, “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” as if  there were any choice.  “Of course I haven’t had it yet, you fool!  You think this is FUN?  You think I’m ENJOYING looking like a sideways mountain?  You wanna carry this for a couple of hours? Duh!”

No, I never said any of that.  I thought it really loudly, though.





Nasty Bugs


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From the Latin prefix in- (into) and facere (put, do)  this word was originally used to describe the process of being tainted with disease of some sort.

I did my two years of practicum toward my master’s degree in health care facilities:  A hospital, and a nursing home.  One of the many things I learned was about staph infections and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).  What are they?

They’re nasty bugs that have developed since the introduction of penicillin and other antibacterial, antibiotic medicines.  They have become resistant, sometimes impervious, to what we used to think were miracle drugs.  So we develop new drugs to fight them, and guess what?  More nasty bugs develop resistance to the newer stuff.

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We have made great progress in medicine.  That’s indisputable.  We’re living longer, taking better care of ourselves,  understanding about the importance of cleanliness and good nutrition,

But the fact of the matter is, we no sooner develop some new miracle cure than some new nasty bug rears its ugly head, and we start all over again.

I’ve even heard some people say that our obsession with antibacterial hand soaps  is creating a whole new set of bacteria.

Good grief.

You know, it’s also possible to be infected by joy, laughter, happiness, positive attitudes, and gratitude.  Maybe we should focus on those things more than we do.


Thick and Thin


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Thin.  I resent that word.  The only thing thinning for me is the hair on top of my head, while my chin whiskers are growing thicker.  And my mustache, too come to think of it.

When I was young, I wore a size 6 1/2 shoe.  Now my feet are wider and a bit longer, and my arches have fallen all the way to China.  Thin feet?  No. Not at all.Image result for thinning hair

I won’t even mention the continent between my chin(s) and my feet.

Thinning hair is not good. Thinning the carrots in the garden is necessary.  Thin gravy? Blech.  But no one wants a thick waist.

We like to promise our friends that we’ll be there through thick and thin.  Had to look that one up.  One source says that the phrase comes from a hunting term, “through thicket and thin woods.”  A thicket being dense woods, I guess.

I’ve always thought of that expression as good times (thick) and bad times (thin).  When the money is plentiful, and when it’s scarce; when the stew is rich with gravy, and when it’s watery.

As always, words fascinate me. They can mean so many different things.

My readers, bless them, have followed me through thick and thin when I go off on one of these word-rambles.  I’m grateful 🙂


A Little Goes a Long Way


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Terry loves a good forest, especially the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where he grew up.  His childhood stories always include camping out–by himself–as a little boy, with his dog and his gun.  He’d shoot a squirrel for his supper, and sit soaking in the night sounds of the woods around him.  Never occurred to him to be afraid, not of animals or human predators.  It was a different time.

birch trees in a summer forest

It really  is beautiful up there, if you don’t mind mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds, and deer flies on a mission. When we walked together, they never bothered him.  That’s because they were all attracted to MY irresistible charms.

We honeymooned at his dad’s delightful hunting cabin in the woods.  Situated on a fast-moving small river, it was picture perfect.  Even the outhouse was set so that there was no odor.

Yes, I did say outhouse.  And the bathtub was a tin washtub.  Romantic.

All was wonderful until the day I ventured out behind the cabin to explore, and came upon a whole bevy of snakes stretched out on a rock getting an early spring tan. I’m sure my screams could be heard in Chicago 🙂  Terry came running out, sure I had fallen and broken my leg or something.  When he figured out what was behind the scream, he wasn’t terribly sympathetic.  “Garter snakes, Linda.  For Pete’s sake, they never hurt anyone. They’re just trying to get warm.”

Bah, humbug.

Terry still loves the woods, and probably always will wish he’d gone to Alaska to disappear into the wilderness to build his own cabin and live like that guy on PBS who lived like a hermit up there. I explained to him with great tact that I did not fancy the idea of doing my laundry in a tub, with a washboard; nor of having it freeze on the clothesline while I stomped around on snowshoes trying not to break the sheets in half when I took them off the line.  Nor would I enjoy gutting fish and whatever other animal my Tarzan brought home for me to deal with. Not. Going. There.

Also, not interested in birthing babies in a log cabin thousands of miles away from anyone who could help me if things went wrong.   There are women who would relish that sort of life.  I was not one of them.

Forests are indeed beautiful, but honestly? One tree is pretty much like another after a mile or so of tramping through the woods.  Now, take me to the Rose Gardens in Portland, Oregon; or to Longwood Gardens here in PA?  Yeah, that I can enjoy.  And so can Terry.  There’s always a compromise.


Longwood Gardens Wysteria Garden in the spring.  So beautiful!





Good Like a Medicine


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Someone has said that laughter is the best medicine.  The Bible says  that a merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones (Proverbs 17:22).

I love to laugh.  I have wonderful memories of laughter in our home, with my friends, with my kids.  Laughing in church, laughing even in my counseling office–laughter really does more good than taking a pill!

I had a lady come in about two weeks ago. She is in a very difficult situation, and she was tired, discouraged, at the point of tears.  I won’t tell you what we were talking about, but we both ended up in gales of laughter over it.  The laughter lifted her anxiety and depression, even if just for the moment, and made her able to see her situation in a different light.

Many years ago, I sang in a trio with two good friends.  One was very much a lady, always looking perfect and proper, unlike me.  She was tall and carried herself with dignity.


We’d been in the women’s bathroom at church after rehearsing the song we would sing that evening.   She left before I did, and as she went out the door I realized that her skirt was caught up in her waistband, exposing a very pretty slip and a lot of leg.  I was already laughing to myself as she walked away from me to the office she occupied in the church.  I kept calling to her, but there were a lot of people and she didn’t hear me.

Finally, she entered her office with me right behind her.  “Susie (not her real name), your skirt is hooked under your waistband!  You’d better fix it before we go up onto the platform!”  By this time I couldn’t contain the laughter, but she wasn’t seeing the humor yet.

“You let me get all that way without telling me?” She was indignant.

“I tried!  I kept calling your name, but you didn’t hear me!” And now I had tears of laughter rolling down my face because she was so horrified. Finally she caught the humor, and we were both holding our sides.

I really don’t know how we got through the song that night without laughing, because all I could think of was my lady-like, dignified friend strutting down the hall with her skirt hiked up to her waist.

If you don’t think it’s funny, I guess you would have to have been there.  I do hope, though, that it will give you a smile this morning.