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When I was an undergrad at Concordia University in Saint Paul, MN, my adviser was an older male named Dr. Bredehoft. His last name threw me for a loop more than a couple of times: was it pronounced Bred-EH-hoft or Bread-hoff or something else? In the end, he and I settled on Dr. B. Dr. B was only my adviser for one year, but he was great one.

I remember towards the end of my last spring semester at CSP, I sat down with him to talk about my future. I was looking at applying to grad school and I wanted to know if I should even consider looking at schools that were “competitive.” I don’t remember my exact phrasing, but I’m fairly certain that I asked him in a truly Minnesotan way, “Should I look at the cream-of-the-crop-type schools?” (That’s right, US News and World Report, forget Division 1 or Research 1 institutions let’s go with “cream-of-the-crop-type.”) He looked me square in the eye and told me “You are the cream of the crop. Of course you should.”

I went on a worked for a few years in residential treatment, completed one of the best Marriage and Family Therapy masters programs in the Midwest and decided to apply for my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. Truth be told, I was not expecting to get in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great student, hard-working, and really want to be a systems-healing researcher, educator and clinician. That said, the University of Minnesota is a big deal around here. The MFT specialization in the Family Social Science Ph.D. at the U is a particularly big deal. I applied and did my best and absolutely had back up plans.

Turns out though, I didn’t need them. When I got the call from Dr. Shonda Craft in the middle of January, I was working in the brick and stucco main building at Boys Totem Town and my phone kept cutting in and out. I thought she said that I got in, but just to be sure, I asked her to hold on while I ran outside to confirm that yes, she was calling from the University and yes, I had gotten in. In my excitement, I left my keys on the desk and locked myself out of the building that night.

So now, here I am. I’m nearing the end of my first semester as a Ph.D student at the University of Minnesota in Family Social Science, specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy. My days and evenings (and some nights) are way more busy than I was anticipating, but I’m finding all of these delicious pearls (or kernels?) of goodness, joy, productivity and hope in all of the work.

I’m participating in this great research work for marginalized and minimized families. I’m getting to engage with community organizations and colleagues who are working in these beautifully integrative ways- where we, individually and collectively, see our own hurt, see our community’s and world’s hurt, and work to heal for the next generation of clinicians, scientists, researchers, educators, students, institutions and people. We work to heal. Those days, evenings, nights spent working for something better make the hours worth it.

The next generation of people and the next generation of institutions will know that there are systems like theirs, that there are frameworks that describe and predict what they are experiencing, and that hurts can be healed. For the hurts that I and my colleagues don’t or can’t anticipate, they will have a more solid framework to work from, because we will have spent our time building and solidifying those frameworks.

While I am still adjusting to how many hours it takes to build that something good, durable and long-lasting, I’m convinced that it will be worth it.

In this small way, I’m working towards being someone who can contribute in a unique way to building something better. I’m getting my Ph.D. My last name, “Bohlinger,” can also be difficult to pronounce.

I’m on my way to becoming another Dr. B.

About a month ago, I started therapy.  The road into therapy was one that consciously began about a year ago, when I set “Beginning therapy” as one of my New Year’s Resolutions.  The only external effort I made regarding that goal prior to when I actually started, was in August this year, when I went back and deleted that item from the blog post detailing my New Year’s Resolutions.

When I decided I wanted to run a marathon back in 2007, I started running the day I decided. In contrast with nearly all of the other goals I have ever made for myself, starting therapy was one that I seemed prone to procrastinate.

There was a part of me that didn’t see the reason.  Another part of me didn’t want anyone to know that I thought there might be a good reason for me to attend therapy.  (Hence, my deleting that goal from my New Year’s Resolutions.)

In spite of the fact that I’ve been working in mental health for the past four years, I didn’t see, didn’t want to see the necessity in myself.  While I’ve advocated for my classmates to attend, actually doing it myself, getting in the door, was challenging.

Even as I’m attending and feel like I’m getting a lot out of being in therapy, I still feel my body and mind ready to run.  I’m a voluntary client, but the extent to which that is voluntary is not always felt in my calves, which flex throughout session; I’m ready to go.

While therapy has been valuable for me personally thus far, I think it’s also valuable for me professionally.  I can’t imagine that I’m the only client in the world that wants to be there and at the same time, doesn’t feel right being there.

I’m tempted to end this post with something both positive and pithy, like “Even though I have felt mixed feelings about being in therapy, I trust that it will be useful,” but I don’t know that that’s the whole truth. That is the truth: I have felt mixed feelings about this process and I do trust that it will be useful.

There is another truth, though, in my flexing calves.  I want to be there.  I trust it is and will be useful.  I also want to run.  Maybe that’s the process.

Holding Hands

My husband and I have been married for just over two years now.  One of the things that we really like to do together is go for walks.  We walk through our tree-lined neighborhood, holding hands, and chat about our days, the weather, all of that average, mundane stuff that relationships are made of.  I treasure those walks.

While we are walking, we rarely get a second glance.  A neighbor or two might glance up and smile in greeting or extend an “ ‘Evening” but rarely do we get much more than that.  I’m okay with that.  We aren’t out for a walk to be recognized or announce anything about ourselves to anyone else.  We are simply strolling at dusk, anonymous and happy.

While we are walking, we are anonymous.  We are just a couple, like any other.

Another couple might be walking at the same time we are walking.  They, too, might have been together for over five years and be highly committed.  They may presently struggle with many of the same things young couples struggle with: defining their couplehood, maintaining family of origin relationships and navigating emergent adulthood.  They, too, may someday plan on buying a house, planting a garden and raising children.

When this couple walks, though, they are not anonymous.  They may be gay or lesbian, biracial, or have any the other characteristics that seem to require explanation.  In short, they deviate from “the norm.”

Over the past year, this has really struck me.  When I’m thinking about what being oppressed and privileged means, I think that one of the primary clues that I’m thinking about a category of privilege is that it does not require explanation.  When my husband and I walk at dusk, I feel like I can rest assured that nothing is assumed about us.  We could be liberal or conservative, parents or childless, in touch with our families or not.

As far as I know, holding my husband’s hand is not regularly construed as an overt political statement.

One of my assumptions is that all people have been both recipients of privilege and victims of oppression.  Where in your life are you oppressed?  Where in your life are you privileged?  If you are having trouble defining these areas, think about the parts of your life and context that demand explanation.  What does that mean?

*Many thanks to Dr. Terri Karis and Dr. Bruce Kuehl, two professors at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, who got these ideas rolling.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these — the homeless, tempest-tossed — to me;
I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.


Pride!

How far we’ve come, how far we’ve left to go.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Full Text from: http://www.usconstitution.net/dream.html

I am terrible at keeping New Years resolutions so I rarely make them.  That being said, I do have some goals for the upcoming year:

  1. Read more: I am sure this will happen as a function of being a graduate student, but I also want to read more fun books.  I read the Harry Potter series for the first time in 2009, and it was awesome!  What other fun books am I missing out on?  I also just bought The Feminine Mystique, Marriage: A History, or How Love Conquered Marriage, and The Family Crucible so I want to get through those as well.  I hear that Naomi Wolf has written some pretty amazing books on female beauty and I want to check those out as well.
  2. Keep on exercising: In the interest of saving money, I have cut my gym membership.  This will save $40 a month, but I am a bit concerned that I will stop exercising as a result.  However, I am going to be using the Wii Fit more through the winter and start running again outside once it warms up.  Hopefully, I can keep my good habits going!
  3. Keep working hard in graduate school:  Pretty self explanatory.  I want to do some extra reading, start some research and get going on some thesis work this year.  I’m looking forward to it!
  4. Invest in relationships:  I am incredibly good at getting things done.  When I make a to-do list everything on the list gets accomplished, almost without question.  I am an incredibly hard worker.  Something that is difficult for me to work at though sometimes is friendships – this year I want to work harder and maintaining and building relationships with the people around me who matter.

Any resolutions or goals from your end?

I finished my first semester at UW – Stout with flying colors.  Over the course of the semester I learned a ton of things, notably, the differences between the classic family theories (Structural, Bowenian, Strategic, ect), that due to the fact that we live in a pervasively racist society, everyone really is a racist, and at the end of the day I want to be a female version of Carl Whitaker.  (Carl Whitaker, for those of you who don’t know, was a sort of grouchy old man who believed that everyone was crazy and to effectively create change in families, they must have the motivation within themselves to do it.  He was very confrontational and often was accused of “not liking his clients.”  He agreed with his accusers.)  In short, I am taking on the socially constructed identity of a marriage and family therapist and liking it.

One thing that I did not like very much over the course of the semester was working full-time while doing school full-time.  Although I was able to successfully do both of those things, I was not able to do things like have free time or invest in friendships.  Both free time and friendships are important to me and because of that, I am cutting my hours at CRTC to part-time.  I am looking forward to having time to be more than a great student and employee.  At the beginning of February, I will be in the Part Time Overnight position.  Although the sleep schedule will take some adjusting, I think that it will be worth it, especially because I will be able to use some down time during the overnight to do homework.  I am also hoping to have some more time to keep this blog maintained.

Over the course of Holiday break, I have been spending time with family, playing the Sims, and reading “fun” books.  (It should be noted that “fun” is in quotes because I decided to see what all of the Twilight fuss was about.  It is as bad as you’ve heard.)  One of the things I want to try in the Sims is make a polygamist relationship and a polyamourous relationship.  I want try this: 1) to see if I even can with the way the game is coded and 2) to see how harmonious I can make both of those types of relationships work within the game.  The problem I run into with running social experiments on the Sims is that I start to feel attached to my avatars – I don’t want them to suffer.  So when they start fighting with each other and sobbing into their hands (you Sims players know what I am talking about), I fold like a cheap suit and start giving them what they want. Does anyone else experience this?  With a simulation game (one without a win point), do you find yourself feeling bad for your avatars?  Assuming that I don’t just have an excessively sensitive heart, I wonder if people who struggle with empathy would empathize with their avatars in a game like the Sims.  Would someone who is dealing with Antisocial Personality Disorder or Reactive Attachment Disorder feel bad for or attach to their Sim?

Thoughts?

This year I am thankful for a great many things, experiences and people.  Here are a few of the tops.

  1. Jonathon A Bohlinger – the best man-spouse I could ask for
  2. My family – thanks for always being there
  3. His family – this year has been full of ups and downs and I am so thankful for all of you
  4. Holcomb House – I learned so much while working there from my coworkers, the program, and most of all, the kids.
  5. CRTC – I am learning a lot here too, looking forward to becoming a better counselor and therapist everyday!
  6. UW Stout’s MFT program and cohort – you guys are great!  I’m looking forward to learning how to be a great therapist with all of you!
  7. Our newly adopted cat, Stella – she’s a stinker, but she’s also very cute.
  8. Good friends – enough said

I could go on, but it would get boring.  Thanks for reading and I hope your Thanksgivings are beautiful.

As you probably have noticed, I have not been blogging as much lately.  I started grad school about two weeks ago and my time is pretty solidly split between working, being in class, doing homework or spending time with my husband.  Due to time constraints, I will not be updating as regularly as normally.  Every now and then I will try to post an interesting article or link.  For instance, I suggest that you check out this link.  It’s a comic a man wrote about dealing with schizophrenia.  Again, check it out.  Peace,

Anna B

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