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Holiday Letter 2022

It’s a great building, a conversion of an old Jewish temple. One of the coolest buildings in town in a town with a lot of cool buildings. It’s the first time I’ve lived alone for more than a few months. I like it more than I thought I would. Gives me a lot of time to reflect which I was short on for the nine years I served on the Columbia City Council which I wrapped up last year leading to the big changes. In general, it was nice to rip the band aid off and be done with Columbia. Between the brutality of political life and the toll of working with homeless folks it had started to get to me. Getting away and being in a new place doing new things was just what the doctor ordered. If I had stayed in Columbia I would have been pulled into more drama and been put upon do more hard stuff for free, then I feel like doing at this point in my life.

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a holiday letter, but I want to get back in the swing of blogging in 2023 and this seems like a good start. The beginning of the year found me starting a new life in Leavenworth Kansas. I had moved here in November to take a job as the Executive Director of a domestic violence and sexual assault service center. I kept my house in Columbia, Missouri which is about three hours away and I make it back to visit about once a month or so. I got a nice two-bedroom apartment a short walk from work.

So, asides from work my life is pretty quiet. I walk a lot. One of the first things I did is get a list of the Leavenworth Parks and walk to them all. There are some nice ones. Haven Park has mountain bike trails that are fun to hike on, even though the woods are pretty scrubby. Veterans Park has some good trails but it’s on the other side of town, so I don’t get over there much. Three Mile Trail and the River Walk are my go-to walks I do several times a week. I like hikes that start at my front door and a walk through town and down the River Walk to Three Mile Creek and then take the trail to the end and circle back home or walk it backwards if I need more steps is my go-to walk.

It’s a beautiful day for December so I walked down 7th Street to Three Mile Creek to the River Walk and then down Esplanade to 2nd and back was a nice walk and a little longer and may become my new one. I had some back pain so I took the day off and thought a long walk might help me stretch out. I’ve put on a lot of weight this year and am looking to get a lot more active and do some portion control and drop a few pounds.

My job has been fairly stressful until recently. The nonprofit was a bit of a fixer-upper to put it mildly. It had closed down for about a year and never really got straightened back out after reopening four years ago. It took a lot of work to get the accounting straightened our, fix the grant reporting system and bring in solid management staff. We still have a lot of turnover but we are stable if still a bit fragile. I have repaired our relationship with our funders and been out in the community a lot, so donations are up. We’ve improved the data collection but that still needs some work. We are close to getting certified which will be a big accomplishment. We have a few things left to do from our site visit as far as rewriting our rulers to be more trauma informed and paring down our fairly onerous intake procedures. I’m kind of excited about having the space to improve programming.

There has been so much catch up and back-office repair I haven’t been able to focus as much on process improvements. I was finally able to fill our contract counselor position so it’s nice to have another clinical heavy hitter on the team. I hope to start doing some motivational interviewing training for my staff next month. I wrote myself into a COVID grant to do that but haven’t had the time to make it happen. I am also looking forward to doing an annual report. We’ve not done one in many years, and I didn’t have the data or accounting nailed down to do one last year.

Mostly I’ve been pushed at work. Have had very little time to choose my own adventure kind of activities and have been keeping the wolves at bay. I actually have some discretionary time and some ability to slow things up a little and focus more on selfcare. I want to go to Italy in June so I need to get in much better shape to properly enjoy it. Walking more and getting back on the ebike are my big plans and adding some inside workouts when the weather isn’t cooperating.

Besides work I am active in the Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been on the Board of Directors since January which is pretty good for being a new resident. This January I’ll start on the Executive Committee as the Vice Chair. I’m also plugging in on their strategic plan. I’ve also gotten active with the Leavenworth County Human Services Committee and am spearheading their strategic planning efforts. I hope to do it in pieces over the next year working in small groups with rotating members. We rewrote the mission statement, so vision is next.

I’ve also been a Chamber Ambassador, so I go to all the ribbon cuttings. It’s a good way to meet people and find out what is happening in the community. I’ve read research that having lots of weak ties is one of the components of a happy life so I’m doing good on that front for a newbie.

I’ve done a bit of regional travel. I’m planning on wrapping things up here in a little less than a year after I fulfill my two-year commitment. I’m not really cut out to be an executive director. I was a reluctant administrator much preferring direct service and clinical work and clinical management and training but once you’ve been an executive director it’s really hard to get a job doing anything else. It’s been satisfying fixing a broken keystone nonprofit but it’s not how I want to spend my days and the small “p” politics of small-town organizing is a lot to put up with for not having a particular passion for the work or the community. I like them both, but I have a lot of interests and I like a lot of places.

So, I’ve spent some time checking out Lawrence, Topeka and Wichita as well as Atchison which is a bit closer. I’ve done all the hikes within a half hour drive and am working on the hour drive hikes. I’ve also checked out the Flint Hills and Osawatomie. I have concert tickets in Hayes Kansas to see an alt country band, 49 Winchester, in May and my grants manager is getting married in Wichita so I’ll be back down there. The Capitol with the famous John Brown mural is a must see. The John Brown Museum in Osawatomie also has some cool artifacts.

My friend Harry came out and we went to Lawrence to see mewithoutyou on their farewell tour. It was an awesome show and I saw some shows with John. Most notably the Firewater Festival with Blackberry Smoke, the Old 97’s, and 49 Winchester giving memorable performances. I did a float trip down the Missouri from Leavenworth to the next river town. I also did Hartsburg to Jeff City later in the year which was pretty fun. For my vacation I flew into Detroit over Labor Day and caught the Detroit Jazz Festival. I came early and stayed late to see my friends in the homeland.

And that friends has pretty much been my year. Mostly I’ve tried to live a humble and quiet life. I’ve given up big ambitions and focused on what’s in front of me. Overall, I’m pleased with the results. The ego gets going a bit, but I’ve gotten better about keeping it in check and will keep working on it. I’m going to stay on much the same path in the coming year but take better care of myself while doing it. By the end of the year, I should be wrapping things up and packing my things back to my house in Columbia. From there its epic road trip and finding a quiet place to hole up and write a book. I hope to blog more to keep me in the writing mode.

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

I put in a movie, more to see if my DVD player works then wanting to watch a movie. Mostly I am tired of being productive and not tired enough to go to sleep and for such was invented television. Cancelling my satellite and having my housemates move out has made for something akin to if not loneliness then certainly a satiation with being with my own thoughts. A rarity as I’m rather into it. Watching a horror movie Harry loaned me. I think I’ve seen it before, HP Lovecraft’s From Beyond, pretty good as I recall for what it is.

Its been a pretty relaxing evening. Took advantage of Olive keeping Fido company all day and got some dinner at Wendy’s and did a little shopping. Got some of the things on my list a nice can opener with big teeth and a cork screw at Macy’s. I also picked up a few cardigans at a good price. Struck out on a few things too, no rain jacket, garlic press or even a spatula like what I was looking for. I’m not a fan of shopping but it was tolerable.

Glad to have wrapped up another week. Getting busier but I was thankful it was OK for a while. I did my education group on some selections from the Enchiridion. It was well received. I call stoicism the only evidence based philosophy because of its heavy influence on cognitive behavioral therapy. I had given a lot of the Dover Thrift Editions away and been speaking him up to some of the smart dudes in treatment so I think that paved the way for greater acceptance.

Yesterday I walked dogs and made soup. Walking a dog is a joy walking two dogs is a bit of a chore. Olive is definitely a hound as she likes to stop and sniff at pretty much everything except when she is pulling on the leash trying to smell something ahead. She also has a pit bull stubbornness and some pull. We got into a little test of wills when I finally made her sit. Ultimately we made it to the dog park, started making the rounds, lots of big dogs so both of them were a little timid and then Olive jumped up on a picnic table full of regulars, mostly older. There was this general look of disdain and I grabbed Olive by the collar and pulled her off the table a little to roughly for the general sensibilities and it was a bit embarrassing. Closest thing I’ve been to losing my cool for a while. Made me glad I never had kids. I am known for being calm, gentle even, but if I had to deal with kids at odd times I suspect I would grab ’em up, maybe even bop ’em like I did to Fido and Olive summer before last when they were going after Remi the neighbors little purse dog. Glad I’ve done batterer intervention for a long time. Makes me look past the bullshit of easy excuses and own up my behavior and work on changing it. Don’t think I’ll get short with Olive again.

Soup was a better experience. I looked up a recipe just to make sure there weren’t any  celeriac tricks I needed to know. There aren’t but I got a pretty good recipe which I only slightly modified. I cooked three shallots in a teaspoon of bacon grease, added the peeled and chopped celeriac and three yukon golds also chopped. Then a quart of homemade chicken stock, a Michigan apple (the rest I think left at Brenda’s), and a bit more then a 1/2 tsp of thyme. Also added a kielbasa and a half (Kowalski’s holiday kielbasa from Danny’s in Monroe) and cooked it til it was done about a half hour. Added some of Kevin’s rue when it wasn’t thick enough. It was good and different. I like making soup cooking for one. Everything is in one pot but you still get your veggies.

Tomorrow, market, shopping, laundry (60 & sunny definitely using the clothesline), hiking with the dogs (patiently), and cleaning house. Wouldn’t mind doing some yard work. I still have tulips to put in and haven’t finished raking even the front yard. Glad real winter has stayed her hand. With the beautiful day putting off some house cleaning to Sunday is not a bad idea. Not having people over until 3 and a 3 day weekend. sweet.

Punch and Judy

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve already titled this post, if I wait to see what its about sometimes I forget to title it, but its a decision not to write much of an update. I’ve been posting a lot so not much to touch on. I had a nicely paced workday which was good because in retrospect I pushed through the weekend pretty hard. Today I have been doing stuff all day which then if I still feel a little bad about not doing something it means a question of priorities because there’s not a slack in my day to add on.

Work is largely a no brainer, it pays the bills and gives me an opportunity to be a part of something that’s trying to help. After work its a brief with visit with Fido, essential and I wish I had more time for that, then I went to the Odd Fellows meeting. Parker fried fish and there was homemade corn bread and cake and it was fun helping out and eating and getting to know more people. Everybody’s pretty friendly and though I’m just getting into it I am ultimately intrigued by its history and mission.

I am deeply concerned about the future efficacy of government and other large institutions. I am thinking that some of the ones that predate an effective public social service system are important and need to be rediscovered by people who give a damn and prepped to pick back up the load. We can’t afford to keep generating cohorts of children that are casually nurtured and poorly educated and unleashed on a world without jobs or legitimate opportunity. Not unless we want Trouble.Health care is regressing in practical efficacy for most of us and the ranks of the poor grow and become more desperate. At least we can still bury the  dead.

So I’m getting involved with the Odd Fellows. What I’m not doing is standing with Occupy Como to make sure they get to keep their tents up and no one is walking around spraying a big can of Pepper Spray, or should I say CS Gas with some Pepper in it. Pepper Spray makes it sound organic and not a dangerous chemical that can kill people. Right now I am more into building for the future then opposing the present, though I think both are necessary and good.

So yesterday I mentioned I dreamed this song/poem. Definitely the first line was written asleep and I got up and wrote it down verbatim in minutes so maybe the whole thing so I don’t know how much credit to take. Its not that different then the stuff I write awake so maybe I do a good job of getting my conscious mind out of the way and let it flow.

If you don’t know Punch and Judy shows go back to at least the Middle Ages and I think it was a Roman thing. Punch has a stick and hits Judy, they’re puppets, did I mention they’re puppets. This piece updates it for the modern age:

Punch and Judy went to a show

I think it was about five nights ago

Punch brought his stick he was feeling cocky

The retro theater was playing Rocky

There was nothing Punch liked more then fisticuffs

A big tough guy who liked to play rough

Punch thought the only thing that was a pain

Was that Rocky never took a stick to Adrian

The clerk asked how many and Punch said “Two please”

They went in the wrong door into Thelma and Louise

Punch couldn’t believe it he was aghast

He wanted to get out of there something fast

But Judy wouldn’t leave she wanted to see the show

Punch hit her with his stick but the usher said: “no”

He through Punch out right into the street

“When Judy gets home, she’s gonna get beat”.

But Judy’s not gonna take it anymore

She bought herself a forty-four

She can’t match Punch’s brawn but she has friends who can

By the name of Mr Smith and Mr Wesson.

Punch took his stick and hit her in the head

Judy filled his puppet body up with lead

Punch dropped his stick he was dead as a nail

There’s not a jury around that would send her to jail

She’s been taking Punch’s beatings since the Middle Ages

Its time that old script got a few new pages

Violence isn’t the answer to domestic abuse

But its appropriate for puppets who were meant to amuse

Because Judy’s not going to take it anymore

She bought herself a forty-four

She can’t match Punch’s brawn but she has friends who can

By the name of Mr Smith and Mr Wesson.

dogs and domestic violence

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Took a long drive today north on 63. It was pretty fall color the maples seem to be coming along now. Smokey rode up front and true to her cattle dog nature barked at a lot of cows. Sheep she’s not interested in except the second glance she gives to hay stacks and picket fences, just to make sure they’re not cows. Horses she grants honorary cow status. I dozed through the wild turkey siting (I wasn’t driving). We were early for our thing so took the dogs to a park in Montezuma. Was pleased to see a lot of old school playground equipment although they had the little plastic crappy stuff too. I immediately thought about walking the dogs up the teeter-totter. Smokey was the only one was game and jumped off when she passed the center of balance. Managed to get all the dogs on the merry-go-round. They were not fans.

Had an interesting experience in the court house (not my case). We were talking about the proven inefficacy of DARE with a lawyer and he mentioned it was a program mentioned by name required by legal statute. He mentioned it was the same way with domestic violence programs (The Duluth Model) which I responded was a good idea because otherwise you’d have people doing all kinds of stuff that beyond not being helpful might be harmful like anger management.

Ran into the lawyer again at the clerk’s window and he was chit-chatting withe the prosecutor about a deal on an assault case where they wanted amongst other things anger management. He hooked a thumb at me and said” this guy says anger management is no good”. The prosecutor asked why and I told her it feeds into the excuse making function. “Honey don’t push my buttons you know I got that anger problem” and that it was harmful in domestic violence situations. She said it wasn’t a domestic case and I told her I still had never seen any evidence it was an effective intervention and that I had had good success with anger issues in my batterer intervention class and told her about this dude I had had come through for road rage after not being helped by anger management several times. No one had ever told him anger was a choice. She said “well he did have an assault on his girlfriend sometime back so we’ll try it”.

Nice being in the right place at the right time. There is so much education to do on this topic. Speaking of, if you’re not familiar batterer intervention is rooted in identifying power and control tactics that are at core of the issue. Domestic violence is purposeful and instrumental, which means its done on purpose and done for a reason. Anger management makes it seem like an accident.

 

Categories: dogs, domestic violence, travel

long week part 1

August 23, 2010 1 comment

Its been a long week. Work continues to be frenetic and i was just coming back from being sick so i was trying to take it easy. Tuesday I met with Cori who was asked to officiate at one of her childhood friend’s weddings. We met at Lakota and I sat in the rocking chair and drank a really good late’ and told Cori all the stuff about weddings I wish someone would have told me. I hadn’t had a lot of experience with them and was in fact dubious about the whole concept when i did my first wedding. the biggest surprise was the necessity of your role of running the rehearsal. Why someone asked to say a few words should be laying out when the flower girls come up the aisle and how long the music plays and all kinds of other stuff. I talked to her about the workarounds for misogynistic artifacts in the ceremony like the pronouncement and you (you action oriented being who acts on the world) can kiss the bride (the passive thing akin to all the other things to be acted upon). I talked to her about honoring your own sense of the divine but presenting from the perspective of the bride and groom in a way that is inclusive to all present. I talked to her about weaving the best language from several translations when quoting the bible which allows you to drop male pronouns (we both like replacing it with god). Pointed out the classics 1 cor 13 & the verse out ecclesiastes i believe, “two are better than one, for how can one be warm alone? And if one should fall into a pit who will pull them out?” sweet. the sacredness of laying together you can’t better than that.

I picked up some Kaldi’s coffee while i was downtown. Lakota roasts there own but they’re more second wave with everything really dark (good for Lates’). Kaldi’s is third wave and has lots of single lot beans, in season, from all over the world and roasts them light. I got a Honduran and the Ecuadoran Single source they’re hyping on their coffee of the world program. They’re both excellent but the Honduran is better. Best of all the popster picked up the coffee tab this week.

Thursday was a big night, I did my last ever batterer intervention group. I have worked part time for four years doing a group a week, a couple years two, for over 250 groups. Its been fun, actually work I enjoy quite a bit.  Its just one more thing I have to do so I decided to drop it as part of my de-stressing my life. It was an OK group, exciting for what it was, two years of non stop good groups, nice run. Afterwards I met up with Sharon, Nance, Erika, and Kristin four of my co-facilitators through the years. We had beers and I had cheese fries  and we got caught up. It was nice. Its helpful to feel appreciated when your struggling a bit, seeing people recognize it and that they care about you and are glad you’re doing it. The family reunion, the surprise birthday party, and then the MEND thing has all reinforced that message.

presentations on domestic violence and batterer intervention

I have recently given 2 presentations on domestic violence and batterers intervention at classes at University of Missouri. I have been having students email me their notes and thought it might be interesting to post one of them. The one I posted here I did with Elise, the Shelter counselor, which went pretty well. I did  a better one last night with Nancy, my batterer group co-facilitator but the notes weren’t as good.

Mike

·        They all think that they are pretty good guys.

·        How can that be?

o       Obfuscation

§         They don’t see it clearly; it is not seen clearly by anyone.

§         EX – domestic violence survivors that love their abusers

o       Minimize

§         It wasn’t a big deal. The “Halo Effect” – it is easier to remember the good times than the bad times.

o       Deny

§         Lying – it happened but you can’t admit it.

§         Lying to self – it didn’t happen and I don’t have to do anything.

o       Blame

§         Blaming the victim – she made me do it. All of society does this. Or, I was drunk, I was high; I am not like this.

ú         EX – why does she stay? Instead, we should ask – why does he do it?

1 out of 3 marriages will experience domestic violence in the first year. 2 out of 3 will experience it at some point. The point is that it is extremely common.

Alcohol increases the level of violence but does not cause violence in itself.

Men referred by the courts; in general, jail is better at getting results than groups. Try not to offer it as a deferment for jail terms.

The peer influence is what makes the groups work. They need to be held accountable.

The men’s group at FCC is not just for those who have committed a violent act; it is also for those who are controlling in their relationships. It is a 27 week program. This group is about changing attitudes and beliefs. The 27 weeks is just the tip of the iceberg, it is only the beginning of change.

Honor the fact that what survivors have done has saved their lives up to this point. Don’t tell them what they need to do. Just offer support.

The heart of domestic violence is not hitting; it is all about power and control (emotional and mental abuse). As bad as the physical abuse was, it was not as bad as when he called me names and isolated me.

Elise

·        No matter how women use their voice – it is still a social problem.

·        All the isms come to play when we talk about domestic violence and sexual assault.

o       Domestic violence happens at the same rate in the queer community as in the straight community.

·        Stalking is something that generally happens at the tail end of the relationship. Many women don’t even realize that they are being abused or stalked until they have the opportunity to seek out help.

·        Issue of marital rape – very difficult to address because we have a hard time talking about sex in the first place.

Categories: domestic violence