Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Severe Mercy

I first read this book the summer after my freshman year of college. That summer, I was bored and looking for something interesting to read when I found a plain blue book with no dustjacket on a shelf in the closet. Opening it, I saw it said "Merry Christmas Kathy - 1978." I was intrigued enough to pick it up and read the first few pages. I'm so glad I did because I loved it, and it provided me with some interesting and thought-provoking reading material that summer! I just recently re-read it and was reminded of how much I love the story.

A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken, is a true autobiographical story. The story mainly focuses on Sheldon's relationship with his wife - how they met, how they dated, and then their marriage as well. There are two main aspects of this book that set it apart from all others. First of all (Spoiler alert), his wife becomes terminally ill and the way they deal with her illness is so inspiring but broke my heart at the same time. Secondly, Sheldon becomes good friends with C.S. Lewis and regularly corresponds with him. He includes all the letters in this book reproduced almost exactly as they were written. It's a very interesting view into C.S. Lewis's mind as well, and the short letters contain huge themes and truths in them. I'm not sure anyone else would be able to write so much so clearly in a letter!

This book is definitely not a quick read, but it's not at all boring or difficult. It's more just one of those books that you want to take your time with  and really savor every word as you go. There is also a good amount of poetry included, for those of you (Julie!) who really like that.

Let me know if you read it and what you think!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coincidence...or Just My Aura?

There's a possibility I have developed some sort of odd electromagnetic field surrounding me lately...I'm not sure how else to explain the fact that both my computer battery and car battery have died within the past week!

This weekend, my computer battery decided it only wanted to charge up to 20% rather than its usual 100%. After numerous attempts to re-calibrate it and update its bios and put it in the freezer wrapped in a dishtowel, it's currently charging up to 16%. (Okay, I didn't actually put it in the freezer, but that was one of the suggestions I read!) The most frustrating thing is I just bought this battery in late November. Unfortunately, SoftArcade.net does not believe that they could have sold me a problematic battery, so I guess I'm living with this for now.

Then, about two days ago, I noticed my car took a little more time to start up than usual. Well, what do you know but last night it wouldn't start at all! I was on campus, so we ended up jumping it and driving it home. It's sitting in our parking lot right now until we jump it again and take it somewhere to get a new battery. (I'm definitely praying that's what the problem is, as opposed to something more major.)

I'm a little nervous because I know these things happen in threes. What battery is going to die next? 

Monday, March 16, 2009

This Post May Be the Result of a Lost Bet...

Go Mizzou. You are better than Baylor.

I wore this shirt today and was asked "Hey wait, isn't that the wrong school?"

"Why yes, you're right! It is not the team we were rooting for. But since it was the school that won the basketball game Saturday, I therefore lost a bet with Scott Naples, and am now wearing a Mizzou shirt around campus."

I wasn't brave enough to ask anyone on campus to take a picture of me, so I had Dan do it when I got home, which was post-workout. Therefore I'm glowing a little in this picture!

And I also took a picture of Dan, but he refused to wear a Mizzou shirt today, due to the fact that he's a teacher or something. Scott, you can take it up with him.

Oh and of course, here's Sammers looking out the window...this is one of her normal spots while I'm on the computer. She doesn't have a Mizzou shirt to wear, so she was safe from this bet.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Adventures in Fredericksburg: The Enchanted Rock

Dan and I climbed the Enchanted Rock on Tuesday, during the few brief hours of our entire trip that it wasn't raining. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, the Enchanted Rock is "a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground, 1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres. It is one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the United States." The hike up is a little over half a mile, so not far, but it was pretty steep! We were both out of breath by the time we made it to the top.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

We're Back from Fredericksburg!

Dan and I slipped away from real life for the last four days and are just now settling back home in Waco. We packed our tennis shoes and picnic backpack, dropped Sammie off at her farm, and headed about 3.5 hours Southwest to Hill Country - Fredericksburg, Texas.

It was amazing. The weather - well, not amazing. Cloudy, chilly, with an outright downpour for the better half of our stay. But we still got to do everything we wanted to, including all the outdoor stuff, and we also got to make great use of our fireplace because of the weather.

I know you're scratching your head right now... a fireplace? What kind of hotel were you staying at...in Texas, no less? Well, actually we stayed at the Corner Cottage Bed and Breakfast and honestly, that was the best decision we could have made - this place is what made our trip so wonderful.
Monday afternoon, we pulled up to this house...
...And were shown our "room," the Garden Room. We had our own private entrance and everything!

The door opened up into the main room room, which had a bed, couch, TV, and fireplace:

Next to that was a little kitchen area, which had these freshly-baked cookies waiting for us (from a secret recipe, no less!) The kitchen was also stocked with coffee, pop, apple cider, tea, hot chocolate, wine...you name it.

You then walked from the kitchen area into an enormous bathroom.
So I didn't quite capture the entire bathroom with this photograph, but you can get a good feel for the antique-y type decor combined with all things flowers (after all, it is the Garden Room)!

One funny thing that happened was that we knew there would be a huge Jacuzzi tub from the website. What we didn't anticipate, however, was the lack of a shower! I guess I just never thought about it, even though it was not mentioned anywhere when the website told about all the accomodations! So we spent the last four days taking baths. They even had a silver pail to help you wash your hair.

Here we are at breakfast this morning, with our hostess, Marsha:
She was the one who tended to our every need and served us breakfast every morning at 9:00am sharp. (Okay, more 9:00-ish than sharp, but who's complaining?) Every morning, Dan and I would share a table with the people who were staying in the other two guest rooms. We ate butter pecan french toast, ham and cheese breakfast casserole, fruit and yogurt plates, pancakes, pear crisp, and plenty of other things - and keep in mind, we only had three breakfasts there! The breakfasts were so big and delicious that we did not buy one lunch the entire trip - we only needed occasional apples and granola bars that we'd brought with us.

Here's an action shot of Marsha, cooking away. Great kitchen, isn't it?

Oh, we did plenty of other things in Fredericksburg besides lounging around at Corner Cottage...climbed big rocks, tasted lots of wine, and shopped til we dropped. And I'll share those in later posts. But for now I will just leave you with the fact that I want to go back, like, right now. Anyone wanna come with?

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I get asked a lot if I have to write a dissertation for my program. Yes, I do, and we actually get our entire fourth year to work on it. During that year, I'll still be taking classes but I won't have a job - my job will be to work on my dissertation!

I haven't started any dissertation work yet. (Although I'm going to have to start relatively soon, which freaks me out every time I think about it.) However, I have been doing a lot of research and....drumroll please.... I just submitted a poster presentation for the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies conference, which will be held in New York in November!

It hasn't been accepted yet, and it's a pretty competitive conference (who knew there was such a thing?) but I'm still excited.

Are you interested in what I'm working on? First of all, I work with this professor**  so all the stuff I do is related to marriages and conflict in some way. This project was about how the words couples use during conflict predict their satisfaction. For example, people who use the word "I" and "you" during conflict are less happy in their marriage than people who use assent words (like yes, okay, sure) and "we" words. 

Sound obvious? Maybe kinda. But I'm trying to show that just looking at people's words they use during conflict can provide us with a lot of important information that usually takes a lot o time to find out. 

So yeah...that's the other part of what I do here...besides school, work, and Top Chef marathons.

**There's a link on the website that says "Assess my marriage." If both of you are willing to fill out the questionnaire, it can be kind of fun and interesting!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Should You See a Psychologist?

The other day, I gave an outreach presentation to some teachers and Speech Language Pathologists about when to refer a child to a psychologist. I was really nervous beforehand, but once I got up there and began talking, they all started nodding and taking notes about what I was saying. I realized that I was giving them information they didn't know! And then I began thinking about how many other people don't know this information either. So, I think I will give you a quick reference guide so that you know how many things psychologists can help with that you may not be aware of...

First of all, psychologists do assessments and therapy. We can help answer questions you have about your functioning (with assessments) and then help you work on your problems (with therapy).

Questions that a Psychologist can help Answer:
  • What are your intellectual strengths and weaknesses? Any age, any level of verbal ability, and any specific question can be addressed. Learning disabilities and ADHD can also be discovered and diagnosed.
  • How does your academic achievement compare to my intellectual functioning? What grade level are you reading (or doing math etc) at?
  • Do you have any problematic neuropsychological functioning? If you've had a severe head injury, stroke, or again if your child is showing some odd behaviors, we can check and see if these are normal. This might include hyperactivity, ADHD, attention, executive processing, processing speed, memory, spatial skills and reasoning...the list goes on
  • What is your emotional functioning? This is a big one! Are you feeling like you might not be totally normal? Have your emotions changed from how they used to be? Are you having trouble eating, sleeping, concentrating, or enjoying things you used to enjoy? Any of these might signal depression, anxiety, or another problem that can be evaluated and addressed with a psychologist.
  • Is your child unusually oppositional or aggressive? If they are more aggressive than their peers, there is a reason for it, and a psychologist can help figure out why.
  • Do you have an Autism Spectrum Disorder? In terms of kids, if your child has trouble with eye contact, empathy, language, change, social skills, friendships, or imaginary play, you probably want to get them assessed for an autistic disorder.
  • Is there something not working in your parent-child or family relationship?
  • Are you unusually clumsy or are your motor skills weaker than your peers? This might signal a neurological problem.

These are all the things we can assess. However, of course you often visit a psychologist not for an assessment, but for therapy. Many of the above problems, such as relationship difficulties or emotional functioning, can of course be worked on in therapy - with good results too! Almost all psychological disorders (depression, anxiety, etc) show as good or better results with therapy than with medication. For lots of them, the best results will come if you get in therapy and use medication. I always recommend therapy because it can help you get in touch with your "true self." So, here are some red flags. If you answer "yes" to any of these, I would consider visiting a psychologist for therapy:

  • Do you feel sad most days?
  • Is there a problem in your life that you think about almost all the time?
  • Do your troubles distract you at work or when you're trying to have fun and relax?
  • Have you gotten stuck in troubling relationships over and over?
  • Are you getting irritable with people close to you?
  • Have you started to have trouble sleeping? Or do you feel like sleeping all the time?
  • Have you lost interest or pleasure in your daily life--in things you used to enjoy?
  • Are you troubled by conflicts with your spouse or partner?
  • Are you trying to cope with hurtful experiences from the past that are hard to talk about?
  • Do you think you have been using alcohol or drugs too much?
  • Have you gotten into problems because of your temper?
  • Have you thought about suicide?
  • Have you gotten so nervous or panicky that you thought you were going to pass out or have a heart attack?
  • Do you have disturbing, intrusive thoughts or images that you can't control?