making life beautiful

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”

Mandy Hale – The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

There are a handful of people in the world, if you’re lucky enough, who make a real and lasting impact on your life. Though bleary eyed, I wanted to write about three lovely women who I can’t thank enough for supporting and reminding me of the good they see in me. When I got home from work today, I received a card from one of these dear women, Diane. It truly made my day, as it was quite out of the blue and unexpected.

I met Diane Flanagan at AzSH (AZ State Hospital) in 2010. Diane is an OTR-L (Licensed Occupational Therapist), and at the time, I was hired as an MT-BC (Music Therapist-Board Certified) under the Therapeutic Recreation Services Dept. I was soon transferred from the Civil Hospital to the Forensic Hospital where we worked with adult patients with serious mental illnesses who were court-ordered to receive treatment, and Diane and I were office-mates. Both hospitals were secure, locked facilities. We shared a large office, and our desks sat side by side. Diane oversaw the Vocational Work Program, among other things, and our office was full of ceramic items that the patients had molded and painted. The items were sold in the hospital gift shop. We’d sit and talk behind our computers while writing our notes and exchange ideas about treatment groups and new things to try out. From the first day I moved into our office, Diane was nothing but welcoming. She is one of the most encouraging women I have ever met. She supported all of my efforts to develop new music therapy groups and provide 1:1 music therapy for some of the patients. We worked on presenting a patient talent show, which was hugely successful, and started a patient-led band. She kept an interest in the journey to find my birthfamily in Taipei and cheered when I found them. I have so many fond memories of working together with Diane and the patients. It has remained my favorite job, and Diane was a part of what made the work so meaningful and successful. When I left the hospital, she hand-made a beautiful card and had the patients sign it (she actually hand-made several cards with encouraging notes). I still have it to this day. She is one of those women who constantly gives of herself. I’m lucky to know her and to have shared an office with her.

A couple years ago, I was supervised by a woman who, like Diane, was an enormous support to me right out of grad school. Susan David, LPC, was my first supervisor at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Susan is a psychotherapist and Clinical Manager at the agency, and I was hired as a Child Clinician or therapist. It was my first job after receiving my MSW. I remember how excited I was to have my own office and begin decorating it. Like the other therapists, I focused on making it attractive to kids and started purchasing books, toys, games, paints, crayons and other items for play therapy. Susan was one of the two women who interviewed me, and on my first day of work, I was thrilled to learn that she would be my supervisor. I was terrified of providing therapy to kids and their families, as I felt incredibly inexperienced and unprepared for the task. Susan and I sat together for many hours of supervision, discussing my caseload and exploring interventions that would help my clients, most of whom were in foster care. Susan offered a number of creative interventions to address the trauma many of my clients had experienced. She was a wealth of wisdom and experience and a skilled therapist. I learned so much from her. I don’t know why Susan believed in me the way she did-  she always made me feel as though I had a special gift. She saw something in me that I didn’t, and that was a real encouragement. Although my work at JFCS was brief, I have fond memories of working with my clients and with the other wonderful therapists there. Although our work was tough, I gained much in clinical experience and from the kiddos I worked with. If I could become half the therapist Susan is, that would be something!

Thirdly, Carole Ann Kaplan, a former high school writing teacher at Parkway High School, has been like a breath of fresh air. Carole also has a master’s degree in school counseling. Ironically, Carole and I have never met in person, although I remember seeing her in the hallways of Parkway High and in her classroom. I remember that the students loved her, and I can see why now. I’m not sure why I never had any of her classes. In any case, Carole inspired me to begin this blog back in 2010. She managed a writing group on Facebook that I was invited to join, and the rest is history. Many of the members of the group had wordpress blogs, which inspired me to create my blog. I don’t think I would have ever ventured to write a book if not for her genuine encouragement to keep writing. She has sent me a number of books and cards to feed my creative soul over the years, and we’ve exchanged countless emails. Carole is full of wisdom and generosity. Recently, she provided an extra set of eyes as I wrote my new book. She encourages those around her and is constantly looking for ways to lift others up. I hope to meet her in person one day soon.

I write this post because I feel especially blessed to have crossed paths with these three wise women. Diane’s card made me aware of how lucky I am to have people in my life who support me in such a way when I have not done a whole lot to deserve it. Nonetheless, thank you, Diane, Susan, and Carole for your encouragement and for keeping in touch with me despite the distance. I am truly grateful for how you’ve inspired me and taken me under your wings. xoxo.

2 thoughts on “making life beautiful

  1. Susan

    Marijane,I only saw what was evident to everyone who met you. You carry such peace and joy within you and that your gift to the world. I am blessed to call you a friend and honored by your kind words.

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  2. Carole Ann Kaplan

    Maryjane, I am so honored by your words. Gratitude is such a powerful emotion that affects us all. I still find it hard to believe you weren’t not in my class. How can I know you so well is still a mystery or it is a part of the Universe’s plan that honors me so much. Your quoting other authors in your writing is such a powerful part of your memoir and seeing Mandy Hale’s words above support the power of the written word. Thank you so much for being a part of my life and my learning. You gift us all in so many ways. xoxo

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