A Slice of Humor

by Edna Wallace, LMFT

Edna Wallace, LMFT, is a long-time therapist at El Camino Hospital working in the Adult Mood Program for Depression and Anxiety and the OATS program for older adults. She has a private practice in Los Altos. She worked for a decade on the Luncheon Committee for SCV-CAMFT and has been a luncheon presenter as well. Edna is an avid writer in her spare time.

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  • Thursday, December 21, 2023 9:35 AM | Anonymous

    Back to Winter 2023 Newsletter            
    by Edna Wallace, LMFT

    What happens when you leave,
    when you have to say “good-bye”?
    You’re choosing to go.
    No-one is making you.
    You’re excited about
    what’s next -
    the new thing
    or the freed-up time.

    But you haven’t figured in
    the pain,
    the heartbreak.
    You’re leaving a longtime thing,
    a familiarity.
    You’re leaving
    your dreams of what could be,
    your experience of what is,
    your vision for the future.
    All that ends
    with the good-bye.

    But beyond the thing
    is the people,
    those lovely people!
    You’re leaving a family.
    No longer
    the close contact,
    the jokes,
    the wows and the fails.
    You’re saying good-bye.

    You promise you’ll keep in touch
    maybe you will,
    maybe not,
    but you know
    it’s not the same.
    It will be something else,
    a different connection,
    diluted.

    And yet
    there are always good-byes.
    And, of course,
    beginnings too—
    that thrill of something new,
    something better?
    something to look forward to.

    You hold both together—
    Inscrutable Change—
    the looking-forward-to
    and the sadness.
    That’s where you sit.
  • Saturday, September 23, 2023 10:21 AM | Anonymous

    Back to Fall 2023 Newsletter
    by Edna Wallace, LMFT

    You’re supposed to be fully “in” the session. You’re supposed to be empathetic and caring. My friend, who is all those things, tells her clients she loves them. I have never said that to any of my clients. Sure, I say I care (which I do). I am (mostly) present for the session. Sometimes, I think of the walk I’ll take at 5:00pm once we end at 4:50pm. Or I might think about dinner and how I’m going to eat the potatoes this time, not just watch my husband eat his while I salivate.

    Lots of times I glance at the clock. I’ve become good at that. I dart my eyes over, register, calculate, and return. 3 seconds max. I don’t think the clients notice. And when the bigger hand mercifully passes the half-hour mark, inching towards the ten-to end, I think “you’ve got 20 minutes more, honey” or “well, it may be on your mind day and night, but you’re going to shut up about it here very soon.” One client commented one time: “I saw you look at the clock.” That was embarrassing.  Mostly, I put on my serious face and nod. Sometimes I even hold my chin. I figure I’m sixty now; I can get away with that.

    So, when Marcie (not her real name, of course) announced that she was going to find a hoarding* specialist,  I had to rearrange my facial features into a countenance of concern and wise but reluctant approval. This is an instance of appropriate chin holding. Marcie’s always been a pain in the butt. “If I don’t clear the study piles, at least the one blocking the door, I don’t really see the point in living. It’s that bad.” Really? Well, do something about it. I say it much more nicely, of course. And even so, for the ten years you’ve had a pile blocking the door to the study, that’s a reason to end your life? Right. Marcie brings my mood down, all the way to the ground floor.

    Now she’s telling me she’s going to leave me. She’s going to attack the hoarding issue straight on. It’s an excellent idea. I have to hide my giddiness. The “oh, goody” I have to keep to myself. I tell her it may well be a time we stop while she pursues this targeted help. I say this with brow furrowed and kind eyes. Marcie looks tearful… and determined. She was probably worried about my reaction, how I’d beg her to stay. “No, honey, go…and don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

    I don’t offer her the three sessions of termination—or what we were taught to do in grad school. Termination is a stage, they’d hammer into us; you need to review progress and do a transfer of learning. You need to validate your client for making this difficult decision. You need to talk about the journey you’ve taken together and how brave it is for the person to leave now and practise skills on his or her (or their) own. I validate Marcie now. I tell her it must have been tough to bring this up. I tell her she’s very brave. She looks happy I called her brave.   

    I’ve certainly done the whole termination regimen with clients in the past. Often, I’ve meant every word. Often, I’ve been angry or hurt. “How could he just do that? Why is he really leaving? What did I do wrong?” I’ve had to process the termination in my own therapy. Often, I’ve panicked and worried about my practice disappearing.

    But now not. Not with Marcie. Now I just cross my fingers and hope she likes this hoarding specialist enough to vanish, to disappear into that crowded space she’s been talking about for years. It’s good for her too, I know. She might even clear that pile behind the study door. And I, in all my sixty years of splendor, with all the intention I can muster, I now get to plan out this newly found hour of freedom. I finish Zoom at the ten-to mark, close my laptop, and say a soft “goody!” to myself.

    *I altered “Marcie’s” primary issue as well (of course). Confidentiality, confidentiality.  


    Back to Fall 2023 Newsletter
  • Saturday, July 01, 2023 4:09 PM | Anonymous

    Back to Summer 2023 Newsletter
    by Edna Wallace, LMFT

    Well-being… what’s that?
    Who knows.
    But you know it when you see it—
    a person whose
    very presence
    emanates a kind of peace.
    Secure attachment?
    Who knows what that is.
    But again you recognize it
    sometimes
    right in front of you—
    in a person raised
    by a good enough mom.

    Anne’s a presence …
    she guides people in.
    She’s the first person you see
    when you arrive.
    There she is behind the glass,
    at her desk,
    greeting everyone.
    The ones she knows
    she checks in with—
    she mentions the weather
    or a book they both like
    or she asks about their kids.
    The new ones she welcomes
    calmly, smiling;
    Ann’s not in a rush.

    She knows them by name,
    connecting with ease,
    with confidence.
    And all this for no pay—
    for a meaningful life,
    a structured life,
    a life of kindness.

    It’s not easy to join
    a senior center
    (you have to admit
    you are one first).
    You have to like people
    (enough)
    and want connection
    (enough)
    or be bored and lonely
    (enough)
    to walk through the door.
    Once you’re there,
    you may wonder
    why you waited so long.

    But Anne makes it easy,
    accessible.
    Anne’s the gentle presence
    at the helm.

    That is well-being…
    what many
    people spend
    years in therapy
    and thousands of dollars
    trying to achieve—
    to be raised again by
    a good enough mother.

    There’s a lot to learn
    from a volunteer
    like Anne.


  • Monday, May 01, 2023 7:22 PM | Anonymous

    by Edna Wallace, LMFT

    You ring.
    “Welcome to Spectrum Healthcare, where we meet all your healthcare needs! You are a valued customer, so we will get to your call just as soon as we can!”
    “Hello, I’m Jean. With whom am I speaking?”
    “Melissa Brown,” you say. “I’m a mental health clinician.
    “Hi Melissa, how are you today?”
    “Fine.”
    “That’s great. Can I have a phone number for you, Melissa, in case we get disconnected?”
    “Yes, it’s 213-456-7880.”
    “Thank you, Melissa. How can I help you?”
    “I need to do a concurrent review on a mutual member.”
    “Sure, I can help you with that. But, first, you a provider?”
    “Yes, I’m a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.”
    “Thank you. What is the member’s first and last name?”
    “Mickey Mouse.”
    “Member’s date of birth?”
    “February 20th, 1907.”
    “And what is the Member ID?”
    “34XZHSDI”
    “And your facility name?”
    “El Santonio Health.”
    “Your tax ID?”
    “6789012.”
    “The facility address?”
    “2460 Todeo Drive, Los Angeles 45890.”
    “So, Melissa, let me get you to the right person for a concurrent review.”
    “Okay,” you say.
    “Hi, my name is Mary. How can I help you today?”
    “I need to do a concurrent review on a mutual member.”
    “Sure, I can help you with that. But, first, you a provider?”
    “Yes, I’m a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.”
    “Thank you. What is the member’s first and last name?”
    “Mickey Mouse.”
    “Date of birth?”
    “February 20th, 1907.”
    “And what’s the Member ID?”
    “34XZHSDI.”
    “And your facility name?”
    “El Santonio Health.”
    “Your tax ID?”
    “6789012.”
    “The facility address?”
    “2460 Todeo Drive, Los Angeles 45890.”
    “Melissa, I’ll need to transfer you if you are asking for authorization.”
    “All right. But I just got transferred.”
    “Yes, I apologize. Let me get you to the right person.”
    Music. A faint voice answers.
    “Hi, my name is Tracy B. Tell me what is going on with Mickey Mouse.”
    “Finally, a person I can leave clinical information with! Thank you, Tracy.”
    “No problem, Melissa.”
    “I’ve only been 40 minutes on this call.”
    “I thank you for your patience. So, why do you need mental health treatment for Mickey Mouse?”
    “Well, he has delusions of grandeur; he thinks he’s awesome and that everyone wants to hug him. He has species dysphoria, thinking he’s a person. He becomes very reactive when anyone mistakes him for a mouse. Yesterday, he tried to cut one of his ears off. He has suicidal ideation with a plan—to jump into the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride and drown himself. I’m asking for 20 days of partial hospitalization treatment at our mental health and addictions program.”
    “Melissa, let me see what this disorder warrants.”
    Music.
    “Melissa?”
    “Yes, I’m still here.”
    “It’s Tracy. I’m authorizing 3 days of mental health treatment from June 1st, 2022 through June 4th, 2022.”
    “3 days,” you repeat. Right. That will be enough to stabilize the patient. Sure. But you want to get off the phone. You’re thinking of all the work you need to do.
    Tracy is talking:
    “Yes, Melissa. The authorization number is 20HJ22. Please be aware that authorization is not a guarantee of payment. If you need additional days, please call back and speak to one of our reviewers.”
    “Okay.”
    “Is there anything else I can help you with today, Melissa?”
    “No, thank you.”
    “Have a nice day, Melissa!”
    “You too.”
    You hang up.
    You enter the 3 days, whom you spoke with, when you need to call back, and the auth number into the computer.
    You have half an hour now before program begins to grab a coffee and meet with Mickey.


    Edna Wallace, LMFT, is a long-time therapist at El Camino Hospital working in the Adult Mood Program for Depression and Anxiety and the OATS program for older adults. She has a private practice in Los Altos. She worked for a decade on the Luncheon Committee for SCV-CAMFT and has been a luncheon presenter as well. Edna is an avid writer in her spare time.

    Back to Spring 2023 Newsletter

  • Monday, January 09, 2023 5:35 AM | Anonymous

    by Edna Wallace, LMFT

    A simple thing—
    “hello,” “good morning,”
    “how are you?”
    No effort at all,
    this greeting,
    this recognition of another.

    But you notice its absence—
    people passing
    without a smile,
    a nod,
    the murmur of “hello”.

    How it is with friends—
    so different!
    There it’s the hug,
    the squeeze,
    the holding on
    just a little bit longer.
    You feel gladness in the
    skip of your heart.
    You draw back,
    both of you,
    exclaiming—
    “It’s so good to see you!”
    And it’s so true.

    In France,
    they approach close,
    kissing both cheeks—
    a greeting
    deliciously intimate.

    It isn’t that you
    can’t live
    without your friends.
    You can…
    but it’s emptier.

    It’s the remembrance
    of that connection
    between you
    when you see each other;
    the visceral feel
    of that precious other,
    of your history,
    your ties.

    A hug says it all.
    In that moment,
    that is all you need.

    Edna Wallace, LMFT, is a long-time therapist at El Camino Hospital working in the Adult Mood Program for Depression and Anxiety and the OATS program for older adults. She has a private practice in Los Altos. She worked for a decade on the Luncheon Committee for SCV-CAMFT and has been a luncheon presenter as well. Edna is an avid writer in her spare time.

    Back to Winter 2022 Newsletter

  • Sunday, October 09, 2022 5:23 PM | Anonymous

    by Edna Wallace, LMFT

    Two men meeting
    for breakfast
    at the cafe—
    friends, I imagine.  
    They’re meeting
    to catch up,
    to connect,
    to “hang out”.
    They’re smiling,
    nodding.
    I see the one
    with a rugged face
    is talking—
    telling a story,
    I imagine.

    I order my coffee;
    I notice the one
    with the rugged face
    is still talking.

    I consider the space.
    There are three
    at the table—
    the friends
    and the space
    between them.

    Only one person
    is talking.

    For some,
    the space between
    is theirs to grab—
    like a greedy cat
    finishing his bowl
    of kibbles
    and making a move
    on his brothers.

    I look over
    three tables
    from mine.

    Four men are having
    breakfast.
    One man talks,
    the others laugh.
    Another man chimes in.
    Then the third.
    The men turn to the fourth.
    He talks a while.

    A man on a bike
    passes by the window;
    the four men wave.
    The man comes in
    and joins the others.

    I notice the twinkle in
    these men’s eyes,
    their laughter,
    their flow.

    I get my coffee,
    a hot steaming mocha.

    I notice the man
    with the rugged face
    at the table next to mine
    is talking still;
    the other man
    nodding still.

    What gets one person
    not noticing
    he’s the only one
    talking and the other
    person being okay with it?
    What gets
    four friends
    sharing the space?

    Maybe it’s kindergarten.
    Or maybe it’s
    noticing
    and respecting
    the space between.

    Edna Wallace, LMFT, is a long-time therapist at El Camino Hospital working in the Adult Mood Program for Depression and Anxiety and the OATS program for older adults. She has a private practice in Los Altos. She worked for a decade on the Luncheon Committee for SCV-CAMFT and has been a luncheon presenter as well. Edna is an avid writer in her spare time.

    Fall 2022 Newsletter


  • Wednesday, June 15, 2022 1:09 PM | Anonymous

    by Edna Wallace, LMFT

    The London underground
    King’s Cross St. Pancreas station:
    people jostling onto
    trains, scouting
    out seats or
    a corner position,
    standing,
    taking out phones,
    staring at screens.

    On the Northern line,
    A man runs on,
    panting,
    grabbing the handle
    by the door.
    His pant legs are dirty,
    rolled up around his knees.
    His pale blue jacket
    is stained, half- unzipped.
    The doors of the train
    start to close.

    The man yells,
    “Wait! Please!
    Open the doors!”
    Please.”
    He punches at the door button,
    over and over.
    The doors close.
    “You have to open the doors!”
    he shouts.

    The train draws away,
    rumbling on the tracks.
    The man looks around,
    eyes wide,
    fearful.
    He reaches
    into his back pants pocket,
    pulling out a phone.
    His fingers,
    shaking,
    punch at the buttons.
    “Marcie, Marcie, I’m on the train!”
    he says.

    A voice answers, calm, reassuring:
    “I realize that.”
    “What are we going to do, Marcie?”
    “You are going to breathe, Kevin.
    That’s what you’ll do first.”
    The man breathes—
    rapid, shallow breaths.  
    “Are you breathing deeply?”
    “No. What will happen to me?
    What am I going to do?”
    “You are going to get off
    at the very next station.
    Do you hear me, Kevin?”
    “Yes, I have to get off.”
    “At the next station, Kevin.”
    “Okay, Marcie.”
    The man’s breathing slows.
    People are looking.

    “Help me, Marcie,” he says.
    “Everything’s okay, Kevin.
    Everything will be okay.
    Just get off at the next stop.
    I’ll be on the next train and meet you there.”
    The man nods.
    “Okay, the next stop.”
    A voice announces:
    “Angel station coming up next.”
    “I don’t know, Marcie.
    What if I can’t find you?”
    “I’ll find you.
    Just call me when you get off, Kevin.
    Everything will be all right.”

    A young woman stands up
    and walks over to the man.
    She puts a hand on his shoulder.
    “Kevin, is it?” she asks.
    The man nods.
    “I’ll get off and wait with you, Kevin.”
    “Did you hear that, Marcie?” the man says.
    “Yes, Kevin. Isn’t that nice?
    The lady will wait with you.”
    “Okay,” says Kevin.
    “Bye, Marcie.”
    The young woman says:
    “It’s scary to get separated, isn’t it?”
    The man nods.
    “We’ll wait for Marcie together,” she says.
    The train stops.
    The man and the woman get off.
    The commuters go back to their phones.


    Edna Wallace, LMFT, is a long-time therapist at El Camino Hospital working in the Adult Mood Program for Depression and Anxiety and the OATS program for older adults. She has a private practice in Los Altos. She worked for a decade on the Luncheon Committee for SCV-CAMFT and has been a luncheon presenter as well. Edna is an avid writer in her spare time.

    Back to Summer 2022 Newsletter

  • Tuesday, March 15, 2022 1:29 PM | Anonymous

    by Edna Wallace, LMFT

    What is it about baby?

    Her stinky diaper?
    No, not that.
    Her 2am feedings?
    No.
    Her teething?
    No,
    Her crying and squirming,
    Face red in pain?
    No, can’t stand that.
     
    Her banging her little
    Hand on your breast
    As she sucks away.
    Yes.
    Her smiling up at you,
    Copying your faces.
    Yes.
    Her falling asleep
    On your shoulder.
    Definitely.
    Her first words:
    “Baba, mama.”
    Yes, yes, yes.
    Her crawling fast,
    Everywhere.
    Her pulling herself up.
    Her looking way up,
    Pointing a stubby finger
    At the helicopter circling above,
    Shouting:
    “Elipter, Elipter”.
    Definitely.
    Her chortle…
    Her full-throated laugh.
    Yes, yes.

    It’s pure joy.
    It softens your belly,
    It fills your heart.

    It’s that bonding.
    Indescribable.
    Something…
    Ferocious, terrifying,
    Wonderful.
    It’s a little being
    Loving you
    Because you’re mommy.
    You’re her world.
    And she is your universe.
    You would do
    Anything, everything
    For baby.

    But your daughter grows up,
    She’s a teen,
    Then a young adult.
    Then a woman
    With children of her own…
    Delightful grandsons.

    And then the unthinkable happens:
    She gets sick—
    Cancer—
    Something terminal.
    She’ll be dying young,
    When the boys are toddlers.

    You heart cracks…
    Feels like it’s stopped.
    There are no words.
    Indescribable.

    You’ll have her babies
    In your life,
    Carrying her memory
    Forever.
    But the pain is unrepairable.
    You feel done.
    Can you even go on?
    That ferocious, terrifying
    Attachment…
    How is it possible to break?
    You feel like nothing can fix the pain.

    But you will live,
    Live for them: the new babies,
    And all else good in life.
    You will live…
    With a heart fractured in bits.  

    Back to Spring 2022 Newsletter


  • Wednesday, January 19, 2022 2:58 PM | Anonymous

    by Edna Wallace, LMFT

    Edna Wallace, LMFT, is a long-time therapist at El Camino Hospital working in the Adult Mood Program for Depression and Anxiety and the OATS program for older adults. She has a private practice in Los Altos. She worked for a decade on the Luncheon Committee for SCV-CAMFT and has been a luncheon presenter as well. Edna is an avid writer in her spare time.
    Back to Winter 2021 Newsletter

    paper cuts


    A thousand paper cuts
    Lampin says,
    Is how it feels
    When people get it wrong.
    Every time I’m misgendered
    It feels like a stab to the heart.
    But I don’t understand;
    I can’t wrap my head around it,
    said the older woman in group.
    That’s okay,
    I can explain it to you,
    Anytime you wish,
    Lampin said, kindly, smiling.
    I’m going to make a mistake,
    said the woman.
    I’m going to be another paper cut.
    No, I’ll understand,
    Lampin said.
    A simple apology works
    When you get it wrong.
    When people bend over and apologize,
    That’s even worse.
    I see, said the woman.
    But when a person uses “they and them”
    I feel seen … respected, said Lampin.
    I see, said the woman.
    It’s not binary, said Lampin.
    There isn’t just male and female.  
    But it’s not my job to educate people;
    That’s not okay either.
    I see, said the woman.
    It’s recent, said another man.
    It’s been around forever, said Lampin.
    It’s just more exposed now.
    I still don’t understand, said the woman.
    Lampin wants you to get her,
    Said the same man.
    Them, said Lampin. It’s “get them.”
    Them, said the man. I’m sorry.
    That’s okay, said Lampin.
    Lampin smiled.

    Just another paper cut. 

    Back to Winter 2021 Newsletter

  • Wednesday, September 15, 2021 10:34 AM | Anonymous

    Back to Fall 2021 Newsletter

    by Edna Wallace, LMFT 

    Edna Wallace, LMFT, is a long-time therapist at El Camino Hospital working in the Adult Mood Program for Depression and Anxiety and the OATS program for older adults. She has a private practice in Los Altos. She worked for a decade on the Luncheon Committee for SCV-CAMFT and has been a luncheon presenter as well. Edna is an avid writer in her spare time.

    Oranges, Purples, Lavender


    This is it …
    The oranges,
    The ambers.
    It’s all incredible! 
Swirling …
    Like nothing else.
    I’m seeing hugs in green,
    Kisses in yellow.
    There’s a rainbow of everything—
    All that’s good and pure.

    I’m in love with Claire,
    I’m in love with you.
    I’m in love with the swirls.

    You, with the white beard …
    You Santa Claus?
    Santa Claus in the summer.
    That’s funny.
    Are you okay, bro?
    You look blue.
    Get it?
    Blue.
    Meaning down.
    Did you know you’re awesome?

    Lavender water swirls, dancing.
    So cool.
    Like purple rain.
    He was so cool.
    I could lie here forever
    Listening to his songs.

    What do you think, pink lady?
    You in florescent pink.
    Like the hospital women visiting mom—
    When she was gasping,
    Sobbing,
    Dying.

    It’s all no good.
    She left me too soon.

    I’m so sad.
    I could cry forever.

    I want to jump
    Into the lavender sky
    To be with mom.

    I’ve just got to feel it.
    I’ll sob …
    Like she sobbed
    When she hurt so much.
    It’s all bad.

    All the colors
    Are bad.
    I’ll be really quiet.
    Maybe I’ll disappear

    In one of the swirls.

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