So the whole reason I am endeavoring to do this 40 for 40 is because I did not complete my planned 30 for 30 before my 30th birthday. I had started a count down from 30 about 6 weeks from my birthday and made it to #23 before the whole project was completely abandoned and forgotten. The reason it was abandoned was I got a job. It was my first real job.” I know I was almost 30 and never had a real job? Yeah, the truth be told I had been in and out of school so often through my 20’s that I had never had the time or opportunity to move into anything more than entry level employment. I had worked my way through grad school doing the graveyard shift at a hote, get off at 7am, and then I’d race to class or my internship by 8am. Before that I worked as a janitor at the school, or I worked Security swing shift (I know, me, working security, it doesn’t make sense. I couldn’t believe they actually hired me. I was totally riot fodder). I tried selling cars for a very short period of time. I worked a summer at the book bindery. You see my undergraduate college education was about 1 thing and 1 thing only and I will exhaust you with that story in the Future. But the point is I didn’t have any career Plans or aspirations until after grad school.
So my first real J.O.B. was when I started as a counselor at Boys and Girls Town of Missouri on February 28th, 2011.
Boys and Girls Town of Missouri or BGTM was a level 4 residential facility. That means it housed and cared for children between the ages of 6 and 21 in a facility with all the doors locked. We had to feed, clothe, and shelter these children, and attend to their physical, behavioral and Mental Heath needs.
While I was working there, BGTM changed it’s name to Great Circle in a PR move to note it’s plans to expand its social service offerings into facilities and services for adults. It’s not just kids that they serve anymore. But I am going to just call it BGTM.
We had to keep them healthy, keep them safe, and also keep them there.
Every door had a lock on it to maintain strict access control. The kids were never locked in their rooms, but they were locked out of them for much of the day while they were to be attending school and therapy and other structured activities. Everything was to be scheduled and structured to maintain a healthy and safe environment. They referred to the concept of this therapeutic environment by the soi-disant (word of the day April 27th 2020) Attachment Milieu. That means Everything we did was supposed to communicate to these children that they are safe, secure, and accepted. This proved arduous as all of these children were here because their previous environment was deemed unsafe, insecure, or unaccepting of them.
So as a counselor my job was to help these kids overcome their MH, social and behavioral challenges so that they could continue to grow and mature and be successful in life. Or so I thought.
The greatest influence of BGTM was that it was my first real awakening to “the system.”
Now I had interned for the local department of human services during grad school so I thought I would be reasonably prepared to catch on quick, but no. Turns out the Department or Human services I worked at was a temporary government take over by the county that basically put social services like mental health in a one stop shop with other social services like welfair, unemployment etc. It’s not generally all under one roof. I had gotten the impression that Government and government contractors are well coordinated partners that work together through formal well established procedures and protocols. And when that failed my boss would call the director who would call the commissioner and problem solved. Turns out that was a rare and brief state of affairs that reverted to the chaos of public/private gridlock, as I would learn when I worked for them again in the future, but that is another story. BGTM was not a state agency. The state was just it’s “number one customer.” It was technically a corporation. So it was also my introduction to corporate America and office politics as well as where I would cut my teeth as a new therapist and learn what it actually means to be a Licensed Mental Health Counselor or Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC ) as they call them in Missouri.
There was an OMG moment when I realized exactly who I would be working with. It was like my 2nd day at work and I hadn’t even met any of my clients yet. I had just done orientation type stuff so far and I was talking to my boss about workflow, documentation requirements, etc. My boss was showing me a client chart and remarked “oh here is one of your kiddos.” (I don’t know if she said kiddos. In my mind that’s how I remember it but she was petty straight laced and professional. I’m not sure if that’s the word she used). On the cover of a 4 inch D-ring binder was a picture of a 14 year old boy. He wore an oversized white T-shirt and a grey hoodie. He had on wire framed oval glasses that sat noticibly crooked upon the flared nostrils of his thin nose.
His face was flecked with both freckles and acne and he wore a scowled expression of both hatred and pain. Every binder had a different child with that same expression. These pictures were taken when each arrived at BGTM and met with “the admissions counselor” who at that time was a very pleasant woman named Jamie (more
about her later). Jamie would take the kiddo and the parent, family member, guardian, or case worker that brought them there, through 2 hours of paperwork/evaluation/interrogation/orientation which forced each kid to both relive the circumstances that lead to their placement and layed bare all their personal issues and much of their family’s dirty laundry. It is in that tortured, terrified, angry and embarrassed state that all of those binder pictures are taken, which accounts for the similarity of expression. But there was another factor that contributed to the sameness of these photos. A compilation of potential factors that every kid on the grounds had at least a few of: drug abuse, undernourishment, neglect, developmental delays, psychotic features, trauma, abuse, depression, fetal alcohol effects, subpar education, homelessness, and insecure attachment of every kind; the net effect of any of these factors in combination produces a presentation we therapists jokingly and completely inappropriately refer to as “yeah they sure look like a “residential kid.”
The irony is since I obviously can’t show you a picture from confidential client medical records, the best example I have to explain is a my own school picture from kindergarten or first grade. When I saw that first binder photo the first thing I thought was “oh my god this is who I am working with!” My second thought was “Oh My god that kid is me, only his life has been terrible.”
Now as it turned out that kid was one of my favorites to work when I first got there. He hated “stupid fucking therapists who butt into to everyone’s business,” and never failed to remind me of it. But he answered my questions, listened to what little I had to say to him, albeit with as much contemptuous teenage attitude as possible. Ultimately he worked things out with his adoptive family and returned home with them in a few months. I don’t know what happened to him long term but he had a relatively short stay at BGTM. I recall specifically that his mother told me after a visit “I don’t know what you are doing with him but he’s a totally different kid. He’s been nice. Polite. He’s been great.” Even though I think my counseling had zero to do with that kid’s turn around (I think he just recognized that home was better than BGTM by a long shot) I sure appreciated hearing it, because for the most part I was learning the hard way.
The first thing I learned at BGTM was the inseparable interwoveness; intrinsic reliance and explicit interdependence of email in the modern work world. Now you have to realize that I grew up during the developing years of the internet. The internet became ubiquitous and accessible to everyone at libraries and schools right about when I was in high school in the late 1990’s. So I was raised with the knowledge and reliance on the internet but also with a bias. In the world today it’s perfectly normal to access an online journal and cite it as a source. It is very clear it’s to the same peer reviewed standard as the paper published one. But when I was growing up we were trained to always be skeptical of “online sources.” Period. Email had the same bias. Email was fine for sending a quick note but any “official documentation” still has to be completed by mail. I always registers for my college classes on-line, but all of my admissions documents had to be sent snail mail. That is just the way it was. In my previously mentioned work experience, even if I had a company email account, important documentation was still circulated by memo, and if someone had marching orders to give me they would call or tell me in person.
So I was somewhat shocked, a little appalled, and a lot defensive, when on my 30th birthday, while meeting with my supervisor, the site director comes in and sits down and says “We are going to nip this in the bud right now.”
The bud that required nipping was that she had apparently sent me an email yesterday asking some questions and requesting appropriate action. And when I didn’t respond to that email in a timely manner, she sent a follow up email that had commented on my breach of email etiquette.
By her degree of consternation and the severity of her tone I would have thought I had done something illegal, or had made inappropriate demeaning comments towards her, or had been caught plotting a coup to take her job. But my offense was that I had failed to reply to her email. Which was actually untrue at that time, and confusing as I had replied to the first email that morning. I had yet to even see the follow up email, because I had adopted the ridiculous habit of answering my oldest email first. In my mind I am thinking “but I did respond to her email,” but I had no point of reference for the 2nd email that she was referring to. So when she asked me me about why I did not respond to questions from the second email I had some kind of confused expression on my face and said I thought I had. She then questioned my expression and made comments about my attitude. I don’t actually remember how the situation resolved. But I probably just apologized and said it was a misunderstanding and resolved to do better.
This was not the the way you want your first interaction with your boss’s boss to go.
This was not a very nice birthday present.
This was not the last time I would have to take it on the chin in my boss’s office.
The biggest mistake I ever made at BGTM occurred about 6 months later. In this 6 months I leaned a lot about “the system” and all of its disparate parts both public and private. Each kid had a “family support team” that could consist of caseworkers therapists, lawyers, family members, maybe even court advocates, or other social service professionals from various organizations and departments. There was always more to learn.
The aspect of the job that I was completely unprepared for was how often I was required to take kids to court. Not only did this put me in the position of being a direct care staff member singularly responsible for this child outside the controlled environment of the campus (something I never considered before taking the job), it also meant I became more familiar than I would have ever wanted with both the tiny backwoods counties of rural central Missouri, and the family court system that reigned over these locals. I am driving into tiny little principalities to find the Main Street with their one stoplight, one gas station, and their surprisingly ostentatious court house erected circa 1850. This is literally Tom Sawyer country.
As you may imagine judges there rule pretty much with impunity. They didn’t so much issue decisions as they did give lectures . It was generally just family court on the docket, so it was usually waiting for 2 hours in a hallway to be called in and have the judge say “OK good to see you all. Sounds like everything is status quo. Well, we will review again in 6 months.” But occasionally we actually had to wait for a trial to take place. It was terrifying to see lawyers stammering and stalling as they attempted to articulate a compelling argument that would be acceptable to the court. I made a point to never tell the court I was a therapist. I was just the kid’s ride to and from court. I had seen case workers get grilled on the stand by these small town judges, and I had to believe it was totally within the realm of possibility that I could be held in contempt if the judge did not agree with the kid’s current course of treatment or progress there of.
It also was fairly apparent that Columbia, the city BGTM was located in, was a bastion of more liberal thought than the surrounding rural area thanks to the University of Missouri being located there. But more than once it was apparent on one of these little court date excursions that the kid was placed at BGTM because they were maybe not so welcome in their home county.
Another early success story (that again, admittedly I had nothing to do with) was when a kid got placed with some really great foster parents. They were strong and strict, but always positive and enthusiastic. They actually were looking for challenging foster cases that they could best serve (there was a reason for that). A few weeks after the placement, the foster father contacted me to inquire about another kid at BGTM they had become aware of. I thought this was a fantastic idea as the kid they inquired about had recently had his placement with a family member fall through. He didn’t have any other prospects and had been at BGTM for over 2 years. So I agreed to contact the kid’s caseworker and see if we could schedule some preliminary visits. Volunteering to be a go between was my first mistake, and is completely out of character for me. But I wanted to make this happen. So I did it. And the caseworker said “yes.” And the visits occurred. And they went great. And the family wanted to proceed with a placement. And I scheduled a meeting to discuss this with the family support team. And I was proud explaining to my boss how I had taken initiative for once. And then my boss said “but aren’t they an ISL?” I had never heard the term ISL. I had no idea what ISL meant. “No, I don’t think so,”I said skeptically as the look of concern on her face hardened into restrained panic.
I never did figure out what ISL stood for. Suffice to say it means a specialized level of care beyond your typical foster care and thus a higher cost and more stringent eligibility standards. That is why the foster parents were seeking challenging foster cases. They were affiliated with an organization that specialized in such cases and had specialized training and certification. I spoke with both the foster parents (or I guess I should say ISL parents) and their ISL coordinator from the organization they were affiliated with, and they assured me that while this complicated things it was still possible to work something out. So we proceeded to the meeting as scheduled. The ISL coordinator started the meeting saying she was “committed” to working out a solution, but it didn’t matter. The regional coordinator who approves all the allocation of government funds for these types of things said the kid didn’t have the proper funding source for an ISL and wasn’t eligible for an ISL, and how it was a shame that this had all been such a waste of time and hope. And that was the end of that. Poor kid lost his second placement in a matter of months. And this time it was because I didn’t know to ask what specific type of foster home are you?
The regional coordinator already did not like me because when I first started working at BGTM this same kid had asked me if he could have some weekend visits with his family. The same family that he was hoping to be placed with that eventually fell through. I didn’t know, so I asked the team. But apparently that question had been asked and answered recently, like the week before. As In the week before I even worked there.
The regional coordinator was supposedly really good friends with the BGTM director. The one that sends me emails. I think that kind of saved my bacon. So a few weeks later before the next team meeting, my boss told me “Yeah, your going to have to take the blame on this one.” But other than a cursory tongue lashing along the lines of “Let’s not get cute and raise this kids hopes up just to crush him down ever again, OK,” I survived unscathed. I eventually learned from the director that the Regional coordinator always wants the therapists to take control of the Team meetings because they were the only people in the room with the “clinical expertise” that should be directing decision making. That changes my perspective on the ISL fiasco only slightly. But it’s also a lesson I had to learn: People look to therapists as experts who will tell you what to do. This is actually the opposite of how therapists are trained, but it’s an expectation none the less.
Especially among the staff. I was always amazed by the direct care staff. They worked from 8am to 11pm and they had to deal with all these kids and all their issues full time. I just had get these kids in my off once a week and try to keep them there for close to an hour. I got to profess things that were good for each kid and their “treatment” but the staff were the ones that had to pull it off. Also the kids weren’t always super forthcoming to the counselor guy that reports back to their teams, so the staff were often the ones that had the “real” conversations with these kids.
And These kids. Wow. They were quite memorable themselves. Obviously I can’t say any names but just off the top of my head there was.....
The kid that ran away over and over and over. From a lock down facility. Lots of kids tried and got caught. This kid made it out multiple times. She was like a young Pierre Despereaux with out the Stuffy British swag.
The kid that punched a wall, obviously broke his hand and then punched it again just to show how ridiculously reckless he can be.
The kid that kept climbing on the roof.
The kids that tried to make a baby using a book, a plastic baggie, and good ol’ teenage know how.
The kid that kept having sex with girls in dumpsters. He was the only kid that I completely misread and misassessed and misdiagnosed repeatedly.
The kid whose mother kept calling the police to raid the place every time she came to visit. She almost died in our parking lot because her stitches ripped open or something, and we had to call an ambulance. We saved her life and the next time she still said we were killing her kid.
The kid who was an adopted gypsy orphan that was a supposed musical savant who wrote symphonies.
The kid who actually overpowered the industrial detention grade magnalock with a running start.
The kid that was deaf and It took a month to get approval to bring in an ASL interpreter for an hour a week just to do a session. Eventually We got approval for him to Skype his family. When he and his brother were Skyping they both were both laughing so hard, and yet no words were spoken. It was very strange.
The kid that once tried to poison his foster family.
The kid who actually contacted me on Facebook randomly one day. I normally don’t talk to clients on Facebook but it had been almost 5 years and I was curious how he was doing. He said he was doing well. He said he had been in a car accident and had been pretty badly injured but once he recovered he said “I’m a good kid now.” The implication seemed to be that he had some kind of head injury that had actually corrected some of his previous mental health issues.
The kid I had to bail out of jail before he got transferred to his home county because as the site director put it “I hate to think what they would do to a black kid down there.” I actually showed up too late to jail. I had a bondsman and had paid bail and everything and then the police tell me “sorry he is already gone.” So I had to drive 2 hours to bail him out again. That time the bondsman had already bailed him out. That must be every bondsman’s dream, to have your bailee pay to get out of jail and happily submit to placement in another lockdown facility.
I hate to describe BGTM as “kiddie jail” (that’s what all the kids called it) but the parallels between my current work at the county jail are obvious and abundant. It was all the times the jail reminded me of BGTM that made me realize how big of an Influence this place has had on me and put it in this prominent position on the 40 for 40 countdown.
It’s a place I never want to go back to.
But I worked with so many people I would like to see again. Here are a few I can think of off the top of my head:
Marissa was my boss and the clinical manager ( she got promoted to director toward the end of my time there). She was also my clinical manger who had to sign off in all my work for 2 years until I was fully licensed. I think the only reason she put up with me is I was Italian. Her maiden name was Cirincioni. She is probably Calabrian or Sicilian and she looked the part. She was one of those super organized, label for everything, not one hair is out of place, perfect pearly white teeth, everything is always immaculate type of people. And I couldn’t spell check to save my life, never answered an email and had stacks of paper all over my desk. She literally told me one time my desk made her anxious and she went about putting everything in to neat little piles. But she put up with me, which makes her the best boss ever.
Jamie was the very pleasant admissions counselor I mentioned earlier. And when I say admissions counselor I don’t mean like the people that read you application essay for college. I mean she was a licensed therapist who conducted lengthy diagnostic assessments. The amount of paperwork she had to do was astounding, and she kept taking on more and more full time responsibilities on top of her job. Jaime could you do more sales and marketing we had 2 empty beds on our census next month? “Sure!” Jamie hows about we give you a caseload if 10 day treatment kids to do Individual and family therapy with on top of all your other duties? “No problem!” And it’s not like she could just spend the night in her office like I did on late nights, because she had a husband and 2 young daughters to take care of at home. But the thing I appreciated most about Jaime was that when all us clinical staffers had to take a work personality style inventory she and I were the only Puppy dogs among all the Busy Beavers and Roaring Lions.
Stephanie was the longest tenured therapist at BGTM when I got there. She really helped show me the ropes practically. She helped me to understand that the kids we served weren’t going to benefit because of some brilliant insight I produced in therapy. They benefited from the sum total of the process of living there and working with their teams, and my job was just to facilitate that process and keep it moving however slow it may seem. The Amazing thing about Stephanie is she was great with the kids but was kind of a sourpuss pull no punches badass behind closed doors. She and I could swap Catholic school stories and she had a bit of a potty mouth. She talked a lot about her dogs and the trouble they caused. Where as the job was my biggest stressor, the job was her solace. She was a little bitter and frustrated with life at one point. I remember specifically she took a day off to go to a continuing education seminar on Positive Psychology. She came back and said she was really going to put it into practice which would seem a bit out of character for a sourpuss like her. 6 months later she was pregnant with twins! She came back to work after the pathetic amount of maternity leave available to her, and I don’t think she will ever leave . Last I heard she was the clinical manager (or director, she has probably moved up the ladder since then). Oh and like most of the people I worked with is 5 year younger than I am.
Robert was another dude therapist working with kids, which is kind of unusual. He was cool because he tended to have this attitude of “I can make anything just slightly better, “and he did it, all the time. Our agency computer software was awful for formatting the reports we had to write, so Robert designer his own templates that looked identical but didn’t have the tech glitches that ruined the formatting. He would take out 0% APR for 6 months credit cards and max out a cash advance to a money market account and then pay off the credit card and pocket the interest. He had been a hair stylist or cosmetologist in a previous career and he had a sort of creative flair that he kept under rasp , but it occasionally tumbled out. Of all the therapists I got to see in session, he seemed the most genuinely himself with his clients.
Kaleigh (sounds like Kayla)
What can I say about Kaleigh?
She was an unabashed Justin Bieber Super-fan. She made no bones about her affinity for 50 shades of grey. She was all about the latest and greatest iPhone and I believe called it her “precious,” a la Gollum. This woman had not qualms being open and straightforward about what she wanted, which means she usually got it. I always admired that. And so when our boss got promoted and the clinical manger job was available I took a que from Kaleigh and just like her I interviewed for the promotion (only after some encouragement from other therapists to do so). However unlike Kaleigh, I did not have have 2 years of verified organizational skills, professional conduct or legible documentation and I knew it. Kaleigh got a well deserved promotion and I moved on soon after.
Kayla is the therapist that replaced me at BGTM. I remember she was not a fan of how I had arranged the furniture in my office. She clearly was not aware of the strange slant of the floor in one corner that drastically limited what could be placed there. She was smart and undaunted by the work load that I seemed to drown in. About 6 months after she took over for me I donated a bunch of clothes to BGTM and I saw her there. She had settled in just fine and said they were training her in some new therapy modality. I think BGTM got the better end of that deal, trading me out for her.
Jessie started as a staff member one day and became a supervisor a week later. She then was put in charge of a totally new Transitional living division after one month. That time-line may be slightly compressed but not by much. Jessie amazed me. She was one of those “make things happen” people like Sir Richard Branson, Harvey McKay, Elon Musk or Madonna. I believe she is running the whole damn place now. And she always managed to give me too much credit. After I quite BGTM I surveyed my coworkers for feedback. She said my greatest asset was my “clinical judgement.” That strikes me as odd given my lack of clinical skill, and my blatant disregard of a clinical perspective (I didn't even take abnormal psych). But she always encouraged me. She would ask me to specifically take over certain clients because she was convinced I was the best choice to reach this particular kid. I never knew what I was doing, but maybe she did.
Travis was my best friend not just at BGTM, but in all of Missouri. We only worked together for a little over a year, but we got along right away. Within weeks of meeting him for the first time, I helped him move from his home in Independence to his Family Manor at the end of a sunny lane in Ashland. This place has his parents home which he and his family now reside in, and his parents built a new house next door. They have a private pond complete with paddle boats, and a back 40, that it is Travis’s secret pleasure is to mow each week with his bright red tractor. To help him move I ended up spending the night with his family including his parents and his brother as they packed up and then helped load up the Uhaul. By the time we got to Ashland I was family. His brother added me to his fantasy football league. I believe his mom even hugged me once. I spent my last nights in Missouri playing pool and watching NBA summer league games with Travis and his family at his wife’s insistence because she knew I had nowhere else to stay despite my saying otherwise.
He was a kindred spirit as a therapist and an example to me not just as a counselor but as a father. His daughters Anna and Emma were darling and are probably giving dad a heart attack as I think they should be in middle school now. Of course Travis does owe me one debt of gratitude. I can’t truely confirm this for self evident reasons, but Travis and his wife had a son named Chance, roughly 9 months after Travis and his wife beheld the majesty of my own infant son. I distinctly remember the look on his wife’s face as she was holding and playing and even changing my son’s diaper. Yeah, my progeny was the impetus that caused the necessary events to infield for Travis to expand his family (Yes my children have that effect on lots of people). Travis owes his only begotten son to my first born.
The only bad thing about Travis is that he really likes baseball. Like as much as I like basketball. I mean he was one of those super annoying Cardinals fans that are at least 17% of why I moved out of Missouri. As I always told Travis, baseball is a dumb game anyway. Since our time spent together was relatively brief, I didn’t see fit to give him his own slot in the 40 for 40 when it was hard enough to narrowing it down to just 40 influences. But make no mistake, I count Travis amount the best friends I have ever had.
Travis and his family gave me the kind of inclusive acceptance that I hadn’t had since high school nor since.
More than any other therapist, Derrick took me under his wing in terms of dealing with the challenging clients and the challenging administrations. Derrick briefly became one of those administers when he was the Head of direct care staff a t BGTM . However there were some philosophical differences and he ended up moving on to take a community counseling job. And Wouldn’t you know it, I ended up following him there about a year and a half later. I suspect he played a role in getting me an interview and then getting me hired. Derrick often has me over for dinner with his family. Together with Travis we were 3 guys working in rather effeminate field and we had a bit of natural solidarity together. He also took a personal interest in me as a person. He commented one time that he was “Facebook stalking “ me, which meant he is one of the few people, other than my self and my baby sister, that has read my blog. So there is a fighting chance he might actually read this.
Edie was an assistant woman’s basketball coach at Mizzou before she became a supervisor at BGTM. She handled the toughest kids and craziest situations with the exact hard nosed discipline you would expect from a Division 1 coach, and a grace that you would not expect. Edie had an almost melancholy demeanor even in her happy moments that was always bittersweet. I know nothing of her personally. I was not close to her at all. I just admired her strength and poise from a distance. Not only did she work the ridiculous hours and 24/7 on call responsibilities required of a BGTM supervisor, she also held down a similar supervisory position at a Walmart. The woman was a machine and the strong maternal archetype that all the kids at BGTM intrinsically craved.
Brian was one if the “new” therapists that came on after I had been there long enough that I became the veteran who had to show him the ropes. Unfortunately for him, he was the group therapist and doing groups with behaviorally challenged adolescents was and remains to this day my weakest skills set as a counselor. Brian was great through. He’s the one who finally came to the realization that group therapy had to be a campus wide coordinated effort and not “the therapist just needs to show up where the kids are and do the group” mentality that had permeated the entire campus since I had been there. Brian made a master group schedule that involved tracking and coordinating every single kid and staff member from the moment the kids got out of school until it was time for bed. Oh and then he still had to show up to where the kids were at and just do a group, 3 times a day.
Brian encouraged me to interview for our boss’s job when she was promoted. Unfortunately for him, I had already gone on record to our boss that Kaleigh had set her self up to be the next clinical manger, so I was pretty much just being humored with a courtesy interview. Brian also was a saint for humoring me with my disastrous, short lived, yet still agonizingly too long, 6 week run as an amateur stand up comedian. Neither one of us was working at BGTM at that point. Unfortunately I had no other friends and I was also trying to borrow his car while mine was in the shop, so I twisted his arm a little and he took pity on me. And pity was apropos, because pitiful was my performance. I gave a shout out to him from the stage for coming out to see me. We averted eye contact when my set was done.
Still, he let me borrow his car the next day. He’s a good man.
Kelli was another of the “new”therapists that I was involved with training and orientating to the world of BGTM. I liked Kelli. She was pretty cool and chill with the kids. And for the most part I think I managed to keep from making any egregious faux pas that would lead to a more entertaining story hear. I really appreciate that about her. At this point in time I think she is still friends with my wife through online mommy forums and what not. I know we have bought kids books from her. So even through we haven’t actually spoken in years. she is having a lasting influence not only on me but my children as well.
Erin is the last of the trio of new therapist that all seemed to come onboard at the same time. I guess at the time all the other therapists at BGTM we’re jumping ship, and I was caught without a lifeboat. Well Erin was actually taking over all my clients and would inhabit my office, as I was taking on more family therapy and transitional living duties. So again she totally rearranged all the furniture in the room. (And as I write this I am having the realization that I utilized the exact configuration that she did when I set up my private practice office a few years ago. Wow. So she was right again.) I felt a special obligation to preemptively help Erin prepare for all of the ridiculous and nonsensical circular arguments that she would encounter with each of these kids. And she was a fast learner. She handled that ridiculousness with the cunning and skills of a therapist ninja. I was amazed at all the things I had been trying to get these kids to do for years that Erin was made happen basically over night. I guess she probably didn’t need my help, my help but she never corrected me or pointed out obvious flaws or co traditions in what I was trying to teach her. The student became the teacher with out the teacher even knowing he was never really the teacher.
EJ was a staff member who was promoted to a supervisor. He was former military. He was and is a performing hip hop artist. He was a father of his own children. He had so much street credit with the kids. I was none of those things. Oh and he was a great basketball player too. I had a bit of a Platonic Man-Crush on EJ. And by that I mean I wanted to be like him and have that street cred and be able to rap and play ball, and I kind of thought that if I hung out with him a lot maybe those things would eventually rub off on me. But I didn’t want it to turn into a weird tag along thing, so I honestly kind of avoided him. Didn’t really speak to him about anything not specifically work related. Well that pattern continued after BGTM. I was Facebook friends with EJ for a while. I saw him move on from BGTM to be an Entrepreneur with multiple revenue streams: custom apparel, car detailing, and he played semi-pro basketball, all while continuing to write, produce and perform music. As you will see if you read the rest of the 40 for 40, EJ is kind of everything I have ever wanted to be. So naturally, I de-friended him on Facebook and haven’t heard from him in 3 years.
Tim was a fantastic staff member. When I was as on-call, I always liked it when Tim was working because I knew I wouldn’t get a call from anyone but him, because everyone would call him first, because everyone knew like I knew Tim would handle anything. Nothing seemed to phase him. He just had some charisma about him . He had a strong but welcoming nature to him. I was not at all surprised to learn he was a Pastor at a local church with affiliations to much bigger congregations in St Louis and around the world. If you continue to follow the 40 for 40, you will see that being a spiritual leader is something I admired and aspired to, so Tim was another guy I kind of looked up to in secret. Tim not only worked at BGTM, and pastored a church, he worked at a car dealership in the internet sales division and he was a full time student online. How he managed All that I don’t know. His real claim to fame though were the “midnight staffings” at his home. Each Wednesday at noon there was a general staff meeting at BGTM. And then late that night after work everyone would go and party at Tim’s. Or so I heard because I never went. Tim told me I was always welcome (because I asked about it more than once), but midnight was late for an old man like me, and I didn’t even party when I was 20, much less 30. But obviously I was missing out. Tim was in a severe car accident one night. I remember Travis and I went to see him in the hospital. He was still in critical condition. His head trauma caused his head to swell up and his eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his head. I don’t know if he could hear us but he wasn’t responsive. He had a steady stream of visitors to his bed side. We had to go see him before we could try and explain to the kids at BGTM what had happened. That was the last time I saw Tim physically, but he did make a recovery. I was in contact with him as he moved into a rehab facility to continue his recovery. I have chatted with him online just a few times to know he was alive and well and moving forward with his work with the church. Not sure where in the world he is right now, but I know he is positive, powerful and smiling, just like always.
The other Tim
Then there was this other Tim. He worked himself up to a Supervisor position within a few months. I actually heard this guy talking to another staff about his plan to become a supervisor and then move on up the ladder and I thought he was kind of an arrogant douche. But we had a corporate structure where a therapist and a supervisor team up to run each different house on campus. And when I needed a new supervisor to team up with, I suddenly wanted him to team up with me. It was at this time that I started to develop my theory of arrogance and he obviously had a little something to do with that. He and I played basketball a few times together, and he even came with Brian to see my horrendous standup comedy failure. But what I remember most about Tim was going to his wedding. It was a nice ceremony. Cozy but bright church. Good food and plenty of it buffet style. One of the least annoying wedding MC’s I have ever seen. And my boss may or may not have gotten sloppy drunk at the open bar.
Crystal was a staff member that was hired about the same time as me. We went through orientation together. Part of orientation was learning how to restrain kids physically to protect them when necessary. She and I were paired up to practice the holds on each other in a class with about 10 other people. While I was attempting to do one of the holds she suddenly announces “yeah, I think you just grabbed my boob there.” So that was moderately embarrassing. I went home and told my wife and she took pity on me. Hard to believe, but even in all my years as a “player” that was actually the only time I ever got to feel up two women in the same day.
If you have seen the movie Jumanji with Kevin Hart and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, imagine if you could merge their characters into one, and you would have Zo. Zo was about the exact size and appearance of Mouse Finnbar, but had the muscular proportion of Smoulder Bravestone. He would get mistaken for a kid when he wore a hoodie, but then he would take off the hoodie and you see the damage his muscles did to his T-shirt and you knew this was a grown man not to be messed with. Someone at BGTM definitely thought he looked like a man because he married another direct care staff member. He began as a staff member but became a full time teacher when BGTM started its own on campus school. To this day I believe envisioning Zo running a classroom is the only reason they dared to start their own school.
I don’t even know where to begin with Lexy. She was the family therapist and a good friend. She had kind of a blunt straight shooter personality wrapped in a kind hearted do gooder package. She was very much a go her own way Maverick, which I admired and was kind of jealous of. So she might say some outlandish off the cuff remark that makes you sort of stare at her jaw ripped and then she replies “awe-shucks you know I love you, but seriously, grow some balls,” and we move on. So she got away with saying stuff everyday that I was too afraid to say out loud. She was married to a guy named Tony, and obviously referred to him as “Tony. So it was a little disconcerting to hear her voice from down the hall say things like “Tony kept trying to have sex last night!” “I know Tony’s going to freak out when he sees this.” “Tony wants to quit his job and move to Guam to run a horse farm.”
She started a podcast called “1000 Ways to F*ck this up,” which I thought was great but I stopped listening to it around the time I moved. She wasn’t at BGTM very long and when she left I got to take over some of her family therapy duties, which was invaluable experience for me as a young therapist, and I will always appreciate her for that. And for giving me regular reality checks with her sharp tongue.
James was a cool guy, but he is particularly memorable to me for 2 reasons. At first he was a staff member for a short time, didn’t really love it, but then somehow got a job in the tech department. Once in the tech department he started wearing glasses which must have made him look real intelligent to Nishell, who managed the day treatment program, because they got married. The 2nd reason I remember him so fondly is that as a tech guy he finally helped me figure out that my email server was messed up; and that was preventing me from being able to access work email from my cellphone for the past two years. Yes that’s right, my earlier email issues may have been averted had James been in the tech department from the jump.
Logan was a supervisor and Abby was a staff member. Guess what happened next?
(Seriously, the number of couples that developed amongst staff members was eye raising to me. I mean actual marriages. I can only imagine the number of hook ups that occurred. Those “late night staffing” that I never went to must have been a freak fest, like Memorial Day at the Playboy Mansion.)
There are literally a sea of faces that I can’t put names to because I worked with so many great people. I am definitely cherry-picking stories over shear influence or impact here(I know I am going to offend people who aren’t on the list and I’m sorry). Some were way more grown up and mature than I was at the time. Many were college kids taking on essentially parental responsibilities for 12-15 kids at a time. You had to be a great person to work here and so many great people did.
BGTM gave me my start as a counselor, I learned a lot about the world and I got to work with an array of amazing people. Every day was uncharted territory It was exhausting and exciting, and all consuming.
So now you know why 30 for 30 was never completed a decade ago.