Stones in the Road

Surveying the Landscape of Our Lives

Celebrate the dash in between


Today is my mother’s birthday, May 31st. Had she lived, she would have been eighty-six.  Instead my mother died when she was sixty-nine. Renal failure. I was there singing her favorite song. It was not easy to get through.  I knew she heard me. The family had come and had said goodbye. It was just my mother and me now. Her last moments were spent with her hand in mine and my hand on her shoulder, singing to her through my tears. All the years of love, frustrations, good meals, fights with my father and homemade fudge had come down to this moment.

It was not a difficult decision to take her off of her dialysis as she was suffering being on it at that point.  Her doctor informed me well on what I could expect and he was accurate.

I set off for the fabric store to buy the black fabric to place on the mirror in the front foyer of my home. Placing a black cloth on the mirrors at the death of a loved one is a tradition of my religion, so as not to see the pain in the faces of the survivors. When I returned from the store, she had stopped breathing. I suppose she needed me to stop sitting vigil and to walk away and allow her to slip peacefully into the hand of God.

She was ready, I wasn’t.

Is one ever ready for death, especially the death of someone so beloved? As hard as we hope for some people to find their peace in eternity, we still get left behind with the memories and their breath still left on our skin.

Traversing through our grief after losing someone close to us is undoubtedly the hardest experience we will ever have.

But I would like to share something I have figured out the hard way.

Life calls on us to move on, to move forward. Perhaps life cannot ask us to see crimson in the same way, even laughter may not seem as loud or as forthcoming; nevertheless, it is we who are left to carry on for those that have left us in charge.  Death is not an ending, it is a new beginning of rebirth. It is the end of form and the sojourn of a spirt into ultimate peace and happiness. For those of us who are left behind, it feels like an ending, like a death, but it is the beginning of a celebration of a life. A celebration of the true essence of a human life.

For it is true that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and when we leave, we transition from human to spirit. So, make it a natural way of dealing with goodbye by celebrating the human life of the person who has left their essence behind in you. Because life is a celebration, each day, and each moment is a blessing.

As long as we celebrate the lives of those that have touched us, their essence, their spirit will live forever.

Happy Birthday, Mama. I love you, Sug. P.S. (I made luchen kugel twice in 10 days and got a request for the recipe. Hope you don’t mind.)

Here is a recipe from my mama to you.

Luchen Kugel by Shirley Waitsman

1 bag of wide egg noodles         3 ounces of cream cheese

2 tablespoons of butter             1 egg and a splash of milk

1 cup of cottage cheese             little salt and pepper to taste

Add paparika on top before baking at 450 degrees for 45 minutes


As ever,

Be well~












My Mother’s Favorite Song


Stones in the Road: Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month.  If you didn’t know, I am glad I could inform you. If you are tired of hearing it, too bad.  Statistics tell us that one in four adults have a mental health diagnosis. I think the rest of us have yet to be diagnosed. For me, every month is mental health month as I work in the mental health field with real people, rich and poor, black, white and Hispanic. I see people who have served our country in the military, past and present, that have been horribly affected by their service. Even children, who have been caught in the crosshairs of their parents’ messy divorces and the aged who have lost their spouses of many years and now face their very autumn years alone are clients of mine.

Mental illness affects more than the eye can see. It crosses all barriers of race, cultural ethnicities, and ages; mental illness does not discriminate.  It does not care if you eat too much fat, salt or sugar, nor does it care if you run or bike five times a week.  Mental illness can affect anyone. No one is immune from a bout of depression or a bolt out of the blue that can knock you to your knees and cause a Brief Stress Reaction or full blown Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which is more serious and can last much longer.

Most illnesses represented in the Diagnositic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders are brain disorders, including but not limited to depression, bipolar and addictions. A brain illness is a medical illness and deserves the same treatment, care and concern as physical illness like diabetes.

In 1996 The Mental Health Parity Act was signed by then President Bill Clinton which made the ruling that Group Health Insurance plans must pay for and treat mental health problems with the same financial regard as medical problems. In 2008 another act was signed to include addictions. However, individual insurance plans still do not have to include any kind of financial reimbursement for mental health treatment.

NAMI or National Alliance for Mental Illness is the foremost authority on mental illness and serves to positively impact the lives of families and people exposed to mental health problems.  NAMI advocates and lobbies for access to services, treatment, and supports, and does research to improve the lives that are ridden with mental health disorders. NAMI can continue to benefit on the grassroots level through support in the community from grants and donations from people like us.  If you or a family member has ever been plagued by mental illness, you know how important it is to pledge your commitment to this worthy alliance through service and donations.  You may contact NAMI to find how you can become involved at

We have come a long way as a nation from bleeding people for hysteria to locking them in warehouses, but we still have a way to go before we release the stigma of mental illness and pay for its care in a more equitable fashion. No month can truly be set aside to celebrate or acknowledge an illness that is ongoing for those affected every day of their lives.

Education is the keystone to bringing a stigmatized illness out of the shadows and into the light.


Go well~




The Right Therapist


What do you think makes a good therapist?  What qualities must a therapist have to be the right therapist for you? There is no relationship more important in a doctor-patient relationship than one between a patient and psychotherapist. A therapist is the person with whom you share your most sacred feelings.


 A good education is the foundation for any job, but a therapist does not learn how to “be” a good therapist with even the best or most expensive education.  It takes a solid understanding of human nature and what it feels like to be in emotional pain. Therapists learn how to be good at their job by doing it themselves, not only doing therapy but going through the therapeutic process. Going into the trenches and doing the work on themselves and doing the healing helps to make a therapist more empathtic.  It is not possible for a person who choses to be a therapist to be issue-free but it is necessary that they have a good understanding of their underlying issues so they can understand what it means to “sit in the chair” before a therapist and empty out all the baggage on the table. So, education is not just about initials after one’s name but what work the person has done on themselves to have the emotional and social intelligence to provide good support and counsel to their patients. Experience in the field is also a necessary element for a good therapist because it creates a certain intuitive nature in a therapist.

Experience       images

A key element in any field is experience. I know I would feel a lot better taking my car into a well-established and experienced mechanic. The same is true for something as important as your mental health. Experience can build a wise-minded therapist which is better for the patient. Intuition is central in the job of a therapist. Books don’t do therapy, people do. Nothing one can learn at the university level is going to make a person be a good and effective psychotherapist.  Additionally,  a therapist has to be able to do a thorough assessment and a individualized treatment plan with the ability to work towards goals in a time-limited and measurable way to be most effective.



A good therapist knows when to bend the boundaries and when to solidify them.   A handshake or a hug is sometimes just what a patient needs. However, it is a professional relationship. Therapists have to be good at establishing boundaries, physically and financially. Because it is a business relationship, a good therapist will establish a relationship with their patient and one the patient will appreciate and want to ensure the professional therapist gets paid. A healthy therapist will establish the financial boundaries up front and stand by them.


I saved for last what I think is the most important element in a therapeutic relationship. Compassion and empathy. A therapist worth their salt is going to be present with the patient, giving the patient their full attention. Where else in the world can you go to get true undivided attention? Attention leads to compassion and a sense of unconditional caring concern and positive regard which is what compassion is all about. By the very nature of a helping relationship there is always going to be a power differential. However, power is truly about grace, trustworthiness and compassion.

A Therapist’s Viewpoint

  My deepest desire is to be the kind of therapist I described in the text above.  Perhaps it is a little about my ego that I want the people who open up their heart space to me, who have shown me their vulnerabilities to be well when they leave our relationship. But mostly, it is about my passion for my work.  It is about showing up everyday being the most caring and compassionate and therapeutic psychotherapist I can be; showing up in the arena with my patients, fighting the good fight on our way to good mental health. A therapist isn’t the doer of mental health wellness for her patients, she is the guide, she lights the path, shows them where the path begins and how to move through the path to the other side.

In your opinion, what are the qualities of a good therapist?

I believe if you find a therapist like this, you have found a gem.

As ever,

Go well~


Renee can be reached at 727-278-8375.

Renee is now doing home visits and is accepting most insurances. Renee practices all over Pinellas County, Fl.

Cultural History of the Penis-Just the Tip of the Iceberg

This post is rated for adults only and meant as a humorous 

                                        review on the cultural history of the penis from the book by 

         David Friedman.

So, last year I was charged with doing some reviews of books in my field of study which was not the penis but of sexology.  This is one book I chose to do a review on as I thought it would be interesting.  Once I read it, I had no choice but make this a funny review because the book was sooooo bad and boring. I really hope my readers find it to be amusing and you might even learn something.


     David M. Friedman, author of  a book on Charles Lindbergh, has taken on the topic of the penis. There may be a connection. The six chapter titles are appropriately named from the era in which each chapter is illustrated. 

The author begins with the history of the penis in the era of the witch trials, in which the witches were reported to be bereft from contact with the “demon rod” which reportedly caused them delusions, hallucinations and hysteria. The author posits that the penis was called the demon rod due to its perceived power over women, sometimes to the woman’s detriment. The women were burned at the stake for their supposed contact with the demon rod.

Misogyny, in all of its subtle and beastly expressions, likely provides the overall answer.  But a more tightly focused lens 

enables us to see in their deaths [of the w the predominance 

of one of the driving forces—the ongoing cultural obsession

with the penis, the insecurities it fostered, and the perceived harm

it could do. We can see how it became, through the mix of fevered 

fantasy and obsessive insecurity, the very agent of the transfer of

evil. In short, the demon rod. (3).

The author finds that Augustine, a sainted bishop, posited over sixteen centuries ago that man had a lack of control of his penis and therefore was pronounced the owner of the demon rod. 

While the penis was venerated in some circles, it was also demonized for the harm it could do to woman, children, and a weak man. “It was a force of nature, revered for its potency, yet just as amoral.”(5)

Circumcision was also a topic in the first chapter of this book on the penis.  The long and short of it is that some cultures revered the penis as it was when God made man, uncircumcised.  Others, like the Orthodox Jews, felt it was a sign of being unclean and therefore irreverent in God’s eyes.  The Jews would therefore serve God by removing their foreskin of the penis, and by doing so, worship God in an act of selflessness. 

This chapter covered the Greek view of the penis as well as the church’s view. It also dealt with the penis in art.Michelangelo-David-2356043


For me, this was the most difficult chapter to get through, as I felt it was not linear and it could have been better understood and synthesized if it had headings that broke it down into parts or eras. The chapter(s) were too long and did not have enough white space.  I understand that because it was the early history of the penis, it had to be placed as it was, first in the book, but if I did not have to read this book, as interesting as the topic may be, I would have put it down.

Chapter two entitled The Gear Shift began with more discussion of penis in reference to Leonardo da Vinci and his many drawings and writings on the penis which helped to draw the penis out of religion and into the world of mechanical science , and therefore from “demon rod” to “gear shift.” (56) .  

Still, if I could I would have put my “gear shift” in drive and sped off as this chapter was only slightly more interesting than the first.

This author explains to us that da Vinci was the first to ask the enlightening and hard question, “do I control my penis or does it control me?” (59).  Really as I continued reading this chapter I wanted to take somebody’s penis to use as a club to hit myself over the head with it so I would not have to read the rest of this book, but alas I persevered.  The reader learned about semen/sperm and blood in it’s role in obtaining and maintaining  an erection. 

Chapter three sees a bit of improvement but only by subject,  covering the age of the black penis.  There once was a bible-quoting treasure hunter named Richard Jobson (103). Through his travels he discovered the Mandingo tribesmen and their voluminous and far-reaching phallus. It was thought that “a Negro’s penis proved his intellectual inferiority and innate savagery”.(106). Excuse me white boy, but my penis is bigger than yours, nana nana boo boo!  Who would have thought that there is racism of the penis. Kinda like having gonorrhea, it’s never a good thing. 

 However, a kindly professor, Blumenbach, dispelled this myth of inferiority and left the racist crying in their white sheets, as he was the creator of the science of comparative anatomy(106). I call this street cred. Also, in this chapter, the author introduces us to the mean and drunk Noah.  We thought he was a good guy for building the arc and saving the animals. Pish Posh. 

Noah supposedly exiled his own grandson Canann to slavery because Canann’s daddy saw Noah naked. This really sucks for Cannan.  

More evidence that the punishment does not always fit the crime and this is a case of mistaken identity! And what does this have to do with this chapter anyway? 

The Cigar.  A chapter one can wrap their hands around.  I think this is not only the most interesting chapter but most well-known view of the penis. Albeit psychological in nature. Freud was the most enormously written and outspoken philosopher on the  psychological underpinnings of the penis (150). 


With the bedrock concepts of penis envy and castration

anxiety, his depiction of the unconscious as a realm made 

chaotic by penile lust, and his assertion that all libido, 

female as well as male, is phallic, Freud put the penis on 

the lips and minds of nearly every educated person in the

Western world (150-151).

Freud enlightened us with the idea that we grow through stages of development which includes the anal phase. He posited that this was part of our body/mental construct and it could not be denied(151). He claimed we were all polymorphously perverse which of course means we can find erotic pleasure from any part of the body. (Insert anus here, or maybe something into the anus).(151).

 The author also reminds us of the Oedipal complex in case we have forgotten. He posited that this was part of our body/mental construct and it could not be denied(151). 

We are reminded that Freud said the penis was more than a body part but also an idea and a symbol, “a sign so powerful it is itself symbolized by other things”.(156)  Even though Freud was quoted as saying, “a cigar is just a cigar”, he still believed that most times it was not.(156)

Is there ever an end to this thing?  Yes, it is called the glans penis.

The next chapter is where it gets a bit more interesting in that women get involved in the penis in a big way.  The Battering Ram talks about how the feminist movement tool to begin scrutinize men namely what they did with their penis and how it held kept women down (clearing throat).  Freud thought the girls had penis envy and Karen Horney (I might have changed my name) said they did not.  Who to believe? And then there was the woman named Deutsch who believed women served their highest purpose under a man.  I suppose she didn’t get invited to cocktails at Gloria Steinem’s apartment on the west side. 

Betty Friedan and her Feminine Mystic was important here. 

     The Punctureproof Ballon is the last chapter in this hairy tomb about all the things that can cause impotence and what was to be done about. I’d say more but I am feeling flaccid about this whole book.


Since we are not comparing penises here, there is not much to compare as this book is one of its kind in an anthropological, historical, cultural perspective.  Not so much of anatomical.  There seems to be some work on the penis published. For instance, Jesse Bering writes in the anatomical sphere of the penis in his book, Why is the Penis Shaped Like That?  In the book he covers the penis and its buddies, the testicles.  He does explain and express the reason for the dangle, the shapes and the hairy nature of such. He does this in such a way that is much funnier than the writer of this academic tomb. But he does not cover in-depth the history of the penis as Mr. Friedman does.

I did come across another book on the penis, namely, “The Book of the Penis”.  Now that is a catchy little title.  I picked it up to find out if it was at all analogous to Friedmans’ book.  In parts, it was, but far more interesting.  The chapters were shorter, there were clarification headings which were so necessary in the Friedman book considering it’s length. (smile)

 It was more anthropological than historical but history did surface in the form of Grecian formula not to be confused with the Hair Club for Men.  It also covered art and literature regarding the subject of the penis. It was far more interesting and a much easier read. 

In closing, the author of A Mind of Its Own,  had a Mandingo-sized opportunity to cover a subject that has been ignored in historical, and anthropological detail but could have been fascinating. Unfortunately, this author turned a potentially meaty subject  into a dry, stiff treaty that was difficult to navigate.  In doing so, he did a disservice not only to a hefty and important subject but also to the reader.




Bering, Jesse. Why is the penis shaped like that?…and other reflections on being human.Scientific American/Farrar,Straus and Giroux. 2012.

Friedman, M. David. A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis. The Free Press.2001.

Paley, Maggie. The Book of the Penis. Grove Press. 1999


More on sex is forthcoming (pun intended).


As ever,

Be well~





Stones in the Road: Surveying the Landscape of Our Lives

(This is a repeat of my very first blog post back in April of 2012)

   As a psychotherapist, I am frequently faced with people who have become stuck in a place that is extremely painful for them. While they know they are stuck, they can’t seem to find a way out on their own.  When they have realized that their life is unmanageable, sometimes they seek help. Often times, people don’t come right out and ask for help but they poke around in the therapist’s office to see if there may be some help there for them. Going to therapy is sometimes a last ditch effort and some come with suspicion and doubt. It is a courageous step to take, but th     e pain they are in emotionally and mentally may have begun to feel worse than the effort it would take to move out of it. One of my favorite forward thinking teachers of our time, Iyanla Vanzant, says pain stands for Pay Attention Inward Now.  Good advice.

I was prompted to write this piece as the opening of my blog site as I had a week-long experience in my life that was extremely uncomfortable. I felt like walking out on everything. There was nothing special or necessarily out of the ordinary that happened to me that week.  However, it was one thing after another. It began with the pain in my body, which is not particularly unusual for me as I live with a chronic condition that causes discomfort most days.  In addition to the discomfort, enough to keep me home from work and seek treatment, other experiences began to spiral out of control for six days straight.  Not big things , but one after another.  It was as if I had come loose from my moorings, to the very roots that grounded me to the Universe, and I was spinning out of control. Until this point, I have handled everything the world had put in my path.  They had been large things like death, endings and failures.  But, what occurred this particular week, were small incidental things. I had no sense of my usual life management skills. I had to ask myself, why is it I have handled life-shrifting events and yet the “little things” threw me into a tailspin?  The answer I think may be too long to ensoul here. Whatever it was that caused this windstorm in my life, it was the accidental spilling of the red wine all over the fridge and garage floor that snapped me back to solid ground.

So, I suppose it is in the knowing that while we can fall apart, we can make our way back.  A way back to a place where things come together again.  Life is like playing pin the tail on the donkey,  you know you are going to be blindfolded and someone is going to spin you around but eventually you will be set right again.

It is in this format, I hope to reach as many people as I possibly can to keep them from walking out on themselves and everything else in their lives.  I hope this blog will be a walking stick to help folks move along their path or at least assist them when they come to a fork in the road. In doing so, assist in helping them discover the old stones in their own road that have gotten in the way of them living their best life. I hope this blog will inspire folks to “Pay Attention Inward Now”, to survey the landscape of their own lives and begin to walk past the road of their own backstory, write a new story; a story that is worth living.

Go well~ Renee


In future blog posts, there will be writings on how mental health impacts our lives, diagnosis and treatments available, how our thoughts create our mood, how hypnosis can help just about anything and how the use of language can change our brain.  There will also be literary prose too. Stay tuned.

Replies are welcome and cherished.


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