Episode 9 – Surviving the Season – A Winter Holiday Episode with Dr. Jones and Jason

Episode 9 – Surviving the Season – A Winter Holiday Episode with Dr. Jones and Jason

In this special winter holiday edition, Dr. Jones talks with the podcast producer Jason Johnston about highlights from the first 8 episodes, holiday traditions & songs as well as Dr. Jones’ top therapist tips for getting through the season.

If you, or someone you know, are at risk for suicide, there are people who can help. We suggest one of the following:

Center for Excellence in Rural Health / Hazard, KY


Artists Included in this podcast courtesy of Rarebird Records:

Snow, Snow and Mistletoe – Shelley Gordon / Jordan Fox

Waiting for Snow – terns

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Shelley Gordon

Oh Christmas Tree – Jordan Fox

Bleak Midwinter – Jason Paul Johnston – Spotify Link

Find these songs and all Rarebird Records Holiday Albums for Free here:


Also featuring:

River – by James Taylor from the album “At Christmas” © 2016


Begin Transcript: 

Dr. Jones: [00:00:01] Welcome to episode number 9. I am joined today by Jason Johnston.

Jason: [00:00:06] Hey Blake!

Dr. Jones: [00:00:06] Hey Jason. Jason is our producer for this podcast and it’s really hard to believe that we’ve done nine. This is our ninth one.

Jason: [00:00:14] Yeah it’s amazing to think about all the people we’ve talked with this fall and all the topics we’ve talked about and all the time we spent.

Dr. Jones: [00:00:21] Yeah we’ve covered a lot of ground this kind of started as just a conversation with you and I last summer sometime maybe. And just kind of batting the idea around of having a podcast focused on our faculty or students social workers in the community. What have you learned this fall?

Jason: [00:00:41] Because I’m part of the college social work. Not as a social worker but more from the education end of things (from teaching and learning) I’ve learned so much because I’m not the subject matter expert here and so just listening through I feel like everything we’ve talked about this fall’s been so timely. I think a couple of the ones that probably have without getting too heavy too quickly, I think the ones frankly that have impressed me the most and that have been the most significant of quite a number times we have touched on suicide and this fall has been a time where both in the news as well as within our own college. It’s been something that’s been a significant concern. And so that is probably the one topic that we’ve touched on quite a number of times has been that has been most impressive to me and I’ve learned a lot.

Dr. Jones: [00:01:32] Yeah yeah me too. And you know that’s selfishly that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this was just really to learn from our colleagues and social workers in the community. I think for me one of the most interesting ones was with my former student Laura Flowers about just growing a community with fresh produce you know that conversation about how food can be so it can just really change the community it can change a person and using food as kind of a way to do social work. I found that fascinating.

Musical Interlude: [00:02:32] (Snow, Snow and Mistletoe song by Shelley Gordon and Jordan Fox) It’s getting dark by 5 o’clock – November’s packed her bags. December’s here, she brings a chill. There’s something in the air. Oh, oh, it looks like snow – there’s something in the air. Oh, oh, it looks like snow – there’s something in the air…

Dr. Jones: [00:02:58] So here we are around Christmas time. Our podcast listeners can’t see us but we’re both wearing these goofy Santa hats right.

Jason: [00:03:07] Yes pompoms look wonderful really.

Dr. Jones: [00:03:10] Your placement is very good. And yeah. And you know I love this time of year I always have. Even as a little boy I think there’s so much wonder in this time of year. There’s a lot of pain in this time right.

Jason: [00:03:23] Right.

Dr. Jones: [00:03:24] And and and we’ll talk about that and I will kind of get into that but for you I wonder you have young children. I wonder you know what are some of your family traditions or what what is meaningful to you around this holiday.

Jason: [00:03:39] The really the most meaningful thing for me is being able to get together with family during this season. This is this is a time that I’ve always traditionally traveled to get together with family and so I have family that live in Tennessee. I’m originally from Canada and so we used to make the trek down the I-75 through the winter storms. They always seemed to be the worst right about the time we were about to leave and we’d leave early in the morning and try to travel throughout the day. So a lot of my a lot of my memories are about kind of travel to family and so that’s some of the ones for my kids as well just spending a lot of time as much as possible with with family and trying to split it between my wife’s family and my family in Tennessee.

Dr. Jones: [00:04:25] So you came down I 75? it goes all the way to Canada?

Jason: [00:04:29] Well almost. So that goes all the way to Detroit. And so typically we’d go from around Tronto area and that also east of Toronto and a small town there. So we travel across Ontario so travel west and there was some pretty bad driving often and then we would travel down the I-75 my memory might be a little bit blurred but I seem to recall getting into a snow storm like every single time we traveled south for Christmas and some of them being what we’d call “whiteouts” especially during that space in a Western Ontario. I 75 through Ohio and kind of southern Michigan that where there was nothing on the east and west side of the highway. And so we would get this kind of whiteout condition. And I remember just thinking “how in the world is my dad seeing enough to drive?” and remember asking him and all he did was he would often get behind a truck. Some of that he knew that was stable on the road. And he would just keep his eyes on those lights in front of him and just keep far enough away that if it stopped he could stop and just trust that truck. You know if that truck went off the road so would we by just trusting that that truck would just kind of keep on keep on trucking as they say and just go down the highway and we would just follow. It’s amazing that we made it. That’s great.

Dr. Jones: [00:05:51] That’s such a dad thing to do. I’m just going to get right that truck.

Jason: [00:05:56] I know – We don’t need to stop – just keep on going. I think classically my mom was a little more inclined to pull over. But usually we just kept on going to try and make it down to Tennessee.

Musical Interlude: [00:06:12] (Waiting for Snow song by terns ) 1, 2, 3 come along with me. We’ll stock up on the groceries. If you want we can still pretend and put on the summer mix tapes again…

Dr. Jones: [00:06:43] Yes, Travel. Same with me family. You know I grew up in a family of 8 and up and around Cincinnati area. And actually I 75 cuts right through my grandpa’s farm that way that you know this was it. I guess it was built back in the 50s or 60s but I grew up sort of listening to the trucks and the cars go down 75. And so I still try to go back to my hometown and visit with my family and play music with them and it’s just really really a great time but I know kind of switching gears a little bit here as a therapist I know that this is a very difficult time for a lot of people and I think we forget that. And I’ve seen so many people in my private practice lately who are just stressed out and overwhelmed and I wonder if we could spend a few minutes kind of talking, I mean I’ll certainly give some ideas about how people can survive the holidays if that’s what we want to call it but I’d love to hear from you as well.

Jason: [00:07:43] Yeah, I was just thinking about this this morning because you know like many of us this is kind of the time of the year that sickness kind of comes along as well right. My kids my wife and myself we’ve all been sick and so we’ve had to cancel some plans and that. And so you have all these things that feels like you have all these things that pile up a Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year it was the song talks about you know your in your in the store and people are aggravated and things are busy and he can’t find a parking spot and then they’re playing this very cheery <sings>”it’s the most wonderful time” over the intercom. And so I was thinking about kind of sickness and I was thinking about maybe some of the stress of just the time of the year and all the extra events – I was thinking financially too you know that I think that people get get themselves kind of thinned out financially they’re maybe spending a little more than they should and and then add onto that you know significant loss that people have right. What kinds of things are you hearing from people?

Dr. Jones: [00:08:44] Well I think everything that you mentioned to people overspending over being over schedule is something that we really have struggled. You know I have two sons and they’re in plays and musicals and and this and that. And you know one thing I love about the Christmas time the holiday time is that there’s so much great music. And you know it seems like every night there are some you know somebody is doing Handel’s Messiah somewhere. But I also know that I can’t go to those things every night.

Jason: [00:09:18] You’d like to be able to go to everything. But you just can’t.

Dr. Jones: [00:09:20] Yeah. So I think staying you know kind of over scheduled and I just think people have this idea that Christmas time the holiday time is supposed to be this everyone is not supposed to have problems family problems. You’re not supposed to argue and you’re not supposed to have conflict. And so one of the things I try to do with my clients is to really help them come up with a plan for the holidays where they do some fun things but they also have some times of rest and just doing nothing and contemplation or meditation or or just just rest. I don’t I don’t think we rest very well in our current climate.

Jason: [00:10:02] Do you think that OK this is just a random question but you think watching Netflix’s is rest?

Dr. Jones: [00:10:08] It depends on what you are watching <ha-ha>

Jason: [00:10:09] Right I guess! But really I mean this is what a lot of people do to to relax right. Yeah. But as a family we love to watch Christmas movies and some shows that we watch and so on as a family and we watch ourselves and there’s something about it that is really nice about just kind of turning your brain off and just kind of watching whatever. Is that enough, though, in terms of really kind of therapeutic rest?

Dr. Jones: [00:10:36] Well I think it depends on the you know if you’re type man an adult or a child I think I think children and teenagers including my own are quite distracted. And I see that in my own sons as you know with the phone and the you know they have Chromebooks now in highschool that they have to do their homework on. And so sometimes at ten thirty at night I will find my son on his Chromebook and sometimes he’s doing homework but sometimes he’s not. And what I try to do is you know just sort of have a nightly time of no electronics with them where we read or we just rest or we talk or. So I think Netflix is great you know doing things with family is great. I just I look for balance in people and it seems like a lot of people that come in to see me are unbalanced in some way. They either work too much or they rest too much. They don’t work at all or they drink too much or there’s something too much going on in their lives. And so I always come back to that word “balance” with my clients.

Jason: [00:11:44] That’s a good word.

Musical Interlude: [00:11:44] (Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas song by Shelley Gordon) Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. From now on our troubles will be out of sight. Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Make the yuletide gay. From now on our troubles will be miles away…here we are as in olden days…

Jason: [00:12:38] So, What other tips? what are the top Dr. Jones tips for surviving the holidays?

Dr. Jones: [00:12:44] Well the quiet time is one rest time. Whatever that means for you. For me it’s sitting down with my guitar and just playing music and I know that that is for you as well. I think it’s a really important time and the whole year is an important time to do something for someone else. I don’t do this anymore. But you know in good Friday there’s always these videos that come along on social media of people being trampled at Target or something.

Jason: [00:13:16] Right. Black Friday right.

Dr. Jones: [00:13:18] I think that’s I’m talking about yeah. And I always used to be kind of snarky about that and would share those and then write underneath “Happy birthday baby Jesus.” Or something like that. And I don’t do that anymore that’s kind of snarky but, but I do think that a lot of the holidays is about getting and buying and consumerism and I think it’s so important and especially as social workers. It’s important for us to step back and really look at the people that are hurting. I’ll share a quick story with you something that we did the other night in our community I live up in Woodford County and one of our neighbors in our community the small little community is dying. She’s in hospice. She’s a musician and an organ player and she’s she’s dying and a bunch of us got together the other night about 25 of us. There were people that were in their 80s and there were teenagers and little kids and we all lit candles and we walked to her house on this cold bitter cold night. I had my guitar and her husband helped her open her window and we sang for her and she cried and she clapped and you know she sang with us. And that absolutely made my Christmas right there. That was the most heartfelt thing that had happened to me all December. So I think it’s really important to remember people that are hurting and reach out to them. And then I think the final thing is you mentioned a budget. We’re surrounded by consumerism by you know buy this buy that buy this new thing. And so I think having a budget for Christmas presents or holiday presents however you celebrate is really important.

Jason: [00:15:09] Yeah. Again seeing articles, news stories about about just reemphasizing that stuff does not make kids happy. like kids have more imagination, they play with toys longer if they have fewer and we all know these things right. The flashy the really noisy the hot items and so on. There are just a flash in the pan. They don’t really do it for the kids. And these are the things that I think sometimes just being able to balance out for maybe some people that just don’t feel like they have the money to get the kids what they really want the kids are going to be disappointed because they don’t really they don’t have the same things maybe some other people have. And I don’t know. We try as much as possible so hard but we try just to keep it really limited for our kids and just to say look we’re going to be OK with that you know and we’re going to try to round this Christmas off in some other ways that you know to create some more experiences versus focusing on this stuff and to be able to make it so that it’s less stressful for us in terms of financially as well.

Dr. Jones: [00:16:17] I love the idea of giving things to kids that involve going places or you know like a trip to a museum or something like that so experience is rather than tangible things.

Jason: [00:16:31] Even like locally where you can go skating for a few bucks you know things like that that they’ll remember throughout the Christmas season.

Dr. Jones: [00:16:38] Absolutely. I remember you know talking with my dad when he was growing up you know he said if they got a bag of oranges for Christmas. That was incredible. Some candy or some nuts or something like that so I think things have really changed and I’m not you know I’m not all about going back to the horse and buggy days but.

Jason: [00:17:00] Tin cups…

Dr. Jones: [00:17:02] Right, but I do think there’s something to that. You know what you were saying about simplicity right. Simple Life and simple pleasures. With kids.

Jason: [00:17:11] And comes back to that idea of balance as well. Now so recap your three again for me.

Dr. Jones: [00:17:16] So the three that I have are spending some quiet time some mindfulness whatever that looks like for your family. Doing something for someone else and really being aware of just your neighbors or people that are hurting around you and how can you help them it doesn’t have to involve money it can involve just doing something kind for them and then the third thing is to sit down and have a budget of what you’re going to spend not just on gifts but you know musical things and you know my wife has telling me the other day she said we really take a hit between November and February because all of our birthdays, Our anniversary is in December. So I think being very mindful of what you spending – having a budget is important.

Musical Interlude: [00:18:08] (Oh Christmas Tree song by Jordan Fox) Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas tree. Thy leaves are so unchanging. Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree. Thy leaves are so unchanging. Not only green when summer’s here but also when tis cold and drear. O Christmas.Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas Tree, thy leaves are so unchanging.

Dr. Jones: [00:18:38] I think we’re going to wind up talking a little bit about what we hope for this podcast for 2018. It’s hard to believe we’re coming up on 2018 and then we’re going to wind up with some some of our favorite music. What do you hope for what do you want us to do next year?

Jason: [00:18:55] Well I’ve I’ve really enjoyed the variety of people that we’ve had in here. I like the fact that we’re talking to doctoral students and and all of them really are full time employed doing something that they’re passionate about as well as learning about it. And I always think that’s really cool. And as well as talking to a number of our faculty I hope to get through a bunch more of our faculty here because we have so many interesting people as I talk to them on the floor. And as I work with them on their courses and find out what they’re passionate about we have so many interesting faculty and instructors here who are working in research in different areas that I think are very cutting edge in a variety of ways as well as trying to apply it into the classroom. So I hope we get to talk to some of those and some of our newer faculty and to be able to find out more what they’re what they’re passionate about.

Dr. Jones: [00:19:50] Yeah I agree with that. You know I’ve been teaching in Hazard this semester at Eastern Kentucky and teaching and they are just doing so much good work there. You know Fran Feltner and some of her colleagues are just really doing some interesting and important work in eastern Kentucky in Appalachia. And so I’m really excited. We’ve had trouble scheduling with her but I think we’re going to do that in the spring and talk with her about what’s happening there in terms of research and translational research really and how they are making a difference there that would be great. I’d love to reach out into the community more and talk with more social workers in the community and I’m with you on the variety. That’s one thing I love about this podcast. So I want to stop and thank you for your help with this podcast. I think we bring different skills to this to this endeavor and so I was joking before we started this every time I walk in this room with you I learned something new about technology and that’s really cool for me. I appreciate that. Appreciate you so much and your help with this.

Jason: [00:20:58] Well thank you for the idea and for welcoming me into it. So it’s been great.

Dr. Jones: [00:21:03] Yeah let’s wind up with some music.

Jason: [00:21:05] Yeah I just want to take a moment. Speaking of music to thank the guys up at Rarebird records up in Canada for providing a lot of the great music that you’re hearing and during this podcast you can find links to download the music for free at our website.

Dr. Jones: [00:21:20] We’re both musicians and I love holiday music. What’s your favorite holiday song? Tell us a little bit about that.

Jason: [00:21:29] Well I’m kind of one of those like Christmas music for the most part but it gets a little much for me some of the you know just kind of over the top kind of joy. I’m a little more of a melancholy kind of person and I think I typically lend myself towards music that just kind of hits my mood a little bit more rather than you know really hyper kind of music and so on. Let’s just say I’m not really big like dance music fan of all the genres. You know.

Dr. Jones: [00:21:58] I can see that yeah.

Jason: [00:21:59] You can see that. So I think one of my favorite songs is an old poem actually set to music a hymn called in the bleak midwinter and even the title alone and the somber has a very slower somber kind of feeling to it and even that alone kind of just kind of sets you off into this idea that everything’s not okay. I’m not going to pretend like jingle bells ho ho ho and everything’s a perfect world where people are you know singing in a circle like at the end of the Dr. Seuss Grinch – that there’s some you know there’s definitely some darkness in the world and in our own lives and sadness and something about that song that I like that is going to start there in the the bleak midwinter. And then also gives some glimmer of hope within that darkness as well.

Musical Interlude: [00:23:03] Steve Bird stood hard as still. Snow had fallen snow. The bleak.

Dr. Jones: [00:23:43] Yeah, that’s good. And as you’re talking I’m thinking about social work. I think that’s part of what we do as social workers is to give people hope. I tell my students that you know your biggest mission that first session with your client is to give them some hope. They may be hopeless when they come but you’re you’re an instrument of hope.

Dr. Jones: [00:24:11] I think for me I’m with you. There is a local radio station that will remain nameless who started playing Christmas music. I think…

Jason: [00:24:20] My kids love that station.

Dr. Jones: [00:24:22] They love that one? Well I really don’t. But they started playing Christmas music in November right before Thanksgiving.

Jason: [00:24:29] The end of summer I think they started.

Dr. Jones: [00:24:32] I’m with you on that. Those poor people I feel like I should offer them all free therapy sessions or something but I like sort of the off beat Christmas music or holiday music. For me it’s the song by James Taylor called “River.” I think it was written by Joni Mitchell. Maybe but – it’s just kind of this story of a person that’s surrounded by a holiday lights and cheer and everything but they just they’re not feeling it and they think they’ve just broken up with someone and they just wish they had a river to kind of skate away on. It’s very whimsical kind of song and I think it goes along with kind of what you were talking about – alot of people that feel like they just want to escape the holidays that it’s painful and hurtful for them.

Musical Interlude: [00:25:24] (River song by James Taylor) It’s Comin on Christmas – cutting down trees. Putting up reindeer singing songs of joy and peace. I wish I had a river I could skate away on. However it don’t snow here and stays pretty green – you won’t make a lot of money to split this crazy scene. I wish I had a river. That I could skate away on. Oh I wish I had a river so I could teach my feet to fly away. I wish I had a river I could skate away on…

Dr. Jones: [00:26:26] So I don’t know, I’m drawn to that kind of..

Jason: [00:26:36] Yeah, that is that is a beautiful song. I love the imagery and I hope that there is hope for people that are feeling like that this this Christmas.

Dr. Jones: [00:26:46] I believe that there is mor I wouldn’t do this this profession. You know we talk about the strings perspective and just finding the hope in people. I think that’s really so important.

Jason: [00:27:02] So we’ve talked about some great Christmas memories things that kind of bring us hope through the holidays and survival tips to get through and some of our favorite music and the fact that we have family that we’re together with and you know I think there may be some people listening that just don’t have some of those things you know maybe there maybe they have a sickness or maybe there’s things that are going on in their lives that is just really really hard for them maybe they’re alone and lonely. What are some of the supports that are out there? If if somebody is listening and they just found themselves that they just they just needed to talk to somebody.

Dr. Jones: [00:27:38] Well the main one I want to pass along is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. And that number is 1 800 273 8255. That’s 1 800 273 8255. 24/7. You can call and talk with someone if you’re in crisis. And we have a number of links on our on our Web site. The crisis text line is another one that I often give to people some people don’t like to talk on the phone. And so texting is better for them. But we have a bunch of those on our Web site which is.

Jason: [00:28:17] Which is socialwork.uky.edu/podcast and if you click through on this episode link then you’ll find support these lines that we’re talking about as well as some of the other ones that we provided before for your support and help.

Dr. Jones: [00:28:34] Yeah. So Jason I want to thank you again for coming on and just for being such a good friend and a support for me in doing this and for our college you’ve just been such a great help to all of us and I really appreciate you appreciate the gifts that you bring to our college and to me personally.

Jason: [00:28:51] No thank you. You’ve done a great job. It’s been really enjoyable to listen to as you’ve been talking to people this fall. And I look forward to 2018.

Dr. Jones: [00:28:59] Yep I’ll see you next year.