From zero to busy

One of my classes requires me to complete 15 hours of volunteer/community service. I was actually excited to hear that something I planned to do anyway would now help my grade in class. That is until I realized how much goes into becoming involved with Hospice. It was naive of me not to consider this. Of course there would be multiple background checks and references to call and multiple nights of training. Hospice is a big commitment, they treat as such which is good.

So I will have a phone interview with someone from Hospice in the next week or so when they are able to get to me. Once completed they will call my references, run my background check and mid-June I will be in training. I am looking forward to it. I am nervous I will admit but I know it will be a good experience and I need to know if Hospice is right for me, this is a good way to get my feet wet.

In the interim I signed myself up for another volunteer opportunity to insure I get my hours this semester. I am not convinced I will 15 hours under my belt with Hospice by the end of the summer so I wanted to play it safe. I signed up for a literacy program United Way runs over the summer. It is an effort to encourage children and adolescence to read over summer break. Apparently there is a real issue with reading levels dropping back during the summer months when kids are out of school. I would have never thought about it but it totally makes sense. There have been book drives going on around central Florida for 2 months and in June a group of us will get together to sort the books into age appropriate categories to be distributed in the community. This is right up my alley. I am going to try to get involved with distribution as well. That is later in the month.

 

My nephew had his last day of class yesterday and he is excited for summer. He is a planner, he always like to know what the plan is, he like to make plans and have things to look forward to. We agreed (my brother, sister-in-law, Todd and myself) that we (Todd and myself) will have sleepovers with the kids this summer. Honestly, it is what I am looking forward to most this summer. The kids have never had a sleepover anywhere but their grandparent’s, it will be fun to be their first real sleepover away from home (or so we hope).

I have all kinds of fun things planned for them. We will do the sleepovers separately so the kids can both have their own special experience the next day, which will be an activity day. For Isaac we will go on a train ride (he loves trains) and for Maddie we will go to the Farmer’s Market and Central Park (she loves flowers and nature). I have bought them both books as a souvenir for the day.

For Isaac, a book about trains that I found at Anthropologie. isaac bbok

 

For Maddie, a book about the Farmer’s Market that I stumbled upon at the bookstore. maddie book

 

 

 

I am looking forward to all of it but it will certainly make for a busy summer.

Third night of class and a bit of irony

silence

Yesterday Lucy wasn’t feeling well so I deliberately left for class a little later than I normally would. I like to get to school about an hour before class starts, this has been my routine every semester. I don’t feel rushed, if I get stuck in traffic it is not a concern, it gives me time to meditate and become centered before class. I also like that I have time on campus before class starts to review my reading. I like to go back through and review the main points of the chapter so I am prepared for the lecture.

So last night I arrived at school about 20 minutes early, enough time to sit and read before class. This worked out well as I had not completely finished one of the chapters during our busy weekend. I wasn’t too concerned as the chapter covers material I am already pretty familiar with but since I had the time I was going to go through and highlight key points.

I got up to the area where I normally sit and read only to find a chatty Cathy (or chatty Charles in this case)  from class pacing around. He was trying to talk to a classmate who was on her phone. Crap. I know I am not going to get any reading done. He greeted me with an excited Hello! which I responded politely to and then sat down and pulled out my book and highlighter.

Here is the irony of the situation, last week towards the end of class we started to cover some of the subtleties of the interviewing process. The professor talked about the importance of nonverbal communication and cues. She talked about not only being cognizant of what your body language and expressions are saying but being able to pick up on the nonverbal cues others are sending out. An example from the text talked about a girl who was running late for class and needed to check in with her academic advisor quickly on her way to class. It explained how the advisor did not pick up on any of the girl’s nonverbal cues when the girl was clearly trying to break from the conversation in order to rush off to class.

I say “clearly” but for some people nonverbal communication is difficult and not as clear. The other point the professor touched on briefly is the importance of allowing for silences. I get this. You do not need to explain this to me. For some people though any silence between two people is considered an awkward silence.

So fast forward back to last night, 2o minutes before class, here is Chatty Charles’ perfect opportunity to practice some of these things we discussed in class last week. If I were grading him I am sad to say he would have gotten an F. The other girl and I were sending out plenty of nonverbal cues that he was OBLIVIOUS to.

He tried to engage her, she made a phone call. Clearly she was trying to put up a wall between the two of them, he just kept talking to her. She never once engaged or responded, she completely ignored him, he kept talking. Then I arrive, am polite but short with my greeting and immediately sit down and pull out my book and highlighter and begin reading. Huge cues here, he missed it completely. He was going to talk whether anyone was listening or not because he could not handle being in the presence of other people and being quiet. I did not want to be rude so I occasionally would acknowledge what he was saying but I did not at any point encourage or engage him. I think this made him feel even more uncomfortable even possibly rejected because the longer I sat there trying to read and not engage the harder he tried to engage me to the point, in my opinion, of inappropriateness. He was over-sharing and then even went as far to ask for my phone number (for school purposes). It would have been different if he and I were talking about a school assignment etc and the conversation naturally led to us exchanging phone numbers in case either of us had questions later. But in this case there was no ground work that led up to the request. He went from talking about his job to Hey we should exchange numbers in case you or your brother ever need me to print anything for you for class. I had said nothing to make him think that my brother and I were incapable of printing our own materials. I then realized the extent of his discomfort with the situation. He was grasping at straws trying to figure out how to engage me, I think he was taking it very personal that I was not taking part in his (scattered and quite meaningless) conversation. At no point did he stop and look at the situation to realize, This isn’t about me, this girl is just trying to study and she can’t do that while I am talking to her. Instead he internalized what he perceived as my icy behavior and thought I was in some way rejecting him so he did anything he could to appear more friendly in attempt to get my attention..

I could be wrong about some of this but it is how I read the situation and I am pretty sure my intuition is right on.

Right after he asked to exchange phone numbers my phone rang which saved me from having to respond. It was my brother so I went and met him outside to excuse myself from the situation.

The irony continued into class. We spent more time discussing nonverbal behavior and why it is important to allow for silences with a client, sometimes people need a moment to process what is going on or the topic. The professor then put on a video for us to watch, it was a counseling session between a clinician and a client. I found it very helpful, listening to the way the clinician worded his questions, his way of seeking clarification how he chose to use close ended questions so that they still allowed for reflection from the client, it was very interesting. What is even more interesting (here comes the irony) is that at one point in the video the clinician asked a direct open-ended question that clearly had an impact on the client. The client was silent for at least 30 seconds if not longer to reflect on the question and in answering it you can tell his tone changed.

There were 3 people in the class that raised there hands or called out to the professor during this 30 second silent period to make her aware that the video paused. Even after everything we talked about in regards to deliberate silences they still didn’t get it. They had no clue that the silence was apart of the video, they thought the CD was skipping. I think that is very telling. I also think that should have served as an A-Ha moment for some people.

You have to be self-aware.  Not everything is about you, you have to be thinking about the other person. Silence might make you feel uncomfortable but think about where it is coming from and is it something that maybe the other person needs either because they are reflecting on the conversation or because they are trying to study..

The subject matter of this week’s class was interesting, as was what I observed in some of my classmates. We all have areas we need to work on, it is interesting to watch each other come to our own realizations about these areas that maybe need some work.

 

Documentaries that will move you

from-one-second-to-the-next

While enjoying our down time yesterday Todd and I watched some documentaries on Netflix. We have been watching an astronomy/physics series recently so Todd picked my favorite category when selecting the documentaries, social and cultural.

We first watched For the Bible Tells Me So. This documentary follows the lives of families that were brought up in religions that told them being gay is a sin and then ended up having a family member who is gay. All the families were transformed by the revelation of having a gay family member, some of them did not come around in time though. The documentary is empowering. Many of the families who were originally anti-gay or at least uncomfortable with the idea based on the teachings of their churches, in the end became equal rights activists. I really liked it and recommend it.

The next documentary we watched was The House I Live In. This documentary had to do with “the war on drugs” in America. This documentary brought to light so much information I did not know. Our nation’s skewed drug laws and who they really affect. The mandatory minimums on sentencing really blew my mind. It showed how drugs impact not only those who choose to sell or use them but the families and future generations. It also shed light on the politics involved in all of it which, no surprise, seem crooked. Also a very good documentary and another I would recommend.

The last one I watched alone. This topic is a hot button issue for me and I know when it comes to certain social problems I am like a broken record but until there is no longer a problem I am going to keep playing my same old tune.

The documentary I watched today is called From One Second to the Next. This documentary is all about the consequences of texting while driving. You hear first hand the devastation that can be caused by this kind of reckless behavior. The documentary features I think 4 or 5 different accounts of lives that were forever changed in a second because of distracting driving.

It was such a mixture of emotions for me while watching. This is an issue that already concerns me a great deal so I  felt angry most of this documentary. My anger is not so much directed at the people who chose to text, those who were brave enough to speak on camera about their accidents were clearly remorseful and damaged by what happened. They need forgiveness and understanding not judgement. The situation in general drives me crazy though because it is such a simple thing that causes so much pain.

The other thing I noticed that really bothered me is that none of these interviews with the people who caused the accidents were done from jail. A man kills 3 children, I expect him to serve sometime in jail at least, I am not even saying prison but county jail. Now after hearing his story and seeing how clearly destroyed he is by his poor judgement yes I feel sympathy for him but to be able to kill three children and walk away with ZERO consequences? That does not seem right to me at all. What is a human life worth that we can allow three to end in such a violent horrific manner with no action taken against the responsible party? I do feel that each case is different, I am not calling for blanket laws that have mandatory minimum sentencing but at least community service, something. I don’t know.

Your heart breaks not just for the victims and their families but for those responsible. It is a terrible burden to live with I am sure. What kills me though is that this is a burden no one would ever have to live with if everyone just did the right thing.

 

 

School and Memorial day weekend

ss

 

Grades are starting to roll in. On my first exam in my online class I received an 88. I was sure I got an A so I was slightly let down but I know better than to turn my nose up at a B. My writing assignments have both returned grades of 100, very pleased in that regard.

The weekend was a flash of sun and water and shopping and parties, we are exhausted, the good kind. I can barely remember back to Friday but I know Todd was off. Oh yeah, it was a low-key day, we cleaned and ran some errands mainly. Todd got me new summer flowers for my planter in front of our house so Lucy and I spent some time in the afternoon in the front yard planting.

I had to explain to Todd that the flowers/plants in the planter are seasonal, to be changed with the season. In the spring we bought these adorable ornamental cabbages that were perfect for Easter, very “Peter Cotton Tail”. I have never planted ornamental cabbages before however, so I was not aware of what they become if left to go unchecked. They grow tall with few leaves around the stock and look like a poodle tail coming out of the dirt, long skinny tail with a poof at the end. Quite ridiculous really. Todd doesn’t understand about changing the flowers with the seasons. I like Mums for fall, Poinsettia for winter, something green or pink for spring and something vibrant like a red for summer. After I explained that planters are not for permanent plants and he saw the sad and unusual state of the cabbages he agreed it was time for something new. After some time outside planting we took Lucy for a walk to the ice cream shop in town and had an ice cream.

Saturday we spent the entire day at the beach. My two cousins play volleyball, they played in high school, on club teams in college (as UCF did not have a men’s team) and now one of them coaches professionally at high school level. Saturday there was a huge volley ball tournament at the beach so we went to watch.The boys were playing together and my cousin’s girlfriend was playing with one of her friends as well. My cousin’s did well in the beginning, winning their first three matches but then the sun and physical exertion caught up with them. They won one more match before losing. My cousin’s girlfriend made third in the tournament for women. It was fun watching everyone play and it was the perfect day for the beach, not a cloud in the sky.

Sunday was a pool party and BBQ. We took Lucy and she swam in the pool, we were shocked. It threatened of rain later in the afternoon but never followed through. It ended up being a nice reprieve from the heat.

Today was another quiet day. We did start our wedding registry though. This has not been a high priority for us. We really don’t have a need for anything. We have been living together for over two years and both were pretty well equipped with “stuff” before ever moving in together. Our registry is just an opportunity to maybe upgrade some of what we already have. We have only registered at one store so far, that was overwhelming enough for one day. When we reviewed our registry later we realized it looked pretty skimpy but we decided to leave it. We are not going to register for traditional registry items that we just do not need, it doesn’t make sense.

For example, the person assigned to us at the store was really trying to sell me on the KitchenAid mixer. She was attempting to entice me with its wide array of colors and while yes, I think their colorful vintage style is charming, for me it is completely impractical. I do not bake. I do not enjoy baking in the least and have no interest in cleaning that thing. I have a hand mixer that I use once a year to make Todd’s birthday cake, it is a breeze to clean and it works just fine.

Then it was the margarita maker, Um it’s called a blender. Or the ice cream maker, I will admit we considered this one for a moment, but ultimately No. We would not use it enough to warrant the amount space it would occupy in a cabinet. If I am going to be frivolous it will be with design items like area rugs or throw pillows, not small appliances that take up valuable kitchen cabinet real estate. We did register for a nice set of sheets and bath towels that I would never dream of spending the money on, to us that was a splurge. I am sure the person helping us found us to be quite dull. I see the value in a nice set of bath towels for when guests come over though and I see the value in plush sheets. These are things that will be used where as the beautiful KitchenAid mixer will become an art piece collecting dust in my kitchen.

I am sure every couple is different when it comes to this aspect of wedding planning. This part, like so many others in the planning process, is all about personal taste.

All in all it was a nice weekend. The bulk of the weekend was busy so I am glad we had one day to decompress.

Second night of class, values and ethics

ethics-art

I really enjoyed class last night. We started covering the difference between our personal values and the NASW Code of Ethics. Specifically our professor was trying to drive home the difference between what our personal values and beliefs might be versus what is ethical. Essentially the lesson was “Leave your ideals at the door”.

We started class by taking a “Values Inventory” to help each of us understand ourselves better by understanding what is important to us. There were 24 different values listed and based on the assessment mine rank as follows:

1. World Peace
2. (there was a tie for second place for me) Altruism and Emotional Well-Being
3. Morality
4. (there was a three-way tie for fourth) Equality, Honesty and Love
5. (Two way tie for fifth) Knowledge and Health
6. Wisdom
7. (Two way tie for seventh) Autonomy and Skills
8. (Three way tie for eighth) Loyalty, Creativity and Self-Respect
9. Achievement
10. Comfortable Life
11. (two-way tie for eleventh) Recognition and Pleasure
12. (three-way tie for twelfth) Appearance, Beauty and Exciting Life
13. Power
14. Religion

I was not too surprised by my results. My top, middle and bottom rankings all fit I’d say.

After this exercise the professor asked for volunteers to participate in a role play. I was reluctant but my brother pushed me to volunteer. There were 9 of us at the front of the class who were “the clients” (that was about half of the class last night) and the  other half of the class remaining in their seats were the clinicians.

It went really well. What I was surprised by was the behavior of some of the “clients”. The instructions were as follows,

The instructor is going to read off a scenario and then she is going to call on us individually for reactions. The initial responses from some of my peers were very emotional and reactionary I felt. I guess that is a good thing because they were being honest for one and secondly because in the real world this is some of what we will be dealing with, so for those who were playing the role of clinician it was good practice.

After the exercise we fell into some in-depth discussions about ethics. Again the professor would give us scenarios, ask to think about how we would handle them and then she would tell us the ethical way to handle each scenario. I was on point each time.

I really felt centered and in tune, it was a great feeling. Both my brother and I are building a meaningful rapport and reputations for ourselves individually with the professor and the students and I am really pleased. Last night after class 8 of us stayed after sharing ideas and getting to know each other better. It is so nice to be in an environment with so many others that have these shared ideals.

My online class for my minor is also going well. Our professor sends us links for Ted Talks that we have to watch and then respond to. Right up my alley. In fact, one of the videos we have to watch and respond to later in the semester is Aubrey de Grey’s A Roadmap to End Aging. I wrote a post bout it HERE a few semesters ago. It is in my top three favorite TED talks, right up there next to Brene Brown. I find the subject matter in this class very interesting, it relates to work I would like to do in the field.

All in all I feel really good about everything school related. I really look forward to class every week and gaining new insight into the field.

 

If there was anything you were ever meant to do, this is it.

negative self talk

Those were some of the last words Todd said to me before bed last night and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Yesterday was not one of my best days in recent history.

I woke up early with Todd as usual and we both got ready for the day. When he left for work I left for campus to go buy one of my books. I arrived on campus around 9:45 and went to the bookstore to buy my book. Then I walked over to the Starbucks that is attached to my building, bought a chai tea and settled into a leather chair to read. I have a tendency to block everything out when I am reading, so it was not until a crack of thunder broke my concentration that I realized how long I had been sitting there reading. My empty tea-cup sat beside me, the last sip long ago swallowed and I looked at my watch, 2:00.

My gut reaction, Shit 2:00! Where did the day go?! Then I looked outside to see nothing but ominous storms clouds closing in. Double shit! I have to get home to Lucy.

I packed all my belongings back into my bag, threw away my tea-cup and headed for the car. As I approached my car I saw a piece of paper on the wind shield, when I got closer I saw the words parking citation (or maybe it said ticket, honestly now I cannot remember).

Triple shit. what is this for? I have a sticker and I am in the appropriate lot.. Then I realized this was not my car. Oh thank goodness. The car looked just like mine but in fact my car was parked one more row back.

So I get in my car and head home hoping to beat the storm. I was hoping to be able to let Lucy out without her having to get all wet but also I hate driving in the rain. Driving in the rain, especially a bad storm is a huge anxiety trigger for me. I am able to do it but it puts me hugely on edge.

I get to the toll road and merge into traffic and after a minute or two I notice there seems to be an unusually high number of police cars on the road. I assume something must be going on, maybe an accident or something and keep driving. After I paid the first toll I am trying to merge into traffic and notice there is a police car on the shoulder near where I need to merge. I am able to merge and try to switch lanes again to be in a middle lane but am unable because there is a car right next to me.

I don’t think much else about it and continue driving. As I am going along all I am thinking is how I am such a bad puppy mother leaving Lucy in the crate all day and how it is probably already storming downtown. In the middle of me mentally kicking myself my phone starts to ring, interrupting the Pandora station streaming through my car’s stereo. I reach over and send the call to voice mail and continue on.

Suddenly I notice red and blue flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. I assume I am in the way of this police car and move one lane to the right in order to let it pass me. The car follows me into the right lane. Crap. So I switch lanes again even further to the right, follows me again. Oh yeah, I am definitely getting pulled over. Crum. I pull over to the shoulder, park, turn off my music, roll down my window and wait to be approached. While I am sitting there my mind is racing trying to figure out why I am getting pulled over. There is no way I was speeding, I never speed and if it was about to storm I was probably going 5 under out of fear. The only thing I could think is maybe he saw me pick up my phone to send the call to voice mail and thought I was texting? Wouldn’t that be ironic. Little miss anti-technology gets a ticket for “texting while driving”. I would have argued that one to the end.

The officer walks up and identifies himself and asks for my information. I hand over my license and relevant paperwork, he then proceeds to explain my transgression. He pulled me over because of what happened when I merged into traffic after paying my toll. He informed me that because there was a police car stopped on the shoulder of the road I should have removed myself from the right lane for the safety of the officer. He then said he did see that there was a car next to me making it impossible for me to switch lanes but in that case what I should have done was reduce my speed to half speed when passing the officer.

That makes total sense but the truth is I did not know that was the law. I thanked him for the information and apologized saying I was unaware. I was technically going under the speed limit at the time because I was in the acceleration process at the time trying to merge but my speed was not low enough to keep me out of trouble unfortunately. He walked back to his car for a few minutes and returned with my ticket.

I thanked him for the information again and apologized again and we parted ways. As soon as he walked away I started to cry. I have never cried when being pulled over before. The few times I have been pulled over either I had done nothing wrong therefore had nothing to worry about or I have known what I did wrong and was not upset about being pulled over because I knew I was wrong and the cop was right to pull me over. This to me felt unfair though, which I already know is ridiculous so please save your judgement. My anxiety was stirred up before the officer ever got to me so that is what brought me to tears. Being pulled over was just a physical confirmation of what I was already feeling, you suck Jill. The ride home was awful. I was mad at myself for losing track of time, my anxiety was stirred up by the threatening weather, I felt like a terrible puppy mother and imagined Lucy just sitting there miserable and having to pee. Then I put an officer’s life in danger (in the eyes of the law). I suck. My pity party was brief though because almost as soon as I pulled away from the shoulder it began to down pour.

It was the torrential type of rain that causes a complete white out making it near impossible to see a foot in front of your face. Great, this is my nightmare, I thought. It got me to stop crying though because now I had to be hyper focused on what I was doing. I ended up exiting sooner than I needed to just to be off such a busy road in bad weather. 10 minutes later I was home and amazingly Lucy still loved me and was happy to see me. Dogs are sweet that way.

I let her out and toweled her off when she came back in. Then I set up a blanket and pillow fort. Lucy and I spent the rest of the afternoon cuddling and studying until Todd came home. That helped my mood quite a bit.

When Todd called to let me know he was on his way home later I told him my story. I did my best not to cry but towards the end I couldn’t help myself. I spent most of the afternoon berating myself and I was feeling pretty low. He consoled me and admitted he familiar with that law either. It made me feel a little better to know I wasn’t the only one in the dark but ultimately I know that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it.

Todd arrived home about twenty minutes later. We ate dinner and then the three of us laid in the blanket fort on our pillows and watched New Girl. At the end of the night I had my textbook open but I wasn’t actually reading it, my mind was wandering. I was thinking about the day and still not feeling great about myself and self-doubt was starting to creep in from all sides. Todd was laying next to me starting t0 fall asleep and I asked him if he ever doubted himself when he was in the engineering program. He said Yes and that it was hard work at times but that he knew he would do well. I told him how I was feeling and that the “not good enoughs” were starting to creep back in. Then he looked at me and said If there was anything you were ever meant to do I know for a fact this is it.

That’s all I needed. A little reassurance. A vote of confidence. I am not perfect and sometimes I am really hard on myself. I am just thankful I have someone to remind I am OK when I forget. Another blogger once commented on one of my posts saying that all she could do is try her best everyday and be OK with that. She is right. I knew it then and I know it now. I have to allow myself to make mistakes and be imperfect. I care so much and do my best everyday, that is all I can ask of myself.

 

The pair and the first day of school

wpid-IMG_20140513_223503.jpg

This morning was like Christmas in our house. I woke up and jumped out of bed ready to start the day because today is my first day of social work classes! It’s finally here, I did it, I get to start at last! SOOOO Excited! I have my clothes all picked out, I have my school bag packed, I have my before school to-do list all made up and ready to go!

My class is in the evening so I have the day to do a few things around the house before I leave. I also need to stop on my way to campus to pick up a few supplies. I have been a ball of nervous excitement for two days waiting for my big day. Last night I was so wound up with anticipation I was sure I wouldn’t sleep. Todd told me a story to help  me relax. He told me about what his first couple of days at work were like and what it was like moving to a different state where he didn’t know anyone. I have heard parts of this story before but he never went into too much detail about his first and second day at work. It did calm me down a bit.

Something else that makes today different and special is that I am not the only one starting the social work program. I am sharing my first day of school with my brother.

Crazy right? I am not sure if I have mentioned this before or not but my brother is in fact a social work major as well and it just so happens that our schedules lined up so we will be starting the program together. My brother is military background. He left the military after 10 years of service and upon returning to civilian life decided to go back to school as well to obtain a degree in social work. Neither one of us influenced the other in our decisions. We both had very different paths that brought us to social work and have different plans for how we would like to use our degree when finished with school. Up to this point none of our classes while we were both finishing our AA overlapped. I was further along than my brother and the plan was for him to start UCF in the fall so he would be about one semester behind me in the program. Well he took a heavy course load last semester and was able to catch up. So here we are, both getting ready to have our first day of school together in the same class.

This new development gave me something to think about at first. I was thrilled for my brother and really excited we would be starting school together but then I started to think about it and got inside my own head for minute. When it comes to work and school I like for my actions, knowledge and work to be what represents me.  I am pleasant and approachable but I am not very social when starting a new job or class because for the first few weeks I am hyper focused on the work and getting into a groove.  I realized starting school with someone I am close with will make it harder for me to treat this class the way I do every other class or new work situation. I also felt apprehension about being part of a pair because that’s what this is now, at least for any class we end up in together. I am no longer Jill, passionate social work student. I am Jill, passionate social work student and X’s sister.

This is about the time I really got inside my own head a little too much. It’s just that I want to stand on my own. I want my own identity. I have said before I am uncomfortable with just being  someones wife or mother or, in this case, my brother’s sister. I was worried that the association with my name will no longer be my knowledge and work ethic but my brother.

I of course talked it out with Todd to get some perspective and then talked to my brother as well. This helped. My brother and I have different life experiences and different paths. We will both have opportunity to show this through our work and interactions. My brother and I are both good students who care about the work so even if we are identified as a pair it will be for the right reasons. Most importantly though I realized how special this is.

I am lucky to have this incredible shared experience with my brother. We will get to celebrate good grades together and commiserate when classes are tough and in two years graduate together. It’s really special and unique in itself. Not many people can say they were able to share this kind of experience with someone close to them. And at first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share this experience because it has been such a personal journey for me up to this point. If I was going to share it with anyone though my brother is the perfect person.  Not to mention we have different schedules meaning more often than not we will not be in the same classes, so it won’t be a completely shared experience.  I am sure I will have plenty of opportunity to make an impression on my own, as will he.

All in all I am just excited the day has finally come when I get to begin the next part of the journey and I think having someone I love and respect  by my side will make it that much better.

Bad eggs

 

Everything was going along fine this evening, we had dinner, talked about what we both did today, we talked about me starting classes tomorrow and then a little later we decided to watch an episode of New Girl together. The story I am going to share illustrates how easy it is for me to go from zero to anxiety over something ridiculous in a matter or minutes. The title of the episode was Eggs. The episode was about Zooey Deschanel’s character panicking over the fact that she is 30 with no prospects for having children in the near future. Her friend told her after turning 30 about 90% of your eggs die making it harder to get pregnant.

Todd turned and looked at me right after that line on the show. Zooey’s character, Jess, and I started freaking out simultaneously. Todd knew it was coming and started to laugh. I was half kidding and he knew it. He knows because we have talked about this before though that I am scared about the future and our chances of having children.

zooey eggs1

I have discussed this topic before and to recap I am essentially just worried that putting children off until after I am finished with school and am able to start working may be waiting too long. We agree that having children while I am still in school is not ideal though.

This episode really hit home for me. There are a lot of scary studies and statistics out there when it comes to having children over 30. I haven’t worried much about the subject for a while because the last time I went to see my lady doctor for my annual  I spoke to her at length about it. We discussed my concerns and some of the studies I have read and she definitely put me at ease. She said I am young and still have plenty of time.

The last time Todd and I talked in-depth about it we agreed that we are going to do what feels right to us. We will know when we are ready and that will be the right time regardless of age, school or work. We also agreed that on the off-chance that we have trouble getting pregnant there are plenty of options out there that we can look into.

Everything in our relationship has happened organically, nothing has ever felt forced or unnatural so I know this will be the same. We will know when we are ready and that will be the right time.

 

 

Can someone else get that?!

cell leash

I got the passive aggressive I’m-mad-at-you-but-don’t-want-to-admit-it treatment from a someone last weekend. I have no patience for this kind of thing. I don’t like confrontation but I don’t like falseness more. If you’re mad at me just tell me the truth so I can deal with it and we can move past it. The problem arises when the other person is upset over something petty. Nobody wants to admit to being petty.

I called to relay some information about plans that were being made and as soon as the phone connected on the other end I was getting nailed.

Me: Hey there, blah blah blah plans blah blah.

Other party: I’ve been calling you. (followed by a much longer than needed pause and further passive aggressive behavior)

So here is the scenario. I was called about plans that morning and confirmed that said plans were happening. First Todd and I needed to run some errands though and I made all of this clear when confirming the plans. So Todd and I ran our errands and as per usual I left my phone at home.

When we arrived home a few hours later I saw that I had three missed calls and three text messages from this person. The texts were non-emergent, run of the mill stuff and there was no voice mail so I finished up what I was doing, as I was involved in something at the time, and about twenty minutes later returned the call.

I got hammered for not picking up my phone and not responding to the texts.

My response: I am in fact returning your calls as you can see we are currently on the phone. (I realize this was probably a bit smart assy and unneeded) Is everything OK?

Other party: Yes (with more than a hint of frustration) but you can’t come over for an hour. (knowing full well we had already left the house and the dog was with us so it’s not like we could stop along the way and window shop etc)

I end the call and inform Todd that we have to turn a 15 minute card ride into an hour. We look at each other and I say Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Turns out, he was. Gelato. Ha. Good luck ruining my good day with your passive aggressive nonsense, I’m having gelato.

We were able to kill an hour and by the time we arrived the storm had passed and we had a nice evening.

I cannot lie though I was really annoyed by the whole situation. Especially because this is someone I am very close with which means they know how I am about the phone.

Sunday mid-morning I was writing when my phone went off. About 10 minutes later I checked it while passing through the kitchen and found that it was my girlfriend that lives a few minutes away inviting me to brunch.

(As a side note – I hate brunch. I wake up early so I cannot wait until late morning/early afternoon to eat. And because I eat breakfast early I am no longer interested in breakfast later in the day. Not to mention I do not like to drink during the day. Having a buzz in the daylight makes me completely disoriented. No, I don’t like brunch. For me there is breakfast and lunch and no in between.)

So even though brunch is an unnecessary, non-meal as far as I am concerned I agreed to meet her and went to my room to throw on a dress and some sunglasses. My friend has been up against a difficult situation recently and I assumed she wanted to talk.

It ended up working out well. I had not eaten yet anyway and we had a lot to discuss, plus it was a beautiful day that needed to be spent outdoors. So while at brunch I told my girlfriend about what happened the day before and how I felt about catching crap over the whole phone situation. She knows exactly what my feelings are on the matter so I did not have to explain my side of it and I needed some perspective which she was able to help me with.

Here is where I stand..

I am aware that I am difficult to reach at times. More often than not you are getting my voice mail the first time you call, which I do not check, and most of my text messages start with the phrase, Sorry, I just got this. I am sure this is incredibly annoying to most people especially if you are just looking for a quick answer on something.

But here is the positive side of it, when you are with me I am completely present. More often than not my phone is on silent or I did not even bring it. I am tuned in giving whatever it is I am doing 100% of my focus and that is way more important to me.

The one exception to all of this is when Todd calls. I always do my best to take his calls. But here is the thing about that, he only calls me at one time, when he is leaving work. Everyday he calls as he is leaving the office to let me know he is on his way home so I do my best to have my phone close by at that time of day each day. Although, if I have plans on any given day around the time he is getting off he knows I won’t be listening for my phone so he doesn’t call. Ultimately making it a non-issue.

I do feel bad at times when I take a while to get back to someone about something because I did not hear my phone or was painting or something and chose not to get up and see who was calling etc. And there have been times when I have missed out on things because I didn’t see the text saying, Hey let’s get lunch until 3:00. I don’t do any of this to be deliberately annoying and I appreciate that the majority of those with whom I am close understand and accept this about me.

I just refuse to allow my cell phone to become a leash. Just because I have a cell phone does not mean that a person can have direct access to me. I have voice mail, leave a message if you must. Eventually I will see that I have a missed call and return it. I mean hell, what did people do before cell phones when all we had were land lines? Oh yeah, we left messages for people and waited for a return phone call. Our society has become so jaded by immediate gratification and getting everything we want the second we want it that we have completely lost perspective. If I want to be disconnected that is my right and that’s it, there is nothing more to talk about.

The only area where I could potentially get pinched, as far as I am concerned, is in the case of an emergency. Even if there were an emergency though I do not worry too much because all of my important people have each others numbers. There might be a little phone tree action going on in order to reach me but it would happen.

I have set pretty clear boundaries in this area of my life and I feel good about it. I know that I have inspired others in my life as well. When I go out with my girlfriends for a girls night now we usually only carry one phone in the entire group in case we need to call a cab or something. That means that in a group that is sometimes as large as seven people we are all disconnected and really spending time together, I love that. I know a few people who followed my lead and deactivated their Facebook account as well which I think is awesome. It was never my intention to influence anyone else but I do feel good about my decisions regarding technology usage and am always glad to see something that has been positive in my life be positive for someone else as well.

 

 

Throwback Thursday: My childhood in movies

curlysue

I was watching The Labyrinth Sunday morning and to my utter shock Todd had never seen it before! Even more surprising, after watching the majority of the movie with me he actually liked it. This prompted me to spend the next 15 minutes pestering him with questions about what movies he did and did not see as a kid.

Can you believe he never saw or had even heard of Curly Sue?! OK, maybe you can. In his defense I don’t think Curly Sue was one boys cared as much about. It’s funny because when we talk about our childhoods together normally the answer to the question, “Did you ever do this?” is met with, “All the time”. We grew up in very similar circumstances and have many shared experiences. Although occasionally we surprise each other. For instance, Todd was floored to find out that I never used the expression “No cuts, no buts, no coconuts” as a child. Further, I actually never heard that expression used until I was older. Apparently in this scenario I am the weirdo. On the other hand I could not believe that Todd never used the expression, “Ooo Mum Mum Mum Mum” (you have to say fast) to signify someone doing something bad and getting busted for it.

Anyway, I feel like Todd really missed out on part of his childhood by not seeing some of the awesomeness that came out of the 80’s. To correct the situation I have compiled a list of 80’s movies I grew up on. The plan is to run the movies by him and then force him to watch any he may have missed. Everyone wins. Todd gets to see awesome throwback movies and I get a major dose of nostalgia, which I love.

And because I am feeling especially kind (not to mention by this point I think my love of lists is clear) I have decided to share said list here.

So here it is, my childhood in movies. (in no particular order)

1. The Labyrinth
2. Dark Crystal
3. Curly Sue4. Adventures in Babysitting
5. Polly
6. Valley Girl
7. Goonies
8. The Princess Bride
9. The Brave Little Toaster
10. The Secret of Nimh
11. An American Tale
12. Muppets Family Christmas
13. Turner and Hooch
14. The Burbs
15. Annie
16. The Never Ending Story
17. Stand by Me
18. Back to the Future (all of them)
19. Teen Wolf
20. Top Gun
21. Indiana Jones (all of them)
22. Ghost Busters (1 and 2)
23.Cocoon
24. D.A.R.Y.L
25. The Abyss
26. Gremlins
27. Milo and Otis
28. Romancing the Stone
29. Return to OZ
30. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
31. Beaches
32. Crocodile Dundee
33. Grease
34. Look Who’s Talking
35. Uncle Buck
36. Cocktail
37. Parenthood
38. Flight of the Navigator
39. Harry and the Hendersons
40. Short Circuit
41. The Garfield Christmas Special
42. Popeye
43. Working Girl
44. 3 Men and a Baby
45. Baby Boom
46. Quigley Down Under
47. The Witches
48. Roxanne
49. Coal Miner’s Daughter
50. Pete’s Dragon

and a few honorable mentions that were  not technically released in the 80’s but still some of my favorites growing up..

Robinhood Prince of Thieves
Father of the Bride
Pretty Woman
Hook
Teenage Mutant Turtles
Edward Scissor Hands
The Sandlot
The Parent Trap (1961)
McClintock
Tremors

 

When in doubt, write.

writing2

In one of my early posts entitled Anxiety is a Layer Cake I shared my struggle to overcome a compulsive behavior. In the post I was hesitant to divulge too much as I was still in the thick of it and did not want further scrutiny while working on my issues. Now that I have been able to successfully manage this compulsion for sometime I do not mind sharing that I struggled with emotional eating for sometime. Food for me, like so many others, was a means for immediate gratification when feeling down or anxious. Thankfully even at my worst I always had a certain degree of control over the situation. I knew when to stop, the fact that I was allowing food to be a crutch in first place was an issue though. In the earlier posting, towards the end of the entry, I mentioned that it was my hope that writing could possibly take the place of this crutch as a positive coping tool. I do believe that is exactly what has taken place.

I was reflecting on the last five years the other day as Todd and I are coming up on our three-year anniversary next month. Looking back and holding my former life up against my current reality I feel strong and proud. The amount of change my life has undergone in a relatively short span of time is really remarkable. I have set goals for myself and worked to meet each one.

Writing has absolutely played a huge role in all of this positive change. I feel more centered and sure of myself thanks to the quiet time for introspection and growth that writing allows. Now when things come up in life I find that instead of being reactionary the opposite is true for me. I take time to process everything. I think before I speak. I am acutely aware of everything I am feeling and have a better handle on what to do with those feelings whether they be good or bad.

Further, being with someone of similar ideals who genuinely understands me has made all the difference as well. All in  all I find myself in a very healthy place. Spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. My road towards all around personal growth was a long one and one I will continue to travel down. My initial epiphany that started me down this road came in 2007 after a crushing but much-needed end to a relationship. 7 years later all I can say is I am pleased with my progress.

Having a platform where I have allowed myself to be vulnerable and honest and truly feel things as I work through whatever is banging around in my head has been invaluable. I may have started this blog as a way to keep a record of my experiences as an adult student but it has become so much more than that. I am grateful I have had somewhere to just be me. I read back through my entries and it is all me, raw and uncensored, for better or for worse. I am so glad I decided to do this, unaware back then what it would mean to me. It does though, it means so much.

Refusing to take off the rose colored glasses: a lesson in defiance from an idealist

rose colored glasses

“..Real courage is.. when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” – To Kill a Mockingbird

 

2 months after I left work full-time and returned to school Todd and I decided to have a garage sale. We had moved into together roughly six months prior and had duplicates of almost everything. After living on your own for a while and then moving in with someone else who has been living alone as well this kind of thing happens.

Unlike Todd, I kind of like garage sales, hosting them at least. I see it as a reason to be outside and a wonderful opportunity for people watching. You never know what kind of interesting people you are going to encounter. What I don’t like about garage sales, haggling. I do not haggle. You tell me the price, I pay it. If I do not think a price is fair I do not pay it. That’s it. Everything is haggling with garage sales though. Ugh. Consequently I am not always as stern as I should be about my bottom line either which is where Todd comes in, he does not negotiate. This is the price, pay it or not. He hates his role at garage sales.

So, back to my point. At our first garage sale we were down sizing all of our duplicates as well as getting rid of  unused items that were taking up space. Towards the end of the day a woman came in and bought all of my books that were displayed. She and I were talking and discovered we have social work in common. She had just moved to College Park to be closer to her daughter who attends a local dance school but she had been a licensed Social Worker for 20+ years. When she found out social work was my intended major we exchanged emails to keep in touch and so I may ask her questions about the field. I immediately took her up on the offer of sharing field knowledge, I emailed her later that week.

Our correspondence was my first encounter with what I now think of as The Social Work Warning Label. In the last two years I have heard a variation of the warning label at least eight times. I know the actual number is higher but that is just the number of in-depth conversations I could remember off the top of my head and counted out on my fingers. There have been plenty of conversations in passing that have involved the warning label as well. So what is the social work warning label you might be wondering? Well if you are familiar or affiliated with the field I am sure you are already a few steps ahead of me.

Essentially it is the conversation that usually follows me telling anyone that has any experience with the field what my major is. It is the “be careful of this” talk ,and the “well this is what happened to my friend” talk, and all the other foreboding gloom and doom warnings that apparently come with this field. All of it is meant to be beneficial, none of it is meant to discourage me in any way. The phrase “burned out” seems to be synonymous with the field. This is just these people trying to prepare me for what may be the inevitable in their eyes based on what their experiences have been.

I was talking to Todd about all of this a few weeks ago after my most recent warning label conversation. This is what I have found, every person I have had interaction with in relation to this field has had either a word of warning for me or some other negative tid bit. I have never once heard one person say, “Oh Social Work huh? That’s great, I have been in the field for the last five years and I love it, most rewarding experience of my life.” or “My friend is a social worker and she absolutely loves it.” It is always more to the tune of, “I worked in X field as a social worker for 2 years and couldn’t handle it, now I do X job that is completely unrelated to my degree.” or “Oh my friend went to school for social work and worked for X out of college. She got burned out and now does X instead.” (Which is again usually completely unrelated to the degree).

There are positive inspiring stories as well but they are never what comes first and I feel they almost always carry an asterisk. It will be something like, “This is what I love about the work I do but you have to watch out for X, X and X.”

Balance, boundaries and self-preservation are always a reoccurring theme and clearly very important in this line of work.

I can admit, and have many times when having these conversations with people, that I may be at times a little more naive than most to the workings of the world around me. This, however, was not the case when making the decision to pursue social work.

There is a reason I did not start this journey until I was 28, I wasn’t ready. I have known since I was 18 that this is what fits for me. Even back then when I was still unsure of exactly who I was and who I wanted to be in this world, I knew. I needed time though. Time for life experience, time to mature emotionally, time to figure myself out. I knew all along that this field would be emotionally taxing, that at times I may be working with a broken system, that the work I do may be without recognition, that I could be putting my whole heart into a thankless pursuit and ultimately the work I do may never incur any kind of big change and in turn all I may ever be capable of is marginal improvements. It is still worth it, or what I mean to say is, I still see the worth in it.

In life I do tend to see the possibilities over how things currently are. I do look for the silver lining. There is good in everything and even if it kills me at times I know this is the only chance I have at feeling fulfilled. This is the one thing in my life that I am doing selfishly, just for me, because I know even if I am unable to make a difference in the big picture, trying will make all the difference in my own life.

Books: The good, the bad and the utterly disappointing.

books

At any given time I will be involved in a number of different books, all unfinished. Recently I have been picking up and putting down the Divergent trilogy, Look Me in the Eye and The Secret Life of Pronouns. I know some people do not like to move on to the next thing without finishing the last but I have never been this way. I have always been full of unfinished projects. What I read, draw, paint,write, watch, listen to.. It is all based on my mood. I don’t like to force anything. Sometimes I am in the mood for nonfiction, sometimes I want a novel.

I think most people can actually relate to this whether they are the unfinished project type or not. Think of it in terms of music preference. Sometimes you want something upbeat and fun, sometimes you want something slow and poetic. It is all based on your mood.

So, I finally finished the Divergent series and I am completely dissatisfied with the ending. As an aside, I am tired of allowing myself to become involved in book series just to be ultimately let down by the ending. It is a big commitment for me to read three books that are all tied together. As a rule I do not read series for this exact reason but sometimes the hype is too much and I have to know what everyone is raving about. Do you know what I have discovered? The first book is always best. Every time. Why I have not learned my lesson to just end it after the first, I don’t know. I must be some kind of literary masochist because I always continue knowing full well I will hate whatever is coming next.

To the credit of this particular trilogy I can say that the ending was at least befitting of the main character. They stayed true to the character they built which I appreciate. Unlike the Hunger Games trilogy whose ending left me infuriated. When I read a fiction piece the characters are my main focus. As I read I am always trying to figure them out because if the book is written well and they keep the characters true to themselves you can usually predict what happens next. I don’t mind a surprise here or there to keep things interesting but what I absolutely cannot stand is reading three books, getting to know the character whose every action is true to the way this character was written and then at the end they do something that goes against everything this character stood for. If it is done for the good of the story to leave you with a wild twist at the end, OK. But in the case of the Hunger Games I call Lazy Writing!

I digress. So after a disappointing ending and feeling like I had pushed through a lack luster 300+ pages for nothing I decided to go back to something a little more concrete. I picked The Secret Life of Pronouns back up. I had not yet become fully involved in this one yet as I had only read as far as the prologue previously. I feel confident based on the author’s straight forward approach to the subject matter thus far that this read will leave me feeling much less disenchanted at the end.

The author, James W. Pennebaker, is a social psychologist and language expert – I’m hooked already based solely on his credentials. I like that in this book he approaches the subject matter with a primary emphasis on the person and a secondary emphasis on language. The goal being to analyze what our language, specifically the words we choose to use in every day interactions, says about us. According to the author, Our most forgettable words, such as pronouns and prepositions, can be the most revealing: Their patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints.

I am very curious to get through this book and see what I have learned once on the other side.