A Few Days in the Eye of the Storm

whatever I want

The last two days have been uplifting. I somehow managed to be caught up enough on my reading, and  house work/school work to have some real time to do.. well whatever I want frankly.

Whatever I want. Man it feels good to say that out loud, and I totally did just then. So here I am on day two of whatever I want, talking to myself as I write, gazing out the guestroom window, and drinking a warm beverage out of my favorite tea cup.

Whatever I want, yep still feels good.

So this is what “whatever I want” has looked like for me,

Yesterday I did have an early meeting on campus but it was meaningful and incredibly worthwhile. I left feeling empowered and at peace which was a wonderful tone to set for the remainder of my first “whatever I want” day. I came home by way of a store where I bought myself this darling blue tunic I look forward to wearing this spring/summer. When I got home I made lunch, read my book for a while (my book, Wild, not a text or peer reviewed article. My book that I am reading for the sheer joy of reading and no other purpose at all). Then I started watching the first season of Mad Men while giving myself a manicure. A few episodes later I took a nap. After my nap  I made myself some fresh squeezed juice, wrote an email and then wrote in this blog.

After I updated my blog I went and sat on the loveseat in the sun room with Lucy and just stared out the window for a while. I let my mind wander and pretty soon my thoughts were dancing around like the sun beams on the wall of the room.

I thought about our next vacation in May and which dress I would like to wear for our Easter picnic. I thought about my book and the character and her courage. I thought about the loquat trees and the squirrels who were scrambling by with large loquats in their mouths. I thought about planting vegetables and flowers and which part of the yard gets the best light. I thought about babies and imagined Todd as a little league coach or a boyscout den father..

The point is I did not think about school or the program or upcoming assignments or my next client meeting or what was happening at Hospice without me. It was mainly day dreamy nonsense but it felt good.

In the evening Todd came home and we went to the grocery together. When we returned he made dinner while I put away the groceries. After dinner we watched a little TV and cuddled on the couch before going to bed where he played his logic games and I played my word games until lights out.

Today I had another early morning appointment that wrapped up quickly so I had the rest of the day to myself, again. Whatever I want, day two!

I went to a store and bought my brother-in-law a birthday card, I bought the kids Easter presents, in leu of books (our standard gift to children) I bought them outdoor activity stuff. I got them an over-sized frisbee, bubbles, a velcro mitt and fabric ball game.. Fun things that we can do outside with them at the picnic.

When I got home I made myself lunch and read some more of my book. After I did something I rarely take the time to do out of the shower, I gave myself a facial. It was sublime. Biore makes this mask that is self-heating, it makes your face feel brand new. Between that and a few other facial products I adore my face feels silk.

Right now I am writing, clearly, but when I am done I plan to continue my day of pampering with a home pedicure, more Mad Men and a hot bath.

Talk about self-care. I am so thankful to have a few days that belonging completely to me and they fell during such splendid weather too. I think this evening Todd and I wll have to take Lucy for a walk. We went for a long walk with her Sunday and it was really nice.

School Update

Classes are going well, all A’s in my social work classes and a well earned B in Bio. Hoping to make that an A by semester’s end, the tests are hard though. So far I have scored one A and 2 B’s, aiming for an A on the next 2 so I will be studying hard.

This week will be another busy one, my group for the community assessment project has a meeting scheduled Thursday morning with the principal of a local elementary school. We also plan to spend time in the community on Wednesday in an attempt to make connections with other communities members and hopefully schedule some more interviews. We have been given some leads on where to go so we will see how successful we are.

Last Thursday actors came to my Practice 2 class for role plays. The entire class was nervous, I don’t know one person that wasn’t intimidated by this assignment. I think the majority of us were also excited though, I know I had a mixture of emotions. Our initial meeting with our assigned client went well. There were 4 members of my group, we played the role of BSW interns at an agency. I feel very good about my part in the role play, I feel like I made a meaningful connection with client and was able to build trust. I know at some point our client will go into crisis, we have been warned that the role play will go in that direction. I am reviewing how to handle crisis situations with clients to prepare. I feel pretty good about my abilities and hope we will be effective in serving this client and getting them the help and assistance they need.

I met with one of my professors last who I see as a mentor in the program. She had suggested something to me last semester that I have been processing. I have not mentioned it up to this point because I had not made a decision on whether or not this was something I wanted to do.

Last semester this professor approached me about leadership opportunities as well as volunteer opportunities that would be coming up to determine whether I had interest in any of it. I was flattered that she had thought of me and that she thought me capable and told her I would have to think about it. One of the opportunities was in the student association in the social work program. I had an interest in possibly the role of Vice President but a month later my brother expressed an interest so I chose to step back. It did not feel right to me that both of us would be in leadership roles in the association and if it was something he felt strongly about I wanted that for him. I was interested but I don’t think it meant as much to me.

The volunteer opportunity was for this June when the NASW has their big social work conference. I have been on one of the committees that has been planning and prepping for the event and I will be volunteering at the event as well. I am excited about my role in preparing for the conference. I got to help review proposals and help brainstorm/plan different aspects. It has been an interesting behind-the-scenes experience. This will be the first social conference I attend as well so I am excited for that reason alone not to mention all the work I will be putting into it.

The last and biggest opportunity is the one I met with my professor about last week. I wanted to better understand the position before I made up my mind as to whether I thought I was the right person for the job and if I thought it was something I could make time for in my schedule. My professor has encouraged me on more than one occasion to consider entering my name in the running for NASW BSW student representative for Florida. It is something I have been considering since October and I have gone back and forth multiple times. Now that I fully understand the requirements of the position I do think I could do the job well. I am already familiar with many of the prominent NASW members in my area and even in some surrounding areas thanks to trainings I have attended, NASW meetings and my involvement in the planning for the June conference. I enjoy time spent doing these things and the connections I have made but ultimately I have decided not to enter my name in the running. This is a long-term commitment and I have no way of knowing what the next few semesters are going to look like for me as I finish my degree and start my internship.

I balance pretty well as it is right now but the further along I get in the program the more demanding it becomes and I do not want any other commitment to distract from my schooling, especially at the end. The other thing I had to consider is that by committing to a long-term thing like this means I am limited on other things I can become involved with due to lack of time. I know I want to volunteer with another organization starting either over the summer or in the fall and I am not sure I would be able to plus any other little things that come up between now and next May.

I emailed my professor this afternoon to thank her for meeting with me, inform her of my decision and thank her for her support. It means a lot to me that I have made the connection I have in this program with my instructors as well as fellow students.

Adventures in Baking

This morning I went to school early to take a make-up exam. I missed an exam Monday while in Tallahassee. After my exam I decided I would stop by the grocery on the way home. I wanted to make whole wheat veggie pasta salad for dinner and wanted to stop by the produce section for more veggies. While in the produce section I saw blueberries and decided blueberry bran muffins might be nice for breakfast this week. I have never made blueberry bran muffins before but I quickly found a recipe online and got my ingredients. I like this recipe because instead of oil it uses applesauce and instead of using only all purpose flour it combines it with whole wheat. Here is the LINK to the recipe.

I rarely bake as I have mentioned in prior posts but I have to say this venture was a total success. The muffins are delicious and filling and I am feeling very pleased with myself right now.

Getting Started

Ready to get started!

Boling Applies

Since the recipe called for apple sauce I chose to make my own. So I started my apples boiling.

Bran and Milk  Dry and Wet

The left photo is what my bran/almond milk mixture looked like after the ten minute period. the left photo is my bran mixture post applesauce mixture being added but pre-flour mixture which is shown to the left of the mixer.

Mess

It is not a true baking experience in my kitchen until I covered in one of the ingredients. This time it was baking powder, could be worse, at least it wasn’t egg. Ick.

Before Bake       After Bake

These are my before and after baking photos. My muffins needed the full 20 minutes in order to bake all the way through. The top became a nice brownish color and a few of the blueberries burst but they are DELICIOUS! I am not that familiar with baking/cooking etiquette, are you aloud to say that about your own food? Well either way, in my very subjective opinion these muffins are amazing.

Final Product

After I finished I juiced some oranges and had a lovely snack. I could totally run a B&B. haha.

LEAD 2015

Three words/phrases to sum up my LEAD experience: Eye-Opening, Meaningful, Exhausting. Extra emphasis on that last one, I felt completely used up by the time I arrived home yesterday evening. That is primarily due to making the long drive to Tallahassee and back in two days though, LEAD itself was nothing but wonderful.

We had the good fortune of being able to meet with a representative and speak with him about a few bills as well as thank him for some he had a hand in passing last year that benefit our profession. We also met with a few aids and by chance and absolute luck one of the aids we met with supports a representative who works closely with the Parramore community so we were able to schedule a meeting with her for when she is back in town to discuss the community for our community assessment project.

I was grateful for the time spent with classmates bounding over the issues and the experience, that was a really rewarding aspect of the trip for me. The long drive up gave my brother and I time to have some deep conversations we don’t always have time for which was beneficial for us both.

All in all it was well worth the drive, however if I am able to attend in the coming years I plan to do a few things differently like drive up a day or two early and stay an extra day so I am less worn out by that aspect of the trip. I will definitely schedule more meetings next time around now that I have a feel for how everything works. I also think I would stay in a different hotel, I will not get into it but it was not good.

before before2

I was up at 4am ready for my big road trip, however a bit sleepy-eyed.

I did it

This was my declaration of victory for managing the 5.5 hour drive with no anxiety issues. Long trips in the car are anxiety triggers for me, especially when I am driving and even more so when it rains as it did on the way to Tallahassee. This is the longest road trip I have ever personally driven myself, this was a moment to celebrate, I did well.

selfie old capitol building Prof Kohn joel and jill

Around the Capitol. These are a few of my friends from the program who I work with closely on projects etc. We stayed together most of the day meeting with aids and representatives. The picture in the middle is taken with my classmates and one of my favorite professors and mentors in the program. The last picture is my brother and I in front of the Historic Capitol Building.

Rep Jason Brodeur

After meeting with Representative Jason Brodeur, who is the representative for my brother’s district. Representative Brodeur is wearing the orange tie on the right.

Post Vacation Back to Work

key west vaca

 

Key West was a nice reprieve from the busy that is my life this semester. I have hit that middle point in the semester when my schedule always seems to explode. My social life is usually the only casualty, doing my best to keep it that way. This week it is tests and meetings and school events celebrating social work month. Hoping to fit it all in. Over the weekend I will be cramming for my next Bio exam and preparing for my trip to Tallahassee. To my dismay HB 583 is flying through the house, to my delight HB 511 seems to be picking up traction as well. I am looking forward to the trip, however I am far less excited about the drive as it will be me doing the heavy lifting in that regard. Nothing good music and car company can’t fix though.

Getting back to our vacation. The weather was beautiful and so was the scenery. We stayed at a really nice hotel, one of my favorites to date I would have to say. It was well hidden by foliage so it felt separate from all of the hustle and bustle of the touristy parts of Key West. It had four pools that were each separated by foliage so they felt intimate and tropical as well as a beach which is almost unheard of on Key West since it is essentially all coral. Everything seemed to be in bloom, which I don’t know if it is due to the season or if Key West is temperate enough year round for the plants to always be in bloom. Either way the entire island was covered in an array of color from bougainvillea mainly.

My favorite part was sunset. It is different there, the sun seems bigger when it falls beneath the horizon, I know it is not but it is a pretty illusion. The first night we went to Mallory square for the sunset festival that takes place every night. It was interesting and exciting but so crowded that actually seeing the sunset was challenging. The second night we watched the sunset from the jetty at Fort Zachary Taylor, it was FAR less crowded and we had front row seats. That night after sunset we went back to the hotel and Todd and I went swimming, it was a gorgeuos night. Our hotel was in a relatively remote part of the island so light pollution was lower than other areas allowing us to see the stars. That is something we don’t get here in the city, the light pollution is too high, we rarely see more than a Dipper or Orion’s belt. Out there though, it was a sky full of stars.

I was not a big fan of Duval street which came as no surprise. It was crowded and loud and overflowing with intoxicated people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day early. There were other parts of the island that I enjoyed more, Higgs Beach, Bahama Village, the fort. All in all it was a restful vacation and we had a great time. It was nice to turn my school brain off for a few days and take a break.

 

Four Months Later

Sunday will be four months since Todd and I got married, I realize this may seem like a strange in between time to be doing a look back, why not wait for the six month mark right? This post has a purpose though.

The days after our wedding and before we left for our honeymoon Todd and I spent reflecting on the day and reliving some of our favorite memories together. One thing that Todd said and I wholly agreed with was that we were very pleased with the decisions we made in hiring the vendors we did. Our DJ let us completely customize our playlist which was a big deal to us. Every detail and aspect of our wedding felt completely personalized and very us, thanks largely in part to our vendors. Todd and I did not want to prepare our own vows because we were concerned it would put to much pressure on us day of when emotions were high so instead our officiant had us write our vows and he read them allowed for us. It was all I could do not to cry as I heard him speak Todd’s words as well as my own, I was glad the ceremony was personalized in this way and that I was not responsible for getting the words out myself because I am not convinced I could have at the time.

We also had a highly recommended videographer who was worth every penny and I can really say that with confidence now that we have gotten the video back. She created a 12 minute movie and then also gave us two other videos that included all the key moments of the day including the entire ceremony, every speech, the first dances etc. The vendor we were most excited about though was our photographer. We put a lot of energy into our research when choosing the photographer. We ultimately made our choice based on the portfolio and reviews. The pictures are stunning and really speak for themselves but the rave reviews helped us make the decision as well.I do not regret our decision on any of the vendors I have mentioned but 4 months later I still have no wedding photos.

I was aware because our photographer is popular in the area and in high demand it would take a little longer to get the photos back but became concerned when we hit the 2.5 month mark and had not heard from them. I have never been married before, I do not know what is normal for this kind of thing. I waited another week and then sent an email to check in and get a status update. I was relieved to hear it was all coming along well and would be receiving the photos in another two weeks. I wasn’t even disappointed about having to wait another two weeks because at least I knew the timeline now and the end was in sight. This worked out perfectly because I knew Todd’s family was coming to visit over spring break and I would be able to sit with his Mom and go through all the photos. Everyone has been asking about the photos so I was glad to finally have an answer about when they would be ready.

That was one month ago. When the deadline was not met I waited another week and a half before emailing again to check in. I kept hoping 1. that it was just taking an extra day or two and I would be getting them soon so the email would not be necessary or 2. that i would receive and email from the photographer explain the delay so I would not have to be the one to initiate the discussion. When I was almost at two weeks past the deadline the photographer set I finally gave in and sent an email asking for another update. I didn’t exactly know how to take the email I got back. The photographer apologized for the delay and told me there were two other weddings that had to go before mine. The email went on to say that something had happened in the photographer’s personal life and that was in part why there was a delay.

The way the photographer approached explaining this to me made me feel uncomfortable. It was started with a ” I wouldn’t normally share this with a client but since we are friends I will tell you” kind of sentence. But we are not friends. What you are telling me is none of my business, I have only ever known you on a professional level and while I sympathize with the situation I felt like the photographer was trying to guilt me into silent submission.

So now not only is my question about when will the photos be ready has not been answered.. To say I have two weddings to get out before yours is a completely ambiguous answer. How do I know what that means? But I have also been made to feel guilt for even asking because the photographer is dealing with something p[personally that is impeding their job apparently. I had no clue how to take this email or how to respond. The professional in me felt that this was completely inappropriate and unacceptable on many levels.

1. We have a contract, services were paid for and the final product has to be delivered as specified in the contract.

2. If something comes up, which is understandable, I expect to hear from you not to have to track you down for answers. There were a few times in my professional life when I realized I was not going to make a deadline and as soon as I realized it I would contact the other party and make them aware. I did not wait for the other party to contact me once the the deadline passed, that is unprofessional.

3. The amount of self-disclosure shared made me uncomfortable, it was not professional. And also to say, I only tell you this because I consider you a friend. No. That is not Okay. I have done nothing to imply this relationship was ever anything but professional. It is not right to put me in this position.

I waited three days before responding, all the while I feel like everyone I know is telling me how to handle the situation. It is difficult to remain professional and level headed when everyone around you is getting heated and telling you to escalate. Well that is not me.

I waited three days, like I said, and then responded honestly with compassion while still being assertive and professional. Since no clear timeline was given in the last email and the last timeline that was given had passed I ended the email by suggesting  a new timeline that Todd and I were comfortable with. I did not hear back from the photographer for multiple days after my last email and no recognition was made of my requested timeline, instead another ambiguous timeline was given that would difficult to hold a person to, by design I am sure.

At this point Todd has agreed to take over correspondence. We have a date in our head that we think is reasonable and if it passed Todd will follow up. Honestly I am not upset with the photographer, the company is privately owned, our photographer is a one person show, I understand how life could get in the way. I still believe that our finished product will be wonderful and this person has amazing talent. The situation is frustrating though because I am approaching it as a customer (because I am) and the service we have received on the back end has been sub par.

It is disappointing. We were still on a bit of high for a while after the wedding because there were still wedding related things happening. We sent out thank you cards, got our video back, went shopping with wedding money. At this point we have settled back into our lives, which I am not upset about, but the excitement has settled. I am still looking forward to getting our photos back but the momentum and excitement has died out. It does not feel the same, is that make sense.

This is the only thing I plan to ever write about this experience though and I have been careful not to use names or any other unique identifier in talking about this experience because although I am displeased I have no ill will towards our amazing photographer and would not ever write a negative review or do anything else that would ever harm their business.

I also have had to have a talk with some friends and family to ask them to back off a bit. I know everyone is frustrated but I am comfortable with the way the situation is being handled on our end and it does not benefit me to have multiple people venting to me about my own problem and potentially getting me worked up. I only have so much control here and I am choosing to let go so that needs to be respected.

John Wayne and Mint Candy Can Rip Me in Two: A Personal Account of Disenfranchised Grief

A year ago I posted a private entry to my blog as I was struggling with something that was so raw I had no courage at all to share it. I have allowed myself to be vulnerable on this blog over the years but this one time I could not allow the world in. The thing about vulnerability and sharing our stories, the deep ones that are directly connected to our souls, is that in doing this we give up a little bit of our power. Sharing can be freeing, it can feel like you are letting something go, something heavy that needed to be released. So we may be giving up some of power by allowing others in but we also take away some of the power a painful memory has over us as well.

This is the only post I have ever set to private on this blog and that is because one year ago this pain was still too raw and too deep to share openly. As I reread this post recently and relived the anguish I felt while writing it as well as the grief I have experienced since losing this person I realized I am finally beginning to heal. That is not to say the grief does not still bubble up from time to time but it is not as raw and deep as it was even one year ago. When I wrote this post March 3rd of last year I closed it with an open letter to my Papa, I spoke directly to him from the heart and I think that made all the difference. I no longer blame myself for not being present when he passed, I no longer feel guilt or regret. I miss him and that is it and that is OK.

I have decided to share this post now because I am ready to release this memory of some of it’s power. I no longer feel burdened by the memories surrounding my Papa’s death and I am ready to let go of the burden and pain I felt when I initially posted this entry.

 

hospice quote

 

I stumbled upon this tonight and as I was reading it everything inside of me started to hurt. I know everyone experiences grief differently, it is usually something that catches me off guard. I will be fine for a while and then something simple brings me back to a moment and I am shattered all over again. Life does go on after loss and the pain subsides only bubbling up occasionally but when it does it is sharp, a true physical hurt.

As good as I am at sharing my feelings and communicating I shut down when these particular feelings surface. A piece of me feels like I won’t be understood. I feel like because it was my grandfather I am not supposed to grieve for this long. Grandparents are older, they pass and although it is sad it is as if because they were older it should somehow be less sad, some how it is less painful, and for a shorter period of time. My insides don’t see it that way though. All I know is that 4 years ago I lost one of the most important men in my life and it hasn’t stopped hurting yet. His age when he died does not make it hurt any less. I still feel angry, I still feel crushed by the weight of my sadness at times and the depth of my pain when it surfaces embarrasses me a little. I just don’t want this loss that was, for me, so significant to be trivialized by someone else because they don’t understand why years later I still grieve for him from time to time.

I think the reason it is so hard for me to push through it is because I have some regret. I have tried to work through it in grief counseling but I just have not been able to forgive myself for not being there. The rational side of me knows I did nothing wrong and if he were alive and aware of the burden I have put on myself with these feelings he would tell me there is nothing to forgive and to let go but I just have not been able to. I still feel so angry with myself and nothing I have been able to do up to this point fills this hole for me.

 

Papa,

Sometimes I forget that you’re gone. It is a deliberate forgetfulness, more of a denial at times to be honest. I just haven’t completely figured out yet how to live in a world that you are not apart of. Losing you made me realize that it doesn’t matter how much you love or are grateful for anything, you don’t get to keep it. It’s hard for me to put a positive spin on that and it terrifies me. It’s all incredibly unfair and I feel like a child saying that out loud but it is true and it is how I feel and it infuriates me. I haven’t stopped loving you just because you are no longer here so I what am I supposed to do with that? I want to sit next to you and I want you to pat my knee while I rest my head on your shoulder. I want you to tell me your stories, I know them all by heart but I miss your voice. I’m sorry I wasn’t there, I know you would forgive me but you are not here to do that and I have not been able to forgive myself. It scares me and breaks my heart to think that you may have been scared. That is my biggest fear and I know that now it makes no difference because you went peacefully but I just hate to think that you knew what was going on and you were scared. I thought I saw that in your eyes and it just killed me, I have had trouble moving on from that worry. I hope you felt comforted. I just wish I had been there, I’m sorry and I love you and I will try to let go of my regret because I know you wouldn’t like me feeling this way, I just haven’t figured out how yet.

I see so much of you in the person I have become and am still becoming. I love people the way you did, conversations with strangers, helping people, all of it. I wish you could have met Todd, he would have loved you and you would have loved him. He is so gentle and dutiful, I think you would have liked that about him. He is intelligent and fair-minded and I see him and Daddy having a relationship like you and Daddy did. That is something I have always wanted in a man and it makes me so happy. I know he has accepted my family as his own and will help me take care of them as they get older. I really miss you, words are not big enough to explain how much. I love you Papa. I miss you.

It can’t be Social Work All the Time

key west1

 

In a class focused on communities we have a project that requires us to engage with an under served community and perform an assessment of need. We do this through research (pulling census data, historical information, information about the geographic boundaries of the community) windshield surveys and one on one interviews with community members/leaders. It is a group project and my group has completed the preliminary research which means we were ready to go into the field. Yesterday was our first day spent in the community. It was one other group member and myself. We first did a windshield survey and then parked and observed the community on foot.

When we were finished I drove my classmate back to her car and together we processed our perceptions about what we observed in the community. This conversation led to a broader conversation about the social work program. We began talking about our strengths and weaknesses in the program, as we see them, and what we are actively doing to grow in these areas of weaknesses. One thing I have been doing about this area where I feel I need to grow is research and reading, lots of reading. One of my professors, who is aware of my quest for knowledge in this area, brings me a new book to supplement my current reading every few weeks. Every time I finish one, she brings me another. I have been very heavy on the books this semester but it has helped. It helps make me feel like I have some control over this area where I want to improve, I am not fully grasp it yet but I am working at it and that helps me feel like I am making progress.

As this conversation progressed my classmate gave me some very honest and helpful insight into her perception of my growth. An important piece of advice she offered was to try not to over compensate. I sat on that for the rest of the day and realized how valuable what she said was. Admittedly this area I am working on is an area I feel a bit insecure, I don’t have the same confidence in my abilities in this area as I do in other areas. When feeling insecure in yourself it is easy to swing the pendulum the other direction and overcompensate for this area where you believe you are lacking. That doesn’t help anything though. Her words helped me take a step back from all my reading and work and research for a moment and realize I need to take a breath. I am not going to get it over night and I have to take a break sometimes to maintain balance. At one point when my classmate was talking about her insecurities and concerns in the program she even said, it can’t be social work all the time. She was referencing the importance of balance and self-care.

As it is spring break and with these words in mind I have decided to put down my mountain of research and reading materials and pick up a book to read for fun. It has been a while since I have read for fun, I haven’t had the opportunity. Any free time I do have I spend reading one of my texts of one of the borrowed texts from my professor. I actually went and saw her right before spring break to return one text and borrow a new one so I would have something to read while we are in Key West. Well it will just have to wait.

It is easy to be consumed by school, just like I am sure it is easy to be consumed by work and clients when in the field but I know better. That has been lesson one in this program from the beginning, balance. Vacation is not social work time it is Todd and Jill time, it is family time, it is beach time and reading for pleasure time. It is frilly drinks at sunset time and exploring new places time. School will still be there next week when I get back, I am no less committed to any of this because I take time for me.

I have to remember to come up for air sometimes. Once I came to these conclusions I excitedly picked a book from the bookcase that I have not read yet. Dad, Todd’s dad that is, bought me three new books for Christmas that he thought I would like, I cannot begin to express how touched I was by this. I have not had a chance to touch a single one so I decided to start with Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The New York Times called it “A literary and human triumph”. That sounds like exactly what I need right now.

I do have one more school related activity on my schedule for tomorrow but then I am done for the weekend. Todd’s parents arrive tomorrow late afternoon and we leave early Friday morning for Key West. This vacation could not come at a better time, this is a much needed opportunity to clear my head so I can return to my studies next week refreshed and open.

“Don’t Try to be Someone Else’s Beautiful”.

feminism

 

I read the quote from the title of this post on HONY today and I thought it was so appropriate being that it is International Women’s Day. As women (not that this applies singularly to women but for the sake of this post they are my focus) we are constantly receiving messages that portray a very skewed, narrow definition of beauty and worth. We are marketed to by being told we are ugly and broken in some way in an effort to get us to buy make-up and hair products, or the latest designer thing. The messages we receive tell us we are less-than because we are women but that consumerism will fill that hole society has created.

In honor of the day I would like to share a few things that make me feel inspired and empowered.

Everyday Feminism is my go to online magazine. It has the best articles that I would recommend to anyone.

Advanced Style Because real beauty does not know age. I love that this movement challenges stereotypes and shows that we do not have to conform to society’s expectations of us.

One of my favorite Ted Talks to help kick those “not good enoughs” we all feel in the ass.

I think it is really important as women that as often as possible we try to be each other’s allies. I think this important across the board but again, for the purpose of this post I am focusing on women. What I mean by this is not giving into the urge to tear each other down but instead choosing to be a source of empowerment.

Here is what this looks like for me:

Not giving into the impulse to lash out when a woman at work was condescending with me and instead meeting her condescension with compassion.

Being genuine and kind and choosing to engage with my ex’s girlfriend when we ran into each other on an elevator because I believe it is wrong to allow a man to pit two women, who would otherwise have no problem with each other, against each other.

Listening and validating a colleague as she explained how difficult it can be at times to wake up in the morning and be the person you want to be everyday when the messages we receive from the outside world make it so easy to give into our insecurities.

Not giving into the urge to actively or passively engage in gossip, especially about other women.

Not allowing myself to be a bystander in situations of any kind of discrimination, to include discrimination based on gender and/or sex.

Showing my love for friends/family by encouraging them to love and belong to themselves.

I think that is the take away message here, to always behave in a way towards each other that encourages women to love and accept their authentic self. We don’t have to all love each other, everyone is entitled to the way they feel. However, if we, as women, engage in any activity that hurts other women we are giving into a bigger system of oppression. That is not something I want to do.

Happy International Women’s Day. Be kind to each other and to yourself.

 

 

Chino and Stratego.

chino

 

Saturday morning we got up early. Our nephew is on a little league team that plays in my home town every Saturday morning. As we drove to the game The Cure was playing in the background. I love 80’s music, Joy Division, Tears for Fears, The Cure, New Order.. Todd, however, does not. I am always trying to work on him, an awesome Depeche Mode song will come on the radio and I will try to make him see how similar it is to some of the music we like now. I am always saying don’t you see how this band’s sound influenced that band’s sound? Rarely am I able to get anywhere.

So we are driving and Love Song is playing in the background. I ask if he knows who sings the song, he answers 311. I say, well yes, technically, but this is the original. Who sings the original? He is clueless. So I make a game of it and start giving hints. My first hint is that they were popular in the eighties and that they were one of the first true “emo” bands. His answer, The Deftones. WHAT?! I exclaim. Are you serious? You know The Deftones right? Please tell me you are joking. He admits he has never actually listened to them. I say, How did I let this happen? How did I marry someone that has never even heard The Deftones? Who is this person I am married to? I immediately stop the game, give him the answer and a little ear full about why The Cure is a great band the proceed to pull up YouTube on the radio to start educating him on the greatness that is Chino Moreno.

I start with the obvious, Change (In the House of Flies). Everyone likes that song, it is a classic and a good starting place for beginners. He liked it, likens them to Love Drug ( I guess I can see that) and I move on to the few songs, two of my favorites, Knife Party at the Niko and Passenger with Maynard from Tool. From there I pulled up Team Sleep and played my favorite, Tomb of Liegia as well as Ever (Foreign Flag). By the time we got to the little league field Todd was in agreement that Chino has an incredible voice and that both bands are worth listening to.

After the game Todd decided to introduce me to some awesomeness he knew I had never experienced before, Stratego. Todd has told me about it before, it is one of his favorite board games from childhood. It involves strategy (shocker) and fair degree of critical thinking skills. We picked it up at the store while I purchased a few items for a baby shower I was attending later in the day.

I went to the baby shower and when I got back in the evening Todd and I made drinks and started playing. I love board games, they are a great introvert activity, but this one is tricky. I am not the best at Chess and this game reminds me of a cross between Chess and Battleship. I have trouble mapping out multiple moves into the future when I play a game. Todd usually beats me at these kinds of games, and such was this case with this game. It is a lot of fun to play though. I like that your pieces are unknown to your opponent until they strike. It is going to take me sometime to get good though.

 

Hooray for Vaca!

key west

 

Todd’s parents are coming to visit next week during my spring break. This is exciting in and of itself. What is even more exciting though is that when Todd’s mom called to let us know they were coming she also announced that they want to go to the Keys while they are in Florida this time.

With that Todd and I started the research for a hotel within the parameters his parents gave us. They want to stay on Key West and gave us their portion of the budget for the hotel. We booked everything last month and I have been counting down the days since.

Now personally I have never had a real interest in the Keys. I don’t know why really but the thought of a vacation right is so welcome I would go just about anywhere other than here and be happy. As I have said this semester has been rough and I am so excited to just be out of town and turn my brain off for a few days.

The rental we reserved seems nice. It is two story and has a master suite on each floor which will be so nice because we will be together but still have our own private space. Our master suite has a soaker bath tub I am also super excited about. The one thing I really wish I had on our honeymoon was a bath tub. After all the walking we did I wanted to be able to just relax and soak at the end of the day ans was not able to. I may not even use it but I like knowing it is there if I want it. We also have our own private balcony that looks out over the west coast of Florida which will be nice for sunsets because it is my understanding that the beach is pretty much nonexistent down there.

What I am really looking forward to the most is just being somewhere different and getting to walk around holding Todd’s hand and explore. I am not looking for any real excitement just a change of scenery and a hand to hold.

I just have to get through the rest of this week and a few appointments I scheduled for myself over spring break and I will be able to switch into I-don’t-care-I-am-on-vacation mode.

Facing What Scares Me

I mentioned a while back that this semester the school of social work will be taking a field trip of sorts to Tallahassee to advocate for social issues. I have been looking forward to this sense learning about it when I entered into the program. March is Social Work month so that is when this event takes place and as the days grow nearer I feel my anxiety starting to grow.

I am excited about being there and the rally we will have as a school. I am excited about experiencing this with so many of my classmates. My anxiety stems from a fear I have of meeting in person with some of the legislatures or their aids to discuss one on one the issues I am passionate about. We do not have to schedule meetings, we can sit on committees or just walk around the capitol and observe the goings on. All of that is more my speed honesty. When put in new, unfamiliar surroundings I usually prefer to hang back and silently observe before engaging, I need an adjustment period. I need to get a feel for what is happening around me. The idea of getting up there and this all being new and exciting and me possibly feeling completely overstimulated and then walking into a meeting and trying to articulate a cohesive thought. I don’t know..

I would not even consider it if there were not causes I am personally passionate about, but there are. I would like to discuss HB511 and HB583. One concerns palliative care which is right in my wheel house. Some of my main areas of interest are end-of-life issues, terminal illness, palliative care and my big one, physician assisted suicide. The other bill has to do with prohibiting equal access to public facilities. It is offensive and completely discriminatory.

I am meeting with one of my professors this week to discuss my concerns about scheduling a meeting with representatives. This professor likes to push me, I know she sees a potential I have not realized so I do my best to follow her lead. She has already encouraged me to do this so I am hoping she can talk me through the process so I have a better idea of what to expect and will warm up to the idea.

I am not going to be disappointed in myself if I choose not to schedule any meetings and instead spend this first time in an observing role. I don’t want to force what does not feel right to me. I would like to challenge myself though. I think it would feel very rewarding to step outside of my comfort zone and put myself out there in a way I normally wouldn’t. I have still have a few weeks to decide ad I plan to use the time thoughtfully.

 

Feminist is NOT a Bad Word

fem

 

I grew up in a Catholic republican household. I know, for better or worse, I had a sheltered upbringing. With that being said, I do not ever remember hearing about feminism growing up but somehow in my subconscious there was this idea embedded that all feminists were bra-burning-radical-hippies. That idea didn’t come from no where, ya know? I am not blaming my parents in whole because society plays a huge role in that I am sure but I think my parents probably did have something to do with it.

So as you can imagine I have never wanted to associate myself with the feminist movement because I don’t consider myself that radical. Well you know what I realized, I am. If believing that all people should have equal access to pubic facilities (read more about HB 583), or that women should be able to wear whatever they want without being shamed, or that our society is fundamentally broken, makes me radical well then I guess that is just something I will have to live with.

I think I have always been afraid to identify as a feminist because I thought there was something bad or wrong about it. Although recently as I have been working through my feelings on this subject I came to realize I have always been a feminist. Even as a child I was stubborn and willful and unwilling to be controlled.

I remember things from my childhood now that help me own this part of my identity. Like when I watched The Sound of Music for the first time and fell in love with Maria because she was unwavering and stood up to the scary patriarch of the family. She knew who she was and what she stood for and no bully was going to silence her.

I remember watching a commercial for some dumb thing and thinking (as a child) the marketing was ridiculous. I remember asking my mother, “Why won’t they just be honest?” I remember she had no idea what I was talking about at the time because I was too young to express this complex thought eloquently but all I meant was if the product was any good they wouldn’t have to cover it up with all of this other flashy stuff to get you to buy it. I wanted companies to be direct with no frills, I learned in time that is now how it works.

While I have been working this out I have been doing a lot of thinking and a lot of reading and one thing I read really resonated with me. Maya Angelou was quoted saying “I am a feminist. I have been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” Um Yeah. It would be. Completely stupid in fact. Being a feminist, for me at least, is not just about equality for females, it is about equality across the board. It has to be, otherwise none of this means anything in my opinion.

Getting to this place where I can accept and embrace this, feminism, as a key part of my identity has been difficult and has been a long time coming. It is right up there with finally being able to own that I am an atheist. It is not easy to push through the ideals you were raised with into who you actually are and what you truly believe in. I would say I am a fledgling feminist because I have a pretty good foundation and good intentions but good intentions are dangerous without a better understanding of the issues. I am getting there though, this is big part of the growth I am experiencing right now and it is exciting.

Reformed Grammar Snob

love over hate

 

I have loved words and reading and writing and anything literary in nature since I was old enough to pick up Go Dog Go and read it to myself. Books and writing have always been a sanctuary for me, a place where I can block out all the noise of the world and get lost. It is peaceful in this place, I feel calm and in control. So it should come as no surprise understanding these deep love I have with reading and written word that I have always been a bit of a grammar Nazi. Actually Nazi is probably a little strong, in truth I have never been perfect with punctuation and word usage. For example, I am one of those people who have always had trouble with when to use effect versus affect. I have to look it up every time and even then sometimes I get it wrong.

So Nazi is definitely a little too strong but I was a snob for sure. In fact one of my biggest pet peeves in life has always been when people use double negatives. You know that cringing feeling you get when someone runs their nails on a chalk board, I bet you flinched even at the mere mention of the sound, well that is how I have always felt about double negatives. I have always been critical of other people’s vocabulary, or lack thereof in my opinion, and grammar etc. Because English has always been an area I excel and am naturally comfortable with I used this as leverage to look down on others. It was an area where I could be superior.

WTF?! That is all I can say now. I shit you not, this is exactly how I felt about it and I never gave any thought to how much of an ass that makes me. Well this is me recognizing my former assness and doing my best to correct said assness.

I subscribe to a feminist magazine online that has amazing articles about everyday microagressions, feminist issues, equality issues, how to be more self-aware and an overall better human being. Last Sunday I woke up early and stayed in bed for a while reading. That is when I stumbled across, what ended up being for me, a life changing article. I am not going to restate the entire article, you can read it in its entirety HERE.

Suffice to say it was a huge slap in the face that was apparently a LONG time coming. I see now that I have always held onto ideals of prescriptive grammar silently judging those who use slang etc.

Well that’s enough of that. I see how counterproductive and elitist that type of behavior is now and refuse to take part. So thankful for that much-needed kick in the ass.

Living in the Uncomfortable Place

growth

This semester has been the most difficult for me thus far. It is not specifically the semester that has been challenging, it is just this moment in time, is that makes sense. The issues I have been struggling with have been building slowing over time and recently it came to a point where I could no longer ignore what I was feeling. I had to take sometime, withdraw and focus on these feelings.

In doing this I set my blog to private for a while. I flirted with the idea of deleting it all together because I was not sure if I could be authentic going forward and that has always been my purpose, if that was no longer possible this blog serves no purpose. I hesitated though and I am glad I did because this place has been therapeutic in way over the years as I have been on this journey and I think it will continue to be now that I have a few things figured out.

I have definitely experienced some major growth in a short period of time, a lot of it is thanks to the social work program. I am excited about this but it also means I have been in this really uncomfortable transition place for a while. That is what growth is though sometimes, painful and awkward but incredibly satisfying once you make it to the other side. To be clear, I am not on the other side yet, I am living in this place of awkward discomfort and doing my best to embrace it and process everything.

Another aspect of my withdraw has been with family. This is where I felt concern about my ability to be authentic so I am going to try this on and see how it fits. I have felt a bit disconnected from my family for a while now. There are multiple reasons for this and it has been gradually building. My concern about being able to be authentic with this is that I do not know how comfortable I feel discussing my family issues on here. I am always reminding myself that I have to own everything I put out here for people to read and that is hard when it is something so personal.

Here is where I landed with my feelings on sharing this; I recognize that it is completely up to me what I choose to share here and what I don’t. This is my experience and I don’t owe anyone anything. This is something I need to process though and this blog has been a place for me to do just that over the years. I think it will be baby steps but there will undoubtedly be some personal posts coming out in the near future.

With that being said, for anyone that has been following my blog from the beginning (THANK YOU) you may notice some changes as I figure myself out. I do not know yet what this changes will look like yet but I feel a need to bring this blog up to date for where I am now instead staying in the place I was when I started it.