Organic Networking

networking

Advice I have been given time and again since entering into the SW program is about the importance of networking. I have heard warnings given in classes about how it is a tight knit community of social workers locally, everyone knows one another so your reputation is important. I have also been told that who you know may have a lot to do with what job offers you get so getting your name out there and making connections is crucial.

This all felt a bit overwhelming to me at first, the idea of networking that is. I thought networking meant having to sell yourself to others, it felt contrived and very disingenuous. I think I got this impression from working at the bank. There would be networking events and it all felt so phony, people rubbing elbows and laughing fake laughs at jokes that are not funny. Being the introvert that I am, I had no earthly idea how to approach networking. I knew I couldn’t fake sincerity for the sake of advancement not to mention that I am the worst at forced interaction. Small talk and idle banter while easy for some, for me is more like trying to walk around with my shoes on the wrong feet, it is clunky and unnatural.

One year later though I realize that networking is not some scary beast I have to somehow conquer and I certainly do not have to morph into an inauthentic version of myself to do it. Moreover I understand now that one of the key ingredients in making a meaningful connection is authenticity, faking anything would be nothing but counter productive anyway. What a relief. After all, that is all networking really is anyway, making connections.

What was I so afraid of? This all occurred to me today after a made yet another great connection at Hospice while working my volunteer shift. I was manning the front desk when one of the LCSWs walked by. She and I have never formerly met, I believe she works in the field and may only come in for weekly team meetings. I recognize her every time because she was at the CEU event last fall I attended. Apparently she remembered me as well because today she stopped and introduced herself after her meeting. She said she did in fact remember me from the training and asked what my connection to social work was, I told her and then she asked if I would like to meet with her sometime so we could talk social work. I was thrilled, Yes, I would love to!

Networking. Just like that. I am eager to hear about her role with hospice, I think she visits patients in facilities and at home, I could be wrong. If I am right though I am very curious about the work she does. That is something that I feel a bit unsure of, the thought of going to a client’s home. I have heard stories about safety issues etc and I wonder what that looks like in real life, I would love to hear her take on it. Either way I am thrilled to have another opportunity to make a connection with someone in the field and learn from someone with experience.

I recognize now that while networking can be this elbow rubbing, fake laughing show it can also be very straightforward and heartfelt. I find in my experiences with networking in this field so far that it is more likely that any networking that takes place does so naturally. Nothing has felt manipulated or forced. In most cases it was just ordinary happenstance that led to a connection being made. It seems silly now that I was ever concerned with it at all.

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Summer Plans and Summer Reading

Wildwood_by_Colin_Meloy_cover

With one week left in the semester I decided yesterday that it was time to decide on my summer reading list. I will have a few new texts to get through but with only two classes this summer it will leave plenty of time for fun reading, so I hope at least. I returned my most recent supplemental text to my professor and took another on loan for the summer. This one covers diversity, oppression and change. I appreciate having a professor that is so willing to lend me books. The texts she shares with me are the texts they teach at Grad level and I find that they expand on the concepts we discuss in classes much more than any of our BSW texts do.

In terms of personal reading, I am in the last few chapters of Wild by Cheryl Strayed so Todd and I made a trip to the bookstore yesterday to get something new.

In truth I have a stack of books at home still waiting to be read but they are all nonfiction or at least realistic in nature. I want something whimsical and not of this world. I had considered A Wrinkle in Time because that is not one I never read in school and since it is written for a younger audience it is guaranteed to be imaginative as well as an easy read. When I got to the bookstore though my mind was quickly changed. While in the children’s section looking for A Wrinkle in Time I found Wildwood by Colin Meloy. It was the cover art by Carson Ellis that initially caught my eye. I flipped the book over, read the synopsis and was sold. It is exactly what I was looking for. I opened the book and read the few pages to make sure it was not too easy of a read and I was not disappointed. It will be a perfect escape this summer.

We planned to have an actual escape of sorts this summer but those plans have since been changed. Isaac’s little league team was scheduled to have a big game in the Tampa area in May so we were all going to make a weekend trip out of it. The league cancelled the trip do to poor weather the last few years when they have gone so we decided not to go either. Todd and I talked about the possibility of a weekend trip at a different beach but decided against it.

In August we will be in Chicago for the Foo Fighters concert and we talked about the possibility of a short trip in October to celebrate our anniversary. Not to mention we will be back in Chicago for Thanksgiving. With three trips potentially happening within a small span of time the want to travel this summer does not seem pressing. Instead we have discussed a list of options for day trips and other fun things to do locally to occupy our free time this summer. We will do a tour of a brewery in town as well as a vineyard/winery I once visited that was nice. We’ve also discussed taking Lucy to the dog beach a few times. Plus we will have our sleepovers with the kids and plenty of opportunities for fun date nights.

Our next door neighbor stopped us as we were coming home from a walk with Lucy last week in the evening, he needed to borrow some butter. As I started for the door to go get him some butter he asked us how married life was treating us, a question we have gotten a lot in the last six months. We told him what we tell everyone else, it’s the same. It was good before and nothing has changed. I am really thankful for that. It’s not that I think everything will always be as it is now.. There will be periods of change, of growth, of difficulty but I firmly believe it will always be good. No matter what we face there will always be good here.

The last 6 months have been every bit as good as the three years that preceded them and I am sure this summer and the next six months will follow that same trend of “good”. I am thankful for the time we have had and look forward to what is to come.

5, 10, 30 year plan

todd

As per usual last night was date night. We had dinner at a restaurant in the local community market. After dinner we went into the market to check out the bookstore. This bookstore is my favorite in town. They have the best collection of books for children. They are socially responsible, teaching kids about diversity and empowering young girls etc, I fell in love with this store the first time we stepped in the door. The last time we were there was right after we got back from our honeymoon. I was excited to see the owner carried many of the same children’s books we saw while in D.C. and spoke to her about it for a while. I did not know this at the time but apparently I made an impression on the owner because now 5 months later when we entered the store last night she remembered me.

She and I spoke about the newest crop of children’s books she had in stock and the positive messages they conveyed. She also shared with me that when Todd and I visited last time and I told her that her stock held up against the awesome advocacy bookstore we visited while in D.C. that was one of the single most validating moments she has had since opening her store. I had no idea and I was so glad! We took a moment to formally introduce each other and she and Todd introduced themselves to each other as well so now we when visit we will be on a first name basis. I made some really great connections this week between school and Hospice but for me this one took the cake. To know that by just being honest and sharing my admiration for her store that I helped validate this amazing woman, it was the best moment of the whole week. I am so thankful we had a chance to connect again and on a deeper level this time.

Our reason for visiting the store last night is because the summer is quickly closing in on us and we are making plans for the sleepovers with the kids again. We had a great time with both of the sleepovers we did with Maddie and Isaac last summer and the kids are buzzing with anticipation about this summer’s sleepovers. I wanted to see what books she had in that I could get for each sleep over this year and she has some that I know will be perfect. We have not made firm plans yet but it sounds like we are leaning towards taking Maddie to a farm/petting zoo for her sleepover and we are still considering what to do with Isaac, although I think it will involve the train again.

After visiting with the owner of the bookstore for a while we went across the street to the local pie shop (one of Todd’s favorite local spots) and shared some pie then we walked over to the local coffee shop/bar and had a few drinks. We were talking about our encounter with the bookstore owner and this led to a bigger conversation about our 5, 10 and 30 year plan. We talked about having kids and what we look forward to and how life will be different then. We talked about the things we want to do together before we start having kids and what short terms goals we have that we would like to accomplish first, plus fun stuff like traveling. We also talked about our retirement plan, this conversation was directly linked to running into the shop owner again.

One of my dream jobs has always been to run my own bookstore, specifically a children’s bookstore but I am flexible on that. I have always loved the idea of being a staple in a community and having story hour and tutoring and instilling a love of written word in younger generations. Todd knows about this dream of mine, what I did not know is that he shares it. Todd has talked before about the idea of teaching as a retirement job when he leaves his engineering firm one day. I have always encouraged this idea, he would be a phenomenal math or science teacher, he thorough and patient and understands that you have to use different methods with different people because not everyone learns the same way. He succeeded in teaching me math without wanting to rip out his hair or making me cry, that is quite a big deal believe it or not.

Last night after running into the shop owner I talked about how much I would love to do what she does one day and own my very own store and Todd agreed. He said he liked the idea of the story time and getting kids excited about reading and learning, he liked the idea of what a store like this could mean to kids in the community. My heart filled to the brim. It has always just been a dream and may remain one but to know that he not only supports it but would want to share this dream with me makes me love him so much.

I love that he and I are so on the same page about so many things. I feel like we are making the most of our honeymoon period because we both recognize once we do have children our lives will change and that it is important to have this time together. We agree that we are both looking forward to having kids together because we are so in sync in terms of parenting style. Then we both look forward to our future past children and what our lives will be like when it is just us again. I love that we have these talks, each time I feel closer to him and ever more sure that there is no other person I would rather being living out my dreams with than him.

How Very Serendipitous

serendipity

Today I was at Hospice for my volunteer shift and I noticed one of the employees from the bereavement center seemed a bit over loaded so I asked how I could help. She gave me stuffed envelopes that needed to be sealed so they could be mailed out. Easy enough I thought, and I worked on them while I ran the front desk. When I finished I called her and asked if she would like me to walk them over to her when my shift was done so she wouldn’t have to walk back to our building to retrieve them, she accepted my offer gratefully.

At the end of my shift I walked across the parking lot and dropped off the box of sealed envelopes and said my good byes to the employees. As I exited I nearly ran into someone walking in. I heard, hey your the social worker right? I looked up to see the LMHC that works at the bereavement center. I corrected, Well not exactly, student. Social work student. She laughed as we shook hands and reintroduced ourselves to each other.

She and I have met on a few occasions now. The first was last year. My mentor and supervisor introduced me and we hit it off immediately. We spoke about social work and working with bereaved children. I gave her a snap shot of my volunteer resume in terms of work I have done with children and we agreed I would be a good fit for the bereavement center. I have not had the opportunity to work in bereavement yet because the IPU has been short staffed and I have not had enough time to volunteer and extra day allowing me to do both. I did make my supervisor aware of my interest and intentions and felt supported.

After a few minutes of catching up the LMHC asked me point blank, You’re not busy May 2nd are you? I paused. I did not have my big calendar with me that I keep every detail of my daily life on, it was hanging on the fridge at home. I tried to picture that day on the calendar, it was the day after one of my final exams and two days before another final exam. I don’t think I am actually, what do you have for me? Her face lit up, Camp Healing Hearts, you’d be perfect and I am desperate for volunteers. Without hesitation my answer was a very enthusiastic YES! I missed my chance to be involved with the camp last fall because it was the same day as the wedding, I was elated to get a second chance so soon.

It is an all day camp for grieving children and adolescence. There will be activities and games and plenty of opportunity for meaningful engagement.

My Mom’s mom died when I was 9. It was my first experience with death and it was difficult. I still remember the Hospice social worker that counseled me and played with me after her death. To possibly pay that back means so much to me. I am also excited because it has been a little over a year since I have done any work with children.

I had just started thinking recently about what this summer is going to look like for me and how I want to use my time. Last summer I got involved with a literacy day, planted trees, started with hospice and cooked a meal for the residents of the local Ronald McDonald house. The nice thing about the summer semester is that it is lighter allowing for more free time to get involved. This camp is going to be a nice way to kick off another summer of volunteering and the meeting with the LMHC was nothing if not serendipitous.

Something else I am looking forward to is a benefit put on by the Adult Literacy League. One my dearest friends is a writer who works downtown. I love her because she does not shy away from the deep stuff. Every time we are together I feel like we bare a little more of our souls. She is one of my favorite conversationalists. We talk about life and literature and projects and writing and anything outside of the superficial realm of everyday chatter. Last week she texted me and asked if I wanted her tickets to this benefit because she was going to be out of town. I immediately screamed YES into my phone, although I am not sure the emotion translated through text message. However my very next thought was, who will I take? She would have been my perfect date. Todd was obviously my answer and I am sure he will appreciate how wonderful and meaningful this benefit is, but probably not quite as much as her.

So with an incredibly grateful heart I accepted her offer and tomorrow evening Todd and I will enjoy an evening out at the Science Center at this benefit.

It comes at the perfect time because late this afternoon I finished my contribution to our community assessment project. I am worn out on many levels from the work put into that project and am ready to step back from it for a few days. This benefit will be a nice reprieve.

So tomorrow I meet the LMHC at Hospice to receive a quick training on what to expect on May 2nd at the camp then in the evening it will be super formal date night as we attend the benefit. It is a nice way to start the summer and begin to close out a very busy semester.

Past the Point of Exhaustion

parramore

I have spent the last few days working on the paper that reports on my groups findings from the field work we did in a local community. Between the time spent in front of the computer screen, discussing various aspects of the work with group members and controlling my emotions as I try to remain objective in my synopsis, I am EXHAUSTED.

This is the most worthwhile project I have ever been lucky enough to take part in but it is also the most intense. It has not been easy reporting on the level of marginalization and oppression experienced by this community. I have had to take multiple breaks to regain focus and expend some of the tension I am internalizing as a write.

I am glad to almost be finished with this project. I look forward to reporting on it with my group members in front of the class next week. What I look forward to most is what we plan to do with this information though. The project ends after the group presentation next week but a few of us have decided to take next steps and try to get this information into the hands of people who may be able to impact a change. Our professor is supporting us in this venture and it will probably be something I spend some time on over the summer.

This kind of macro work is new for me so this has been an amazing learning experience. This semester, as challenging as it was at times, was my best yet. I am starting to see who I am as a social worker and that is very exciting.

I look forward to the summer semester and opportunities to build on what has turned out to be a very solid foundation.

Nipping the Bud

cult comp

 

Today at the beginning of class my professor asked if everyone had gotten the email from our program head about professionalism and what we all thought of it. This particular class is not one of the classes that is having issues but some of us in this class are in other classes where things have happened that shouldn’t have so it was still nice to be able to air things out. This particular professor has great control over the class, she is very structured and she is not afraid to tackle the difficult topics. So she proceeded to facilitate a very meaningful conversation about what is going on in the program right now and our reactions to it.

Our professor explained that having these conversations facilitated by a professor is one of the ways the faculty is going to try to nip this problem in the bud so it does not fester and get worse. The class that I have tomorrow is the class I am where the most issues arise. There have been issues with students being disrespectful of the instructor and fellow classmates. Lectures get hijacked and the instructor has difficulty regaining control and then a lot of time is wasted. At times it feels like a hostage situation in this class. I don’t worry much about it because I doing well in this class regardless but it is a hard class and a lot of students are struggling in part because we rarely have the time to cover the material properly due to interruptions that derail the lecture.

I am curious to see if my professor tomorrow tries to facilitate a similar discussion. I feel like if done right this class could benefit from an earnest conversation but I don’t know if an attempt to pull it off would work in this class. We’ll see though.

It sounds the faculty is in the early stages of deciding the best way to address and correct what has been going on so we will see how this all unfolds. Even my professor today said that our cohort is a bit of a problem child though and I think that is embarrassing. At the end of the day I still really want to believe that everyone has it in them to turn this around. Everyone grows and learns at different speeds, maybe for some people this inner growth just takes longer, that does not mean they are not capable of it though.

I am curious to see how this will all play out, I am really hoping for a best case scenario. Our cohort could be a real underdog story if we are able to pull it together and turn things around for the better.

Grow Little Tree Grow

love tree

When Todd and I got married part of ceremony including a tree planting ceremony. This was in lieu of a unity candle or sand ceremony. We liked the idea for a few reasons, One because we were married outside under 4 magnificent live oak trees so ity tied in. Two, because part of the planting ceremony was that we each had a mason jar full of dirt from our parents homes where we were raised. This signified the joining of two families which we liked. The Third and primary reason for why we chose to have a tree planting ceremony is because a tree is a living thing capable of growth. The longer it is alive more it grows. The root system grows deeper symbolizing stabilization, a strong foundation. The trunk grows out and up like our love for each other that grows in every direction. And the branches grow as well reaching for greater heights each year. We just felt incorporating this beautiful thing capable of so much growth was so symbolic.

It felt so appropriate for our relationship because we are constantly challenging and encouraging each other in new ways all the time. Our potential for growth in our relationship and as individuals is endless.

I was thinking about it today because I am still processing a conversation Todd and I had over the weekend. Because I was ill all weekend we got to have a lot of quiet time, something neither one of us will complain about. On Sunday we had been sitting together reading and when we finished a conversation started that led to some major breakthroughs for us.

It started out as a simple conversation about what we needed to do to be ready for the week. We have this conversation most Sundays. Sunday is our day to accomplish things around the house, run errands, it is our quiet day to be productive.It is all in the interest of starting our week out on the right foot. The last thing a person wants after being in lectures all day or at work all day is to come home to a pile of dirty dishes, you know?

From this very ordinary conversation sprouted another conversation about what we can do together in order to get more accomplished during the week at home. Whether this means more exercise, a few chores here and there etc. This is a very broad idea that has the potential to take on many shapes. The underlying message as we spoke was although we are doing really well and we feel good about where we are, what can we do to continue to have progress and not become stagnant?

We shared some ideas and agreed to continue the conversation later this week after we have more time to brainstorm independently.

As I sit here now doing my part in processing our talk and thinking of what we can be doing around the house or in our relationship or in terms of our health or our relationships with our families.. I again just feel overwhelming gratitude for this life.

For this life, this man, all of it. I don’t think I have ever admired and loved someone so deeply. It is a consuming love. One that always leaves me feeling full, never depleted. I feel so myself and authentic in this relationship and he only adds to that, he never takes away. I do not believe in fate or soul mates but to contradict all of that, I have to say that at times I absolutely feel like this exquisite human being was made just for me.

love tree planting

love