The Things that Matter are Different for Everyone

I had the conversation with my classmate about establishing professional boundaries. They explained that they were not trying to put me in a compromising position, they saw their request as a friend helping a friend. While they said they understood where I was coming from in terms of the ethics they see things differently. They said they would always be willing to help a friend that needs help as long as it did not go against the student handbook code of ethics.

Personally I think some of what they have asked of me does go against the code but I guess they see the code as open for interpretation.That is fine. The way I left it with them is that we clearly view this differently and different is OK, it’s not bad. What is important is that we understand and respect how we both feel, which it seems like we do.

I have no way of knowing what next week in class is going to look like. Now that we have cleared the air I am feeling better and am ready to forget about the last month and move on. I cannot fault someone for not understanding me, they do not know me that well. Going forward I expect things to be different but everything prior to our conversation in my mind does not count.

Our conversation made me reflect on values though. Earlier this week my brother and I were yet again having a conversation about boundaries in the program. He apparently the entire weekend before helping two students with their papers for class, he was going above and beyond in my opinion and I felt like these two students were taking advantage. My brother is a helper, he likes to fix the bird with the broken wing if that makes sense. My whole life I have seen him be taken advantage of because of his gentle nature and his tendency to see only good in people. I hate to see it happen in the program especially because I am afraid his character will be called into question because maybe some of what he does is more than he should.

I think this way because I place such a high value on ethical integrity and while my brother does as well he places an even higher value on helping people who ask for it. My classmate appears to place a high value on loyalty, the kind of loyalty shared among close friends. This is what drives each of us, it is our moral compass that tells us right from wrong. None of us are wrong in the values we hold, they are just different.

My character may never be questioned but I may not be able to help as many people as my brother and I may not have as many friends as my classmate. And my brother might occasionally over extend himself or find himself in hot water for agreeing to a favor but he will always feel good about being able to help someone. My classmate may blur the lines of right and wrong but it would always be in the service of a friend which to him may be worth that risk, especially if he knows is friend would do it for him.

It important to understand where a person makes there judgement calls from. We can all help to balance each other.

This may sound cold but the truth is I have always put my principles and ethics before relationships. I have lost friends for this very reason. One of my mantras in life has always been I would rather be alone than in bad company. So yeah, I guess loyalty is not high on my list, not as high as moral character. That is not to say I don’t value loyalty, I have had the same 5 girlfriends for most of my adult life. I am able to sustain these relationships because these women are made of strong character. This very fact makes my loyalty to them impenetrable.

It is interesting to learn what makes people tick though. What drives them. Where their judgement comes from.

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Sometimes You Have to Spell it Out

john stewart

One thing I love about social work is the deep commitment to ethics. This resonated with me immediately after I read the NASW Code of Ethics for the first time. Character, Integrity, Ethics, Principle I place high value on all of these things. I have mentioned before how in a previous relationship I got the nickname of “the moral police”, my partner at the time did not understand this side of me, how important these things were to me. I was made to feel too rigid, it really wasn’t until dating Todd that I met someone else who valued these things on the same level as myself. For once I felt normal. Then upon entering into the program I was again validated, there is NOTHING wrong with being someone of strong principle.

I did have to learn balance though. I came to realize that people are neither good nor bad they just are and we are all capable of being both good and bad. I moved away from judgement which I will admit took some work, my socialization process taught me to lead from a place of judgement. Ever heard of Catholic guilt? It’s a real thing and part of living with your own sin is calling others out for their sins as a way to feel better about yourself. At least that was my experience and still is with family who have tried to shame me for some of my beliefs. It’s bad news, very negative, steeped in shame and self-loathing. Crawling out of that pit takes work.

Eventually I did figure out the balance and then a few years later I found a home in social work and my shared values with Todd. I am thankful for my passion surrounding ethics, it has helped me navigate some tricky situations in life, most recently while being in the program.

I was having a conversation with a professor about character¬† and integrity during office hours my second semester into the program. When explaining where I stood on something I explained that I never wanted to be in a situation where someone would put a question mark over my head (figuratively speaking). I never want to put myself in a situation where my character would be called into question. If you don’t have integrity, what do you have?

So in the program I am cautious. Although I am flexible in most aspects of my life (that is the P side of my INFP personality) when it comes to anything regarding ethics I actually am pretty rigid as my former significant other implied.

This background about me is important to understand why I am feeling the way I am right now. This semester is proving challenging because I feel like my boundaries are being tested quite a bit and I have had to delicately navigate multiple situations that I perceive as ethical issues for me.

I have made the decision I can no longer tip toe around the issues so now I am going to have to address them which will result in a potentially uncomfortable conversation with a classmate. Not thrilled about this but it must be done, I have to stand up for myself or else face my integrity being compromised (I won’t allow that to happen) or risk being taken advantage of because I was too nice to address the issues, not really my style either.

Here are some of the problems I have run into:

The person asking if I wanted to work on an online assignment together that was not assigned as a group project. I do not collaborate on any assignment unless it was explicitly assigned as group work. I told the person No and got that long awkward OKKKAAAYYYYY….. as a response. I guess it was supposed to make me feel bad for saying No or something? Whatever.

Next they wanted to borrow my book to take an open book quiz. Again I said No. My reason for this No was because I highlight and write notes in the margins when I read my text books (this person knows that about me). They would have extra help on the quiz because I do this, that would not be right so the answer was No.

Another complaint I have is that on more than one occasion I brainstormed with this person for a group project and they ended up using my brain work, my ideas and attempting to pass them off as their own without giving me any credit. It would be one thing if they said, “Jill and I were talking and we came up with…” I am willing to share credit but that is not what happened. They essentially stole my intellectual property. Can I even say that though if I had not written my ideas down? I don’t know how that works. To be clear the ideas I am talking about were not ideas we came up with together, they were my input into the conversation, ideas from my head taken from me and then used under someone else’s name. That is when I learned I could no longer brainstorm with this person. At this point I placed a question mark over this person’s head.

Then I started to realize this person was not doing the work for classes. In a group project where we, as a group of 6 people, gave ourselves a timeline to have our work ready one week before our assignment was due this person showed up the day we agreed to have everything ready and not only had they not done their part they had the nerve to ask what their part was. They had not even started doing the research. That is not an ethical issue but it is aggravating.

So now we are caught up to the latest transgression. Earlier this week this person asked what my schedule was like for the rest of the week. I should have known to ask Why rather than share my schedule, that was a rookie mistake on my part. I did share my schedule though and then the person asked for a RIDICULOUS favor. We had a paper due Tuesday at midnight, the online copy was due at midnight at least, we were also supposed to bring a hard copy to class Tuesday night. Apparently this person had not even started the paper yet so they did not have a hard copy with them , obviously. They wanted to know if they could email their paper, have me print it for them and then drop it off with the teacher (on campus) later in the week when I had time.

Even now I cannot for the life of me tell you why the next words out of my mouth were “that shouldn’t be a problem”. I was annoyed the second they asked which tells me the answer is No. You do not agree to favors you are uncomfortable with, at least I don’t. What right do I have to resent this person though? I agreed to this nonsense. I had an opportunity to say No or that I was not comfortable and I ruined it by saying “that shouldn’t be a problem”? Who is this girl? I don’t even think I know her.

Here is my issue with this. The biggest thing, it is a boundary issue. This is not something I would do for anyone else so I shouldn’t be making an exception for this person. My weak spot is that I had just gotten done hearing all about this person’s personal issues (housing issues, money trouble, work schedule conflicts etc etc) so I was feeling bad for them. I am such a sucker. This person has a track record of not taking the courses seriously by leaving early, coming in late, not turning work in on time, not pulling their weight in group work, stealing ideas and otherwise doing their best to skate by on the coat tales of others. Not to mention I do not live near campus. I live downtown more than a half hour away. We are talking roughly an hour and a half out of my day for this.

After I said it shouldn’t be a problem the person went up and spoke to the professor and I heard her tell him to just email her the paper instead of worrying about the hard copy, all I could think was Thank Goodness!

So I did not give it a second thought. Then tonight Todd and I are getting ready for bed and I go to plug my phone into the charger in the kitchen. Once I plug it in I see I have a missed text. Immediately I am annoyed because I prefer not to receive calls or texts after 7pm on weekdays. I check it though in case it is my parents or a friend in trouble etc. It’s not, of course.

It was my classmate texting to see if I would print their paper tomorrow and drop it off with the professor at school. But that’s not all, of course it’s not, they also asked if I would edit their paper for them. They offered to buy me Starbucks as compensation for the editing.

Are they serious?! Um it’s 10:00 and NO. No to all of it, no to everything. No to you texting me at 10:00 at night, No to driving for an hour to drop off your late work for you, No to cheating and No to your bribe. Just No.

It is time to have a conversation with this person. I will be diplomatic because it is not like this person is going away but it is time to establish very clear boundaries. It is also time that this person understand my character a little better so these inappropriate requests will stop.I cannot fault someone for what they do not know. This person is clearly someone who is going to try to get away with what they can, but I am not your Yes Man. I am not weak minded and although I may have a momentary lapse in judgement occasionally, like when I stupidly agreed to help in the first place, those lapses are few, far between and quickly corrected.

Here are the points I need to make

1. I do not deal in bribes.
2. I do not collaborate unless we are given permission to work in groups. That includes editing.
3. I live a half hour from campus and I am not an errand boy.
4. I am “off the clock” at 7pm everyday and I am not available on the weekends unless it is set up in advance and it is a large group project.
5. I do not appreciate late night calls/texts. It is inappropriate and unprofessional. See Bullet point 4.

I talked to my brother about all of this because he knows the person as well. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being too rigid but he validated my concerns and admitted he wasn’t too sure about this person either. Sometimes (quite often in my case) you have to listen to your intuition. I am going to have to deal with this tomorrow. It is important to me that going forward I have an understanding with this person because I would never do anything to bring my character into question and I am not going to get tangled up with someone else whose character is unclear to me.

 

A Behind the Scenes Look

I just returned home from the meeting I was invited to attend by the director of the school of social work. I am thankful and honored that she thought to include me. So much of what was discussed was relevant to me personally and it was interesting to get a behind the scenes look at how things work. I do not want to share what took the place in the meeting, that would not be right but one highlight I can share is that I had the opportunity to meet the Dean of my college.

Upon meeting him I discovered he is already familiar with who I am because he is in possession of my group’s community assessment paper. I was delighted and humbled and am very excited to share that news with my former group members.

Yesterday I finished my application for the new social work/healthcare scholarship program at school. I have also written my personal statement, multiple times, and am doing final edits. My plan is to have Todd proof read it for me so I can turn everything in at the end of the week. Then I will be keeping my fingers crossed until I hear back from the advisory board. Hopefully I will be granted an interview with the panel that makes the final decision.

In the interim I am plenty busy with school work, Hospice and the continued work in the community.

Chickpeas Are Tricky

One of the workshops I attended while at the conference over the weekend had to do with aging gracefully. The workshop touched on the importance of mental, physical and sexual health throughout the life span but particularly in later life. I have to say the sexual health piece was so interesting, the stats alone were staggering. I really enjoyed this workshop, it was informative and thought provoking.

The workshop was facilitated by an MSW and an MD who specializes in internal medicine and geriatrics. When discussing physical health there was a lot of talk about the obvious topics, diet and exercise. The truth is it all comes full circle, if you aren’t eating right (on a schedule, the appropriate portions, healthy options etc) it can impact something like your sleep which can then impact your mental health as well as energy levels which can impact your sexual health. Like so many things in life it is all connected.

This particular physician was a proponent for the Mediterranean diet. He talked about lowering sugar and sodium intake as well. When I got home I was talking to Todd about different aspects of the conference, including this, and we figured it cannot hurt to incorporate a few new recipes into our repertoire. So far I found one that looked interesting so this morning I gave it a try.

I am going to share the recipe and walk through what I did, which is different than the recipe but just slightly.

So it is a recipe for a chickpea salad. This recipe suggests using canned chickpeas but I chose to use dry to keep sodium levels low. Let me just say I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I made that decision. I have never rehydrated/cooked a dry bean before. It is a process.

I had to put the dried chickpeas in a pot of room temperature water for 10 hours. I just left them over night. This morning I got up, drained the water, refilled the pot with water and set the chickpeas to boil. I did not follow a time table when boiling the chickpeas, I just ate one every 10 minutes or so until the texture tasted right. After boiling them and draining them I put the chickpeas in a ice bath for about 5 minutes to cool them quickly for my salad.

Getting ready

Cooked, cooled chickpeas ready to go.

After the hours of prep required for the beans the rest is simple. I chose the ingredients I wanted for my salad and put them all together in a large tupperware bowl. I used orange bell pepper, cherry tomato, black olive, feta cheese, green onion and then of course the base of the salad, chickpeas.

Salad not mixed

Once all my ingredients were in the bowl I mixed them together and then added the dressing. The recipe has a recipe within it for a dressing. I chose to keep mine simple, again to cut on sugar and sodium.

dressing

I used maybe two caps of olive oil, the juice from half a lemon, a hand full of fresh chopped parsley and ground black pepper.

salad mixed

I continued to mix until the dressing evenly coated the salad and viola. This is a great dish for us to have during the week because I am in class Monday and Tuesday night so we do not eat together. This is something that we can keep refrigerated and eat when we want.

I did not personally add any salt. There was already a little that made its way in on the olives and feta cheese so I let that be the salt component of the salad. Some people may want to sprinkle a little more depending on their taste though.

You can find the original recipe HERE.

Saying Yes with a Grateful Heart

capable

I mentioned recently how I have been having to say No to leadership roles as well as even bigger opportunities that have come up in order to keep my balance. Well two amazing opportunities just came up that I am saying yes to!

This weekend was the NASW Florida Chapter Conference. It was the first conference I have ever attended and it was so worthwhile. I volunteered which meant that at two of the workshops I attended I helped the presenter with any odds and ends they needed help with as well as introducing the presenter at the beginning by reading their bio. I went to a total of four workshops, all related to end-of-life issues as that is my area of interest. Three were very informative and there was plenty of new information for me, one was more of a review but that is okay too.

On the first day of the conference my professor, who is the BSW director, and I were talking. She asked again if I would reconsider running for NASW student representative for Florida. I told her that I wish I could but that I really felt like I would be spreading myself too thin between everything I am involved in at school, outside of school and my internship coming up next spring. She understood but seemed a bit desperate to get the position filled. Later in the day she asked my brother who was also volunteering at the conference. He declined for the same reasons, a busy schedule. My brother and I started talking and agreed that we knew the perfect person though. My friend/classmate, who I am doing the community assessment with, is exactly the kind of person the NASW would want. She is a natural leader who leads from within not from above, if that makes sense, she has strong character and is compassionate while remaining objective. I spoke with her Saturday briefly to see if she would be interested in the position, she is, and then emailed the director Sunday to connect those two together and get the ball rolling for my friend.

I hope this works out for her, she really will do so well I just know it. I am so glad to be apart of helping someone else succeed as well. I appreciate that certain professors in the program think of me when leadership positions come up but I think these opportunities should be spread around. I am so excited for my friend and cannot wait to see how this all plays out for her.

While I am celebrating this possible win for my friend, I am also having a silent celebration for myself as well. That first day of the conference when the director was asking me about the NASW leadership position again she also mentioned another opportunity. It is a scholarship program that trains BSW and MSW students who plan to take a job in the field of healthcare after graduation. This program is very relevant for me. Any extra training I can get for the field of healthcare I will take. She sent me the information about it yesterday and it sounds so exciting. I have to sign a commitment letter stating that I will work in the healthcare field post graduation which is no problem because that was always the plan. My internship has to take place at medical facility, that was also always the plan because of my minor. I have to write a personal statement, no problem. Possibly the most exciting requirement though, I have to agree to attend a conference in the fall that (get this) is being held in Washington D.C. They will give me a travel stipend and I have already spoken to Todd, he has agreed to come with me if I am accepted into this program.

To side track for just a moment, the D.C. trip actually concerned me at first. I was concerned for the same reason I did not agree to the NASW position, scheduling. Todd and I are already taking 3 trips this fall (August-November), almost a trip a month. Granted these are primarily weekend trips, with the exception of our Chicago trip in November, but to add a fourth trip into what is sure to be an already busy semester..? I wasn’t sure about that. We talked about it though and agreed that I cannot pass up this opportunity and that we will make it work. Financially we will be okay, especially since I will have a stipend so Todd only has to pay for his flight and food etc, not mine. And as far as school work it is only three weekends in the semester I will be gone, I will just have to work ahead on my school work if necessary, I can do that, I do that already anyway.

So this morning I will be filling out the application and this week I will work on my personal statement. Apparently the interviews for the program, yes I have to interview, will be held in the middle of July. I will update as things progress.

Yesterday while emailing with the director I found that I had an email from another director, the main director, or as I have been calling her The Queen of Everything in the Social Work Program. My friend and I met with her two weeks ago to discuss the work we had done and are continuing to do in the community. The meeting went so well, better than expected, although in truth we were not sure what to expect. Apparently I made an impression because she emailed me inviting me to be apart of the School of Social Work Community Advisory Council. Without hesitation I emailed back thanking her and accepting her invitation. The meeting is this Wednesday and now that I will be on the council there will be meetings once a semester it sounds like. This another time where I do not really know what to expect but I do know that there are community leaders on this council as well. I believe she asked me because she knows I am involved in a few different community outreach projects right now. My hope is that this will be a place where I can share the information my friend and I have about the community we are assessing right now to bring awareness to the needs of the community. Either way this is another opportunity I could not say No to. The time commitment is minimal and it fits into my schedule plus this grants me access to people I may not have otherwise ever had an opportunity to meet. I am ecstatic.

After all these emails last night I went and sat with Todd on the couch and thanked him. I would not be where I am right now if it was not for his encouragement, validation and support. I have changed from someone who leads with fear when presented with new challenges to someone who jumps right in excited to get started. I am so thankful to have a partner who is just that, my partner. I am the one doing the work now but he was my courage when I had none back at the beginning of this journey.

Seriously, You Need To Stop Talking

seriously

Last night I went to class early to work on a project with a friend/classmate. I was running late because I spent the entire day doing research so I threw on a day dress, a pair of earrings, my shoes and then I grabbed my school bag and printed documents and ran out the door.

I got to school on time to meet my friend and we worked together on our project. We were bonding over a conversation about a social justice topic when our classmate walked by. He walked over so we paused our conversation to say hello. Before even saying hi to me he said, are you OK? You look sick. Ugh, here we go.. I’m not sick I just didn’t wear make up today. I really wanted to end that sentence with YOU ASS but I refrained. He continued, no that’s not it, you look stressed or something. Really? Does this conversation really need to continue? No. I’m fine, you have never seen me without make up, this is what my face looks like. He said, if you say so and walked off to meet with some classmates.

I let this annoyance roll off my back and went back to the conversation I was enjoying with my friend.

An hour or so later class started and 2 hours after that class ended. When leaving class my friend and I were walking down the hall with the classmate that had such deep concern for my well being to the point that he just could not let it go. Again he asked, are you sure you are OK? You look tired.  WOW. Apparently my face caused a real disturbance for him. How many different ways do I have to put this for him to get it? I told him again I was fine and tried to drop it.

The problem was my obvious frustration with him apparently validated his hunch that something was wrong with me because he latched on to my annoyance and continued with, see you are stressed. Yeah with you! Stop commenting on my f-ing appearance!

Luckily we turned the corner and met up with a few other classmates so I was able to put some distance between us.

The whole thing is such crap. At first I felt like I had to make an excuse for why I wasn’t wearing make-up like “oh my allergies were acting up” or “I was running late and didn’t have time”. But that is ridiculous. I do not have to wear make up and whether I choose to or not what right does anyone have to comment on it?

I came home and told Todd and he laughed (at my classmate’s cluelessness) and then asked me if I was going to survive the semester with him. I just don’t know. But what choice do I have? This is the same person who thinks it’s okay to use “ism” language with friends and that sexism does not exist in the business world and who asked me the second night of class if I was a “feminazi”. Right, because standing up for equality is the same as committing genocide. I have to challenge the nonsense that falls out of his mouth at least once a week. It is exhausting. Not to mention that I have to be careful that when I do so I am nice and do not bruise his delicate male ego because ultimately I have to work with him all semester long. Joy.

As exhausting as it is though it is maybe good in a way, for me at least. He challenges me to be assertive, to find ways to successfully work with people who, for me, are difficult to work with, to educate and advocate and to try to see things from another person’s perspective who I do not at all agree with.

I know I have written a few posts now that touch on my frustrations with this person but we still work together rather well on projects. I think a big part of that is being able to put our differences aside and appreciate what the other person brings to the table, he has strengths just like everyone else. I cannot ignore the things he says that offend me but I do not have to let that define what i think of him either. There is more to this person than just that and I know better.

I am not going to lie though sometimes, like when it comes to make make-up-less face, I do wish he would just STOP TALKING.

Language Matters

I have been writing this post in my head for about three weeks now and I decided it was time I put pen to paper before it got any bigger. Forewarning this post is going to contain a few links as points of reference.

In a previous post, The Wet Blanket, towards the end of the post I mentioned an assignment about baseball that I was working on with a few other class members. When discussing the assignment in the post I brought up concerns I had around sexism, what I left out were concerns I had surrounding other “isms”.

The worksheet we were collaborating on asked a question about how the players were picked, in reference to baseball players who play professionally. The members of my group wanted to answer the question by saying the best players from around the nation are recruited. WRONG. I saw that as a classist answer. I explained to my group that we cannot use the word “best” because we can not say definitively that the players chosen are in fact “the best”. My group did not agree with me. I continued to explain that what if the best basketball player to ever live dropped out of school at 16 to start working and help his family afford their bills? Not everyone has the same access because of socioeconomic status therefore we cannot say definitively that those who play MLB are the “best”. This should help explain how ended up with the nickname Wet Blanket in this group. The point I was trying to make when challenging my group on this particular answer was language matters.

That class was the original birth place of this post that has gained momentum since then.

In another class a group assignment was given where we, as a group, have to present on the topic of disability. Our goal is to help the class to become culturally competent when engaging with individuals from this population. The professor asked that we do independent research to become versed on our topic outside of the information available to us in the book. In doing so he actually recommended that we look on the internet for articles and not just at peer-reviewed articles.I was surprised and delighted to hear this. Normally any research conducted has to come from peer-reviewed sources and while I actually enjoy reading journal articles I knew just the place to look for articles on the internet.

One of my favorite go-to places for interesting articles is Everyday Feminism, I have referenced this site before when writing posts about social justice issues, it is one of my favorite online resources. So I started searching for articles that I thought might be relevant and thought provoking, they had many to choose from. One of the articles I chose illustrates how oppressive ableist language is, it can be read in its entirety here.

I shared this article and another that I liked with my group members via email and then last night after class three of us had the opportunity to discuss the content. Coincidentally all three of us worked on the baseball assignment together as well in the other class. Myself and another group member who read the article discussed how pervasive ableist language is in everyday conversation in America. The third group member then made a comment about how he thinks it is okay when you are hanging out with friends but not around other people who could be hurt by it. WRONG. I explained that ableist language is no different than sexist, racist or homophobic language. He tried to defend his side further by stating that what you say with your friends is different than what you say in front of other people. He ended by saying don’t you think? I explained that personally I do not agree and our other group member then chimed in and said that is how this type of language becomes acceptable in the first place is because of attitudes like that. I was grateful for her input, it is exhausting being the only voice of opposition sometimes.

This morning I was researching blockers for a case study on a transgender child I am working on. While immersed in my work I stumbled upon another great article that is titled The Power of Language. It speaks directly to what my classmate was talking about last night. Language seeped in “isms” is always hurtful even when you’re just talking with friends and this person’s story outlines that perfectly.