He is my Moose

he is my moose

I read this post today on HONY and I had to read it to Todd immediately. There was so much about the post that reminded me of our relationship. My husband at times tells me bedtime stories to help with my inability to fall asleep and frequent nightmares. My favorite is Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin, but we save that one for when I am sick.

Outside of realizing that I am not the only grown woman that asks her partner for bedtime stories I also identified with the story itself.

At our wedding my father gave a speech wherein he spoke about how I make Todd laugh and loosen him up, and Todd keeps me tethered to earth otherwise I might just float off. Todd is my moose, and I am his goose. In our relationship we always talk about how I am the ideas person and he is the execution. I am the dreamer while he takes a practical approach to life. When I was reading the story of the moose and the goose to Todd I teared up on the last line because it is just so true.

To steal a lyric from one of my favorite bands, “we’re all souls just trying to connect with someone but we’re all left searching on our own.” As Tall As Lions

“He didn’t even know she was out there.” How lucky are we few who have met our moose or our goose? The whole world is looking for connection and for some of us we have had some good fortune that one day while minding our own business a goose landed on our heads and changed our lives.

I can tell you right now this is a story I will remember and I will tell my children because it is beautiful and for me it feels so true.

I have to say Todd and I had a pretty great day. With me not having class and him not having work we got to have a quiet day. We walked Lucy, played games together, cooked together, danced in the kitchen to Eric Clapton and The Eagles. At the end of the day I was reading HONY as I mentioned and I also saw a status update on FB from a social work friend that was so cute I had to share it with Todd. It was like a survey that where she asked her husband to answer questions about her. The questions lend themselves to funny/cute responses. So Todd and I ended up doing the survey with each other which led to laughter and kisses, a great way to end the day.

Here were some of Todd’s responses for me:

What is something I always say to you?
– I love you

What makes me happy?
– Funny Dances

What makes me sad?
– Everything

What was I like as a child?
– Bossy

What’s my favorite thing to do?
– Art

What do I do when you are not around?
– Art

If I become famous, what will it be for?
– Solving the World’s Problems

What am I good at?
– Empathy

What am I not good at?
– Lying

How are you and I the same?
– Our Introversion

How do I annoy you?
– You’re messy

What is your favorite thing about me?
– We Always Have a Good Time

He is my moose and we do always have a good time.

Evening Breezes

summer breeze

Todd and I walk Lucy in the evening, it is something all three of us look forward to. This week has been exciting, to me at least, because there are baby toads at the pond we walk by. There are so many and they are about the size of fruit flies, it is so cute! I have always loved toads, and lizards, and frogs.

Everything feels so alive right now. As we speak I am watching a beautiful male cardinal hop around in the backyard. There have been butterflies fluttering around my herb garden, fish jumping in the pond near our home. Everything is active right now.

The evenings have been so pretty for so long. The breezes have been getting warmer as spring turns into summer but it still feels good to be outside at sunset.

Last night when Todd and I were walking I told him about how summer evening breezes remind me of To Kill A Mockingbird, one of my favorite books. Warm evening breezes make me think of Jem and Scout playing in the street near Boo Radley’s house, or getting into any other kind of mischief. We talked about being kids and playing outside during the summer. I spent all my time outdoors in the summer. We lived down a dirt road surrounded by oak trees, fruit trees, and fields filled with wild flowers. When the sun started to set I knew I had about a half hour before my mom would call me in for the night. I had a half hour to finally climb to the top of a tree, or pick a few more flowers, or snatch my last tangerine for the day.

Summer breezes make me think of childhood. When you are a kid that spends all your time in the trees and fields an extra hour of daylight in the summer is everything. I still feel that way. I love that now when Todd gets home we still have some day light left to take our walks. Last night we even ran through some sprinklers with Lucy on our way home. That extra hour in summer is still everything.

I love it.

Checking Off the Last Item

My time in the BSW program may have come to an end by I have one last item to check off my to-do list before the chapter is fully closed.

I found out last week that I will be involved in a poster presentation at this years local NASW conference. There had been some back and forth about whether or not this would be happening. As of two weeks ago the answer was No that it was not happening, as of one week ago it was officially confirmed that it was happening.

It is fine with me, I signed up to attend the conference anyway so those involved in the poster proposal knew I would be around to help out if needed. This is the last thing I am involved with that is related to the BSW program, I happy to be able to see it through.

I am looking forward to the conference this year, there are a lot of interesting topics being presented.

 

Getting by Without a Mirror

friend in the mirror

I read something today and it was exactly what the grounding I needed.

One who has a true friend has no need of a mirror.

Sometimes I feel off. Sometimes a little more out than in. Sometimes I feel a little lost looking in the mirror.

When I feel this way I focus on what I need to do to help myself feel more grounded. Certain smells help so I set up some oils, sometimes music, sometimes art, sometimes a conversation, or a walk in nature, sometimes meditation.. What I need may look different depending on what led me to feel this way to begin with.

Today was one of those days. I did what I needed to do for myself and even asked for help, which is something I am not always willing to do but I know can make a big difference. Todd and I talked a lot today and even though the talks were deep and philosophical it actually helped me feel tethered down.

When I read this quote this evening it spoke to me. Sometimes I feel lost but there are people I love, my favorites, that help. When I feel lost I find pieces of myself in them or am able to find myself by seeing myself how they see me.

I don’t know if everyone experiences the people they love this way but I do and I am grateful. I felt lost today and through one of the conversations I had with Todd I found myself. We were talking about judgement, social constructs, and societal norms. I was expressing my thoughts, he his, and at one point he said something about agreeing with everything I said and that it was idealistic. There I am. Right there. All day long I felt foggy but in that statement I found myself. The second he said it I felt a little less lost because for a moment I was able to see me the way he sees me. What I had said was idealistic but that is me and that is how I experience the world. I know that about myself and he reminded me of one of my truths by making the observation he did.

The quote above also made me think again about how important the people we surround ourselves with are. The people we love and hold close reflect back pieces of ourselves to us. I am thankful for those I hold close, I am thankful for the love they show me, they show me how easy I am to love and sometimes I need the reminder.

I am grateful.

 

On to the Next Thing

success

I finished up my application for my next field placement yesterday. Grad school started Monday and I almost can’t believe it. I am a grad student. In one year I will have my MSW. This is feeling pretty surreal.

I am curious to see where I will land for this internship. A few agencies have expressed an interest in me but I don’t want to try to control this experience so I am going to wait and speak with the professor in charge of placement and see what she thinks. I just want this experience to be whatever is supposed to be and I want it to teach me whatever I am supposed to learn.

I am really excited about my classes so far. On break last night I was sitting near a window watching the rain when a classmate came up and started talking with me. She is someone I had not met before, we have two classes together this semester. She was telling me about her social work journey. She told me how she was almost a psych major for undergrad but felt like a psych degree wasn’t worth anything anymore because it is so popular, personally for social work I think it is probably a good foundation but I understood what she meant. It sounds like maybe it took her some time to figure things out for herself, I can identify with that. It seems like there are many more people my own age or older in grad school and that feels good. It is nice to know I am not the only one who needed some time.

I like both of my instructors and I think the subjects are going to be really interesting. Today Todd and I have to go online and order me a copy of the DSM V, that makes me feel pretty official I have to say.

I know there is a lot to learn, I am open and ready.

You Better Have Your Advnture Pants On!

il adventure5

Sunday night Todd and I arrived home from IL. It was a fun weekend spent with family and friends. All his friends from high school and many from college were in town for his friend’s wedding so there was lots of time for games, drinks, and all sorts of other shenanigans. In this midst of all the revelry Todd and I found time for ourselves, that is what this post is about. The whole weekend was fun but my favorite part was our adventure in the woods.

It feels like the sun rises especially early in IL. I woke up at 6am Friday morning and thought it was 10. I made Todd check and recheck the clock on his phone because I was sure he had told me the time wrong. Every day we were there I woke up with the sun at 6am, it was a bit disorienting. It did allow us to get a head start on the day though. We went down stairs, spent some time talking with friends and then changed and headed out.

Friday we were revisiting my favorite IL stat park, favorite of the ones I have been to at least. I like the trail because it is natural, appearing completely untouched by man. The last time we hiked in this park it was winter and the river was frozen, IL has been having a mild spring so I was not sure what to expect. The river was most certainly alive and well when we got there. Everything was green and beautiful, I was so excited! Todd did not exactly share my enthusiasm at first.

We walked down to where the hike normally starts and realized where we needed to go was under water. There is another hiking option at a higher point away from the water but you miss a lot of the view and experience. Todd was opting for the dryer option but I was not easily deterred. I rolled up my pant legs, took off my shoes and started crossing the river. Once Todd realized that it wasn’t that cold I was able to convince him to do the same. We had so much fun. It was muddy, and wet, and more than once I came close to falling in completely while trying to balance on rocks in the middle of the river. It was my favorite kind of adventure though, just me and him and nature. Rarely did we see another person.

il adventure6

I think he was questioning things still at this point.

il adventure4

A lot of the areas we had to cross were like this and if we were lucky we might have a few rocks to jump across, many times we were just wading.

il adventure1

After we got across the first area successfully it was all down hill.

il adventure2il adventure

Traveling by Land, by Air, and by Book

my travels in books

Last year was a year of travel and adventure in many forms. We spent time in nature through beach trips and mountain vacations, we had a second honeymoon, we had date nights almost every weekend, we hiked, we swam, we did theme parks.. It was a year of experiences and I am glad I will always have these great memories from my first year of marriage.

This year is a bit different. Last year was an ideal, not every year is going to allow for that much travel and outings over all. This year I will spend almost the entire year split between full-time classes and full-time internship. The balance has been trickier. Less free time during the week means more assignments being worked on over the weekend, which of course results in less free time on the whole.

I am not one to be discouraged though. We will take our trips where we can, and make time for little adventures.

As an introverted creative type a big piece of my balance in life and attention to self-care comes from quiet time allowing my mind and spirit to wander freely. During the week when there is little time for big adventures I take small ones in the books I read. Over the course of last semester I read quite a bit and I plan to read even more this summer, as time allows of course. Yesterday I picked up The Alchemist (really excited about that one), and my intern supervisor got me Being Mortal as a thank you gift. That is where I will start. When you stuck in one place a book alleviates that feeling of stuckness and makes life feel more bearable in my experience.

There is a little travel planned for this year though. Today we leave for IL and will stay for a long weekend. This summer we will have beloved friends staying with us and then we will all stay at the beach together. We are also squeaking in a quicky trip to Silver Springs for a wedding.

Next year after graduating with my MSW we are planning a big trip to the mountains in the fall, it is nice to have something to look forward to.

I am certainly grateful good books, art supplies, and the ability to travel.. It all adds color and beauty to life.

Now I Know It Was Never About Forgiveness

With Gratitude

To be more accurate about what is written above, I am still learning that this too is a gift.

I have wanted to write this post for a long time but have not known how. I still don’t feel that I do but I feel ready and now feels right.

I do not see all of my darkness as a gift and I am not thankful to everyone who has given darkness. Some of it is though, and to some I am thankful. Maybe one day.. but for now this is enough and I can say that with conviction.

I have been involved in a lot of conversations whose intentions are to help me understand that people (even those who hurt us) do not cross our paths on accident, that not everyone is filled with darkness (which I already believed), and that things that have happened were maybe meant to. Some of that has been hard for me to digest, as an atheist, as a feminist, as a million other identities I hold, but most importantly as a survivor – an identity I still do not fully identify with. In order to identify this way I have to be willing to admit certain things happened and I am not there yet.

In very specific situations, with a few people I am able to see the truth in some of these ideas. It explains a magnetism I felt. It helps me understand things I have had trouble understanding and in some cases it has helped me understand that I do not need to understand.

Someone, multiple someones, that I loved very much gave me darkness. In some cases I see now that it was in fact a gift. I cannot help but feel unending gratitude now for these people, this person, and the darkness they bestowed. I also know that once I was someone that someone else loved very much and I gave them darkness. I hope one day they are able to see it as a gift as well.

A few months ago I saw someone I once loved, someone who gave me much darkness and who I gave darkness to in return. This is when I knew that it was never about forgiveness. I have never felt like I could forgive this person, something about that felt like I was abandoning the pieces of me who were hurt, who were scared, who already felt abandoned. When I saw this person I knew I was okay and silently I sent the person a message of gratitude, not in that moment I admit, but once I processed it that was what I was left with- gratitude.

It’s a funny thing darkness.. It is where a person can feel most lost, it is also where one can be found.

Today My Light Burns for Me Alone

i know what is right for me

 

Graduation day was special. It was special for obvious reasons but more so for millions of reasons that existed beneath the surface. I wanted to honor everything that existed beneath the surface so I decided long before graduation day that I would celebrate in a way that felt right to me. This is what that looked like..

First was the decision not to walk at the big graduation. I had no interest, I would be doing it strictly to please others and that is not what this day was about for me.

Second, and this may sound a bit harsh to some, was spending the day how I wanted which ended up meaning NOT spending the day with my family. Allow me to expand on this..
It was not a deliberate intention to spend the day away from my family. My brother was graduating as well and after graduation my family had decided they would all go to lunch at a restaurant. I had no interest and if I went it would be to please others. Again, not what this day was about. I let my family know that was not how I wanted to celebrate so we went separate ways.

This sounded good in theory before the actual day but when graduation day finally arrived I definitely had some familial guilt flying my way. I did not absorb that energy though.

So after graduation I did family photos, photos with friends and then walked with Todd across campus to return my gown. It was a beautiful day for a long walk across campus so we decided to take our time and even detour to one of my favorite places on campus, the ideas lab in the engineering building. Both my inner 5 year old and inner artist LOVE hanging out in the ideas lab. I knew Todd’s inner 5 year old and inner engineer/mathematician would love it too.  I don’t know if I have ever been so right about anything! Who am I kidding, of course I have. My intuition knows what she is doing!
We spun around in the topsy-turvy chairs, Todd examined the equations written all over the glass walls and tables trying to explain to me what it meant. He is a decent translator as he is fluent in both English and Math.

Once we finally pulled ourselves away from the lab we went home to see our dog and continue the graduation festivities with a family (Jillian, Todd, and Lucy) walk. While on our walk we talked about the last two years and what the future may hold for us. At one point we walked up on the little free library which sits at the corner of two streets in our community. I always check to see what it is holding although I have never actually taken a book because morally I feel that if I take a book I should replace it and I have not found a book yet that warrants me parting with one of my beloved friends. This day was different though. As I casually shuffled around I found a book that spoke to me and I knew it had to be a graduation present from the Universe, why else would today of all days be the day I finally find a book I must have? It is an anthology of fairy tales, I mean that literally – all the stories are about fairies. These are not your typical stories about fairies though, they are stories from other cultures. Some of these fairies are rather wicked, some play tricks like Puck from Midsummer Nights Dream, some are more like psychics and healers than a fairy in the traditional sense. I am currently reading a story whose origins are from India. Now I just have to decide which of my books I can part with – I am sure there is a baking cook book in some forgotten corner I can donate. Kidding.

After our walk Todd and I ran out for beer and vegan cupcakes. When we got home Todd made us an incredible dinner and we watched Straight Outta Compton, which was every bit as good as I knew it would be. Not gonna lie we took a long nap somewhere in there too, graduation was amazing and super exhausting.

Saturday I did celebrate with my close family, it was another beautiful day and we spent most of it outside.

Sunday Todd and I went to the beach. We went early so we had the beach mostly to ourselves. We floated in the ocean, collected some shells, and lounged while watching crabs dig their holes.

It was a really good weekend and I think that primarily true because I celebrated in a way that felt good to me. I did not allow others expectations to overshadow what felt right to me. That in itself is really special. It something I think everyone struggles with, I am glad I was able to give myself this gift for my special day.

 

My name is Jillian and I am a Social Worker

Today was so much more than I ever imagined it could be. Today I walked across a stage and changed my life. Today I became a social worker.

Our program has a private graduation celebration just for our graduating class of BSW students. I opted not to attend the big graduation and attend just this one instead and I have zero regrets about that decision. The entire ceremony was so meaningful and I realized a few things about myself today.

The first is that I made an impact that I was not even aware of. I have mentioned before about how one of the goals I set for myself when I started the program is that I wanted to do well and somehow make a name for myself. I didn’t really have a vision for what that would look like and being the introvert that I am at times this felt like a lofty goal. Well just like a learned early on that you do not have to sell yourself to people in order to network I learned today that you do not have to be extroverted in order to be noticed, there is a place at the table for us introverts as well.

I was recognized by our program with an integrity award. Here is a little background about the award, there were multiple awards given and they were based on social work values. The recipients were nominated by our peers and then of those nominated our peers then voted for who they think best represents each social work value. Integrity is really important to me, this was unexpected and so touching. And the thing is, I really didn’t have to do anything to “win” this award. I navigated the program exactly as I am and those who I worked with saw something in me.. It is a little thing but it means a lot.

The second thing I realized is that it is okay to admit you are scared, people actually respond well when you let your humanity show through.

Yesterday morning my brother called to let me know that I needed to speak at graduation today (just to make sure you caught that, I was given one days notice that I would speaking in front of hundreds of people). Can we say freak out moment? For the record I did not freak out but I stand firm that I had every right to.

The story with this is that about a month ago the BSW student association reached out to the student body and asked us to nominate local social workers in the community to be our speaker at graduation. I checked with a local social worker who I have personally been very impacted by to see if she would be interested and then with her permission I submitted her name and a short essay on why I was nominating her. I never heard anything more about it until yesterday when my brother, who is the Vice President of the BSW student association, called to let me know that the woman I nominated had been selected and that they (the director of the program and the BSWSA) would like me to introduce her at graduation since I nominated her.

I was so glad to discover she would be our speaker, I think she is the living embodiment of our social work ideals and she has a very powerful message.  And a big piece of me was honored to be responsible for introducing her, another big piece was scared. I am actually okay with public speaking as long as I have time to prepare, this left me with very little time to process or prepare. They were giving me an out, I was certainly not being forced to introduce her but I knew I would regret it after if I didn’t.

So this morning when it was my time to speak I walked up to the podium, looked out at the crowd, and with a big smile on my face said Good morning, my name is Jillian Baxter and I am nervous. Everyone laughed, including myself. Sometimes I think you just have to be honest. I didn’t even mean to say it, it just slipped out. But you know what, it was true and saying it not only made me feel better, it made me feel more connected to every person in that room because now they know, I am human and I am nervous. After I got that out of the way I felt much more at ease and I gave what I knew was a heart felt introduction and exactly what this amazing social worker deserved.

The third thing I learned at graduation is that it is okay to celebrate yourself and to allow others to celebrate you as well. At the end of graduation Todd and I were walking across campus to the engineering building (that is a story for another day) and Todd told me that I was recognized 5 times during graduation. I realized my name was coming up a bit but I was not keeping track. I admitted to him the attention was a bit much for me, I only expected to have to do the introduction and walk across stage to get my degree, but then  all of this other stuff came up where I was recognized. Todd pointed out something I did not realize though and that is that every time my name came up my friends were high fiving me, hugging me, standing up to cheer me on, and at one point even dancing around in celebration of me. I think I got a little lost in the excitement of it all that I did not fully register the support and cheerleaders I had. Luckily Todd had video to show me how supported and celebrated I was, I cried.

I do not feel like I did anything special, I just did things that I had time for and wanted to do. I did things that were meaningful to me, I did things that I knew would make a difference. I did good things and it is okay to not only to celebrate what I accomplished but to also accept praise and celebration from others. ‘

It was an amazing day. I am glad Todd was there, it steadied me to know that he was there in the back of the room with eyes on me sending me love. I am grateful for all of it, for my peers, the professors, the directors, the work, my loved ones, I am even thankful for those who brought me challenges, for those who triggered me at times. It was all special, it all needed to be exactly as it was for me to get where I am.

My name is Jillian and I am a social worker.

social work graduation

I painted my cap in a tie dye design to represent all of my beautiful broken pieces, the light and the dark, because they all were part of getting me here. On my cap I wrote one of my favorite poems from childhood by one of my favorite authors..

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES, then listen close to me..
ANYTHING can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be!

-Shel Silverstein