Infinite Ways to Add to Nine

You’ve heard the expression More than One Way to Skin a Cat?

Well I hate that expression. So a long time ago I came up with my own version. I say: There is more than one way to add to nine.

I say this when I reach an impasse with someone where we are unable to find common ground. I say this with clients who get stuck in black and white thought patterns. I say it often.

My point is simple: there are lots of options out there and none of them are wrong, they are just different.

Fun fact: My favorite way to add to nine is 5+4. That was until tonight..

Today I finished the last paper of my college career. It was a research paper about the effectiveness of guided visualization, I could not have planned that better if I tried. I feel like I went out with a very authentic bang!

All morning while I was writing my paper and taking breaks my sweet husband was scurrying away trying to find something special for us to do once I finished. He wanted to celebrate me tonight. He would come in while I was writing and present a menu for a new restaurant for my review. Nothing was really appealing to me. A lot of restaurants think having a salad menu is enough of a vegetarian option, I whole-heartedly disagree.

On one of my breaks we came up with a plan. We found our own way to add to nine.

When I finished my paper and clicked “submit” I began to cry. I caught myself off guard, apparently it had been sitting there just beneath the surface waiting for me to finish this one last thing.

I went and found my husband charting out his math equations in the bedroom and I flopped down on top of him and let the tears flow.

I did it. I can’t believe it, I did it.

I completed a graduate program. I am a woman with a Master’s degree. I am the first woman in my family to attend college and I now have a Master’s degree.

I cried and cried.

I just cannot believe it. I can’t believe it. I did this! I DID THIS! I DID IT!

Then I started jumping on the bed and laughing and throwing blankets everywhere!

I DID IT! I FUCKING DID IT! I DID IT!!!!!

It was great fun, really it was, until I landed on my husband’s hand. He was okay though so I kept laughing and punching the mattress.

I did it man! I did it!

I left my husband to his math for a while longer and honestly I don’t even know what I did. I was so happy I was incoherent.

Later hubs and I started our master plan for the evening.

We headed to the grocery and picked up produce, ginger beer, ricotta, and naan. Then we came home and got to work.

We celebrated by making vegan/vegetarian naan pizzas with all of our favorite ingredients, our favorite cock/mocktails – the Moscow mule, and set up our dining room table like an trendy/artisanal restaurant. We brought the romantic dinner to our home.

naan pizza

We made three pizzas:

  1. Hummus, kalamata olives, plum tomato, artichoke hearts, sauteed onions and green peppers, basil.
  2. Tika Masala sauce, cumin sauteed garbanzo beans, mango, purple onion, mint.
  3. Ricotta cheese, blackberries, basil, black ground pepper.

We also made a pear salad which ended up being delicious but over kill, we had plenty of food.

When our dinner and cock/mocktails were ready we set the table and put on our Ben Howard Pandora station for mood music.

date night in1date night in

Over dinner we talked about our past, present, and future. We talked about my growth over the last 6 years that we have been together, and our growth together. We talked and talked and it was wonderful and romantic and just good in a very honest comfortable way. At one point I said what I often do about adding to nine in reference to how I went about earning my degree, I took the rode less traveled you could say. Then my husband said, it is more than that. It’s not just that there is “more than one way to add to nine”, there are infinite ways to add to nine.

There are infinite ways to add to nine because the options are endless. The options are endless. There is no right or wrong or good or bad, there are just infinite options, there is no limit to what is possible. Each person has there own unique path towards their own personal truth, the options are endless.

My path looked different from the paths of others, that is because it belongs to me and I walked it just as I was meant to. My mathematical husband helped me stand firmer in one of my own personal truths today.

 

Anti-Climax

I am nearing the home stretch of my time as a social work student and it is not quite what I expected. I thought I would be filled with an excited bursting energy and end my time in school with some sort of fanfare, but the truth is it all kind of feels like a non-event.

I think a few things contribute to my lackluster sense of excitement when it comes to finally reaching my end goal.

  1. Grad school was an overall disappointment. There were a few classes and topics that i found interesting and informative but on the whole I was severely underwhelmed and felt under challenged. For someone who is focused on growth I felt I experienced very little this last year based on my experiences in the classroom.
  2. This semester is primarily web based. I am not going to campus much this semester so it doesn’t really feel like I am even in school. I occasionally have to write a paper but the work load is minimal and with no classroom time it feels is as if graduation somehow came and went without me.
  3. This internship being a longer internship makes it feel more like an actual job than an internship. Not having to go to class adds to that feeling. I love the internship but I do not feel like an intern, I feel like an employee because I have been there for so long at this point and am so comfortable with the job.
  4. I have decided not to walk at graduation, I may have already mentioned that. I have zero interest in doing the big graduation and they are not having a small social work celebration so there is no stage walking this time around. This of course makes graduation feel like a nonevent because it kind of is.

I am not necessarily upset by the way things are ending, it is just not what I expected. This is a big life event for me and without the hubbub surrounding it somehow it doesn’t feel so big. I am sure as the months slip by and the end is really upon me I will start to feel differently. Or maybe I won’t. Either way I almost done and that means something, with or without the fuss.

It is Time to Leave this Place

travel

 

In about a week and a half I will complete my final exam of the semester and officially be on break!! With that break will come much needed TRAVEL!!!! Can you tell I am excited?

Oh my God I need to get out of town so badly!! I really need to hit the “reset” button right now and travel always does that for me. When I was single in my mid-twenties my girlfriends and I traveled constantly. We were always going on weekend trips here and there. There is something seriously therapeutic about a change of scenery.

In two weeks hubs and I are going to Jacksonville to visit my soul friend who moved there last month. I cannot wait to see her new place and for the three of us to explore the city but more than that I am really just looking forward to seeing her. I’ve missed her. I got used to her living 5 minutes away. I may not have seen her all the time but it was comforting knowing she was right there and we could see each other on a random Thursday night for dinner at her apartment.

So that is coming up quick and I am thrilled.

We had been talking about a winter trip to the mountains for a while but after chatting via email with a few of the cabin rental companies we decided against it because our SUB is not 4 wheel drive and we felt it would not be safe for us to do the mountain roads in the snow. With that we took a winter trip off the table and decided we would travel over spring break instead. Well now we are revisiting the idea of a winter trip.

I am worn out (lets be real this is borderline burn out). Between the past two semesters of grad school and balancing full time school with full time internship I need a vacation. We have not taken a true vacation since last fall, it feels overdue. We have not started talking about new destination ideas, hubs had wanted to do Austin before so maybe that will be back on the table. I would honestly be fine keeping it simple and doing a quick road trip to South GA or something. We will see what we come up with. For all I care he can pick at random, I just want to get out of town.

I think we both also recognize that this may be the last big winter break we get together. When I working full-time again I am not going to get these nice long seasonal breaks where we can travel. Plus babies are going to be on the horizon at some point and that will change how we vacation as well. I think We both recognize that we need to travel while we still have the time to do it.

So yeah that is where things are at. I am counting down the minutes until winter break and trying not to have a melt down while studying for finals. Hubs is teaching himself new things at work and trying to keep smoke from coming out of his ears. Things are going well and we are exhausted. Such is life.

Mentoring

After Thanksgiving the flu took our home by storm. I missed an important day at school as a result but thankfully was given a make up assignment so my grade did not suffer. Our house was destroyed for days because we were sick at the same time and no one was cleaning up. It was hellish.

We both finally made it back to work and internship midweek and now we are just starting to get our life back in order.

It was a busy week at internship but a few exciting things are happening that I would like to share..

I have been asked to mentor two different upcoming social work students which is kind of fun. The first ask surprised me, it came from one of my own mentors. They reached out because they have a family friend whose daughter is thinking about applying to my college’s social work program. My mentor asked if I would be willing to mentor the daughter. I was surprised my mentor asked me as clearly they are capable (they have their LCSW already). Maybe the daughter is looking for someone closer to her age? ( I probably still have close to 15 years on her but that’s cool). I gladly agreed and have received an email from the daughter. We are planning to meet in a few weeks and she wants to know about the program and my personal journey etc. I hope I am able to answer her questions for her.

The second ask came from a friend of a friend. One of my girlfriend’s that was in my wedding has a friend who got her BA in sociology. Now she wants to do the MSW program. I am in contact with her now as she applies and have agreed to review her personal statement etc.

So this has been neat, I am excited to be able to help others on their journey. Every professional position I ever held before returning to school found me in some kind of training position, I really enjoy working with people who are new to something and helping them at the beginning. This feels natural to me. I love being in this cheerleader role in people’s lives.

The next exciting thing is a bit bigger.

A while back I mentioned in passing that I thought a job offer might possibly be on the horizon but that I didn’t want to count my chickens.. Well I still don’t want to count my chickens but…. I was asked if I would be interested in a position that is currently open. The person asking has the pull to get me in but right now I think they were only testing the waters to see if I was even interested. My impression is that they did not want to throw my name into the ring until they were sure it was even something I wanted.

I told them I was definitely interested and that I would want to know more about it. So they have started the ball rolling and are connecting me with the proper people.

My understanding based on the conversation we had is that there is a possibility that I could be working in a clinical position full-time as early as the beginning of next year. Apparently my not having my MSW yet would not be a problem because they know I will be graduating in May.

While all of this is so uncertain I have not even told my family yet (so friends from my real life who read this, please keep this under the hat), it is super validating to even be considered. And as much as I am trying not to get ahead of myself I am not going to lie to you I am excited! If I got this job I would be doing counseling, legit therapeutic counseling. I would be thrilled to have that kind of position straight out of college. I figured I would have to get a job that is clinical but heavier on the casework as a new grad. Almost all social work jobs involve some casework, that is part of what social work is, but this would be a more traditional clinical position where I would be doing therapy all day long.

We’ll see what happens. It would be nice to start working sooner than later and to not have to worry about trying to find a job after graduation.

It has been 4 years since I returned to school and as I enter the home stretch of this adventure I am really thankful for this whole awesome experience. I set goals for myself and blew each one out of the water. I never imagines at the beginning of this journey that I would be as successful as I have been. I really underestimated what I was capable of and my own natural gift for this kind of work. I am looking forward to what the next year will bring as I wrap up this part of my story.

 

Night Coffee

hennkim

I have officially reached the point in the semester when it feels like every single minute of my life is planned out until winter break, my fingers get numb from typing paper after paper after paper, my social life curls up in a hole and dies, and I start drinking coffee at night to pull everything off that needs to be done. This is the point of no return and I am staring it in the face wondering how in the hell to squeeze more than 24 hours out of a day.

The real kick in the pants is that in the middle of all of this chaos I recieved a jury summons. So now I have to press pause and go sit at a court house for who knows how long until I am more than likely dismissed. Honestly, the timing could not be worse unless it happened during finals week or graduation. I have two papers, one group paper, and two group projects that include role plays due in the next week and a half. I am feeling the pressure for sure.

I will get through it though just as I always do. In a few weeks this semester will be wrapped up and I will be just a few short months away from adding MSW to my credentials.

So tonight I am tucked away in a nest I created in the office, dunking my granola bar in my coffee and getting ready to embark on my first paper. Here is hoping I find all the research I need without issue and that my thoughts flow freely and cohesively as I write.

Okay let’s do this!

Social Working and Self-Care

I think my mini melt down Sunday night over gratuitous violence on TV was a precursor for what this week was bringing. It has been a heavy week. At one point my supervisor was jokingly telling me to bring in my sage and smudge the office to get rid of the bad energy.

There has been a good balance though I would say. Tuesday night the topic in group class was self-care, that was fortunate. And Wednesday we got plenty of outside time and we, the interns, even ran a few errands together. So there has been balance.

We attended an intense training around childhood sexual abuse this week, a client’s family member flew off the handle on one of our counselor (which we all knew was pure projection but I know it still didn’t feel good when it was happening), and there was just a lot of other weird things going on that added to the bad energy.

Today we all went home early so tomorrow we can come back refreshed and start preparing Halloween festivities for our clients. I am looking forward to baking with counselors tomorrow, I can’t believe I just said I am looking forward to baking.. It will be fun though.

So other ways I have personally offset some of this bad energy is by writing (obviously), going to bed early and sleeping late, eating well, getting plenty of outdoor time, spending quality time with hubs and Lu (watching the cubbies win!!), and not over doing it at internship this week.

I also reached out to a few people via email that I have been wanting to check in with. I emailed back and forth and caught up with my previous intern supervisor, she and I made plans for lunch in a few weeks. She called me clairvoyant because she said she was just getting ready to email me and check in, we are synced I swear.

I checked in with my friends at hospice, they are doing well, and I look forward to my next opportunity to see them. I also made plans with my former professor turned mentor. I will be seeing him in a few weeks. I am hoping to pick his brain about trainings and certifications, he has given me great leads in the past.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I am realizing that I am going to have to seek my learning opportunities outside of the classroom. I discovered through a conversation with my intern supervisor that the rates on some of these certifications are lowered for students. So it might actually be more affordable for me to do this within the next few months. Bring it on. We’ll see what I come up with.

In other somewhat related news.. I don’t want to count any chickens but I get the very distinct impression that I may have two different job opportunities lined up for me following graduation.. I do not know anything for sure but I caught wind of a few somethings and am waiting to see what happens. Again, I do not want to jinx anything but it would be awesome to have something lined up and not have to job hunt right out of school.

So that is where I am at right now. Still trying to take it easy this week. I am hoping the country will chill after the election and maybe the negative energy will clear as the holidays approach.. I hope.

 

Soul Work

When I first started at my internship a small concern I had was with the kind of counseling we provide to our clients. We primarily do pscyhoeducational which is surface level, educational information (as you could probably guess from the title), and does not typically address deeper issues such as trauma etc. The reason for this, at our agency, is because there is high turn over with our clients. We are residential but very short term for the most part and essentially the thought is that we don’t want to tap into some deep emotional wound in a session and the client leave the next day with this wound ripped open and no follow up support in place. We do make aftercare referrals for counseling and other services but it is ultimately up to the client to follow up on those services so there is no guarntee they will get the help they may need. The bottom line is we want to help without re-traumitizing the client.

I understand and respect why we use the approach we use, and I am grateful for any opportunity to practice clinical work. I know the work I want to do long term is the deep work though. It is what my life has prepared me for, much of my professional experiences have led me down this path as well. I want to help people heal at the source, not put a band aid on the wound.

My concern with this internship was that I would not have an opportunity to practice the kind of therapy I am interested in and that it might be hard for me to have the boundary of staying on the surface with a client when I know the issues hey present with run deeper. I am happy to share it had not been an issue. My boundaries have kept me in line with our mission and I have even gotten the opportunity to practice some of my deeper work in a way that is appropriate for my setting and the therapeutic goals we strive for with clients.

I have my own case load now, which I am loving, and I am self-advocating for the opportunity to run a group. I presented a topic for group, with an associated exercise, to my supervisor and she loved it so I am hoping she will give me a chance. We were told at the beginning of internship that we probably would not be running a group unless we really wanted to at some point, and I do! I want the full experience and this internship allows for that. I will have the opportunity to family counseling in addition to the individual counseling services I am already providing so I would love to try running a group as well. I have some experience co-facilitating a group but I would love to try my hand at it solo.

The opportunity I mentioned about getting to practice “deeper” work has showed up in the form of reframing things for my clients and working with them to identify internalized negative messages the outside world has given them that are now causing them to have low self-worth etc. It is still on the surface but they are important topics and I get so excited when I see them make the connection.


 

I started this post this morning before internship and then was pulled away by a phone call. I did not have an opportunity to wrap it up before I left the house so I left it as a draft to finish when I got home..

An update to the original post is that I was asked to run group tomorrow!! I am over the moon!! I created a visual to go along with group that will be used as a sample/example and I will have the opportunity to work creatively with our clients while they create their own version of my template. My heart is so full. Not only do I get to run a group on a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, I get to essentially do expressive art therapy with the clients which is also something that holds deep meaning for me. This is what whole hearted, authentic therapy looks like to me.. Being able to share yourself in an authentic, therapeutic way with your clients.

I cannot wait to report back and share how my first group session goes.

In the interim, today was another great day. I got a lot accomplished, I got to work creatively with another intern (we had a blast), I met with one of my clients and had what I consider a productive session. I also felt I made deeper connections with some of my colleagues.

I cannot tell you how good it feels to be doing well at this placement. It feels good to succeed, it feels GREAT to succeed at something you were afraid to do in the first place. Everyday I feel my confidence and my resolve to do therapeutic work growing. I am so so eternally grateful. My words are not big enough to hold the gratitude in my heart and soul.

My cup runneth over.

high-five

 

Intellectual Property

Before I started the social work undergrad program I had to finish up some required prerequisites, math, science, English, and a few electives. It was much less painful than I had imagined it being when I was working not wanting to return to school. I particularly liked the science courses and the electives, I took all sociology electives.

One of my sociology professors stood out from the rest. He was a retired PhD from a northern school. He was an activist, and an author, and the equivalent to my Morrie – if you have ever read Tuesdays with Morrie. It was a diversity class and he was constantly challenging us, it was amazing. He is to credit for my becoming a volunteer and becoming active in many different organizations. He strongly encouraged us to be involved in what is going on around us, as a volunteer, an activist, an advocate, in any way we can.

Every week when I went to his class it was like going to church, his words were wise and came from a place of pain and experience. I am forever grateful that we crossed paths if only briefly, he had an enormous impact on me.

One class I, towards the end of the semester, I remember him warning us about going off to university and not getting our full experience and/or being taken advantage of by our professors. This sounds weird, especially that last part, I know. I never fully put together what he was saying either, until grad school. His words ring in my ears now, I finally understand the message fully.

He was talking about our professors being more concerned about Publish or Perish than teaching us and being engaged. Personally I have had some outstanding professors that I am honored to be learning from, I have seen and heard some of what my Morrie was talking about though.

At the grad level the entire experience feels less personal. In undergrad I had a professional relationship with the director of the program and felt acknowledged and encouraged in the work I was doing. Maybe I was a bit spoiled by that because you certainly do not get that at grad level. I believe the director knows who I am, she and I sat on a quarterly meeting together when I was in undergrad. Now there is no reason for us to interact though.

Even the advisers feel standoffish at the grad level though which surprised me. I have tried on multiple occasions to meet with my adviser and they all but refuse. They will do everything in their power to handle the issue outside of the office. That is fine I guess, they have a lot of students to manage and I recognize that. Over all though the cold reception from the admin office does make the program feel less personal than the undergrad program.

The longer I am a student the more I am getting to see behind the curtain of academia as well. There certainly does seem to be pressure to do research and publish your findings in order to be relevant, and being relevant is clearly very important. Seems like a lot of pressure and almost competition. The energy around Publish or Perish is tense for sure.

A professor who I deeply admire from undergrad strongly encouraged a colleague and myself to not only publish our findings from the community research we were doing last year but also to consider staying in school past the grad level. It all seemed exciting at the time but looking back at it, that path is not for me. Not at this point in my life at least. The reason to take that path is if you want a career in academia, as it stands now that is not my focus. I could maybe see myself being an adjunct in retirement but right now I want to be hands on practicing.

Another observation I have made sense being back in school full-time is the importance of protecting your intellectual property. I have even considered it at times when I write in this blog. Most of what I write is personal but on occasion I branch out a bit and what is stopping someone from taking my brain work and claiming it as their own?

I have seen this very thing happen at school, and have personally experienced it on more than one occasion. You share an idea with another person and next thing you know they have shared it with the class without giving you credit. This may seem like a small offense but it the tip of the iceberg on a much larger problem. What if that person instead of sharing the idea with the class decided to go and construct an entire research project off of your idea and then published it? It is their work, sure, but your idea.

So yeah, I guess my take away from what my Morrie told me so many years ago is that academia can be a very cut throat environment. I want to believe that no one is being this way intentionally, I think there is just a lot of pressure to perform.  It doesn’t fell good though I can tell you that. I also see where ethics are of the utmost importance in order to keep from having situations where a person’s intellectual property is being used without their permission.Talk about dog eat dog.

Awkward Shared Experience

I have about 20 minutes before I have to leave for internship so I decided to try to get this post out real quick because something interesting happened in school last night.

First I have to comment on awesome weather right now. Awesome is maybe not the word everyone would use to describe it, it has been raining for three days straight and probably will through the end of the week do to a tropical depression that is hanging out nearby. I love it though. I have my root chakra music playing and the rain is pounding in the background, I can hear it hitting the chimney and echoing down into the fire place. I think the only reason I ever didn’t love the rain was because I had long hair and rain/humidity made it impossible to deal with. Having no hair allows me to love the rain as I actually do, fully and with enthusiasm!

So last night I was in groups class where, you guessed it, we learn how to facilitate groups and everything about group dynamics etc. One of the ways this class is being run is that we, as a class, are holding group every week and two students cofacilitate the group. They have a topic for the group to focus on etc and it gives each of us a chance to both participate in a group and run one, lots of great hands on experience.

Last night was our first group, in my opinion it was a mess at times and super uncomfortable. The main facilitator, I say main because he did not allow the woman he was cofacilitating with have an opportunity to do her thing at all! So the main facilitator appeared to have A LOT of nervous energy that he did seem self-aware of at all and he did things that were perceived by me to be patronizing, sexist, and weirdly controlling. I thought it was just me, he definitely reminds me of a few men I have encountered in life that were problems for me so I was sure this was just an issue of transference. I was uncomfortable for the first 20 minutes but bit my tongue. 2o minutes in he asked us all to stand to do an exercise, he then proceeded to separate the men from the women (there were onyl two men other than himself so he forced – literally grabbed and forced- the professor to join group and line up with the men. Background information, this group’s topic was getting a job after school, we were supposed to discuss our concerns etc.
So he lines up all the men and then has the women count off from three breaking us into three groups. He then tells us, the women, to line up in front of the men based on the number he assigned each man and take turns shaking their hands while looking in their eyes passionately. Um.. What the actual fuck is going on??

He did not explain the purpose of the exercise, even after he did later it was not clear. It was perceived by a lot of people, men and women alike, myself included, to be an exercise where the men were teaching the women how to shake hands. My feminist pieces were freaking the fuck out. This was some sexist bullshit. Not to mention sexism already exists for women in professional environments, lets just go ahead and validate that by creating a sexist exercise that prepares us for the sexism we are in for when we get the job.

And what was the whole thing about looking them in the eyes passionately? When in a professional environment should we ever be looking anyone in the eye passionately? What were learning from this? It was so awkward and sexist I could barely breathe. Oh and one more thing, once we were all done being passionate and learning how to shake hands we, the women, were told to rate the men’s performances. Holy fucking innuendo Batman! Does this guy seriously not get how weirdly inappropriate this is?? Jeezo!

So after this debacle of an exercise we all returned to our seats to continue group. The energy in the room had changed, it was tense. No one was making eye contact, it was like we were all covered in shame or something. The facilitator was clueless, he could not read the room at all and pushed on calling on people who were volunteering to participate in the discussion etc. I was so triggered I shut down. I was done with this group and this dude. He apparently did pick up on this in me and called on me deliberately, I passed because in a group you can always pass there usually is not forced participation. My pass cracked open the group and things got real for the first time all night.

One of my colleagues I know well and who knows me well could read what my pass was about so she started the ball rolling. She raised her hand and shared that she was uncomfortable with the exercise we had just done. The facilitator seemed a bit dumb founded. I then raised my hand and explained how I felt (definitely using my I voice) that it was sexist and it spoke to sexism that already exists in professional spaces. I felt like the facilitator get defensive, I braced myself for a confrontation I had been trying to avoid, but before he had the chance to respond men and women alike were chiming in about their shared discomfort with the exercise. It led to a very meaningful conversation about sexism in the workplace and what women experience. There was lots of personal sharing of stories and insightful dialogue with the other men in the room.

For the record I still do not think this guy, the facilitator got it. At the end though the professor did say that the conflict my friend and I opened up about led to the best moment the group had. He said that was the only time we acted like a real group. Yay feminism.

Quite a few of us were still processing the whole thing after class. I am glad my friend shared, I am glad I called the sexism that was happening out. I also made sure to check in with the facilitator and make sure he and I were okay. He is hard to read, I am still not sure he understood any part of what happened. That is his journey though, he will get there when he is meant to or not at all, not my concern.

Letting Go of What Does Not Serve Me

borrowed identity

You know that voice in your head, the “not good enough” voice, the bully?.. Where did that voice come from? Who gifted you the negative messages that you play over and over? Does your truest self actually believe these negative things or are they someone else’s words or actions that you absorbed and have turned into your own personal torture device?

Maybe it is a little bit of both (most things are after all). Our internal bully can be made up of social messaging from society, messages received in close relationships, and things we say to ourselves that have a foundation in one of the first two.

Listening to one of our clients in group yesterday made me think about this. What the client was sharing made me wonder, Where did they first receive that message? As I was processing the day on my way home I was thinking about some of my own messages I have internalized over the years and who they came from. I had some major I show myself love moments on the drive home and have decided it is time to release some of these messages because I no longer believe them and they do not serve me.

I am crazy. That was a gift from a former intimate partner that could not cope with my depression and grief after the death of a loved one. I was in pain, a pain so deep it scared him. I release this message. It is not my truth and it does not serve me.

My body is not good enough. This was also a gift from a former intimate partner. My body belongs to me alone and I know she is worthy of my love. That is my truth. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am manipulative. There were times when this was other’s truth about me. I recognize times in my life when I was without and did what I needed to make myself feel safe and loved. I am grateful to the pieces of myself that took care of me during that time. I send love and light to those I hurt with my actions when I was trying to take care of myself. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am not deserving, I am not worthy. I release these messages. They are not my truth and do not serve me.

I am unlovable. This was one of my most painful messages, and one that I have had the longest relationship with. This is not my truth now because I love myself. I am worthy of love and I show all the pieces of myself unconditional love. I receive love from without and within. I RELEASE THIS MESSAGE. IT IS NOT MY TRUTH AND IT DOES NOT SERVE ME.

I know my truth. These messages can no longer hurt me. These words no longer have meaning in my life and no one will ever be able to use them to hurt me again. I am stable and safe, my body belongs to me and I am in love with it just as it is, I have everything I need to take care of myself, I deserve to be here and I am worthy of the goodness of life, I feel love, I give love, I am love.

Lots of Processing

There are many differences between this internship and my BSW level internship, one difference I am enjoying is sharing the experience with other interns. I do not like it more than my last internship being just me and my LCSW, it is just different and I am enjoying it. One aspect that is nice is having two other MSW interns to process things with. We are all experiencing this in different ways, there are multiple perspectives, it is great.

Today we discussed the importance of not personalizing things and shared some stories with each other. We talked about some of fears and insecurities about the internship and  our roles as social workers in general. We talked about the divide that we have all noticed in the program between the two cohorts (was glad to hear I was not the only one who noticed it, see my prior post).

Clearly we didn’t just sit around talking though. We had opportunities to talk during breaks from training. Training is going really well, learning lots. In regards to learning lots, I am advocating for myself at this internship so I can get everything I want out of it while also meeting the needs and expectations of my facility. I asked my LCSW for the opportunity to site visits at agencies we work closely with so I can learn more about them and their role and she agreed to this. I was proud of myself for using my voice and advocating for my experience.

Another awesome moment, engaging with the population. We got to sit in on group again and the population is starting to open up with us, love it!

I know this internship is going to have challenging moments, I am grateful for this time to ease in and take it slow.

Ready Ready Ready To Go!

I woke up 5 am ready to start the day. I’d like to think that I don’t have anxiety about what this week holds for me but if that were true I probably would have slept in until 7.

Right now my perfectionist self is running the show making sure I am ready for what lies ahead. I got all of my introductory discussion posts done before 8:30 so I can check my first assignments of the semester off my list. I have ordered and paid for my parking decal. I had breakfast and exercised. I picked out my clothes, organized my school bag, and have started making a list of questions to go over with my intern supervisor when I start on Wednesday. I also did a load of dishes and pulled out what is needed to make dinner when we get home later. I may not be a J or a Type A but I can pull things together when motivated.

Now I feel the need to balance all that excited/nervous energy with some calm. I figured I would right for a bit, taking a nice long shower, and meditate before making my lunch and getting ready for school.

I feel like I need to harness and focus this energy behind a certain intention for the day or I will be so wired up when I arrive on campus, search for parking, and finally get to class that I won’t be as present as I would like to be.

I think my intention today is to be grounded. I know I am excited and wound up, I think I need to focus on tethering myself to the ground, having a still mind, and being connected to what is going on around me.

I look forward to sharing all the details of my first week as an MSW clinical intern. I am sure as the semester moves forward I will have plenty of stories.

ready to go

Summers End

summers end

This weekend Todd and I will be taking our last over night beach trip of the season. We are going to see a band we have both listened to for years at one of the coastal amphitheaters and then going to the beach the next day. I am looking forward to it. We have had multiple beach trips with family and friends this summer, I think it is nice to finish off the summer with a trip for just the two of us.

There will be a little travel happening next semester but nothing compared to what we did last year. I have a workshop in October that will be held at the beach which I am looking forward to. Todd will be traveling to Nevada for work mid semester. Originally we talked about making a trip out of it but the timing is off and it sounds work heavy so he would not have much extra time to explore anyway. There may be another opportunity for travel with work in the future though and if that were to happen we would definitely both be going, it would be a big trip. I am not going to count that chicken just yet though.

We have decided to plan a trip for the fall of 2017 as a way to celebrate my graduation so that is something else to look forward to. We are thinking another mountain vacation but we have not decided yet. We could do Colorado or Oregon or maybe the New England area as well. The possibilities are many.

This week I have been finishing up all my final papers and tests. Next Tuesday is my official last day and I will have one semester of grad school under my belt. Hard to believe I will have just two more semesters!

I am meeting with my mentor next week to talk about post grad school plans. I am thankful for his guidance.

This has been a summer for the books. I can’t really even complain about the heat this year, most of the time I spent outside I was swimming. I also feel like I have grown quite a bit this summer and I think that is largely because I gave myself the gift of down time. The last two semesters I have been so busy that I don’t know if I was fully processing everything that was going on in my life. This summer was a much needed break, I am thankful for it beyond measure.

You Are So Much Just As You Are

capable

Yesterday one of my girlfriends from school texted me with questions about an assignment she felt unsure of. Of course I stayed in my bubble of safety in terms of academic integrity in my responses, what it came down to is that she was just overthinking it and needed some outside validation. I get that. I used to, and sometimes still do, live in that place.

When we were wrapping up or text convo one of the last things she said to me is that I was her “student goals”. I texted her back one more very important validation, You are so capable. I have never known you to get it wrong. trust your gut and instincts, I do.

I am her student goals. That is silly to me, not in a dismissive way, in a You are already there! way. I know she gets better grades than I do. She is in the honor society, I am over here getting regular old average A’s, not the A’s at the tippy top.

At the beginning of the semester I was sitting in a small tucked away lounge reading before class. This is part of my Tuesday routine, it helps feel grounded and focused before class begins. One of my classmates walked up and I waved her over to sit with me. She and I bonded last semester of undergrad over our shared love of working with older adults. We spent a little time catching up, talking about our impression of grad school so far. At one point she said told me how much she admires me and that I am the standard she holds her self to in certain ways when it comes to school and social work. I was flabbergasted. I reminded her of how much life and work experience she has and how much she has to offer a program like this in terms of intellectual contribution.

This classmate is in her 60’s I would guess. She has so much more life experience than I do which will make it feel natural when engaging with clients across the lifespan. She brings so much to the table.

I am flattered and humbled when I hear two strong women make comments like this but I am also a little confused.

My first friend I mentioned is in her mid twenties, is an activist for women’s rights, is intelligent, sharp as a nail, and probably towards the top of our class academically. She brings a lot to the discussion, why is she overthinking? Why is she experiencing the self-doubt?

I already mentioned quite a bit about my second friend. She also appears self-reliant, well-versed in matters of healthcare social work and life in general. She also receives high grades and I have never known her to get it wrong either. Why is she experiencing self-doubt?

I do not have the answer for each of them individually but universally I think we all do. Whatever out truth is it is in each one of us. Sometimes maybe it feels scary to admit that to ourselves though, even scarier to admit it out loud. Admitting out loud I know I am capable, I know my worth, I can do this and anything else, is a vulnerable declaration. What if someone says, You’re wrong. You are not capable, you are not worthy, I cannot do it.

To that I would say, why does that person get to make that determination for you? The only person who needs to believe you when you say I am capable, I am worthy, I can do this, is you. It is your truth, it belongs solely and wholly to you alone.

I do not believe that people would deliberately choose a life of suffering. That means that somewhere along the lines someone else made you feel incapable, unworthy, like you just can’t do it. That message was internalized and now it a toxic narrative you play on repeat in your mind. It is time to take that record off.

I say all of this while openly owning the fact that I still play this record from time to time. I am more aware of it and try to care for myself gently during those times. When I am truly ready to retire that old record once and for I know I will able to. I may not be there yet but I also know each day I am getting closer.

Policy Summit and Second Honeymoon in D.C.

dc nasw

In November Todd and I went back to D.C.. Part of the social work health care scholarship program I am in was a trip to D.C. for a day of advocacy as well as a networking event and panel discussion surrounding social work’s role in health care on  a macro level. It was outstanding.

I went with three other women from my program who are also scholarship recipients. The first night Todd and I went to dinner with my colleague in the BSW program. She and I had research class together and worked on literature review on the topic of physician assisted death.

The first day was the networking day at the national NASW headquarters. I ended up at a table with three other women, one from Louisiana, one from Colorado, and one from Illinois (I think). It was so interesting to hear how the laws in each of their states impact the work they do in the field. Something else that was pretty awesome about my table, all three were feminists. The woman I met from Louisiana I liked so much that I reinstated my FB account just so I could remain in regular contact with her. She is amazing.  I am in awe of the work she is doing. It was also really interesting to hear what each of their universities offered in terms of their social work curriculum. After the first day I met back up with my school colleagues and we worked together back to the hotel while we shared our experiences from the day.

The panel discussion was great as well. I have a decent undertaking of some of the roles social work plays in health care on a micro level but hearing from macro health care social workers was really interesting.

The second day we walked what felt like a million blocks (thank god for stylish flats) to the capitol to for a day of advocacy. The four of us met with our representative and discussed some bills. It went well and he was in support of our efforts.

Over all it was an exciting time, I felt super fortunate.

After my official business was finalized Todd and I spent a few extra days to celebrate our anniversary and have a second honeymoon. We revisited our favorite cafe, as well as some of the bookstores we fell in love with the year prior. We also visited some new places like Adams Morgan which is apparently a big party scene in D.C.. How did we miss this the first time around? We went to Madams Organ for drinks and I heard a karaoke cover of Drake’s Hotline Bling that was so good it gave me chills. This girl had an Erykah Badu quality to her voice, the way she sang the song was so intense it was painful, in a good way. I didn’t care much about that song before D.C. but now whenever I hear it I think of her and how stunning her version was.

dc madams organ.jpg

Anyway, hugely side tracked by that, so we did dinners and lots of walking. One of the highlights for me was the Blind Whino. Apparently there are quite a few abandoned (I don’t know if that is totally accurate to say abandoned honestly) churches in D.C. and the city’s way of addressing that is to re-purpose the buildings. This one became a nonprofit art club. It is even more incredible in person. I once read a quote that athiests love churches for the architecture.. First of all, Yes. And I feel like this stunning specimen speak s to that. While we were at Madams Organ we were on the roof and across the street was another stunning church under construction. When we asked the bartender about it she said they were turning it into a hotel. We thought that was kinda cool too.

dc blind whino

My thoughts were in a society of athiests is that what would become of these structures? Maybe. But I like the idea of taking a building that offered a sense of community to so many through religion and keeping that intention. By re-purposing the actual structure of the church into a community center you open up the symbol of togetherness to the broader community, no exclusions. I like that.

Anyway, that is my two cents about that. We had a wonderful trip. It was a great experience for me from a social work, networking, learning perceptive as well as an opportunity to relive our honeymoon one year later.

dc waterfall

 

Panel Discussion and CAC Meeting

Today was the last Community Advisory Council I will be part of during undergrad. I learned so much from this experience. It was a first small step towards creating connections with leaders in some of the different agencies in the community and establishing myself as a professional in the field. It was interesting to hear what is going on with our program and the school on the larger scale as well. At the end of the meeting I thanked our program director for inviting me last summer and was met with a big hug. Again, I am just really thankful for this experience, it was very special.

Yesterday was our “class field trip” to APH and WPH downtown, which is part of the other major hospital system in the area. We listened to a panel discussion on social work’s role in health care, it was very similar to the panel discussion I listened to in D.C. last fall except this discussion had a micro focus and the other was macro focused. Very interesting. After the panelist hung around so we could meet with them and ask questions. One of the panelist works at the cancer center I hope to someday work at so I spent sometime talking with her. We ended up having a bit in common other than just the population we both are passionate about serving. She returned to school in midlife after being a hospice volunteer for sometime. Upon graduating with her MSW she worked at a Hospice in her area for years before moving here and starting work at the cancer center. Very similar to some of the career goals I have set for myself.

The director of social work at APH and WPH was present at yesterday’s panel discussion as well as at the CAC meeting this morning so she and I got some face time which was nice. While talking we realized that we were both at a CE event last week on suicide prevention so we talked about that for a while.

At the end of the week I am going to another CE event on the latest research surrounding Alzheimer’s disease. After I plan to stop by hospice and say hi to my friends who I have not seen since starting internship this semester. I am so excited to see everyone.

So in terms of social work this has been a great week. I met the director of the MSW program this morning as she was sitting in at the CAC meeting. She congratulated me on getting in to the program and discussed it a bit with me. I am still in a bit of a cloud when it comes to my acceptance. I am so grateful for this entire experience, it all just feels a bit unreal. Graduation is in a few months then I will start grad school and in one year I will be an MSW. I have been accepted into a Master’s program. I will have a Master’s degree. I do not take any of this for granted. I am so fortunate and so grateful.

 

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This weekend and the Week to Come

This weekend was spent outdoors with my in-laws. The weather was beautiful. We went to both of the local farmer’s markets, ate lunch at my favorite local cafe (great vegan options), went to an indie folk festival, and spent time in the park downtown. I also managed to sneak into the bookstore and get a new novel.

In the evenings we played games and talked, a lot! Lots more social justice topics. It was a great weekend in my eyes.

Tomorrow my in-laws leave and it is back to business as usual. This week my intern supervisor, myself, and my colleague who is interning at a similar agency will all visit another local resource who serves our client population. That is at the end of the week, I look forward to learning about this agency and making new connections.

Mid-week my healthcare class is taking a field trip to the other major hospital in the area to listen to a panel discussion about social work’s role in medical settings as well as touring the hospital.

Also mid-week I have my quarterly meeting with the Community Advisory Council. This is the meeting that the director of the entire social work program invited me to sit in on over the summer. This will be my third, and possibly final meeting. I am the undergrad social work student representative on the council. As I graduate in May my position will need to be filled. If the director asks me to sit on as the grad student representative I would gladly agree but I do not want to count my chickens.

It is sure to be a busy week. The week following I have been invited to shadow a social worker who works in the actual hospital for a day. So excited! She works in maternity as well as in the E.D. This will be a great learning opportunity for me as well I am sure.

 

 

Chicago Recap and School so Far

foo fighters wrigley

Last week was the first week of school and at the end of the week Todd and I headed out to Chicago to see the Foo Fighters at Wrigley Field.

Pretty excited about some of my classes this semester. I am taking policy with my favorite professor, she puts heavy emphasis on social justice which I love. Last night in class she made the class aware that UCF plans to build a campus downtown in the community I researching for the last 6 months or so. Not many people were aware and this launched a debate about what that move will mean for the residents of the community.

I ended up laying low on the debate. I am at times surprised by some of the stuff that flies out of my colleague’s mouths. We are supposed to be advocates for vulnerable populations and then you hear something like, “Well if the county takes their home so _____ can be built just move them to section 8”. No consideration given to how this family would be impacted by being displaced, by having their home taken from them so a business can be built that they may not even have access to because of their economic status. All I can say is that we are all at different places on this journey towards becoming social workers. I do not agree with what my classmate said but I am sure there are other areas where we will find common ground.

After the debate tapered off and class ended I told the professor about the community meeting that will be taking place in this community in a few weeks and she is interested in going. I was so encouraged to hear that, I would love to get her take on everything. My friend from school and I have a professor that is there for us if we need to process anything about the research we are doing but so far we have been on our own in the community. To have someone I respect with much more experience come into the community and assess what she thinks is happening is so welcome.

In other school related news we are in the process of scheduling our first meeting for my scholarship/training program. I saw the list of names on who else was accepted into this program and I know the other BSW student accepted. She and I collaborated on a research project a few semesters ago. I was glad to see a familiar name, I think it will be nice for us to share this experience together.

I am taking documentation this semester and while I have heard many students grumble about it the same way so many people (including myself) did about taking research, I am actually looking forward to this class. I have a little bit of background in documentation from my time in healthcare but this is a whole new way to approach it. I am so thankful our program offers this class because there is a lot to cover and I would like to have a solid foundation before entering into the field.

I am also taking my last gerontology class to complete my minor this semester. It is a service learning class which means we will be spending a good deal of time in the field. We will be volunteering with the Easter Seals. I am so excited. I love getting to be hands on and I really enjoy working with older adults.

As far as our trip to Chicago it was really nice. I thought the weather was beautiful but not everyone in our party agreed with me. It was overcast the entire time we were there, gray and chilly. I loved it. I really enjoy moody weather. Not to mention it has been in the upper 90’s in FL with a heat index in the low 100’s, gray and chilly was a reprieve! We stayed with a friend who lives near the city, her condo was on the top floor so her view was of tree tops on every side, it was like staying in a tree house when you looked out the windows, so pretty. Saturday was the concert, the band was great. I am not a huge Foo Fighters fan, I like them but I would not go out of my way to see them, they are Todd’s favorite band though. Even for not being as avid a fan as Todd I can say the concert was really good. I really like Dave Grohl, I liked how he engaged with the crowd.

Sunday we went to the zoo with Todd’s family. I was thankful they were able to travel into the city to see us as we did not have transportation to get out to them. It would not have felt right to be in IL and not see his family so I am glad that worked out. The zoo we went was nice with plenty of exhibits. I always feel conflicted about zoos though. It is so exciting to see these animals up close but I feel guilt about it as well. Todd and I have had long talks about the ethics of zoos and theme parks like Sea World and Animal Kingdom.

My favorite part of Sunday was just hanging out with Todd’s dad though. If I haven’t mentioned this before let me say it now, I hit the in-law lottery when I married Todd. My mother-in-law is super sweet and affectionate without being overbearing and my father-in-law is a no nonsense, socially minded intellectual. I love getting to talk with him. Todd’s apple did not fall far from his father’s tree which is really nice because in my own family I feel like a bit of black sheep. It is nice to feel like I fit in somewhere. Todd’s dad and I were talking about politics and who we favored of the democrats that are currently running. I am team Bernie all the way and it was nice to be able to say that out loud and it be well received. I mentioned it in my family and although I felt like I was given room to have that opinion I also had to listen to how Bernie is a socialist. meh.

So it was a good trip over all. I am glad to be home. I spent the early part of the week getting caught up on reading for classes now I will spend the remainder of the week getting ahead. Since we are traveling every month this semester I want to be ahead as often as possible so I am not feeling the pressure of deadlines while traveling. How much fun can you have on vacation when you know you have a deadline to get back to?

Tomorrow my three friends from school and I are meeting with our retired professor turned mentor at his office. I am glad we have been able to make this work with our schedules so far, the plan is to meet once a month. It is nice to have someone to run things by and talk about the issues with.

Over the short break between semesters I found a peaceful place in painting that I am hoping to have time for during the semester. It is a good way to re-center myself and keep balance. I am hoping to get my readings and assignments done today and have time to paint tomorrow before my meeting. I have been working on a painting in my head for a few days now and I am ready to put brush to canvas.

HEALS Scholar

scholar

Yesterday was by far the busiest day of this week for me. It was part of the reason I had trouble sleeping the night before, the worrier in me was wondering how on earth I would fit all the things I needed/wanted to do into one day and still have energy left at the end of the day. In what felt like the 11th hour I was given a huge boost that carried me through to the end though.

My day started by working/finishing an assignment that is due next week. By 11 I had to leave for campus. Once on campus I spent the next 3 hours reading research articles and working on a case study with three colleagues. By the time we finished we all felt a bit fried but we had an event to attend for one of our professors. While at the event the director of the program came over and was catching up with all of us, right before she left she asked me if I had checked my email. I said not since early in the morning. She then suggested that I check it and said, All I’m going to say is congratulations.

That is all I needed to hear! I knew that was her way of letting me know I got the healthcare scholarship/training program. All of my girlfriends from school who I was with congratulated me and I was on cloud nine. That was wonderful news. My friends and I stuck around a little longer to mingle with some classmates and professors then it was time for me to pick up Isaac for his sleepover.

I so excited about this opportunity and cannot wait to see what I will learn from this. I am also excited because acceptance into this program guarantees that my internship will be in healthcare. I had expected it would be anyway but this makes it certain. My understanding is that we will have monthly meetings where we will receive training materials and will discuss matters that pertain to the social workers role in health care. I still cannot believe I am getting to be a part of this amazing program.

The Interview

Yesterday was my interview for the healthcare stipend program. It went well. If there was any question about my commitment to the field I feel I answered it. Some questions were answered for me as well about what kind of training I would receive while in this program, I am very excited about that aspect.

I do not mean to count my chickens but I feel good about my chances. the only thing that might get in my way that I can think of is my internship. Because my minor is in aging studies, which is a gerontology minor, I have to complete an internship in an agency that works with olde adults. If I am accepted into this program I will have to complete an internship in the field of healthcare. I think it would be easy enough for these to areas to overlap but it really depends on who the school is contracted with right now for internships. Hopefully it is not a problem.

School is otherwise good. I have decided to become a mentor in the BSW program. The mentoring program is an opportunity for incoming juniors to link up with seniors in the program. I like the idea of this program and look forward to the connections that will be made.This week is particularly busy. Between end of the semester projects and papers not to mention various events going on I feel like I barely have time to breathe. We are also in the middle of doing the summer sleepovers with the kids as well. We had Maddie last weekend, this Thursday we will have Isaac.

Our fundraiser and supply drive for a local community school is coming to a close. Our last supply drop off is tomorrow. I look forward to being on the campus and seeing the end result of our work. Their food pantry was nearly empty when we started so I am excited to see how full it is now.

Last week my classmate and I met with the first resident in the other community we are doing research in. Her story was compelling and I appreciate that she was willing to meet with us and share her experiences because I know outsiders are regarded with skepticism and mistrust in this community. I hope our next resident interview will go as well and we will have an opportunity to schedule more.

I am feeling good about the work I am doing at Hospice as well right now. I feel like I have found my groove doing bereavement follow up calls. When I started we were 2 months behind on calls, now we are ahead. I am thankful for this opportunity, it has been a good way for me to practice some of the skills I learn in school as well as just work on connecting with people who have suffered a loss. I have multiple mentors at the bereavement center as well and I am thankful for their guidance and knowledge.

In regards to the work I am doing for myself, it is coming along. Today was my first counseling session and although it was painful at times I know the work I am doing for myself is important, just as important as the work I do for others. It is hard at the beginning but I feel like something really good will come out of this.

I am grateful for my loving support system as I start down this path. One of my friends at school was at the book store recently and saw that Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly was on sale so she when she bought a copy for herself she also picked one up for me. I was so touched. This book, which I have been meaning to read for sometime, could not come at a better time.

As the summer comes to a close I stepped back in amazement about how much emotion and activity I managed to jam into a few short months. It was a good summer, I look forward to the brief break before classes begin again in the fall. I look forward to a little downtime to process and collect myself. I look forward to what comes next as well. The next set of classes, continued work on myself, travel, holidays and anniversaries, and new opportunities to learn and grow.