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I need a change

Do you ever feel like something needs to change in your life, but you don’t know what? I’m at that place. I’m not sure if it’s my job or my perspective, neither or both, but I’ve been searching for something lately. One minute, I think, “Just ride this wave…things are good and smooth!” Then another minute, I think, “I need something new in my life. I need to SHAKE things up!” I’ve been praying about it too. Whatever the case, I made a move today that may set the wheels in motion to shake things up. The truth is that it’s not like me to remain still.

I’ve been thinking about giving back to my social work community and becoming a field instructor after all these years (really only 5 since I got my license). That means that I would supervise a student (preferably graduate level) at my agency for the duration of their internship. I work at the macro level, meaning I work with organizations and systems rather than with individuals and families. When I worked in direct practice (micro level) in the mental health field, there was never a dull moment because clients kept it interesting. By working in program development/implementation and public policy, things can get boring and monotonous. However, I do not miss the thought of having a caseload. My ideal mix would be to work in administration, yet be close enough to clients to see progress. I get a little bit of that in my current role.

I read some information and sent a few emails, which perked me up (not that I was down). I also ended up committing myself to some extra work to the tune of developing a curriculum. We’ll see how that goes…if it goes at all…I have some questions out.

I’m curious to know how you manage those moments of wanting a change, but not being sure of what that entails? Feel free to drop a line. I’ll keep posted on my endeavors.

Access road

In my last post, “On the road again…”, I wrote about some ingredients that help me to deal with judgmental people such as courage, confidence, persistence, perseverance, and downright stubbornness. I thought of another essential ingredient that pulls it all together.  

I have a small window before I take my shower, wash and comb my daughter’s hair, and get us ready for work and school tomorrow, so of course, I will write (there really is not a window…ha!).  Let’s just hope that 3 hours doesn’t slip by which tends to happen when I’m on my blog.  I had an inkling that I was missing a key ingredient, but I couldn’t quite get it until I was at the grocery store.

It goes without saying that I love my mom with all of my heart. She loves me and has instilled in all of her children a work ethic that I think is rare nowadays.  She is beyond humble….humble times 22.  As much as I try to reason with her, challenge her, impart my stance on issues based on my life, mental health and social work experiences, she is going to hold onto to her deeply held beliefs. Those beliefs are based on her experiences as a woman who has learned English as a second language, was born on an island, grew up devastatingly poor, raised 4 children in the U.S. as a single parent, and retired as a janitorial staff member at a hospital. That is not all that she is, but my point here is that on some things, we will not see eye to eye. She may even find me as amusing as I find her. Seriously, it’s not always amusing. It has become apparent that I have my judgments as well. I do think it’s vital to seek understanding on opposing points of view, especially pertaining to the people that mean the most to you.

The other ingredient that I will add to my list is acceptance. I accept myself including my imperfections, which is difficult for a recovering perfectionist like me. I accept failure even though it’s painful. I accept love, joy, and abundance. I accept people for who they are, but I acknowledge that I’ve tried to change family members’ mindset to a degree. Ultimately, I’ve learned to accept that I will not win everyone over on my hot button issues,  even the most important people in my life. I am ok with that because my goal is to live in my truth, not any one else’s. 

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Confidence, humility and ego

This week will go down in the record book as a memorable work week. I was debating a bit on the adjective that best describes it, and “good” didn’t quite cut it.  It was “memorable” because I received such a wonderful compliment on Wednesday that it had me floating through Friday.  I’m hesitant to type that my week was “fabulous” or “fantastic” because the work highs come far less often than the lows and I don’t want to let it blindside me. In my work environment, I often have to balance confidence, humility and ego.

In last week’s post,  I mentioned a presentation I made that went over fairly well at a meeting with some very important people from agencies that are very important to my agency.  What I didn’t know, but was told on Wednesday, was that during my presentation, one of the very important attendees, sent a text to my director (WHAT!) indicating how thrilled he was with the information I was presenting.  Another executive director told my director that she was so proud of me because I presented the information in a way that the stakeholders, who were not as familiar with the topic, could understand and get this…on top of that, she was so proud of me because I am a social worker like her.  I say, “What!” That tidbit about getting those stakeholders to understand is important because they are decision makers that have a lot of influence.  The other tidbit about being a social worker put a smile on my heart.  I could end this blog right here, but as you’ve guessed, I will continue.  My director came over and shook my hand after telling me this.  I was beaming from ear to ear.

Although I work in public policy and not in direct practice, I am fortunate to work in an environment where mostly (but not entirely) counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists are leading the work of mental health public policy in my division. Creating systems change to ensure that resources are adequately and effectively delivered to citizens in entities such as state government is difficult, but we take a stab at it everyday.

I am privileged to work with some very smart, educated people who have no qualms about sharing their knowledge.  I’ve learned so much from them. However, on occasion, the “sharing” can feel downright, overbearing, self-righteous and egocentric. What I’ve learned is that I (you) can’t be intimidated when working with smart people (or perceived smart people or anybody else for that matter).  You have to use your voice.  I’ve definitely seen egos flying around the office, and let’s face it, we were hired because of our knowledge. Ironically for me, most of the staff, including myself, are identified as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs- yes, we have an acronym) and we are required to collaborate on a host of things to make decisions that affect citizens. However, having the type of negative attitude I noted above is off-putting and unproductive.  I believe there is a way to operate without resorting to that.

I sometimes find myself on this thin line of balancing confidence, humility and ego.  I lean towards the belief that the work (whether hard work or lack thereof) you do and the integrity you demonstrate will speak for itself.  I’ve since come to realize that in some environments, that is simply not enough. I value humility, have integrity, and don’t like to compete with people (only myself). However, sometimes, you do have to “toot your own horn” and give yourself credit, especially if you want to advance.  Despite what you think, directors, managers and/or your colleagues, may not even notice all that you’re doing.  Those who are in competition with you for advanced positions will usually not speak on your behalf.  What is at stake is higher pay and possibly more prestige, which most people want for themselves.

The reality of many agencies (I’ve worked at private, nonprofit and governmental agencies) is that higher positions are few and far between which causes workers to feel pressure to stand out, and possibly (and I’m not implying “likely”), do unethical things to advance.  When I describe work situations to my good friend who’s employed in the corporate world, she says it sounds pretty “cut throat”, and at times, she is right. I won’t even go into the politics either.  The professions that I mentioned above are all required to abide by a set of ethical standards, but they are not immune from this type of pressure. It’s the scarcity of resources factor that many learn about in social science classes like sociology that drives this behavior.  Whatever the case, I don’t think it’s an excuse to compromise integrity and behave badly.

I’ve managed to balance confidence and humility without compromise, while still being recognized for my work ethic.  At the end of the day, I had to hone in on using my voice to shine the spotlight on myself at times, so how did I do that?  I’ve spent some time thinking about my accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses, and goals. My “thinking” includes journaling, planning, and visualizing where I see myself. I ensure that I have a thorough understanding of what I’m expected to know, which means I do research and study.  I read all the time and when I’m not reading for work, I’m reading for personal growth or leisure.  I usually practice speaking about myself before interviews, presentations or other venues, but I find that the more comfortable and familiar I’ve become in my current role, that I don’t need to do that so much before presentations and other meetings.  I strive to be authentic, which makes it more comfortable.  To this day, it is not natural for me to go into a soliloquy (slight exaggeration) on the highlights of my resume upon first meeting someone, so I have to work at it.   I know I’m not alone in this.  There are cultural, social, psychological, and other factors that come into play as well.

At the end of the day, I do think it’s possible to be both confident and humble. On one hand, I don’t want to come off as a “know it all” (with the attitude), but I want people to know that I am adept at doing what I do. Truth be told, I don’t ever want to think too highly of myself that I stop learning.  I view the people I know, who do think they know it all, as very sad.  They become stagnant and I worry about becoming stagnant.  And as much as I love compliments because it serves as validation to a degree, I don’t want compliments to fuel my motivation or cloud my thinking.  I want to be clear and grounded so that I can keep producing quality work.

I’m thankful that I’m starting to see some fruits from my labor and that I received some recognition for it.  I admit it feels great, but it doesn’t end here.

I hope that this information encourages you to discover new things about yourself and use your voice.

 

 

 

 

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So much for that

I have been itching to write all day.  Literally, while at work I thought about how I wish I could have my thoughts recorded somehow for a new post while I do my work and no one would ever know.  Sounds silly…I know, but I’m onto something.  Today, I would rather have written a blog post than spend 2 hours in a meeting rehashing what was discussed 2 years ago.  At the end of the day, I facilitated that meeting, got on a conference call shortly after to address a pressing issue, and practically ran out of the building to teach my Tuesday night Zumba fitness class.

It feels good to have my fingers on the keyboard, but I’m having to navigate my thoughts while listening to my husband express his concerns regarding our son and the marching band. Parenting is hard work.  It can be emotionally, physically and spiritually draining.  This is further complicated by having to deal with one’s own insecurities that can bubble up to the surface when dealing with one’s own child(ren). I’m now counseling my husband on strategies that would help the relationship and how we can best move forward.  Some of the issue is communication and communication styles.  Inadequate communication is a problem that I’ve observed in more and more settings (i.e., home, school, and work). I’m glad that I can offer calm, rational and relatively objective feedback.  That would not have been the case a while ago because I would get frustrated by my husband’s frustration.  However, my stance is that the atmosphere starts with me and if I could listen to the problems of about 35-40 clients every week for years, I could certainly be patient enough to listen to my husband’s.  (On a later post, I’ll write about the message God sent me with regard to serving my family.)

So much for my brilliant, thought provoking blog piece.  It’s getting late and I need to get some rest. I’m not adhering to the guidelines I set for myself to shut off electronics at least an hour before bed.  I couldn’t help but get a blog post in.  Actually, I could.  (I caught myself. There are things within our control that we act like are not. Stop it.) I made a choice to sacrifice some sleep to write. The problem with that is that I am at a place where I could go from a few days to a week of getting little sleep, which is usually prompted by stress. I know first hand what lack of sleep does to the body and mind.  I hope to get some solid hours in tonight and I hope you do too.

 

 

 

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Make room for the sweet stuff

It’s been 2 weeks since we welcomed our sweet babies, our new kittens, into our home. It couldn’t have come at a better time. My 15 year old son, Caleb, took one look at one (supposedly the more outgoing of the two) rolling around and said that kitten reminds him of a cannoli because of the contrast of the solid white on his tummy against the grayish stripes on the rest of his body. And just like that, my son proclaimed with a grin that he should be named Cannoli.  

I laughed because he is usually thinking food, but I kind of liked the name. So then my children and I agreed that their names should have a theme and since Cannoli is an Italian dessert, we’d find a French dessert name for the other.  After a quick google search, we landed on Beignet, which was PERFECT because my husband, Bryan, has made beignets (our first time ever having this dessert) twice to help Caleb earn extra credit in his French class. So there you have it, our kittens are named Cannoli and Beignet. As it turns out Beignet is the more outgoing of the two and Cannoli is more chill. Cannoli is also completely litter trained unlike his brother.

In June, my coworker was going around telling folks about a litter of kittens that her mom’s cat had and they needed a home. I jumped in right away and not only said that I wanted one, but I was thinking about two. The look on her face was of surprise and sheer delight. I had never been so sure of anything in a long time. I had thought about maybe two in the past so they wouldn’t get lonely while the family was away at school and work. You see, my children and I created a 2016 vision board in January and a picture of a cat is on there.  Yup, I told Bryan that this was the year, so he’d better get his mind right. I’ve missed having cats. In the 19 years of living in Texas, I haven’t had one, except for the neighborhood cat that we feed sporadically.

The kittens are a complete joy to everyone, including Bryan. We are in complete awe of them (ok…maybe Bryan isn’t in complete awe, but they make him smile a lot, especially when they fall asleep on his lap). I know families who’ve gotten pets when their children are much younger than mine, but Caleb used to be allergic to both cats and dogs, so that was the main reason we didn’t have pets. When he was tested a few years ago, we found out that he was no longer allergic to cats. He is still allergic to dogs.

Now my children are ages 15 and 10 (11 next month), which is old enough to really appreciate and help take care of them. It’s been a joy  to see how loving my children are to them. This really was the perfect time to receive them into our home because we’re getting them litter trained while we’re still on summer schedule and have more time to play and enjoy them before the school year hustle/bustle starts. Plus, with Bryan’s surgery in May, and disappointment with not making it to Florida for my cousin’s wedding that same month (see my first post), we needed a burst of joy.

I see why some animals make great therapy pets.  Pets don’t judge you. They just want to be loved and cared for. This whole experience makes me think about how you have to open yourself up to receive joy. I wrote a previous post in response to the daily word prompt about being open. I’m convinced that being open is a conscious decision that you have to make. I could be bitter about a lot of things, but it’s my decision on how negative experiences affect me.  I know it’s easier said than done, but it takes work, and for some, fight. If negative internal dialogue is an issue, then you need to be deliberate about keeping your internal dialogue positive and in check.

I could type more, but I want to end noting that there is a lot of misfortune, hate and injustice in the world, but seize opportunities to receive and express joy. Be grateful. Make room for the sweet stuff.


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Hello Arts and Crafts

I see why kids love arts and crafts so much. As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m working on a little project for my coworker’s going away party this week. In the process, I rekindled my love for creating things with my hands. I’m not that good, but this is a nice, relaxing way to end a Sunday night and combat the upcoming work week hustle/bustle blues.

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Where do I begin with this week?

It was long, grueling, draining, deflating, and even ridiculous at times, but not without some moments of joy interwoven in there.  The fact that I haven’t written a post in a week is telling. My plan was to finish my first month as a blogger with at least 10 posts. I was so close with 9, but it didn’t happen, mostly because of how busy my work life has been. Although I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants, I did manage to take care of myself to some degree mostly due to my daily routines.

Sunday is the start of my exercise/planning week, so I made sure to pack my gym bag for the Zumba fitness class that I teach after work on Mondays and Tuesdays.  I also prepped my green smoothies, breakfast and lunch so that I would have more time in the morning to get dressed. I’m not always this good, but I do have a problem with leaving the house on time. I’ve been working really hard on this and although I didn’t leave at the time I envisioned not one day this week, I did manage to get to work by 8:45 am most days, which is an improvement.

I barely remember what transpired Monday, but I can say it was the start of my work week. I start each week day reading a daily devotional, having conversations with God and really trying to hear him. I don’t seem to keep up with the devotionals on the weekend, but I find that the office is where I really need to practice my Christianity. 

On my way home, I called my mom despite being hesitant because I didn’t know if she would be awake. I missed her voice and it has been a part of my routine for years to call her on my way home.  I’m still getting used to the change in schedule, which explains why I forgot to call earlier. I told her a few weeks ago that I would no longer call her between a certain block of time because I noticed that was her “rest” time. And I’m in for a fight if I (or any of my siblings) call it “sleeping”.  It’s, “I was just resting” or “I was closing my eyes”. To my surprise, she was awake, but she didn’t have a good couple of days due to pain. Naturally, listening to her complaints, I put my social worker hat on to help problem solve. I even went home and researched some things on the internet for her. At times, I’m convinced that I became a social worker just as so that I can help my family. Those skills do come in handy.

Tuesday was another smooth day. I started out with exercise, which I love because not only do I get to cross it off my list before I leave the house, it also pumps me up with endorphins and provides a great boost of energy. I had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, so I knew I wouldn’t be teaching Zumba fitness after work. My endocrinology appointment went well and the doctor even agreed to less frequent appointments.  The ridiculousness must have started sometime in the middle of the week because Tuesday sounds uneventful as I type this.

As I move to Wednesday and beyond, it’s a blur. I was experiencing a heavy dose of stress at work related to deliverables and deadlines. I found myself expressing my discontent several times, but I managed do this professionally.  I like to say that I’m raising “concerns”.  I was forewarned that what I was working on would be painful and I was starting to feel the sting.  Even though I left work feeling heavy mentally, I decided to attend the Zumba fitness class of a fellow instructor that I admire so much and love the way she moves.  I was so glad I did because I had so much fun. It relieved a bunch of stress, and had I not gone, she might not have asked me to do a favor for her which I was honored that she asked.

Thursday was a smooth trip downhill, but I managed to help “free” one of my coworkers by validating her work experience. I refrain from writing about my job specifically because, quite frankly, I don’t know if I can in this forum, but the job can be ambiguous, grueling, deflating, exhilarating, is highly politically charged, and can also be rewarding. Spending a few minutes making that connection with her was very rewarding for the both us. Up until that point, we had not had that as in depth of an interaction before, mostly because she works in a different unit, but we do see each other in passing. Again, a reminder that although I work with exceptionally smart people of different disciplines, my skills as a social worker are unique and I can make real connections with others, even though I am no longer a clinician. I don’t want to go as far as to say that my coworkers are my new “clients”, but I’m there to help.

I am going to spare everyone Friday because it was a mess!  The work stress this week was tipping the scales. I felt out of balance. After a great couple of weeks of sleeping through the night, I was up at least once and slept for only about 6 hours most days this week…not ideal. In fact, I’m writing this post in the middle of the night.  I also forgot to make my massage appointment (a birthday gift) every day despite adding an alarm on my phone to remind me.

What I didn’t do this week was tell my husband what was going on, which was intentional and different from my usual actions.  I told him about the stress and even asked him to pray for me, but I didn’t give him any specific information. It started out with me not wanting to relive what was going on, then I just did not want to verbalize the negativity.  I did verbalize my discontent while at work, respectfully and multiple times, but I didn’t want to cross that boundary of bringing that energy home.

I will now jump to the sweet stuff. I notice my writing trend of ending on a good note, like happily ever after. Seriously, I think it’s important to search for the light spots amongst the chaos and sometimes darkness. Otherwise, I would get stuck in chaos and darkness and I don’t want that. Learn and move on. That might be my new motto.  

This week, I managed to read all my devotionals, exercise 6 days in a row, had a daily green smoothie, made my weekly fitness coaching session, took all my supplements, was given some flowers, did some leisurely reading which is a favorite pass time, made some connections with people, encouraged some people, checked in with some people, and loved on some people including my family. All that and I still have Saturday!

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Relaxation

My daughter is helping me in my quest for relaxation on this Friday night. We’re at the pool where she is splashing and I’m reveling in the breeze amidst the cloudy skies.  This may sound strange, but I am actually enjoying the scent of chlorine (although my eyes are burning a little).  My senses really are alive with the sounds of kids chattering and shrieking with delight. I hear the crashing sound from the 5 triangular shaped buckets of water on the pole as they spill over, one by one, upon filling up with water.  I get an occasional sprinkle of water on my face and toes.  The weather is about 88 or even cooler by now.

This is a great way to end the week.  I already know that when I get home, I will thoroughly clean the kitchen, as only I can (let’s face it), so that I can wake up to peace. 

For me, it’s the simple, little things that bring me joy and spark my creativity. I may even publish 2 more blog posts this weekend. 

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Awe – Daily Prompt

This post is in response to the daily word prompt. I’m in awe of people who end their work day with clear minds, sans the paperwork, the after hour email checking/responding, or the overall emotional work place baggage. There are aspects of my job that I do enjoy, but pressing work demands along with personal and professional expectations make it difficult to leave work at work.

I chose a career in social work because of a deep passion to help others. When I first started out, it was very difficult to not  think about the problems faced by my clients. I was often in awe of either how resilient many were despite their experiences or how tragic some of their lives were.  Sometimes, I would even dream about them. I hated it when that happened, but I couldn’t control it at the time.

Then, there was the paperwork, which was a beast. The seemingly ceaseless progress notes and assessments that had to be entered. Our psychiatrist lamented on more than one occassion that if it wasn’t documented, then it didn’t happen. Talk about pressure. Although I enjoyed working as a clinician and I worked with a great bunch of characters (that often joked that we should video our daily work lives), the work demands were stressful. There are a combination of reasons for burnout and the work environment along with my perfectionism was a great recipe.

I haven’t worked in direct practice in a few years (part of my self-care strategy), but my work demands are even higher. I continue to struggle with leaving work at work, but I have instituted some strategies that seem to help, which I’ll share at the end of this post. I think it simply boils down to boundaries. I’ve sacrificed advanced positions because I don’t want to see burn out again by working incessantly in the evenings and on the weekends and I am by no means a slacker. I do have a family and I choose to have a life. I do struggle with why can’t I have it all, but I haven’t figured all of that out yet…different blog post.  The fact that work advancement in this country means sacrificing a personal life and family is a whole other issue…again, a different blog post.

What I’ve done in recent years to begin the separation from the work day is to call my mom in Chicago on my daily, hour commute home. We talk about her day, she provides news updates, we catch up on family matters, we argue (not kidding), and I even sometimes tell her my work problems (at a very high level – she doesn’t understand what I do plus she’s a worrier). In the process, I’ve gotten to know my mom as a person really well, which I’m proud of. I know her so well that I realized my call window happens to be the same time that she takes her afternoon nap, so I recently started calling her earlier, around lunch time. By the way, she’d never admit to taking naps because she likes to complain that she doesn’t sleep at night.  I still make calls on my way home, but to different people such as my family and friends…anybody else to help me not think about work.  This has become a pretty solid part of my routine.

There are times that I do bring work home, but I have much better booundaries. If I bring work home, I give myself a timeframe to do the work and that’s it. It’s all a learning process. I’m just thankful that I no longer have dreams about clients.