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20/365/2015 Ain’t it purty?

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This is a pot pie. This is a pot pie that I threw together when I got home tonight. Plain, semi-boring comfort food. I think what makes pot pie magical is that you can put stuff in it that you would never actually eat and when you combine all that yuck, something good comes out. This one is made with canned corn, canned peas, canned gravy, frozen carrots, and leftover turkey. The only thing out of that list that we might have eaten as food for its own sake are the frozen carrots. Although…I had planned to cook chicken later this week, and I think instead of doing that I will slice some “steaks” off the turkey breast and pan fry them with some seasonings. I do hate to waste food, and as much as I don’t care for turkey, it counts as food and so should not be wasted. And if you are wondering why I had all that food that we normally wouldn’t eat here, it was gifted to us, and I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I say “thank you,” and figure out how to use it.

In other news, I had to do some thinking today about how I am engaging with my clients. The answer was “from a distance.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m more distant than I want to be. Boundaries are one thing, and I have those, but this distancing is going beyond that. I’m pretty sure I know what happened. Many of you know that I had two patients die pretty much back to back unexpectedly, and then there was a thing going on in my personal life from mid-November until Christmas that was sucking up a great deal of emotional energy. I just couldn’t sustain all of that output.

Any profession that requires the use of self will be affected by the things that are going on with the self. But I added to that by neglecting my own self care. Now, self-care is a gospel I and most other social workers preach. To others. Mmmmhmmm. In my emotional exhaustion, I stopped arting, I ate crap food, I spent too much time on the computer, and too little exploring what was going on in my own head and heart.

In supervision today, I told my supervisor that I was having a hard time getting back in the flow. And she asked me what I thought was going on. And I told her I thought the deaths were still affecting the way I approached my people, though I left out the personal stuff. We talked about how having the split rotation with less time in the facility makes it harder to build good relationships with the residents. We didn’t talk about self-care because I didn’t realize I had let that go until I was driving home.

She assures me that my performance at work is still good, and that many social workers practice effectively at this distance. But she knows me enough to know that this is not how I wish to practice and that my style is usually much warmer and involved. She noticed that I was no longer stopping in the hallways to chat the residents up, so she knew I was no longer finding the work as satisfying. Damn, she’s good.

So what I need to do is get back to my people and to myself. Ironically enough, that easy way I have with the veterans is *part* of my self-care. By having less informal interaction, I was exacerbating, not helping, my problem. But I was also avoiding the actions that led to such a wonderfully satisfying relationship with the client who died so abruptly on the same day my personal life went momentarily to hell. I had tied those two events together unconsciously. They are not connected by anything other that temporal proximity. No need to punish myself and my living clients over things none of us had any control over. Some shit is just arbitrary.

Arbitrary does not own me.

19/365/2015 Thoughts on Consumption and Guilt

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Ya’ll know I go round and round on this one. I despise conspicuous consumption. And yet I love all the things. It’s a line I have a hard time finding. Because I can justify stuff like warm socks and leather boots here. I like cute things and I like functional things and I like dressing for the weather. But I guess it’s time to evaluate what I have and say ok, 20 pairs of knee high socks is probably enough, since I wear some type of nylons at least half the time and I do have the ability to do laundry. BUT, I say, IT’S BOOT SEASON and I will wear socks more often now. Still, I argue back, that’s THREE WEEKS worth of tall socks. But these had ruffffffles on them, I answer myself. See, round and round.

Now, when I add in the use of animal products, it’s an even trickier line. I can cut down on the amount of meat we eat, which I try to do. And lately I have been thinking about that even more as I hear my cousin Michelle saying, “Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork.”

But what I can’t do is argue with genetics. And my genetics say that if I put my foot into a shoe that is not made of actual dead cow or canvas, my feet are going to sweat and then they are going to stink to the point I can only take said shoes off next to a can of Lysol. And then there is the money part–non-leather footwear, once it gets scuffed, just looks like a worn out pair of shoes. Leather footwear, when scuffed, looks loved. So non-leather footwear has to be replaced, whereas good leather footwear can be re-soled and possibly last me the rest of my life. But, a cow died so I could have the boots pictured above. I don’t feel guilt for that. I need to be warm, and that’s that. I bought a non-color that will go with everything I own, instead of a neutral rainbow of pleather. But I do feel slightly guilty for not feeling guilty.

I’m a southern female. Guilt is my stock in trade. Today’s question of guilt balance revolved around the sweat-shop labor required to produce two pairs of plastic shoes and the CFCs involved in propelling spray disinfectant into those plastic shoes and onto my feet when I have at least one kid who can’t breathe around propellants and I have asthma OR the sweatshop labor required to produce a pair of leather boots and a dead cow. That’s today. But really, most of my choices revolve around what’s going to produce less guilt.

To wit: will the guilt of not calling my mom be larger or smaller than the guilt of saying something that will cause her to be angry and/or the guilt of biting my tongue and choking on my own rage? Will the guilt of not playing a game with my kids when I have done so 6 nights this week be larger or smaller than the guilt of playing but being so on edge I snap their heads off because I really need to spend the time getting my thoughts together for the week ahead and getting grounded in myself?

And why aren’t there any choices outside of my work that don’t involve guilt? Bleh.

15/365/2015 Application to Graduate

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I guess this qualifies as a thing, yeah? I turned in my application for diploma for the summer semester. And I realized, ya’ll, that’s just six short months away. It felt like it would take forever to get my BSW. And then when I had that, the MSW still seemed so very far away. And now, it’s breathing down my neck. I’m pretty excited about that. And a bit trepidatious.

To calm my nerves yesterday, I looked at job postings. Yep, they are still hiring social workers here in Maryland. In fact, there’s an opening right now in a hospice unit. I’m taking it on faith that there will be a spot for me in a nursing home or hospice when the time comes. I’m hopeful that it will be with the VA, but we’ll see.

I guess you have noticed that I’m having a harder time coming up with 500 words on days I work. I’m not allowed to take pictures in the facility because of patient privacy issues. And naturally, I can only talk about my work in very general terms. I can, however, tell you about today’s social work moment. Today, just as she had on Tuesday, my supervisor added other team members to case notes I had written. That was a social work moment because it told me that what I was writing was adding useful information that is of value in caring for these veterans, not just for the social workers, but for the rest of the team. And what that means is that I am actually doing social work, folks. I’m doing the things I wanted to do when I started this journey four years ago.

12/365/2015 Move Over, Paula Deen. We’re Done.

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12 to 18 months ago (I think, it might have been longer), I bought myself a set of red Paula Deen pots and pans. Because I love red in the kitchen and I thought PD would be a good pan. Let me tell you from experience, Paula Deen is some expensive cheap-ass junk. The pans warped; they aren’t supposed to go in the dishwasher; the teflon scratches if you look at it; AND the final straw occurred a couple weeks ago: I picked up a pan I had boiled pasta in, BY THE HANDLE, and got a blistering burn on my finger. Hell to the no. I replaced those dishes today with this set. I’m sending the three usable pieces of PD to Goodwill, and moving on. I am a cook. I will have good tools in my kitchen. These new ones have a nice thick bottom for even, no-warp heating. They aren’t teflon coated, but ceramic. They are RED. They are dishwasher and oven safe. And they cost less than I paid for the PD. They will be in the dishwasher this evening, and ready for use tomorrow. (I’ll keep the one pot we make tea in. Everybody needs a thin, cheap pot to make iced tea by the gallon in.)

In less fiery news, I was talking about love on the facebooks this morning, commenting on a link a friend shared. I like what I had to say so much that I am repeating it here:

I like choosing to love, because then I can continue to have a loving heart toward someone whatever happens. In the past, I found that If I accidentally fall in love, I can just accidentally fall out of it, too.

If I want to love someone, I choose to act lovingly towards them. In my case, feeling follows action. Infatuation, lust….those are different matters.

Since I have understood and applied this concept, ALL of my relationships have been successful, whereas before none of them were.

Now we have to look at how to define success. I choose to define it as a relationship that gives me positive feelings and personal growth both of which I retain in the case of the relationship itself ebbing. Am I a bigger, better person? If yes, then that was/is a successful relationship.

P.S. Does not only apply in romantic relationships.

Now for the bad news. I took three kids to the dentist today. One needs to see an oral surgeon AND an orthodontist. One needs an extraction and three fillings. The other just needs three fillings. I reckon the next time I tell them they need to brush their teeth, they still won’t listen. Because I’m only Mom. Sigh.

10/365/2015 Bittersweet–some pieces come with stories

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So, I posted a photo of the unfinished Bittersweet yesterday, and I told you there would be more about it later. Welcome to “more.” I finished this piece last night, cuddled up on the couch watching Netflix. (BTW, if you haven’t checked out “Ripper Street,” it’s a decent period piece from BBC America, and makes good cuddled-up-and-knitting fodder. Find your own cuddle-ee.) I call this piece Bittersweet because that’s the name it has earned.

Bittersweet is supposed to be a bit larger than it is, because there are supposed to be two more balls of yarn in it. Unfortunately, on multiple levels, I have lost contact with the holder of the rest of this yarn. I’d put the piece down in September or October when I realized that I was very near the end of what was in my possession, figuring to pick it up again when I had the rest of the yarn. Yesterday, I made myself finish it with what I had on hand. That is to say, yesterday I achieved another measure of closure. This piece is the last tangible tie between then and now. I have put the rest away already.

As you can see, it’s pretty short and a bit frillier than my normal work. The extra length and weight would have worked most of that frilliness out, but it is usable as is, particularly if I put a button on it instead of closing it with a brooch. It will go well with many of my brown clothes, and it’s a good accent piece. And it feels divine around my neck, being mostly cashmere. But, Bittersweet. I do not know if I will ever wear it again or not.

Now it is going to appear that I am changing subjects, but I’m really not. I related the story of this piece and the yarn to a friend of mine this morning. And I thought I was done. And then, when my mouth stopped moving, my mind started working. The pattern recognition software that is installed in my brain went tick, Yarn Holder, tick, Step-father, TICK, Father. Walls of silence are not a new phenomena for me. Walls of unbeing. This feeling is one to which I have become accustomed due to prolonged and repeated exposure.

This is how I know that homosexuals really are born that way. Because men, as has been noted by one who knows me well, have been a firestorm on my life. And not just husbands/friends/lovers, but also men in the form of fiduciary guardians. Maybe moreso in that capacity, because there is such an element of…dentrayal. That’s a made up word. It means denial and betrayal. Which is a word that had to be made up because there is no other word to go with the usually mutually exclusive actions of denial and betrayal. I often say that if I had a choice, I would be gay, because men. But I can’t. The best I can do is asexuality, and that only works for a few years at a time.

And this also brings me back around to non-attachment. It is only because I practice non-attached loving that I am able to handle some situations with any grace at all. Because I don’t want to be bitter. I choose not to be angry. And the principles of non-attachment allow me to say “You are perfect in your (insert name)ness. Namaste.” The principles of non-attachment allow me to let go of that which is not meant for me without leaving claw marks on relationships or people.

I noted today that I have come a long way in regards to my dad’s death. I can reflect on him when I bring him consciously to mind without distress these days. I’ve had a number of comforting dreams lately in which he appeared. But when my subconscious does its work, when my own brain slaps me with that loss from out of nowhere…then I am a small and wounded child again.

8/365/2015 Cookies

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Today was busy.  And cold.  So cold I lost feeling in my thighs walking two short blocks.   So I’m eating cookies and chiding myself for  not wearing my fleece lined leggings.

7/365/2015 The Only Reason I Tolerate Wednesdays

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This, my friends, is a deep fried chicken breast. With hot sauce. And a Pepsi. This is my reward for allowing Wednesday to continue to even be on my calendar. Occasionally, it is served with fried okra, and then it is even better. Why is Wednesday so bad it needs a special treat just to be tolerated? Let me ‘splain, Lucy.

On Wednesdays, I don’t go to my regular internship. On Wednesdays, I go to my alternate rotation, which is at an out patient clinic. I make phone calls to veterans I have never seen in order to follow up on messages that they have left on my task manager’s phone about issues they are having. These issues vary widely: housing, health, meals, transportation, mobility (which is actually a combination of health and transportation, but isn’t actually either one). Sometimes, we can help using established VA programs. Often, there is nothing the VA can do about what they need, and if that is the case, I am tasked with identifying community resources for which they may qualify. Now, I am a good googler, and an outside the box thinker, so this job is getting easier. But. It’s phone work. With people I don’t know. And I dislike the phone. People are so hard to understand when I can’t see their lips and read their facial expressions. It’s harder to get a read on what the issue behind the issue is. Or even if there is an issue behind the issue. Sometimes there isn’t, and the case is as it presents. But there is no way to look someone in the eye over the phone and know that I have heard what they are actually telling me. There is no way for them to look me in the eye and know I’m not hearing what they are meaning/needing to say.

Here’s the other thing about Wednesdays. I have to leave my assignment at 10:30 to catch the shuttle downtown to attend a weekly lunch meeting. I catch the shuttle back at 1, arriving at 1:30. So, I lose half my day to this lunch meeting, which presents information that may or may not apply to me. When it’s good, it’s very good, and when it’s not….well, it isn’t. I guess I should be grateful–it cuts down on my phone time, right? But I actually find it quite frustrating that I have to be mindful of what time it is and choose whether or not I can dig deeper with someone based on how close it is to shuttle time. Or cut them short and tell them I will have to call them back in the afternoon. I can’t just *do my work* as I do on my other field days, taking lunch when it is convenient for me and my clients.

Since I am at the hospital and clinic anyway, I also have any thyroid labs drawn that I need, and pick up scrips, and schedule doc appointments. Therefore, Wednesdays exhaust me. And because they exhaust me, I reward myself with deep fried chicken dipped in hot sauce. And continue to get out of bed each and every Wednesday.

6/365/2015 Snow Day

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I woke up this morning at the normal school/work day time, only to find out that the kids were on a two hour delay. By the time I picked up the phone to text my boss at 8am, there was a notification that school had been cancelled entirely. Luckily, the boss said the weather was awful and it was bad driving and not to worry about trying to make it in. Interning has its perks, and by the time I am working a real job, the kids ought to be old enough to look after themselves for a few hours on no-school-but-mom-has-to-work days. Probably under threat of death and dismemberment, but whatever.

I threw on a huge pot of hamburger with tomatoes and seasonings to make into chili and tacos and nachos, and my house has smelled delicious all day. We’ve eaten from it twice today, and there are a few more meals worth in there still. I love a good planned-over. I just need to figure out how to fit it in the fridge.

I thumbed through a couple more big, fat art books.

I encountered more memories that made me smile, and I thought about what it means when I knit for someone. On the whole, I am glad I have knitted for those I have knit for, and really very pleased that I didn’t knit for those I thought I should knit for and didn’t.

I dealt with a medical mishap.
I told someone I loved them because of their wonderful attitude.
I made plans for another adventure. I love adventures. So much dopamine.

I read this afternoon that Nicholas Sparks has separated from his wife of 25 years. Call me a sarcastic bitch, but my first thought was, “Well, maybe he can write some books with depth now.” That’s mean, I guess. But real life doesn’t work like those romance novels. Sometimes you do everything right, and it still blows up in your face. I firmly believe that the laws of cause and effect are often suspended when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Which segues nicely into a conversation I had this evening about letting go of outcomes. Because I can’t control what other people do. All I can control is what *I* do. And once I know I have put my very best into a situation or relationship, I need to let things go and let them be what they will.

Here’s something else I ought to do, unrelated to anything I have already talked about today. I need to stop expecting people who have shown an inability or refusal to really think through what they accept as normal and right to start thinking about whether what they consider to be normal and right is actually the correct thing to do/way to be. Because they won’t. Because their hearts are hard and their necks are stiff. Their pointer fingers are also usually out, but that’s just my opinion and not a Biblical reference, and I really can’t say a whole lot about that since I am pointing pretty hard myself right now. Sigh. See sarcastic bitch above.

I should go look at more art books, now, having unloaded my stream of daily consciousness on the unsuspecting public. But hey! You clicked!