Stepping into the world of Social Work
I’ve not posted much over the past few weeks for a number of reasons, most recently because the most important news was too tender to share in any depth. On May 31st, surrounded by family, my dad finally lost his battle to the combination of illnesses that had kept him in the hospital since February.
Our dads are always special to us in ways others wouldn’t see, but I’d like to believe the turnout at his service, which included people from his career (structural engineering), the church (where he had been an important member of the choir since I was very little, and in leadership positions in the vestry for almost as long), and even some friends from his youth, such as my godfather, showed that Dad was special to a lot more than just my immediate family.
I’ll miss him more than words can say…
Well, maybe a little more than 20 years ago, but two things have me reminiscing this week.
First, an often neglected anniversary for any married couple, today is the 27th anniversary of the day my husband and I met. I imagine not every couple is exactly sure exactly what day they met, perhaps they were acquainted informally in school or something like that, so the date doesn’t get noted.
In my case, it did. During my junior year, a friend, believing in his psychic ability, predicted that I’d meet someone around that day. Sure enough, while chatting with my English (Science Fiction) professor before class, a shy man joined in the discussion. I learned later that this was very contrary to his normal extremely introverted behavior. We ended up having coffee together shortly thereafter, and never looked back. We moved in together after graduation, married in ’89, and I believe we have truly embodied the “for better, for worse…” We’ve had our share of practical ups and downs, but we’ve always come through together.
On another front, I’m thinking back even further, 1973-75, to be exact. I noticed a former classmate from elementary school had posted a suggestion about Teacher Appreciation Week on Facebook. I knew she had kept in touch with a few of our teachers, so I asked her if she was still in touch with our 5th grade teacher, who had been very special to me. She hadn’t heard from her in some time, but offered to give me the address of our mutual 6th grade teacher. My asking also apparently motivated her to phone this teacher as well. During that call, she learned that the 5th grade teacher had passed on (not all that surprising). She quite happily informed me that our 6th grade teacher clearly remembered me, including an incident that had stuck in my own mind.
It was a little harder to convince myself to write this teacher; while she was a very nice lady and a good teacher, she didn’t “get” me, and as a result made a few errors in relating to me. The one truly upsetting incident I recall (and she might even agree that it was a mistake) is her turning my desk over outside the classroom to force me to neaten it up. But she did try, and she deserved my appreciation for that, so I did write her a nice letter about my current life, and making a positive comment or two about her influence on my love of reading. It will be interesting to read her reply, if any.
Interestingly, my classmate reported that the teacher remembered a time where she brought all the girls together for a meeting. The teacher seemed to remember that I was being bullied and there was something about a boy. I do remember having a crush on a boy who another girl also liked, but I don’t remember it becoming a bullying issue. My own memory of the situation has more to do with handball at recess, and another girl (with a name close to mine) being the victim. Amazing what we remember, isn’t it?
This, plus the chat with the former classmate, got me thinking about what I must have been like as an 11 year old. I remember that was a pretty tough year for me and my family. My sister’s epilepsy developed that summer, and I:began being treated for a genetic medical condition I was born with. While I had known of the condition at an age appropriate level all along, going to Children’s Hospital of LA and being examined under a microscope every 3 months isn’t easy on a kid.
I was also a quirky kid. I have my dad’s intelligence and my mom’s stubborn nature, so certain approaches fail with me, no matter whether I am 8 or 48. I respond very badly to black and white scenarios, and being forced to “lose face,” for example. While I don’t know exactly how bad my hearing at the time was, I have always had some level of hearing impairment, which can affect my response to social situations and instructions, causing people to get wrong impressions of me. I can imagine I was frustrating to teach!
I’ll post updates later if the teacher writes me back.
I haven’t blogged about it yet, but most people who know me are aware that my father was hospitalized at the beginning of February with a serious illness. Dad is 77, and enjoyed very good health until a shoulder injury some time back and a heart valve replacement a few years ago.
He first reported a number of non-specific symptoms and was hospitalized. I wasn’t notified until almost a week later. I arrived at the hospital to find Dad looking pretty scary. He was able to talk, however, and was particularly concerned about giving me the passwords to their online services to help my mom with the bills. I believe he felt at the time he had suffered a stroke.
A few days later, I get a call from my mom that Dad had been taken to ICU and placed on a ventilator to “give his lungs a rest.” I was notified a week or so later that they were choosing to do a tracheotomy for the ventilator. What I heard indirectly, and from those discussions I’ve been able to have directly with the doctors, is that he has lymphoma or something in the non-Hodgkins lymphoma, leukemia, or bone marrow cancer family. The most confusing thing is that the most troubling symptoms are not cancer symptoms, rather the neurological symptoms (such as not being able to breathe!). It was another couple of weeks before I really fully understood the true nature of the situation.
After a week or two in ICU, he was moved to another ward, and improvement was very limited. My last visit to him at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital was rather troubling, as he couldn’t use his voice, but was clearly trying to talk to me. My aunt, who had been able to visit during times where he could cap his ventilator and use his voice, was telling me that he was increasingly less rational in what he did say, for example demanding that she take him home immediately. The nurses confirmed that they were noticing this, too.
Having a professor who is a medical social worker in this situation was amazingly comforting. Dr. Joosten, my Social Welfare instructor, helped me understand that many senior patients exhibit some loss of rationality simply due to the length of stay and the nature of such intense care. Medications, sleep deprivation, lighting and many other factors may have something to do with this, and even has the name of ICU psychosis or ICU syndrome.
In addition, I was finally given a diagnosis beyond the cancer which helped me understand the neurological symptoms. Apparently, whichever cancer he has, or a number of trivial viral conditions he could have caught over the winter,, triggered Guillain-Barre syndrome. GBS is a serious autoimmune condition, in which the body starts attacking parts of the nervous system.
The bad news, of course, is how serious these conditions are. The good news is that neither is an automatic death sentenc
I’m sure I’m not the only one making a reflective post this time of year… I thought it would be helpful to my own state of mind even if nobody reads it.
at this time last year, I had just left employment. I’ve happily fixed that situation, though the job I have is not a career builder. I’ve realized most recently that at this point I really shouldn’t even expect to find a better job, as the one I have has the flexibility to go part-time in the fall when I start my internship.
At this time last year, I was working hard on MSW applications. Happily, that effort paid off! After completing the first semester of classes, I’m very happy with my decisions in that regard. In fact, I received news recently that made me even happier that I chose USC – a former co-worker/manager with whom I did not get along would have been in my cohort (and perhaps some of my classes) at CSUN, which would have been quite uncomfortable. I’m now 1/6 of the way through an excellent program and am trying to pat myself on the back for getting in and a good showing my first semester.
At this time last year I was out of work and very angry about the situation. Having found another job and used the time out of work to get into grad school, I can look back with some acceptance. Don’t get me wrong – I have not completely forgiven certain individuals for their treatment of me, but I can hold my head up over where I am and where I am going.
It has been a rough year – my husband is also out of work, my car was totaled in a nasty car accident, I had cataract surgery and will need the other eye done as well. We learned that my brother-in-law is in the hospital with a broken hip, which will be a long haul for him. But I think I’m proving to myself that I can get through these things and come out better than before.
Now I’m in the thick of my first semester, I know others are gearing up to the application process for next year, so I thought I’d give some thought to what I did “right” in my application process last winter.
On a personal level, I think an important factor is that I chose the right direction. A few years ago I applied to a school psychology program, but was not admitted. After spending more than a month with this curriculum, it’s a much better fit for me than school psych would have been. Perhaps the program that rejected me also saw that.
While I didn’t start the application process until after Christmas, I did put full energy into it at that point. I made the deadlines at all three schools I wanted to apply for.
I worked very hard on my writing samples/statements of purpose/essays and am still proud of the work I did on them.
Applying to 3 schools was a good decision – not too many, and not too few. I knew one of them was a long shot and not the best match for me anyway, one was an excellent match but expensive, another was the least expensive (and really close) but perhaps not perfectly matched to my needs. I was accepted by two and chose the more expensive option but good personal match in the end. I did have a couple of other Cal States available if something had gone wrong in the other application processes.
All in all, I’m still very pleased with my decision and where I have ended up.
More later on what I would do differently…
Here is something I wrote some time back as a joke among co-workers.
You know you’re a job coach if:
1. You’ve attended the new-employee orientation for a company multiple times but never received a paycheck from them
2. You refer to particular stores as “Mark’s Target” or “Anita’s Ralphs.”
3. If doing business at a store where you have clients, you make sure you’re not buying anything “sensitive” – feminine hygiene, underclothing, alcohol (or you go out of your way to visit a different store where you don’t have clients)
4. You have to resist the urge to “coach” your courtesy clerk when shopping for your own groceries (you’ve been a job coach too long if you DON’T resist)
5. You can state distances between various local retail centers/malls from memory
6. You know lunch/coffee options on any given route off hand
7. You visit a restaurant and note how nicely the silverware is rolled
8. You know how to do paperwork in some interesting positions – leaning against walls, check stands, etc.
9. You see an advertisement on television and immediately think of how the promotion will affect your clients
10. You have a Bachelors Degree and years of experience but make less money than at least one of your clients
I haven’t introduced them formally, but Hubby and I are the “parents” of four furry critters – two dogs and two cats. All but one are shelter rescues from local city shelters.
Lucy is our smallest, a small grey and white kitty girl around 3 years old. We adopted her from the East Valley animal shelter 2 years ago. She is a loving girl, but not a lap cat, and has plenty of catitude to spare. She gets along well with the dogs but not our other cat, interestingly. She and our other cat are allowed to go outdoors, not because we want it that way, but because our dogs use a doggy door and the cats always figure it out.
She does have a tendency to disappear for a while if she’s mad at something or has a squabble with Leo (our other cat) but she does typically come back when it’s time to eat. She usually insists on some attention in the morning while I’m on the computer, and in the evening she’ll ask for her “kitty drugs.”
Sunday morning, I noticed she hadn’t come in for her usual breakfast and loving, but I figured she would be in later. I started to get worried Sunday night and Monday. Tuesday I walked around the neighborhood but didn’t see Lucy. In hindsight, I did notice the house we found her on, but there were people in the front yard that probably made Lucy hide.
This evening, DH suggested we take a walk around the block to see if we find her. I called while we walked about a block, to the area that approximately shares back fences with our house (an easy visit for a kitty). Gary points to the roof of a two story house – there, indeed, is our little girl.
Lucy was clearly glad to see us, meowing so loudly even I could hear her. We tried for a few minutes to coax her down on her own power, but realized she might be feeling a little weak if she hadn’t eaten since Saturday. A kind neighbor had a ladder, but she wouldn’t come to the neighbor or even to Gary. I finally climbed up, and with the help of kitty treats, grabbed her and c a r e f u l l y climbed down the ladder. I held on to her for dear life as we walked home, where Miss Catitude proceeded to eat an entire bowl of cat food and yell at me periodically.
So how do you ground a 3 year old with claws? And why is Leo (the other cat) looking annoyed and a little guilty?