Welcome to The New Social Worker's Blog

The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Everybody Needs a Mentor

SHORTLY BEFORE I BEGAN MY GRADUATE SCHOOL ADVENTURE, I learned that a woman in the community whom I had admired from afar, had gone through the same MSW program. I ran into her at a community theater presentation of "The Vagina Monologues" , and introduced myself. It turned out that she knew my husband.

I asked her if we could have coffee someday to talk about her experience at the university I would soon be attending.

That first coffee break turned into a monthly lunch meeting which has continued to this day. I met her today at noontime to catch her up with my most recent school-related happenings and to hear about her life at the agency where she works. It occurred to me during our meal that I have never blogged about this important person in my life.

For the most part, she had the same profs and classes that I do, so we can communicate about assignments and other related stuff. She has shed really bright light on situations which really helped me when things got stressful. She has sent well-timed texts and left "atta girl" voice mails. And she has had her share of stress and heartbreak during these two years. I've actually worried that I was being too much of an energy vampire, so I prayed that I could be just as giving to her as she is to me. I can only aspire to this, I fear.

I thought it might be helpful to make this suggestion: if you can find a graduate of your BSW or MSW program to act as your mentor, you may want to try it out. This woman has been a God-send to me. She has talked me down and lifted me up. She has helped me to realize what truly matters and what is not worth another thought. She has cheered me and laughed with me and watched me cry.

And the coolest part of all? She probably doesn't even realize the half of what she means to me. Without her, I could have done it. But, with her, it has made all the difference in the world.

~Ms. T. J.

Internet Used to Decrease Loneliness Among Older Adults

Interesting research study (article here):

Some of the loneliest people are seniors, experts said. As people reach their 80s and 90s, friends be gin to die, and their social circles shrink.  But that could possibly change with the aid of modern technology.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Sociology Department are studying the effect of social networking -- the Internet kind -- on residents at as sisted-living facilities throughout the state, with the college students teaching seniors not only how to use networking skills, but in some cases how to turn on the computer...the research aims to discover whether using Internet social networks will decrease lone­liness and ultimately help lower the rate of depression among seniors.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Notes While on Winter Break

I HAVE TO ADMIT that it's tempting to not blog while on break. But it's part of the experience, and since I've agreed to write about "all things graduate school", I would be remiss if I left out the down time.

So, it's weird being off. I find myself creating structure. When I received two electronic syllabi today, it felt sort of good to organize a few things for spring classes. Yep, I ordered two books, collected my texts that we will be using again, and previewed some of the first assignments. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

Let's just call it a "school relapse."

What else have I been up to?
* Sleeping in.
* Decorating our home for Christmas.
* Baking sugar cookies, decorating them, and eating them.
* Reading fiction and watching movies.
* Meeting friends for luxuriously long coffee conversations.
* Hanging out with my husband.
* Going to (and hosting) holiday dinners and parties.

My life has been so structured for so long, and this is the first long break I've had where: a.) I am not working, and b.) I am not traveling home to see my family (which has inherent stressors of its own).

I hesitate to admit that I am struggling a little bit with the freedom. Don't get me wrong: I don't want it to end. A professor told us last semester that after graduation we'd have to adjust to our new lifestyles, and I guess this long break is a glimpse into my not-too-distant future (minus a job, of course).

I recently had a surge of joy when I realized I could watch TV or write Christmas letters without niggling thoughts of homework and reading assignments. Now that's a really strange, yet wonderful feeling.

I'm guessing that about the time I settle in to this break, it'll be time to pack the book bag for our final semester (wow; final semester has a delicious ring to it).

For now, I'll do my best to chill out and enjoy this rare recess from school, this holiday gift, called winter break.

~Ms. T. J.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

All Over but for the Shouting!

A WEEK AGO I THOUGHT THIS DAY could not come soon enough. We finished our last class of the semester on Saturday at approximately 1:15 p.m., and several of us went to celebrate at a nearby restaurant. Although most of us were wiped out from working late into the night for a couple of weeks, it felt good to break bread with my classmates.

There is something very comforting about knowing that I am not alone in this process. Yeah, we all have to produce our own work, and we spend a lot of time alone with our books and computers, but it's nice to know that others are walking the walk with me.

At the celebration, we vented and commiserated and laughed, and talked about our accomplishments. It was good to put some closure on one of the toughest semesters we've had. One assignment that held our feet to the fire involved a semester-long research project that involved creating a research tool for a client, and it culminated with the writing of a 15-plus-page research paper, a brief, as well as the creation of a poster, and a presentation of our findings.

Everyone who presented did an amazing job. I was very proud of my classmates, and I felt good about my work, too. In the end, I actually felt like I learned a lot, and I came away with a deeper understanding of single subject research design.

Our other classes were interesting, too. From field instruction to clinical to crisis intervention, we are taking our final steps toward becoming professional social workers. After 15 short weeks beginning in January, we will complete our graduate degrees.

For now, however, I am taking a long-needed break from all of it. I plan to relax, sleep in, watch movies, read fiction, spend time with my husband, dog, and friends. I might do some deep-cleaning of the house if I get motivated. I hope to exercise and hang out. We have a trip to the mountains planned.

I'm sure I'll do a bit of planning for the final semester. But just for today, I plan to take a deep breath, exhale, and do a whole lot of nothing!

~Ms. T. J.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

C'mon People Now

SO, I AM SITTING IN STARBUCKS. Reading the additional journal articles we just found out will be on our class exam Saturday morning.

Thankfully, I find them to be remarkably interesting. All about multicultural counseling, and cultural competency, the Appalachian perspective, and the African-American worldview, as well as a book review of African American Grief.

I am highlighting the article print-outs and drinking my grande Christmas blend, the bold java choice for the day. It's unusual that I am able to concentrate amid constant caffeine-induced jib jab, incessant bean-grinding and the frequent firing of the frappuccino machine.

I finish the article by Kathleen Salyers and Martin Ritchie titled, "Multicultural Counseling: An Appalachian Perspective," feeling fascinated (once more) by human behavior and moved by the values and common identity of the Appalachian "insiders" who count family as most important, and who would rather suffer through a hardship than ask for help. I was intrigued by the info on "cognitive outsiders" (or, haters, as we might call them) who tend to marginalize the Appalachians and put them in a box that labels them as "hillbillies and poor, mountain folks." Like they are a one-dimensional people. Then there are the "residential outsiders," (or fence-sitters, as I'd like to call them), who fall somewhere in the middle of insiders and cognitive outsiders.

Fascinating stuff. I really learned something, too, about the importance of my own application of the Multicultural Counseling Competencies (MCC). As a clinician, I'll need to be aware of my own assumptions, values and biases; have awareness of my clients' worldviews; and choose culturally appropriate intervention strategies for my clients. This will mean lifelong research about different cultures to ensure best practices. I am amazed at how psyched I am about this.

As I gather up my things and begin packing my book bag, I hear the song on the player. It's the Youngbloods singing, "Get Together." (Or, someone else doing a great cover of the song.) The lyrics nailed me. I sat back in my comfy chair and took a listen.

"Love is but the song we sing,
And fear's the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry

Know the dove is on the wing
And you need not know why

C'mon people now, Smile on your brother
Everybody get together

Try and love one another right now

Some will come and some will go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last

We are but a moments sunlight
Fading in the grass

C'mon people now, Smile on your brother
Everybody get together

Try and love one another right now

If you hear the song I sing,
You must understand
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand

Just one key unlocks them both
It's there at your command

C'mon people now, Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try and love one another right now

Right now,
Right now!"

It felt like a cosmic nudge. And the message? "Stay the course. You are on the right path. It's all good."


~Ms. T. J.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Mother of all Research Projects


We have a huge project due on Friday morning. It's a Single Subject Design paper, poster, brief, and presentation for Research II class. Most of my classmates are working on it now and we communicate our "pain" via Facebook and e-mail. It's the last BIG project of the semester, and if we just break it down into pieces we will all be fine -- and get it done.

I am somewhat blocked. Like many in my cohort, I am meeting with my professor to make sure I am on track and headed in the right direction. Today I plan to get the paper finished as far as I can take it. After meeting with the prof tomorrow, I hope to finish up the remainder of it.

Once this project is out of the way, I can concentrate on my last final exam which will be on Saturday morning.

At this time next week, it will all be over. Let me know how you are doing with your finals. I'd love to commiserate, er I mean, communicate, with you!

~Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Goosebumps" While Waiting

TODAY WAS MY LAST DAY OF FIELD PRACTICUM for this semester. For the better part of the day, it was fairly uneventful. I tidied up the office since I won't return until January, and I called a medical collateral contact. My field instructor gave me my final evaluation, and that was about it.

At about 4:45, I walked down the hall to say good-bye to an employee who has been so helpful and supportive for the last 15 weeks of my practicum. Something (someone) caught my eye as I was standing in her doorway. I turned to see two young children sitting outside a nearby cubicle. One of the kids had her head buried in a book, and the smaller of the two kept glancing in my direction. I asked the worker who they were and what they were doing. When she shrugged her shoulders indicating that she didn't know, I said, "I think I'll say hello."

As it turned out, the two children had arrived at the agency for a visitation with their parents who were supposed to have been there at 3:30 p.m. It was almost 5 p.m. The elder sibling kept her head in her book -- one of a series of "Goosebumps" readers for young people.

"What are you doing?" I inquired, with a smile.

"Waiting for our parents," said the youngest child, who seemed eager to engage.

"Where are they?" I asked.

She shrugged and said something about her Mom being at home and her Dad at the shelter. The older child, whose eyes never left the page, said, "You don't know that." The youngest child proceeded to explain that Dad was in a men's-only facility, so she was pretty sure it was a shelter. They were 7 and 11 -- going on 25 and 27.

My heart was breaking. Here it was, a couple of days before Thanksgiving, and this would be the last chance they might see their parents before the holiday.

"I wish I had some Checkers so you could have played a game while you were waiting," I offered. "I'll have to bring a game to the office...," my words trailed off.

I decided to stay late and keep them company while they waited for a worker to drive them back to the foster home that they shared with several other children. I listened, and learned that the younger sister felt like one of the kids who they lived with wasn't very nice. I praised them for the good behavior they exhibited while they waited an hour and a half for parents who never came.

"How disappointing it must feel," I'd said to the younger girl when she told me the story, and, "I am sorry they didn't come."

The older child never looked up from her "Goosebumps" storybook.

When I left the building, I no longer felt as buoyed by the promise of a month of vacation. I felt sad. And, I felt passionate about returning to the child welfare agency when vacation is over. There is so much work to be done and so many children we need to serve.

~Ms. T. J.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Birthday Present

ONE OF MY GOALS IN LIFE was to get my Master's degree by the time I was 50 years old. Well, today is my 50th birthday. I will march in our graduation ceremonies in May.

I was 48 when when I started this journey, and I want to say to anyone who is considering going back to school to get a Bachelor's, Master's or Doctorate: Do it! It's never too late to begin again.

Why didn't I do it sooner? I wasn't ready. I had other priorities in life, and there wasn't room for school. Getting a degree is a huge commitment that takes time and energy. Most of all, you have to want to do it. The desire to attempt, and then achieve it, must be greater than anything else. Because you won't have much time for anything -- or anyone -- else.

I am grateful for my husband. He has pulled more than his share of the weight during this time. He's worked more hours and several jobs. He's supported me while I put school first, and I know that's not been easy.

As I ring in this half-century of life, I am amazed and grateful and surprised and thrilled. I don't feel 50 and most people say I don't look it. But I embrace it because I know that I can do anything, at any age, if I put my mind to it.

~Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Finishing Fall Field Practicum

IT'S ALMOST OVER. It's gone pretty quickly, I have to say. What have I learned? So much. I've been on investigations. In homes, at schools, with children, with parents, in nice homes, in not-so-nice neighborhoods. I've felt fired up. And privileged. And nervous. And confident.

I think the coolest days were when I was partnered with a case manager whom I really respected. Her style was real. She cared about her clients. She knew her limitations. She didn't give herself enough credit for her strengths. She was humble.

I was a team player. I did what was asked of me without exception. Well, there was that one day when I knew I was being taken advantage of by a worker who was so far behind that it was ridiculous. So I opted out. I wasn't supposed to be doing that anyway. So I went back to my responsibilities. I stood up for myself. That was a good thing.

I look forward to a break. And, I'm happy to report -- I look forward to returning for the second half of field practicum in January 2010. I wondered if I'd like it. I prayed I would -- since I have the Title IV-E grant and all. Since I will be working there after I graduate. At least until I pay the grant back with my time. Who knows? I may stay longer.

For today, though, I think I'll take it one day at a time. This day is pretty awesome, after all.

~Ms. T. J.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Winding down

I'M SURE MOST OF YOU are winding down for the fall semester. That's not to say we don't have a lot of work to do before it's all over. But there's something about nearing the end of a semester that brings relief -- no matter how fleeting.

It's hard to believe that after this one, I will only have one more semester to go before graduation. And then again, it can't come too soon! I have to admit that I will miss it when it's over. I won't miss the unforgiving deadlines, or the class lectures that I thought would never end (you know what I am talking about!)

What will I miss? Laughing with my cohort, packing my book bag, sitting among smart people (for the most part), and working really hard on something and being rewarded for it with a great mark.

I guess I should come back to the moment and do the next right thing. It's not over yet!

So, what will you miss when it's all over but for the shouting (and tossing of your graduation cap)?

~Ms. T. J.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Unbelievable; I've got the flu!

THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING. Not right now. Not when I've been given the gift of a day off (Veteran's Day) to work on my school projects. I just returned from the pharmacy where I picked up a prescription for Tamiflu, and I have taken the first pill.

I will try to work on my research paper until I can't hold my head up and then I will get in the bed.

I hope you are all well and keeping up with your assignments.

Hang in there; we are almost to the end of the semester.

~Ms. T. J.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Four Weeks to Go: Egads!

IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE the semester will be over in just four weeks. Let's take a look at what I'll need to finish in that time:

* A "Major Research Paper" and presentation
* A Case Study
* A Group Project: Program Evaluation
* A Single Subject Design Paper and Project
* Two final exams

No problem, right? EGADS.

By going to the CSWE conference, I forfeited a homework weekend. Do I regret it? Heck no. I enjoyed the conference, even though I volunteered more than I did anything else. I left on Sunday morning (to work on aforementioned list) and I found out (too late) that the lion's share of the student-oriented workshops were held on Sunday and Monday.

I am not complaining.

I was able to network with presenters and other students, meet The New Social Worker editor Linda Grobman (yay!), and see the Riverwalk, The Alamo, the Tower of the Americas, and the historic King William area. I also enjoyed delicious Tex Mex, Mariachi bands, and wandered the very walkable streets of San Antonio.

So, how will I do all the work? One step at a time. I will do what has been asked of me -- nothing more, nothing less. Well, okay, maybe a little bit more...

~Ms. T. J.

Monday, November 2, 2009

See You in San Antonio?

THIS WILL BE A SHORT WEEK in terms of school and my internship. Since the entire faculty is attending the CSWE conference, in San Antonio, TX, they called off classes for the week. And, since I am also attending, I will be missing a day of my field practicum.

I am looking forward to traveling to another state, The Lone Star State, meeting new friends, and seeing at least one old classmate, who is now a Texan.

The New Social Worker magazine will have a booth at the conference, and editor Linda Grobman will be there each day. On Saturday, Karen Zgoda will be at the booth at 9:15 a.m. and I'll be there at 1 p.m. Please stop by Booth 215 and say "hello." We would love to meet you and hear your stories.

~Ms. T. J.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


THE HYPE ABOUT THE FILM "PRECIOUS" is really getting me stoked. We have an annual film festival sponsored by one of the colleges in the city that I live in, and there will be a viewing this week. One of our professors told us in class on Saturday that the department of social work on campus is trying to arrange for a special screening for the students. That would be so exciting! I have posted a link to a trailer for the film on YouTube. If you'd like to check it out, click here.

A segment on today's "Sunday Morning" featured an interview with the character who plays "Precious." Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe said that while she is not her character, she knows "Precious." Sidibe also said she never dreamed she would be in films, mostly because "it doesn't happen to girls who look like me."

What was so remarkable about the "almost famous" actor is that she has incredible self-esteem. She said people have often disrespected her because of her obesity and she yet has been able to find a way to believe in herself, her talents and beauty because she gets that she is the only person who can do that. She said that no one can make her diminish herself. I was impressed by her strength and self-awareness.

This movie is based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire and also stars Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Mo Nique, and Paula Patton, to name a few. Oprah Winfrey and Taylor Perry have signed on as executive producers which will likely push the film into commercial success. And that's a good thing because it is a wonderful representation of our world. Beyond that, though, it just looks like it will be a great film.

~Ms. T. J.

Help for Academic Fatigue

I FOUND A GREAT SITE while searching for remedies for grad school fatigue. Actually, if you type the words "grad school stress" in your search engine (Google, Bing, etc.), you'll find an array of articles. One I found to be particularly useful was written by Nick Repak, a director of Grad Resources in Plano, TX, titled, "Emotional Fatigue: Coping with Academic Pressure."

The author discussed the problem of emotional fatigue (EF), the environment of grad students and the contributing factors to EF, the traits that set up an emotional cycle of perfectionism, signs and symptoms of EF, the effects of EF, and finally the solutions.

I was relieved to see that I've already begun the process of dealing with my emotional fatigue by journaling (blogging), cultivating relationships (I spent the afternoon with a new, and dear, friend who is in the same social work program), seeking outside help, and exercising.

This article helped me to normalize my experiences which made me feel better almost instantly. If you'd like to check it out, click here.

~Ms. T. J.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ever feel like giving up?

DID YOU EVER just want to quit? Today I felt defeated. Nothing horrible happened. In fact, I think I aced an exam this morning, and I am on target with all of my assignments.

I am so close to graduation. This has to be normal. Tell me it's happened to you, too. Please. Will I miss this? The papers, the internship, the assignments, my classmates, my profs?

I remember when I was an undergrad (a million years ago) and people would say, "These are the best years of your life. Enjoy them." Did you ever notice that people don't really say that about graduate school? When I mention I am getting my Master's degree, they usually say things like, "Wow, that's great. I could never do that." One woman told me she would not have made it through her residency without lots of bags of Cheetos. My classmates say things like, "We just gotta get through it."

Nobody said it would be easy.

I feel confidant that this too shall pass. In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your struggles ... and your triumphs over difficulties while in school.

~Ms. T. J.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What He Said

A CLASSMATE OF MINE told me today that he feels like he will be pretty much finished with his degree after he completes a particular class this semester. I find it fascinating, partly because I understand where he is coming from, and partly because I don't!

I mean, dude, we have another semester after this one and then we will be finished. Yet, he makes a great point because the class he is referring to requires quite a bit of work and a final presentation that is the culmination of 15 weeks of research and working with a client. When it's all said and done, we will have written a paper, compiled data, created a poster, and made a presentation.

Which brings me to my next thought: We all get through it in our own way. Graduate school is not for the faint-hearted or the slacker. There is work to be done and internships to be completed. And just when you think you have jumped over the last hurdle, another one comes into view.

For my friend, getting finished with this particular class will bring him some relief. As for me, I get my relief in fits and starts. It's all good. I can do it. I've done it so far and I have to believe I can make it to the end.

And the end will be the beginning....

Ms. T. J.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On growing up

PEMA CHODRON IS MY LATEST HERO. My husband swears I am the last book I read, and I am a sponge, I'll admit. Sometimes, though, a writer will really get me where I live. I picked up Chodron's "Comfortable With Uncertainty" about a year and a half ago, because, well, I wasn't, and frankly, I'm still a bit UNcomfortable with things that are uncertain.

This gem of a meditation book is teaching me (again) that everything is uncertain. You know the saying: We plan, God laughs? Chodron expands upon that and many other ideas, thoughts, and teachings in her slender paperback.

This morning I read the chapter titled "Growing Up." This part jumped out at me:
"But when we apply the instruction to be soft and nonjudgmental to whatever we see at this very moment, the embarrassing reflection in the mirror becomes our friend. We soften further and lighten up more, because we know it's the only way we can continue to work with others and be of any benefit in the world. This is the beginning of growing up."

Sometimes I beat myself up for being sensitive, and sometimes people point out my kindness ("You're too nice") as if it is a character defect. It is uncomfortable at times, and it hurts, too, but more often I can see it as the gift it mostly is. My hope is that it will continue to help me to work with others in a nonjudgmental and loving way.

~Ms. T. J.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Baby on the beach

MY HUSBAND AND I drove to the beach this afternoon. It was a beautiful day with blue sky and big, fluffy clouds that were being blown around by a gentle wind. We parked the car and walked on the pier.

I paused to people-watch, and I spotted a woman first power-walking on the sand, then quickly veering to the right, with a look of concern on her face. I quickly saw what she was seeing: a tiny little girl, approximately 2 years old, in a wet suit was crying, whimpering the words, "Daddy ... daddy."

The women and I --she on the beach and I on the pier above -- caught one another's eye, and we instantly became the "village" that would, if necessary, bolt into action to rescue this lost child who was dangerously close to the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

In a few seconds, the child turned toward a familiar sound, her father's voice, and I bolted to the other side of the pier to witness her reuniting with her father. As he hugged her and walked her back to the spot where he and a woman were seated, I thought to myself that they had let the little girl stray too far from "camp," in my opinion.

A year ago, I would have been hyper-critical of these guardians. I would have thought they were not taking "good enough" care of their child.

After a mere two months at the family and children's services agency where I am in field practicum, I am rethinking my stance. Yes, I believe they were being careless with the child who was in their charge. But, I guess I have seen too much already. So much abuse and neglect and domestic violence. The behavior of this family at the beach seems almost negligible in the face of what I now know goes on in the world.

Is this growth? Is this too much tolerance?

Yes, and yes. And, it is what it is.

In the words of Pema Chodron: "There's a discrepancy between our inspiration and the situation as it presents itself. It's the rub between those two things --the squeeze between reality and vision-- that causes us to grow up, to wake up to be 100 percent decent, alive and compassionate."

~Ms. T. J.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

7 weeks to go, but who's counting?

I'M TAKING STOCK. I am breaking it down. I looked at all my assignments, readings and projects that are due between now and Dec. 5, our last weekend of the semester, and I made a plan.

I decided to work ahead. [gasp!]

I am going to do the stuff I can do now, and try to lighten my load for later. I finished a paper last week that is due this week. I finished an assignment this week that is due on the 30th of this month, and I started working on another paper that is due in November. While I have always looked and planned ahead, I have not had the luxury or energy, due to my full-time job, of actually finishing ahead of time.

In a way, it is an experiment of sorts. I have done quite well just staying the course. I have suffered from the stress of late-night cramming and writing papers, but I always pulled it off. I would like to try a different way, a healthier, more sane way, and see how that feels.

I'll let you know how it goes. As always, I'd love to hear about how you do it. It helps me, and others, too, to hear about your journey in graduate school, or school, in general.

~Ms. T. J.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Booked my flight/signed up to volunteer

ONE OF THE MANY BENEFITS OF BEING A TITLE IV-E GRANT RECIPIENT is travel and conference reimbursement. Due to my former full-time job, I have passed up educational trips to Costa Rica, Tobago and Trinidad, as well as a couple of in-state workshops.

No more, I say!

I am taking advantage of this benefit and heading to San Antonio, Texas, in November to attend the CSWE conference. I signed up as a student volunteer which waives the registration fee of $110. If you are a BSW or MSW student and it is feasible for you to attend, check out the Website. You can sign up to volunteer through October 30.

My gratitude cup runneth over!

~Ms. T. J.

Friday, October 16, 2009

National Library of Medicine

TODAY I COMPLETED THE TRAINING COURSE "The National Library of Medicine(NLM): Empowering Minority Communities with Health Information."

It was presented at Savannah State University by Wilma Templin-Branner of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. It lasted approximately five hours (we were quick on the uptake, according to Templin-Branner, so we were let out more than an hour earlier than planned).

The training was held in a computer lab and it was a techno-interactive workshop. The site, which I have linked above, is a smorgasbord of information that every social worker, student, and individual can use. While surfing the site briefly, I was able to easily find full text lit review articles!

The NLM wants to increase awareness of the availability and value of their free online medical, environmental health and toxicology resources. If you are working on research or putting together a term paper or project, I believe you will be well-pleased with the information available on this site.

For online training manuals, tutorials, fact sheets and more, log in to http://www.nlm.nih.gov.

~Ms. T. J.

Who Is Attending CSWE Next Month?

Have you heard about the next CSWE Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas? As luck would have it, I have an aunt and uncle that live there and after finding some cheap airfare from Boston, I'll be able to attend. There is a Technology in Social Work track at this event and I will be attending as many of these sessions as possible. In fact my next column will focus on summarizing these sessions. Stay tuned!

If you're going would love to see you there!

Midnight oil; it's a'burning

"Wee spend our mid-day sweat, or mid-night oyle;
Wee tyre the night in thought; the day in toyle."
(The English author Francis Quarles wrote in Emblemes, 1635)

I DON'T LITERALLY HAVE TO WORK BY THE LIGHT OF AN OIL LAMP, of course, though I sometimes light a candle when I work late into the night. Tonight I am using the phrase figuratively, and only alluding back to its use before electric lighting.

My assignment is not daunting, which is probably why I have put it off until now. I have become quite adept at doing literature reviews, as our prof has assigned six in all and this is No. 4. I actually enjoy reading the research articles and then analyzing them for strengths and weaknesses, gaps and methods. I hope to do research projects as a professional, so I am learning something from this process.

I have definitely found a work style that fits my personality while in grad school. I was telling a friend today that I truly believe getting a Master's degree has cured me of some of my perfectionism. How? Well, let me tell you. I have stopped "over-doing." And I still get high marks. This teaches me that it's usually good enough when I finish. I don't have to over-think every step, every dotted "i" and crossed "t."

How about you? I'd love to hear about your lessons learned while in school.

~Ms. T. J.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Comfortable with change

TODAY TWO MORE CASE MANAGERS RESIGNED. I have spent a good deal of time with both of them, so naturally I am disappointed that they are leaving. It took me "a minute" to get a bit settled at my internship, and once I got into a rhythm with each of them, I felt a bit more comfortable.

Perhaps I'm not supposed to be comfortable. My lesson may just be about being comfortable with uncertainty (Pema Chodron).

I understand why they need to leave, and just a couple of months ago, I did the same thing: I left a job that no longer served me. I needed to move on. That's how they feel. They don't want to do it anymore. I get it.

I wish them well, along with a third person who resigned two weeks ago tomorrow. I am grateful for what I have learned from them, and I hope they find some of what they are looking for and also what they need to do to feel better. Most of all, I pray that they know they made a difference in many peoples' lives, including mine.

~Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pallet on the floor

IT'S ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION. Ten years ago if I had heard of a child sleeping on the floor, without a mattress, I would have been concerned.

Backpedal to my job as a magazine editor. My charge? I had to find fabulous homes to feature in a city magazine. I found a super-fab place on the water and, as we all toured the place, I noticed something was missing.

There were no beds. Anywhere.

"Such wasted space, bedrooms," the homeowners explained. "But that isn't why we don't have beds. We both struggled with back pain. We had to sleep on the floor while our home was being built several years ago, and our backs felt miraculously better." They said they hadn't slept in a bed since.

Fast forward to today. I am tagging along with a caseworker who is investigating a not-so-fab home to make certain it is appropriate for a teenager who has been living there. There is no bed in the child's room. Sheets, a blanket and a pillow are neatly folded and stacked against one wall.

"A pallet?" the case manager asks.

"Yes, a pallet," the support person for the teen repeats.

Today I know that a bed will not make or break a person. In fact, A bed may hurt the back. What matters most is that the child has a roof over her head and people who care about her who are willing to open their home during a time when she needs a little help.

It's all about perceptions, and, I have to say, mine are changing as the days go by.

~Ms. T. J.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Back to the blog

Omro, Wisconsin: October 9, 2009

FALL BREAK ENDS IN THE MORNING FOR ME. I guess writing this post is my admission that it's time to get back on schedule. Field practice resumes in the a.m. and I have a lit review due on Saturday. As always, there are chapters to read and projects to work on. Ugh!

As my husband often says: "It's time to get on the gratitude train." So, for your entertainment only, I will list my Top 10 for today:

10. I am grateful that my reclusive neighbor felt safe enough to come over this morning when her cat died so I could console her with a hug.
9. I am grateful for safe flights to and from Wisconsin.
8. I am grateful that I got to see the leaves change colors while I was there.
7. I am grateful that my husband is cooking tonight.
6. I am grateful that my 77-year-old father, an amputee, is doing well on his own, with "a little help from his friends" and family.
5. I am grateful for our southern climate after being in a "freezing-cold" one.
4. I am thankful for my sister, who was so hospitable during my visit.
3. I am grateful that I have just one and a half semesters left before I graduate with my MSW.
2. I am thankful that I do not have to work in addition to school and internship.
1. I am grateful to a caring and loving Higher Power for all of the above.

~Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There's no place like home

ALTHOUGH I SWEAR I'LL NEVER MOVE BACK, my childhood in Wisconsin still holds so many wonderful memories for me. I long for it at times, and I know that one winter of ice and snow would likely send me right back to the ocean-side city where I live today. I am heading there for a couple of days this week and I can't tell you how difficult it is to pack!

My family members say, "Bring a jacket." I've been walking around outside in a tank top and cropped pants today. We have our air conditioning on right now. Still, I look forward to the chilly nights and the earthy smells of fall that only a northern climate can claim.

I am going to stay with my sister, to whom I've grown closer each passing year. I think the fact that we lost our baby sis and mother has caused us to develop a stronger bond.

I need to get on the stick and start packing. I won't be gone long; I don't need to take much. I like to travel light, and I hope to bring back a treasure or two, so I'll leave a little room in my bag -- just in case.

~Tammy Jo (my Wisconsin namesake)

"Home is where they love you." I'm doubly blessed, I feel, and I will look forward to my return home to my husband and dog while I am away.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Starting to unwind

AFTER TODAY'S PSYCHOTHERAPY AND REFLEXOLOGY, I am beginning to feel like myself again. I guess I'll get a week's reprieve (fall break) and then I will be at it, once again, in full swing. I will just try to stay right here, in the moment, for now.

So, in the moment: my dog is relaxing on the floor in front of me, my husband is cooking chicken breasts, Brussels sprouts (my choice), green beans and corn on the cob (his choice) and I am contemplating curling up in the chair with the "Collected Stories of Carson McCullers."

Sounds like a good plan, yes?

~Ms. T. J.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A funny thing happened at the nail salon

TO CELEBRATE MID-TERM SURVIVAL, I treated myself to a manicure and pedicure. As I sat in the "drying station," (the area where you place your feet and hands under heat lamps to set your polish and dry your nails), I started a conversation with a woman next to me.

Because it's a small world, and there are probably only six degrees of separation between all of us, it turned out I had worked with her when I was at the magazine. She is a designer in town and I had photographed some of her amazing creations at a fashion show a year or so ago.

She taught me a couple of things during our brief encounter. Our conversation had begun with a lesson on preparing lobster, a treat she gifts herself with on her birthday each year. In our east coast city, lobsters are abundant and fresh, and I learned how to prepare one for my foodie husband, thanks to her.

I also found out that she needs a seamstress, and I have a friend who sews quite well who is in need of a job. Networking, especially when it's serendipitous, is so cool.

The final life lesson came when I shared with her what I am mastering in graduate school and why I left the publishing business where I had worked for a decade. I told her I plan to become a licensed therapist. Her response was immediate and emphatic:

"I could never do that. I would just have to tell people to get on with it." She went on to explain that she is pretty much an "anti-social worker," a word I jokingly use with my husband. She believes that people need to get over it and on with it and when she hears the stories she pretty much says, "What!?"

My response? And I have to add that I had no hard feelings, nor did I feel any judgement toward her when I said: "Thank goodness there are people like me who feel differently."

~Ms. T. J.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Remembering Anne Marie

THIRTEEN YEARS AGO TODAY, my baby sister died.

She was 34 years old. Her life, for the most part, was a battle. She fought the ugly fight of addiction, and succumbed to it's bodily ravages way too early in life. When her alcoholism rendered her unable to care for her two-year-old daughter, that child was taken from her and placed with her ex-husband, who was also an addict but a "functioning" one.

Back then, I didn't know what I know now, and we didn't have the resources in place that we utilize today. She and I were just a year and a half apart in age, and though I was also struggling in my own ways to heal, I was taking an "over-achiever" route. I was desperately trying to carve out a life free from the bondage of addiction and dysfunction.

To this day I suffer from survivor's guilt. Although I have had enough grief and other therapy to understand that it wasn't my fault and that I could not have saved her, I still entertain a short list of "what ifs" every now and then. What if I had "forced" her into treatment (I tried that many times); what if I had fought for her child (back in the late 80s, early 90s, child welfare was a lot different than it is now); what if I hadn't needed to save my own life back then?

On this day, the anniversary of the day when I witnessed hundreds of Monarch butterflies migrating from Indiana to the south for the winter -- the day my sister died, I will find a way to celebrate her life. She was funny, athletic, loving, smart, extraordinarily pretty, and a good mommy when she was sober.

~Ms. T. J.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fall break is almost here

AFTER SATURDAY'S CLASSES, we will be on fall break. OMG! I feel like a week will not be enough...

I am flying to my hometown to see my father and sister in Wisconsin. I am really looking forward to boarding a plane and leaving this city for a few days. It's a short, sweet trip, I know, yet it feels like a necessary voyage. Both to check on my Daddy, whose health is not the best, and to bond with my sister who I haven't seen since May. Perhaps more than anything, I need to leave the books behind and concentrate on something else for a little while.

A classmate and I were talking about how hard it's been lately. He said he feels bored and lonely. He said his life is consumed with school. Yes, yes, and yes! I have to admit I have been depressed. My husband doesn't understand, but I think it makes perfect sense.

Yes, I am doing well in my classes and my field instructor seems pleased with my progress. The caseworker I am most often working with gives me positive feedback. I am in the top 10 percent of all grad students at school. Yet, I am depressed. I can't really explain it. I think it's the old adage: All work and no play makes T. J. a dull girl. Dull may be another word for depressed.

I don't know if I will be playing while in Wisconsin. My sis says it's chilly there so I need to pack some warm clothes. I want to take long walks with her and her dog. I want to get my fill of fresh lake fish and see my two best girlfriends one evening. I want to catch up with my Pop and see that he has everything he needs (I know he's fine, and I need to see for myself).

While it's not amusement-park fun, or sailing-the-Pacific-type adventure, it's a get-away, and it's what I need!

~Ms. T. J.

Virtual Neighborhood Watch: How Social Media is Making Cities Safer

If it does indeed take a village to raise a child, according to African proverb, perhaps it also takes a village to keep us safe. There is an interesting article over at Mashable today titled Virtual Neighborhood Watch: How Social Media is Making Cities Safer. What is most notable about this particular article is the sheer volume of links rounded up that may (or may not!) help communities work together in the virtual world for increased feelings of safety in the physical world.

From the article:
Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and even email, instant messaging, and SMS have become the defacto way we communicate with each other. Because of the mainstream embrace of social media, we now live in a world where information is shared at lightning speeds and as a result, we’re actually finding ways to use that free flow of data and information to make the world a safer place to live.

From tracking trends in crime to finding the safest bike routes around a city, from getting emergency alerts during a disaster to understanding the spread of dangerous illnesses, social media is being used by both public officials and private citizens to make our cities safer. This post outlines just a few of the ways that social media tools are now being employed to keep the public safe and informed.

Have you used any of these tools? Have your clients? What do you think?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Place to Call Home


And because of her circumstances, there is nowhere for her to lay her weary head. She's just a kid. An innocent young woman of 16 who came into the world with unfortunate circumstances. Her mother is addicted to crack-cocaine, HIV-positive, and currently institutionalized for suicidal ideation.

It's a mess. We have been working on finding a placement for this young person for days. Because she is an offender, there are stipulations on where she can be placed. She can't be around other children.

As I lay my body down to rest tonight, I will send up a prayer for this young woman/child who is carrying a heavy burden. I wish for her a clean, warm, dry, pleasant place that she can call home.

~Ms. T. J.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I said: "Doctor: Is there something I can take?"

I WENT TO THE DOCTOR this morning partly because I was having some flu-like symptoms, and partly because of my anxiety. The good news comes on both fronts: no viral infections are present, and she gave me some really good advice regarding my anxiety. My doc said that when she was in med school she struggled with the same types of stuff I am experiencing now.

She supported my decision to study away from my home. She shared her experiences of finding private little spots among the stacks in her university's library. She said that it's normal to not want to study or do homework and our mind will tell us we need to do almost anything to prevent us from studying.

She also suggested that I create deadlines and schedules for myself. She said my brain wants that, especially since I worked in the publishing world for more than a decade (I noticed my brain was in resistance mode while she was talking, however).

So I came home and I got out the egg-timer. I've set it for an hour. I will allow myself an hour of computer time, including writing my blog, and then I will re-set it and clean the house for one hour. At 5 p.m., I am going for a one-hour walk with a friend. I will come home, have dinner with my husband, and then hit the books or go to a meeting (12-step) for an hour. I must relax from 9-10 p.m. and get in the bed by 10 p.m.

I feel better already!

~Ms. T. J.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Grad school blues

SOMETIMES I CAN'T WAIT until I graduate. Other days I can stay in the moment and enjoy this trip. Today is not one of the latter. I told my husband this morning that I want "Alice" from the Brady Bunch, or someone (males, included) to cook and clean the house for us.

I am beating myself up for not cooking healthier meals, walking the dog, exercising, enjoying nature and cleaning more often. Then I get angry at my husband for not doing these things though that's not really fair because he is working extra jobs to make up for the income that we lost when I quit my job. He also does a lot of the cooking, and I am really grateful for that. I think I am just frustrated.

I would love to hear from the rest of you about how you get through this part of the grad school experience without driving yourself crazy! If I could just let myself off the hook for another semester and a half, I will have plenty of time to do all of these things. I guess it's been a long time (since January 2008) and it is starting to wear on me. It's probably normal, huh?

~Ms. T. J.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ready to Share

AFTER I MET WITH my young client and her siblings, I needed some time to process the experience. I think I am ready to share tonight.

I arrived at the foster home where they have been placed, a gorgeous house which was newly built and filled with amenities that many people can only dream of having. The furniture was new and the carpet plush. A large flat-screened TV filled an entire wall and everything was spotless. The house was appropriately appointed for housing children. The foster parents are both professionals who have biological children, as well.

The foster kids are flourishing. Each child has put on weight, when just over a month ago they were malnourished and underweight. They were happily chattering and playing. My client, the oldest of the children, was so excited about school (she had previously been "home-schooled" by her biological parents). She is academically behind in classes, and I feel certain if she could catch up by means of her spirit of willingness alone, she would already be there. So proud of her spelling test was she; it didn't matter that her score was less than 50 percent. She doesn't understand the concept of school yet.

These kids never left the house when they were being held captive by their parents. Neighbors who were interviewed by investigators said they didn't even know there were children in the home. When the house had been investigated, there were no beds, clothing nor ample food for the children. They all spent most of their waking lives in diapers and they slept on the floor or in closets.

What must it be like for them now? How different it must seem to these young children who were robbed of the basic necessities -- now that they have every need met.

I may never know what they are feeling right now. And that is okay.

All I need is to witness the healthiness of their bodies and the pure joy in their speech and play to know that there is a God, and miracles happen.

~Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Partners in time

I AM SO TIRED. Because my goal is to blog everyday, I feel obligated to write a couple of words, at least.

At field today I accompanied a case manager on an investigation, had a delicious lunch with her, and did a bit of paperwork-related work at the office before we headed back out to the field. Though we didn't catch anyone at home (this happens in investigations), I learned lots of lessons from the passenger seat. She may not know it, but this child welfare worker is teaching me the ropes. I am watching her as she maneuvers through the days, and she does it really well. She often sells herself short, but I can see the good she's doing. And, I'm grateful to be along for the ride. Literally.

Ms. T. J.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mid-terms and long walks

I THINK I AM ONTO SOMETHING HERE. Movement is a good thing. Sitting for too long is not. On Mondays, I have been "playing" for a major portion of the day. By playing, I mean not studying, working on school work or attending any school-related activity. This morning a friend and I walked through a city park and kept walking until we reached the edge of downtown. Then we turned around and came back.

I live in a tourist town, and I don't always take advantage of the very sights and sounds that people come here to experience. No more, I say! I, too, will wander through the beautiful streets of my town and breathe in this city that is so very naturally green.

And you know what? When I returned to my school desk in the middle of the day, I was able to pound out my second mid-term assignment in no time. My mind was clear and my body was awake.

So, it only took me half a lifetime to figure this out; it's also taken me that long to know I wanted to be a social worker. I am on a roll!

~Ms. T. J.

Wear the world as a loose garment

SO THERE I WAS, WORKING ON MY TAKE-HOME MID-TERM EXAM, and in the midst of it, I was reminded of a meditation verse from many years past. So I Googled the words I could remember and I found a beautiful treasure:

"I must live in the world and yet live apart with God.
I can go forth from my secret times of communion with God
to the work of the world.
To get the spiritual strength I need,
my inner life must be lived apart from the world.
I must wear the world as a loose garment.
Nothing in the world should seriously upset me,
as long as my inner life is lived with God." (Richmond Walker, 1948)

~Ms. T. J.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Top 10


This morning, one of our professors announced the names of graduate students who are in the top 10 percent of our class, and guess what? I made the cut. I needed to hear this today for some reason. I have been struggling the past week, and I guess I was being a doubter. I know it's normal to feel stressed out while in graduate school, yet knowing it's normal doesn't make it feel any better.

I also know that even if I hadn't made the grade, I would still be a valuable and gifted human being, as are the students who fell below the 10 percent line. I have to be careful not to base my self-worth on a number -- be it on the scale or on a transcript.

AND, it feels damn good to have worked this hard and to achieve membership in Alpha Kappa Mu.

~Ms. T. J.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Comic relief

TONIGHT MY HUSBAND AND I were given a lovely gift: two tickets to see Jerry Seinfeld. I laughed. A lot. And it felt really great to throw my head back and chuckle, and to watch my husband do the same.

I could write about how it felt to walk into my newly assigned office (with a window) at my internship this morning [it felt great]; or how it felt to sit in the courtroom this afternoon and watch the mom I've been blogging about as she spoke from her heart, telling the judge that this is the high point of her life, even though she's in jail and her baby is in foster care because she is sober and wants her baby and will fight for her [to say I was deeply touched is an understatement]; or I could write about my uneasiness when the foster parent was saying not-so-compassionate words about the birth mom [I was concerned about her].

Instead, I will let it all go for now and acknowledge that I have a life outside of my internship, my future career. I can care like the dickens for clients, and still choose to get away from it all and laugh with friends ~ and Jerry Seinfeld.

~Ms. T. J.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jailhouse blues

TODAY I MET THE PARENT of the infant who was placed in foster care yesterday. As soon as we told her that her baby had been temporarily placed, she broke down. She understands. She's in jail; she can't bring the baby into the jailhouse.

Her pain was palpable.

I cannot pretend to understand her predicament. Here she is, healing from a Cesarean birth, in a cell with a stranger, grieving the loss of her just-born child who was literally taken from her womb, and then taken from her arms. Yes, she made her bed. Yes, she used poor judgement. And she states she has been clean for two and a half years. And she wants her baby back.

Seeing all sides of the situation adds another dimension. The joy on the foster parent's face; the pain on the mother's face. The foster parent's inability to understand the plight of the biological parent. The gratitude and sorrow felt by the mother toward the foster care system.

I hugged the mother as she wept. She seemed so all alone in that cell, without her baby whom she has been with in a very real way for nine months. She is a human being who made a big mistake. She said she can't stop crying. I told her it was okay.

Crying makes perfect sense to me.

~Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oh, baby. What a day!

MY DAY STARTED WITH A TRIP to one of our hospitals where we met a foster parent who was preparing to take home a newborn baby. The biological parent is incarcerated and there are no relatives with whom placement would be appropriate. The baby was so beautiful and healthy and was surrounded by a team of loving nurses and staff. They had nurtured and cared for the baby until the foster parent arrived.

This was a pretty intense experience. The foster parent's eyes filled with tears when the baby was brought out. The foster parent and a friend had brought everything a baby might need: a carrier, a new outfit for the day, and most of all love and affection.

My day ended at a youth detention center where a caseworker and I met with a 16-year-old teen whose fate is in limbo due to the parent's inability and perhaps unwillingness to care for the child. The caseworker and I could see many strengths in this young person, yet there are so many precarious circumstances that stand in the way of a healthy and happy future.

One day. Two unwanted children. One temporary solution. One frustrating situation.

It's down-on-my-knees-to-pray time...

~Ms. T. J.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Going with the flow

Dahlonega Falls

IT'S BEEN A MONTH since I quit my job. I left so that I:
a.) wouldn't have to quit school, because something had to give
b.) would be able to focus on my new career of social work
c.) could have some semblance of a healthy life
d.) could see my husband and dog during waking hours

I am just now starting to set a schedule and get into a groove. I was concerned for a while that "breakneck speed" was the only way I could do this. I was having difficulty getting motivated and setting a study schedule. Looking back, I was doing just fine. It's difficult to leave a comfort zone. Of course, I expected everything to fall into place.

And, you know what? It truly has.

Tonight as I sat down to dinner with my husband after a three-hour study session at the library, I knew I could take the rest of the night off. I am consciously setting aside time for me, too, and I think it will make a big difference in my overall enjoyment of this process of earning a MSW. Who said it has to so hard, anyway? Maybe there is a way to make it a little less grueling and a lot more fun. Maybe it's called going with the flow...

~Ms. T. J.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Where were you when the twin towers fell?

I WAS DRIVING TO THE NEWSPAPER office where I worked when I heard a radio station broadcasting the first reactions to what was going on that day. I remember when I walked into the building, I started talking about it, and most people hadn't yet heard. I pulled a friend aside and said, "Cesar, let's go up to the newsroom and look at the TV monitors." Eyes glued to the tube, we watched in disbelief as the events unfolded. It was surreal then and, some days, I still find it hard to fathom that it really happened.

In my Crisis Management class I am memorizing Roberts 7 Stage Crisis Intervention Model. I know it will be on the exam so I am breaking it down. I imagine a firefighter or other first responder as they may have walked into a therapist's office for the first time to ask for help.

1. Plan and conduct a biopsychosocial and crisis assessment including a lethality assessment.
2. Establish rapport and rapidly establish collaboration.
3. Identify major problems.
4. Deal with feelings and provide support.
5. Evaluate alternate solutions.
6. Assist with action plan.
7. Follow up.

As I close my eyes on this day, the anniversary of what the world refers to as 9-11, I send out love and prayers to all those who lost loved ones. I cannot imagine your pain. May you find continued support and healing all the days of your lives.

~Ms. T. J.

Makeover for social workers, anyone?

I received an interesting request and am passing the info along to any social workers out there who may be interested....

Good Housekeeping TV is planning a holiday makeover special. They are looking for women in demanding professions--and specifically social workers--to give a free makeover. The chosen candidates will receive free haircuts and color at a top salon in New York City and will appear on the TV show.

Why social workers? I was told, "...because they help out other families all year long, so we wanted to treat them to a makeover focused on giving back...for all the hard work they do throughout the year."

Being pampered in this way can be a form of self-care. And, if a social worker is chosen, it is one more way (if an unusual one) to get the profession of social work "out there" in the public eye.

If you are interested, e-mail a few recent pictures of yourself, along with your phone number, to ghtv2@hearst.com. Also, include a few sentences about why you think you are a good candidate and deserving of a makeover. Candidates must live within 45 minutes of New York City.

If you (or a colleague or friend) are chosen for the show, please let me know at linda.grobman@paonline.com.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Post from the public library

TONIGHT IS MY SECOND STUDY ADVENTURE outside of the house. I met my husband for dinner at a rustic pizza joint before I crossed the street to head into our city's main public library branch. It's 8:30 p.m. now and they just announced the library will be closing in 30 minutes.

I am looking around at the people who fill the chairs tonight. Many are on computers, some are studying and others, well, I don't know what they are doing.

I think this will work for me. I will suggest it to my study pal for Sunday or Monday. All of my basic needs are met. There is air conditioning, comfortable seating, bathrooms, and water fountains.

I was able to concentrate and if I get really OCD about noise, there is a third floor that is sparsely appointed where the rules are strict for seating and talking. I thought I'd try sitting with others tonight and, though I had to move once due to a chatting couple, I found a quiet nook in an area that is set off as a business center where there are fewer people and it feels peaceful.

I have just 8 minutes left on this computer (yes, there is a time length, and I like the fairness of this!).

I know that one day I will look back on this time of my life and marvel at the courage, strength and sheer determination that I and my classmates -- both at my school and in cyberspace, have mustered to achieve this master's degree in social work.

~Ms. T. J.

Art therapy

In the Spring 2009 issue of The New Social Worker, we published an article about art and photo therapy, focusing on ways that some social workers are combining these therapies with more traditional "talk" therapy. The arts are very powerful means of expression and are often very effective in getting to a deeper level of emotion than "just" talking.

I came across an interesting example of art therapy...the Children's Art Therapy Calendar.

The artwork in this calendar is from the art therapy program at Aldea Children and Family Services, a California social services agency. The award-winning calendar shows the power of art therapy. According to art therapist Al Friedman on Aldea's Web site, "Words alone are not enough to express what children feel. This is especially true when they are faced with the complex issues of divorce, grief, violence, abuse, neglect or coping with a disability. That is why art therapy has become an integral part of the treatment program at Aldea Children and Family Services."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Double happiness

SOMETIMES I HIT THE WALL. It takes a long time, and my wall is probably similar to some peoples' walls and different from others'. I usually hit it after too many late nights of study, topped off with trying to do too many other housework-related and/or work-related tasks.

I hit one today at 5 p.m. as I left my field practicum.

So, instead of heading to the public library to do more of the same, I turned my car around and headed to the downtown Farmer's Market where I collected hugs, free tomatoes, a too-fresh peach, a bag of just-picked green beans, a lavender cupcake, and a $5 dollar necklace with an inscription carved on it that I was told means "double happiness" (I'll take two).

As I walked out of the tented market (no walls to hit there), I smiled as I dropped a dollar bill in the musician's guitar case.

~Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Finding friends

I HAVE BEEN IN FIELD for a month now and I am learning a lot. I am breathing when I remember and trying to relax. The days of being in charge at the magazine are over. There I knew just what to do and when. Now, I know little, and the lack of structure has become my only structure!

I am happy to get to know the people who fill the offices and cubicles at the child welfare agency. They have been kind and patient. One caseworker in particular offers a smile and helping hand. She's very professional and I like her style. She cares about people and though she may not identify herself in this way, she definitely uses the strengths perspective in her dealings with clients.

My field instructor, though incredibly busy, has come through for me in every way I need in regard to school needs. I don't expect her to be at my side 24/7, and it's a good thing!

There is an administrative person who I like a bunch, too. She seems to hold things together, as most office manager types do. I appreciate her.

I'm getting acquainted with a guy who also blogs, and he shared some of his writing with me today.

I am trying to add to the mix. I hope I can be a useful worker in the group. I was reading about how important it is to be a member in this life, be it a community, a workplace, and/or a family. Sign me up!

~Ms. T. J.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lessons at the coffeeshop

TODAY I VENTURED OUT to study with my new homework pal. We went to a coffeehouse and with steaming cups of java in hand, we settled into big comfy chairs. Soon we moved outside where it was quieter and easier to concentrate.

I had noticed a beautiful and friendly Chinese woman when I was inside. She had seemed to want to communicate with me, but just waved. I waved back. After a couple of hours, she also came outside. She sat for a while and, just as I was deep into reading Dennis Saleeby's textbook about the strengths perspective -- specifically a paragraph about the suspension of disbelief, she approached me.

In broken English she explained to me that she has only been in the United States for two days (from China). She handed me her cell phone to show me that she is getting text messages. I was amazed at my ability to mostly understand her because we exchanged very few words. Her concern was that her money was being eaten up by these unsolicited text messages. They appeared to be spam-type messages. I was able to ascertain her carrier, which is the same as mine, and I dialed on her behalf.

I told the T-Mobile representative that I was a social worker(!) and that I was trying to help a Chinese woman who spoke very little English. In a reasonable amount of time, the rep was able to decipher the woman's name and number and, altogether, the three of us determined to disable the text messaging capabilities. The woman was very much in agreement with this and understood what was going to be done.

The very professional T-Mobile rep also credited the woman's account with a couple of dollars to help defray the cost of the texts. I thought this was really quite wonderful. It's amazing what $2 can mean to someone who is in a foreign country with seeming limited resources.

I may have been reading about the the strengths perspective, but my real lesson came in the form of a trusting Chinese woman who must have seen the social worker in me.

~Ms. T. J.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Study pal

TODAY WHILE FLOATING IN THE POOL with friends, I shared my dilemma of studying. When I am at home, I will do anything (this morning I baked a pie!) to NOT do my homework. Usually it's housework that distracts me, and we all know that's a diversion tactic, because who wants to do that!?

I was throwing out the idea of going to the public library, or Starbucks, or a bookstore to study. All at once it occurred to me, and another friend verbalized it: Why not study with a classmate? One of my friends is also a non-traditional student and, unlike some of our classmates, she and I don't live on campus, in a dorm. We are both often isolated in our homes while our partners are at work.

When we were undergrad students as younger people, we may have studied alone, but we were often doing so in public places (campus library, dorm or other student housing) with others who were doing the same thing. We weren't quite so isolated.

Tomorrow, my study pal and I are going to meet at a coffee shop to read our textbooks. I am psyched about this. I think I may have found a solution!

~Ms. T. J.

We Want Your Comments!

A few months ago, I installed a new commenting system on our blog. I just thought I'd follow up with a few tips.

1. You may log in to the commenting system using your Facebook, Google, Twitter, or various other accounts. Just click on the word "From" and you will see the different ways you can log in. Then choose the one (or ones) you want to use to log in.

2. If you choose, you may post a comment without logging in, as a "Guest." However, even when doing this, you can use your name by clicking on the word "Guest" and changing it to your name or nickname. This personalizes your comment.

3. If you click on the word "To," you will see that you can also share your comment on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. This requires that you log in.

Logging in to post your comment has some advantages. For one, you can choose to receive replies to your comment via e-mail. Also, your comment will include a link to your profile on the system (or systems) that you used to log in (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Either way, we love to hear from you and look forward to reading your comments. So, comment away!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday night homework blues

TONIGHT I ESCAPED from the tether of my study room. I left a paper 3/4 finished on the screen, grabbed my bag, jumped in the car and drove off. I felt lonely and alone (my husband is involved in a city-wide festival all week-end). I needed some face time with strangers and friends alike.

After an Al Anon meeting (I attend those every now and then; they help), I headed over to a fund-raiser that was being held in honor of a friend of mine who died about a year ago. I knew his wife would be there and I have been waiting for the perfect time to hand-deliver the CaringBridge book I created for her almost a year ago. CaringBridge is a way to stay connected via the Internet when a loved one is sick.

It was the perfect time.

I think it might have been overwhelming just after her husband's death. But tonight, she has a year of grieving behind her and, while it still is hard for her to get "vertical" some days, she keeps putting one foot in front of the other. Her work to raise money for brain cancer research (her late husband died from the same cancer that recently claimed Ted Kennedy's life) is also giving her another reason to get out of bed each morning.

I hugged my friend and left the folk music venue where hundreds of people had put a couple bucks in a jar to raise funds. As I drove toward home, I felt a little less lonely and a lot more connected. I finished my paper in record time.

~Ms. T. J.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Smoke and mirrors

I SAT ON THE OTHER SIDE of the mirror, observing an interview between a counselor and a victim of sexual abuse. I was at a private center that provides a safe site for videotaping investigative interviews with kids who have been sexually or severely physically abused, or who have witnessed violence. My charge: to take notes for a case manager who couldn't leave the office to attend this forensic interview.

The volume on the computer was turned down so low I had difficulty hearing the young person's voice. The counselor's words were as clear as the ringing of a bell. Luckily she did a lot of echoing back to her young client. I found a volume control on the speaker and cranked it up as loud as it went. Still the child's words were mere mumblings.

I finally got up out of the chair I'd been sitting in -- in the tiny little room that held the video equipment and computer -- and sat down on the floor where I could both hear the counselor and read the child's lips. I didn't want to miss a thing.

After the family left, the counselor and I sat on a couch and discussed the case. I stayed at the center until 8 p.m. (I had arrived at 3:20 p.m.)

I am exhausted. And I feel honored to have been allowed to witness this process.

~Ms. T. J.

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