Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm loving school.  Tuesday is skills class, followed quickly by the multicultural class.  Yes, the class I was groaning about.  Anyway, here is what I love, in no particular order:
  • My classmates are fun, and from such a wide variety of backgrounds.  Everyone has a different path to this profession.  Just asking "How did you get HERE?" (one of those open-ended questions!) is an education.
  • You can learn this stuff...I mean, counseling has specific skills, specific steps, and fairly predictable outcomes (if done well--yes, a big if).  But you don't have to be extra-wise or brilliant, just a warm-hearted, genuine, empathetic person willing to learn and use these skills.  Who knew?
  • My classes place great emphasis on discussion, especially social/cultural.  I've never been in an environment where it is okay to discuss race or socioeconomic differences.  The professor is a black woman she could put different spins on all of this, but she keeps discussions open, and welcomes diverse points of view--in fact, she seeks them out.
  • I am growing, in ways I was warned to expect but didn't really believe.  I have always had an issue about being a poor finisher:  I have really great ideas but they peter out.  I think I need to look at that about myself more.  Something to ponder.
I have a couple of assignments to complete before next week, in particular an audiotaped interview with a friend.  My "baseline" interview, to reveal my natural style.  But between now and the due date, there is this little trip...more on that later.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Working on my skills

So one of my classes is counseling skills.  Our assignment this weekend?  Practice listening and asking open-ended questions, you know, "how" and "what."  I think our prof envisions:

"How did it feel when you did that?"
"What would succeeding look like to you?"

Unfortunately I already ask a lot of how and what questions, but around here they sound more like:
"How could you DO that??!!"
"WHAT were you thinking??!!"

Maybe I just need to drop the exclamation points.

Cleanliness is next to Suburbia

I know why people live in the suburbs:  it's CLEAN.  (Isn't that picture pretty?  just a random google pic)  Going downtown several times a week, I can just feel how grimy things are...the doors and elevators in the parking deck, especially.  Oh, ick.  I am not a clean freak or a germaphobe, but I did just buy some Purell to keep in my car.  

On that note, here's something else that I realized a couple of weeks ago:  DO NOT wear flip-flops downtown.  I had to go get my student ID and a couple of other things.  I jumped in the car and headed to school, not considering that what I was wearing was wrong.  I had on those cute little Clark shoes that are up above.  (I can't figure out how to make pics appear in the text yet!!)

Not bad...they are even patent leather on top, very shoe-like.  Except that flip-flops are like the next thing to barefoot, and on city streets that is just gross.  It took me about a minute to realize how wrong they were!  I came right home and washed my feet.  And I haven't worn those shoes back to campus.  They're reserved for my suburban life.

Some things need to be Private

Really.  No one needed to see this much of Madge.  (Sorry if I ruined your breakfast or something.)

Birthday Dinner

DH's birthday is Monday.  His birthday begins two weeks of birthday festivities at our home, since our birthdays are four days apart, followed quickly by one DD and then one DS.  I like to think of it as Birthday-pa-looza.  

Anyway, since he is traveling on his birthday (who schedules a work trip on his birthday??!!) we had all the parents over last night for a birthday dinner.  Kind of a Cuban theme:  pork tenderloin with chutney (thanks, Dinner A'Fare!), and homemade black beans with rice, and a really nice salad that Bill's mom brought.  I had also made a loaf of no-knead bread yesterday, so we had that, and instead of birthday cake my DH asked for peach cobbler.  Done.  Also fixed some hummus for an appetizer, using this recipe.  Homemade hummus is sooo much better than bought...I'd never made it but now I will.  

I had fully intended to get a pitcher of mojitos mixed up for beverages, but we were out of rum! So we went with the more pedestrian and less Cuban margaritas.  And it was really nice to have everyone over to eat.  

The redecorating is almost over and we were able to comfortably sit in the family room.  Only need to finish putting up the blinds and then we are waiting on curtains and new chairs.  No more decisions need to be made, which is good.  There for a while it is a crush of decisions:  paint the ceiling? (yes) what kind of window treatment? (bamboo blinds and panels) are the chairs going to be too big? (maybe, but they look great and we'll get used to it).  

It was a relief to spend most of the day doing home-stuff, not really thinking about school or much of anything else.  Today I'll need to get some more reading done, but it is a rainy Sunday, just made for sitting and reading.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I got a mention on Instapundit...follow the link and scroll down to Glenn's post about measles making a comeback.  I'm the update!!  Too cool.

And I have to say, this idea of perception of risk influencing behavior has me intrigued.  I'm going to look more into this.  Here's the link to a post discussing traffic (also via Instapundit). It's the idea behind traffic safety mentioned in my note to the vaunted Instapundit.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I had a day off yesterday but didn't get nearly as much done as I had wanted to.  It just felt good not to be going anywhere!  But I've been doing a lot of thinking.

The multicultural class is, um, interesting.  I have never ever ever had a professor say she doesn't believe in testing.  She believes in experiences.  Okay.  So one of my assignments is a cultural immersion experience.  I've been mulling that one over.  Dim Sum in Chamblee would be great if we didn't do that regularly already.  I could do one of a multitude of religious experiences, black Baptist or AME church, mosque, Hindu temple.  I mentioned going to a football game an historically black college, but DH wasn't very interested.  He thinks I should immerse myself in the culture of the ultra-wealthy--hey, it's a culture, too!  Maybe I could spend the day with one of my former students, hanging out with my now-college freshmen.  THAT could be a lot of fun.  I have to decide quickly, since the assignment is due in a month.

I find myself really looking forward to the skills class today.  This is what I'm interested in, and this is really where you dig in and start learning the best ways to help people.  As long as I can keep a view of constantly improving, constantly learning and growing, I'll be fine.  And we all have to practice, so I might as well get over the nerves.  After all, being nervous will just get in the way of taking criticism and learning.  Right now I'm just looking forward to that class.  I have to say that since it's my smallest class, only nine women, that I'm looking forward to our becoming more of a group of friends, as well.

The house hasn't fallen apart yet, but the first week isn't even over!  I think I should be able to manage as long as I define the times I need to focus and the times I can play, the times for me and the times that belong to my DH and my kids.  It will really take some practice, I think.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Between Classes

I've snagged one of the study carrels and figured out how to get on the network, so I thought I'd post again before I have to go to class.  Some observations...

The class I just got out of deals with basic counseling skills.  We had to be videotaped pretending to be counselors, with fellow classmates role-playing as clients.  Yikes!!  I went on the hot seat pretty early, and now my tape is done.  And you know what? It was kind of hard, not giving advice but just trying to listen.  I'm like my DS2 (second son)...might need to improve my listening skills!

And in fifteen minutes or so I'll be off to my next class, on cultural sensitivity.  Hmmm.

Yesterday, one of my impressions was that I felt there were things I couldn't say, views I shouldn't share.  For example, I am very interested in issues surrounding the raising of boys these days, not merely because I have two sweet boys myself but because it matters to all of us.  But with all of the "women's issues" ideas talked about in class yesterday that just doesn't seem to be a safe position to hold, or at least disclose.  And this morning, I hesitated for just a second before I put my cross necklace on.  I am a Christian, a follower of Christ, and yet I worried for a brief moment how that would be perceived.  I got right over THAT one and I'm wearing it right now, but still.

So this class has video- and audiotapes as our assignments, and then also each of us will teach a chapter in the class.  Do-able, for sure, as long as I don't really get behind.  Of course, isn't that always the case?

School starts!

So school finally started yesterday.  All of the panicking, and then indeed it came down to PARKING.  I left the house a few minutes later than I'd meant to, but still got to campus with about fifteen minutes to spare.  I drove up to the parking deck I expected to use..."FULL." And the entrance was blocked--they really meant it.  No problem, I'll just go to the more expensive lot right around the corner.  "Full," too.  Ugh.  Oh, look, two more lots..."Full" and "Full."  A bigger deck, further from campus.  "Full."  The minutes are ticking louder in my head...I just dread walking in late on the very first day.  

Please, God, just one little space, one open deck.  I drove around the block, and found an unblocked entrance to a deck.  Hallelujah!  And then I drove up.  And around.  And up and around and up and spaces.  Finally, at the very top, I spotted a woman walking to her car.  Miracle of miracles, she walked to a space right in front of me.  (Hey, I choose to see divine intervention wherever I can.)  So I got a space with about three minutes to spare and hightailed it to class.  I got there just as things were beginning.

I'm one of a handful of non-traditional students in this introductory class.  We went around the class, introducing ourselves.  So many straight out of undergraduate can you know so soon that this is for you?  And how to have the wisdom to be successful?  I admire their clarity at such an early age.  As for me, I love people, love to hear their stories, and want to help them to live the lives God created us for.  But beyond that, who knows?  The professor was talking about identifying an area of interest.  I have so many interests, and yet so little idea of what's possible, that it seems nearly impossible to identify something at the outset of this program.  I want to try so many things...creativity therapies, group techniques, teambuilding, career counseling and assessments, marriage and family therapies, one-on-one therapies with teenagers...This will be an interesting journey.

Two more classes today.  I fully intend to leave earlier, allow myself more time for parking and then maybe I'll post again from campus.  I have so much more to say...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Classes start Monday.

I'm nervous.  Really, really nervous.  I'd say anxious or terrified to panicked, but I don't want to overplay it.   Every time I have an idle moment, though, my mind makes a beeline for Worry.  Is this the "right" thing to do?  How much will my family have to sacrifice?  Will this be massively inconvenient for everyone?  Will I be able to keep up?  How much reading will there be?  Will I find parking easily on Monday?  Will I come across as an idiot?  (You'd think I would be used to that one.)

I have the support of my husband and extended family, who will all probably pitch in with pick-ups or drop-offs in the next couple of years.  It doesn't matter.  I've taken it slow up until now, just trying to look at the step in front of me, not fifteen steps down the line.  But this next step feels HUGE, like one of my son's formerly beloved dinosaurs.  And I'm going to be so much older than most of my classmates, speaking of dinosaurs.  

Since my blog is mostly about this journey I've decided to take, I have to share this part.  I have to say, if I had a choice right now I might not go after all.  But the UPS man has been making daily stops at my house with textbooks.  They look interesting, for the most part, if a little PC.  (But I knew that would be the case.)  And I've gotten my sewing room in shape to accommodate all of these new books and binders.  At every step, from the GRE to interviews to orientation, I've had success and encouragement.    So I have to trust that success now, trust that I've really heard a call to do this, and I'll wait and see.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Books and Binders

School starts for me a week from yesterday, and the kids (except the youngest) started back to school yesterday.  So we've been busy with last-minute summer activities and all of the getting-ready things that have to happen before the kids start back to school.  

My school prep so far has consisted of ordering books and getting school supplies.  Books...that is a HUGE difference from the last time I was in school.  I got my other Master's degree in 1995, really in the infant stages of the Internet.  Buying books meant a trip to a university bookstore, finding a parking spot, poring over the used ones to see if any of them looked pristine enough, and then forking over the money.  My, how times have changed.  The professors have emailed the list of books to us.  Amazon has textbooks, even used ones, and I have free shipping thanks to Amazon Prime.  Two days later the books have shown up on my doorstep!  Of course, I still have to fork over the money but at least I'm getting Amex points for that.  Much better than walking three miles in the snow uphill both ways to get those books, by cracky.

The books...this program should be interesting.  The books are really big--and I have five books for two classes.  I'm not even sure we have a book for the other class.  Anyway, lots of reading.  One book is Ethnicity and Family Therapy.  I ordered it and thought, "great, what am I spending my money on?"  But it's so much broader than I anticipated, even going into the Anglo American (otherwise known as WASP) and Scots-Irish backgrounds that I indentify with.  I spent an hour just leafing through it, reading the anecdotes and case studies.   

Other school observations...I paid my fees yesterday.  Ouch.  I had at least partial scholarships and my parents' checkbook as an undergraduate, and I had my company's checkbook for my first Master's degree.  This one is self- (or husband-)funded, and it is expensive!  I suppose I could take on a GRA if I wanted to but that is even more time away from my family so that will wait.  One good thing about the fees, though: every time I fork some money over I do a gut-check.  Is this still what I want to do?  Does this seem like the path God is laying out for me?  So far, the answer is yes.

I also got my student ID yesterday.  A girl in front of me, who looked about ten years younger, was getting her FACULTY ID yesterday.  Yikes.  I've never been or even felt older than my professors.  This is something I've just got to get over but it will take some time, I think.  Not really sure why it bothers me so much, but it does.

I'm still waiting on some of my books, and today I'm clearing out part of my office to make room for all my school stuff.  Judging from this semester I need to make a lot of room for books!

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm Back (I think)

After a long-ish absence, I'm going to give this a go again.  This is on my new computer, an Apple MacBook Pro.  I had some (okay, a lot of) initial frustrations with this machine, but I think I have it figured out, enough to blog, anyway.  I can see why people like these Macs, but it is a pain to go from being fluent in Windows shortcuts and all of my crazy work-arounds on my clunky Dell to almost-but-not-quite getting the Mac convenience.  Sometimes I just wanted to tell the stupid Apple engineers, "Quit trying to make it so intuitive and just give me another button."  But things are looking up.

Lots has happened lately:  the kids have gone back to school today, I've ordered books and paid for school, to name just a couple.  I'll put up another couple of posts about school and such.  Meanwhile, the plumbers are outside fixing yet another leak at the outside of the house.  GREAT.  The third time in four years. 

So I need to go check on that and get things in order for the most stressful couple of hours in the day...the moments at the close of school and adjusting back to home, getting snacks and homework and piano practice and playing with friends.  Back soon, I hope.