August 15, 2016

Weekend Recap + Supportive Services Rant

So I have no pictures from my weekend... and while I want this to be a space I share photos to document my life (which is quite frankly more fun to read [picture books, anyone?] and it encourages me to take photos, which I'm always challenging myself to do more of because I enjoy it and would like to build the skill). With all of that grammatically-incorrect sentence said, I don't want this blog to be dependent on whether or not I've had a chance to take any photographs - and especially when I'm having camera problems (ugh, just won a camera bag for it too, and I never win anything!). It may not be fun for anyone else to read, but at the end of the day... this is just for me. An online journal, for my thoughts, for my experiences. Something I can share with people I care about so they can see what's going on in my life as I gravitate somewhat away from Facebook - or at least doing so on Facebook. I definitely still spend too much time in that virtual world... but in my defense, I see more news stories than I do friend updates.

While I don't normally work Fridays, I had a great opportunity to support one of my clients by being a part of a wraparound team, which was a first for any of our program's educators in the state. If you've never heard the term "wraparound," it's a support group for a client compiled of the many different services in their life. For instance, a client may be involved with the Division of Child and Family Services (often known as CPS in many other states, or simply [read: incorrectly] referred to as DHS in Arkansas), a program like mine or some other type of parenting class, various family members may have their own therapist at a community mental health clinic, a child's teacher could join in, etc., and they're all brought together by the client and the wraparound service's program director (which often provide other "fun" services like maybe funding a child's extracurricular activity). By routinely meeting together, all of these professionals get a better understanding of the family's current life situation and are able to help that client feel supported - and make them accountable with plans they'll all assist with, etc. It's a cooperative and compassionate effort to help get that family's needs met.

You already know that the main reason I love my job so much is that it's a preventative service; the goal is to eliminate abuse and reduce the number of children entering foster care (to which mid/northwest Arkansas is in a home shortage crisis) by supporting and educating families who have open protective service cases. If we give these families the skills and tools they're lacking, hopefully they'll never have a PS case again - and certainly their case shouldn't worsen to the point of children being removed from the home.

There are so many - what I like to call - post-trauma services. We try to help people heal by getting them mental health services, etc., after the damage has been done. And I'm not just talking about child welfare - I mean in general. Take the medical field - we're decent enough at catching a disease once it's made itself known, and we're decent at curing or maintaining those diseases afterwards through medication, diet, physical therapy, and more. We aren't great at preventing those diseases.

We're decent problem solvers but not forward-thinking enough to prevent many of our problems. We know we can throw criminals (and "criminals") in jail should they break the law, but there's not a lot of preventative measures being taken to prevent citizens for choosing that lifestyle in the first place. We don't set people up for success - especially the residents of impoverished zip codes.


Our society is constantly treating itself, and often-times just enough to get by (i.e. not enough to prevent relapse, we'll just deal with it if that happens). Which is why I'm an enormous fan of any type of program that attempts to change that narrative. Take for example the initiative of teaching children gardening skills - teaching them to care about nutrition and the kind of food they put in their bodies. Teaching them the basic and quickly-forgotten skill of farming and growing produce from seed. I am so fortunate to live in Arkansas, where Farm to School programs are making huge strides. Forget teaching a kid how to deliver a dose of insulin after they've contracted diabetes - teach them how to grow and love their veggies instead - all the while relearning an appreciation for Mother Earth. (Sidebar: if you like and wish to support what I'm talking about, feel free to give back to Apple Seeds or a local program in your area. Not even sponsored, just really dig what they do.)

The point of this morning rant of mine is, if you haven't figured out, that I'm a huge fan of preventative and supportive programs and am of the opinion there aren't enough of them in most lines of work. Knowing how to fix problems is more important, but isn't it more useful to prevent them to start with?

I'm ridiculously excited to be attending one of my family's graduation parties tonight. While I've been to a graduation ceremony before, this is the first one I'll be attending that I've been with the family since day one of receiving the referral and seen all the way through. They've made so much progress and taken a little piece of our hearts, and it feels good to see our programmatic goals in action.

***Disclaimer: As has always and will always be the case, I'd like to clarify that all opinions related to my line of work are my own and do not reflect the opinions of any company I'm employed by.***


After the meeting I met a couple of friends for some pho! It was great catching up with an old friend (and a semi-new one, too!) - it's really hard to maintain friendships with people you no longer live in the same town with (or maybe even if you do). Since the passing of Trent, the need for maintaining my relationships has shown intensive growth. I value seeing my friends so much, even if it's just a quick lunch (or, more preferably, a splendid evening of cooking dinner together, gabbing too much, and attending obscure house jam sessions with dogs in cowboy hats). I've always loved my close friends, but haven't been great at telling/showing them that and I'm trying to improve. At the very least, I'm learning to savor every moment I have with them and take advantage of every opportunity to be social I can muster. I'm done being a lazy friend who doesn't press on long-overdue visits. (With that said, I should really be planning a Texarkana trip sometime soon... just not sure when that will have a chance to happen, but there's a huge friend-dinner pending when I do.)

Speaking of old friends, something I really miss about college is the tight-knit friend groups. Ironically, even though I'm more of a couple-close-friends type gal, I really miss having a gang that does a bunch of stuff together all the time; a sense of belonging, I suppose. I think most adults get that from their work groups, but even though I've always liked most of my co-workers, I haven't really experienced that feeling with them since my first job at Cinemark. I do have a little mostly-board-game-group but with all of the different schedules we just can't seem to meet more than monthly at best. I guess that'll be my goal to start working on!

I also won one of those Instagram #giveaway s - which is kind of hilarious because I never win door prizes or raffles or anything of that nature. So I picked up a very nice camera bag from the Ironside Photography studio after lunch... which is why my camera being problematic this weekend has me especially bummed. I'm hoping it's just a battery issue but haven't had a chance to test out that theory yet. Cross your fingers for me.

The rest of Friday evening was pretty relaxing - Peter surprised me by popping his head in my bedroom door without letting me know he'd made it to town first. We spent the rest of the evening with his mom, step-dad, sister, and nephew and I finally got around to watching some of the Olympics! (I don't have a TV or cable, as they do.) I kind of wished I'd been watching sooner... as unlikely as watching sporting events is ever going to make my top ten favorite activities list, it's pretty amazing what the human body is capable of... and it's really nice to see the world at play with one another.

Saturday morning we enjoyed Krispy Kreme goodies on the way to Eureka Springs to visit Turpentine Creek, a big cat refuge. Even though I'd been previously with my own nephew a couple of summers ago, we picked the perfect day for August: cloudy, overcast, cool. It really brought out the greens throughout the rolling hills. Tigers, lions, and bears (and more) fill the sanctuary grounds. The tours tell you about each animal's backstory, which were often horrific tales of how they'd been mistreated or neglected, explaining amputations or other results of poor ownership. We were discussing on the drive back how Turpentine described this whole other world that most people don't even know about - wild animals in a "domesticated" world. I hope that places like Turpentine Creek will become better known (exposed) over time and spread the message that these animals are not pets and belong in the wild where they can live happy lives. If you feel so inclined, please feel free to donate to their cause, helping them rescue these creatures from their inhabitable lifestyles. Even if you don't want to directly donate, you can help by visiting (and even staying in one of their rooms, close to Eureka with cat-sounds in the background), "adopting"/sponsoring an animal, purchase a memorial brick for their walkways, or even say I Do!

I also need to mention how sweet it was seeing Peter tote his nephew around on his shoulders. He basically worships his uncle. We were also approached by a deer on our way out of the gift shop! And hey! I did think to snap a (last second) picture during that moment, so here you go:


We spent the rest of Saturday having a little birthday party. Technically, he received most of his gifts the night before, for whatever reason (I can relate...I ended up telling him about his present - beginner's flight with Summit Aviation - Sunday afternoon so he could schedule it in time to do it on his actual birthday while everyone else was at work, if he wanted) - he received a Juicy Lucy press and grilling basket (similar here) for his favorite food, some ammo (he's going to go hunting for the first time this season), and a Margaritaville camping chair that has a really handy arm-cooler - as well as a fitting pair of sunglasses that have a metal bottle opener on the side. We took his nephew for a "tractor" (lawn mower) ride before dinner, which was pretty cute - but my favorite part of adult birthday parties is food. And his family is really good about making it count.

While there were ample sides of potato & macaroni salad, cole slaw, chips & dip, etc. - the main course(s) is what you wanna sing home about. The venison burgers were something special, but the GOOSE grilled with the best, complimentary peach bbq sauce was to die for. It tasted just like summer picnics are supposed to (except with 6 people crammed around a 2-4 person table indoors). Thanks to Pete's step-father, I've had the luxury of tasting venison several different ways, a couple of different kinds of fish, bear, goose, quail, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

I grew up in a meat and potato household and never learned to appreciate my veggies, and have learned a lot about the meat industry (along with others) as an adult and would like to inch away from eating an American's meat-lifestyle, but it's been difficult (i.e. I've been lazy and have no self-control). When I picture cooking dinner from someone it automatically includes a meat - vegetarian diets simply aren't natural thoughts for me. Even when I first met Pete I was really thankful I could at least cook fish and seafood for his diet, otherwise I was at a total loss. The point of this mini-rant being: 1. I'm trying to cook less with meat and vote for all things food with my dollar and 2. eating wild game makes me feel much better about including meat in my diet. Not only does it literally taste better and is more nutritious, but I feel better morally.

I love that Pete will be learning to hunt soon... because I could never do it. Some people think that if you can't kill an animal you shouldn't eat one. I don't fully agree with that statement, though I do support the idea that it's better if you can - just because someone doesn't know how to knit shouldn't mean they go without a blanket or warm sweater in November. But as always, it's better if it's been locally sourced, bartered for, or the like, even if you didn't make it, trap it, etc. by yourself. One of my favorite things about spending time over at his mother's house is the wall of home-canned goods and the vacuum packs of meat and produce in their deep freeze - along with the fresh stuff on the counter and talks of the next hunting trip in the works.

I hope to one day be as sustainable. Without excusing myself, it is hard. For example, I work from 8 until at least 6, 7:30, and 8:30 over my next few days at work. By the time I've given attention to my dog, cooked dinner, met my own needs, completed procrastinated household chores, and maybe whatever socializing I feel like, it's past time for bed. Doing it all alone is difficult, especially in a society that is stressed, overworked, and rarely on vacation. As much as I love keeping in the loop and feeling 25 and staying on top of the latest gadgets, I daydream of an older, simple life - of living slowly. It's something that you have to dedicate your life to, now, or risk not having it at all. And it's all very depressing to me, even though I'm a go-go-go person. Each day feels like a race against time, recovering from the race when you get a chance, repeat. Quite frankly, I don't have the energy for that, especially with the emotionally-draining work I've (happily) chosen, and the Crohn's doesn't help either.

I miss when we all specialized. There are parts of the world that still do, of course. In Paris you have the bread bakeries, the pastry bakeries, the butchers, the cheese shops, etc. - they, no doubt, still have supermarkets but it isn't Walmart-ville there. I miss (ha! as if I were there) the olden days of skilled trades like glass-blowing/cutting, wood working, blacksmithing, potters - much like my recent trip to Silver Dollar City. When did we decide to try and do it all? It's great that "anyone" can do "anything" and all, that everyone has a "chance," but maybe that's really not for the best. Not every Youtuber is a fine filmmaker or some brilliant undiscovered talent. I'd love for us to slow down, but it's hard for an individual to do so in a world at full sprint.

- - -

I did one of those rant things again. The point being the birthday dinner was delicious and they ingeniously selected a "cake" composed of four different cake quarters (carrot, chocolate, red velvet, German chocolate). I wanted to make sure a cake was made on his actual birthday and that it was still special, so I plan on delving into that in a couple of days... he requested something including chocolate, raspberries, and cream cheese, so we'll see what I come up with.

Can you believe this post is only "about" two days so far? Luckily, Sunday was pretty simple. After an enormous breakfast and a truckload of aforementioned groceries donated by his mother (he had been talking about needing to go shopping now that he was back for good, no longer has the need to), we ran some fun errands - went to the bike shop, took some Home Depot paint samples for my horrific flat brown rafters, explored our favorite outdoor store: Pack Rat (which Pete was later surprised with more birthday presents from there thanks to his mom/step-dad), shared a pitcher of pina colada, and watched a couple episodes of the Americans. There, that wasn't so bad, was it? One paragraph for one of the three days vs the rest of the post?

To wrap it up, some things I'm looking forward to in the near future include: Pete's actual birthday (with cake, cigars, and hopefully hearing about his first time flying a plane), an impending board game night, deciding on a paint color for the rafters/trim, the Child Abuse Prevention Conference, an off-roading adventure in Colorado, hopefully a perpetually-postponed swim at a friend's apartment complex, and graduating this family from our program tonight! Have a good week!

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