Sunday, July 31, 2011

Responsibility: Really, You're Talking About Me?

It's been almost three months since graduation & my 40th birthday, so I think now is as good a time as any to take stock of some significant changes that both of those events have brought on.
On June 13th I began working as the Older Adult Counselor through Lutheran Social Services at the Thompson Community Center. I have to admit, it would be a lot easier for me to call it a "senior center", but that would be the equivalent of saying my job description is "someone who listens to old people bitch and moan" which is NOT the case. So "community center" it is!
My clients have to meet one of two criteria: they either need to be age 60 or older, or they need to provide care for someone age 60 or older. They also need to either reside in Outagamie, Winnebago, Calumet, or Waupaca county, so I guess there are two of three requirements to sit across the desk from me in my office.
I'm the only Master's trained therapist at the Thompson Center, which means I am responsible for signing the charts of the two AODA counselors whose clients have a dual diagnosis. In non-therapy language, that means that for any of the clients in the alcohol and other drug addiction program with a mental health diagnosis, I have to discuss their status with the AODA counselors, understand and approve the counselor's treatment plan, and then (here it comes) sign the client's chart as the supervising clinician. Cue "dun-dun-dunnnn."
Me? Really? "Supervising clinician"? I guess that's what a Master's degree gets you nowa-days. Our AODA counselors do an incredibly good job of recognizing those clients with a "dual diagnosis" as we call it in the mental health biz, so it's not particularly taxing for me to agree with their treatment plans, but the fact that I have to sign my name in any sort of supervisory capacity kind of makes me giggle. Not because I take the responsibility lightly, but because I generally don't see myself as "knowing" any more than the two experienced clinicians I "supervise." I promise that as I become more comfortable with this process, the quotation marks will disappear.
I flipped through some of the cards I received for graduation and many of them contained inscriptions like, "Congratulations, a Very Proud Great-Aunt", "Congratulations on your accomplishments. You have much to be proud of, as we are all proud of you," and "Enjoy this moment and all the good feelings that come wrapped up in this special time. You deserve it." For some reason, now that I'm a bit removed from the pomp and circumstance of commencement, it doesn't seem that it's really that big of a deal.
What reminds me that it really is that big of a deal is that only 10% of all 4-year degree holders go on to post-undergraduate education. That when I look at the group of my best friends from high school that I'm still incredibly close to, out of the 10 of us, we all graduated with bachelor's degrees, 7 of us have post-undergrad degrees, with 1 of us currently working toward her Master's degree. (I swear that some kind of social study should be done on us because our level of education is way beyond the normal curve.) I think of my great-great-grandmother, Grandma Wilber, whom I never had the privilege of knowing, who had nothing more than a sixth grade education and became a farmer's wife. I've been told by my grandmother and one of my great-aunts that she wouldn't be able to even believe that someone in her family, much less a female member of her family, would reach the academic level that I have achieved. I've also been told that she's looking down at me from Heaven, shaking her head, and in today's parlance, saying, "You go girl."
Those are the things that help me believe I deserve all the responsibility I can get.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Life with Apollo After 372 Days

June 27th of this year marked the one-year anniversary of the arrival of Apollo into our home & our hearts, and, being completely candid, into my very soul.
Those of you that know me well already know that a dog is never merely a "pet" or "companion" for me, but a go-between of my existence and my belief that there is unconditional love in this world sent from some Higher Being, personified (or dogified) in four paws, a tail, an exceptionally long tongue, & those eyes that say, "You can trust me. I will never leave you. I will never hurt you. I will always love you."
When searching for a new puppy after the loss of Peanut, my husband & I applied for two dogs from different rescues. We had to list personal references, which both rescues contacted. My friend Jeanette (who I listed as one of our references) told me, "You'll get the dog that's meant to be yours." So on Sunday, June 27, 2010 we drove to Kewaskum to "meet" "Red" as he was named by the rescue. He & his sister were being fostered by one of the rescue's volunteers, who welcomed us into her home to spend time with "Red" & get to know him. (As if there was any doubt I would turn down taking any 12-week old puppy home after he's licked me in the face.) He was listed on the rescue's website as part Dachshund & part Chihuahua which appealed to me because Peanut's biological mother was a Chihuahua (and his biological father was a Rottweiler pup. Those of you that know me well know that whole story too.) Then the lady brought "Red" into her kitchen & he jumped up into my lap and began the whole face-licking thing. This puppy looked NOTHING like a Dachshund or a Chihuahua. I ran my hand down the length of his coat: wire-haired. I looked at his stature: tall. I looked at his face: pure terrier.
Mark & I paid the fee & drove home with "Red" dozing on my lap the entire trip. Names kept flowing in and out of my head; "Red" was just not going to do it. As I was gazing out over the rolling hills of central Wisconsin, I thought about what this puppy represented in my life. Peanut had seen me through some gut-wrenchingly hard times. If that dog could talk, I'd probably be in prison. Or maybe jail...on work-release. So what was in store for this new little one? Mark & I were still grieving the loss of Peanut, but our home felt incomplete without a dog inhabiting it. The sun shone through some gray storm clouds on our way home, and I thought, "Apollo: God of the Sun and God of Healing" in the ancient world. I needed nothing more than some sun and some healing, so this 12-week old pup was officially saddled with the responsibilities that come with his name. He has never disappointed.
Outside of the emotional journey that we are now forever apart of with Apollo, here are some facts about his first year with us. I have no idea if these stats are withing normal range or not, and frankly, I could care less. Their documentation is for my pure enjoyment, and I hope, yours too.
Apollo's First Year: By the Numbers:
Total trips to the vet: 3
Total number of times he's escaped from the house & sent Mark & me on a search & rescue mission: 3
Total number of footwear lost during said search & rescue missions: 1 slipper (mine)
Total number of times he's escaped from my parents' house: 1
Total number of obedience training classes: 16
Total weight gained: 10.2 lbs
Total number of visits to a dog park: 2
Total number of photos taken: I don't even want to try to count
Total number of nibbles of human food consumed: 1 (that I've caught my husband feeding him)
Total pounds of puppy food consumed: 66
Total time it took for potty-training: 4 incredibly long weeks
Total amount of love given & received: C'mon. You can put a measure on that.