Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Good-Bye 2013

As December 31 seems to come more and more often, and because I am naturally a sucker for any time to reminisce, tonight seems an appropriate time to put down my thoughts about the year that will soon to be part of our collective history: 2013.

Earlier today, I was thinking that the best way to describe 2013 would be as "annus horribilis" and in some ways that may be true, but overall, I would describe 2013 as the year that I learned A LOT about my professional-self.

Those of  you who are on our regular Christmas card list likely noticed that there was no "Sack Family Letter" included in this year's mailing. That was because there wasn't a lot to "brag" about this year, which is usually what those letters include. However, personally, this was a year that stretched me and challenged me professionally more than anything I had ever experienced before. Even though it may not be considered "successful" by some people, for me, it really was.

The general story is that in mid-May I left my position at Lutheran Social Services (where I had been since the start of my internship in 2010) for what I considered one of my "dream jobs"; at least it was certainly a population I wanted to work with SO badly that I applied and interviewed there for an internship position in 2010, but was told I was "third on the list with only two positions." The psychologist who gave me that news was someone I kept in regular contact with as I earned my training license and interviewed for any open position they had at the Wisconsin Resource Center. I was eventually hired there and started as a Psychological Associate on May 20, 2013.

If you've been following my blog and my Facebook posts, then you are already aware of what I considered a "high price" to work there: I was told to take down my blog posts about my experiences there, even though I had not violated any HIPAA rules. I was told to take down a "team photo" because some people who work at the WRC considered it an invasion of their personal privacy.  Although I considered it a violation of my first amendment rights, I complied. Apparently that was not enough because at the end of October, I was told that my Clinical Director and Unit Supervisor had serious concerns about my ability to work with the inmates on my unit and my apparent lack of boundaries with them.

When I began my position at WRC, I was still accumulating training hours toward the 3,000 hours I needed before applying for full licensure as a Professional Counselor with the state. During one of my weekly supervision sessions with the Clinical Director, he told me that he "dreaded every day" of his first year working at WRC. At the time he had spent approximately 26 years as a state employee. At the time I found comfort in his experience because I was experiencing something similar: I really didn't look forward to going to working there every day.  I was verbally abused by inmates on a regular basis that I wanted to provide therapy to. I was often yelled at from behind their steel cell doors, being called "a fat bitch" and "a useless bitch." I had inmates start to masturbate in my office while we were supposedly in a "therapy session." I was told by inmates that they "visualized" me while masturbating while trying to fall asleep the previous night. On more than one occasion I saw inmates from my unit in segregation who were naked in their cells and rubbing their penises while I was asking them questions to determine if they could be released from "observation status" and returned to the unit. I was a stranger in a strange land. I had absolutely no previous experience working in such a setting and I wasn't provided with a lot of professional help: I didn't observe anyone who experienced these scenarios to learn how to deal with them. I was sort of thrown into a "baptism by fire" setting and when I failed, I was held accountable. I can understand that. Without appearing to "whine" about it, I will say that my training with actual inmates was at best sub-par and overall sucked. Maybe I should have been more demanding in the training I needed. Maybe my supervisors should have picked up on my lack of opportunity to observe others in similar situations.  Who knows. Either way, I came to the decision that continuing to work at the WRC was like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole; it just wasn't a good fit. That was incredibly hard to me to admit. You see, I have this "perfectionist" trait where my brain tells me I can do anything if I just work hard enough and am good enough to succeed in ANY situation. That ran smack-dab up against my day-to-day work at the WRC. For the first time in a long time, I had to admit that this wasn't something I was good at. I had to acknowledge my limitations as a person and as a counselor. During grad school when other students admitted that they would have to refer a client out or that they couldn't see themselves working with a certain population, I thought, "Ha! I would never do that! I am invincible and I can do anything!" And after five months of working with maximum security male inmates, I admitted that I couldn't work with them. All of the experience and training and education in the world likely wouldn't make me successful in that setting. Maybe if I was on another unit I could have felt competent in the services I was providing, but that wasn't the circumstances I found myself in. So I swallowed a BIG dose of pride and left my "dream job" on November 1st.

I applied and interviewed for several counseling positions from that date until I was re-hired by LSS and started there on December 2nd. Previously I worked as the Older Adult Counselor at the Thompson Community Center and the Oshkosh Senior Center, plus providing outreach counseling to older adults in their homes. My current position is as a counselor that meets with adolescents in the schools they attend through a United Way supported program called PATH (Providing Access to Healing) where I see students in the school setting so they don't have to arrange transportation or insurance coverage in order to see a counselor. Currently I spend two days a week at a high school in Appleton, one day at a middle school in Appleton, and one day at a high school in Menasha. On Fridays I am in the LSS office completing case notes and various other administrative "stuff" that has to be completed for the students.

My very first graduate school class was "Intro to Counseling and Human Development" and I actually wrote a short paper on the population I felt least at ease with seeing: kids. At the time I thought that because I didn't have any children of my own, nor did I spend a lot of time with kids, that it was a population I couldn't relate to. However, during my year as an intern, I worked with many children and adolescents and learned that I didn't have to be afraid of them. They were and are just like any other client I may see: they want someone to help them sort out what's going on in their lives and they have a strong drive to live more full, active lives. Even though it's been just a bit less than a month that I started working with them, they have taught me more than I have taught them, of this I'm sure. Unlike maximum security prisoners, they want to overcome the obstacles in their lives, they want to be successful, and they work very hard to be so.  They have hope and so do I, which is something I didn't find at the WRC.

So that's basically what I've learned in 2013. It was sometimes painful, but in the end it allowed me to be who am I as a counselor and as a person.

Bring on 2014. I have a feeling that I'm ready.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Traditions, Fry Bread and All

As usual, this year I cooked the entire Thanksgiving meal my family has annually enjoyed for the past eight years. I generally start cooking items that I can easily reheat the day before the meal, so this year I made the green bean casserole, pumpkin creme brulee for dessert, and pumpkin tomato soup (which is actually much tastier than it sounds) in advance.
By the time the turkey is about 45 minutes from being removed from the oven, I generally look like a wreck. We always eat at 1pm. If someone had taken a photo of me yesterday at 12:15pm, I would have had on no make-up, been wearing an old (likely holey) tee shirt and shorts (I get WAY too warm to wear sweatpants while cooking), had flour in my pulled back hair, a sweaty forehead, and glasses that kept slipping down my nose. It's never my most flattering moment, but within the 45 minutes I have before Tom or Tina Turkey is ready to "rest" before carving, I somehow pull it together: I clean myself up, put in my contacts, put on some make-up, change into decent clothes and manage to look refreshed! Just like Martha Stewart! LOL!
Except for turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, I generally don't serve any other portion of the meal from one year to the next. That means coming up with a new dessert and several new side dishes every year. This year I decided to make fry bread, as defined by Merriam-Webster's online dictionary as "quick bread cooked (as by American Indians) by deep-frying" and the website goes on to claim the first known use of the term was in 1950. 1950? Seriously? I can trace my Native American heritage WAY back before 1950. Good grief, my parents were born by 1950.  I guarantee you the women in my mother's family had been making fry bread LONG before 1950.
My great-grandma Ziemer, who was Native, and her husband, my great-grandpa was even more so, called fry bread "hounds' ears." When I told my maternal grandma (their daughter) that I was making fry bread this year, she didn't know what I was talking about until I described them and she exclaimed, "Hounds' ears!"
The plain fact of my maternal family's Native American heritage has been a point of contention among some of my family members.  One of my great-aunts (sister to my grandma) hated the fact that she was "Indian." When we would drive past an anonymous house in Shawano (where both of my parents families' are from and where I was born) that had a bunch of stuff on the front porch, or a car parked on the lawn, my great aunt would say, with noticeable disdain in her voice, "I bet Indians live there." As if she wasn't one herself.
When my parents were attending Shawano High School the mascot was an Indian. The school has since had a change of heart about Native American school mascots and are now known as the Shawano Hawks.  When my parents went to high school, there was no high school on the Menominee Reservation so Native American kids were bused into the Shawano school district. According to stories I've heard, it wasn't an easy atmosphere; certainly not as contentious as the integration of white schools in the south, but similar in a lot of ways.
Then there was the Menominee Warrior Society's siege on the Alexian Brotherhood's property outside of Gresham, WI on January 1, 1975, known as the Novitiate. I'm not getting into this portion of Menominee history because it is much better documented in a book titled The Abbey and Me by J. Patrick Rick, a former Catholic resident of the Novitiate. I met with him two years ago in Gresham after I had read his book, but I bought another copy just so I could have him autograph it. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the author's interpretation of the events that occurred that winter, but the fact that Marlon Brando showed up as a sign of support to the Menominees indicates the level of craziness that was going on at that location at that time. Legally, it's trespassing to enter into the Novitiate and its grounds, but I've done it and have taken photos of what I discovered, which was a horribly damaged and beaten skeleton of a once majestic, grand building.
But I digress. What I really want to write about is the feelings I had while making my very first batch of fry bread yesterday. I had the luxury of a marble rolling pin and electric deep frier for my first try at it, but I did knead the dough and beat it down, then knead it some more before finally rolling it out and cutting out 6" circles to place in the hot oil. While my hands were covered in flour and the dough squished between my fingers, I thought about my great-grandmother, Margaret Ziemer, and who had taught her how to make fry bread and what it was like for her to create her first batch. And I kept thinking farther and farther back to the Native women in my family who had likely created hundreds of batches of fry bread, not just as a novelty at Thanksgiving, but as a staple for their families. What were their lives like, especially compared to my 21st century existence? Me, with my graduate degree, when I'm sure I don't have to go back too many generations to find family members who couldn't read English, but sang beautiful Native lullaby's to their children. Me, who uses bottled hair color to keep my grays from showing though my hair, when I know my great grandmother and her sister (my great great aunt Sarah) would take down their hair at night and braid it down each other's backs, speaking a language I didn't understand, but that was lyrical and something special shared between the two sisters.
I see a lot of my great-grandma Ziemer in myself: she had plenty of beaus and absolutely loved big, bold costume jewelry.  She wore rouge the color of bricks and always had lemon drops in one of her many handbags. I can say I had a number of suitors in my youth and that my motto toward jewelry, shoes and purses has always been, "Go big or go home."
These are traits I possess that I attribute to my great-grandma.  I hope I honored her and all the other Native women in my family yesterday, by making my first batch of fry bread.
Photo I took of the Novitiate, October 2012.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mental Health Inside the Walls: Resignation

Having never worked in a prison, when I began my career at my former employer on 05-20-13, I didn't know what to expect. I was excited and ready to begin working with inmates in a therapeutic way; building rapport, identifying their issues, drawing on past experiences inmates could provide where they acted appropriately, managed their emotions, and made effective decisions.  I wanted to use various therapeutic interventions to help inmates develop whatever it was in their lives that they lacked – challenging distorted thinking, processing emotions, building self-esteem, working through past traumas, all in a supportive, safe environment.

That is not the type of therapy practiced where I formerly worked. In fact, I had been told multiple times that “there is no therapy (on the block where I worked)” which likely makes the block function better to provide the structure it does.

I, however, am not the type of counselor who can walk into an interaction with a client with the direction to “never trust an inmate” who is, for all intents and purposes, my client, shading the entire session. Maybe it’s inexperience or maybe it’s naiveté that prevents me from entering and maintaining that mindset for 8 hours. Or, maybe it’s believing in the intrinsic good in people, having both compassion and empathy for my clients and letting my clients know that.

I will be the first to admit that I am an open and out-going person.  I like to get to know my clients to better put whatever it is that they came to see me about into context. Outside of therapy, I am opinionated, loud and generally always include my input in any discussion. Those may not be traits for a successful counselor in this environment, but they have served me well up to this point.

I am a damn good counselor. That much I know is true. I professionally relish in participating in sessions with clients that move forward, that don’t rehash the same topics and complaints again and again, where even if progress is painful, it’s still progress.  I don’t believe that this type of therapy is what’s needed in my former role. Which is neither good nor bad, it’s just a difference between who I am and what is needed to fulfill that role.

I am slowly gaining what I believe is a sense of relief since being informed that my tenure there has ended.  Although I found it comforting when a psychologist once told me that he hated every day of his first year of work there, I don’t want to hate coming to work every day. I don’t want to work in an environment where I am routinely called a “fucking bitch” or a “fat bitch” or any other of the numerous insults I have endured while working there. I don’t want to work in an environment where men do walk around in their cells naked and that I need to be prepared to deal with that. That is a skill set I don’t currently posses, nor do I think I ever want to.

I have learned more about myself as a professional counselor and as a person in my short tenure there, and I am grateful for that. Sometimes in order to discover what one does want in life, one has to first discover what one doesn’t want. I’m still academically and intellectually intrigued by the experience of incarceration on people and the role of psychopathy development in people, especially those with a lengthy history of personal trauma, however I am now much more aware that these are my academic and research interests, not necessarily my employment interests.

"Some birds just aren't meant to caged; their feathers are just too bright. And when you set them free, your soul rejoices because they never should have been caged in the first place." 

I am no longer caged.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Memories

I love Halloween. It's my second favorite holiday closely followed by Christmas. I think part of it has to do with summer fading into fall and seeing the majesty of Mother Nature work her magic and change the summer leaves of Kelly green to rich burgundy, bright gold and deep, blood red. Sometimes in Wisconsin the weather jumps from late-winter into late-spring/early-summer without much of an official "spring" in between, but autumn always takes its time; changing shades layer by layer until the green is gone, the dazzling hues fill the woods, neighborhoods, and yards and eventually the trees retract their sap and the leaves are forced to wither and fall, all in preparation for the glorious burst of budding branches we wait so patiently for through winter.
Autumn is a period of transition in nature, and it's often been a transitional time in my life. I started my college career in the fall of 1989 at UW-Madison. Many years later, I left my first husband during the fall of 1994 and began a relationship with another man that would influence the direction my life would take for many years to come. My first serious attempt at recovery began in the fall of 1996 and I sustained that for the next four years. On October 1, 2002, I moved from Milwaukee back to Appleton, which was a major life-shift that has resounded for me daily since. I married Mark on September 30, 2005, and our wedding photos show just a hint of the approaching autumn.
I love decorating for any holiday, but besides Christmas, Halloween is my favorite.  One year I handed out candy to trick-or-treaters dressed as a shower curtain. I have one of those plastic door covers that I place over our front door every year that has a skeleton with big red eyes on it. It comes with a battery pack & button that when pushed, makes the eyes of the skeleton blink and emits a creepy sound.  I love it. I wait until neighborhood kids are just about to our front door, hit the button and scare the crap out of them. On some Halloween in the future, I envision myself dressed as a scarecrow sitting in a lawn chair on our front porch, only to move and emit scary sounds when kids walk up the porch toward our front door. I can't help myself. Halloween should be scary and exciting and a bit nerve-racking. Over the years it has lost its luster of the unknown by offering tick-or-treating at the mall and hospitals offering free x-rays of the collected candy to make sure there are no pins or needles in the treats received from strangers. I can understand the comfort a candy-x-ray provides, but that's not how it was when I was a kid. I will be the first to admit that when I was at the pinnacle of my trick-or-treating years, there weren't sociopaths jamming pins and needles into mini candy bars, so the fear of the actual loot taken in was low, however, walking down neighborhood streets which appeared innocuous during daylight became scary enough when walking through them in the dark, with a flashlight as our only lighthouse beacon.
I remember Halloween being so cold that my parents would buy plastic (likely flammable) costumes for me and my sister and brother that were big enough to fit over our snowsuits. I'm not kidding; one year I went as Fred Flintstone and my sister was Barney Rubble (why we weren't Wilma and Betty is an entirely other discussion) and those costumes with the plastic-like masks that wrapped around the backs of our heads with a single elastic sting were two sizes too big in order to fit over our snowmobile suits. It was our father that roamed the neighborhood with us, carrying the flashlight, consoling us when we got apples or a nickel instead of actual candy. It was always a bit of a thrill to see another flashlight bobbing down the block, heading toward us, wondering if it was friend or foe. That, my friends, is the memory kids should have of trick-or-treating.
When I lived off campus in Boston, apparently the Dorchester neighborhood where I lived was too dangerous to trick-or-treat in, because I have no memories of youngsters ringing my doorbell, yelling, "Trick or treat!"
When I moved to Milwaukee, however, I was disturbingly surprised by the trick-or-treat process. First, trick-or-treating doesn't happen on the evening of Halloween; it's either the Sunday afternoon before or after Halloween for safety concerns. From the living room windows of my first apartment there I saw shotty mini-vans drop off large groups of kids (and I use that term liberally, many of them appeared to be well into high school) who had no costumes, no masks, but only a pillow case in which to collect their treats. These kids were so intimidating, I wouldn't dare think of challenging them for a trick, instead. They weren't local neighborhood kids and, quite frankly, I think their idea of a "trick" would've been to pull a weapon of some sort.
So come this Thursday (Halloween!) I will offer the tots of my neighborhood a variety of cavity-causing treats. I will be dressed in very conservative costume-like attire (dictated this year by my employer), but I will push that small red button that causes the eyes of the skeleton on my front door to blink & emit that creepy sound, because it is, after all, still Halloween.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I Can Still Post About How I Feel, Right?

So I'm still a little bitter over the whole brew-ha-ha about blogging about work. That said, I'm still going to blog about my feelings without getting into the details of my actual experiences; I've got to be safe that way, right?  If not, I'm calling the frickin' ACLU.
I posted on Facebook earlier this week that I'm oddly surprised that during the past week I've experienced more days that I've enjoyed my job than not. I've only been at this whole therapy-for-inmates thing for a little over three months, but I've gained so much knowledge about what's involved by being a state employee, how the mental health portion of the Department of Health Services works in conjunction with the Department of Corrections, my direct supervisors' expectations of me, my own expectations of myself (and how unrealistic they've been), the support that is available from  my coworkers and supervisors and, in some small ways, how to manage all of that in addition to the stress of working with the clients that I have on my caseload.  Even though I've only been there for a bit over three months, I feel like I could write one of those "if I knew then what I know now" letters to my three-month-ago self. Here's what I'd likely tell myself on May 20, 2013:
Girlfriend, welcome to the state of Wisconsin, not as where you live, but as your employer. There are going to be people who pay more attention to what you wear on your feet than they do to inmates violating policies. Deal with it. You've worked with people like this before and you probably will in the future. You've got six months of probationary status staring you in the face, so choose your battles wisely.  At this point, shoes are not worth fighting over.
Be prepared to give up some things in order to enjoy the seriously substantial pay increase you just received, the fact that you're going to get paid for a holiday after working here for all of five days, your insurance premiums are going to go way down and you'll have much better coverage compared to where you came from, and as of 7:46am today you're already accruing personal holiday time and sick time.
Parking is going to suck. Consider that it will take you about 10-12 minutes to get from your car to your desk and you need to be at your desk at 7:45am each day. And that's if you don't get "caught up in count" when you can only move around the North Building once "count has cleared." Because you're new, people are going to wonder who you are when you pass them in the hall; make sure your state issued ID is clearly visible and say, "Hello" or "Good morning" to everyone. (I'd do that anyway because I'm generally a friendly person.)
Don't try to impress people with how much you think you know about counseling. The closest you've come to experience with this population is when you co-facilitated the court-mandated domestic violence men's groups during your internship three years ago. These guys are going to make those guys look like pussy-cats. And remember how you initially struggled with those groups? For the first three months of your internship you considered quitting co-facilitating these groups on a weekly basis and yet you listened to those who knew more than you did, bitched and moaned about your struggles when you needed to and when those who knew more than you did told you to "have faith in the process" because they'd seen this entire process roll out successfully before, you listened to them, had faith, kept your mouth shut when that was the right thing to do and by the time your first group graduated, you pulled into the parking lot driving your father's 2002 cherry red Corvette because your confidence in yourself and in your skills had increased that much.  You were no longer the wide-eyed church mouse who was intimidated by them; you adapted to become an effective counselor for them and during their last group, many of them told you that.  Remember that feeling of effectiveness and success?  That will happen to you here, in this environment with this population, you just need to wait for it. Nothing happens before its time. When you feel frustrated or like you're spinning your wheels and not making any progress, remember that. It's happened before, exactly when it should have, and it will happen again, exactly when it should.
I know patience is not one of your strongest character traits, but girlfriend, you better develop some, FAST. This job isn't like your last one; you're not a "lone wolf" developing a program from scratch, physically removed from your supervisors. This is not the type of environment when you'd rather "ask for forgiveness than for permission." Ask for permission first you fool! Just like in your last role, you've got dual supervision: the unit supervisor and the clinical director. It may not be your "job" to make both of them happy, but by trying to do that, you'll be ahead of the game. Communicate. Ask for guidance and help when you feel overwhelmed. And seek counsel from them both; they each have a different skill set that you need to integrate into your work. This is a prison after all; there's a delicate balance between security, following the policies and procedures and providing meaningful therapy. There are people here who have mastered that task and you need to find out how they did it.
And finally, remember to be gentle with yourself. This is only your second job as a professional counselor, it's not like you've got 20 years of experience under your belt. There are expectations of you, but considering that you're very new to this environment and population, the expectations are reasonable. Don't make them any harder than they are. Ease up on that horrible perfectionism you carry around with you like a 100 pound weight around your neck. Others are going to understand that you're a new employee, that you're going to make mistakes or not know intrinsically how to handle different situations, and you need to understand and accept that about yourself too.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Good bye, Farewell and Amen

This Wednesday, May 15, 2013, will be my last day as the Older Adult Counselor at Lutheran Social Services of WI & Upper Michigan, otherwise known as LSS. This is only the third job I've had since I began working at age 14 that I am going to miss; I'm going to miss my coworkers, the volunteers and my clients.
The final year of my graduate program required a year-long internship and I applied and interviewed at the Wisconsin Resource Center.  I really wanted to do my internship there.  The psychologist I interviewed with told me they had two spots available for interns and I was number three. I was bummed, but I told Dr. Trippe in an email that I would keep in touch because I really wanted to work there.  He welcomed my contact.  Please check out their website, www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/mh_wrc. It's much easier for you to read about the center than for me to explain the work I will be doing there.  My title is Psychological Associate A; I have no idea what the "A" stands for, but I'll find out on my first day which is Monday, May 20, 2013.
I will be an employee of the state of Wisconsin (which makes Scott Walker my boss in a round-about way) and as everyone is aware, working for the state rocks.  It's not a unionized position, the benefits are great, and although it is uncouth to discuss salary, I will be making approximately $7 an hour more than I am currently making.  For the first time in my working life I feel that I am finally getting paid what I am worth. 
That said, I will very much miss working at the Thompson Community Center in Appleton, www.lsswis.org>LSS>Services>Aging, and for LSS.  As the Older Adult Counselor I had a lot of flexibility to create a position that worked with clients in the office, on an outreach basis in their homes, and I became very involved in local older adults organizations. If you're interested in seeing my photo and bio visit www.lsswis.org, click on Counseling, then Older Adults. I have presented to many CBRFs (Community Based Residential Facilities) on topics relevant to the older adult community.  I love research (who ever thought I'd say that??) and I chose topics I would be interested in when I'm approximately 20 years older than I am now.  I've developed some amazing working relationships with The Women's Fund as part of the Community Foundation, the local Capuchin friar retirement community, the Fox Valley Senior Resource Network and the Re-Think Mental Health Share Shop in Winnebago County.  I have been trained as a QPR Trainer (Question, Persuade, Refer) for suicide prevention. I have been on discussion panels, interviewed for older adult issues in the Post Crescent, and facilitated Thriving Caregiver Evenings at TCC, which is a support program for the unsung heroes who provide care without pay or much acknowledgment for their loved ones. In addition to my case load in Appleton, I spent Fridays seeing clients at the Oshkosh Seniors Center, www.ci.oshkosh.wi.us/seniorservices, which is another gem in our community that I wish more people were aware of. 
In the past week I've shared hugs and tears with clients. I have been given flowers and desserts.  I owe a lot to LSS; I completed my internship there and June 13 would have been my two year anniversary as the Older Adult Counselor.  This is not a population I studied in grad school nor was it a population I felt particularly passionate about until "life happened."  My paternal grandfather died on March 5, 2012.  Recently my maternal grandmother, age 84 and still living at home, spent time rehabbing after a fall at the same skilled nursing facility where my grandfather spent his final five years. As I began to work with older adults, I wanted them to receive the same level of care I would hope my grandparents would receive.  I found myself becoming an advocate for older adults.  It's interesting how life leads us down paths we never expected to explore.  That's been my experience working with older adults.  
I'm nervous about working with inmates at the WRC.  Not nervous for my personal safety, but nervous because despite the saber-rattling I can perform, I really take comments quite personally.  Despite my "I'll kick your ass and not think twice about it" demeanor, I'm really quite a gentle soul.  I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to cut it working with male inmates. Other counselors I work with assure me I'll be able to take it and will enjoy the work.  I hope they're right.