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Pictures at the Porta Potty

Some people would have been offended by the text message I received yesterday morning:  “Every time I see a porta potty, I think of  you, Trina.”

That text was quickly followed by one from the other person in the group: “Me too.”

But I wasn’t upset. Instead, I texted back “It’s my legacy.”

And I wasn’t kidding.

For the past few weeks, a porta potty has literally been keeping me sane during long, stressful hours at the office. And it hasn’t just been a constant source of entertainment, it’s been a reminder about humanity and finding joy wherever we can.

When the porta potty first appeared outside the Catholic Church directly across the street from my office, I was confused. I wasn’t sure if the church was providing a new public service or was having plumbing issues.

As it turns out, it was both.

The church is having its bathrooms renovated, and the porta potty is the interim plumbing solution.

And while I’m fairly certain it was never intended to be a social gathering place, I am absolutely convinced no one thought it would become a source of entertainment. Yet,that is exactly what it has provided for me and my colleagues. (Although I have no doubt that they are more entertained by my obsession with it as they are with what is actually happening across the street.).

But I’m not the only one who has become fascinated by its popularity. While I was pondering why it had become a social gathering place, one of my colleagues had started a running tally of all of the random people using it.

We also wondered about the shoe lying outside of it on a Monday morning, which prompted a story
about a wine bottle that had been in that same space during church services the day before. We watched municipal employees and homeless individuals take advantage of the same service.

One day, we noticed that the trash cans lined up near it resembled the children in the “Sound of Music” singing at the command of, well Maria Van Porta Potty.

The rest of the office was highly amused the day I cringed in embarrassment after two men looked up at my window and waved  as I snapped yet another picture with my phone.

But, most importantly, we’ve laughed at our (my?)  obsession with the blue box across the street.

And I’ve  needed those laughs.

My job involves working with people who are already disenfranchised at a time when they are being threatened and marginalized more than ever. The office budget is tight and getting tighter. I have to deal with tough situations and difficult people on a daily basis. And yet, that porta potty has provided several reminders:

  1. Even though life sometimes stinks, it is sometimes, gloriously comical.
  2. No matter how our culture divides and labels people, in the end we all have the same, basic needs.
  3. One of life’s greatest mysteries remains the puzzle of those single shoes left in random places.
  4. Other people are incredibly interesting when they think no one else is watching.
  5.  Laughter isn’t just the best medicine, it’s the best way to get through life. Finding joy in the mundane, routine, and sometimes difficult challenges of life isn’t optional. It’s an absolute necessity.

I know the porta potty will soon disappear from my life, but something tells me I’ll find some other source of entertainment. It is, after all, a matter of survival.

Making the Most of a Crappy Situation

plungerI love my job, but it’s not an easy one.

That’s actually why  I love it. Every day is different, and I’m always tackling new challenges. A normal work day can include dealing with personnel issues, fundraising, administration, bookkeeping, programming, marketing and volunteer development.

That’s not to mention the constant decisions I have to make that impact the lives of the people we serve.

So, while I’m generally harried and stressed, I’m also generally happy to be at work –  with one exception.

I hate being the one responsible when something goes wrong with the building. I’ve dealt with roof leaks, security alarm issues and, worst of all, plumbing problems. I’ve dealt with so many plumbing problems this past year that I’ve become quite the expert with the plunger.

Of all of my accomplishments, that’s not one in which I take any pride. It’s also one I wish I could avoid.

That’s why, when I was called into the intake office on Friday afternoon, I ignored a rather loud gurgling sound coming from the downstairs bathroom – the ones our clients use.

Instead, I chose to focus on the homeless couple  seeking help. After speaking with the two individuals for a few minutes, I went upstairs to make phone calls on their half.

I was on the verge of resolving their predicament when I got an urgent call from the intake office.

“The bathroom is flooding. There is water all over the floor and there is poop floating in it!”

I looked down at my feet and my cute open-toed shoes.feet

This was not the time to display my mad plunger skills, but, as the person in charge, I still had to deal with the situation.

My shoe excuse didn’t impress the rest of the staff, who looked down at their feet with the same forlorn look that I had given mine.

Finally, the social worker, who was wearing tennis shoes, sighed and waded into the bathroom to get the plunger.

That’s when the young homeless man spoke up. “I can help,” he said. “I’ve done worse jobs.”

I couldn’t imagine a worse job than cleaning up the waste of a complete stranger, but he was true to his word.

He unclogged the toilet, mopped the floor and disinfected the bathroom.

And he never once complained.

While he cleaned, the social worker did an intake and an assessment with his partner, and we were able to find temporary solution.

After the couple left and I had asked staff to put the mop, bucket and gloves in the garbage can outside, I reflected on the incident.

The homeless guy hadn’t thought twice about helping out  because he recognized what he could contribute to a really crappy situation.

And, regardless of the toilet situation, I was just able to help him out with his own very different, but just as  crappy, situation.

And that is why I really, really love my job.

What Am I Worth?

value]I had to pause when the person complained about her salary. She doesn’t have a college degree and is ten years younger than I am. She has a gap in her work history due to having children. And yet, her salary was comparable to one I was making two years ago with a Master’s Degree and 20 years of experience. I’d never witnessed this person putting in any extra hours at work while I rarely work just the required time.

I didn’t know whether to feel ashamed about my salary history or disgust that someone would have such a sense of entitlement that they thought they deserved what it had taken me years to achieve: an achievement that involved getting my master’s degree while pregnant and giving birth to my first child. And I never took time off work to focus on being a mom.

Then I remembered what someone had recently said to me. The conversation had nothing to do with salaries but everything to do with my philosophy about life. He said “I don’t know why people don’t want to give to help the poor. It’s not really our money anyway. Everything we have is because of God. and I can’t believe God gave us resources so we could only use them to benefit ourselves.”

At the time this was being said to me, I nodded my head vigorously. But then, it was easy to nod my head. He wasn’t attacking me or my belief system.

The comment about the “salary being too low” was. I took at as  an indirect slam on me.

I shouldn’t have.

I don’t judge the value of any other person based on his/her salary, so I shouldn’t value myself on that criteria.

Instead of a big pay check, we should all be striving to live a life that makes the world a better place. Period.

For some people, that might mean giving back financially. For others, it might mean giving their time. And for some people, that might simply mean sharing their talents with the world.

For me, it means having a career that involves earning a smaller paycheck but going home every day with a sense that my little corner of the world is a better place. And it means determining my worth not by what I receive but what I give.

And when I do that, I consider myself one of the richest women in the world.

365 Reasons to Smile – Day 297

books on tapeJust as there is no perfect person, there is no perfect job.

That doesn’t mean we don’t love imperfect people or imperfect jobs. We just have to  decide whether the good outweighs the bad and what we are willing to tolerate.

The thing I tolerate in my current job (which I love) is having to drive long distances for relatively short meetings. Despite all available technology, the management in our state office, which is almost four hours away, actually want us to meet in person. I completely understand that, and, if I didn’t have to make the drive, I wouldn’t think it was worth a mention.

Two weeks ago, I drove nearly four hours to a two-hour meeting then had to drive the four hours back. Yesterday, I drove to and from the same location for a three-hour meeting.

But here’s the thing: all those hours in a car by myself allow me to listen to books on tape. Well, they used to be called books on tape. Now they are called “digital spoken audio.”

No matter what the term, I can listen to books while I drive. I can be entertained. I can be informed.

And I can smile while the miles fly by.

Day 297: Listen to Books When Driving Long Distances Day 296: Walking in the Woods Day 295: The Warm Sun on My Face.

Day 294: Turning Loud Shoes into a Conversation Item  Day 293: Seeing Something New in the Every Day  Day 292: Dreams Day 291:  “What a Wonderful World”  Day 290: Softly Falling Petals During Spring Day 289: Home Cooking with Love Day 288: Coloring Easter Eggs  Day 287: The View From Above Day 286:  The Wisdom of Mr. RogerDay 285: The Princess Bride    Day 284: All Creatures Great and Small  Day 283: The Legend of the Dogwood  Day 282: Sleeping with the Windows Open  Day 281: Four Significant Birthdays in One Year Day 280: Discovering Great Music Day 279: Funny Names for Wi-Fi connections  Day 278: Sad Cat Diary Day 277:  The Smiling Cow  Day 276: Celebrating 16 years of motherhood  Day 275: Seeing Potential in Our Children  Day 274: Stained Glass Day 273: Naturalization Ceremonies Day 272: “Let It Be” by the Beatles Day 271: Sharing Meals with Great Friends Day 270: Daffodils  Day 269:  April Fool’s Day Day 268: Acoustic Music  Day 267: Country Roads  Day 266: Sunsets on Pamlico Sound  Day 265: The Sound and Smell of the Ocean  Day 264: Crossing the Bonner Bridge Day 263: Mark Twain Quotes Day 262: Old-fashion Fun Day 261: The Far Side Cartoons by Gary Larson Day 260:  Nostalgic Theme Songs  Day 259:  Appreciating Life’s Rewards  Day 258: Awkward Conversations With Strangers  Day 257:  The arrival of Spring  Day 256:  Being Saved by Buffy the Vampire Slayer  Day 255:  Thoughtful Husbands Day 254:  The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Day 253: When Kids Want to Clean  Day 252: Conversations in Cars  Day 251: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day  Day 250: Bonnie Bell Over-sized LipSmackers versus Egg-Shaped Eos Lip Balm  Day 249: Watching Those I Cherish Sleep  Day 248: Getting Back on My Bike after the Longest Winter  ay 247: “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.”  Day 246: Multiple Reminders of Beauty  Day 245: Being Nice to Total Strangers Day 244: The Perfect PhrasDay 243:  Little Girls With AttitudeDay 242: The Soup Nazi  Day 241: Contagious Smiles  Day 240: Oklahoma  Day 239: Dr. Seuss’ Persistence  Day 238: Over-Dependence on Spell Check  Day 237: Only 28 days  in February  Day 236: Genuine Signatures  Day 235: Television Personalities Who Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously Day 234:  The Words “Happy Birthday”  Day 233: Teenagers Who Care about Their Grandparents  Day 232:  “Morning Has Broken”Day 231: Avoiding Jury Duty  Day 230: Melting Snow after a Long Winter  Day 229: Hungry Teenage Boys   Day 228: Having a DreamDay 227: Mispronunciations  Day 226: Awkward Animal MomentsDay 225: Shaking Hands With Scott HamiltonDay 224:  Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature  Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges  Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer  Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self    Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted  Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane  Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated  Day 212: “The Soul” Quote   Day 211: Rubber Ducky  Day 210: Tracks in the Snow   Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners  Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days  Day 206:  Dogs Playing in the Snow  Day 205:  Descriptive Phrases  Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace  Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency  Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help  Day 200: Boys and Their Toys  Day 199: The Most Important Person  Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right  Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children  Day 196: Being Told I’m Young  Day 195: Good News  Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact   Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be  Day 191:  Matt Groening  Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy  Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence  Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work  Day 187: Funny Phone Calls  Day 186: Healthy Lungs  Day 185: Reality Checks Day  184: Coincidence  Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro  Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories  Day 180: A soak in a bathtub  Day 179: Optimism  Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names  Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day   Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey  Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass  Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes  Day 173: Family Acceptance  Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song  Day 170: Positive People  Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids  Day 168:  Jealous Pets   Day 167:  Family Christmas Recipes  Day 166:  Church BellsDay 165:  School Holiday   164: Unexpected Grace  Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control  Day 162: Anticipating a good story   Day 161: Hope  Day 160:  When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment  Day 159: Surprises in the Mail  Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial  Day 157:  A Garage on Winter Days    Day 156:  Real Christmas Trees    Day 155: Being a Parent   Day 154: Selfless People Day 153:  Nelson Mandela  Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

365 Reasons to Smile – Day 294

black sandalWith the arrival of spring, I broke out the nail polish and the open-toed shoes this week. I firmly believe that you can’t truly say goodbye to winter until you paint your toenails and let them enjoy the sunshine.

That’s usually a good thing, but the people I work with consider it a noise nuisance.

My favorite and most comfortable pair of open-tied, black heels – the ones I wear the most during warm months –  are really, Really, REALLY loud when I’m going down stairs.

To most people, that wouldn’t be an issue. But I’m not most people.

I work in an old, converted house, and my  office is upstairs. To get to the front office, the conference room or to greet visitors, I have to walk down the stairs and into the waiting room.

There is absolutely no way I can walk down those stairs quietly in those shoes. I tried taking them off, but that was just weird for all the people at the bottom waiting for service. I tried walking on the balls of my feet, but that’s just dangerous especially when it comes to my track record of falling down. So I’ve decided that my clomping feet will not only announce to the rest of the staff that I’m coming downstairs, it gives them something to laugh at me about. They’ve even begun discussing how to modify my shoes to silence them.

Providing people with something to talk about and laugh at – even at my own expense – always makes me smile.

Day 294: Turning Loud Shoes into a Conversation Item

Day 293: Seeing Something New in the Every Day  Day 292: Dreams Day 291:  “What a Wonderful World”  Day 290: Softly Falling Petals During Spring Day 289: Home Cooking with Love Day 288: Coloring Easter Eggs  Day 287: The View From Above Day 286:  The Wisdom of Mr. RogerDay 285: The Princess Bride    Day 284: All Creatures Great and Small  Day 283: The Legend of the Dogwood  Day 282: Sleeping with the Windows Open  Day 281: Four Significant Birthdays in One Year Day 280: Discovering Great Music Day 279: Funny Names for Wi-Fi connections  Day 278: Sad Cat Diary Day 277:  The Smiling Cow  Day 276: Celebrating 16 years of motherhood  Day 275: Seeing Potential in Our Children  Day 274: Stained Glass Day 273: Naturalization Ceremonies Day 272: “Let It Be” by the Beatles Day 271: Sharing Meals with Great Friends Day 270: Daffodils  Day 269:  April Fool’s Day Day 268: Acoustic Music  Day 267: Country Roads  Day 266: Sunsets on Pamlico Sound  Day 265: The Sound and Smell of the Ocean  Day 264: Crossing the Bonner Bridge Day 263: Mark Twain Quotes Day 262: Old-fashion Fun Day 261: The Far Side Cartoons by Gary Larson Day 260:  Nostalgic Theme Songs  Day 259:  Appreciating Life’s Rewards  Day 258: Awkward Conversations With Strangers  Day 257:  The arrival of Spring  Day 256:  Being Saved by Buffy the Vampire Slayer  Day 255:  Thoughtful Husbands Day 254:  The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Day 253: When Kids Want to Clean  Day 252: Conversations in Cars  Day 251: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day  Day 250: Bonnie Bell Over-sized LipSmackers versus Egg-Shaped Eos Lip Balm  Day 249: Watching Those I Cherish Sleep  Day 248: Getting Back on My Bike after the Longest Winter  ay 247: “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.”  Day 246: Multiple Reminders of Beauty  Day 245: Being Nice to Total Strangers Day 244: The Perfect PhrasDay 243:  Little Girls With AttitudeDay 242: The Soup Nazi  Day 241: Contagious Smiles  Day 240: Oklahoma  Day 239: Dr. Seuss’ Persistence  Day 238: Over-Dependence on Spell Check  Day 237: Only 28 days  in February  Day 236: Genuine Signatures  Day 235: Television Personalities Who Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously Day 234:  The Words “Happy Birthday”  Day 233: Teenagers Who Care about Their Grandparents  Day 232:  “Morning Has Broken”Day 231: Avoiding Jury Duty  Day 230: Melting Snow after a Long Winter  Day 229: Hungry Teenage Boys   Day 228: Having a DreamDay 227: Mispronunciations  Day 226: Awkward Animal MomentsDay 225: Shaking Hands With Scott HamiltonDay 224:  Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature  Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges  Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer  Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self    Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted  Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane  Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated  Day 212: “The Soul” Quote   Day 211: Rubber Ducky  Day 210: Tracks in the Snow   Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners  Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days  Day 206:  Dogs Playing in the Snow  Day 205:  Descriptive Phrases  Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace  Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency  Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help  Day 200: Boys and Their Toys  Day 199: The Most Important Person  Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right  Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children  Day 196: Being Told I’m Young  Day 195: Good News  Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact   Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be  Day 191:  Matt Groening  Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy  Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence  Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work  Day 187: Funny Phone Calls  Day 186: Healthy Lungs  Day 185: Reality Checks Day  184: Coincidence  Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro  Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories  Day 180: A soak in a bathtub  Day 179: Optimism  Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names  Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day   Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey  Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass  Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes  Day 173: Family Acceptance  Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song  Day 170: Positive People  Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids  Day 168:  Jealous Pets   Day 167:  Family Christmas Recipes  Day 166:  Church BellsDay 165:  School Holiday   164: Unexpected Grace  Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control  Day 162: Anticipating a good story   Day 161: Hope  Day 160:  When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment  Day 159: Surprises in the Mail  Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial  Day 157:  A Garage on Winter Days    Day 156:  Real Christmas Trees    Day 155: Being a Parent   Day 154: Selfless People Day 153:  Nelson Mandela  Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

I’m a Social Worker, Not a Stereotype

I'M A SOCIAL WORKERBack in the early 1990’s when I worked for the WV AIDS Program, some people assumed I was a lesbian.

Now that I work for Catholic Charities, some people assume I’m Catholic.

Neither assumption ever bothered me even though they were wrong.

But when people make assumptions about social workers, I have a deep-seated desire to say “Dammit Jim, I’m a social worker not a stereotype.”

I don’t believe that giving handouts will save the world. I don’t believe that I have to hug and empathize with everyone I encounter. And most of all, I don’t believe anyone with a good heart can do my job.

In reality, most social workers I know don’t believe in just giving handouts. We also know that if we don’t provide people with the basic resources they need, they certainly aren’t going to be able or open to making tough decisions that may help them improve their circumstances.. What social workers do believe is that people can change and that we should never give up on anyone. We also believe that no one is more important or more “worthy” than any other person. Most of all, we believe that people are responsible for their own lives. Sometimes. they simply need more support to accomplish their goals.

Also, in contrast to popular opinion, not every social worker has a warm and fuzzy personality. We don’t see life through rose-colored glasses and we don’t always see the best in people. We realize that some people survive by scamming others, that there are individuals who will do their best to “manipulate” the system and that there are people who are just plain lazy. We also know that not everyone had the advantages of growing up in a family that treasured children, respected boundaries and believed in delayed gratification. Poverty isn’t just about lack of money but about lack of support. Being able to provide that support is what motivates us.

Most of all, not just anyone can do our jobs. This past week, I was in a meeting with an individual who helps low-income families. As she gave her report, the fact that she is not a social worker became obvious. She was discussing a situation in which an individual didn’t want to complete an application for assistance without his friend.

“Maybe he couldn’t read,” I suggested.

“Oh, no,” she said. “I’ve had people tell me they couldn’t read. He didn’t say that. He just said he wanted to wait for his friend before he completed the form.”

I wanted to scream. I’m pretty sure the other social workers in the room also wanted to scream but didn’t. That’s  
because social workers try very hard to be non-judgmental. And sometimes we fail miserably. I should know. T
here have been so many times over the past few years when I’ve wanted to scream at people who think doing nice things for poor people is social work. Being nice to low-income people has nothing to do with social work, which requires a college degree and a license. Many social workers help low-income people, but their job is not to be nice (although most are). Their job is to help individuals and families help themselves.

So instead of screaming, I strategize. I think about how we can engage low-income, middle class and wealthy individuals in supporting those who are struggling. I think about how we can educate all people about inequality. Most of all, I think about what I can do to convince everyone that all people matter.

And then, I act.

Because that’s what social workers do.

365 Reasons To Smile- Day 224

window2If you’ve never had to spend the majority of your work day in an office without a window, you simply cannot appreciate all that a window offers.

My current office is in a corner, which means I have TWO windows.

That really, really, really makes me smile.IMG_2485

Day 224:  Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature  Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges  Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer  Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self    Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted  Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane  Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated  Day 212: “The Soul” Quote   Day 211: Rubber Ducky  Day 210: Tracks in the Snow   Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners  Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days  Day 206:  Dogs Playing in the Snow  Day 205:  Descriptive Phrases  Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace  Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency  Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help  Day 200: Boys and Their Toys  Day 199: The Most Important Person  Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right  Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children  Day 196: Being Told I’m Young  Day 195: Good News  Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact   Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be  Day 191:  Matt Groening  Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy  Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence  Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work  Day 187: Funny Phone Calls  Day 186: Healthy Lungs  Day 185: Reality Checks Day  184: Coincidence  Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro  Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories  Day 180: A soak in a bathtub  Day 179: Optimism  Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names  Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day   Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey  Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass  Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes  Day 173: Family Acceptance  Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song  Day 170: Positive People  Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids  Day 168:  Jealous Pets   Day 167:  Family Christmas Recipes  Day 166:  Church BellsDay 165:  School Holiday   164: Unexpected Grace  Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control  Day 162: Anticipating a good story   Day 161: Hope  Day 160:  When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment  Day 159: Surprises in the Mail  Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial  Day 157:  A Garage on Winter Days    Day 156:  Real Christmas Trees    Day 155: Being a Parent   Day 154: Selfless People Day 153:  Nelson Mandela  Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

365 Reasons to Smile – Day 129

the bears' houseWhen I was in elementary school, I read the book The Bears’ House by Marilyn Sachs over and over again. I would turn it in on library day only to check it out again a couple of weeks later.

The story about Fran wasn’t inspiring. She was smelly and unpopular and didn’t have much hope or support. Her efforts to escape her family life was depressing. But the book opened my eyes to a world completely different from my own.

I had a parents who did what society expected parents to do. Fran’s father had left, and her mother was mentally ill.

I never doubted my future was bright, and Fran’s only hope was in an imaginary world.

Yet, some part of me understood and cheered for Fran. And some part of me wanted to step in and make her life better.

Decades later, I’m a licensed social worker and, next week, I’m starting a job that will affect families who, like Fran’s, are facing numerous challenges. As a freshman in college, I never would have chosen such a career path.  I thought I was destined for much greater things.

But as a third grader, I think I knew what direction my life would eventually take. And I also think I knew that path would be all about doing great things.

That always makes me smile.

Day 129: The Bears’ House

Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs     Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative KidsDay 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment     Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old PhotographsDay 1: The Martians on Sesame Street