She Was a Freakin’ Social Worker!

Quick note: I drafted this several weeks ago but never posted. So, the timing mentioned may not always make sense. Just go with it and read between the lines. Ha!

When I tell you the last few weeks have been a struggle, I mean the last few weeks have been a struggle. As a Social Worker, it seems that our day, our week, our month never ends. Thank God for the warm fuzzies received along the way or we’d probably just drink beer into oblivion or whiskey (verb) so hard every night until we needed our own Social Worker. (God bless the dear soul that has to be my Social Worker one day. Poor thing isn’t gonna know what hit him/her. I’m crazy now…Lord help us all after a few more years of this. Ha!) But I digress; back to my last few weeks.

As for patient referrals, I have had a bed bound patient’s caregiver admitted to the hospital unexpectedly in the middle of the night for cardiac issues leaving no caregiver in place for my patient; a patient with suicidal ideation; a patient dependent on oxygen evicted from her home who had to sleep in her vehicle for a short while; bed bugs and fire-hazard-level unsafe wiring in another patient’s home…oh yeah, and another caregiver who needed respite care at the last minute; and about a trillion miles traveled to “handle” all of this. Then of course, routine visits plus two precious long time hospice patients who I have grown to adore who were declining and I needed time (for them AND for myself) to just sit with them, rub their hair or hold their hand.

As I reflect, I distinctly recall an entry Green Beans on the Interstate where I watched a lady eat greenbeans while she zoomed in and out of traffic.

I watched her and wondered why…why she couldn’t just take a damn minute and eat her green beans while parked.

I immediately stopped the top-of-my-lungs duet with the radio and began to ponder what the bloody hell would make her be in such a big hurry to not just take an extra ten minutes before she left home and sit, while not zooming, to eat her green beans.

Well, now I understand. SHE WAS A FREAKIN’ SOCIAL WORKER!!! 

When I got the call about my little lady evicted who was about to spend some nights in her car, it was late in the day and something had to be done. I had already had some doozies that day and hadn’t eaten lunch. I brought a salad that morning with the intentions of stopping somewhere to enjoy the salad after one of my stops. Well, I knew I couldn’t let her spend more nights in her car, therefore didn’t really have time to stop and eat that salad that had already wilted from staring at me all day. So what did I do? I ate that salad while driving to handle business. All I could think about was Green Beans on the Interstate and how I had so quickly and smoothly transitioned into a major hypocrite. Ha!!!

As Social Workers we tend to have hearts that are sometimes too big, and we just have to keep rolling and doing and calling and following up and advocating…and all the other words, that as a Social Worker on a Friday night I just can’t come up with; cognitive abilities wane fast at end of week. Ha! But this job, this career choice, this mission…is so worth the stress and fatigue and brain tiredness that we experience. We get to come home to our nice relaxing homes that have a/c, no bed bugs, electricity, a place to sit, food to eat, no loved ones who are dying, no family member requiring wound care or diaper changes. We get to come home and shake off the week. These precious dear souls we help and worry over and spin our wheels for all week are stuck in their situation 24/7. Twenty-four/seven. No reprieve. No rest. No break. We do this so that they can have hope of something better.

Jokingly, I have been known to ask the question “What the hell was I thinking?! Social Work?!” Ha! But I am truly so honored that on days like today, I get a call from a dear lady who now has an apartment to move into, “Ms. Paula, I’m here.” Tears in my eyes! What a blessing to see that dear lady come through all those weeks of hell from being evicted, spending nights in her car, a couple weeks in a hotel to finally moving into her new apartment. Blessed is what I am! I was able to be a tiny part of that woman’s life. I will never forget her and in some little selfish part of my Social Worker heart, I hope that she will never forget me either. Not really for the “toot your own horn” part or accolades of any type…I just want her to remember that someone loved her enough to hang in there with her and stand by her until all was well.

Sipping coffee tonight but thinking I probably should have chosen beer. Ha! ~paula

For Whom Do You Sing Harmony?

I adore singing in the choir. I have some of my most carefree moments of each week…goofing, laughing, singing, harmonizing and practicing with my fellow choir members…who just happen to be some of my closest friends.

I sing alto, as did my sweet little mama. She managed to teach me that I would love choir…or else. Ha!

During my early years in choir, she was my choir director. Let me just tell you, when your mama was the choir director…you sang in the choir. Needless to say, I can’t say I always had a passion for singing or harmony, but it is now as much a part of who I am as my skin color, eye color, hair color and my facial features. I LOVE TO SING.

But to say I love to sing, is not really the full picture of what I love about this topic. I do sing pretty much all day long…in between patients, on the way to church, in the shower, while I listen to music on the beach… I even have to school myself NOT to hum while I’m in a conversation with someone because it could be construed as inattentiveness to what is being said. I have it bad. Ha! But the truth of what I love about singing is the harmony.

When I sing to the radio, I’m full on harmonizing. I sing alto in the choir which is primarily harmony. I feel a little disappointed when the alto line has to sing the melody and the sopranos have to bust out the harmony.

Sidenote: I realized recently that Sopranos don’t typically like to sing harmony either…so music writers…stop that. Ha! On second thought, maybe you should keep doing that occasionally so we are forced out of our comfort zones more often. But that’s a whole other topic.

Google depicts harmony as a noun that is: 1- the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions that have a pleasing effect. 2- agreement or concord. Synonyms: accord, agreement, peace, peacefulness, amicability, friendship, fellowship, cooperation, understanding, unity, rapport, like-mindedness. Basically, in music, harmony is a note that compliments the main note, the melody.

As you have gotten to know me…you knew I wouldn’t be able to let this go, right? You knew I would have to take this a step further. I couldn’t just let the definition of harmony be the end, right? There are so many life lessons all wrapped up into this one little topic. (#deepthinkerprobs)

I think that in life, we have to be the harmony to our fellow man’s melody.

As a Social Worker, I must be the harmony to my patient’s melody as I work along side them as they make decisions. I absolutely can not be the melody for my patient or families. They are the melody. I am the harmony. I accompany them as they make decisions they will live with for the rest of their lives. They are the lead. I provide necessary accompaniment.

As a wife, I must be the harmony to my husband’s melody. In this day and age it is frowned upon to say this, but he has the task of leading and I have the task of accompanying him as he accomplishes that task. Do I always play perfect harmony with him? Like, a big hell no to that. He makes me angry and crazy and absolutely nuts at times and I purposely turn that harmony right into a ‘dissonant’ chord. (Fellow music folks, do you see what I did there? Ha!) But luckily, dissonant chords are a ‘thing’ also. When a dissonant chord resolves itself into beautiful harmony again, life is good, right? That means kissing, folks. And kissing is good, right? Ha!

Moving right along. As a mother, I must be the harmony to my children’s ambitions in life. They have so many decisions to make along the way. I can’t run their lives for them. As much as we want to stop them from making the same mistakes we made, they have to live their life on their own. We can educate…harmonize, if you will…but we have to let them be their own melody. At the end of the day, they are the ones who have to lie their head down on their own pillow at night and live with their own thoughts. Not us. We live with our own thoughts.

I should probably revisit my earlier comment “we have to be the harmony to our fellow man’s melody”. What does that really mean? If we are always the harmony for others, when do we get to be our own melody? Almost always would be the answer. If everyone learned to compliment other’s melodies, there would always be someone available to be your harmony as well.

“Your true character is most accurately measured by how you treat those who can do nothing for you.” – Mother Teresa

Just sipping some Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée Coffee and thinking about puttin’ on a kitchen concert. Where’s my spatula mic??? I’m about to bust out some major harmony…whose gonna tackle the melody for me??? ~paula

A Social Worker’s Heart

Sometimes your determination to have a middle-of-the-day visit, forces me to drive 50 extra miles because my other scheduled visits were all on the other side of the county.

…but I agree because my Social Worker heart cares about you and I genuinely want to visit with you.

Sometimes the 50 extra miles I drove to back track and meet at your requested time, makes me late picking up my kiddo at the end of the day.

…but I will do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you and your situation may be a little more dire than my own.

Sometimes I frustrate you because I won’t call a resource for you or complete a form for you.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart wants to empower you to tap community resources on your own.

Sometimes when I’m sitting in your living room, holding your hand while you share of your anticipatory grief, I’m trying not to squirm because I haven’t peed in hours.

…but I endure because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes while driving to your house, I skip running through the drive-thru for lunch because it might take too long and I don’t want to be late.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes when I listen to your grief story it makes me sad about my own grief story.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes I cry when I leave your home because my heart breaks for your grief or because I know, before you do, the gravity of the loss you are about to experience.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes when I say hard things to you, I wish someone other than me could have said it, would have said it or that you would have just made better choices on your own.

…but I would say them all over, again and again, if it would help you because my Social Worker heart cares for you deeply.

Sometimes, on the night before my visit to your home, I had to stay up all night with a sick child and I’m utterly exhausted and worried you will take my yawns for boredom or disinterest.

…but I come on into work because my Social Worker heart cares about you and am neither bored nor disinterested. Just tired.

Sometimes I am actually disinterested in what you are saying because I just received a text from a family member that said “call me as soon as you can” and it created worry in me for my family’s well-being.

…my Social Worker heart cares about you deeply but it also cares fiercely about my own family.

Sometimes I’m grumpy because I didn’t get to drink enough coffee before I left home or my husband and I were on the outs with each other, but I force myself to be pleasant with you and caring because my grumpiness was not caused by you.

…I protect you from my personal grumpiness because my Social Worker heart knows you did nothing to deserve that.

Sometimes when you’re grumpy with me for no known reason, I bite my tongue so as to not respond with grump because I know I didn’t cause your grumpiness either; most likely your circumstances did.

…I bite my tongue to maintain a working relationship with you because my Social Worker heart knows you won’t be grumpy by the time I leave your home…if I did my job correctly.

Sometimes I arrive at your home immediately after hanging up the phone from a disgruntled caregiver who just cussed at me mercilessly for something that had nothing to do with me, or maybe that did have something to do with me, but I figure out a way to provide you with smiles and concern while I’m with you, as if nothing happened.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Yes, your request seemed small. No, I haven’t gotten around to doing it yet because there were a million other small requests on my to-do list before yours and sometimes I don’t have enough hours in my day. Yes, I feel guilty. Please know I’m working as fast as I can.

…I often come in early or work late because I genuinely want to help you because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Yes, I sometimes run behind schedule because a family needed me a little longer. Please be forgiving, as you might be that family one day and I will give you the time you need as well.

…I will stay as long as you need me because my Social Worker heart cares too deeply sometimes.

I have cried with families. I have cried for families.

…I do it because my Social Worker heart cares deeply and hurts for and with you.

While I was strong for you as your loving spouse of 60+ years took his last breath, and just days before, while I taught you how to support him and comfort him at end of life; I still grieved over the loss of my precious mother.

…but I did it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

I’ve allowed silent tears to stream down my face as I hugged you in your loss while I continued to grieve from loss of my own.

…I keep doing this because my Social Worker heart cares deeply and won’t let me stop.

I sometimes have exciting plans for a beach trip with friends coming up and I’d like to share it with you because we have become accustomed to sharing small trivial personal things with each other, but I hold back because I know you won’t be able to take anymore trips like that and I don’t want you to feel left out or sad.

…I do that because my Social Worker heart cares about you deeply but also needs to rejuvenate so that I can keep on helping you and countless others like you.

Sipping coffee today, thankful for this Social Worker heart of mine and the countless families who have blessed me more than they will ever know; far more than I could ever return to them. ~paula