Tag Archives: Practicum

Dear Practicum

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Dear Practicum,

This parting of the ways is bittersweet. I’ll admit: at first, I wasn’t sure how much we’d learn from each other. I was skeptical about the kind of counselor education lessons you’d teach me. You’re not exactly the type of Practicum everybody else wants, but that’s always been okay with me. In the end, though, I am grateful for the time we have spent together.

Over the past ten weeks, I have learned how to read a child’s body language to determine how he is feeling. I have learned how to anticipate a tantrum, a forceful hug, and a lengthy pout. I have gained a renewed sense of patience and a new perspective. I’m not a naturally patient person, so you really helped me out!

Over the past ten weeks, I have cultivated a compassion I never knew I possessed. I have come to care deeply for those whose stories are difficult to tell, those whose lives may be overflowing with hurt and heartache and deprived of logic, reason, and simplicity. Without you, I might still be wondering about that empty place within me that compassion was meant to fill.

Over the past ten weeks, I have coached myself on how to speak with children who are anguished, who long to feel heard and understood. You provided me with an opportunity I might not have been offered anywhere else in this city.

Over the past ten weeks, I have soaked up every possible moment of training and supervision so that I will feel prepared as you and I part company. You provided me with excellent teachers and colleagues who have each left a unique, indelible mark on my soul.

Over the past ten weeks, I have looked forward to coming in to see you twice a week. I wasn’t sure how I would fit in with our arrangement, especially after I was assigned teenagers with whom to work independently… But we worked nicely together, don’tcha think?

As I said, I wasn’t sure how much you had to teach me in the way of counseling. I mean, how much could I really learn in a hundred hours? Turns out, more than I ever could have imagined. All of these lessons, tidbits, parables, and precious moments have woven themselves together to create a memorable “learning experience,” as they say. Patience, compassion, empathy, positive regard, listening, reflecting… I improved it all; sometimes it’s just hard for me to see the forest through the trees.

Because of you, I’m ready to tackle what’s next. Sure, I’ll still feel nervous on my first day, a small cog unsure of its place in the monstrous mechanics of the machine. I’ll still ask too many questions and doubt myself when the answer isn’t obvious. I’ll still second-guess myself, even though you taught me to be confident in my ability to adapt. But most importantly, I’ll keep going when the going gets tough.

You and I, we may not have fallen in love at first sight, but we’ll always remember each other.

Thanks, Practicum. For everything.

Sick Sucks

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I have so much respect [read: awe] for those women who balance toddlers, home life, work, and everything else they do as Supermoms — plus blogging.

When I first began blogging, I was so overzealous about posting – even though my parents and Ian were my only readers – that I’d have posts lined up for days, set to be displayed when the clock struck twelve. I still have a lot I’d like to write about, but sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day. And honestly, sometimes there are things I’d much rather be doing than interacting with my computer.

Here’s to you bloggers out there who have interesting enough lives and careers to post multiple times per day, every single day. My hat’s off to you, because that’s just not me. This week has been busy, busy, busy, which is why I’m not surprised…

that I’m sick.

Don’t fret, Mom. I think it may be allergies. Whatever it is, it hit me like a friggin’ freight train.

It started with a sore throat yesterday morning, which I assumed was either due to drainage (from sleeping on sky-high pillows) or from a lack of quality sleep. Within hours, I was miserable. My head was pounding, my appetite was non-existent (which did not bode well for the slice of homemade veggie pizza, Habanero BBQ almonds, Chobani Bite, or green pepper sticks and baby carrots with hummus I had brought for lunch… all I wanted was the cheese stick and the Wheat Thins), my throat felt like someone had massaged it with sandpaper, and I felt exhausted after 7 hours of sleep. Yet, I needed to carry on through five hours at Practicum, study, and do 3 loads of laundry.

The minutes absolutely draaaaagged at Practicum, and I could feel myself getting worse. I stopped at CVS on my way home and beelined for the Cough/Cold aisle. I found the biggest package of Halls cough drops available, and I snagged some store-brand Dayquil. I’m not a big fan of the “‘quil” family, but I knew I would need something.

The second I got home, I kicked off my shoes and buried myself under a blanket on the couch. I could have easily slept until this morning, but I let myself shut out the world for 45 minutes. I felt surprisingly better when I woke up, but it was a short-lived victory.

I somehow managed to get a few hours of studying done before I showered and collapsed into bed. At 9:00. That may seem like a normal bedtime for some of you, but I’m easily awake until 11 most nights. I didn’t even eat dinner. Unless you count the 100-calorie Greek froyo I savored between lunch and bedtime in hopes of mending my raw throat. Of course, with a belly full of honey lemon cough drops, mint Chloraseptic, and berry Zzzz-Quil, I didn’t have much appetite for leftover Mexican, anyway.

I’m trying every trick in the book – gargling with salt water, sucking down cough drops, guzzling water and natural sources of vitamin C, using Chloraseptic as needed, sipping hot tea with honey every chance I get, and eating well whenever I have a smidgen of an appetite so my body can fight off whatever this is. (You would not believe how nasty hummus tastes when your sinuses are clogged.) I’m also giving my body a break from the gym, even though I’m supposed to be in training mode for my upcoming 10k next month and 5k in May. I surrender: what I need right now is rest.

Ain’t nobody got time for this.

It’s going to be a busy and (presumably) fun-filled Easter weekend, so I need this plague to disappear ASAP. Send any cold/sinus/allergy remedies my way!

On that note, it’s naptime…

[Edited to add: Though I sacrificed a week of exercise for couch time, I traveled 46.3 miles in the month of March. I “should have” traveled 496.36 miles by the end of March, but I have traveled 138.23 miles in 2013. For comparison’s sake, last March I traveled 44.37 miles. Always improving!]

Surrendering (And How It Wasn’t as Bad as I Thought It Would Be)

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“Mama said there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this, Mama said…”

Okay, I’m done. I’m no songster, anyway. The lyrics just floated through my brain and seemed so appropriate for today’s post 😉

I’m not usually one of those women who willingly admits she can’t do something. Actually, I’m more of one of those I-Am-Woman-Hear-Me-Roar types.

I always try to be straight with you, so I’ll be straight right now – the mixture of activities taking place in my life right now is stressful, and at times, overwhelming. I am completing my Practicum experience, attempting to solidify summer employment, working on securing an Internship site for the next academic year, planning a wedding, trying to fit in regular exercise, and managing my apartment as well as daily living tasks and weekly schoolwork. Whew!

[Please note: I am in no way trying to insinuate that my life is any busier or more action-packed than anyone else’s; in fact, I am trying not to play the comparison game these days. I’m simply stating that my life is chaotic in my world.]

That being said, sometimes I need a little assistance balancing everything. After weeks of debating and weighing the pros and cons, I decided to seek counseling at the college’s counseling center.

I thought I would waltz right in, flash my college ID, and get started discussing stress with one of the counselors. Come to find out, my college’s counseling center requires a record of a recent physical and immunization records, as well as a completed student medical information form before the counselors can see any student—even a graduate student. Hence why I made a trip to Richmond in the middle of the week for a physical.

As I was texting Ian about my difficulty in even establishing an appointment, he said something to me that resonated deeply because it is such a prime controversy in this country right now: This is a ridiculous amount of hoops. I wish it were this difficult to buy a weapon. (That’s a different topic for a different day.)

You might be asking yourself, why would you choose to see a college counseling center when there are “real” counselors all over the place? The answer is, for three reasons. Primarily, the college counseling center is close, and there is no waiting list for new clients. Second, it is a free service afforded to all students, graduate and undergraduate. Private counseling practices can be very pricey. Third, and perhaps most difficult to admit, I don’t hold a particularly positive view of college counseling centers. I say “real” counselors in quotes because the counselors at colleges are real counselors—they have experience and training, and many of them graduated from programs similar or identical to mine. They are often stereotyped as either young, hot-off-the-press graduates with little or no experience in the issues experienced by college students who “don’t really help you,” or antiquated older men who live to prescribe medication. In reality, they are rarely either of these undesirables. Hey, after completing 60 credit hours post-Bachelor’s degree and 700 hours of experience, I won’t appreciate it too much if future prospective clients don’t think of me as a “real” counselor! I’m making the best attempt I know how at overcoming my mental stigma against seeing a counselor on a college campus.

So, here I am, ready to see a counselor for the first time since I was fifteen… and still waiting for the results of my physical to arrive. I kind of doubt the counseling center will turn me away if my blood sugar is too low or my cholesterol is too high. I just want to talk to somebody about my freaking stress level!

Someone asked me recently, “Can’t you use some of the techniques you’ve been taught for helping clients deal with stress?” Well, yes and no. That task is easier said than done. It’s kind of like talking to your best friend about what’s bothering you over and over and receiving the same answer each time, and then finally breathing a sigh of relief when you gain a fresh perspective from talking to someone else about what’s bothering you. Yes, I can apply what I’ve learned to my own life, but I think a fresh perspective is just what I need right now.

For example, my meltdown a few weeks ago was actually not the result of stress over floral arrangements or photographers’ prices or cupcake flavors; it was the result of cumulative stress. Since said meltdown, I’m happy to report that my stress level has been reduced significantly 😉

Again, I’ll be straight with you – it’s not easy admitting to people that you need help managing life stressors that others seem to balance with such ease and grace. When I worry about what people might assume when I tell them I’m seeking counseling, I try to remember that each person has unique stressors in his or her life, each person possesses different coping mechanisms, and each person experiences a different outcome as the result of the stressors and the ways they deal with them.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to the ways counseling can benefit my personal life, let alone my career. Stress can be a difficult animal to harness and subdue, and I’m looking forward to letting someone else help me take the reins for a bit. As always, updates to follow!

I’m off to the gym to sweat out a little stress 😉

Question: How do you cope with life stressors?

Lara vs. Luna

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Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygoshhh!

I JUST found out – while I was at my Practicum site, no less – that I was selected as one of the Chobani #lovebites winners of a case of Chobani Bite!!! I have yet to be able to taste these coveted little Greek delicacies, so I am BEYOND ecstatic right now. Partially because I never win anything… much less something as cool as a case of Cho!

Now, on to business as usual.

Contrary to the title of the post, I don’t mean for this to be some kind of “showdown” between Larabars and Luna Bars. In fact, I used to have a pretty strict allegiance to KIND bars. Once I discovered those babies, all bets were off. I couldn’t get enough of flavor combos like pomegranate, pistachio, sea salt, dark chocolate, macadamia nut, cinnamon… you get the idea. But eventually, I knew I’d have to branch out, if only for the cost (my grocery store typically carries them for $1.79 a pop!).

I had tried both Larabars and Luna Bars before, but I hadn’t gotten hooked like I immediately did with KIND. Ever since I recorded my per-diem nutritional intake, I’ve been on the lookout for sources of higher protein and higher fiber. I’m hoping that once I finally find the culprit behind my weight-loss plateau, I can get back to being a slow-and-steady loser 😉

I want to just take a minute for Confession Time. I, A.K., admit it – I’ve totally thought about succumbing to the easy and alluring nature of Weight Watchers. I’ve looked into weight-loss programs that boast untold health benefits, such as Whole30 or going gluten-free. I’ve even considered picking up one of those ridiculous “supplements” that Kim Kardashian or someone else as equally flimsy in nutritional advice endorses. The thing is, none of these solutions are me. They all require one or more factors I’m not willing to uphold: drinking 64 ounces of water per day (wildly unrealistic for me), counting points (I’m not hatin’, “because it works”), scouring labels for low-fat or fat-free options instead of seeking out wholesome, natural ingredients, and perhaps worst of all in my mind, severely and unnecessarily restricting my diet (everything in moderation, not moderation of everything). I discussed with my doctor diets that require the elimination of certain foods or food groups (e.g. gluten, dairy, fats) and her take was, if you don’t need to do it, don’t do it. I agree!

Anyway, I digress. So, back to bars. I recently picked up some Luna Bars that have as much as 12 grams of protein in one bar! Many have 9g, which is still impressive to me. Neither variety really has cons, just pluses and even bigger pluses. For example, Luna Bars are tasty, they’re not saturated with fat (get it?), and so many of the flavors are chocolatey goodness. Larabars have a list of ingredients that is both short and sweet (get it?!), plus they’re soft and chewy even after having sat against the ice pack in my lunchbox for a few hours.

I’ll be real with you – the calorie count in some varieties of bars scares me, so I tend not to buy any that have 200+ calories. The fat content can be scary, too, especially because bars boasting some of the yummiest flavors or seemingly “healthiest” ingredients may be as much as 190 calories with 170 calories from fat. Yikes!

I’ve also learned that one has to be careful when buying protein bars; the label may read “X calories per serving,” and there might be two servings per bar. Who would’ve thought that one bar wouldn’t be one serving?! Sugar can also be a tricky animal. Flavors with “real” fruit, oats, bran, and whole-anything in the label can sometimes pack as much as 20g of sugar in one tiny bar. #WTF

I love my Luna Bars, my Larabars, and my KIND bars (almost) unconditionally, for different reasons, but I am also willing to branch out and try new bars. If you have suggestions for high-fiber and/or high-protein bars, I’d be super grateful! I love to throw one in my lunch, eat one at the break during class, or eat one 30 minutes or so before I do a heavy cardio workout.

Question: What’s your favorite variety of bar? Have you tried Chobani Bite yet?

Just Popping By

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Hey, blends! Just popping by to say happy Friday! I don’t have a specific topic for today — just letting you know I’m still around.

I’ve been beefing up my hours at my Practicum site and working ahead on assignments (#nerdalert) due to an extremely busy week this week and next. Now, I’m not making excuses, but that’s why I’ve been a little absent around these parts.

I do have some stuff in the works, I’m just not quite ready to blog about it yet.

Have a great one!

Question: What do you plan to do to relax this weekend?

Meltdown No. 1: Achieved

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Welp, it’s official: yesterday I had my first wedding-related meltdown.

A full-on, panic-attack, freaking-out, waterworks-and-a-snotty nose, the-world-is-coming-to-an-end-today meltdown.

It was not pretty. In fact, I’m quite sure that if anyone had been a fly on the wall during that event, they wouldn’t have known whether to feel sorry for me or to grab some popcorn and settle in for the entertainment. Ian caught the worst of it on the phone, bless his heart…

On the other hand, I’m giving myself props for making it 47 days before said meltdown 😉 That’s gotta mean something, right?

Thoughts post-meltdown:
I know that I need to “let go and let God.” I’m just such a damn control freak!

I’ve become an expert at micromanaging — not the best way to work with those who are trying to help me plan this shindig.

I should’ve called Lauren…

If our roles were reversed:

ThanksForNotSayingNo

The way I imagine my mom and my best friends to be feeling presently:

YourWeddingPlans

Why are floral arrangements so freaking expensive?!

Will I still have friends after this is all said and done? (Please?)

A girl whose parents live on my parents’ street called her mom just a few weeks before her wedding, sobbing because her fiance didn’t have a belt that matched the golf shoes he was planning to wear that afternoon to play a round with the girl’s dad. Hey, I could be that girl!

WHY are floral arrangements so freaking expensive??

[Miles for the Month: 35.71. Last January, I “traveled” 25.01 miles. If I were adhering strictly to my challenge, I would’ve traveled 170.96 miles this month. Of course, mileage doesn’t account for strength training, beginning a new semester of graduate school, or starting my Practicum… 😉 I know, I know — “no excuses, play like a champion!”]

My Comfort Zone

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Stepping outside of my comfort zone is not something I relish doing. However, it’s something I’m almost always really glad I did. As I mentioned, this semester I am beginning my Practicum experience requirement (100 hours) for my Master’s degree. I accepted a position at a school for children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral disturbances that require them to be at least temporarily removed from public schools.

Last Wednesday, I met with my supervising Practicum professor and my on-site supervisor. I was quakin’ in my boots at the prospect of beginning my first real counseling experience — until my on-site supervisor informed me that I’ll be working with the younger children, some of whom have autism. I love working with individuals with autism. My mind immediately flashed to my interview for my internship at the Faison School in 2010. That experience was perhaps the farthest I have ever stepped outside of my comfort zone; I had never before worked with children with autism, nor did I know what the hell I was supposed to be doing. And yet, I survived… and re-applied for two additional summers. And loved every minute of it. If a = b and b = c, then a equals… I can survive this, too!

This morning, when my alarm rudely awakened me at 6:55, I was immediately nervous about beginning Practicum. Then, I checked my email and the news. Due to freezing rain — and this being the state of Virginia, which causes people to compulsively close or delay the schools, as well as forget how to drive, the moment the skies darken — I was asked to arrive at 10:30 instead of 9:00. That relaxed me a bit. Unfortunately, I was awake 3 hours before I needed to be out the door, but it gave me a few extra minutes to linger in a hot shower. I had enough time to drink an extra cup of coffee, pack my lunch without haste, dress and style my hair (which would have been wet had I left at 8:20 instead of 9:55), and even read a few more of the 87 pages assigned in my Tuesday class. Okay, truth be told, I also had time to watch one-and-a-half episodes of Boy Meets World while I got things done around the apartment 😉

With all that unexpected time, I arrived at the school 20 minutes early, relaxed, alert, and prepared. And I had a wonderful first day! It really helped my anxiety that my on-site supervisor is so laid-back and encouraging of self-directedness. She was super flexible about the time and duration of my lunch break, and she encouraged me to simply observe today, to watch and listen without taking detailed notes and to start getting to know the peculiarities of such a unique environment. For the first day of a new “job,” I could not have been more far-removed from my comfort zone; and yet, I felt so genuinely comfortable in my own skin. I think it just goes to show that when I don’t build things up in my head, they aren’t ever as anxiety-producing as I’m anticipating. I’m truly looking forward to going back on Thursday!

Question: What takes you entirely out of your comfort zone? Like or dislike trying new things?

[Thursday — 234g carbohydrates (hoorah for quinoa!), 32g fiber (RDV reached!), 55g protein (RDV reached!), and 28g fat. Friday through Sunday, I did not keep tabs of my nutrition intake due to traveling, unavailability (i.e. Ian cooked dinner Saturday night), and meals eaten at restaurants. The experience of tabulating my nutrition intake without tabulating calories consumed is certainly proving to be interesting.]