Silver linings in special education

So I had a shift at work this week that was hard. I work with kids on the autism spectrum, and I’m used to getting hit, bit, and kicked (on a related note, I’ve also gotten pretty good at dodging hits, bites, and kicks). Working with this kid that day was hard – he mixed up what he used for physical aggression, yelled for most of the episode about how much he hated me, and made me bleed for the first time.

By the time I got out to my car at the end of the three hours I was upset. I had tried so hard not to let it get to me, but I couldn’t help it. I spent some time that day talking to my consultant for that case to get some ideas of how to deal with it, as well as decompressing with some people that care about me.

Yesterday I thought a lot about why I chose to work in this environment. On the surface, it was just a readily available job in my field. But I thought about how excited I was during training (when I wasn’t completely overwhelmed), and I realized that a lot of that was from the prospect of helping these kids become more independent and self-sustainable.

In general, I love helping people learn and do things that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, and people with special needs certainly need that kind of help. So I developed a mantra that I’ve been repeating to myself: help them become independent.

This has helped me in a couple of ways. For one, it reminds me that the over-arching point of me doing this work is to help people be able to live their own lives. So that means that if I know a kid can tie his shoes, but she’s grumpy today and wants me to do one, I can’t just give in and do part of it. That’s not teaching independence. And as a kid, getting help tying shoes isn’t a big deal. But if I don’t teach her, who will? What happens when she flies into a tantrum at having to put shoes on at 14? 25? 40?

Remembering that the goal is independence also helps me cope when I feel overwhelmed or hurt. I remind myself that if the price I pay to help someone reach their potential is some bruises, scratches, and hurt feelings, that’s a price I’m happy to pay.

This isn’t about feeling threatened or afraid, the problem here is just being drained emotionally and physically. Remembering what the point of all of this is helps me to push through when it’s hard.

And you know what? When I worked with the same kid today, there were still some behaviors. But, surprisingly, there were also a bunch of things that really impressed me (as in, when I see my consultant for that case next, the first words out of my mouth will likely be “you’re not going to believe this!”).

I may need to write that mantra somewhere I can see it often; I have a suspicion it will come in handy over the course of this job.



If I could have any animal as a pet, it would be a cat.

Simple, and to the point. It’s true, but I’m also tired and don’t want to miss two days in a row ­čÖé

I know there are some cat haters out there, but I like how laid back they are. Yes, some cats can be more aloof than others, just like some dogs can be super hyper. I’ve housesat for people with dogs a few times, and it always made me feel guilty to walk in the door after being gone for most of the day and have them be so eager for attention.

With a cat, they’re fine to do their own thing and use your lap as a bed occasionally, with no guilt.

And while there are some wild animals out there that could be interesting pets, I don’t even want to think of the training required for that (I realize that this prompt may be assuming that training isn’t an issue, but I’d like to keep it semi-realistic).

So it’s a cat for me – preferably┬álong haired and fluffy and not too aloof to snuggle up with me sometimes.

Also, as a user of the interwebs – the defacto mascot of which is cats – there’s significantly more opportunity for meme-able pictures and video. LOLdogs have simply never been as popular as LOLcats and their insatiable appetites for chesseburgers.

Now I want Thai but have no one to go out to dinner with

There was a moment not too long ago when I was looking through my budgets on Mint, trying to figure out why one of my categories had shot through the roof for the last several months. I pinpointed that the upsurge started in February, which is just before I started dating Adrian and when I was starting to actually have a social life go out more.

So now I have this strange thing going on where I’m pretty stingy… err… frugal? with most things in my life, and am particularly penny pinching about food. But I have an entire category in my budget just for social stuff, in particular eating out with someone else, because to me there’s a huge difference between grabbing fast food because I was too lazy to make something that morning and grabbing lunch with someone I haven’t gotten to see in a bit.

It’s actually quite a relief now; before I felt guilty for going over my budget, but also recognized that in a town like this once you take going out for Thai off the table, there’s not much a ton else to do.

Aw man, now I want Thai iced tea. I should add blogging to the things to not do when hungry.

What’s in a name?

I like to joke that I got the most normal name out of my siblings. My parents chose first and middle names from the Bible for all of us, so we ended up with Naomi (I don’t remember her middle name), Ruth Elizabeth, Esther Abigail, and me – Rachel Michal (pronounced “mih-shawl”, not Michelle or Michael).

So okay, maybe my middle name is a bit out there, but I’ve generally been happy with my first name. As a fairly introverted and anxious kid, it was a nice icebreaker to have a bunch of people with my same name, and having to ask “which Rachel?” was often an easy way to weasel into a conversation.

It probably also helps that there’s no fancy spelling here; whenever someone asks, I generally say something akin to “just simple Rachel, no extra a’s or e’s or y’s” which usually at least earns me a smile and a little bit of social currency.

What? I’m awkward – I take these things where I can get them.

I did have a brief stint where I wanted to change my name to Nicole – I have no idea why – but I’ve eventually come to like my name. It feels comfortable, like laying in my own bed after being gone.

When I grow up

The first thing I remember wanting to be as a kid was an artist. I loved drawing and painting with watercolors and thought it would be awesome to get to do that as my job. After a few drawing competitions  with the neighborhood kids (we were a competitive bunch), I gave up on the idea and deciding that teaching was where it was at.

That may have been partially because while I was home schooled I was fascinated with the concept of going to school. I distinctly remember some of my pretend play involving how hard I’d work at homework and I’d impress all my teachers and have a ton of friends.

When I finally went to school, I discovered it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies like I’d thought. I found a group of friends online in a… okay, there’s no way to say this gracefully, but a virtual pet site. Here I learned how to use make, edit, and manipulate images digitally, as well as how to make websites. With this new skill set, I started drifting back into an artist phase and wondering if there was some way I could do what I had been doing for fun and get paid for it. The career I was thinking of there was a graphic designer, but I didn’t even know that existed.

As I entered high school I felt torn; I wanted to do something creative, but was pretty sure I was not nearly good enough to get a job in that field. I also wanted to teach, and that seemed like a sure thing.

So as I inched toward college and was increasingly asked what I wanted to have as a career, I dutifully answered that I wanted to teach. But I drew and continued to dabble in Photoshop and web design in my spare time.

And then one day in my junior year, during my art class we had a presentation about an art school and were encouraged to pick up packets to get more information. I was anxious and excited and horribly conflicted, but I picked up some information. It  sat on my desk for a good week or two as I went back and forth about whether to apply.

What finally helped me make my mind up was the day that I heard about a program specifically tailed to future teachers where students could go to the local state college, free of charge, for their senior year. Even better, several of my siblings had gone through it, so when I approached the program coordinator he winked at me and told me I was in and just needed to fill out an application.

I threw out the art school information that day, because who did I think I was? Definitely not an artist. I opted for the stable, practical option.

And then four years later I decided that, screw teaching, I want to do something else.

We’re halfway through the summer?

To start off NaBloPoMo, I’ll do a post I’ll need to finish up anyway – New Year’s Resolution updates!

Get in 30 minutes of cardio three times a week, and some other sort of exercise two to three other times throughout the week

I’ve been going to the gym for an average of just shy of 30 minutes a day. I’ve just barely started going to classes, some of which I even like more than the ones at the college, but otherwise my favorite part is the weight machines. I know, I’m definitely no bodybuilder, but my body seems to gain strength pretty easily (endurance is a whole different matter). In the 6 weeks I’ve been to the gym the amount of weight I can lift/push/pull has increased across all muscles, and what can I say, I’m a sucker for getting to see my progress.

Fill up one, if not both, of my new journals

This is one of those things I keep┬ámeaning┬áto do – “journal” is almost always on my to-do list – but haven’t quite gotten around to. It’s that thing that I remember right as I’m about to fall asleep and tell myself that I’ll do the next day. Clearly that hasn’t worked out so well.

Eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day

I’m just about maintaining my current level here, checking in at about 2 a day. Halfway through the year, and I’ve upped my average fruit/veggie intake by one┬áa day. Old habits seem to die hard, but I’m hoping the influx of lovely California produce can make it easier to get more of the good stuff into my meals without breaking the bank. This month I’ll be shooting for somewhere in the 2-3 a day range; trying to get one at every meal, but giving myself some slack and realizing I won’t hit that mark every single day.

Hang my clothes up the same day that I do laundry

I’ve gotten significantly better at this one, with my clothes usually hung up within 2 days rather than waiting until I next have to do laundry ­čśŤ It’s helped that I just reorganized and rearranged my room, so it’s all pretty and I don’t want clothes lying around to make it look messy.

Top off my wardrobe and then stop worrying about it

I’ve been thinking about my wardrobe a lot this month due to making sure I’m within the dress code for work. Since I’ve finally go the go ahead to wear skirts/dresses as long as there’s leggings underneath, I think I may start opting for a “uniform” of t-shirt, skirt, and leggings. That’s easy to move around in, comfortable, and I can make skirts significantly more easily than fancy shirts or pants.

Get my money’s worth out of my sewing machine (if possible)

My poor little sewing machine. I’ve had a couple sewing projects sitting on my to-do list all month, but I’ve opted instead to keep working on my knit sweater and other crafty projects. I’m productively procrastinating by doing something else that I should get done anyway, but that doesn’t help me finish those sewn projects. Alright, this month I’d like to finish the two projects I have supplies for – one dress (from a pattern! oh noes!) and one skirt.

National Blog Post Month

So I’ll be honest, I don’t completely understand how this works. The title says “month”, but by poking around the site you can see that they’ve had prompts for the last year. Maybe it’s a year-round thing that you get challenged to do once? Dunno.

I’m just gonna go with it. Even though I find myself less and less inclined to write a personal blog, and more drawn to blogging about crafty things and working with kids, I think it’s good practice to work on my writing and personal voice.

I’ll let you in on a secret – I hate the way I write in non-academic circumstances. College has me well trained to be able to at least sound┬álike I know what I’m talking about, but I write casually the same way I talk. I don’t necessarily mind the way I talk, but seeing it in writing makes me cringe.

So I’ll do National Blog Post Month (or NaBloPoMo if you want to sound hip). I’m a day behind to start off (funny how working on Friday with a client I have on Thursdays can throw of my entire perception of what day it is), and no, don’t worry, I won’t cheat and count this as my first day. I’m not even particularly enthused with the theme for this month, so I may very well end up looking through old prompts or even – gasp! – making up my own.

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