Friday, October 31, 2014

Blind Moment: Over Zealous Essay Writing

I'm not sure if I've ever explained "blind moment" to you. I must have, but just in case I haven't or you forget, this is what it is. I'm sure you can guess, but my friends and I back in high school dubbed my "Jess did a dumb thing because her eyeballs don't work" blind moments. You know, a play on words from "blond moment." The whole "blind moment" hasn't really gone away; particularly because I keep finding myself in sticky situations because my eyeballs don't work.
What did I do this time?
As all of you know, I'm working my way through my master's in social work from the University of Southern California. It's a crazy intense program that sees me sleeping, eating and doing school work. Mr. K has turned into an academic widow. Poor guy. He's been really great; even editing some of the formatting of my papers for me. I'm so grateful and lucky. This past week was super busy with essays, exams, reading and other school work as usual. I had a big midterm paper due for one of my classes that everyone in my program has been worried about. We basically had to write a Psychodynamic assessment of a client. Sounds scary, right? Well, it is...or was because mine is now submitted for grading.
About five days before it was due I began to think that I wouldn't have enough time to dedicate to the paper that would ensure I produced quality work. I emailed the professor and asked for a two day extension. For those of you who use screen readers you will already know that screen readers take twice as long to read things than if you were reading with your eyes and the retention rate is only 30 percent. So, that means things take me longer than other students. She granted me the extension based on this and I worked hard to make sure the paper was good quality and was ready to hand in by the new deadline.
As I mentioned above, Mr. K has been formatting sections of my papers for me. Sometimes weird things happen, like the bold staying on for an entire paragraph instead of for just the heading or the font changing on me. Knowing this he had set up a template for me that I could use. It had the correct font and was already double spaced. It is so nice having a computer genius for a husband. This template is what I wrote my giant midterm paper in, or so I thought.
If you've ever written a  paper, you will know that if you move a document from being single spaced to double spaced the document automatically gets bigger. Remember this point as it's important.
Sunday night I had five pages written which meant that I was half way done because the paper had to be ten pages long. Monday, Tuesday and even into Wednesday I wrote some more and added in my citations which put me on to the tenth page. I was so excited because I had until midnight to hand it in, but I had it all ready by 3; plenty of time to spare. I sent it over to Mr. K for the usual check over and he told me that there were a few problems. My heart sank.
I was tired. I didn't want to think about my client anymore and I certainly did not want to write about the client anymore either. I thought something had happened and the font had been gigantic which meant that I'd have to write some more.
"It's single spaced and the whole thing is centred."
He told me.
Mr. K changed the margins so that the paper was moved back into the proper position and then double spaced it.
My once ten page paper suddenly became twenty.
I had literally written twice as much as I needed to. I could have been finished with it on Sunday and handed it in early, but now here I was with twice as much information...and a professor who was adamant that we should stick to the page limit.
"It's 8 to 10 pages." She had kept saying in class.
I emailed her and asked if she would take it. I wasn't sure how I would cut half of what I had written out. And besides, this never would have happened if I had seen that the document was single spaced and not double as I had thought.
She told me to send it over, but that if I had included irrelevant information that she would deduct marks. I think I should get more marks for my enthusiasm!
Alas, I guess we'll see what happens when she returns my enormous essay in the upcoming weeks.
So there you have it: another blind moment strikes again. :)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

So Many Choices

I say that in a positive manner. To be honest, my life has had a lot of opportunities for me to make choices. Sometimes I made good choices, other times not so much, but the point is I've been lucky enough to be able to make choices. Some people aren't so lucky.
However, sometimes, especially right now with so much going on in school, I don't want a choice. I just want things to be the way I set them up to begin with so I can carry on writing papers, completing assignments and studying for exams.
But, it's not meant to be.
In the MSW program I am taking all students must complete three semesters of field practicum. The first semester of the program we spend working with a virtual client which has been interesting, but starting in January we actually go to a placement. I've been looking forward to this since I was accepted into the program. Sure, I do okay with the academic side of things-actually, I've been shocking myself with my results thus far *knock on wood*-but I'm a hands on kind of person. I want to get in there and "get 'er done." I am glad, though, that we've had the opportunity to learn first because if I had been thrown into a placement without any education under my belt, I'd be floundering.
My dilemma is this:
When you start the program you are required to select a concentration. This means that starting in the second semester, the same time you go into placement, your courses begin to be more focused. You take courses pertaining to a particular topic instead of more general topics. At the University of Southern California (USC) there are five concentrations to choose from, with subconcentrations being available under those. It's pretty crazy. When I first enrolled I chose my concentration to be Health because I thought it would be interesting. People in this concentration work in hospitals, specialized clinics and such. As the program progressed, I realized that perhaps Mental Health was really where I wanted to be. It's not quite as broad as Health, but you can focus on substance abuse, mental illness as well as mental wellness. I switched my concentration not only because I thought Mental Health would be more of what I wanted to do, but also because it seemed to fit better into the field practicum placement that I wanted.
We are allowed to make suggestions to the field placement teams and I sent them my first choice. To me, Mental Health fit right in, and one field placement team member agreed with me. But, there's a slight problem.
I got the news yesterday that my first pick for placement would be interested in hosting me. I was very excited, but the issue is that the field placement team thinks that I need to switch my concentration again. They think that the placement would be better suited to a COPA (Community Organizing and Planning blah blah blah) concentration. I have no idea what all of the letters stand for. That should give you an idea of how interested I am in that concentration...not at all, just in case you missed that. In fact, parts of it scare me. :)
This concentration focuses on things more from a macro level-policy making, financial planning, grant writing Etc. As I've learned from being in school for two months, all aspects of social work will have bits where you have to write grants and/or financial plan and/or be a part of policy making. But, what I'm worried about is that if I go into the COPA concentration, I won't be able to work directly with the populations I want to serve. I don't want to sit behind a desk all day writing/planning/policy making.
There are parts of the COPA concentration that I like. There is an emphasis placed on advocacy, fundraising (which I usually like to do in a creative manner), and community organizing. You can go on to start up your own organization to help people and that interests me. I've always wanted to do something like that and if I learn how to grant write, I'd be in a better position to do that. So, I'm kind of stuck.
I really want to work in this placement, but the financial planning/grant writing scares me. I'm also worried I won't get to meet the people I'm working with. I guess I could take it upon myself to make sure I do.
I like the idea of advocacy, organizing fundraising and maybe one day opening my own organization.
Mental Health is more hands on. But, if I learn about policy making maybe I could work in a place where I help people by working on policies that will help them. That's a lot of helping. :P
I don't know.
Anyway,  I emailed the head of the COPA concentration program to find out more and I've also asked my field placement to enquire about what I would consider to be mental health aspects of the placement I want to be at.
I thought about taking the interview and seeing what they would want me to do. Maybe then I'd be better equipped to make a decision.
In some ways I'm over thinking this, but it's because I tend to be a planner. (Hmmmmm, maybe that aims me at COPA)? As my student advisor said and others said, an MSW degree is an MSW degree. Even if my concentration is Mental Health or COPA, I could really work in either field. I could always take the COPA concentration and fill my electives with Mental Health courses.
This all probably sounds like jibberish, if you've managed to read this post to the end. But, I had to write it out. It helps me think through the process a bit.
That said, I still have no idea what I'm going to do. LOL

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pawprints On My Heart: Rufio

We lost our beautiful boy on Tuesday. He was in full renal failure and there really wasn't anything they could do for him. The vet told us that we could throw all the money in the world at the situation and it wouldn't save him; maybe buy him a few more days. But, what kind of a few more days would have that been? He wasn't even two yet. I think that is what makes this the hardest. You don't expect your not even two year old, bought from a reputable breeder cat to die so early in life.
But, it happens.
This is the first of our furry family members that Mr. K and I have lost together. It's hard. I'm doing better today than I was Tuesday, but even just writing the title of this blog brought the tears again. That said, he was such a beautiful soul, so full of life and spirit that I don't want to fill his tribute post full of sad thoughts. I want to celebrate his life. And, so this is our Rufio's story.
We got him from a breeder in England. We had researched like crazy and picked the Siberian Forest cat breed because they were considered to be low allergen. Mr. K is allergic to cats, but absolutely loves them and so for his birthday, we added a new fur kid to our family. We took the train to get him. We met his brothers and the rest of the Siberians the breeder had. We nearly took one of his brothers with us because he was so adorable, but we tried to make the responsible decision and only took one kitten. Rufio, also known as Witchfyre Rudolph Valentino, was supposed to be a show cat. He was also supposed to be the stud for our cattery. None of this was to be because we moved back to Canada. Finding him a wife proved incredibly difficult and we eventually just had him neutered. I was glad then we had for various reasons, but now I'm even more happy because Rufio had kidney disease which can be hereditary in Siberians. I guess the breed is prone to Poly-cystic Kidney Disease. I had no idea.
The first night we had him, we had to stay in a hotel. We missed our train back to Edinburgh and were stuck. We smuggled him into the hotel and set him free in our hotel room. Mr. K and I went down to eat some supper and I worried the whole time that the wee guy would hurt himself. When we returned, he was absolutely fine. We did have food for him, but no litter box. We kept praying that he wouldn't pee on the hotel carpet. He didn't. Instead, he used my shirt I had thrown on the floor before collapsing exhausted into bed. Thankfully, I had been wearing layers and he only peed on one layer.
He was the most inquisitive, animated and brave thing from the moment we got home. He used to try to sneak out the flat door when I took the dogs out, so I'd have to shut him in Mr. K's man cave where his litter box was until I got back. He used to yell his little head off until I got back and released him. He used to roll around in his litter box and eventually take a nap in there. He was mad for chicken. If you weren't paying attention, he'd steal chicken bones right off your plate and take off with them. He used to go under one of our couches so he could crack the bone open and eat the marrow out in peace. Even when he didn't even weigh 3 LBS, he would growl at the dogs if they came near his hideout while he ate his chicken.
We used to have one of those fishing rod toys with the feathers on the end. If he ever caught it, he would grab a hold and pull it under that same couch and growl at you if you tried to pull him back out. He fancied himself quite the hunter. He would get up on to Mr. K's desk and attack the characters on the screen while Mr. K played video games. His favourite snuggle spot, when he was still small enough, was on Mr. K's chest. However, eventually he got way too big and had to be satisfied laying on the couch beside us.
That little spunky kitten grew up and moved continents. He took the move well and made himself right at home in his new, way bigger, house. One of his favourite places to hang out was on top of the laundry hamper in front of the front window. Sometimes I wouldn't get the laundry upstairs, and he would hop up on to the basket and spend part of his day surveying the outside world from his comfy perch.  The cupboards in our old place didn't close properly and he would open them up, go inside and hang out. You'd be cooking, or washing the dishes and suddenly a paw would come out of the cupboard door and tap you on the leg. If you were cooking he would push the door open a crack so he could snoopervise. We had one cupboard designated for plastic bags and he would go in there and swim around like a maniac. If you put any kind of box, especially if it still had packing paper, or those re-useable grocery bags on the floor he would try to stuff himself into it. We would never throw boxes out right away after buying stuff online because he got so much enjoyment out of thrashing about in the box with the packing paper.
He only ever got out once at our old place in Canada and it happened to be raining that morning. I went looking for him to give him breakfast and was concerned when he didn't come to his name when I called him. He always came to his name. I think his recall was better than the dogs. As I went through the house, calling his name, opening cupboards and closets, I heard him meow at me. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Finally, I woke Mr. K up, since he hears better than I do, and he came looking for him. There Rufio was, sitting on the back deck waiting for us to let him in. He never tried to leave again. Although he did push the second story window screen out one day so he could sit on the window sill outside.
He loved water. Siberians are known for this, but I was still surprised when I'd be having a shower and he'd hop in and hang out. We tried spraying him with the kitchen nozzle for getting into the sink and not leaving, but he didn't care. That triple layer coat of his made him nearly water proof like a Labrador.
His love of food never failed, until the end of course. He would hear a can open, and no matter what it was, he would come running yelling his head off. I think that is pretty typical cat behaviour, but what wasn't typical was how long he was and how that length allowed him to reach up to the counter top. He would hear a can, come running and then stretch himself up to reach whatever was on the counter. He would even get on the counter top, open the upper cupboards and steal the dehydrated meat treats I had made for the dogs. He used to open our hall closet because he wanted the dog food. We had to put a stop to that because dog food is not good for cats, but it was genius how he would know just where to push on the folding closet door to get it to open.
Looking back now, I think he was sick for longer than we knew. At some point his reliable recall dwindled a bit and I thought it was just because he was a cat and that he was growing up. He didn't feel the need to run to us all of the time. Whenever he heard Mr. K wake up, he would jump off of wherever he was and go running to greet him. Again, at some point this behaviour decreased a bit, but we didn't take notice. He was a cat.
Rufio and Otis used to be the best battle buddies. Rufio got less tolerant of the battling, but we thought it was because Otis was a bit too persistent. And, it could have been, but you look back and you wonder. Otis used to grab Rufio out from behind the curtain by the tail. Rufio taught Otis to wrap your arms around your victim and kick with your back paws. Otis still does this.
We got Kira in July to keep Rufio company at night when we were sleeping. He had started chewing things, including my bra straps, and we thought he was lonely. Of course there was a warm-up phase, but after that the two cats would have what the girls and I dubbed a long time ago "Kitten Olympics." They would race around, thundering up and down the hall. Not soon after Rufio started becoming intolerant of her kitten tendencies too. He became more withdrawn and we thought we had made a mistake bringing another cat into the house. We thought his behaviour was all because of her appearance.
I don't quite remember what made us think he was sick, but I remember Otis going to play with Rufio and Rufio growling at him. That had never happened before. He had basically stopped eating, but was still drinking. He had lost a lot of weight and we brought him in to the vet. They ran blood work and diagnosed him then with Pancreatitis which I have no doubt he had, but she never told us how bad his kidney levels were.
They put him on steroids and we were giving him subcutaneous fluids at home. He seemed to be bouncing back. He wanted food again, he had started weaving between our legs and purring again. Oh, he was the best purr machine. Siberians are known for their motors and Rufio was no exception. He was even reaching on to the counter tops again. We moved about a week after his first vet visit and he started declining again. We had been told to reduce his medicine and we had. So, we increased it again as they had said to if he started declining. The vet had told us that his kidney levels were "slightly elevated" and that we would have to get them checked again, but not for a few months if he got better.
When we took him in to the new vet on Tuesday and he read the faxed over records from the old vet, he informed us that a month ago Rufio's kidneys were only functioning at 30 percent. We were angry. "Slightly elevated" levels does not equal only 30 percent functioning. We had a long discussion with the vet about what kidney disease meant and what renal failure meant. We talked about how far gone Rufio was and what was best for him. We talked about how a month ago he was really sick then and that we had done all we could by giving him the subcutaneous fluids. The vet actually seemed a bit impressed that we had done that at home. It was an easy decision in that we knew what we needed to do for him, but it was the most painful decision because letting him go was so permanent.
He was such a beautiful cat. When I had carried him out on Tuesday, wrapped in a blanket with only his tail sticking out, the cab driver thought I was carrying a fox because of how big and full his tail was.
Part of you wonders "what if?" What if we had known a month ago? What if we had known something was wrong months ago? But, ultimately, the vet told us that kidney disease wins and you never know how much time you actually will have with them. Maybe it's better we didn't know because instead of spending the last few months worrying about him and him picking up on that, all he knew was love and happiness.
We left him in the vet's capable hands. The vet said Rufio was so far gone that he didn't even know what was going on around him. He wasn't in pain which made us both feel better.
Aside from Rufio's good looks, massive purr and soft coat, that cat brought so much life to our household. We will miss him very much and will never forget his crazy antics. Kira looked for him Tuesday night which was heart breaking, but I think she is doing okay. She and Otis have become Royal Rumble buddies and I think that is good.
So, Rufio: I hope you found your way across the rainbow bridge. I hope you found Sasha and the other furry family members already up there. I hope you found the biggest pile of plastic bags ever imaginable and I hope there is the biggest box filled with the most paper ever possible waiting for you. I will never forget the cat who turned me from just dog lover to cat lover too.
Here's to you Rufacus Maximus.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Time Flies

When was the last time I wrote?
My goodness.
It's been much too long.
As I always say when I leave this blog alone for too long, much has happened and continues to happen.
Frist, we moved...again. This time it was so Mr. K could attend a msters program which he got into, by the way. Yay him! He was also given a grant that will cover a lot of his tuition. His hard work in his under Grad degree paid off. I am so proud of him.
The move was incredibly stressful. I think moving to Scotland was less stressful. I think it was so difficult bcause I was in classes-and still am in classes-and there is just so much work with this program. The first week we were in our new place we were without internet. So, I fell a week behind, and, of course it was when the work load really started increasing. I'm pretty much caught up now, but I don't think I'll get a break until Christmas-the work just keeps coming.
That said, I really enjoy the program. It's interesting and really well structured. I'm waiting to hear about a placement since starting in January I have to go to a practicum two to three times a week.
We had some struggles when we first moved in with the animals too, of course.
Hermione was stressed and kept peeing inside. I finally leashed her and have had her on leash inside ever since. It's been an adjustment, but honestly, it's really helped her. Otis and Nala were a bit more barky than normal and Roscoe just took it all in stride.
Kira tried to run out the back door a million times, but I think she's just an escape artist at heart.
Rufio is not doing well. He was diagnosd with pancreatitis about a week before we moved-more stress. We gave him his medication and we were having to give him subcutaneous fluids every day. He seemed to be getting better, but he's been steadily declining since arriving here. He's still taking his medication, but it's not helping anymore. He's going to the vet today because, if I'm being compleely honest, he is very close to crossing the rainbow bridge. He has quit eating and drinking and can barely walk. I have tried grooming him because his beautiful coat is all matted, but he doesn't want me brushing him. He used to love being brushed. It made me feel better in a way though this morning when I tried to comb him and he found the strength to walk away from me. I left him be.
So, I am hoping that the vet can help him. I don't think he has pancreatitis since he isn't responding to the medication. He is definitely really dehydrated. Mr. K and I feel so badly that he's been suffering, but with the move funds for the vet were eaten up...not to mention the crazy high vet bill we got before moving.
In happier news, we both love the city we've moved to. It's very blind/pedestrian friendly. The buses are reliable and talk and most drivers are incredibly helpful. We haven't been able to explore as much as I'd like because of me trying to catch up in school, but we are hoping to go to the market on Saturday to check it out. I know Nala is enjoying living here because we get out and work quite a bit. We're still learning routes though so I wouldn't say that I travel independently yet.
We also started a youtube channel to showcase our crazy animals' antics. I think there are three videos up now. I'd post a link, but as you all know, Blogger isn't accessible completely anymore. So, posting links/photos/videos Etc can't happen when using a screen reader.
So, that's that, really. I mean, obviously when things were going moving and not having a place to move into until four days before we moved...there was more to say about it all, but that would be a book and not a blog post. The cure for that would be to blog on a more regular basis. :)
But, I'll leave you for now and work harder at writing more frequently.