Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cheesecake Wars

Now I feel I need to talk a little about my actual Thanksgiving. My sister Carolyn just did a lovely job articulating both her Bulgarian Thanksgiving and all that she's thankful for (which includes me!) And so by no means is this a blog competition, but she's inspired me to write a little more.

On Thursday morning I was supposed to wake up early to go to Virgina and go to a Thanksgiving service with Alacia and her family. And since Westmoreland did their Thanksgiving service last Sunday and I have never been to a Thanksgiving day service before I was a little excited. However, I was not so excited about having to get up earlier than I wake up for work to get there at 9:30 am. But my internal clock did the deciding for me; I slept through my alarm. This happens to me every now and then. Usually when I know I need to get up early I set two alarms. Right now I only have one. Uh oh. Well I woke up when I should have already been on the bus, so I called in late to Alacia and she agreed very sweetly to pick me up at the Metro at 11 after the service.

I got up and adventured to the grocery store to buy flowers. My lovely hosts had told me I didn't need to bring anything, but I didn't want to arrive empty handed so a bought a very pretty bouquet of orange and white flowers. Which I just realized I should have taken a picture of! But anyway, getting on the metro all dressed up wearing my slightly old fashioned winter coat (Carolyn, I'm not knocking the coat, I love it) carrying flowers made me feel a little displaced in time. Something about it felt a little surreal. Also I love people watching and it was especially fun trying to figure out where people might be going on the metro at 10 on Thanksgiving.

I got there with no problem. And when I got there most of the cooking was done. I lent my excellent skills with an electric mixer to the yams and that was it. So if you are shopping for a new Thanksgiving experience I much recommend a small dinner with a family that is not your own. There were only five of us, so not mountains of food and not too many dishes. And no matter how many times I asked there was not too much for me to do to help.

It was a very nice, and classic dinner with all the old favorites. The best part of the dinner was probably that Alacia and her brother had a cheesecake war. Which means that they both made cheesecake! In a cheesecake war, I think everyone wins.

Also of note, apparently before I came there were jokes about my friend bringing me as a date for her brother. And he was very nice and very polite, but that was it. As a note, if anyone else would like to set me up with any other young, elementary school music teachers, who also work at a theatre, I wouldn't mind. At all. Also I hope Alacia reads this! I'm reall just being silly, please don't set me up with anyone.

So I had a good time, headed home early where I phoned home and got passed around the living room on the phone, which is always confusing and funny. All in all it was a good first Thanksgiving away from home. And if Cheesecake Wars is the tradition I pick up from this year, even better!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

So I'm at home alone in my house tonight on Thanksgiving Eve. Now, don't worry, I have plans for tomorrow. Actually I had 5 offers for Thanksgiving dinner. I've decided to go to my coworkers parent's house in Virgina and I'm very excited about it.
But tonight I'm home alone. Which is fine. I like cooking myself dinner and watching TV alone occasionally. But tonight is one of those nights that has a significance and a sense of expectation.
This is the first Thanksgiving I won't be with my family. 22 thanksgivings with them one, without actually makes me very fortunate. But tonight I'm a little sad not to be in Walla Walla with them.
So instead of feeling sad or sorry for myself I've decided to think a little about the things I'm thankful for. I'm living in a beautiful home in Washington DC. I love my job and my house mates. I'm very fortunate.
One of my program participants told me today that "the homeless don't get a holiday." But I do, and I think its needed. I've been feeling a little less patient the last few days with the program participants. Now I have a little time to take a few deep breaths and regain some of that initial joy and patience I had in my casework.
I have a chance to refresh and recharge with this 4 day weekend and I'm going to embrace it.
I will miss making deviled eggs, polishing the silver, and eating my moms turkey. I'll need a status report on how the dad does making the corn casserole this year; its always different and always an adventure. I'm happy to know that Aunt Jane's pies will go on with out me. And who knows, maybe I'll still have a chance to cheat at cards sometime tomorrow.
But most of all "bless the apple pie and tea, bless each and every calorie," as the Boys and Girls Club Thanksgiving prayer tells us every year. That neatly encapsulates my feelings right now.
I'll miss being there but I'm happy to be here. This all might be a little sappy, but what is Thanksgiving if not a time for nostalgia? Most of all I'm happy to have so much to be nostalgic about. And you know what? Its not going anywhere (even if this year I'm not going anywhere either).
So friends and family on the other side of the country(or across the ocean), I love you and will miss you tomorrow especially.
This weekend I plan to have a wonderful time with a family kind enough to take me in. I will take time to get in order whatever I need to get in order to be the best possible case worker I can be on Monday morning. And I will take a few moments to consider how truly lucky I am.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Graduation and Shakespeare

Friday was a big day. My housemate Jen works at SOME’s Center for Employment Training and Friday was their graduation. People enter and end the program on their own schedule and they have twice yearly graduation, and Jen invited all of us to come be a part of it.

On Friday morning I went to work like normal. It was a reasonably busy Friday. Even with the lead case worker, the associate caseworker and I there, we still all saw a lot of participants. I went on a little bus adventure. Really it wasn’t an adventure, just an hour long bus ride. It was actually pretty neat. The bus from my office took me right downtown DC, even past the White House. Then I switched buses and went over the river into south east, which is really not as ominous as it sounds.

The best part of this is when I was on the second bus, my housemate Noah got on the bus with me. I hadn’t even known that Noah was coming to the graduation. So we found Jen’s building easily and Jen was saving us seats right in the second row, like celebrities. My coworkers from our SE office were also there. One of our front office coordinators was graduating from CET. They were there to support her and I got to support Jen.

And coincidently, my fellow intern and I, Jalaine, were going to a play together later that night so it worked out really well.
The graduation was just that, a graduation. However, it was a fun graduation, with a real sense of ceremony. The graduates wore gowns. There was even a key note speaker who is a talk radio personality. She was very interactive and focused on the graduates. I was glad to be a part of it.

After the ceremony, a crowd of us went out for drinks. We went to Lucky Bar in Dupont, which I loved. Jalaine and I ate dinner and headed out to Arlington Virginia for our play, “All’s Well that End’s Well.” We went early to avoid ending up late and ended up in the middle of nowhere Virginia 50 minutes early for our play. And in the middle of nowhere Virginia there is nowhere to get a cup of coffee or a beer. There were only closed government buildings and friendly police officers (who may have been surrounding a deserted building…?) who helped us find the playhouse.

The theatre was Washington Shakespeare company. Once we found it and went on a time killing walk and got settled in out seats, I was pretty happy. The theatre was a black box and they had built a series of platforms and there were no fewer than four black and white beds as a part of the set. Which I thought was great. Not in a dirty way. But in a “if you show a gun in the first act, it better go off by the third act.” I think it’s the same with beds. If you have four beds on stage you better use them. And they did. There were a couple of seduction scenes that, ahem, utilized the beds.

So I found the play enjoyable. But I think there is a reason that “All’s Well That End’s Well” is not preformed more. It has kind of an odd romantic plot where I could not understand why the heroine would ever be interested in the man and a subplot involving humiliating an old soldier or possibly someone only pretending to be a war hero. While I thought they did a great job of making the verse understandable, I found this sub plot totally incomprehensible. And I think I understand Shakespeare pretty well generally. So having made the decision not to read this play before seeing it, I'm not sure if I have a problem with the play, or the production.

So for my first play in DC, it was pretty good. I think next I need to go to something actually in Metro DC. But altogether it was a great Friday.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No Touching

So this is a subject I’ve been thinking about almost the whole time I’ve had my new job.

And before you get nervous, this is entirely PG. Its not good touch bad touch. That is my house mates job over at DC Rape Crisis Center.

What I’m interested in is participants wanting to hug me, pat my arm and shake my hand.

And I should preface this by saying that in my personal life, I’m pretty physically affectionate. I love hugs and cuddling. In fact one Miss Kate Stone even told me once, “Char, I think your only boundary is clothing.” Which might be some degree of true.

Practically, what this means is that I need to find my boundaries and comfort zone at work. I’ve never really had a job before where physical contact was an issue. People don’t really try to touch you when you scoop them ice cream or check out books to them at the Puget Sound library. Although I always giggled when someone asked me if I wanted to “check them out.”

So it was surprising to me on my second week of casework when a participant reached out and toughed my side. He was making a point and touched me to emphasize it. I was shocked when I had an involuntary, almost visceral, negative reaction. It was all I could do to keep from jumping back. And I did step back gently and discourage him from hugging me. This particular program participant is someone I struggle with. In this same conversation he told my coworker that “I needed to be trained up better.”

To illustrate my point abut physical contact I have to say that the evening after this happened, I was standing in the doorway of my kitchen talking to my housemate Rachel about the incident and why my gut reaction had been so negative. And my housemate, Noah, walked up mid conversation and rested his elbow on my shoulder as a form of greeting. Also I might have been blocking the doorway. He had been doing dishes and had no idea that we had been talking about “touching” when he came up and touched me. So clearly it is not all touching that upsets me.

I have another program participant, a young woman, who initiates a hug me every time she comes in and this is fine.

I had some training at some point, maybe when I was an orientation leader, that taught me that when in a position of power, you should always let your “subordinate” (for lack of a better word) set the rules about physical contact. Such as, don’t touch a student’s arm unless they have already established some form of contact. You can never know what someone's comfort level is.

So I’ve been basically following my own rule with participants. I don’t touch them at all unless they initiate it. And if I am at all uncomfortable being touched, I don’t allow it. I even refused to shake one mans hand when he made it into a power play. And I’m not sure if you’ve ever been in a position where you had to turn down a handshake, but it is truly uncomfortable. And awkward.
So here I''ll end the ramble about touching from the queen of both awkward situations and cuddling. I'm not sure I've yet to answer this issue, but it is interesting to explore.