Saturday, December 29, 2012

moving forward

The big news of the week (in my little life) is that I decided I would start applying for other jobs within the state. I've been at my case aide job for about 2 months, and I know it's not long, but the application process can take so long, so I figure I might as well get a head start. I've applied for 2 jobs so far. I'm excited about it! The more I think about it, the more I dread the thought of working at a nonprofit. I always thought I would like to focus my work on Nonprofits (thus my Nonprofit Management and Leadership focus at GVSU). Alas, I've been burned by enough nonprofits that the thought of working at one right now scares me. I like the state because they're so straightforward. If you don't get a job or promotion, it's probably not going to be because someone in upper management has a vendetta against you or because they don't like your face or there is some misunderstanding, it's because you're probably not qualified enough or your past performance has been unsatisfactory according to quantitative measurement. You have to stick to very clear bureaucratic lines, or else all hell will break lose. I find that comforting at this time in my life. I know it reeks havoc in other ways, but a lot of my frustration with the nonprofits I've been involved with in the past couple years has come from unclear boundaries and expectations and personalities reigning unchecked and supreme. Maybe someday in the future, I will go back to nonprofits...we'll see.

We had a Groupon for a one month membership to Prairie Life Fitness, which expires today. But yesterday I bought a Groupon for another gym in Lincoln called Goodlife Fitness. They have around 100 classes per week, and a huge gym with machines and weight lifting equipment. I visited it last night after work, and I'm very excited! I like going to fitness classes.  Though sometimes they can look silly and make you feel silly, class workouts usually push me farther than I'd go by myself and get me moving in different kinds of ways. Classes keep me interested and focused on being in shape, which is helpful. That's why I'm excited.

Yesterday at work I mostly slacked for the last hour and spent time looking at "Best Albums of 2012" lists. I actually made a spreadsheet of the top 50 albums from 3 different music magazines. My plan is to start listening to as many as I can. Luckily, I spend about 5-7 hours per day on my computer and can easily listen to hours and hours worth of music daily. I've already gone through 3 or 4 seasons of Radiolab and caught up on most of my missed episodes of This American Life. I used to listen to NPR all day, but I kind of got tired of that with the election and fiscal cliff nonsense. I'm thinking maybe I will occasionally listen to Morning Edition, and maybe some Fresh Air from time to time. There are so many great shows from NPR to listen to, but there's so much music I've missed out on! I remember when I was volunteering at WYCE, I used to know most of the albums in the Top 50 lists. Now I only know some of the musicians. I miss listening to music; I miss enjoying music, though I've been getting a little better at it in the past few months. Right now I'm listening to Mala in Cuba, from an artist I know and like from my WYCE days, Mala Rodriguez.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

this year's Christmastime

Ah, Christmas. It has been a busy few days. Friday we flew out of Omaha to Chicago Midway, then drove in a rented Hyundai Tuscon to Holland. It was an 8 1/2 hour journey, and we finally got there at 2:15am. I barely remember it. I was a zombie. We had a few delays throughout the trip. Saturday morning we went to the Johnson Christmas party. It was great, as always, to see my cousins, aunts and uncles. Kara and Evan announced that they're having another baby in July. I ate tons of cookies. I got a anti-condensation cup with a straw for my bingo gift and Kurt got a Starbuck's gift card. Saturday night we went to Kara and Evan's house and played games with them for most of the night. It was a lot of fun.

Sunday we went to Central Wesleyan with my parents. I often experience nostalgia going there, for example, some of the same people are in the choir as 20 years ago. Though Pastor Paul looks older, he's still there. It was enjoyable. My mom asked what Kurt and I thought of the service, since the church is losing a lot of the younger generation. Apparently, they are trying to reach out to that age group. Sunday afternoon we went to the gym, and Sunday night we met a group of folks at Denny's. Chris, Kim, Darlene, Travis, and Dan came. It was a lot of fun to see everyone. Kurt nerd talked with them for a good amount of time. We were out pretty late.

On Monday, Kurt and I went to the Rivertown Mall to wander around and get gifts for the Overbeek Christmas party bingo game. We gave fake mustaches with roasted almonds and a leopard print fleece blanket. It was good to see everyone on that side of the family, as well. I've missed the last 2 Overbeek Christmas parties because I've been in Nebraska for Christmas. I think Kurt enjoyed himself there. Monday night we went to Amanda and Nate's house and just sat on their couch and chatted for about 3 hours. I find a lot of enjoyment in that simple act.

Tuesday morning we woke up and Skyped with Pete and Connor for present opening. I got a load of Smartwool. It was my Smartwool Christmas. I was VERY happy to be receiving it, though, because it is quality stuff and will keep me warm. Mom and Dad also got us GVSU hoodies.

Throughout the weekend, I got to spend a lot of time playing with Hannah. I always love doing that and watching her grow between visits. This time we saw her take 2 steps on Christmas. A few times over the weekend, I had her feed me some of her food. Her biggest joke was pretending to give me the food, then acting like she was going to eat it, then actually feeding it to me. I loved watching her crawl. In wide open spaces, when she wants to go fast, or if she's really excited, she'll put her head down and crawl at top speed.  Evan says she'll run into walls sometimes. She loves playing with other kids, even if they're older and bigger than her. I had a lot of fun with her on Christmas. I had her in my lap and she kept taking off my glasses, putting them in her mouth, then giving them back to me. She wanted me to put them back on so she could take them back off again. She also got a kick out of trying them on. She did this with Kurt and his glasses, too, over and over for a while, right before we left to go to the airport. It was precious. I certainly wish I could be around her more often, but I was lucky to spend a lot of time with her this weekend.

Our travel back to Lincoln took a total of 7 hours and didn't have any delays. We got home around 6pm CST and now we're not quite sure what to do! We don't have a lot of food in the fridge, everything's closed, his family is busy, and we'll have Christmas with them on Sunday. I guess it's time to relax.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

muppets and Christmas

Yesterday a group of us watched the Muppet Christmas Carol. It made me think of the Muppet movie I watched a lot growing up, which I thought was a movie, but when I did a little internet searching, it turned out to be a TV special. I guess my parents must have recorded it off the TV because I remember watching it a lot! Either way, I love the Muppets and was glad to watch the movie.

Yesterday Kurt and I made some pretzel rods dipped in chocolate, and we sprinkled them with candy canes. They were delicious and I ate too many of them, both today and yesterday. We originally made them to give to our secret santa's at work, and to give to our landlords. We ended up dipping banana and a dried apple, too. All very delicious.

I've started in on the third book in the "Game of Thrones" series. When I get into those books, I just can't put them down. Kurt always wants to read them "together" and I just plow ahead before him. They're so nerdy sounding, if you start to talk about them, but such great stories in general. It's nice to read an actual book (mine is borrowed from the library, he purchased one for himself), instead of looking at a computer screen (or even a Kindle screen).

We leave for Michigan on Friday for our Christmas trip!

Sunday, December 16, 2012


This weekend has been nice and busy. Last night we had  a bacon party with some friends to celebrate a birthday. We had bacon wrapped fillet mignon, bacon wrapped sweet potato french friends (which Kurt made), bacon wrapped smoky links, some type of bacon soup, a bacon chip dip, 3 Little Piggy pizza (with sausage, bacon and canadian bacon), and even cupcakes with bacon on top. Someone brought bacon beer, which I had a small taste of, and I found it truly disgusting. Besides the beer, everything was delicious. No one in our immediate friend group is a vegetarian, if you can't already tell. After all the bacon, we played some dance game on the Kinect, which was loads of fun! I like dancing, so even copying a dancer on a screen was enjoyable.

Today we went to church, which was supposed to be Advent themed, but was changed last minute to include some spiritual thoughts and comments on the massacre on Friday. I remember one thing Jim Keck said that I liked; "Evil always tries to communicate despair."

After lunch, we did the crossword at Jimmy John's, and we did very well this week! We also did a lot of Christmas shopping and we got groceries. Overall, it was a busy weekend and I hope to enjoy the last few hours before the busy week starts.

Friday, December 14, 2012

sad day.

Today is the day a young man killed 20 children and 6 adults in an elementary school. It just makes me feel like we live in a brutal, cruel world. Most people resort to their comforting rhetoric, to make them feel like they have the answers and to make them think they don't have to do or feel anything. And why shouldn't they? The world is brutal and cruel, especially to those 20 sets of parents tonight. It's disturbing to think about, and I don't really want to think about it anymore.

As I have more time to enjoy a more relaxed and slower-paced life style, I am finding time to become a little bit of a better person (I hope). Today I thought about how I don't want to be the type of person who is satisfied to accept that this type of violence and cruelty is just the way it will always be. I want to look for and appreciate gentleness and peace in the world and hopefully bring a little bit of it in. I will never solve the world's problems, but I will chose to hope they can be solved. Otherwise, I don't see a reason to stay on our planet.

Tonight was a fun time. We had a Christmas party with a church group. We're the youngest couple there, which sort of makes me feel out of place sometimes, but I am greatly enjoying getting to know new people. They always have top-notch food and lots of good wine. They're fun and interesting people to be around.

Also, it's raining for the first time in months. It's not even that cold, so the rain felt good on my hair and skin. I might go outside yet a little while tonight to enjoy it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

married life so far

So how is married life so far? It's not anything weird or strange. It's just me and Kurt living together. It's nice. It feels normal and like life should. Sometimes we just sit on our computers in separate rooms and it's boring. Sometimes we don't even get to really talk to each other during a day because we're busy. Sometimes we flirt like we used to. That's a lot of fun. I must say I have started to see a tiny glimmer of how annoying it could possibly be to live with a person for quite a long time, but it seems like you just have to let things roll off your back. I can handle that, I think.

Life has certainly slowed down. We have a temporary gym membership to Prairie Life Fitness and if it weren't for that, I would be stir crazy by now. We hope to sponsor a new refugee family soon, but this time of year refugee resettlement slows way down. I'm more than ready to jump into volunteering and I miss helping people and helping refugees. 

Tonight me and Kurt made chocolate covered pretzels with lots of sprinkles on top. It was a fun shared activity. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, but we got probably 60-70 pretzels out of it. We are going to give them as gifts to lots of people in our life, including secret santas. We both have one at work. 

Congratulations to my sister and brother-in-law who are going to buy a house and just found out that they're having another baby in July, after having one just this past February. It is totally unexpected for everyone, but wonderful news!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

life lessons

One week ago, I was about to start my first week of unemployment (since my last stint of unemployment which lasted about 3 months in the summer of 2010, when I moved to Nebraska). This was my first complete week off since my last unemployment, since I had only ever taken long weekends, and never took a full week off. For 2 years, I never had a full week off. I love taking vacations, and I left LFS with more than a week of paid vacation. I think that's sad.

I enjoyed my first week of free time. I got a lot of things done, stuff that I needed to get done. I spent some time reflecting on what I learned at LFS. Some of those things are:

 1) People don't like to know the truth. Especially when they don't have the time or interest to put toward what you are talking about. For example, I talked so many times about how understaffed and overworked we were. People got tired of me saying it. Nobody liked hearing it. But it was truth every time I said it. And yet, being understaffed was a major reason I left, and probably many more people will leave in the future because of it. Many people don't want to hear the truth.  Many people don't want to hear that someone is overburdened and stressed and under pressure. They can't be bothered to help. They have their own concerns to worry about. Yes, indeed, I learned that many people don't like to know the truth.

2) People prefer you to be fake about unpleasant things. In the public of the work environment, you must be upbeat and friendly and bubbly if you want people to like you. You cannot be non-plussed, even-keeled or even mildly stressed out and show it on your face. Otherwise people get afraid of you and think you're a monster. It's best to always be in a constant state of fake happiness to everyone around you. Are you bubbling with anger and frustration? Are you more stressed out than you ever have been in your entire life? Too bad! You have to be fake, or you'll be accused of being a bitch or a witch or something worse.

3) People are hypocrites. People rudely tell you at inappropriate times that you don't handle stress well, then later they fly off the handle and make crazy accusations to you and your coworkers that shows they don't handle stress well.

4) People like to tell you to have boundaries, but they place large burdens on your time, raise expectations on you, and then get angry when you spend 50 hours a week trying to get everything done, but you can't. When it comes down to it, many people don't actually care if you have boundaries in your personal life, they just care that you get the job done. They like to bring up the boundaries discussion with you when you have accidentally expressed stress and some sort of negative feeling of pressure or frustration.

5) Some men actually do not like taking orders from women and will play silly games to get around interacting with their woman boss and not doing what they should do.

6) Some people are gossipers and backstabbers and manipulators. These people are often the kind that seem the most friendly at first. Never underestimate the human being's ability to lie and manipulate and gossip to save their own ass. These people are often the kind that don't care about helping you, and the kind that report you to your boss if you are short with them one time because they interrupted you on a day you had 5,239 tasks to accomplish. They like to look like the "concerned" one. Some people are not afraid to lie outright about you to others. Some people are not afraid to manipulate you right in front of others. Some people are not afraid to stab you in the back right in front of your face.

7) The people that work the hardest to help others are the ones that get trampled on the most. They don't have time to defend themselves or sit in meetings or play politics because they're too busy taking babies to the doctor and getting refugees food to eat and enrolling children in school. This is an unfair disadvantage and organizations that ignore the voices of those people will always be mediocre at best, and a gigantic force of life-destruction and failure at worst.

8) There are good people out there. I would like to find them and work with them.

These are some of the main lessons I learned at LFS. I learned that sometimes you have to just smile and take the abuse. I learned how to be trampled on. I learned that being honest doesn't always get you anywhere. I learned that a good work ethic and being efficient is often not enough to get you places. I learned that no matter how hard I worked at that place, I would not be appreciated or recognized.

And of course, this is all a reminder that life is not fair, and it never will be.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sometimes I stay up too late on a weeknight

Sometimes I stay up too late on a weeknight because I don't want to go to bed, because that means I have to go to work in the morning. Sometimes I just want more time to relax before I have to jump on the hamster wheel again.

Monday, June 18, 2012

day 10972

Stress. I can see how it ruins peoples lives and health. This job has brought me the greatest stress I have ever experienced in my life. For me, stress especially comes when I have no control over a frustration situation. A workload that is too heavy, and not enough people capable or willing to help out...that's where I'm finding the most stress these days.

I have lovely moments at work from time to time. Last week, I picked up some refugees from the airport, and I got to welcome them by placing sashes around their neck, which is tradition. One of their family members who arrived last year handed me the scarves, and one by one they came up to me and I placed it around their necks. One of them gave me an awkward hug and a lot of them shook my hand (it was a family of 6). Sometimes the tradition happens at airport arrivals, and sometimes it doesn't. But I've never gotten to do it before. And that same night, I got to eat a lot of great Nepali food. Yum. Then today, I was able to bring over their lost luggage, and the elders in the family came up to me one by one, bowed their heads low, and told me "Namaste", I'm assuming out of gratitude for helping find their luggage. Not something I experience every day.

Wedding planning actually is a lot of fun these days. It has grown on me now that we are getting things done and starting to see how things are coming together. I like looking online at stuff. I like working on the budget. I like all of it. I'm looking forward to the day. It's great to have something like that to look forward to. :0)

I am going to start running again in the mornings, I think, before the summer heat really kicks in. I think that'll help me manage my stress. I'm eager to get back into a training plan. I think it'll be good for me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

combating boredom

I've been feeling bored and stuck lately. In retaliation, I'm trying to mix up my schedule as much as I can. Today I ran with a woman who volunteered with my program last year. She invited me out on these weekly runs she's going on to train for a triathlon. She did the NY marathon last year. It was really fun to run with a new person, run on a new route, and just run without thinking of mileage or time. It was also fun because we ran into Iowa, over a really cool bridge, along a river, and we turned around at a casino. It was drizzling out, but that was alright.

I went into work early today, just for kicks, to mix up my work schedule. And also, because I knew I HAD to leave work on time to go run today, and I wanted to give myself as much time as I could to get the stuff done for the day. Maybe tomorrow I'll take a different route to work.

These days I really feel my 7 wing:
Key Motivations: Want to maintain their freedom and happiness, to avoid missing out on worthwhile experiences, to keep themselves excited and occupied, to avoid and discharge pain.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I came across this quote today and found it very interesting:

"As I considered the many possessions I owned and couldn’t let go of, I came to realize the inertia was all about grief. I don’t think grief has a half-life. I think it is always there, undiminished, and it merely gets covered over by other experiences."

From a NYT article by Avery Corman. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I haven't blogged since I met my niece about 2 weeks ago. She was cute, just a little alien-looking, but not too bad. I got to help my sister and brother-in-law a little bit. I loved holding my niece and probably spoiled her a little bit. My favorite moment was right before I left. She had been trying to suck on her hand, but eventually gave up, but left it halfway in her mouth. I was holding her up and rubbing the back of her neck with my finger and I thought she was asleep, but I looked and she was wide awake and still and relaxed and comforted.

At work, it's pretty much a rule that if a young adult comes and they lost their parents, or they leave their parents behind, their aunts and/or uncles will insist that their niece or nephew lives with them. I have seen aunts and uncles act like parents to them. I get that now. :0)

The whole trip was generally a lot of fun. I saw many friends and family members, some that I hadn't seen in quite some time, including my pool league team. Man, I miss Thursday nights with those guys. There were many other people I would have liked to see, but my time was limited.

Work has been busy. Sometimes I feel like my identity lies primarily in my work, and that kinda bugs me. I mean, it's fulfilling and rewarding most days, but I want to be more than just my job. I want to be able to talk about more than just my job.

I have been training pretty hard for my half-marathon in May. I joined another one of those weight loss competitions at my gym, but this time I'm doing it in conjunction with my half-marathon training, so that should be fun to see what I can do in this time. I'm having some fun fiddling around with nutrition, trying some new foods in my diet, cutting out really bad foods, seeing if I notice any difference in energy levels or how my body feels and operates. Also, I am waiting endlessly for a certain phone call...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

one bag

Today at work I helped my Cuban clients move into their new apartment. It was 3 weeks coming, but we finished it today (except for some chairs for their kitchen table). We went to pick up a bunch of their stuff from their host home. There were about 12 bags full of random stuff; clothes, shoes, coats, sheets, curtains, and stuff. The father of the family said, "We came to America with one bag...." as he looked at the piles of stuff. It was a thoughtful and reflective comment. I have really enjoyed working with the Cuban family. I was a little worried when we had a week to prepare for them, but it has turned out quite well. They are educated and curious and eager and capable. The father is even handy around the house. I enjoy being able to communicate with them, since I can't with most of my clients. They're generally really, really wonderful people. I'm privileged to help guide them through their first few months in America.

On another note, I get to go to Michigan this week. I'm really excited to meet my new niece! I also have plans to hang out with my old pool league team. I miss pool league a lot, so I'm very happy that I can be in town for a Thursday night. I'm very much looking forward to this trip.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


As a follow up to my last venting post, I felt so sick the next day with uncontrollable coughing and feeling winded when I stood up and walked 5 steps from a chair, I went to urgent care. The doctor took a chest x-ray because he was concerned with how my lungs sounded. The x-ray turned out okay, so after a flu test and a nebulizer, he just told me it was a bad virus, and told me he'd give me a note so that I wouldn't have to work for the rest of the week (which was Thursday night and all of Friday, but that was going to be a lot of hours for me). I went back to the office quickly, and ran one other quick errand, but then I went home to rest for a few days. It was pretty great. I got a lot of cleaning and organizing done around the house over the next few days. When I went back to work on Monday, I felt relaxed and way less stressed out.  Today, Tuesday, I started to feel stressed out again, but not nearly as bad as last week. Also, I don't have to go to the airport at all this week, which always makes me feel better.

Today was Valentine's Day, which is not something I really care about. Me & Kurt were going to make fajitas (more Kurt than me, probably), but he had a terrible day at work, so he wasn't feeling up to it, so we went to Waverly's Trackside Bar & Grill. It was pretty fun. We played keno. He made a pattern of a heart on his keno sheet, then we had ice cream sandwiches. Then we went back to my place and watched King of the Hill.
He didn't win anything with his quarter games, but I won $7 with my $1 game!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I've been thinking a lot about job burnout lately. I know it is something completely common in the social work field. You'd think people would figure out a way to fix it, and if someone has figured it out, they haven't told my place of work. I read somewhere that the biggest source of burnout in the social work field is having too much to do and not enough time to do it in. That describes my life for the past few weeks. And you know what makes me frustrated? I never wanted to be a social worker, and here I am, being a social worker.

This week is outrageous. I worked 12 hours today. It will likely be 12 hours tomorrow, as well. The thing that bugs me is that these are all things about which I have no choice. Everyone likes to tell us to have boundaries to keep ourselves sane and destressed, but then work puts us in a situation where if we don't do the work, we'll get in trouble. So, in essence, we don't have a choice. This week, I don't have a choice that I have to work late 2 nights, in fact, cancelling plans I had made in my personal life, plans that I had been looking forward to for a long time. Just thinking about that gets me more angry and upset. If I don't do what I have on my work calendar this week, no one else will do it, and I'll get in trouble.

They also like to tell us to communicate and ask for help when we need it. I did that this week. I voiced my concerns and I have been completely ignored. If anyone cares at all that this job is ruining my week and making me bitter and burnt out, they are not sending me an email or taking a minute to encourage me and try to work with me and see if I can get a day off next week or something like that. Instead, I got an email that said, "Hey, it won't be that bad!" But the reason the person in email said it wouldn't be that bad was because they forgot about a client, and all the hours of work I would have to be putting into that client for this week. So, there was both a lack of awareness about the demands of the week and my job, and I felt like it was an insulting attempt to placate me.

Because I've been working very hard for long hours recently (I rarely get a lunch or breaks), I feel like I am becoming my job. I like a lot of parts about my job; the diversity, teaching refugees about America, reuniting families, and so much more. But I want that to be just one part of me. I don't want to be "senior case manager". I want to be Renae. And so often lately, I am just "senior case manager". I feel like I am disappearing, and I don't know how to get me back. Even if I knew, I wouldn't have the time. And so I fade away...

My sister will be giving birth hopefully in the next day or two. Two years ago today I had a friend who died. I have a boyfriend and a social life. I was sick this past weekend, and I was not able to take the time to fully recover, and so my cough is getting worse, but I don't know when I'll have time to go to the doctor. I've postponed medical appointments several times recently because of pressure at work to complete tasks that I couldn't reschedule. Because I'm sick, I'm missing out on my training for the Lincoln Half-Marathon. All these things...I have no time to think about, no time to reflect, no time to remember, no time to be thankful, no time to heal, no time to rest...this is not how it's supposed to be. Social work is not the type of work I want to do, but I could handle it if it weren't so demanding, if it didn't cost so much. I could handle it a little better if I didn't feel like I was the sacrifice my agency was making to improve their program and reputation in the community. I think I could handle it better if they realized that they were sacrificing me.

All this...ramblings of a clearly overworked and burned out social worker. Ugh. How typical. And since I got home at 10:30, and took some time to check my Facebook and write this, I will go to bed late, and I have to get up early tomorrow and do it all over again...

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I'm sick. I've been sick for a few days now. It's probably what one calls "the common cold". My nose is majorly stuffed and runny, I have a dry cough, and my ears are crackly. Last night, I searched "sinus pressure points" online, and I found this massage you can do that is supposed to open up your sinuses, so I tried it, and it really helped! After I do the sinus massage, a ton of snot drains out and I feel much better (TMI? sorry). Everyone should try it.

This past week was a very stressful and exhausting week at work. I had a late night airport arrival, which I dislike doing. There was cultural orientation, which always takes a lot of energy. We had a site visit and were audited, which was also stressful and draining. It was a very successful audit and meant a lot to our program, as it was the first one since the big meltdown. The recommendations were minor compared to previous audits, so it has been deemed a success by most everyone. I consider a professional success that things went so well, too. It's a good feeling, I guess, which I'm still not quite used to having in relation to my job.

We're still waiting for the arrival of my niece. I'm excited to see pictures and I'm even more excited to visit at the end of this month!