Saturday, January 31, 2009

harm reduction

I'm a firm believer in harm reduction.  I really am.  I definitely promote safer use, safer sex, safer life, safer whatever, but every now and then I feel like screaming JUST STOP DOING IT ALREADY!  

On van patrol we hand out condoms to the girls, guys and transgendered that work our cities streets.  We don't ask questions, we don't ask for names, we just drive up, roll down the window, and check in with people.  We're not the only organization that hands out condoms, but for once people have talked, and we all cover different times of day.  

I really like what we do.  I think condoms are important, but sometimes I feel like saying, "get off the  street, there's another way".  See here's the thing though, you can't have that conversation right off the top, there's a whole lot of conversations that have to come first, and those conversations can begin with condoms.  

The more we drive around, the more familiar we become with the girls etc on the street.  The more times we stop and offer condoms, the more contacts we have, the more likely people are to trust us, and trust is not an easy thing.  Conversations have to begin somewhere though!  I see so much value in this first step.  Our second step is that we have the opportunity to drive some of these people home, off the street.  Having them in our van gives us the opportunity to chat a bit, about nothing, or about something (this is how I learned just how creepy our van looks...)  A third step might happen if someone asked for help with something more serious, like getting into a shelter instead of going back home... but these steps take time.  

I can understand why people find harm reduction hard to understand.  Sometimes I do feel like I'm tacitly agreeing with the explotation of young women and girls.  More often however I feel like I'm doing something good, and that even though what I'm doing is small, it's part of a bigger picture.  There are lots of organizations out there to help, and if we can build a little trust, that can become so much more.  

and to think, it could all start with a condom... 

Frozen to Death

This is my last post about death for a while.  I promise.  Well, my last post about death until someone else dies I guess...  Death is pretty common in my line of work. 

I don't even know how to write about this one.  It wasn't a client I knew particularly well, but something about her death just struck me.  She was found a block away from a shelter, frozen.  She had no shoes, no jacket, no purse.  


None of us knows what happened exactly.  She could have been turning a trick and jumped or been thrown from a vehicle.  She could have been drinking, passed out and robbed.  Perhaps she was jumped for her jacket and was beaten.  There's something about the idea of her being left out in the cold that gets me though, a block away from shelter, a block away from help.  

The media never got wind of her death, or if they did, they didn't care.  There's no sensation about a homeless woman dying.  No media blitz, no excitement and reformed policies.  Maybe it's better that way though.  I'm glad there's no spectacle, but still... 


Friday, January 30, 2009

Leaving the Shelter

I really want to be sarcastic about this picture.  I really, really do, but I'm not going to be, because finding a picture of "empowerment" is hard.  It really is.  

I mentioned earlier that the enforcer and I got in a fight, it was about empowerment, although that word never came up.  See, we have this problem at our "emergency" shelter - some people have slept there for years.  This causes us to turn away the people in need who are having a more isolated emergency and makes me feel like we're just warehousing.  

The way I see things, the situation sucks and we need to do something to empower people to find other options for their lives.  The way the enforcer sees it, we need to kick their butts out the door into housing and forget what they want.  I only wish I was exaggerating.  He actually said that they'll come back later, thank us, and tell us that they wish we'd done it years ago.  Now, while this may be the case, maybe, it does not change the fact that people are their own individual people and I don't think we have the right to decide things for them...except that I do, and I don't.  

It's sort of like this.  It frustrates me that there are people who live in the shelter day in and day out, it frustrates me that this is their life and I feel like we're doing nothing.  However, I'm not quite sure what we should be doing.  I initially thought of a time limit to shelter stays (ie 3 months) but then what do we do, turn the chronically homeless away?  I sometimes think it does take a kick in the butt to get people moving, but will it change anything?  Many people who do find housing get evicted very quickly and wind up back in the shelter by the end of the month.  

There's this new school of thought though called "housing first".  The point of this is to get people into safe housing and then work with them on all the other stuff (addiction, mental illness, disability, life skills etc...) and it apparently has really good results, and I agree.  I think for quite a few of my clients if they were housed other aspects of their life would begin to change as well.  

But, because there's always a but, it's not so easy living on your own after having been in the shelter along time, especially if you grew up in foster care, group homes, residential school etc... many people do not have some of the basic life skills that the majority of us take for granted.  For example, my house is messy, but I do know how to clean it.  I know which cleaning products to use, what all needs doing etc...  I know as well how to boil water, how to read the directions on a recipe and how deal with my caretaker and landlord.  

I'm definitely going to write more about this, my eyelids are sinking lower and lower right now and I'm rambling so I'm ending this entry, but there will be more.  

Could some of my clients really make it on their own?  

Quick Update

This is how we play cards at my work... wearing nitrile gloves; who knows what's on those cards!  This was one booooooring night in the drunk tank.  On the left you can see our "ghetto" crib board - a plank of wood, holes pounded with a nail and lines drawn in permanent marker, oh and don't forget the qtip pegs!  

Thank you for all your supportive comments on my last post.  My eight days are over and I told my boss I am NEVER doing that again.  I actually had two decent nights and only one fight with the enforcer (which warrants it's own post).  I had some really good van patrols though and that always makes me happy.  I LOVE going out in van.  Also, noone died, which is especially nice given that I haven't caught up on all the tragedy I want to blog about. 

I was hoping to sleep for forever today, but unfortunatly that didn't happen.  I am however taking today for ME, no pressure on myself to do anything.  Well, except feed the Sophie cat, but she makes it perfectly clear that it is not an option.  Of course, because I decided to devote this day to myself I got a horrible headache and spent much of this evening with an icepack on my forhead as the painkillers don't seem to be working.  I also went out and got coffee to feed my addiction and some gravol as that seems to help my headaches.  Actually though, I think what helped the most was getting out in the cold and having something else to think about then how much it hurt.  

I'm hoping to get a longer sleep today, whenever I decide to go to bed, or when my body conks out and decides it for me.  I have tomorrow off too, and I really need to get some laundry done!  I'd also love to go to yoga, as I've been so busy that it's been really hard to get there.  

Oh, and I changed the blog links in my side bar... I know I forgot some.  So if you think you (or someone else) should be there, comment and I'll add you  in.  

25 Random Things - meme

I promise I'll post a real entry today too, but first, a meme I just did on facebook.  I'm not going to tag anyone on here (the idea is to tag 25 people and get them to do it), but if you do it, I'd love to read it, so just let me know in the comments.  So, 25 random things about the dreamer. 

1. I can go a minimum of two weeks on a tank of gas
2. I work permanent nights right now, but hope not to do it forever
3. I get death threats on an almost daily basis
4. I'm an elder in my church (even though I'm only 22)
5. My best friend lives on an Island
6. There is a person who believes completely that I have a secret plot to take over an entire organization. 
7. I LOVE hot yoga
8. I hate taking baths
8. I can cook soup for 100 without having to really think
9. I almost never cook for myself
10. My cat won't sit on my lap
11. I moved out 3 weeks after my 18th birthday
12. Last night I talked to more then 20 people on the street between midnight and 3AM
13. People have a very hard time coming up with nicknames for me
14. I am a very messy person - but everything I do is very organized
15. I feel more comfortable talking to the homeless then those of my income bracket
16. I'm petrified of parties and tend to avoid them with a passion
17. I'm completely and totally addicted to coffee...just one cup a day, but boy do I need it
18. I have a real stop sign in my living room
19. I'm really not a huge fan of santa claus
20. I can sleep for 18 hours after I come off a block of work
21. I have never had a cavity
22. I always want to know WHY, even though I know that it's not the important thing most of the time
23. I have more pairs of pajama pants then jeans
24. I have 5 bookshelves, and they all have books on them
25. I have had my plants since before I moved in here (5 months) and they aren't dead yet!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

yikes... too much.

 Maybe it's stupid, but I always feel bad posting rants on my blog about how tired I am.  I always vowed I'd never be on of those "emo" bloggers who just complains about how much life stucks and how the world is out to get them.  Especially, when my life doesn't suck and the world is not out to get me.  There's just so much right now... except not.  

What happened (as the Sophie cat reaches her paw across the key board getting in the way) is that I got scheduled to work eight shifts in a row.  That's eight nights of homelessness, addictions and a row.  It was a scheduling "error", sort of, but it couldn't be fixed easily, and I got stuck doing it.  Worst of all, because it occurs over two pay periods it's not overtime.  Today is shift seven, I left after only three hours yesterday on shift six because I couldn't handle it anymore.  That and I choked on a pretzel and basically stopped breathing for a couple seconds and then puked and coughed and hacked and puked and cried infront of my coworkers.  Mostly though I was just so exhausted, and my headached, and people were fighting in the shelter.  I just could not stand the thought of having to go down into the drunk tank later that I went home.  Plus the enforcer was upset with me about something I chuckled at during shift change and was trying to pull some sort of explanation out of me, looking for my secret plot I guess, but I don't have one, REALLY, no secret plot.  

Anyway, I can already feel the tension building up in me, and I'm on the verge of tears, less then an hour till work.  I do NOT want to have take drugs to go to work, but one of those clonazepam I have sure seems like a good idea.  My doctor always says "take them, it's better to take them then not", but to tell you the truth I've taken maybe 7 since May when she prescribed them - up to two a day.  I like my Effexor, but for the most part clonazepam seems like a cop out.  The enforcer always goes on a rant about how people with mental health issues shouldn't work at our job, he's wrong, but if only he knew about my anxiety, what would he think of me then!?  

Giving myself some persective on the situation and looking at the big picture helps.  I only have two more days of this and in just over 3 weeks I'm going to visit best friend for a whole WEEK!  My job can be made hard by having something which is probably GAD but it's under control and I've worked hard at that, I CAN do my job, and I AM good at it.  While tonight seems hopeless there's a possibility of getting a better job on the other side of our building doing actual social work (not that what I do isn't social work, but it's more...traditional then watching drunk people sleep).  I'm going to apply for it as soon as it's posted, and since I know I was close last time, hopefully I get it this time!  Otherwise, I am probably leaving this job and this organization for somewhere more professional anyway.  

The truth is, I have it pretty good, but feeling crappy is okay.  I have a hard two nights ahead of me, and I'm tired.  It's okay to be tired.  I will do the best that I can do tonight and that's all that I can do.  I also won't eat pretzels, lol.  I'm going to put on clothes, start the car, gather my stuff, and I am going to go to work.  I am going to try and pay attention to the good things, and I am going to do this, one way or another, I'm going to do this.  

oh...and I'll have to feed the cat of course, not that she'd let me forget, she's staring at me as I type just waiting... 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

i'm sorry I can't be perfect...or not

I've had to shift manage quite a few times lately, and twice in the last week.  I honestly don't mind, but it's also not something I want to do everyday.  Definitely not everyday.  It's really easy, until something goes wrong and then everything falls to you.  I'm just not interested in having that kind of responsibility on a regular basis, and besides, you can't do anything and it's really quite boring.  

Anyway, this week I had to do it when the person who was managing went home sick, unfortunately that was the second person gone, and we couldn't find anyone to come in, so we were REALLY short staffed.  I called our manager on call... twice and got no response.  When they finally called back it was "what do you want me to do?" what did I want?  I wanted them to tell me what I was supposed to be doing with that few staff.  But no, they just authorized some overtime and went to bed.  We did awesome.  The people working were great, and it was really quiet.  I was, to be honest, rather pleased with myself for keeping the situation under control and not getting worked up about stuff.  

Then after shift change, the day staff let me have it.  Man, according to them I was pretty much the worst person ever.  I guess it's against the union policy to have that few people in the building or something, and it's a huge deal (even though I know we've done it on nights before when the enforcers been in charge).  It all has to do with liability and while I totally get it, in a practical sense, what was I supposed to do.  According to the person reaming me out, I needed to call the day staff at 2AM and get one of them to come in at 3:30AM, four hours before their scheduled shift... I'm sure this would have gone over REALLY well had I done this (and let me tell you, if it ever happens again I know EXACTLY who I'll be calling).  

There were many other things that I was apparently wrong about, athough this was the big one, and to be brutally honest I got in the car and sobbed my way home.  I tried so hard to do everything right, and somehow it just wasn't good enough.  But as I pondered things I realized a few things.  For starters, it's important to remember where this all was coming from.  This is a person who tells me off a lot (like a daytime enforcer sort of) and talks down to many people, not just me.  Secondly, I did do many things right, nothing went wrong, and there were no emergencies, fights or issues.  While this may not be the case every time something like this were to happen, it was this time, and that's the important thing.  

The biggest thing I have to remember is that I am definitely the least experienced shift manager we have, by a lot.  All the other shifts have tons of waaaaaaaaaay more experienced people, but since most people don't want to work nights as soon as they have some seniority they swtich to a "better" shift.  Thus, the night shift has tends to have the newest people (except of course for the enforcer), even our alternate coordinator has less experience then like the 4rth alternate for days (wait, it's actually the 6th alternate...I just counted).  SO it's natural that I wouldn't know all the policies or what to do in all contingencies.  I've recieved no extra training to do this.  No one has ever sat down and said "this is what you do to be a shift manager" or "this is what to do when..."  As far as I can tell, there isn't even a book about it.  I mean, there's our general policies, half of which are still under review, but there's no specific section to go to.  I don't even have a job description for it because I'm not "the" coordinator.  

I coordinated the next day and even though I had almost full staff the day staff still found many things that I did "wrong".  This time though, I looked at things more critically and realized that in many cases it wasn't about "me" at all, it's more of a general frustration with the organization, the lack of communication and the lack of funding.  

This is one thing I honestly never dreamed I'd be doing... 

Friday, January 23, 2009

things I love...part two

The last time I wrote about the things I love I wrote about specific clients who really touched me.  I think today however I'll just make a list, because I need a reminder of some of those great things in love, those things that make life special, cheer us up, and give us hope.  And so, here are some of the things the dreamer likes.  

Cuddles with the Sophie cat
Phone calls with best friend
Time wasted with bestest bud
Awesome bible studies
Tim Horton's double doubles
My pink water bottle
Lots of space around me in yoga so I can spread out like a starfish
Good fiction
Sleeping with no pressure to have to get up
Unexpected naps
Someone else doing the driving
Low gas prices
Chai Lattes 
Earl Grey vanilla tea (yummy)!
Moderatly busy nights at work
Van patrol
Watching Sophie cat flick her ears
Singing along to songs in the car
Babies sleeping in my arms
Lamp light
Spring once the slush is gone
My 4.98 foot spa (awesome, awesome price)
Burning fancy candles
Apple cinnamon febreze
My christmas sheep
Hanging out and eating dinner at Street Ministry
Dutch Blitz
Pictures in frames
My new plant pots
Lying down after a difficult day
and so many, many more... it's an ongoing list, but for today, that made me smile! 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

leap frog...or something

My last post about finding a person passed out in the snow reminded me of another story, a kind of weird and slightly embarrassing one.  This happened a while ago, but I don't think I ever got around to posting it.  

A coworker and I are driving around on van patrol one night when we come across a person passed out in the snow.  We'd scene this guy earlier in the evening wandering around seeming intoxicated but he had denied our help and since he was conscious, walking and not creating a disturbance there wasn't really anything we could do.  

Of course we do the usual things and try and wake this person up.  We get nothing, so I do the whole 911 thing, or maybe he did, anyway, we call an ambulance and continue our efforts to get the man to wake up and come into the van where it's warm.  Because we'd seen him not that long ago we knew he hadn't been down all that long and we were kind of hoping we could just take him back to the shelter (this before we had to call 911 of course).  

My coworker says the guy is coming around a little and so we try many things to try and get him to get up, or at least get his face out of the snow so it doesn't freeze.  Finally we just stick something under it as he is just not moving...for anything.  Then the ambulance gets there.  The paramedic says to him "get up, come in the warm ambulance".  The guy then LEAPS up, stumbles, and then walks with the paramedics.  It was seriously embarrassing, we looked pathetic with our "unresponsive" guy positively leaping up!  He was definitely on some weird drugs or something, because that is just not normal.  

Much as we love our clients the next time I called an ambulance for an unresponsive client part of me was praying they'd stay that least till they got to the ambulance!  

and sometimes it's so so so worth it

There are definitely moments during which I hate my job, moments when I question everything I'm doing, and not doing, and of course, there are moments when I'm simply so overwhelmed I feeling like quiting.  Then there are the things that make everything so so worth it.  The moments that help me see that I am making a difference, even if it's small, and that the work we do does matter.  

A prime of example of this is our van patrol.  Some nights we patrol the street and don't talk to a single person.  Other nights all we do is ferry people to and from the hospitals feeling like a taxi service.  Some nights we give out more condoms then I can count, and I begin to question the principles of harm reduction.  And then some nights, I know that we did something good, and occasionally I know that we may have, or did, save someone's life.  While it feels good, this particular story also makes me really mad as well as making me question my self, good stories do that though.  

It's a cold Canadian night and I'm cruising back from picking up donations at a convinence store with the new guy watching for girls working the street along the way.  Suddenly I notice something on the curb "did you see that?" I say to the new guy as I make a u-turn in the middle of a somewhat major street pulling up along side the object of my interest.  Only it's not just an object, it's a person.  A person lying in the snow dressed only in jeans and I t-shirt.  "What do we do?" asks the new guy, "we start with the basics" I answer, and so we do.  

The new guy and I put on gloves and jump out of the van to try and rouse the person.  It takes awhile, but we're able to get them to come around a little "what's your name?, what's your name?"  Nothing.  We are however able to get him sitting up on a planter out of the snow.  Of course, our normal van is broken and the one we're using doesn't have blankets in it... so for the second time this winter I take off my jacket and remove my sweater (thank goodness for layers) put my jacket back on and wrap my hoody around this freezing person.  As I'm doing all this I am also calling an ambulance/police/help from my cell phone while new guy looks after our frozen victim.  

The paramedic response time is surprisingly fast, the last time I called about a person passed out in the snow it took 20 minutes, this took about 3.  "What's the story?" they ask.  "I'm not sure, we couldn't get anything out of them at all, not a word".  The paramedics try also, but to no avail and they take them off into the nice warm ambulance while I quickly steal back my sweater.  Talking with one paramedic, the new guy asserts that "it looks like the person was pushed out of a car and left here".  It could be very true, the positioning was right, and the lack of clothing fits that story.  But that's all we know about this mystery person, we don't get follow up on these calls, especially when we have no names, and we drive off to continue our patrol.  

Here's what makes me mad.  This person was on a busy street for who knows how long and nobody did anything.  On the other hand, new guy didn't see them whereas I was looking for things, many drivers probably didn't see a thing.  Of the people who did see them we have to remember that concept I learned about in Social Psych but can't remember the name of.  Basically that we all assume someone else will do something.  There's also the whole "not wanting to get invovled thing".  I can't say I blame them.  It's interesting however that once we stopped, someone else stopped to make sure that we were okay.  I'm not sure what I would have done if I was alone driving past a person on this particular street.  I'm not sure I would have felt safe getting out of my car, and calling 911 is so ANNOYING if you're not up close and personal with the situation.  Something to think about.  

I guess every situation's different... 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

and now she's gone

I write about death in my blog a lot.  In my line of work, death is a common thing.  I've written about people dying and I've written about people killing, this is the first time I write about someone murdered.  Somehow it's different this way, it's different knowing her life was taken from her with a knife, I'm not sure how, but it is.  

She was just your average woman.  Sure, she drank a bit too much, and perhaps partied a bit too hard, but there was nothing about her that made her any different then you or I, and yet now, she's gone.  

She was only in her 30s.  Sure she didn't have a job, and perhaps she wasn't what you'd call and "upstanding citizen", but really, she didn't rock the boat too hard.  

She was just trying to live her life.  In a crappy rooming house.  In a crappy area of town.  She was trying build relationship, and find love when that loving man stabbed her in the back... literally.  Another statistic, another murder, another investigation, another life, ended.  

And then, she was gone.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

self motivation

I've been thinking a lot lately about motivation, gratification and feedback. Something that's very different for me about my job right now is that I get almost no feedback unless I do something wrong. I figure this is pretty normal, it's just that after so many years of being a student, I'm used to getting good feedback (what can I say, I was a good student). It's part of growing up I guess, there's no longer anyone praising me and giving me positive feedback. SO, I have to provide that for myself and remind myself when I'm doing a good job at things as well as acknowledge when I'm not.

On the other hand, I tend to give tons of positive feedback to people when I'm shift manager. I don't do it on purpose either, I guess it's just who I am. I like to tell people when they do a good job, especially under difficult circumstances. I like to reassure people that they'll catch on, or get better at it or whatever. I certainly don't sit down and consciously remind myself to do this it just flows naturally out of me... something interesting to note about my leadership style I guess.

So why is there a yoga picture? Well, as I've talked about before, yoga is really helping me learn more about myself, and this concept comes up for me very often there too. Yoga is a very self directed thing "you're your own best teacher". There's one instructor guiding the practice of up to fifty people and so you generally don't get a lot of feedback. Especially now that I've been going for a while and don't have any horrible issues with most of the poses we do, I'm pretty much on my own... and I think it's good for me. It's good for me to have to be my own teacher, to have to think through what's going on in my body and work on changing it. It's good for me to have to find my own motivation to push's just different.

When I was in gymnastics, which seems forever ago but really isn't, we got TONS of feedback both good and bad. There was always someone watching, someone critiquing, someone pushing you to try harder, go again etc... and there was lots of rewards for doing things well. There were competitions to work towards, that perfect 10 to aim for, that new move to learn, always something to motivate you. With yoga it's not the same at all, and like I said, it's good for me. It's forcing me to slow down and just accept things for what they are not race off to the next thing. As I said to bestest bud yesterday night, it's about the journey, not the destination.

I've always been a destination type girl...

I'll fly away

I need a holiday SO badly. I need to see best friend. I need to get away from this city, this snow and all the homelessness. I just need a break. A break where I don't have to clean my house, drive my car and worry about stuff. I've requested a week off, between banked stats, banked over time and my normal days off I should be able to make it work and off I'll fly! There are snow plows on my front street right now. They are LOUD, but it's okay, because I'm off today... thank goodness.

I just haven't been feeling my best lately, although I certainly have my good times. Things at work are frustrating, but I'm doing my best. My words just don't seem to be coming out properly (thus the lack of blog posts). I've been to a lot of yoga though, which has definitely been good. And hot yoga is just so WARM in this deep freeze! Today I went for a walk in the SUN which I'm sure was amazing for my health as well as just cheering me up in general. I of course ran into clients, as I walked to the library downtown, but they were nice clients so it was all good.

I went to a really great Bible study tonight. We're looking at the book of Revelation, which is of course a really hard book with many many opinions and interpretations, but the first one was definitely good. Last time we did the book of John which was a lot more straightforward, and that's saying something as John is probably the least straightforward of the gospels.

I also went grocery shopping tonight (you know when I started this blog I vowed I'd write about more interesting stuff then my grocery shopping). I tried to buy lots of iron rich foods, but it would be so much easier if I LIKED red meat instead of having to force myself to eat it. It's really nice having food in the freezer though, comforting.

Tonight I plan on blogging and reading fiction. It's going to be awesome!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

juxtapostion of reality... part two

I drove my car to yoga yesterday. It's three blocks away. It was FREEZING cold out, and the car was "warm" anyway because I'd had it out earlier. As I was driving I was pondering how incredibly lazy I felt. And then this nagging guilt came up "how can I say I'm cold when I spend the nights driving around finding people like 'the man in black' sleeping doorways". My mind wandered around this for a while and I stored it to think about during yoga (I know I'm supposed to "clear my mind" but I like the silence to ponder things).

I realized something I've realized many times before. We are each our own person, the sensations and feelings of someone else do not make ours bad or wrong. So what that looks like is that we can both be cold, the fact that he is cold does not change the fact that I am cold. There will always be someone colder or warmer then me, and there will always be people who experience temperature differently then me. This doesn't mean I should forget about the man in black, this doesn't mean I should forget about my moral and christian responsibility to reach out to him and push for change, all it means is it's okay to feel cold without guilt. The way my initial thought process was going could lead down a slippery slope if I got too caught up in it. It's not like I feel guilty when I'm hungry or thirsty, they're just biological things that happen to everyone.

the man in black

The man in black is a mystery. He sleeps in a doorway; every night. It's the same doorway, so we know where to find him. The man in black is hard to see in the shadows, but we know he's there and so we look for him, make sure he's okay. The man in black will never accept any offers of help. No blankets, no winter clothes, no warming up in the van, and no shelter. Every night that I'm out I check on in, just to make sure he hasn't frozen to death, or changed his mind about help. I figure just our being there, as many days as possible, checking in shows him someone cares and begins to open up those doors, break down those barriers, so we can begin to discover who he is.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

just a little sleep

It's amazing how much of a difference sleep makes in a persons life. I haven't posted this week because I've been exhausted. I had something every single day this week including a doctors appointment at which I discovered I'm anemic. Joy. Of course it does explain some of my extremely excessive sleeping, and my incredibly pale face (actual quote "you're too pale, even for a white girl").

This week seemed like it would never end. I trained, I shift managed, I dealt with the enforcer being rude to and about everyone but me (he's scared of my grand scheme after all). I was called every name in the book, and I just didn't seem to have enough time to sleep. Then when I was sleeping I just didn't seem to be able to sleep well. I dunno. In any case though, I had last night off and was able to get some sleep then, and I'm about to go back to sleep for a nap before work. Happiness.

Anyway, the point is, sleep makes a huge difference, so do friends. All week I sort of felt like I was hovering on the edge and didn't really know which way I was going to fall. Work was pissing me off and tiring me out, and yet when I took time to think about the good things, it really didn't seem so bad anymore. Then I slept. And I woke up feeling SO much better about everything. Bestest bud and I raked the Sophie cat which took quite awhile but resulted in a much sleeker looking cat and fur floating EVERYWHERE. Then best friend and I talked on the phone for an hour and half, and while I did get a bit teary eyed thinking about how far away she is, it was totally worth it.

and now, for some fantasy fiction and my bed.

Monday, January 5, 2009

the further adventures of fat cat

The Sophie cat was acting weird tonight. She was spending an on amount of time here... the scene of the crime it turns out.

I didn't discover what she was doing until I thought I heard mice. Turning around I did not see Sophie cat eating from her bowl like she normally does.

But no. The Sophie cat was apparently too good for the limited amounts of wet and drive food placed in her bowl each day and decided to take matters into her own hands. Enter the brand new bag of cat food under the table. Notice the teeth marks on said bag. The culprit was definitely, the Sophie cat (complete with a close up for your viewing pleasure).

And so, the Sophie cat will not be getting much to eat today. I'm not sure how much she ate, but let me tell you, she'd better not get sick everywhere. The bag of food is now up nice and high where she'll never reach it (advantage of having a fat cat: they can't climb). And she's in her bed looking nice and princess like. the end.

digging deeper - treating people as people

I'm not entirely sure why, but this photo evokes really powerful emotions in me. Tonight was my night off, and I spent some time working on a project for church. I was looking for photos which so a variety of different people from a variety of different walks of life and cultures. Seeing all the people reminded me that one of my intentions for the year was to see people as people and that got me thinking about my job.

It's all fine and well for me to say I want to remember that people are people, but I realized, when thinking about things, is that part of the way I cope with my job is to forget that, it makes things easier. Maybe that's good though, and maybe that's bad.

For example, when I have someone screaming and calling me unspeakable things (or at least things I won't publish here) it is much easier to think of them as "that intoxicated person" rather then give them a name. In fact, I generally refer to them as their cell number (interestingly enough though, i tend not to do that with clients I know well). Then there's example two, again, working the drunk tank. A girl sobbing, crying, begging me to help her, telling me of her horrible life, about the abusive relationship which wound her up here. So much easier to give quick reassurances and move on. Experience and practical reasoning has taught me that there's no use arguing or doing interventions with intoxicated people. In these situations, it's fairly easy to justify, whether that's good or not, I'm not sure.

Then though are the turn aways. It's really, really hard, to look someone in the eye, call them by name, and tell them they can't come inside the warm shelter when it's -30 outside. Exposed skin can freeze in less then 10 minutes, and what do I say? "I'm sorry sir, we're full, you have to get here early, we're usually full by 9PM". "I'm sorry, all the shelter beds in the city are full, you'll have to figure this out for yourself". Those, and other things, but generally those. Nothing can prepare you for that, and it's so much easier for them to remain Jane and John Doe then to dig deeper and ask their names, and how they wound up at your door that night. For some, especially the 2:45 crowd, it's simply that the bars don't close till 2:30, but for others, there are most deeper issues and we're their last hope.

So what I need to work on finding, as I've said many times before, is balance. A little pain keeps us moving, it's what keeps us fighting for change. Making things too black and white, and blocking out the suffering of people hardens us, and getting harden to far makes us, well, hard. I don't want to be like that. I also don't want to be the girl who runs to the bathroom and cries after each turn away (for the record, we don't have one, I just don't want to become one).

something to ponder as I fall asleep, what is it that dehumanizes people, is it our actions or our attidudes, must it be one, the other, or both?

Friday, January 2, 2009

and this is how

Jim is sleeping at the back of the shelter. With his head under his jacket his indistinguishable from those sleeping around him. It is only once I wake him, he's the last one up, that I realize who he is.

Jim was once a very successful man. The wife, kids, dog, car in the garage type of success. Jim liked to have a few drinks after work and on the weekends, but eventually those drinks began to have him and things began to fall apart. It seems like such an easy solution, "quit drinking" but it's just not that easy. Jim tried, his wife tried, everyone tried, and things worked, for a while. Things even fell apart and Jim came to the shelter for a while, but he got himself together and went back to his suburban life, sleeping on a mat crammed in between two others only a memory.

As such things do however Jim's life, and his drinking, took another down turn. Things at home got worse and worse and Jim found himself back on the streets. That little sore on his leg turned into a major infection and his back started acting up. Jim kept drinking. Eventually we convinced him to get his leg looked at, but after the initial IV treatment he didn't follow through. And so now he's limping through life.

When I first met Jim he seemed like a person just down on his luck and struggling with his addiction. He was clean, polite, and hopeful. Not to sound crass, but Jim is now indistinguishable from the rest of the homeless he beds down with each night. He is no longer taking care of himself, and his spirit, his sense of hope, is gone, or at least taking a long vacation. I miss it. Jim now sleeps the majority of his day, always tired, depressed. He has no plans to get out of this lifestyle. No plans beyond sleeping, and drinking.

He fell apart before our eyes, and we couldn't stop him. At least we're there to break the fall, cushion the landing and provide a hand back up once the wind returns to his lungs. We can't do the breathing for him though. That's his job.

"holiday's" over

My holiday is almost over. I go back to work tomorrow night (or well, I guess it's tonight seeing as I'm writing this after midnight). I'm in the process of staying up late so that I can sleep all day. For some reason, it's working! Having five days off has been AMAZING! And just the right length too. I'm missing work. I'm missing being around my coworkers and I'm missing my clients as well. I also just miss being around people, but that's what happens when you're an extrovert.

My holiday however has been productive. I've managed to hang out with most of the people I wanted to hang out with, including all three members of my immediate family (and not even all at once). I had a good friend over to watch girly movies and eat pizza on new years eve, and bestest bud came over today to watch another movie and drink hot chocolate. I've gone to yoga, gone on a swing, had lots of starbucks, and cleaned my house (with the exception of my bedroom). I washed all the dishes and did most of the laundry. I snuggled with the sophie cat and read books I wanted to read. I hung out with roommate, who's back from grad school and went out for cofee with a girl from the church. To put it quickly. It's been fun. The one thing I miss is best friend, and I'm really hoping I'll get to fly across the country and visit her soon.

I'm actually rather proud of myself. I'm not good at holidays. I am always happy for about the first day. Sometimes not even that long, and then I start going CRAZY! One thing that really helped was having a car, because it gave me an easy way to go places in the cold, cold, snowy weather and enabled me to pick up people to hang out with. Another thing that helped was yoga, because it gave me a reason to get out of the house, it took up time, and it tired me out (and of course yoga just feels awesome anyway). I still had my moments where things just seemed impossible, but I got through it. I also think this is a sign that I'm more okay with being with myself then I would have been even at the start of the summer or when I first moved into my very own place. That makes me happy too.

In conclusion, it's back to the drunk tank tomorrow! Back to the death threats, back to the name calling, back to the fake requests for medical attention and the vomit. It's back to the shelter! Back to the fighting over mats, the secret mouthwash drinking, and the inevitable turnaways (it's the weekend after all, always more people looking for shelter on the weekends). But, it's back to the smiles, back to being able to do those little things that make a difference, back to being part of the solution, back to making those little prodding comments that encourage change. I love my job. I truly do.

examining evil aka examining my biases

There's one client who for a long time I was scared of, petrified of even. Ever since I started working on the side of the tracks where he makes his home, I've been scared of him. He's the kind of person who has a reputation in the neighbourhood. He's the kind of guy who throws rocks at cars during rush hour on busy streets. He's the kind of guy who rapes intoxicated women; where people can see him. I could go on for hours, but I think it's sufficient to say he's the kind of guy who just inspires fear in those around him.

So how does this relate to me. Well, a month or so back I was cruising around in the van with a coworker and we were talking about said client, Gavin, and I mentioned that I felt like he represented pure evil. My coworker agreed and from then on that's how I thought of him. Over time I've defended him to other coworkers saying he must have a lot of hurt in his life to have so much anger which comes out in so many ways, but still, this guy to me just seems so... horrible.

Of course I continued thinking, and I got curious and one quiet night I sat down and read through his entire file. It took quite a while, but as I read through the short entries over the course of ten years I began to piece together pieces of his recent history as well as get a sense of what made him into the angry adult he became. This man has had horrible things happen to him, things that shouldn't have to happen to anyone. He was born into a bad situation to start with, and history took a tole upon his future. His life was rampant with drugs and addiction, things he still struggles with today.

And see that's the thing. Gavin is the most scary when he's been using. When he's sober, it turns out he's a pretty nice guy. It kind of freaks me out, the juxtaposition of the two characters. And who knows, there very likely could be some kind of dissociation going on, the two people are just so different. One is this screaming person who throws tables and the other a nice, quiet, polite man who has serious health problems he is quite conscientious about taking care of. It's hard to evaluate someone abusing multiple substances for dissociation, and that's if anyone would even care to try.

So what I realized, is that you can't put people into boxes. I've always known this, I'm not a black and white person, but in this case, I was very black. Evil. Plain and simple. But the thing is, life is never that simple.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

that new years post

It's a new year and in a way I feel obligated to write a new year's post. I've been debating it for the past few days as I realize I'm only doing it because I feel like I should and I try to avoid doing things for that reason. However, I'm bored, the yoga class was full before I got there, so not having that to fill up this hour with, here I am in front of my computer (or perhaps my computer is in front of me).

I'm not making any resolutions this year. I usually don't, but this year especially I don't feel that I have resolutions I want to make. I took a random online quiz thing I found on someone's blog (I'll post a link at the bottom) and it said the only resolution I need to make is to volunteer with people. I've got that one down already, so I'm not too worried, lol.

The truth is, rather then set goals and work towards them, or set unrealistic expectations for myself, I'd rather take a look at the way I live my life, and to that end there are some intentions I want to have in the new year. For example, I want to be intentional about living my life with a compassionate and merciful attitude. This isn't a measurable goal, but rather a way of living. I want to be intentional about living out my faith. I want to be intentional about treating people as people, no matter what their life circumstances. I want to be intentional about finding good things in life, in other people, and in myself. These are all things I do on a regular basis, I just want to pay more attention to doing them, and to the fact that I am doing them.

I suppose one thing I do want to do in the new year is take more time for self reflection and reflection on my work. I've been really missing practicum logs lately, and I think I need to do more blogging; writing is one of the ways I process best. Baring that, I really need to find someone I can talk social work with. I miss supervision and practicum seminar a lot. I miss going to school with a whole bunch of other social work students who I could bounce thoughts and ideas off of on a regular basis. It's also important for me to talk about some of the feelings that this work brings up in me, and to be intentional about having this conversations, not just when stuff randomly comes up. I'm a talker, even more then I am a writer, and it really is the best way to unburden myself.

And so that's my plan for 2009. No concrete goals, and I'm okay with that right now. When it comes time to set a goal for myself, I will but for now, I'm content to just let things be.

You Should Make 1 Resolution

Volunteer to Help Others