Saturday, August 13, 2011

Yesterday, my degree was officially conferred. So, last night we had reason to celebrate. And celebrate we did. We had a shredding party. After completing my project I had to destroy the data that I used. Here goes...
It was important that the kids be involved in the shredding party as well. They were very much impacted by the amount of time spent on this degree, especially in the last few months. One day, Jacob was particularly chatty and I kept asking him to be quiet so I could work. Eventually, I asked him if he needed to go in the other room to be quiet. He said to me, "I'm sorry if I don't like that I can't spend any time with you." OUCH! Later, I was telling my dad about it and he said, "I think a lot of us are feeling that way." This was truly a joint effort and they deserve to share in the celebration. I could not have done it without their support (even if they would have preferred not to give it).

Here Nate is helping me shred.
In keeping with the human protections requirement for my data (and a bit of personal satisfaction), I shredded the data myself. I did however have plenty of other things to shred as I kept many papers from the last four years or so.

Paper jam

We overheated the shredders (we had two) a couple of times. So to pass time while they cooled down, we played. Look at the form Jacob has playing badminton.

All the kids playing badminton

And no celebration of this status is complete without some bubbly (in this case cider). My dad joked about building a tower of glasses to pour it. IT WORKED! The kids were impressed.

A me.

Four years of work reduced to two inch strips.

And thus the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Today begins the year of me. A year of learning to take care of me, as well as everyone else. A year of learning not to always put myself last. Please join me on this journey. I love to write and this blog is one of my outlets. Part of taking care of me is making time for the things I enjoy. So, expect to see more from me :-)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I think all of my blog readers know that I am a social worker. They know that I have a passion for working with cancer patients and their families. What everyone may not know about is my academic journey and challenges to get here. I began my college education in 1997, when Joshua started first grade. I started out taking two classes at a time and working full time, as a single mom. In 2007 (yes, ten years later) I graduated with my Bachelor's Degree in Social Work. Medical social work is a Master's level career; so I applied to the Master's Degree program and began in the fall of 2007. It was a three year program. Things went well until my final year. In the fall, Nate was diagnosed with H1N1 (remember that flu?). Well, it knocked down my usually high energy little guy and I spent a lot of time taking care of him. Soon after that, I fell and injured my knee, badly. This put me behind in in my fall classes. Then the spring semester started with knee surgery (and vicodin) which was not conducive to my studies. However, I did finish my classes that semester and walked with my class.
These are a few of my favorite academic people. Far left is Dr. Montana; I am standing with Dr. Middleton, the social work department chair; and to the right is my mentor and friend, Dr Rondero Hernandez (aka Dr. V.).

BUT. I had not completed my Master's Degree. I had to take an extension. I thought I would be able to complete my final project over the summer and be done. Instead, in June my dad's cancer went rogue and he had 6-8 surgeries between June and November. Nate had a very rough start to second grade which ultimately led to our decision to pull him out of school and homeschool him. Then in December, my dad's doctor decided to do radiation treatment - 33 daily treatments, Monday through Friday. When that was finished in February. I still had not complete my degree.

I was working part time, homeschooling Nate and still managing my dad's medical care. The radiation did not stop the cancer and my dad again needed several surgeries. Then another, shorter round of radiation. This one seems to have done the trick (knock on wood) as he has not had another recurrence.

I began talking to Dr. V. about how to get back on track. She guided me back and as my project chair kept me on track to finish this. I have worked diligently for the past three months to finish this project that I started nearly two years ago. And here it is, all 79 pages.

And here is my degree clearance. Signed, sealed and delivered. I even walked with my chair to turn it in to the graduate studies department. After all this work, this part was disappointingly anti-climatic. I joked with Dr. V than I was going to wear my cap, gown and hood to campus to turn it in.
A couple months ago, our organization changed their logo and everything had to be ordered new. They ordered me this name tag, knowing that I was working on completing my degree. Now I can rightfully wear it.

Stay tuned to see how we celebrate this accomplishment!