Ready … Steady … Go!

When I was a kid, I would participate in Sunday School picnics and they would have egg and spoon races, three-legged races, and sack races. The superintendent of the Sunday School would always start the races by saying her little rhyme:

One to get Ready … Two to get Steady ….. GO!

That’s where I feel like I am right now.  I’m at the starting line, and my body and mind are preparing for the “qualifying” rounds – pardon the pun!

Four more days until I start my winter semester for my 2nd to last course before my practicum.

I only have 114 days until my practicum plan must be approved by my university. By that time I will have finished my last course before the practicum.

And there are just under 242 days between today and the day I start my practicum! (Can you tell I’m excited?  Keep reading!!)

I had been “courting” this one spot for my practicum placement for the last several months, corresponding back and forth with one of the counsellors there, a really nice fellow.

This past Thursday morning, (to give a bit of context to what’s coming next) I had had a particularly challenging meeting with my manager at work regarding my request for the leave I wanted to take in September to do my practicum.  The leave was denied for various reasons.  However, I had worked out (and presented) an alternate plan during that meeting for working part-time two days a week from September to April inclusive, and she was much more open to that. It was disappointing because of the decrease in money and the increase in stress from juggling two “jobs” (one of them unpaid), but I suppose it is better than having to make a choice between them.

That same afternoon, after I got home from work, I decided to re-contact the fellow at the potential practicum spot again to let him know that I would be available three days a week in September if they were still interested.  The site is at the local university in the Student Services department.

Yesterday evening, I received an email from this gentleman after I turned on my computer. In his email, he said that he was glad that I had indicated my continued interest, since two people had changed their plans for this year, and that the next step for me would be to sit down with (a) the director of Student Services and (b) the person who would be my supervisor. He gave both their names and took the liberty of copying them on the email, and said he’d be backing out of the conversation at this point. Then he said what absolutely floored me: that, after we met and discussed our expectations, if the three of us agreed that it was a good fit, (and I quote), “you will be our intern for the 2018-2019 academic year.”

The Green Way For Start Bike In Park by ArPleum at

Photo “The Green Way For Start Bike In Park” courtesy of ArPleum at

Boom! No carefully worded escape clauses – just – if you like us, we want to work with you and learn together.

I’m still totally floored.

Within 24 hours of that email (just about an hour ago, in fact), my daughter also got an email from the same university (this time, from admissions). She’d been on a waiting list to take a course in Sociology (she was 21st on the waiting list) and all of a sudden, they told her that a spot had opened up for her, and she could register for the course. She did, almost right away, and is even now looking at her course requirements, readings, assignments, and exam schedules for the semester. (She’s not even behind on any readings because they haven’t assigned those yet.)


So the atmosphere in the house is one of stunned and grateful silence, broken by the occasional, “Wow.” In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said that word. Wow.

Oh yes, just to follow up on the email I received, I wrote back to the director and the supervisor. I thanked them and told them I was looking forward to meeting with them, and gave my availability dates and times for the next two or three weeks.  In fact, just now I took a break from typing this and sent a private email to that gentleman and thanked him for his encouragement and guidance, letting him know how thrilled I was to get his email.

And as I mentioned to him, my feet haven’t quite yet touched planet Earth since that moment.

Can you blame me??


Full Circle

As I write this, I’m enjoying a grande half-caff, chestnut-praline latte. My first order ever from Starbucks!! What has that got to do with anything in this post? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Well, just that I’m enjoying being able to take care of myself.

I’ve taken the last four months off from my grad program to recharge my batteries and get a renewed zest for my life. And I must say that aside from the first month thinking, “What am I going to DO with all this free time?” I soon found some projects that I’d been meaning to accomplish – crocheting for Christmas presents, for one – and have been busily doing that, plus tending to my family’s needs. (I might save that for a later post.)

Today, I have 31days of freedom left, 31 days to do what I like when I like (aside from my job, that is.) And in the last week, so much has happened that has both floored and elated me that I am still reeling from it all.

You see, my oldest daughter has been trying to do some upgrading of her GED so she can go to university. A week or so ago, she sat with someone in the Registrar’s office of the local university and realized that she could “ladder in” to the program she wants to take by taking a couple of courses as an unclassified student and then taking some upgrading courses they have available for people to prepare for degrees in the sciences and mathematics. She wants to get a Bachelor of Science with a major in Kinesiology. A perfect fit!!

What’s more, she can start in January 2018. So she starts her university class(es) on January 3, and I resume my program on January 10. So weird! So wonderful!

There’s more. She is physically disabled and she has PTSD as well as other psychological disorders, so she went to see Student Services yesterday with photocopies of her diagnoses from her medical file, taking her dad along for moral support while I was at work. By the end of that appointment, she had forms for student loans, a signed agreement to provide ergonomic seating, a note-taker if she needs one, a computer with voice-recognition software if she needs it, a disabled parking pass, and much, much more – all in the space of that one appointment. Essentially, that one hour alleviated every single fear she had about going back to school: absences due to sickness, inability to take notes due to her fibromyalgia, etc. What a relief to know that they have that (and more) covered!

A Water Drop Splash by Mister GC at

Photo “A Water Drop Splash” by Mister GC at

Monday, she sits down with her contact in the Registrar’s office and hammers out the course(s) she will be taking. Everyone has been so respectful and accommodating to her – and she has felt so comfortable with these people that she has taken the lead in the conversations rather than letting one of us be her mouthpiece, as she has typically done with people in authority (especially doctors). Words can’t express how proud I am of her, how far she has come, and how she has faced her monsters and is starting to move forward with her life.

I know that she will blossom in the academic environment.  There is no doubt in my mind she will excel.

What’s more, there is a possibility that I will be doing my practicum on campus in September 2018… Is that surreal or what?  So, if she wants to, we can have our lunches together at the cafeteria. 🙂

But – back to January 2018. I will be taking a Family Therapy course and I am looking forward (not dreading) the return to the academic routine – a testimony to my need for a break and to the fact that I have now recharged my own personal resources to the point where I can dive in to my studies again! Once I get into classes again (online of course), I will be able to contact the fellow with whom I’ve been corresponding about the September practicum.  At the same time, I’ve been in conversations with Labour Relations at my job to see whether I can take an 11-month leave of absence so that I can not only do my practicum but also take my culminating course afterward, which will require a lot of hours a week to complete.

Yes, there is a lot happening, even though nothing is happening. I feel like I’m starting all over again (hence the title, Full Circle) but this time, with my feet under me and a clear path ahead. Plus, while I’m doing the most important part of my own learning (the practicum) my daughter will be embarking on her academic journey too, in that she will be able to launch herself into her chosen program around that time – another circle just starting.

Exciting stuff. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead. 😀

Solar Powered

It has been almost two months since I finished my Group Counselling course.  I managed to facilitate my mock group session (see last post) and do well in the course; I maintained my 4.0 GPA. 😀

And now I get to do something that I have not done for what seems like a very long time – I get to take a few months off.  I have already registered for my January 2018 course, but until Christmas, there are no courses that I need which are currently being offered. So … for the first time in four years, I get to take a break!

That’s good, because I was starting to feel kind of draggy. You know, like WALL*E when his battery was low in the Disney Pixar flick from 2008. I was pretty much spent at the end of a day: I fell into bed and awoke tired, and life was into a routine of work, eat, homework and sleep with no room for looking after me or spending time with friends.

Since beginning this term with no schoolwork, I have been able to do things I had put on hold for a while. I have put in the occasional bit of overtime at work, and spent more time cooking / baking and crocheting, activities which have been on hiatus for a while. I also have more time for blogging – which I love doing! And fairly soon, I will be able to get back into a bit more physical activity, which I got away from after my surgery in January of this year.

And yes, I have spent more time in the sun this past summer, beginning back in July when I was in Calgary, and continuing all summer long here. What a treat to feel that warm sun and drink in the beauty of the birds and the flowers from the safety of our deck! Winter lasts such a short time where I live, so I really have made a deliberate effort to enjoy those simple pleasures.

I have had the opportunity to reflect on my scholastic journey and plan for the upcoming months. In less than a year, if all goes as planned, I will have started my counselling practicum at a local counselling centre – I haven’t finalized which one yet – and will hopefully be able to focus solely on that instead of dividing my time between that and my job.

With a start, I realized that there is less school in front of me than behind me. Counting my practicum (which spans 2 terms so it counts as 2 courses), I have five courses ahead of me (one per term, starting in January.) And there are seven behind me.


Somehow the thought of what lies ahead doesn’t fill me with as much trepidation as it once did. I feel more prepared, more confident than I was a year ago. Part of that had to do with last term, because I was taking that Group Counselling course right alongside people who had already done their practicum! That was a big shot in the arm for me.

Sun In The Sky by graur razvan ionut at

Photo “Sun In The Sky” from the kind courtesy of graur razvan ionut at

Another stress reducer is the fact that there are a couple of places that have expressed an interest in having me be an “intern” or practicum student next fall. I am in touch with them and have been educating them on the requirements of my school for practicum sites, as well as the number of hours I will need to put in. I am pleased to say that there are places that welcome students… so I am starting to look forward to rolling up my sleeves when the time comes. 🙂

My family has been so supportive right from the beginning. They have taken up the slack, learned to cook simple meals, done housework, and freed me to pursue my schoolwork unhindered. What a great clan!

My team leader at work has been another source of support. She has opened up my eyes to the possibilities for me should I decide to return to my workplace and postpone my retirement for another few years. She has my back and is advocating for my needs with senior management. I could not ask for a better professional in my corner.

Friends and extended family have been following my progress with interest. My brother tells me almost every time we talk that he is so proud of me, that he tells people that his sister is “studying to be a psychologist” … a term which I have told him is not accurate (it’s actually a psychotherapist), but it is nice to feel that sense of pride he feels spilling over onto me. I have colleagues at work who ask me how my studies are going. At fifty-seven years of age, it has taken me quite a while to figure out what I want to be when I grow up… but this… this feels right.

I am starting to feel that not only is this break from school a solar-powered break for me, but so is the schooling itself. I am charging my batteries and preparing to enter my second lease on life, so to speak.

It feels good. 😀

Treading Water

Yes. I am surviving (see my last post.) And no, I still have not capsized. So far, so good!

At the moment, I am in Calgary Alberta, and doing the face-to-face portion of my course. In a week, I will be heading back home, but in that week, I know that I will become a better person and a better counsellor. (And yes, in Canada, that’s spelled with two Ls, haha).

This coming Tuesday, I will be facilitating a portion of one of the sessions from my 6-session program (again, see my last post). I got marks in the 90s on both the program outline and the manual (a monstrous document 25 pages long, single-spaced…. gulp!) While I am nervous about my session, and the resulting assignment that will come out of it, what I believe is most transformational about the past week is getting to know these people very well in such a short time. One of the components of our classroom time is to be able to participate as members of a counselling group facilitated by our instructors, and to spend time reflecting on what that process is like for us as future counsellors. What our prof and instructional assistant are trying to do is to model how a counsellor works in a group, working with the raw material of the things we talk about and co-constructing meaning in the midst of all of that, and getting us in touch with how we are feeling and what those feelings tell us.

You will recall that in my last post, I referred to sailing through a gale not knowing how to swim.  Well, I don’t know quite how to “swim” yet, but I have learned that I can tread water – and I won’t sink. The water is still quite choppy, but I think I can see a light in the harbour, and someone – well, several someones – have thrown me a lifeline in case I need it. I know I switched metaphors there, but you get the idea. 🙂

Having this opportunity to be away from the pressures of the office and to focus solely on my studies has been a Godsend… I have even had some time for some much-needed self-care … and to my surprise, I am learning self-compassion. Just yesterday morning, I called my mother at the hospital where she is awaiting placement in a nursing home for dementia. She still thinks she is there for “a rest” and that she will soon be going back home. While we were speaking and she was telling me that so-and-so never visits, when I know full well they go and see her at least 4 times a week, I found myself thinking that she probably tells folks that I never even call her, and that they would believe her and think I was a horrible daughter. That notion would have bothered me a lot even a few months ago. But as I thought about it, I began to understand that it doesn’t matter what she thinks of me, or what anyone thinks of me. It doesn’t even mater that 30 seconds after she hangs up the phone, she’s forgotten I even called. What matters is that I know I have brightened her day, even only ten or twenty minutes out of that day.

And that is okay. I don’t know when it started to be okay, but I know that it is – that I have grown into it in tiny increments over the last few months and finally, throughout this week, it’s like I have given myself permission to be human and not to be able to do it all or do it perfectly. (WOW.)

Does that mean I’m growing up?  I guess it does… it has taken me a while though. Oh well. That’s one more proof that I’m human, and knowing that helps me let others off the hook when they make mistakes too.

So it’s all good. I’m treading water, and I’m okay with that. Maybe by this time next week, I’ll have done a little dog-paddling. 😉

Uncharted waters

Here I am, in the last trimester of my second of four years in my Master’s program at AU. In another 3.5 months, I will be half-way through the program and a year away from starting my practicum. You’d think that by now, I’d be more confident in my abilities as a grad student. While in a certain sense I do have more confidence than I did starting out, I still feel as though I am sailing in a gale (not knowing how to swim) through uncharted waters.

At the moment, I am taking a course in group counselling. Someone told me that this was the “Kum-Ba-Yah” course – referring to the summer institute in July when we meet face to face, and we all (metaphorically) join hands and sing “Kum-Ba-Yah”, which gave me a picture of a course that would be somewhat easy – but they were wrong. So far, the reading has been overwhelming, the first assignment has been a challenge to complete, and my anxiety is growing!

Part of the problem is that I took the course to “stretch” me because I am uncomfortable in groups, but I know that it will be important for me to know how to facilitate groups, especially for my Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) designation, a pre-requisite to registration as a registered psychotherapist candidate in my province. Another part is that I did not anticipate the newness, the unfamiliarity, of the material I would be studying. I am starting to catch on now, but it took me off guard at first.

Image “Rushing River” courtesy of        Maggie Smith at

On top of all of that, there have been some … upheavals … in my family of origin, who live out of province. A medical emergency for my brother, followed by a temporarily unsupervised mother with dementia, and someone contacting Social Services, led to her hospitalization. Because of that, the whole process led to the court (province) becoming involved, removing power of attorney from my brother (through no fault of his own), and deciding to place my mother in long term care. She is now waiting in hospital for a spot to open up in a nursing home close to where her home is, wanting with every ounce of her being to just go home and fix dinner for my brother … and not realizing that she will never be allowed to do that. My brother has been facing destitution and is trying to obtain assistance while he waits for his CPP disability pension to be adjudicated on. I have been calming him down for the last month while he faces the most anxiety-producing experience of his life. Fortunately, my professor was sympathetic and granted me an extension on my first assignment – but that means I’m a week or two behind on everything else, and I need to play catch-up.

Like I said, sailing in a gale, through uncharted waters, not knowing how to swim. But today, I managed to finish my first draft of my first paper – a proposal for a 6-session group counselling program for adult survivors of childhood physical and emotional abuse. I have no idea whether it will be acceptable, but I suppose that I will find out soon enough. 😉

At least, so far, I have not capsized.

Putting first things first

I think that I’m safe in saying that so far in my graduate program in counselling, the course for which I just submitted my final assignment earlier this evening has been the most technically difficult one so far – it was on research methodology and made it necessary for me to use something that I abhor: statistics. But … let’s not go there tonight, except to say that two weekends ago, I got a brand new book: Statistics for Dummies. And I plan to read it!

All that drama aside – there is something so satisfying about passing in a final paper. No more schoolwork for four weeks! And you can bet that I’ll be squeezing as much enjoyment out of those four weeks as possible!

The course taught me a lot of things, and not just about research design and how I am drawn to qualitative rather than quantitative research (the latter being about numbers – numbers being about statistics – and here we are back at the boogey-man again!) In the course, I worked in a small group to conduct a tiny research project over the course of the term, and the topic we chose was the relationship between burnout and self-care in online graduate students. Learning more about the factors in burnout made me re-think the pace of my education plan. (Of course, there were other reasons for re-thinking it as well!)


Photo “Oil Massage” courtesy of samuiblue at

In fact, there were four major reasons for me deciding to turn my program from a 3.3-year program to a 4.5 year program.  The first was purely practical and self-serving: I have an opportunity to get a good practicum if I defer it to September 2018 rather than 2017.  That was the first domino, so to speak. Then I figured that if I were to defer the practicum, I could stand to slow down the pace from a  total of four courses per year (over three terms) to a schedule of three courses per year (one per term). Doing this allows me to take more electives as well, which I am enjoying the thought of doing. The pace of the online program being more manageable is reducing my stress levels and making it more possible for me to sleep at night.

My physical health is another reason why I’m slowing down my program. I believe you know that I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last May.  But after a procedure to test me for cervical and uterine cancer, and the lab finding that I have pre-cancerous cells in my uterus, I am scheduled for abdominal surgery on January 9, 2017. Yes, that’s right – a hysterectomy.  This will mean a three to six-week recovery period at home, and the less stress I pile on myself, the better my body will be able to recover.  I will be able to do my schoolwork but not much more during my recovery period – and it will be good to get away from such a hectic pace and to regroup.

One more reason I’m spreading my courses out is that there are some possible opportunities at work that I may be able to benefit from – and pushing forward on my practicum date to 2018 instead of 2017 gives me the time and space I need to explore those. That has meant that I haven’t been able to avail myself of that volunteer opportunity, at least not yet. Perhaps in time…

And finally, my brother was just diagnosed with stage one colon cancer this past month. His surgery to resect a section of bowel (major abdominal surgery) is set for around the end of December. Hopefully, with me spending a bit less time with my nose in the books, we will be able to spend a bit more time together, especially as our mother’s dementia is getting worse.

Self-care takes many forms. Sometimes it means going for a massage, a manicure, or a spa treatment. But for me lately, it means making every moment count with family and friends, looking after my health, and being able to sleep without stressing about deadlines, and it also means not falling asleep in front of the computer screen.

It means putting first things first. Prioritizing my life makes for there being more room for the important things and then, if there’s room, adding in some nice-to-haves. It means having it all, but not all at once: each thing in its own time. And it means being satisfied with what I have for as long as I have it. That’s something that I think I could get behind.

Time to breathe

It’s hard for me to believe that I’m officially into my second year of my 3.3 year program of graduate studies in counseling. This semester, I’m taking a course that many consider pivotal in the sense that it is foundational to the culminating experience of the program.  Contrary to what one might think, it’s not the practicum, but comes after the practicum: producing a publish-ready research article. The course I’m taking now is about how to do psychological research (both qualitative and quantitative studies). So this course is essential to being able to complete the final course… even though that is 2 years away!

In the midst of this course, though, I had to take some time to look after a health issue, and right now I’m recovering from a surgical procedure that needed to be done for diagnostic purposes.  It’s given me time to breathe, time to reflect and think about my school work, and about putting balance into my life: home, work, school, and hopefully volunteering.


This photo “Psychologist Listening To A Client” is provided courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Through a friend who volunteers her time, I managed to get in touch with someone who operates a not-for-profit center for young mothers at risk. The organization offers life skills instruction, low-cost baby supplies and clothing, and counseling to pregnant mothers and mothers of toddlers and young children. At this point, I am seriously considering putting in about 3 hours a week volunteering at this place, getting to know the clientele, teaching some cooking perhaps, so that I can perhaps provide some counseling to them if they need it. It will mean that I need to re-jig my hours at work, but I’m starting to see a way clear to do that. I’ve had a few discussions with the Executive Director and she has asked me to stop by.

Part of me wonders if I’m not biting off more than I can chew. However, if I am busy, perhaps I can budget my time more appropriately and ‘work smarter.’ It doesn’t sound like something that would be overwhelming. And I might get to connect with people a bit more, which could prove to be rewarding! The mentors in my program tell me that it is a good idea to get some counseling experience before I start my practicum – and since that will start in less than a year, I think that it might be good for me to get my proverbial feet wet.

Once I do that, I can tweak my professional c.v., and start casting around for a practicum site, which must be set up and approved by my university before May 1, 2017. I had a meeting last month with a local representative of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, and she suggested some quality sites for me to look into.  So that will keep me busy the next little while, as well as my assignments in this course – and work – and family most certainly.

Even though life has been kind of closing in on me with all the extra stuff on my plate, I think that it’s just that my world is expanding so much that it only feels as though I have less mental and emotional space.  Still, I am learning to practice self-care and I plan to make it a part of the every day.  And at this moment, I am not sure exactly what form that will take! All I DO know is that I’m on my way and that the path ahead goes farther than I can see.