Photo Phriday- Pre-Christmas Edition

A very thinly tied together theme post, but might be the last until after the holidays. In fact, I've actually had calls for evals pouring in since I got back in the country, so January is looking very busy already! Some of these pictures are just placeholders for thoughts that came up in the most recent #occhat but hopefully you can indulge me and my holiday thoughts.

This is Swedish Santa Claus! I had a great time in Sweden once I got caught up in the right time zone. Wish that I could have stayed longer and that it could have been summertime. If you're ever looking for a foreign country to visit and don't speak any language but English, Sweden is a  great place to go.

Our Swedish friends had some requests for US gifts that were kind of amusing. We packed a suitcase with Disney Cars, junk food, and pajamas for their kids.

If Miss Awesomeness went to Sweden, these would have come home in her suitcase. Best pencils ever.

So the #occhat was on Christmas traditions and how we take part in them. I shared a few, such as shopping for an Angel Tree child, and my mom taking poorly focused pictures of each present we open. Some of our traditions have faded away... we used to go to my great grandma's house every Christmas Eve and the drive always used to feel like forever (probably about 45 minutes). GG moved into town in her final years and when she died the tradition died as well...I have no idea what that side of the family does now, if anything. I love hanging up our Christmas cards and setting up our WVU themed tree.
We definitely have our share of off-beat traditions. My brother and I love watching Home Alone at Thanksgiving and though we can't watch together anymore, when it comes on TV we always text lines to one another. My Grandma has had us all listen to an Adam Sandler CD I got her for Christmas one year- much to the chagrin of my mother who hates it. As a family, we spend our holiday break watching all the football bowl games and seeing who will win the holiday pool by picking the most games correctly. The oddest of our odd traditions may be the "mandatory underwear" gift which always comes in a Victoria's Secret bag for the males in the family.

I would say that for the past 15 years or so, I have been the designated family gift wrapper. It's something that I find soothing (until you've done about 30 packages), though as you can see from the picture I'm not particularly good at (it's a craft, and I have an extremely poor track record with crafts). Fortunately, skill has never been a requirement, just a willingness to sit and do it.

It's the little things that make up traditions, occupations and routines that piece together to form our lives. I've been stressed about some big and little things, but it's nice to hold onto some of these little warm fuzzies when things are changing or not going as expected.

Back when Linda was organizing the World OT Day blog carnival, I just could not even get an entry on "balance" together because my life was so out of balance. This week I have been stressed and depressed about some of the things going on, but thinking about the little things has helped put it all back in perspective. When looking at "the big picture," my life is actually going very well. I had my 10 year HS reunion last summer and realized that I was about where I had thought I'd be when I graduated. I've done some cool OT things in my 5.5 years since graduation, and though I can't necessarily say it was "according to plan," since I've had many plans, I've still accomplished things that I did not expect. Life has come into place for me in a lot of ways, and I've really been letting one out-of-balance thing (my career) dominate how I view my overall balance.

It's been difficult for me, because there is a large part of my identity that is wrapped up in being an OT. (One who is hopefully growing into excellence) And not having a typical job or regular hours or secured employment has been really hard for me to adjust to. But this is where my life is right now, and overall it's a very good place. I've been focusing on the career, and what is not there, for a long time. But there are a lot of other great things going on, and it's time to take a breath and make a shift in focus.

We end with a teaser... in addition to the wrapped presents I just have these piles of OT goodies getting ready for my 5 year blogiversary giveaway!! Great stuff there from AOTA and Maddak and more to come. I am really looking forward to the celebration and I'm hoping that readers will as well.


Adventures in Scheduling

With all the crazy scheduling that is required as a therapist, you'd think they'd make you do logic puzzles as part of an entrance exam. Here are a few general thoughts on the mishaps inherent to scheduling. (this is a bit scattered since I'm still jet-lagged, so please forgive any dangling modifiers or unresolved thoughts)

First off, I think that there is this cultural norm of what a "workday" entails. If your parents worked non-medical white-collar jobs then you can probably identify with a 9-5 workday as we see in so many shows and movies (at least those that actually indicate that people WORK for a living, as opposed to being independently wealthy enough to just sit around and talk). Even in college, actual "working" time for me did not get up to 40 hours/week until the end of OT school (at which point we raced right on past 40 and never looked back). I know that there's tons of people out there doing simultaneous job and college, or 2 jobs regularly, all I can say is more power to you. But I had this expectation that a "normal job" would have normal hours and that the schedule would not be that bad.
I have realized that was complete BS.

This enlightenment took its time coming. On my phys/dys fieldworks, I had a hard time adjusting to a 7-330 schedule, especially with a nonexistent lunch that was dominated by meetings and paperwork. Despite that, people almost never left on time, needing to stay for one reason or another. It was frustrating as a student, waiting at the end of the day to get your notes signed and be told to have to redo them (now) when it was already past "quitting time." The woes of being a salaried employee- you will often work over the expected time.

Scheduling within your day is another insane proposition. In acute rehab, we had to work as a team to make sure (each day) that the client had their required time in all services, minimal time wasted sitting in the gym between services, at least one ADL per week, and so forth. In the hospital, coordinating cotreats was the biggest scheduling portion, and knowing that your whole day was likely to be derailed by patients going to tests and whatnot. The hazard of hospital work is ending up with a back-heavy day because not enough could get done in the morning. School scheduling had to work with the class schedule to make sure that they weren't being removed from important learning opportunities or special classes or being overbooked in a day. (We did pull-out services and I could not even conceive of how to schedule push-in during my year balancing so many different schools. I would love to hear experienced therapists' tips on that.) However good your schedule is, it is likely to get derailed by an IEP meeting or school assembly or lockdown drill. Outpatient scheduling might be assumed to be the easiest, but often you are dealing with people who need to be seen outside of their own working hours or school hours, so fitting in times can be tough.

I'm great at logic puzzles, but daily scheduling is a monumental frustration to me. One of the few beauties of being a prn employee is that I can just show up and do what is already assigned... and if the patient needs to schedule for their next time, I usually turf that to someone else.

Good coworkers will also adjust their schedules to help one another, even if it means balancing inpatient and outpatient work in the same day, or taking something difficult. But that is another thing that will wreck your schedule... and productivity if you have to track that.

My most common work now is as an independent EI contractor. I'm still trying to get into a good groove for getting the kids scheduled out right. Part of me doesn't want to over-analyze it because I don't have a huge caseload (yet?) or time demand, but my left brain would love to just have regular times for each kid each month. Evals have to be scheduled within 15 days of hearing about them, which is not really a lot of time to work people in if you do have a lot of other engagements... like holidays, which we have a few coming up.

Holidays are a whole issue all their own. Remember getting days off in school for holidays? And long Christmas breaks? That does tend to go out the window. Hospital and SNF people have to rotate through holiday coverage... when you start out, especially if you're young and childless, expect to work some of the biggies. I remember a boss telling me when I was interviewing that they paid so well for big holiday coverage (it was good- effectively 3x normal pay plus a PTO day to be used later) that they never had to force people to work major holidays. 6 months later, when those of us who were under 30 were all sitting there on Christmas day, I found those words to be particularly irritating.

Another fieldwork instructor would be laughing at the turn my life has taken. She had her own business, and I remember being aghast when told that we would be working on a major holiday. To student-me, I could not even conceptualize why you would be working on a national holiday. Well, now that I am mostly self-employed, I get it. I just scheduled a kid on a major holiday without even thinking twice. Major reasoning- I no longer get paid to take holidays... or paid regularly at all. If I have a "day off," it's just another day making no money whatsoever, and I've had plenty of those days for awhile. 

Now with my EI kids I would like to schedule multiple visits in a day in a geographically sensible way, but it hasn't worked well yet. If I do a community outing, it's hard to say exactly how much time that will take, so planning the next visit can be tricky. Accounting for travel time is hard sometimes as well. But there's just the general Murphy's Law that comes into effect here also: the people who live near each other will have opposing personal requests, one will want morning and another will want evening; one can only do Thursdays and another Tuesdays; everyone will want 10am; on and on it goes.

Is there a moral to these scheduling woes? (is there anything logical written by someone whose personal time changes have zapped her ability to do anything but stare like a zombie?) I guess the overriding theme would be that you have to be flexible. No matter how nicely laid out your schedule is, it is likely that it could all go to pot anyway. No matter your personal preferences for workdays, if you want to get paid and your employer decides you're working weekends or holidays, that's what will happen. Until you go into business for yourself, and then you'll probably work those days anyway. And if you like the freedom of "set your own schedule" prn work, it's probably good if you have a backup income and a good budget. 


Photo Phriday- My Office(s)

So right now my work life is mainly Early Intervention as an independent contractor and prn work at a local hospital/outpatient center. It's a primarily self-employed, no-guarantees type of existence. Work gets done but much more differently than when I had a predictable schedule and landing zone. So here's a peek at the many offices of Cheryl.

I took this at the desk I was borrowing at the hospital. Depending on my schedule, sometimes I will stop in during the day or clock out and continue to enjoy a heated area to conduct business. (It's also nice to just be able to engage with people instead of hanging out alone!) I was able to borrow a printer, scissors, markers and glue to make these visual stimulation patterns for one of my kiddos. 

I bought these (rather expensive) stamps when I thought there was a hope of getting back in the schools this year. The kids loved stamping their attendance sheets and I thought these would be a superb treat for them. These sit on my computer desk at home which only gets used when I have to type an eval or print something. Unfortunately there just haven't been many opportunities to use these and it seems a little self-aggrandizing to stamp a "terrific" on my own things. 

The mobile office- e.g. front seat of my car! I spend more time in my car than probably anywhere else. It's depressing. You can tell that it's very well used... pictured includes the typical wallet, coat, lunchbox and clip board. But there's also the cat toys for multisensory play, straws and applesauce for sensory sucking, and a Child Guide magazine buried in there.

Here I am in my most used spot on the living room floor, making some weighted objects for the kiddos using beans and a pair of girls' tights. In retrospect, I definitely should have thrown a pantyhose in there before the beans and maybe double socked, but they should serve their purpose and I needed to be quick. Cameo appearance by my trusty lapdesk, holding the lappy I most often use. Working wear is what you make it... including Halloween shirts in November and sweat pants from high school.

Speaking of working wear, this lab coat has been hiding in my closet since 2006. You can still see the original folds from the factory! I wore it for the pinning ceremony, used it to store a couple of pins I probably would have lost by now, but otherwise have not even thought of wearing it once. It's also not even close to being the correct size so I am not sure it would look professional if I actually did put it on. Does anyone else have a hiding coat? Or are there mythical people at top of the line facilities that wear them and aren't constantly confused with doctors? I would be interested to know.