Posted in Wagging Through Life Blogs

A Letter to a Future Doctor

When you hear the word “doctor,” what is it that you think of?  Who do you envision?

I anticipate that many of you, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, imagine the medical doctor who is wearing the lab coat and personal protective equipment and running frantically from patient to patient in an attempt to combat this ruthless virus.  Perhaps, you picture the pharmacist overseeing the life-saving medication you are about to receive.  Maybe you’re even thinking about the veterinarian who provides comfort and critical care to your furry best friend.  The limitations established in response to this pandemic, coupled with minimal use of healthy coping strategies, might contribute to poor mental health outcomes.  Understanding this, you might even be envisioning the psychiatrists or psychologists who are working on the frontline to aide in mitigating mental health symptomology.  If you are a college student, it might be commonplace for you to envision your professors who possess doctorate degrees.

You see, doctors come in many different forms and possess a variety of different titles, namely, M.D. (Doctor of Medicine), D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy), Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology), Ed.D. (Doctor of Education), DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), DSocSci (Doctor of Social Science), etc.  Each of the respective individuals play an integral part in our society.  On the path toward attaining these advanced degrees, each doctoral candidate engages in remarkable research discoveries, meaningful self-discovery and exploration, and altruistic behaviors.  Through education, training, and experience, they become equipped to critically analyze and develop solutions for complex phenomena.  The goal for all of these individuals, however, is ultimately the same — to contribute to the enhancement of society.

So why does all this matter?  Right now, there are thousands of doctoral candidates (and doctors, of course) working behind the scenes to research innovative strategies to combat issues, such as cancer, interpersonal violence, mental and physical illnesses, animal abuse, suicide, incarceration rates, oppression, and the list goes on…and on.  These aspiring doctors often have to sacrifice important elements of their personal lives, including outings with friends and family, “normal” routines, leisure time, etc.  When working in helping professions, in particular, the concept of self-care becomes eternally ingrained in you.  Thus, opportunities for emotional and physical care are crucial and necessary components of your every day life.  Often, for students, this involves balancing the demands of their personal, professional, and academic lives.  In doing so, it is important to employ skills to help you establish boundaries, ask for support and assistance when needed, and ameliorate feelings of guilt and shame when it is truly in your best interest to say “no” to that social gathering.  It is important to schedule opportunities for fun and play amidst the ongoing pressure of academic and work demands.  If you enjoy reading, schedule time to read.  If sitting in silence is comforting for you, give yourself that silent opportunity.  If you are energized by creativity, don’t forget to integrate writing, drawing, coloring, and crafting into your self-care routine.  If you enjoy cuddling with your dog (who doesn’t?), by all means, please cuddle with your dog!

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If you have read up until this point, I wholeheartedly thank you.  I thank you for your receptivity and willingness to open up your worldview about what it is like to be a student.  Most importantly, I thank you for playing a crucial supportive role in my first steps toward becoming a doctor.  By way of confession, I haven’t yet been entirely forthcoming to you, my reader, in this post.  Truth be told, in just a few short years, I will officially possess the title of “Doctor.”  No, I won’t be able to fix your broken bone or write you a prescription for your medication.  Instead, my focus will be on developing preventative approaches to some of the aforementioned complex issues that face our nation’s society.  Very recently, I was granted acceptance into a Doctor of Social Science in Prevention Science program.  This degree will equip me to examine issues from a preventative lens as opposed to focusing solely on treatment approaches.  For example, it will be my role as a social and preventative scientist to explore the underlying causes of animal abuse in an attempt to reduce its occurrence.  Another crucial role of an individual possessing a Doctorate in Prevention Science is examining risk and protective factors for issues, such as suicidality.  It is my professional goal to incorporate my knowledge of and passion for animals into my studies by formally examining the impact of pets on mitigating symptoms of mental illness, preventing decompensation, and promoting mental health and wellness.

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Pinella dressed up for her ‘dog’torate interview!

This is undoubtedly an exciting opportunity for which I am eternally grateful to have been afforded.  This post is ultimately an open letter to myself — my future self as a doctor.  It is intended to serve as an ongoing reminder about why I am seeking an advanced doctorate degree as well as how to maintain balance between my personal, professional, and academic lives.  It is a reminder to myself to utilize support and continue to ask for help, when needed.

There are many supportive individuals in my life who deserve a surplus of thank-yous!  It is of particular importance, however, to extend my gratitude to the individuals who devoted their time and energy to writing a recommendation for me to pursue this degree.  To protect their privacy, I will not share their names but instead highlight my relationship with them.  So thank you to my wonderful mentor and graduate school professor, thank you to the director of my favorite nonprofit organization, and thank you to my clinical supervisor who offers relentless emotional and professional support!

I thank you for reading along, and I hope you will join me in supporting all of our doctors, regardless of their title, as we continue to navigate challenging circumstances in our society.

Until next time,

Future Dr. K.

 

 

Posted in Wagging Through Life Blogs

Chase It or Choose It

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers!  A new year is upon us!  Do you subscribe to the “new year, new me” mantra?  Did you set a new year’s resolution?  We’re officially one month into the new year.  Some of you are excelling beyond expectation at your new year’s goals, while others might have dismissed their resolutions altogether.  Whatever your status, you set a goal, and that’s progress in and of itself!  Be proud!

You might notice some “New year, new me” progress here at Sit, Stay, Blog in the form of a new website design as well as a new domain (www.sit-stay-blog.net)!  I’m very excited to share these changes and updates with my readers and hope that it will propel me into a successful year of blogging!


The end of 2018 marked a special time for me — I completed my master’s degree!  This monumental experience has reminded me about the importance of pausing to reflect inward on who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m headed.  Through this self-reflection, I’ve learned something:  I’ve been chasing happiness.

Chasing happiness is a strange concept.  On one hand, you’re trying to achieve happiness (a positive).  On the other hand, you’re missing out on life as you’re trying to get there (a negative).  As I reflected on where I’ve been, I realized that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time striving to live in the future.  “I can’t wait until this semester is over.”  “I’ll be happier once I move.”  “Life will be easier when I have a 9:00 to 5:00 job.”  These statements are a reflection of my eagerness to achieve whatever goals I had set for myself; however, they also represent a grim reality of how we, as a society, operate on a day-to-day basis.  We wake up on a Monday thinking, “I can’t wait until Friday.”  When we are faced with something we don’t want to do, we can’t wait until it’s over with.  We are eager.  We chase happiness.  We push aside our ability to be mindful of the present so that we can invest all of our energy into whatever a future of happiness looks like.  I firmly believe there is nothing wrong with this sense of eagerness in striving for happiness in life.  For me, however, I’ve learned it’s important to consider the process in how I get there.

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One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure”            -Unknown

Self-reflection can teach you a lot.  More recently, it has taught me that, at any given moment, you are in control of how you feel.  You have the power to choose happiness or chase it.  You can choose to find happiness in the smile given to you by a passerby.  You can choose to be happy about the wet doggy kiss your four-legged friend just greeted you with as you walked in the door after a long, hard workday.  Perhaps you can choose to be happy about the teachers who have provided you with the education necessary to read this blog post.  In the most simplest form, you can choose to feel happy about the beat of your heart that allowed you to wake up this morning and start anew.

This sounds like a relatively simple concept.  However, it requires a change in your frame of reference, and change is difficult.  We are a society that resists change because it’s much more comfortable to stick to the status quo.  I’ve chosen to embark on this new year with the goal of finding happiness each and every day.  I am working to eliminate phrases such as “I can’t wait for…” from my vocabulary and instead am choosing to focus on more present day events that spark my happiness.  In this first month of 2019, I have actively chosen to feel happy about settling into my new home, spending time at home relaxing with Pinella and Alex, receiving three job offers, increasing my presence at my favorite service dog organization, reading a new book that broadens my political knowledge base, revamping the look and style of Sit, Stay, Blog, and the list goes on.  As this year progresses, I hope to continue to  be more conscientious and deliberate about finding a way to celebrate all positivity, big or small, while minimizing my exposure to negative energy.

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Surrounding yourself with nature is an excellent way to boost your mood!
Understanding the difference between choosing and chasing happiness is step one.  Step two includes implementing action steps into your daily routine to promote feelings of happiness.  Action steps include activities that allow you to be more mindful, present, and in touch with your everyday experiences.  While not an exhaustive list, below are some of the strategies I employ to reach a state of mindfulness to ensure happiness:

  • Reading a book
  • Exercising
  • Spending time with an animal (Animals live in the present and are wonderful models to their human counterparts about how to be mindful)
  • Meditating
  • Coloring/getting crafty
  • Unplugging from social media
  • Recognizing your five senses (paying attention to how things look, smell, sound, taste, and feel)
  • Journaling
  • Volunteering
  • And much, much more!

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“Beauty and the beach”
2019 will be a year of firsts for me.  It is the first time in 20 years that my identity will include something other than being a student.  I will embark on a new lifestyle that includes full-time employment.  I will teach and be taught many new things.  I will care for others and be cared for.  I will strive to live my life in the present.  Most importantly, I will choose happiness.


Thanks for taking time out of your day to read another Sit, Stay, Blog post!  Don’t forget to Like and Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!  If you have any suggestions for future posts or would like to see your pet featured on Pets on the Net!, leave a comment below or submit your information on Sit, Stay, Blog’s Contact page! 🙂

Until next time,

-T.

Posted in Running, Wagging Through Life Blogs

13.1 Miles: Because You’re Only 1/2 Crazy

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers!  I wasn’t lying to you in my What It Means To: Take a Break From Blogging  post when I said I had a busy few months ahead!  The most recent of my endeavors:  The Hershey Half Marathon!  It was fun and exciting.  It was nerve-racking.  It was painful.  It was anything and everything described below.


Dear Diary:  My First Half Marathon

Sunday, October 14
(One week until race time)

Emotionally, my nerves are rattling, and I can’t stop the ruminating thoughts. “Next week at this time, you’ll be over halfway through the race.” “Wait, what if you don’t make it past Mile 10?” “What if your injury-prone self decides to get hurt this week?”  Today, I took a 4-mile run with Alex to try and capture my best PR (personal record).  I know that this is the last these legs will run until next Sunday which is both a relief and anxiety-producing.  In between submitting papers for my graduate program and completing work assignments for my job, I know I’ll fit in some walks with Pinella this week to keep my muscles loose and limber.  While I truly know very little about how to treat your body when preparing for a half marathon, I know that during this week leading up to the race, I don’t want to push it and certainly don’t want to get injured!

Monday, October 15

Hello, Monday!  Less than one week to go!  My mind is so preoccupied on the papers I have due, my state licensure exam happening at the end of the month, and preparing for my upcoming midterm exam.  Surprisingly, I have not thought about the half marathon much today.  This ironically makes me feel more anxious than when I thought about it all day yesterday!

Tuesday, October 16

Bring it on!  I’m still not having many thoughts or experiencing any pre-race jitters.  I am beginning to question my commitment to the race.  What is wrong with me?  Am I losing focus?

Wednesday, October 17

Halfway through the week!  Today, a thought or two snuck into my mind.  I’m starting to get that nervous feeling in my stomach and wondering what this experience will be like.  Will there be great crowd support?  Will the hilly course be manageable?  Will the weather be ideal?

Thursday, October 18

Yikes, it’s getting closer to the weekend which means one step closer to race day!  The jitters are building up.  As I sat through my evening classes tonight, I could not focus on anything other than the race.  I think to myself, “The next time I’m in this classroom, I will have (hopefully) completed my first half marathon.” The thought scares me as much as it excites me.  I’ve read about people who DNF (did not finish) a race, and I DO NOT want to be that person.  I have set two goals:  1.  Finish the race.  2.  Maintain at least a 14-minute mile.

Friday, October 19

Mentally, I need at least two more full days before the half marathon.  This morning I wake up praying it’s not Saturday.  Phew, it’s only Friday!  Breathe.  I start preparing myself mentally and physically.  Aside from reading others’ blog posts about the Hershey Half Marathon, I’m also looking up the best foods and drinks to load into my body.

Saturday, October 20
(It’s the final countdown)

Holy moly! I barely slept last night.  I had race-related “nightmares” throughout the night.  In the first nightmare, I missed my alarm and didn’t make it to the half marathon on time!  Secondly, I forgot my shoes!  Who forgets their running shoes?  It’s the one thing you need to run a race!  The rest of the day, I’m nervous, and my stomach is aching.  Alex must have sensed my pre-race jitters because he came back from the store with some of my favorite snacks!  My race day bag is packed and ready to go for my early morning journey.  The only thing left to do is wait for Sunday to arrive!

Sunday, October 21
(RACE DAY)

I didn’t sleep a wink, but am I surprised?  I tossed and turned all night wondering if I would make it on time, if I would hit traffic, or if I actually would forget my shoes.  You name it, I worried about it.  I get out of bed at 3:30 a.m., put on my race gear, brush my teeth, and head out the door.  Before I leave, Alex says, “You won’t fall asleep while driving, will you?”  My reply:  “I haven’t slept all night.  Why start now!?”  When I left for the race, the weather was a mild 42 degrees.  As I approached the venue, it grew cold, windy, and rainy.  RAIN?  For my first half marathon?  You have got to be kidding me.


A Glance Into The Hershey Half Marathon

As the race began, the skies cleared up, and the weather (thankfully) became quite optimal for a brisk morning run.  As we began running, two participants were having a conversation behind me about a race they recently ran and how they “hit the wall” at 10 miles.  For the record, I have trained for and now successfully completed a half marathon, but I really don’t have much insight into the running world lingo.  I wasn’t quite sure what it meant to “hit the wall,” but I figured it out around Mile 11 1/2.

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The first half of the course included a beautiful run around Hersheypark Drive, through Hersheypark, past Zoo America, and through the town of Hershey.  Miles 8 to 10 had great crowd support from the students at the Milton Hershey School.  The course itself was very hilly.  Whereas I usually abide by the rule of “what comes up, must come down,” I quickly learned that in the Hershey Half Marathon, “what comes up, just keeps going up.”  The wind picked up around Mile 9 which served as an added obstacle to make it up the hills.

Mile 11 1/2:  Cue what it means to “hit the wall.”  I passed the chocolate aid station but was so determined to get through the race, I grabbed the chocolate and threw it in my waist pack.  At this point, the wind was strong, clouds were overpowering the warmth of the sun, and I was getting low on energy.  I had read about the “Miracle Mile” occurring at Mile 12 wherein kids from the Children’s Hospital line the final mile to cheer on runners.  I knew if I could make it through this next 1/2 mile, I would reach the “Miracle Mile” and get the encouragement needed to finish.  To my dismay, however, I made it to Mile 12, and a mere five or so people lined the street.  I was so discouraged and frustrated, but I knew that the real reason for running this race was to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer.  I thought of those children with chronic illness who are forced to face repeated and/or long-term hospitalizations and created my own newfound sense of encouragement.

As I neared the end of the race, I was undoubtedly exhausted and my knees were getting sore, but I was blessed with the greatest sight imaginable:  my family just before the finish line!  My kind little brother left me with a sweet comment to finish up the race:  “Thanks for being selfish and taking so long.”  Seriously, how encouraging is he? 🙂

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Here he is:  My sweet, kind, and encouraging brother! 🙂

I made it to the remaining tenth of a mile.  I was so excited to cross the finish line but was incredibly disappointed that the finish line was nothing more than a timing mat.  No crowd support.  No big finish line banner.  Nothing to say, “Hey, look at me!  I just finished a half marathon!”  I anticipate that the finish line crowd support was much greater for the faster runners, but for slow-mo runners like me, it was anti-climactic.  However, these details are simply logistics.  I made it, I survived, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with my experiences in finally achieving my goals of not only completing the Hershey Half Marathon but also maintaining an under 14-minute/mile pace!

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The Hershey Half Marathon is complete with awesome swag!  Check out that KitKat finisher’s medal!

Conclusion:

Life is truly what you make it.  If you’re nervous about running/walking in a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or any other race, just go for it!  Seriously!  I ran my first 5K in June 2017 and pushed myself to complete a half marathon in 2018.  You can do it too! 

When you are a faster, more well-trained runner stuck behind a slower runner, keep in mind that this may be their first race, they may have a disability inhibiting their ability to run a stellar six-minute mile, or they may just be pacing themselves to truly enjoy their experience.  My personal philosophy when it comes to running is that you are your best competition.  If you ran a 15-minute mile last year, aim for a 14-minute mile this year.  If you’re satisfied at a 12-minute mile, embrace it, enjoy your experiences, and be thankful for your healthy body that enables you to get out and run!  Lastly, when half marathons give you a less than stellar finish line experience, you smile big, throw your hands in the air and say, “HEY, LOOK AT ME!  I JUST FINISHED A HALF MARATHON!”

 


Thank you for your support as I worked toward achieving this goal and in celebrating my accomplishment by reading this blog post!  Stay up-to-date with upcoming posts by “Liking” and “Following” Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and Twitter! 🙂

Until next time,

-T.

Posted in Wagging Through Life Blogs

What It Means To: Go On Vacation!

Hello, all!  Welcome back to Sit, Stay, & Blog!

Summer is undeniably just a few short weeks away from having come and gone.  This time of the year is marked by  the anticipation of last-minute vacations for some and the reflection of everlasting vacation memories for others.  As a spinoff from one of my very first blog posts, “What It Means To: Come Back From Vacation!”, this post will focus on the nitty-gritty of going on vacation:  the planning, packing, arranging, accompanying stress and anxiety, and ultimately, the sheer excitement!

In less than four hours, Alex and I will be embarking on another trip to our favorite vacation destination.  Vacation for us has proven to be a time for mindfulness.  With our undivided attention on the swaying palm trees, salty smell of the ocean breeze, sounds of hungry seagulls flying overhead, and the light sting of a fresh sunburn, we begin to forget about the stresses of everyday life.  Suddenly, the student loan payments, anticipated stress of the upcoming academic semester, the hunt for housing, and general worries about the future become minuscule.  We become at peace with the opportunity to truly relax for the first time since our last vacation!

 

From my personal experiences, however, this state of total relaxation on vacation does not come naturally.  Thanks to the technologically advanced society we live in, we are “blessed” with around-the-clock access to local news, world news, social media outlets,  text messages, voicemails, phone calls, etc., all within arm’s reach.  How can one possibly ever relax?

The short answer:  It takes work.  As you approach vacation, it’s important to make a vow to yourself to limit your digital exposure and plan accordingly for this prior to your departure.  For you “worker bees,” your planning might entail advising coworkers, bosses, etc. that you will be on vacation with limited to no access to email, personal cell phones, work cell phones, etc.  Setting an automatic reply on your email accounts informing people that you are away from email is another excellent planning strategy!  As far as socially, you might consider letting friends and family know you won’t be checking your phone frequently while on vacation.  With regard to social media, I’ve found that logging out of all accounts lessens the temptation to mindlessly scroll through the latest posts and updates (possibly because I’m too lazy to type my username and password with each login!).  Once you have your plans in place, it’s up to you to abide by them or nix them altogether when on vacation.  While it can require a great deal of work to remain mindful, engaged, relaxed, and not pestered by nuisances (digital or otherwise) while on vacation, just remember: “If there’s a will, there’s a way!”


Learning how to mindfully and deliberately relax on vacation is just one of many steps to going on vacation.  What about the planning?  The packing?  The last-minute cleaning?  The list could go on, but here are a few strategies to help mitigate any pre-vacation stressors:

The Planning:

When going on vacation, it’s important to start early.  While sometimes you can get lucky with last-minute deals at hotels trying to book full occupancy the week before, I’ve found that it’s much less stressful to plan months in advance.  For a summer vacation, I personally begin my search for lodging in January and aim to have a place booked by March.  Sites such as VRBO and HomeAway are great tools to use to narrow your search when you are looking for something specific.  I have used VRBO faithfully upon booking vacation lodging arrangements, and with the help of their filters and my persistence, I’ve rented various cozy, clean, comfortable beachfront condos for less than $700/week!  Not a bad deal considering the cost of many oceanfront properties can leave you digging deep into those pockets!  Side note:  Sometimes hotels offer a discounted rate for patrons who call to book versus those who book online!  All in all, if you want to get a good deal, be persistent!  Check for deals or seasonal specials on vacation destination websites, hotel websites, and the like.  When booking online, be sure that the site is secure and that there exists some form of payment protection included with the website you’re using.

Next:  Transportation.  Will you drive?  Fly?   When driving, be sure to do a visual inspection of your car, check and add fluids (if needed), check tire pressures, replace windshield wipers (You never know what kind of monsoons you might drive into on your journey…right, Alex?).  Don’t forget to plan ahead for parking!  Is there a free parking garage?  Free street parking?  Do you need to obtain an ID card to hang in your car?  Call ahead to your hotel or condominium owner to obtain all the answers!  If you choose to fly, whether you’re a first-time or a frequent flyer, the Transportation Security Administration has created a handy-dandy guide for what you can and cannot bring on planes:  https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/all.

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The Making Arrangements:

Next comes the hard part for pet owners everywhere:  will Fido stay or will Fido come?  Either decision is okay as I assure you your pet will still love you when you return!  When deciding to take Fido, assess whether or not they can handle the car ride and the stress of being in a totally new environment.  Ask yourself if you can cope with possible changes in your pet’s behavior that sometimes accompanies a new environment.

When leaving Fido at home, consider having them stay with a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor.  As an alternative, perhaps you can “hire” your teenage niece or nephew to come house-sit.  That way, Fido can remain in the comfort of their own home, and you will have peace of mind that your house is safe and secure while you’re away!  My sister and I did this yearly for my aunt, and while she presumably enjoyed having her dog and house cared for, I very much enjoyed the mini stay-cations at her house as well (and the extra cash was nice too…Thanks, Aunt Kim!)! If neither of those options are feasible, research local boarding businesses and sift through reviews before deciding which one might be best for your four-legged friend(s).  Just remember:  As a pet owner, you’re entitled to (and should demand) daily photos and updates of your pooch’s stay-cation (Right, Mom and Dad?). 😉

The Cleaning:

Now, maybe it’s just me, but it seems like going on vacation presents as the perfect time to scrub the house clean from top to  bottom.  The bedding gets washed, throw rugs get scrubbed, old clothes get donated, expired foods get tossed, and so on, and so on.  Quite frankly, I don’t understand these behaviors.  Perhaps it’s the desire to come home to a perfectly clean home? Maybe it’s a way of easing one’s mind that everything at home has been taken care of so that there’s no stresses upon returning home?  While I may never truly know the answer, one thing is for sure:  I just finished cleaning the last dirty dish in the sink, and I couldn’t feel more satisfied! 😉

The Packing:

Packing can be dreadful, but it doesn’t have to be!  The key is to pack smarter, not harder!  In my family, I am known as the “master packer,” which I presume is because of my abilities to pack an entire years’ worth of dorm supplies (mini fridge, clothes, microwave, decor, you name it) in the trunk and back seat of my 2004 Subaru Legacy!

Enjoy these generic packing lists for your use when planning your next vacation.  There’s even one for Fido too!

Human Packing List:

  • Clothing (shorts, pants, dresses/skirts, undergarments, shirts, tank tops, belts)
  • Shoes (flip flops, sneakers, casual footwear)
  • Bathing suits and beach towels
  • Sunscreen, aloe vera, after-sun lotion
  • Sunglasses
  • Medications (headache, prescription, supplements, allergy, etc.)
  • Books
  • Chargers (cell phone, laptop, tablet, camera/video, etc.)
  • Headphones
  • Bed sheets, blankets, pillows, pillowcases
  • Bath towels, dish towel, washrags, dish soap
  • Plates, napkins, paper towels, utensils
  • Toilet paper
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Cash, credit/debit card, wallet
  • Shampoo, conditioner, hair spray/gel
  • Body wash/soap, face wash, lotion, razors, deodorant
  • Contact solution, extra contacts, glasses
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss
  • Makeup, makeup remover
  • Q-tips, cotton balls
  • Hair ties, bobby pins, headbands
  • Hair straightener, curling iron, blow dryer, brush/comb
  • Spare car key
  • Food, coolers, sandwich bags for snacks
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These 3 highly rated books made their way into my suitcase!

Pet Packing List: 

  • Vet records, veterinary office phone number
  • Medications
  • Favorite treats, snacks
  • Meals (in an airtight container!)
  • Blanket, bed
  • Favorite toys
  • Leashes, harnesses, identification tags
  • Pet wipes, ear cleaner
  • Old personal t-shirt (particularly if your pet experiences separation anxiety)
  • Feeding instructions

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed creating it.  If you notice anything that I forgot to add to the packing lists, comment below!  If you’re like me and haven’t yet gone on your vacation, my hope for you is that you enjoy it and can find peace, happiness, and relaxation.  If you’ve already gone on vacation, I hope 20150612_140331you feel rested and energized!  If taking a vacation is out of reach for you, I hope you can practice mindfulness at home to ensure a happy, healthy physical and emotional well-being!

Until next time,

-T.

 

 

Posted in Wagging Through Life Blogs

What It Means To: Take a Break From Blogging

WELCOME BACK, READERS OF SIT, STAY, & BLOG! 🙂

If you’re new, have no fear!  It’s been so long since my last post that I, too, almost feel new!  When I logged  into my blog site, it was ironic that my last [unfinished] draft was entitled, “What It Means To:  Start a New Semester.”  Since you’ve heard from me, I’ve been through roughly 16 tiresome, yet eventful and fulfilling weeks that comprised my fifth semester in graduate school!  Truth be told, I’ve gotten a lot of questions in the past few weeks like “When are you going to post on your blog again?” or received comments like “Hey, it’s been a while since you’ve posted.”  To that I attest:  Guilty as charged!  I admit I neglected my passion for Sit, Stay, & Blog for far longer than I anticipated, but I am fully satisfied with my decision to take a break from blogging and focus on my studies and my need for self-care.  I utilized my time away to read other peoples’ blogs, gain ideas for future blog posts, and develop strategies to network with others to create meaningful content for my readers.  Doing so allowed me to fine-tune my vision for Sit, Stay, & Blog and the type of content I want to create.

With all of that in mind, I wanted to create this casual blog post to bring my readers up-to-date with what I’ve been up to for the last 16 weeks and where I envision myself and Sit, Stay, & Blog to be in the upcoming months!  Enjoy! 🙂


With regard to my graduate student life, I have been incredibly busy fulfilling my semester duties, working to advance my career, and becoming immersed in real-world clinical work.  As such, I have:

  • Presented research at 2 Statewide Conferences and 1 National ConferenceNew Jersey Counseling Association Conference 2018 (4)
  • Attended and presented at the 2018 American Counseling Association Conference in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Received the 2018  Mary Lou Ramsey Graduate Student Award
  • Spoken about about Animal-Assisted Therapy at my University’s induction ceremony for Chi Sigma Iota:  The International Honor Society in Counseling
  • Written 20 academic papers
    • That’s 132 pages and 29,168 words total!
  • Completed 365 out of 600 required clinical internship hours
  • Completed 9 credits toward my 60-credit master’s degree
  • Registered for two required licensure exams
  • Started both of my summer courses

Life for me doesn’t stop as a graduate student!  I’ve also maintained my status as a volunteer at Susquehanna Service Dogs through:

  • Working to generate continued interest in a Campus Puppy Raising Club at my undergraduate institution
  • Creating and writing up a formal club proposal and club constitution to be submitted to my undergraduate university
  • Being granted “unofficial club status” at my undergraduate institution which will (fingers crossed) be designated as “official” in Fall 2018.
  • Working with fellow club members to raise over $1,000 for Susquehanna Service Dogs
  • Participating in the 2018 Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community
  • Creating a Campus Puppy Raising Program guide to be distributed to university personnel for their review and reference when considering college student puppy raising

Of course, I would be a hypocrite if I neglected to incorporate some self-care activities, especially considering the content of my last blog post!  As such, I have:

  • Read 4 books
    1.  Blackout Girl:  Growing Up and Drying Out in America – Jennifer Storm
    2.  Leave the Light On:  A Memoir of Recovery and Self-Discovery – Jennifer Storm
    3.  Picking Up the Pieces Without Picking Up – Jennifer Storm
    4.  Weekends with Daisy – Sharron Kahn Luttrell

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  • Finished four seasons of Friends (I’m now contemplating my judgment for not introducing this show into my life sooner!)
  • Took Pinella on countless walks and enjoyed Friday afternoon naps together
  • Visited family back home and spent time snuggling up with my precious childhood puppy, Maggie (see adorable photos of Maggie below!)
  • Trained for a 10K
  • Completed my first 2 5Ks of 2018 with Pinella and Alex

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In addition to my (hopefully) weekly blog post schedule, here’s what else I’ll be up to throughout the remainder of the year:

  • Apply for and work through my Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy Certification
  • Complete the remainder of my internship hours
  • Work on a journal publication for the research I have presented
  • Muddle through my thoughts about how to start my book-writing journey
  • Start a new research project
  • Conquer upcoming 5Ks and continue my training to (hopefully) prep for an October half-marathon
  • Take my Comprehensive Examination and the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification
  • Complete the remaining 5 courses required to graduate with my MASTER’S DEGREE!

My upcoming visions for Sit, Stay, & Blog:

  • Book reviews
  • More “What It Means To” content
  • Featured segments of fellow service dog raisers
  • Guest pet blogs and appearances
  • Dog blogs galore!

 


Although this blog post wasn’t very rich in content, I hope you’ve gained a better understanding of what I’ve been up to and where I am headed in the next few months!  My visions for Sit, Stay, & Blog include weekly posts and varying types of new content.  If I fall behind on blog posts, refer to the section above regarding “what else I’ll be up to throughout the remainder of the year” and blame it on that!  😉

Thanks for reading!  If you haven’t already, don’t forget to Like and Follow Sit, Stay, and Blog on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on all of my upcoming posts!  🙂

-T.

Posted in Wagging Through Life Blogs

What It Means To: Embrace Your Need For Self-Care!

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers!  Before I get into this post, I owe a huge THANK YOU for all of the views, likes, and positive feedback on my previous blog post!  A special thank you to “Earle the Service Dog” for sharing my post on Facebook and initiating a much-needed discussion about the growing concerns of fraudulent service dogs!  🙂


In today’s post I want to highlight the importance of self-care and provide examples of how you (yes, even the busiest of yous) can engage in a daily self-care routine to promote a healthy mental and physical well-being!



“If you work hard, you’ll get good grades.” 

“If you work hard, you’ll get a high-paying job.”
“If you work hard, your friendships will last forever (most don’t, by the way).”

Familiar with statements such as these?  In today’s society, we instill these types of statements in children before they are even able to comprehend the words we are spewing at them.  We make promises to kids that if they try hard enough, they can achieve anything.  But what happens when we try too hard?  Is there such a thing as trying too hard to achieve your goals?

Story time:

Throughout my life, hard work has proven to be one of my most treasured values.  Regardless of the task at-hand, these “If you work hard” statements were unwittingly on a never-ending loop in the back of my mind.  They reminded me to persevere until I achieve the ultimate goal — success.  As a high school student and throughout my undergraduate experience, my drive for success was at an all-time high.  My first two years as an undergraduate student were spent studying, rewriting notes, writing papers, reading textbook after textbook, and if the sun was still shining when I finished all of that, I would start again.  I developed this unhealthy mentality that, in an effort to achieve success, every awakening moment had to quite literally be spent working in some capacity.  At one point during my sophomore year, I was maintaining five separate jobs, a course load of five classes per semester, and volunteer work.  So can you try too hard to achieve success?  In short, yes!

It wasn’t until I recently began my graduate program that I (thankfully) started to embrace the concept of self-care.  My experiences as a graduate student taught me a crucial life lesson:  The absence of self-care can lead to burnout, physical fatigue, and mental exhaustion.  I learned that, regardless of time constraints and busy schedules, self-care can and should always be incorporated into one’s daily routine!  Now, I have replaced those “If you work hard” statements with “Move over hard work, self-care coming through!”

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Pinella helps me incorporate self-care by scheduling daily walks together!

So what is self-care?  In a simple answer, self-care is “you time,” but it certainly extends beyond that.  To be a true act of self-care, it should be self-initiated, deliberate, and intended to promote your physical and mental health.  It should be something that you thoroughly enjoy, look forward to, and plan out in your daily routine.  Reading this may unquestionably invoke thoughts about what constitutes self-care and how it can be incorporated into a busy, parent of three kids, high school soccer coach, full-time employee type of schedule.  Have no fear:  I have outlined examples for individuals of all abilities below that demonstrate just how simple self-care can be!  🙂

“Move Over Hard Work, Self-Care Coming Through”

Physical Self-Care Activities (Sedentary):

  • Take a bubble bath
  • Write, blog, or journal/log  your thoughts
  • Watch a movie, television show, or favorite YouTube channel
  • Read a book, magazine, newspaper, or Sit, Stay, & Blog posts 🙂
  • Craft, scrapbook, paint, or draw
  • Sit outside or at your favorite window and embrace the nature surrounding you
  • Sing
  • Learn how to play a musical instrument
  • Meditate
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Take a nap, rest
  • Get a massage, manicure, pedicure
  • Listen to motivating music
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When I’m not writing about dogs, I’m reading about them as part of my self-care routine!

Physical Self-Care Activities (Active):

  • Dance to your favorite beat
  • Exercise:  Run, walk, ride a bike, yoga, go hiking, train for a running race (5K, 10K)
  • Go shopping, treat yourself to a new book, article of clothing, candle, etc.
  • Photography
  • Bake your most prized dessert
  • Cook your famous Thanksgiving dish
  • Clean, rearrange your furniture (but NOT done as a chore!)
  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter, service dog organization, hospital, soup kitchen, shelter, etc.

 

 

 

5Ks and 10Ks are incorporated into my self-care plan!

Mental Self-Care Activities:

  • Replace one negative thought with three positive thoughts:
    • “I can’t fit self-care into my daily schedule” –>
      1.  “I can take 30 minutes to take a bubble bath.”
      2.  “I can spend 45 minutes playing with my dog.”
      3.  “I can sit down and watch my favorite TV show tonight.”
  • Create a list of things you are most grateful for
  • Do a mental check-in and think about your current thoughts, feelings, and emotions
  • Stay in the moment:  Acknowledge 5 things you can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel
  • Having trouble powering down after work?  Mentally tell yourself all of the things you’re doing as you end your day (I am shutting down my computer, I am grabbing my jacket and putting it on, I am turning off the light, I am closing my office door, I am walking to my car, etc.)  Essentially, leave work at work and home at home! 🙂

 

 

Pets and Self-Care Activities:

  • Snuggle with your pet
  • Enjoy a nap with your pet
  • Take  your pet on a hike, a walk, or on a trip to a nearby dog park
  • Play hide-and-seek with them at home
  • Place their kibble/food sporadically throughout your home and watch them play hide-and-seek!
  • Reminisce on all of your favorite memories with your pet
  • Take them to a pet-friendly pet store and watch their excitement when they pick out a new toy (Don’t forget to skedaddle when you see a working service dog!)
  • Play tug, fetch…just play!
  • Read them a book (It sounds silly, but I’m sure they’ll love you for it!)
  • Tell your pets how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking (You won’t find anyone more nonjudgmental!)
  • Have training sessions with your pet
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Pinella, Alex, and I often incorporate a good hike into our self-care routine!

Regardless of your busy schedule, it is time that you incorporate self-care into it!  If you keep a planner or calendar, start scheduling specific times to engage in your self-care activities.  But don’t let it be an added stressor for you:  Start off slow and gradually increase your commitment to self-care.  In my favorite words from my dad, “Never say you can’t do it, just do it!”  🙂

As always, I want to thank you for reading!  Comment below what you do for self-care or what you plan on incorporating into your daily routine to ensure you’re achieving optimal mental and physical health!  Don’t forget to “Like” and “Follow” Sit, Stay, and Blog on Facebook and Twitter, and stay tuned for the next post!

-T.

Posted in Wagging Through Life Blogs

“What It Means To: Unplug From Social Media!”

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers, and Happy 2018!  Is your New Year’s resolution to unplug from social media?  The mere fact that you’re reading this blog on a social media platform tells me one of two things:  1.  You’ve broke your New Year’s resolution;  2.  You’re starting your resolution on the day that never comes:  tomorrow!

No, I did not unplug for the purposes of this post.  My social media news feeds are loaded with never-ending cycles of adorable puppy photos.  With that I ask, can you blame me?  Therefore, today’s post, a Q & A style blog, was inspired by Alex’s (my boyfriend) recent experiences unplugging from two social media platforms:  Facebook and Twitter.

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Pinella can’t unplug from social media!  Who do you think gives you blog updates on Facebook and Twitter?

Background Information:

  • What is your rationale behind maintaining a Facebook account?
    • Alex described that he utilizes Facebook as a way to remain connected with family members and friends.  He additionally described that life updates posted via Facebook appear to serve as a social lubricant when reconnecting with friends and family at holiday gatherings, parties, etc.  For example, if I adopt a dog and post about it on Facebook, this provides my friends and family with an easy conversation starter  –>  “How is your new puppy doing?”
  • What made you decide to temporarily disconnect from social media?
    • Alex stated that one of the motivating factors was to discover whether or not he had the willpower to actually do it.  He recently recognized that he was checking social media “too frequently”  and defined “too frequently” as approximately 9x/day on weekends and 3x/day on weekdays.  He explained that it was overwhelming to repetitively read negative comments, posts, or complaints from others.  Alex interestingly stated that the start of a new year also often prompts statements such as “2017 was such a terrible year, so 2018 has to be better,” which he wanted to actively avoid, hence the timing of the disconnect (New Year’s Eve).
  • Did you unplug from all social media outlets or just Facebook and Twitter? 
    • Alex continued to use Snapchat and LinkedIn; however, he now questions how his experience would have differed if he unplugged from all platforms entirely.
  • How long have you been unplugged from your social media platforms?
    • Nine days at the time of this interview.

What Happened? 

  • Did you find yourself wanting to check social media more or less frequently as the days progressed?
    • Alex stated that on days one, two, and three, for example, he had less of a desire to check.  However, as time progressed, he found himself wondering what he has missed out on.
  • How did you spend your newfound free time not spent checking social media?
    • Something that I observed and Alex admitted to was that he spent more time physically reading a book, a treasured pastime of his.  He additionally stated that the quantity and quality of time spent playing and interacting with Pinella improved.  He ultimately felt more relaxed and spent less time with his phone at his fingertips.
  • Were there any aspects of your physical health that changed upon disconnecting?  
    • Alex admitted that, with less time that his eyes were fixated on a screen, he noticed a reduction in eye strain and felt as if his eyes were “less heavy.”
  • Were there any aspects of your mental health and mood that changed upon disconnecting?
    • The mental health counselor-in-training in me was intrigued to hear about Alex’s experiences with regard to changes in mental health and overall mood.  He stated that he didn’t feel as “down,” which he attributes to the reduction in the amount of negativity that he was previously surrounding himself with via social media.
  • What was the most interesting thing you noticed? 
    • He discussed a recent realization regarding how frequently individuals prompt conversations with, “Did you see _____ on Facebook?”  (Apparently, I’m guilty of this too!).  He stated that social media posts allow people to share a similar “Facebook world,” and when you unplug from that arena, you’re instantly out of the loop and disconnected from those conversations.   He said it was surprising and amazing to have recognized how much of the “Facebook world” enters real-world conversations.
  • Were there any negative effects you experienced?  
    • Alex noted that he doesn’t feel as connected to others as he previously did and  that disconnecting from social media has also required him to lose access to minute-by-minute news at his fingertips.  While he previously may have learned about somebody’s recent job offer two minutes after it happened (Thanks, Facebook), he described now having to possibly wait days before learning about this news from other sources.

What Happens Next?

  • Will you reconnect to your social media platforms? 
    • He confirmed he will eventually return to Facebook but cannot identify when.  Alex noted, however, that he has since deleted his Twitter account because he recognized he was only posting for the likes and retweets, received a lot of “junk” on his news feed, and had many of the same people on Facebook and Twitter which resulted in repetitive content.
  • Do you anticipate any challenges upon reconnecting to Facebook?
    • He expects that returning to Facebook will likely be overwhelming partly due to the anticipated flood of missed notifications and seemingly never-ending status updates.
  • Do you have any recommendations for individuals wishing to unplug?
    • Alex acknowledged that you don’t have to be somebody who thinks “Whoa, I use social media too much” to unplug.  Unfortunately, unplugging appears to be the primary way to begin to recognize how much time is spent on Facebook and the rationale for doing so.  He recommends unplugging from social media to anybody but especially stresses that it may be of benefit to individuals who are overwhelmed by negativity on their news feeds.

      “No matter who you are, there is something that could come out of [it] for everyone.  Any time you make a change in your life, it is then that you start to see differences.”

  • In a society that utilizes social media to stay connected and receive minute-by-minute updates, do you foresee any negative outcomes arising from a disconnect from social media?
    • In responding to this question, he shared a personal experience while in grad school where he was geographically distanced from all friends and family.  He stated that, at that time, social media was one of his primary mechanisms to stay connected with loved ones.  In that sense, Alex concluded that unplugging may be of less benefit and cause an increased sense of loneliness to those who already feel a sense of disconnect from others such as students, travel nurses, flight attendants, truck drivers, etc.

Concluding Thoughts:

Upon asking Alex if he had any concluding thoughts, here is how he responded:

“I don’t know how my phone just went down to 87 percent.”

Apparently, there are many benefits to unplugging from social media, however, a longer-lasting battery isn’t one of them! 😉


I hope you all enjoyed this style blog and found it insightful and/or relatable.  While I firmly believe that there are many positive aspects to social media (puppy photos and videos), it is important to balance your social media and real-world experiences.  Take time to enjoy nature through your own visual senses and not through a camera lens.  Don’t neglect quality time with your pets, even if it means reducing how often you innocently scroll through the most adorable photos of others’ pets on Instagram!  Most importantly, take care of yourself and the ones you love.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed by negativity on social media platforms, breathe, take a step back, and reflect on your physical world!

If you are achieving your New Year’s resolution, leave a comment below and tell us about it!  You deserve some recognition for your hard work! 🙂
As always, thank you for reading (especially if you’ve read this far).  Stay tuned for the next blog post entitled, “What It Means To: Impersonate a Service Dog.”

-T.

Posted in Wagging Through Life Blogs

“What It Means To: Have a Brother For a Best Friend!”

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Blog supporters!  For those of you who are new, welcome to my blog page.  I hope you gain as much enjoyment reading this post as I have had writing it!


Story Time:


Many years ago, my parents decided to sit my sister and I down to tell us every “baby” of the family’s nightmare….you’re getting a sibling!  My sister was ecstatic.  I was devastated.  What the heck did I want with another sibling?  It wasn’t until my mom let me in on a little secret that I finally began to gain some excitement toward our changing family dynamics.  She told me I was getting a brother, but it was our pinky swear promise not to tell anyone.  My nine-year-old self was elated!  My thoughts:  “Mom told me a pinky swear secret?  She’s awesome!”  Now, fast forward a few months.  I knew my mom had gone to the hospital in the morning before school, and when I got off the school bus in the afternoon, the first words I shouted to my sister and cousin were, “Did she blow?”  I guess my younger self had no other logical way to ask whether or not my brother had arrived, but to answer the question as my nine-year-old self, yes, she did blow!

So we met at the hospital, and the years following were pretty typical.  I got to watch him learn to sit up, play, say his first word, formulate his first sentence (“I see the moon, and the moon sees me”), take his first steps, smash his hands into his first birthday cake, and the list goes on.  As he got older, the competitive cheerleader in me took over, and we played cheerleader.  I taught him how to do gymnastics, and my sister and I threw him up in stunts (Our parents never approved of this, but what the heck did we care?  It was fun!).  We had great times together, but let me make this clear…growing up, we hated each other.  Now, I hate the word “hate,” but boy did we really, really dislike one another!  We fought with each other constantly (seriously constantly), while he and my sister were the best of friends.

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When my sister went to college, I think he realized for the first time in his whole five years of his life that he was stuck with me, and I was stuck with him.   That’s where our story of love and friendship truly begins.  We watched movies, played games, had heart-to-heart talks, learned about each other, and watched each other grow.  I helped him with his homework and taught him how to stand up to bullies.  We took car rides together when I started driving, and we laughed and sang.  One night we sang so much, and he stopped and said, “Wow, you’re really good.  You should go on American Idol!”  He boosted my self-confidence and is the reason I have no fear singing in front of people today (My sincere apologies to those whose ears may now suffer if he lied, and I am truly terrible!).

Soon enough, it was my turn to go away to college.  After the bond that we had formed, I was devastated, but he visited me often and made more friends in my college residence halls than I did!  When I introduced Alex (whom I had met at college) to my family, it was my brother who had the final say.  Even at 11 years old, he saw it as his brotherly duty to protect his adult sisters!   Flash forward to the present, and both my sister and brother are my best friends.  We are geographically distanced from one another now, but we always find a way to reconnect.  My brother continues to visit, although I’m convinced now he does so to hang out with Alex and Pinella! 😉

Truth be told, he is one remarkable kid.  He’s kind to others, stands up to bullies (I’m still proud of him for that), is aware of his values, respects his elders, always makes time for his sisters, and is the most amazing, versatile (yet accident prone) athlete I’ve ever encountered.  He makes me proud each and every day.

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He’s the friend my nine-year-old self never knew I needed or wanted.  Because of him, I’ve learned the definition of true friendship.  I’ve learned that, through thick and thin, my brother, sister, and I will always be “the three best friends that anyone could have.”  Finally, I must admit, our parents were right when they would say, “Your siblings are your best friends.”   I may have hated the thought of a brother 15 years ago, but I am certainly thankful for him today!   Love you, BK!

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Our mom always cries looking at this picture.  Go ahead now, mom, just cry! 🙂

Don’t forget to “Like” and “Follow” Sit, Stay, and Blog on Facebook and Twitter!  As always, thank you for taking precious time out of your day to support SS&B!  For all of you dog lovers out there, stay tuned for a tail-wagging good read in my next post —  “What It Means To:  Have a Spoiled  Loved Dog!”

-T.

Posted in Wagging Through Life Blogs

“What It Means To: Be a Graduate Student”

Hello, all!  Welcome back to another Sit, Stay, & Blog post!

If you are a new reader or just haven’t yet figured out my posting schedule, I ideally like to make a blog post weekly.  However, it could not be any more ironic that this post is “late” for the very same reason I’m writing it — GRAD STUDENT LIFE!

I want to start off by saying that, while being a graduate student can entail a whirlwind of emotions and experiences, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that have led me to where I am today! 🙂

“But you’re just a graduate student!  How hard can it be?”

Have you ever heard a statement similar to this?  Perhaps you are a secretary or a sales associate, and someone has said to you, “How hard can it really be to work as a secretary?” or “You’re just a sales associate, dealing with customers can’t be that hard!”  Maybe you are even a high school student and continuously hear, “You’re only in high school, how hard can your life be?”  Here’s the thing:  It IS hard work.  We all have unique experiences and accompanying challenges, and it is the right of the individual to determine just how difficult their job is, be it as a volunteer, student, part-time worker, full-time employee, or perhaps as a stay-at-home parent!

So what does it mean to be “just” a graduate student?  For starters, it means never leaving work.  The weekend arrives, but that does not erase your 10-page paper deadline for Saturday at 11:59 p.m.  It means experiencing total exhaustion after a night of class but somehow still finding the motivation to read your textbook materials at midnight for the next day’s classes.  It can mean factoring into one’s schedule the hours of time spent on the road commuting to and from classes — precious time which cannot be used to finish assignments, read textbooks, work a part-time job, or “catch up” on sleep.

Here’s another interesting point:  Many graduate students I know, including myself, are forced to work multiple jobs (often in addition to an internship).  That means bouncing from one task to the next with little time to engage in self-care.  Words cannot describe how dangerous this can be for the mental health of students, but we do it for one reason….because we have to.  The cost of graduate school is astronomical, and unlike when one is an undergraduate student, the federal government does not offer grants to graduate students.  Society’s future doctors, nurse practitioners, licensed professional counselors and social workers, etc. are often forced to pay for graduate school solely with loans whose interest rates I’ve seen as high as 15 percent!  In a sense, the cost of schooling and accompanying loan interest rates are sadly designed to financially set people back before they even have a chance to get ahead!  Thus, the need to work multiple jobs emanates from a need to survive, pay for gas to get to and from school, for course textbooks, to eat, keep a roof over their heads (and the list goes on).

I have had many people challenge me about my decision to attend graduate school by making statements such as, “You don’t need an advanced college degree, just get out and get a job instead of digging your debt hole deeper.”  These kinds of statements deeply sadden me, and here’s why:  I would not trade my experiences in graduate school for anything….not even less debt.   I recognize that it is an intense time commitment and whirlwind of emotions, but it has undoubtedly molded me into who I am today (and who I will become).  It has provided me with unimaginable experiences including an invitation to present research at a national conference, opportunities to meet and network with resourceful colleagues in my cohort, and being blessed with professors who are supportive and committed to providing their students with a quality education.  To me, it is less about the money and more about the experience, and I am forever grateful for everything I have experienced thus far as a graduate student….and, yes, even those dreaded 3:00 a.m. study sessions! 🙂

I owe a world of thank yous to my family who supports me in every aspect possible, to Alex and Pinella for their patience with my often hectic schedule, and to my professors who continuously support and inspire me!

I thank you for the precious time that YOU took to read about my experiences as a full-time student!  I am so appreciative of my readers and thoroughly enjoy reading your comments and feedback to my posts!
Don’t forget to “Like” Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!   Click the “Follow” button in the lower right-hand corner of the Sit, Stay, & Blog page and enter your email address to receive updates every time I post! 🙂

As Thanksgiving grows nearer, I want to take the opportunity to blog about things that I am thankful for, beginning with family.  Next week’s post will feature my little brother!  Stay tuned for, “What It Means To:  Have a Brother for a Best Friend!”

-T.

Posted in Running, Wagging Through Life Blogs

“What It Means To: Run a 5K!”

Welcome back!  If you’re a new reader, I would like to welcome you and thank you for checking out Sit, Stay, & Blog!

At the beginning of this year, my good friend, Cara, and I established a goal of running a marathon together (someday).  Lacking the initiative to begin training, we set out to run 5Ks  and ran our first one together in June of 2017.  Having been my first official 5K, I was a little unsure of what to expect and whether or not my body could actually physically handle it!  To say it was a successful load of fun would truly be an understatement.  In fact, it was such a success and so rewarding that I decided to embark on another 5K last weekend!

Here’s what I have noticed about running 5Ks:
The environment is unlike any other.  You arrive with both so much excitement and apprehension.  If you’re like me, you ignore the suggestion to arrive two hours early and get there with little time to spare before your run wave.  You’re frantically looking for the check-in tent and observing others doing the same.  This is when it gets interesting.  As the race time nears, you begin to notice that you are among hundreds of other individuals who share the same goal:  finish this race!  For some, it’s their first race.  For others, they’ve lost count.  As you begin running, you realize that for the duration of this run, you are experiencing something that has become so lost in today’s society.  You become surrounded by hundreds of strangers who are so supportive of YOU.  A runner yells behind you “Good job, girl!” or “We can do this, let’s go!”  When was the last time you felt truly supported by the stranger walking next to you in the grocery store?  The driver beside you on the road?  A co-worker at work?  That’s what is so amazing about running a 5K.  You get to experience what should be occurring in everyday society:  Support.

As if communal support isn’t enough to get you up and running, would a truly judgment-free zone get you motivated?  Many of us have experienced what it’s like to step into a gym and feel like all eyes are on you.  Gyms claim they’re judgment free, yet you can’t help but feel as if the person across from you lifting a 75-pound bar is judging you for your eight-pound dumbbells.  Here’s where my love for 5Ks is introduced.  When I’m running and need a five-second break, I don’t feel as if the runners behind me are judging me for my inability to push through.  I don’t feel like all eyes are beaming on me or that every step I take is being judged or ridiculed by a passerby who has clearly trained more effectively than I have.  Instead, I hear, “You’re doing great!”

The bottom line here is that 5K participants all have their individual goals:  to run nonstop for 20 minutes, finish the race in 35 minutes, beat an old finishing time.  The concern when you’re running is not what other people are doing, it’s about what you’re doing and how you can support others who embarked on this 3.1 mile journey with you!  When you cross the finish line, you’re overwhelmed with a flood of adrenaline and gratitude for your ability to physically participate in such an amazing experience, and you silently acknowledge those who can’t.  You look around at all the participants with their well-deserved medals and beam with pride.  It doesn’t matter whether you walked or ran across that finish line, all that matters is that YOU did it!

I truly hope you enjoyed reading this snapshot of my experiences running 5Ks.  If you’ve ever contemplated running a 5K or if it’s on your bucket list, I say go for it!  Nobody defines whether you run or walk, your finishing time, etc.  The joy is, YOU decide.  Go accomplish that goal, and do it for YOU!

Thank you so much for reading and  for your continued support!  Stay tuned for the second blog post in Sit, Stay, & Blog’s service dog training series, “What It Means To:  Train a Service Dog (Going Into Public)!” Please feel free to leave me comments or suggestions for future posts, and don’t forget to like/follow Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and Twitter!  🙂

-T.