2016 in review

January

jan2jan1jan

I kicked off January with a glow-stick dance party with my amazing Americans. It was lush to have a holiday over New Year (and I’m doing it again this year! 9 days to go until I see my tribe)

I also rediscovered my love for journalling and writing in January. I had a rough time as we went through Ofsted right after I got back from my holiday and I found that getting it out on to paper was helpful in processing it all.

February

I spent a lot of time ‘nesting’ in February; lots of self-care was needed after Ofsted! One weekend of half term Heather and I went to “Sent” which is a 20s conference held by our group of churches, Relational Mission. We travelled up to Norwich for the weekend and even though I had a cold and felt awful we had a great time. February ended with a weekend of fun with my mum; she came to stay and we went to watch The Railway Children at the Kings Cross Theatre in London as her belated Birthday or Christmas present. I liked February.

March

 

I was crafty in March – I learned to crochet and made my first blanket for my friend Rosie’s little boy who was born at the end of the month. I also made about 50 paper pompoms for a church ladies’ event and after the event was done I did a mad drive down to Devon to be part of Rebecca’s baby shower. Little nephew arrived about 8 weeks later…

April

 

We went on a family holiday (minus Rebecca and Simeon) to Tuscany, Italy. Lots of walking, stunning views, relaxing with a book… bliss.

May

may

I fell in love with this beautiful boy…

June

june

A pretty good month…although I don’t recall much significant, apart from turning 27 and being surprising gracious about it?! 27 still feels old but I’m getting used to it

July

I took a little trip to see family in Devon, and stayed at my sister’s to maximise cuddles with my love. It was a heatwave in July and I loved it! Also this month I was very brave and started to lead a small bible study group with some friends. We enjoyed the course so much we are starting another in January 2017

August

 

Of course I had an amazing time with My Americans. It was scorching hot in the States too and we spent a lot of time outdoors, floating down the river or enjoying the deck. I went a little wild and got my first (and only) tattoo, something I had always sworn would never happen! But it did, and I genuinely like and love my little ‘heart and crucifix’ reminder of Jesus’ love.

August was also the month that my brother and Alice got married – I flew back from the US on the Friday and the wedding was on Saturday, so I am impressed with how “with it” I appear to be in the photos!

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September

 

I got stuck into family ancestry discovery – something I plan to blog about soon – and loved finding out about all my long-dead ancestors and their lives. I also enjoyed the beautiful Autumn weather near my office, and started reading at bedtime again, to try and combat insomnia. It seems to have been quite effective which I am truly pleased about

October

october

October was awful and I am glad it’s behind me now. This picture sums the whole thing up.

November

I was away from home a lot in November – firstly for my nephew’s dedication ceremony in Plymouth, and then the following weekend at my friends’ house in Banbury. We had such an enjoyable girls’ weekend with lots of laughing, catching up on lives, and drinking tea (and Starbucks)

December

This has been December so far… wrapping up hundreds (and I mean that literally) of gifts which my church donated to the women & children living in the local refuge this Christmas. I got to choose and buy all the gifts, and then spent approximately sixteen million hours wrapping everything. I loved it and they were so pleased to receive them!

December has also been parties galore – 3 just for work!! By the time Christmas day actually comes around I’ll have eaten 5 Christmas meals.

At the time of blogging, I have half a week of work days left (but a whole weeks’ worth of work to do, figures!) before going home to Devon for Christmas weekend – then on 27th I’m flying off to Oregon again and spending New Year and the first 9 days of 2017 with my favourites in the world.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017

-x-

Why yes, I am still alive

I don’t seem to have the hang of this blogging regularly thing, do I? Looking back through my “recent” posts, it’s a bit shameful that all I’ve done is post briefly captioned photos.

At least it’s proof I am still actually alive. And to be honest I have been thinking about blogging, and meaning to post updates – but life has just been the absolute definition of insane!

So here’s a bullet-point update of my life, as is, right now.

Work:
Busy as busy can be. Our Ofsted inspection did not have the outcome we had hoped for, but one positive is that the inspector has recommended I am trained up and promoted to Deputy Manager. Unfortunately this came too late for me to enrol in the 13/14 intake, but next September I will be enrolled on an NVQ Level 5 Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care Services course at the local HE college. Yay for further education, yay for new challenges. Yay for 10 months to brush up so I feel ready for this!

Day to day work is busy, but that seems to be the status quo right now. We’ve just got to roll with it. I am praying lots to get through the day.

Home:
I have decorated my house for Christmas and it looks BEAUTIFUL! Pictures to follow in a separate Christmassy post. My family are coming to stay at Christmas and I cannot wait to have them all here.

Family:
My sister is cancer-free!!! Hooray hooray hooray!! She had her radio-iodine treatment 20th-22nd November, and on 22nd November had a scan which showed no sign of cancer at all. We are all so pleased and relieved and thankful. She still has a recovery – to adjust to not having a thyroid and keeping her thyroxine and calcium levels stable (with medication) but she is doing brilliantly. Our family gets a cancer-free start to 2014 🙂

General:
In general I am well and happy. Currently a bit stressed over work issues and a minor car bump that happened on Saturday, but it’s in the hands of insurers and the important thing is no-one was hurt. Hard to sustain injury at barely 1mph, isn’t it?!

I have an “exciting” appointment with my dentist tomorrow as my wisdom tooth has been playing up for 2 weeks and I’m getting frustrated. It’s really painful, but I don’t know if it’s normal pain or “there’s a problem” pain. So I’m getting it checked out. Last time I went to the dentist I got my first ever filling and I was mortified. It wasn’t even to fill a hole, just to cover where my tooth had gotten sensitive but I still could have cried.

And that’s about it, my life in a condensed version. Life is dominated by work, if I’m not working I am with my friends, or at church, or at the gym.

If none of the above, I can usually be found sleeping. I love my bed and my bed loves me.

Hopefully more regular updates will resume now/shortly but for now, please don’t give up on me!

-x-

I.S.F.J … or, my 200th post

This evening, I read a blog update by one of my favourite bloggers: Renee at FIMBY

You should visit that blog. It’s great. Sometimes I just look at her amazing photography and go back to read the post later. I am inspired (and at times jealous) of her family’s lifestyle.

Renee writes a lot about being an ESTJ personality (according to the Myers Briggs personality test) and in the latest FIMBY post she mentions it again. I’ve often wondered what I would come out as…and today, at the end of a long-long month, and feeling rather fragile after a not-so-good day at work I thought I would see if my personality type explains why I feel things how I do. So, I found a version of the test on line.

My result is ISFJ – which is Introverted – Sensing – Feeling – Judging

(As opposed to: Extroverted/iNtuition/Thinking/Perceiving)

This is what the website says about ISJF personalities…

Introverted Sensing personality types are dependable, reliable and trustworthy. They like to belong to solid organisations that are reasonable in their ambitions and loyal to their employees. They feel useful when their roles and responsibilities are clearly established and they can monitor their activities and productivity in tangible ways. They tend to be rather modest, traditional and conventional, to like sensible clothing, to be thrifty, careful and wise with both money and possessions

Once they accept a project, they will see it to the end. They manage their time well and are realistic about how much time and resources will be needed.

They tend to like to stay in one neighbourhood, often choosing to live close to where they were themselves raised. They are often involved with volunteer organisations and have a developed sense of citizenship and accountability. When they purchase something, it is after careful consideration; rarely will they buy something without having a known need or use for it. They may keep possessions for a lifetime and treasure those that were given to them.

They tend to have a good memory for specific facts that are necessary in their day-to-day life at work and at home. They accumulate facts and details to orient themselves, relying on repeated experiences that have been proven trustworthy. A fact once experienced may be the product of circumstance and happenstance; it is not in and of itself reliable. When an introverted sensing type hears an idea, they rummage through reams of archived facts to find an experience that provides information for the relevance and realism of an idea. When an introverted sensing type utters, “It’s never been done!” they are saying that no information about the relevance or usefulness of the idea is available to them. They tend to shy away from surprises and what is perceived as unnecessary change.

Apart from the bit about sensible clothing – which is true, but a little bit rude – I can totally see how that is my personality.

Want to see what Google Images says about ISFJ personalities?!

isfj1

isfj2

isfj-personality

Apparently I’m a cross between Sam from LOTR, Marge Simpson, and a super-over-achieving Mum. Great!

More seriously, though – ISFJ…that’s totally me!! The bits about work… that’s me!!

I appreciate reasonable expectations and loyalty – not being expected to keep a hundred-thousand balls in the air, and then be criticised publicly when I drop the hundred-and-first ball rather than praised for managing to keep the first hundred up there.

Can you tell I had a bad day?

Actually, let’s get some perspective. It wasn’t that bad. I prayed on the way to work this morning that God would:
… give me peace – because I have been feeling very anxious recently and in particular last week at work
… help me to stand firm in His promises – because I have been feeling like I am on very shaky ground
… help me to guard my tongue and speak wisely, not letting frustrations get the better of me – because I have been such a snarky, gossipy girl over the last month, saying the first thing that comes to mind and not being the example of Christ that I could be in my workplace

And, thanks be to God – I felt less anxious and more assured: trusting that my worth does not come from my colleagues’ opinion of me but from God’s opinion of me. I held it together: despite being criticised unjustly in front of my colleagues and a carer, and trusted that God has a purpose for this time – even though it is uncomfortable for me.

Tonight I am signing off tonight with a few verses that I need to learn…absorb…take hold of. I particularly love Exodus 4:14 which was a key verse in our sermon at church this week.

James 1:2-4
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”(NKJV)

2 Corinthians 10:3
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.” (NIV)

Exodus 14:14
“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (NKJV)

1 Peter 3:9
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” (NLT)

1 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (ESV)

Psalm 46:10a
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (KJV)

-x-

Two things…

I have had two grand revelations this week…

The first is that I am awful at maths. I said in Sunday’s blog post that it was 10 days until my trip to the States. Obviously that was very wrong, because at that point it was actually 12 days to go. Now it is 8 sleeps! Maths was never my strongest point; I’m an English/History/languages girl. There’s way more flexibility and room for thinking than in maths. Clearly, I cannot even do basic counting. Never mind. We can’t all be Einstein.

The second revelation this week was much more amazing and wonderful. As I said in Sunday’s post, I am entering into a transition period where I’ll be moving, again, to a new house. I also said that I couldn’t afford to live alone…so I have had to give this situation completely over to God and trust that His plans are good. Having moved house so many times, I really liked the idea of staying in one place more than 2 years. I love my house, and it is so great to live here – but I’ve had to surrender the whole situation to God. Not easy…but worth it! I prayed about it and worked out what I felt needed for living in Canterbury to be financially viable.

What I didn’t say was that last Friday, I approached my boss and asked if it was possible to increase my hours at work, or increase my salary. I currently work 4 days a week (32) and usually work at least 8 hours “overtime” during evenings/weekends to make it to a full 40 hour week, but I take my overtime as time off in lieu. (Clear as mud, yes?) I was asking if I could work a standard 40 hour week (Monday to Friday) or stick at 32 hours but for a higher rate. I’ve not had a payrise in the 2 years I’ve worked there, but I’ve never been in a position to need one.

When I raised it with my boss, she asked if we could schedule a meeting this week to talk about it in detail. I spent the weekend NOT worrying about it, because I know that God has greater plans than anything I could ever orchestrate and that all things would work out in the end:

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good

The meeting with my boss took place yesterday, and the amazing thing is that she had already decided to give me a payrise…because I am being promoted!

Whoop!! I’m now Senior Social Worker at our Fostering Agency. I get to take on more responsibilities, a supervising role for our students, and the financial benefit means that I can afford to get my own place without any difficulties!! As I said to my friend Simon, I won’t be buying a yacht anytime soon and won’t suddenly have a craaazy lavish lifestyle, but I will be able to start saving and will have more financial security.

God is just so incredible. He already knew that everything would be fine; he had worked it all out but through it I learned more about trusting him and relying on him completely. There was nothing else I could do, but lean completely on him and I’ve seen, yet again, how faithful he is. What a demonstration of his love; that he gave me peace in the situation and I was able to rest knowing that He had good plans for me. He knew exactly what I needed – to be able to stay in Canterbury near my friends and my church, and to be able to have a place to call “mine” – how blessed am I to have such a powerful but gentle Father God, who cares about what my heart craves and desires.

I am still completely in awe and overwhelmed by his gracious love.

-x-

A traumatic week

Last week was full of antics, and mostly ‘not-good’ ones :S

On Monday I drove back from Devon to Canterbury, after a restful yet busy week of annual leave. It took about six hours to get back, so I was pretty tired and decided to have an early night at 9.20pm. Just over an hour later, my work phone rang…the joys of being Social Worker On-Call. To cut a long (confidential) story short, I ended up having to attend at a foster carers’ home at 11pm and didn’t get home until almost 1am.

The next day I went into work and got caught up on all the shenanigans of the previous week, before heading out on a home visit and then to collect a young person to take him to a local police station to be questioned after he had assaulted someone. It was my first time in the deepest, darkest recesses of a police station. It was not his first.

After three hours in the station I returned said young person to his foster carers, and eventually got to my friends’ house for dinner about 7pm (an hour late, thank God for friends who feed me, and are also forgiving). I thought I’d be hopeful and get another early night around 9.30pm, but shortly after 11 my phone rang…this time a different young person had not returned home by curfew and consequently had to be reported missing to the police, me and social services. She then turned up about half an hour later.

And so it went on…meetings, phone calls, a rushed visit to the gym and generally lots of busy-ness and organised chaos.The weekend fared marginally better, I had a quite peaceful Saturday – cleaning the house, reading, catching up on life, but with regular updates from one of my foster carers about her foster daughter. I can’t say on here what it was about, but it was very confusing and no-one seems to know what really happened!

Saturday night was great though, I went to my friend Emma’s (she lives across the complex from me) and we ate pizza and chatted, and watched Outnumbered. I felt loved and peaceful and it was what I needed.

Sunday was my first October Sunday at City, as I was away for two weekends, and apart from a weird moment where mistaken identity meant a lady ‘told me off’ for missing creche duty (she thought I was someone else, and that someone else had not turned up) it was lovely to be back. We heard an awesome preach from our lead elder and I only had one work phone call during the service which is an improvement from the last time I was on call when I had three.

And so, there I was on Sunday night, feeling pretty drawn out and looking forward to some gentle Downton time to soothe me after my hectic and mental week.

BUT THEN

I am still absolutely furious with the writers of Downton Abbey for killing off Lady Sybil. With absolutely no word of a lie, I woke up this morning and felt like I was grieving for an actual friend. It felt so real, and it is so unjust. Of course, like everything Downton it was incredibly well-written and acted, but that’s not the point! It’s just so unfair, I feel like nothing good can happen for the rest of the series now. As if it wasn’t enough that poor Lady Edith got jilted at the altar, now they have lost Sybil too. I described the episode to my housemate and used the word HORRIFIC about five times.

so there we have it, ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere. I am outraged and heartbroken over a TV programme. But so are many millions of other women, so I don’t feel too much of a sad-case/lunatic declaring it to the world.

-x-

Bad day

I think that it’s safe to say today was the worst day of my career, so far. And I’ve had some bad days.

I can’t go into it, which is really hard, but in abbreviated terms I had to give advice as a professional, which completely goes against my own personal views.

I hate it.

Ups downs and middles

This has been a very up and down week. I don’t think I’ve liked it much! There have been some really bad points (Monday) and some really good points (Tuesday prayer time!) so essentially it’s equalled out to an ‘ok’ week, but I’m so ready for it to be over.

I just don’t think I’ve caught up from last week – we had a case going to court last Friday and didn’t have our notes sorted, so my colleague and I spent all day Wednesday, all day Thursday and then 4 hours on Thursday evening trying to get caught up. We didn’t manage it, though it was ok because they weren’t needed as urgently as we’d been led to believe. Not frustrating at all…

We could not have been more annoyed really. Me especially, since I cancelled all my other work on Wednesday and Thursday as well as not going to Small Group on Thursday night to get it all done.

The positive side of it all is that we do now have a handle on it, so are prepared for when the notes are required…but unfortunately it means that this whole week I have been playing catch up – against myself!

I wrote my to-do list yesterday…17 items. Over the day I completed 12, but added another 9. Today I finished all but two of them, which felt very impressive even for me. I just now feel completely exhausted…the weekend cannot come soon enough!

In other news, one of my foster carers might have TB and is in hospital…cue frantic call to Mum to confirm that I was vaccinated (her response: “have you got a BCG scar?” Me: “yes.” Her: “then yes, you’re vaccinated”) and panicked Googling of symptoms/contagious-ness of TB to check that the vaccine doesn’t run out or stop working…we were all on high alert!!

If he has it, I may need to be tested since I work closely with the family and am considered high risk as I’m quite immunosuppresed – but that’s all just another adventure that I’ll take if it happens.

Roll on Saturday…just need to cope through tomorrow first.

-x-

 

“What is it you do, exactly?”

Since the first episode of ‘Protecting Our Children’ was shown last week on BBC2 (http://goo.gl/5Uac5) I’ve had a lot of questions from friends/acquaintances asking about social work. One girl, who knows me well and therefore shall remain nameless asked me: “what is it that you do, exactly?!”

So I thought I’d spend a little time today explaining my job, since I spend the vast majority of my time working, thinking about work or recovering from work.

The simplest way to describe my role is “one row back from child protection”. Social workers like me come into play when the Child Protection work is over, or almost over.

Using the example of Toby (the child from the documentary) … he had a social worker Susannah, who had responsibility for ensuring his safety in his parents’ care. When he was removed from his parents’ care into Foster Care, he would then have become the responsibility of another social worker. This would be his Allocated Social Worker, and they would work in a Looked After Children’s Team.

I’m not one of those. My job title is “Supervising Social Worker”. We support the adults, who take care of the children.

Toby was placed with foster carers…his foster carers would have had their own Supervising Social Worker. This is a registered social worker who works for either the Local Authority (Social Services) or an Independent Fostering Agency (which is what I do)

A Supervising Social Worker is there to help the adults to give the best care they can to the child. We have a statutory duty to visit the home every 4 weeks, to provide supervision, practical advice and emotional support to the carer(s). We also meet with the children and talk with them about their experiences in foster care.

Many children placed in IFAs are there because there were no suitable options for them in Local Authority care. This could be because of ongoing child protection issues – e.g. needing them out of their local area for their own safety. More often it is because of their emotional or behavioural needs, and their having exhausted all local options for care.

Children in foster care all have their own unique ‘issues’ and difficulties. My role is to support the adult to enable them to continue providing a high standard of care to the child. If the carer is struggling, then the level of care they give is likely to suffer.

A SSW will attend meetings about the child, such as “Looked After Child Reviews” or “Personal Education Plan” meetings. Our role here is to explain our perception of the child, his/her needs, the positives and negatives that the carer has experienced in looking after him/her. Our role is directly and indirectly related to the care of the child; we ensure that the carer is doing all they can…but ultimately the ASW and the Looked After Child Team is responsible for the child, acting as their Corporate Parent.
I hope that’s a simple but clear explanation. You can read more about social work by going to http://www.gscc.org.uk and following the links.

Update – One Month In…

One Month In…how am I doing?!

Spiritual

I’m reading my Bible every day…made it through to Samuel in OT and John in NT. It got a bit rocky around Judges – I just don’t get Samson and Delilah. But a good thing from that is that I was so confused by Samson that I dug around in my Study Bible to figure it out a bit more. Which worked, sort of. I’m enjoying having quiet times each morning, reading my Bible whilst eating breakfast. It feels productive 🙂 This is tying in with the other goals I had, to spend more time with God and focus on Him. I’m still working on that…

Goal 4 was to consider how I serve in church: I’m still doing that. I was asked just recently to join another team at church and it only took a moment’s prayer to know that it wasn’t right for me. I’m still serving in the Creche team and leading another team, but with my work schedule I am currently working every Saturday for the foreseeable, and I’m on call 2 Sundays out of 5  (don’t ask me how it works!!) so I feel I need to protect my Sundays so I can attend a full service.

Discipleship; I was asked a while ago to consider taking on another “disciplee” but after some consideration I’ve declined – not because I don’t want to, I think the girl is great, but I don’t have the time to devote to her. I’m trying to get monthly dates with each girl so that I can spend quality time with them, working together.

Career

I’m enjoying work at the moment, it was fairly quiet after Christmas but then this past week has just been so busy with all the kids having a lot going on and me needing to deal with it. Craziness. But I’m enjoying it. I’m also doing contact work, which takes up my Saturdays but I can claim this time as additional holiday.

I’m still looking into external training courses I can attend to help with my PDQ. I’ve looked into some certificates with the OU but I think they demand more time than I have available so I’ll keep looking. The Kent Safeguarding Children Board has a good list of training courses but I couldn’t access the real information!

Health

I haven’t done ANY exercise, since Christmas (shocker) and I abandoned the “no chocolate” rule for the month of January as there was too much around. February will be the start of my cutdown on junk/salty/sugary foods. I plan to eat more fruit, nuts and veg to balance this. I’m also comparing gym memberships (really I just want to swim!) but I’m trying to figure out which is the most economical.

One bit of progress is that I’ve been eating lunch every day, and have increased my fruit intake already to boost lunch – so instead of snacking on eating biscuits/chocolates at work I’m having a healthy and more filling option.

Personal

I’m writing every day which I’m finding is really helpful. I have a “page-a-day” diary from work and even just writing one A5 side each evening is great as I can just offload how the day has been, how I’ve felt etc. Getting it out of my mind before I sleep is helping me to sleep better too.

I’m amending my Reading goal – because 1 Christian book for every 2 fiction books is probably very unrealistic. I’m amending it to 1 Christian book per month. I figure this will give me more chance to actually absorb what I’m reading rather than trying to just ‘get through’ one book so I can read another. I read a great book called “When I See Him” in January and I’m going to read “Mere Christianity” throughout February. It’s been on my ‘list’ for about six months!

I’m off Facebook! I haven’t missed it since Rosie changed my password for me…though it’s hard to be out of the loop with events etc, I just need to ensure I keep in touch with people to make sure they tell me in person! Facebook makes it easy for people to be lazy, I think. I’ll probably go back on at some point but I’m not feeling the urge right now. It’s not a necessity, it is a tool for networking and right now I’m managing without  – shock horror!!

I think that’s a pretty thorough update, or at least, thorough enough!