June 12, 2024

Welcome to the Field of Social Work

On July 20, I was privileged to give a brief talk to the 2012 summer graduates of the Ball State University School of Social Work program. Following is the essence of the speech to 20 students that will be entering the “Field of Social Work.”

“Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.” Chief Tecumseh

Hello, I am a Social Worker. I want to formally welcome you to the field of Social Work. You now have your degree; I expect you are relieved and excited. You have graduated from a quality School of Social Work at Ball State University. Some have that first job lined up and others are looking — wondering where and when it will be.

Some years ago when I decided to become a therapist, I told my friends and family that I would enter the School of Social Work at the University of Tennessee. They said “Are you Crazy?” They did not understand the field and frankly neither did I. The truth is, I knew that working with people and adding value in terms of direct improvement of life was necessary for me. I knew Social Work would help me in that process. I wanted to be a psychotherapist (or as my son says psycho therapist). So off I went to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  I earned the Master of Science, Social Work degree that allowed me to practice psychotherapy.

In the school we talked about “What is Social Work?” Our definition was (and mine still is) “A Social Worker is what a Social Worker does.”

Partly, though I did not own my place in the field. The prestige was not great and I found I would call myself a therapist and identify as a Social Worker only occasionally. 

Then 20 some years into my career, I had occasion to present at a meeting for the Indiana Chapter, National Association of Social Work. NASW an organization I had not been a member of for years.

I was moved by the depth of involvement and the dedication of many I met at that first meeting. The saying a “Social Worker is what a Social Worker does” was relived with honor. It is a field with depth of character and nearly endless variety of involvement in the process of helping others. Shortly after I (re)joined NASW and am a proud member today.

In the 37 years since I earned my degree, I have worked with 9,000 different clients and completed about 34,000 hours of face to face contact. You are at zero.  Your numbers will accumulate soon.

Use your hours well. Each hour is important and, no matter what, the hours will add up.

You will have all these opportunities to practice. Be careful what you practice. How you practice will affect the rest of your career. You are in the field because you want to serve. Remember the quality of care you provide to the humans you work with must be job one.

You will be seduced by numbers of quota and production. While it is the case that agencies must financially survive, it is more so the case that we must serve with quality.

The helping field is growing and filled with clear research that shows we add significant value. We do not, however, have the marketing ability that drug companies have and must contend with the idea that solving problems is as presented on the drug advertisements. Just take a pill and the pill they advertise results in immediate rather passive progress.  

You have learned the importance of relationship with your client. If your clients trust you and you can help them find hope, they will do better. Hope is necessary in all of our lives. The research or relationship is clear. Relationship as rated by the client is highly correlated with successful outcome. In fact, we know that when you see your MD, if you have confidence in the MD, the medicine will work better. Honor those relationships episode by episode. Often the provider who does relationship well, but provides placebo treatment, is more effective than the provider with poor relationship who provides the so called “correct treatment”.

You will be pointed to doing more paper work than you can imagine. You may need to do that to keep your job. Do not let that get in the way of treating the humans you work with honorably and respectfully.

There is a movement in the field to do concurrent documentation. This involves looking at a computer screen and typing as you ask personal questions of human beings. It seems to me inherently disrespectful.  

Always respect your clients. Always remember your goal is to help, even as your organization may (WILL) insist certain information needs to be collected in way called “timely”.

As you do your hours, remember you are practicing? What you do you will get better at, even if you are doing activities that are not helping. If I practice for hours and years at bad golf swing, the hours of practice help me ingrain that bad swing.

In your first two years, you will create a basis for your habits of practice. You are looking for the best habits at working with people and will be seduced with the idea that paper and numbers are more important. Productions, timeliness of paper, quality of paper, in that order, are the most likely forms of feedback you will get from your supervisors. Your priorities must have clients at the top.

Research shows that helpers with lots of experience are not much better than new folks. (So much for my years of experience!)  In part this is because some start out and develop bad habits. They think they are doing well because their colleagues like them, they do great production and good paper work; their reviews will then be outstanding. Some though never improve the quality of their care; they just complain about the clients and the tough case load.

NEVER complain about clients. The tough clients, I suspect, are the essence of why you are in the field. Many of the poor helpers think they are better than average. In the field of therapy, quality varies from 20% effective to 70%. Which do you prefer to be?  Always strive to improve and find ways to do that. It is important that you find ways to measure your progress. It is important that you work with other helpers that also want to improve.

Keep a Treasure Chest — way to remember successes and those that have been appreciative — for times you get discouraged.

So go forth and pay attention to the words that are often credited to Chief Techumsch:

 “Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life”…

“If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people”..

Read entire Tecumseh Poem from Act of Valor the movie (2012)

I am a Social Worker. We need your help. Congratulations and welcome to the field!”


The Miracle Worker

“The deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pin ball.” – The Pin Ball Wizard by The Who

Looking at our tickets for The Miracle Worker at IRT in Indianapolis, we said “.. know the story; long drive.” We went anyway.

 What a treat! One of those gifts we get only when we go. The story is most moving. The Miracle Worker Time Magazine said “…unforgettable theater.” It was unforgettable and an   outstanding performance.

Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, had a hard life — impoverished, with limited sight, sent to a home for the poor — and yet persistent. She was transferred to a school for the blind and realized accomplishments from a teacher who believed in her.

Every person has value.  This was the essence of how she treated Helen — knowing that Helen had value, she could learn and be successful in spite of blindness and deafness.

Expect the best. When Annie arrived at the Keller’s home, it was clear Helen was treated with pity, as damaged goods. There were few expectations and Helen had run of the house.  Annie Sullivan expected the best — a reminder for all of us when we interact with family or friends as they struggle. At some level we know they can do better and want them to know also.

Specify results. Sullivan was specific in her outcome: that Helen understands language. She spelled words incessantly in Helen’s hand, as she coupled the noun to touching the item and the verb to some movement or connection. Never mind Annie’s hands ached, she was consistent and relentless in teaching Helen.

It wasn’t easy; there were numerous struggles. Helen was not eager to accept that she could cooperate; she was not eager to accept hope; she was not eager to change her norms within the household. In a poignant scene Annie struggles with Helen who would not sit at the table or eat with utensils; after all, she had always walked around the table, using her fingers to eat off everyone’s plate. The struggle went on for what seemed like 10 minutes of a tantrum in order to establish limits (though we didn’t visually see it, the tantrum went all afternoon) — Annie announcing that Helen “folded her napkin.”

Parenting is a tough job. The scene reminded me of teaching parenting classes. We role played kids tantrums when teaching parenting skills. Our tantrums didn’t last as long as in real life, but parents got the connections.

Annie considered giving up and wondered if Helen would ever get the language or be nice. She persisted and essentially demanded the parents also cooperate with her in working with Helen.

Limits are a good thing for all of us. Ultimately of course, the breakthrough came. Helen gets it and rapid change follows. At this point Annie is “teacher” and Helen is grateful. So it is with most children and even adults. They want limits and confidence in those limits, even as they express satisfaction with the norm and perhaps their fear of change.

The Miracle Worker is showing at the Indianapolis Repertory Theater, every weekend, and some Wednesdays, through May 20.

See the play.  Consider these lessons:

  1. 1.     Treat yourself and others with positive expectations.
  2. 2.     Have specific outcomes in mind.
  3. 3.     Be up to the struggle
  4. 4.     Understand that kids (and adults) want limits and guidance even as they struggle.


We Are Penn State

“There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.” French ProverbIntegrity from Dictionary
“Character is much easier kept than recovered.” Thomas Paine

Did these Penn State events that unfolded last week make you aware of your humanness? Do you now think more of integrity? Much as we said “We are all New Yorkers” at the time of 9-11, it seems true that “We (too) are Penn State!”  We all have a heightened awareness of integrity and of the necessity that our children must be protected. We know winning is that important!

Some of the winners we make into icons. Paterno, Rose, Tiger, Ali, Armstrong, Sweetness, Marion, Magic, OJ, Kobe, Knight, ARod — the list goes on to be much longer. These and others have been on pedestals only to fall, as pieces of their lives have been revealed to us.
In our minds, we have this idealistic picture,  an image of what we want them to be. We lift them up and believe they are more than athletes or coaches.
NBA star Charles Barkley once pointed out that it is up to parents and family to be primary role models, not sports figures. Don’t we agree with that simple statement? It is a guarantee that some of the current icons will also fall and remind us their integrity is not as we imagined. It seems to happen frequently.  We make it about home runs and yards gained, often forgetting sportsmanship and honesty. It is fair for athletes to be role models but important to remember that family and friends need to be primary in that status.
It’s important to remember we never know who those icons are — not really. We are Penn State.
We are up if our team wins; down if it loses. We project grand meaning on victory and and may be depressed with defeat. We buy team gear often with a player’s name on the back; we attend, watch and listen to all that talk; money flows to the teams and the media.  Big time college coaches are paid princely fees, more than Nobel Prize winning professors and more than their so called boss, the president of the university.
At times, it seems people believe if their team wins, they are somehow a better person and, yes, better than someone who supports a losing team. People have been injured inside and outside of stadiums because they wore the wrong hat. Professional athletes often make huge amounts of money; even as we now know, they are not necessarily good role models (see Kobe and A Rod). Though athletes may do significant good, as Armstrong has, we can’t be sure of their broader behavior or of their integrity. They are just humans.
Competition is part of our culture. Of course we want to win. We must however be careful of this desire to win doesn’t include uses the tools of cheating, of looking other way, of protecting bad behavior, of protecting the institution — all in the name of winning. Penn State is not the first, nor will it be the last, to disappoint in the name of victory. We are Penn State.
We want the winners and the icons. JoPa was an icon to many. Yet how can some of those same followers explain that six years ago they wanted to fire him. They were losing and the football team seemed to regress. Fickle aren’t we? We are Penn State.
Iconic coaches routinely walk out of lengthy contracts, breaking their word to the college, to the players, accepting a better deal elsewhere. Then this same iconic word breaker is, in fact, welcomed with open arms to the new school and demonized at the old.
The next school and fans rationalize the coach’s integrity. Promises are made again and sometimes the same coach repeats the behavior, for the next better deal.  What does this tell our students, our society about the place of trust and honesty? Winning at any (moral) cost is too often the norm. We are Penn State.
Hours of talk radio, listening to analysis of the sport of the moment. Do we put too much on to winning?
How bad is it? The lead story on Monday morning is typically a poll asking us: “who is the best team?”  People vote; people call in with blather; media jockeys talk endlessly about whether the poll was right or wrong; they give opinions incessantly. Gosh it’s a vote, not a game! We are Penn State.
I say support victory with sportsmanship and integrity. Penn State is now more attuned to this goal. In this way I hope — We are Penn State.
Crisis breeds opportunity. Penn State will likely grow and improve through this event. Is that not the case in life too? We rarely welcome the crisis; yes the growth is always optional. Pick the growth!
Hold Penn State accountable, forgive and allow and let them grow. Help them protect their children as we protect ours.
Root for your team and understand that  sportsmanship and integrity, can and need, to participate fully as teammates.  We are Penn State.

What is your responsibility if you witness or suspect child abuse?
Indiana’s law (http://www.pcain.org/indiana_laws.asp) says you must report. Some schools, businesses and agencies have rules that say you must talk to your supervisor. That’s ok, but reporting incidents directly to authorities is still your responsibility. A supervisor is twice removed. The supervisor did not see or hear the event but rather hears it. from you. Also a financial part is now included as too often the supervisor wonders if reporting would somehow hurt business (what if the abuser is a best customer).
If you suspect child abuse or neglect report it immediately to: Child protective Services or law enforcement. If something is happening now…call  911. Protect our children.

Are You Ready for Here and Now?

“It ain’t over till it’s over.” Yogi Berra

As a baseball fan, this year’s World Series was particularly enjoyable. The games were entertaining and memorable. Some say Game 6 was the best baseball game ever. It’s hard to disagree.

It was in the top of the ninth when Joe Buck and Tim McCarver announced the Chevrolet Play of the Game, as it seemed Texas was on the way to its first title.

Don’t they understand baseball? The game isn’t over till the last out is recorded. That’s the essence of baseball. No time clock — just the next at bat, the next pitch, the next hit, the next out.  As Yogi wisely said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Watching the rest of this fantastic game, there were at least 4 more plays, at the moment they happened, that could have been named the “play of the game.”

With the World Series over, players from both teams can be with their families until what’s next in their lives. The Cardinal players will get their championship rings, remember plays of the games, remember plays of the series, and be champions through 2011. At the same time, each player will go on with daily living. Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa retires at the top of his game, to his next pitch and ballplayers will play for the Cardinals or another team. It’s doubtful if any players just live on the laurels of 2011. Their lives are changed and, I expect, they will have pleasant experiences.

Baseball is a metaphor of life: it is always only the play of our life — so far. When the play goes well, enjoy it. When the play is difficult, learn from it. Until the end, be ready for the now of this next pitch. Here and now is what’s important. Be with family. Be ready for the pitch!



How do you feel as you prepare to do something out of the ordinary? Emotions can run amuck with anticipation, trepidation, speculation and a lot more.

Muncie Public Library hosted a signing event for our children’s book, The Kite Surprise. Our book portrays a kite festival at the beach where young Celia Belle is enchanted with what her brother, Ansel, does in the kite contest.

Story Book History: 1974, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, age 26, an amazing kite contest. My background was kite flying poverty and here I was witnessing this amazing sky filled with kites of all colors, shapes, sizes. When I came to Muncie in 1977, I rapidly heard of Ansel Toney, the kite master in Farmland.

Back to the library event: Hot weather, summertime, Saturday netted thin attendance. However we gained the greatest treasured experience when a couple walked through the doors and introduced themselves. Oren and Marge Toney — that’s right the son of the famous kite maker Ansel Toney, from Farmland, Indiana.

What a thrill when the Toneys came to the library! Oren offered tidbits of glances into the life of his father, the kite master: Interviewed by Charles Kuralt “On the Road” CBS TV show; his dad knew how to adjust and fix things; went to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

His dad, in his mid-80s, took a 67 year old sewing machine (belonging to his wife) and learned to operate it, sewing different designed kites. Eventually the machine just wore out. The manufacturer contributed another sewing machine, but fixed the old one so Mr. Toney could have someone work with him. Oren noted that the manufacturer received a great deal of publicity from that gift.

Did Oren get kites from his dad? With a little smile and eyes twinkling, Oren reported he would go to the farm, do the work and ask for a kite in return. Dad would say “you can build one yourself” — apparently as a way to encourage the son to take up the hobby of dad. Not interested! However, wanting a kite, his wife Marge ordered a kite. When she picked it up and asked for an autograph, Ansel said “who to?” She replied to Oren; it was signed and given at no charge.

Oren continued with tales about French Military kites, Delta kites (which Ansel had a fondness for designing and flying), and the Eddy kite – the green frog kite in our book.

I was thankful that, over the years, I flew kites with my kids and grandchildren. Mostly we flew the Delta kites, those favored and popularized by Mr. Toney. These kites are easy to fly and as Oren remarked, “will stay up as long as there is wind.”

Ansel Toney loved flying kites “you are always looking up.” He was known for getting out the kite which was a sure signal for the kids to come around and enjoy the day. He considered the sky a playground, maybe his own personal one during flying.

Now think about YOUR next event, tomorrow or next week! Big or small, whatever it might be: Will you greet it with anticipation, trepidation, or speculation? We never know what’s around the corner to bring that enriching treasure of memory. Meeting Oren and Marge Toney is one of our inspiring treasures.

Remember: Always keep looking up and let your spirits soar — those gifts of life will find you if you are open to them.

Toney-Kuralt Video

See how to make the Eddy Kite

A Man and His Kite – Farmland IN

Information: The Kite Surprise

Thanks for reading. Keep the wind to your back, it’s a great stress reliever.


Living: Defining Age

“May there be just enough clouds with your life that you have a beautiful sunset.”  Grandma Viola Stouder Frederick

Have you thought of how you’d like to leave this world? If given the choice few people would choose a long and lingering illness. Some indicate an accident with instant death; others prefer not to wake up from a good sleep.

Aunt Charlotte, 93 years old, was my dad’s sister. She lived life with graciousness and joy. Married 65 years, her home was on the farm belonging to her husband’s family — an Indiana historic farm, recognized in this way because for over 100 years it was owned by the same family. Aunt Charlotte raised her two sons on this remarkable land; she  continued living in that big house until a few years ago. She then moved in with her son, and only early this year moved to more restricted living.

Over the last several weeks of her life, Aunt Charlotte gave her children and grandchildren a gift. They had the chance to say good bye. Even as she struggled   with memory, she maintained a connection with the people closest to her. As the grandchildren hugged her goodbye, they knew she knew them. She waved them out the door.

The story of her passing is most pleasant. She gathered with other residents for lunch. As she ate, she began to feel a bit tired. Returning to her room, she lay down for a nap. The staff found her later in the forever sleep. It seems a good way to die, in a natural sleep.

Aunt Charlotte loved the big farm house and the farm itself. Her pride  of that farm and it’s beauty was in part because of its age. A winding dirt road led up to the two story farmhouse; large trees in the front yard overhung the path and bathed it in shade. I loved the wraparound porch, where you could look through the trees   and see the mailbox setting a bit askew on the county road. The house had additions and of course the old now unused well. It had a junk pile, some sheds and the Hoosier icon — the barn with a rusty basketball hoop on the side.

She, like my Uncle Bob, had this twinkle in her eye, this appreciation of the day even as days of her life were often full of work with the farm and family.

In the 1930s, years before she married Uncle Paul, my aunt and my mom were good friends. My sister’s middle name is Charlotte; I always knew she was named after Aunt Charlotte. My cousins are only now aware of that connection.

The vision of mom and my aunt as good friends is a pleasant way to think of them. It reminds me of the spirit in mom  when she was at her best.

Fred and Jay, my cousins, tell stories of their mother with the respect, a little awe, and a lot of love. I treasure the image they offered of her turning in the hall and waving good bye for the last time to her grand children, just days before she moved to her sleeping space and her death.

How do you define old? How you feel? How you see people? How is life at a given moment? Ninety-three is certainly considered old.  In a way Aunt Charlotte always felt old to me, after all she was 30 years my senior. The other side of it was when I got to those ages I understood them differently. Still my perception was of her with energy, smiles, love and a zest for life.

My gerontologist friend, David, and I had a brief debate about use of the word “old”. On the one hand I suggested that word not be used, at least not as an excuse to not do something. I say do not focus on age but rather pay attention  to what your body and your mind tells you; if it says do not throw a ball because of risk of injury — don’t throw a ball. But do not say “I am too old to throw a ball.” Attend to the awareness, here and now of your body and mind. Don’t say aloud or silently: I am too old to play ping pong, or too old to dance.

David counters to honor the word “old”. It is part of our natural progression. He challenges me to use it in a healthy way contrary to society’s underlying push to first become an adult as soon as possible and then remain one forever. He adds the word “old” in this society has become an undesired state of being, a word we avoid as in “don’t become old.” If you wonder how society does this, check much of TV programming and advertising. David wondered aloud “at what age do we become old” and wears that tag for himself with honor and   humor. He challenges the notion “you are only as old as you feel” while I think there is much wisdom in the idea. I have met people that at 40 seem “old” and others at 75 that do not. Either way, it begs for the definition of what “old” is for each of us and similarly how can we honor, not avoid the term.

So lessons from my ancestors are to do and do daily. Maintain as often as you can that twinkle in the eye which comes from appreciation of challenging life with the best every day. Much of the twinkle is from doing both the work and the fun of life.  Be with your family, play, dance, work and recognize the interconnection.

It is nice to be here.


Aging: Keep a Twinkle in Your Eyes

Summertime — it’s for the great outdoors, baseball, parks and family. During this season, families often travel to visit grandparents or go back to home towns. This includes seeing aunts, uncles, cousins — the young and old.

When it comes time for a family reunion, there’s a question of going or not. It’s not because of seeing them, but rather the change of routine, drive, and getting there. Always glad that we went and typically feel enthusiasm once we hit the road.

How do you handle those trips? Awareness, interest, eventual joy?

Over the past six weeks, we have experienced definite joy and discovered treasures of life in unexpected ways. Here’s one of our riches.

About a month ago, Uncle Bob (Bobby as my mom always called him) came back to Indiana for his 70th high school reunion. Think about that – 70 years after high school, at age 88, he makes the trip. His visits back are infrequent. He came from California accompanied by his son Dan.

I know little of Uncle Bob’s life except for brief contacts over the years and stories from the family. He lived in California after military service in World War II. When I visited California in 1962, he took us to Disneyland and Knottsberry Farm; then to his garage where he schooled me in ping pong.

Uncle Bob always seemed, as I remember, to have this gleam in his eyes, this joy of living. He and his wife had a zest for life, finding ways to stay active and connected. In retirement they square danced their way up and down the California coast. Certainly Uncle Bob had struggles. His wife had a prolonged death and recently his only daughter died. It was a shattering time for him.

So Uncle Bob was in Syracuse, Indiana to visit the old farm, for his school reunion and for our family reunion. Dan and I had a catch; it seemed we took up where we last left off as boys in 1962.

But Uncle Bob was the attraction on this Sunday. As I ask how about a brief catch, he says no that arm does not work that way anymore.

Then with that twinkle, he asks if I know how much Ping Pong paddles cost. Responding with a guess of $40-$50; I ask if he has one. He nods yes and I ask how much his cost. He holds out two fingers; I fall for it with “oh you paid two dollars for yours?”  “No, he chuckles, $200.00.”

This is his special paddle; the one he uses to play his son every week as they continue to compete and tease each other about who is the best ping pong player. Uncle Bob and Dan have been playing for years. At 88, Uncle Bob is still playing.

Uncle Bob also uses his expensive paddle to play other residents at his retirement village. His arm does work in that way! And he continues the regular ritual of square dancing; saying “it’s a good way to hold a woman.” Then with that telltale twinkle he adds that he has a female friend.

The consistent gleam in his eye, continues to say “It’s good to be alive. It’s nice to be here.”

I found treasures and another day of happily ever after in that Sunday reunion; I also felt more educated on aging.

Find ways to enjoy yourself. Take advantage of the summertime. Be with your family, play, dance and cuddle. Enjoy the days of your life the best you can.


Parenting Evolution — the Changing Ideas

“No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I’m not talking about the kids.” Bill Cosby

For twenty years of my 34 year career in community mental health, I taught numerous Parenting classes. Parents came, once a week for the seven week class, to share, listen and find new ways to help with behavior issues and better understand their child.  

Another therapist, Dennis Bumgarner, and I created the class and usually co- led it. We did this until he moved to Indianapolis.

The class curriculum and approach changed over the years, as good classes should and as the presenter grows the class. It evolved from: 7 Rules of Parenting to 5 Guidelines of Parenting to General Ideas of Parenting. The impetus of the changes was the addition of children to my life.

Rules of Parenting was the essence of the first classes. Rules were outlined as: if your child does A — you respond with B. It was pretty cut and dry. I didn’t have children when we started the class. Then I married Katie and gained Beth, a daughter in my life. Becoming a parent changed my perspective on the class.

What followed was Guidelines of Parenting; If your child does A, and what you are doing is not helping, you could consider response B. It was gentler in terms of right and wrong response from parents, as the lines of what to do and when to do was less clearly defined. My daughter taught me that. The next perspective change came after my son Ben was born.

Ideas of Parenting came next. It presented a more practical, consistent method. When we offered ideas for parenting, it was not cut and dry. These ideas were given as: if your child does A and what you are doing is not helping, consider response B with the best consistency a parent could muster; if that was not helpful, think about or try response C or D. The class became more realistic to the nuances of parenting. It was more flexible.

With humbleness as I write future blogs, there will be ideas presented on parenting.  Parenting is, I believe, the most important activity that I have undertaken. I always hope parents recognize that for themselves. I believe this is what children deserve.

Unfortunately for some children, that is not always the case. As parents struggle with their kids, I counsel them to realize, “this is as good as it gets.” My intent with this statement is: parenting is hard and often fatiguing work, at times instantly noticed by kids with feet stomping or doors slamming. Yet, parenting is also the essence of life, with work and fatigue, which parents will likely remember in satisfying ways. The point is: why not enjoy it as fully as possible now, even the tough stuff?

All three structures of the class seemed helpful.  As the material was presented, another aspect grew: it became apparent that ultimately what is most important becomes the parent as a role model.

How do you handle day to day situations?  You want a loving child, be a loving parent. You want a non smoker, don’t smoke. You want kids to use good language; you use good language. Continue lifelong learning to set an example of education for your child. 

So as the blogs appear during the next weeks, consider them Ideas of Parenting not rules. I hope you will find them useful.


“I Am a Social Worker” – National Social Work Month

March Recognizes Social Work Profession

“The best way to find your self is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Social workers practice human dignity, peace, social justice.”
NASW T-Shirt

I’ve taught undergraduate and graduate level classes in the field of Social Work at Ball State University and Indiana University Purdue University. Since 2004, I have presented annually at the Indiana Chapter Conference for the National Association of Social Work (NASW).

For years though, I was not a Social Worker. If people asked, I would say “I am a Therapist.” It was easier to explain and I thought that I had little in common with Social Workers.

Yet my degree, my ticket to work in the therapy field is the Master of Science, School of Social Work (MSSW) from the University of Tennessee. That is how it has been for most of my career.

I needed the ticket and the license (LCSW or Licensed Clinical Social Worker); I knew that social workers did most of the psychotherapy in Community Mental Health and much of psychotherapy in private practice. But still, I thought of myself as a therapist.

Then after studying with the best in the world on Quality of Care in Mental health, I wanted to teach this to others. I applied to do a workshop at the NASW annual Indiana training conference. They welcomed my participation.

I presented the workshop “Doing Effective Therapy.” I listened to other presenters, attended the key note speeches, and watched as Social Workers honored their own. I ate with other Social Workers, stopped at information booths, and talked with many.

Social Workers came from a wide variety of fields, well beyond my specific involvement with community mental health. I found them dedicated to adding value to people’s lives and felt lucky to be involved with them.

In graduate school we joked that “a social worker is what a social worker does.” Social Work is such a broad field and involves helping people in so many ways as to be mind boggling. Social workers are in hospitals, schools, nursing homes; working with the homeless, in mental heath centers and so much more.

It is an honorable, but little honored, profession. I now know what this social worker does as a therapist in mental health, while quite important, is a small sliver of the field. I am a member of NASW.
I am a Social Worker.

To learn more about Social Work check out the Indiana NASW web site  or the NASW national site.

Taking First Steps

Fall down 7 times; get up 8– Eastern saying

We visited for the celebration of Reese’s first birthday — complete with anticipation of “what’s next for this little one”. Her parents suspected she might take her first steps. She was standing, squatting and jumping with support. As she pushed her walker across the floor, it was apparent she wanted to move on those little feet and follow her sister.

While playing with her, she continued to jump and stand and push, yet no showed direct interest in walking. Grandparenting brings inalienable rights for teaching, praising and spoiling, plus trying to get that “next thing” to happen while we’re visiting. While one held her up and the other had outstretched hands to catch, she just bent her knees, having none of it at that time. Yet, other times, she had a spontaneous movement that seemed an effort to take a step. One effort took her across a musical toy that ended in a fall. Even then it was with continued encouragement, as we cheered, she clapped and smiled.  We continued encouragement yet honored her schedule — if you want to try “great”; if not, “oh well”.

Then Reese did it! On Sunday there it was: Movement from one of us to the other: tiny foot taking step 1, followed by tiny foot taking step 2. — A little lunge and an adult catch.  Reese had the smile on her lips and the light in her eyes, the acknowledgement she had done something new, something she liked. It was precious. To make it official, her parents saw it, too. For us, as grandparents, it was priceless.   

“Hey Reese, we said, want to walk again” as we held her for another try. She greeted us with bent knees and essentially, “I am done; I am doing this at my pace” and off she crawled to her next adventure.

Often, it seems the first step in doing something new is the hardest. We may lose our balance, perhaps fall. Some say the secret of learning to walk is falling, followed by “Oh well”, get up and try again…at our own pace….like Reese.

You go little girl. 

Bill (aka grandpa)