12
Oct
07

the weekend: A review

FRIDAY: All week Karen and I anxiously awaited our 20 week visit with our baby doctor, Doc L. Our waiting ended at 9:30am when we strolled into the Office de Stork to receive confirmation of Max’s wellness as a little foot long spud in his mommy’s belly: and we did, and he is doing great in there!

But, before we headed out to see Doc L, we decided to drop our big ass black lab, Barkley, off at the Downtown Vet for a little shampoo/up-do and lovin’ from his good friends there. After handing him over to their spectacular care, we stopped into a breakfast joint we sometimes frequent in downtown Indy, The Canary Cafe. On that particular Friday morning, the place was bare. Our attendance at breakfast made up two-thirds of their mid-morning patronage. Only one other lady ate breakfast while we where there, and she constantly asked her toast questions about their feelings. While staring at her cracked wheat slices, she’d say, “so how do you like your jelly this morning? Clumpy or spread thin?” Then she kept taking out little balls of Kleenex from her purse, setting them on the table only to place them back into her purse to repeat again and again. The whole scene started to make me think I was in the movie “One Flew Over The Canary’s Nest”.

I need to mention at this point that with this pregnancy, my wife has become…well…quite chesty. I hope she doesn’t mind that I am sharing that, as she seems to be fairly open talking about her ever-expanding bosom. The milk is coming and we can all tell. I do not exclude our waiter at the Canary Cafe on Friday from those who notice. As he took our order, he couldn’t help but glance at the boobies. I saw it once, I saw it often. I found him constantly peeking around the corner to “see how y’all are doing”. I know full when he said “y’all” he wasn’t talking about me and Karen: he was talkin’ about Karen’s proverbial “Boyz”. It is little wonder, then, that when he carried out my breakfast order, a much anticipated eggs Benedict with potatoes, this is what was ‘set’ in front of me:
Canary Cafe
SATURDAY: For about four months, I’ve been working out at the gym at Butler University. They recently built a brand new, state of the art facility that we were able to join given Karen’s Alumni status there. All together, my experience at Butler’s gym has been pretty good: a little on the meat market side, but good. This comes, however, with some exception. I’ve had a few odd locker room experiences since I joined. Two involved children in the locker room during summer camps (no not like that, sicko): one when some young, spoiled brats scattered the contents of my gym bag all over the locker room, and another one when a group of young punks opened my shower stall curtain while I was shampooing my hair…in the buff, mind you. They stood there laughing at me…a grown man naked! I am still in therapy. The last episode not only drew the line, but crossed the line I drew in the sand for the Butler gym. After working out, I hit the showers. Walking around the corner from the ‘changing area’ to the ‘shower area’ totally in the nude, swinging my towel around and whistling the radio version of Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.”, I make a startling discovery. There in front of me were two FEMALE janitors! Some of you might think this sounds like the intro to an 80’s porno, but believe me they – nor I – are of porn star caliber. I screamed. They screamed. I ran into a toilet stall, got dressed and marched immediately to the gym office to demand a withdrawal of my membership and pro-rated reimbursement of my membership fee. After negotiating with them, they agreed and I left the gym for the last time.

This brings me to Saturday, my second return to NIFS (National Institute of Fitness and Sport). I am like a prodigal son of that place, which really is the best gym in the city: professional, health-centered, state-of-the art and SCHWEATY-awesome steam rooms! In lieu of my nullified Butler University Gym Membership, I am now the newest re-member of NIFS. I am totally excited to be back in that place. Since Saturday, I’ve worked out there four times and enjoyed every minute. Before you know it, I will be able to climb buildings without breaking a sweat and lift cars without popping a hernia.

SUNDAY: Our good friend and pastor Mike Mather made is return to our church, Broadway United Methodist, after some four months of sabbatical. It was real wonderful to have him back and up in front of his ‘flock’. Later on Sunday, Karen and I got dinner ready for a nice little get together with our great friends, John and Troy Smyth-Moore. On the menu for the evening: Pita & Red Pepper Hummus, Curried Sweet Potato Bisque, and Marc’s Manwich (a six-foot tall testament to real sandwiches filled with turkey, chutney, apples and a whole bunch of other shit). This is what it looks like:
Big Sandwich

and the Flan (angle 1):
Flan 2
and the Flan again (angle 2):
Flan 1
Our time with Troy and John was the best way to end a weekend. Hanging out with them always makes us feel ‘belonging’. We often say that Troy and John are our sidekick couple. They share a similar sense of humor, great overlap in interest, and many same beliefs about life, justice, and happiness.
Pick of John (left) and Troy (right) with John eating:
T & J Dinner 1
Pick of John (left) and Troy (right) with Troy eating:
T & J Dinner 2
On this particular evening, our conversation drifted off into a tangent about Karen’s pregnancy and the general order and rules we’ve established around the actual labor experience (to be held sometime in February ’08, by the way). Putting ourselves in a truly vulnerable position, after much discussion Karen and I agreed to ask John to video tape the delivery while Troy provides live color commentary. Karen and I just thought that of all of our friends, John and Troy would be the best documentarians/broadcast personalities to capture this important event. Then, we could show the video to our other friends, people at our church, and maybe even to some classes at the local community elementary school.

At the sound of our request, John and Troy laughed in manic fits. They couldn’t believe what we were asking of them. On grounds that (1) they didn’t want to see Karen’s, you know, noo-naa (2) they didn’t want to interfere with our special delivery moment and (3) they had some reservation as to their video production skills. I guess upon reflection, I can’t blame them. Karen thinks I should have offered them some money for their prospective video production services. I don’t think it would change their minds anyway. Oh well, I’ll be sure to take picutres of the delivery and share them with you on this blog!

In lieu of Troy and John’s decline of our offer, they presented us with this gift:
Pumpkin Gift
A Pumpkin for our mantle!!!! Thanks, guys. The pumpkin is way more meaningful than any stupid birthing video!

What a great weekend.

(P.S. Just so you know, I tell a lot of stories. And in order to not get in trouble with my wife, I should let y’all know that this entry was 99% true and 1% bull shit. The BS part? While we did ask Troy and John to video tape our birth, it was out of sarcasm. No one will be taping our birth and, even if they did, we wouldn’t show it to anyone other than our kids. Just clearin’ the air as I know that some people are very literal and others are not…I am certainly not literal.)

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07
Oct
07

HELP!! ME BE A SOCIAL WORKER

helpStartLogo

This past Thursday, October 4, 2007, I received the 2007 MSW Student of the Year Award issued by the Indiana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Just for some background on this occasion, I graduated from the Indiana University School of Social Work this past May. Even though I was a complete prick in my classes (always challenging the modern ‘practice’ of social work), even though I received only four A’s (all the rest were A+’s), and even though I became known as the most ardent critic of the paths taken by the Social Work Profession, my academic track record found its way onto a nomination form submitted and juried by the Board of Directors of the NASW-Indiana. Turns out, I looked better on paper than the other MSW nominees and, wadda-bang wadda-boom, I got the award.

 

I can’t complain about this whole arrangement. It provides me an opportunity to give this large collection of ‘professional social workers’ a second chance; a way to really sell themselves to me. And, by the way, I failed to mention that not only is it an award, it brought with it a small scholarship (which I was still eligible to receive regardless of the fact that I graduated in May and am debt free!).

 

So, I prepped for the awards gala with great respect for the organization for which it comes from. The award was given on an evening during and coinciding with the NASW-Indiana’s Annual Conference. The Executive Director informed me months earlier that I would be able to invite up to nine guest to sit with me for the dinner and Gala (yep, we got a free dinner out of it, too!). Karen called me earlier that day to ask if it would be sufficient for her to wear a particular dress that she wore to my organization’s Annual Meeting a few weeks prior. My mom also called me that day to ask about attire and raise concern about the shorts my brother might wear because he hadn’t caught up with his laundry. For them both, I wanted to say, “come on…these are social workers, not lawyers! You could go wearing a soiled t-shirt and daisy dukes and no one would care!” Regardless of which, my wife showed up to the gala lookin’ dead sexy. Her hair flowed like the beer in Budweiser commercials; hoppy, bubbly, and down right American. And her adorable dress fit perfectly over her pregnant bump, with a little belt that tied just above the belly. I must say, she is one hot momma and I,… one lucky dude.

 

My folks met at our place and we all rode to the conference center together. When we arrived, we found the people we needed to find, walked through a lack-luster buffet with accompanying rude wait staff to boot, then we returned to our table. It was real weird for me because in the middle of the table there was a large sign that said, “Reserved, Marc McAleavey MSW Student of the Year”. I’m just not used to that kind of recognition. I wanted to stand on the table and yell out “anyone can sit here, really! I’m not reserving nothing for no-one!”. But, as it turns out, with Karen, my folks, my brother and his kids, and my two friends, we didn’t have much room to offer. Eventually, the Dean of the IU School of Social Work asked if he could join us, and we just happen to have one seat for him. So, he joined us.

 

You might recall that earlier I mentioned that I’d become somewhat known for challenging the Social Work Profession when I was in the MSW program. I knew two things going into this awards gala: (1) there would be A LOT of social workers in the room and (2) I would have them as a captive audience for at least a couple of minutes. So, I decided to prepare a speech that really attacked the core of what I consider to be ‘wrong’ with the Social Work Profession (speech posted here). I do not think that ‘help’ should be our main goal as social workers. To me, the large emphasis on helping takes away from the main point of social work, which is social connectivity and person-hood. Maybe ‘Help’ is just a byproduct, sometimes. But it is never an end, or should never be THE reason to practice social work. You might imagine, then, that I have serious reservations about the current marketing campaign for the social work profession which is driven by the motto “Social Work: Help Starts Here“. Accordingly, this slogan became the proverbial ‘ass’ that I decided to try to ‘whip’ during my acceptance speech.

 

I wrote the speech early Thursday morning (the award was given later that evening). Sometime in the mid-afternoon, I decided to check the agenda for the NASW award gala just to see who else would be speaking and what other activities were in store for the evening. I saw that the Keynote Speaker was going to be a fellow named Gary Bailey, who is a Professor of Social Work at Simmons College in Cambridge, MA and has done many, many, many, many, many crazy-incredible things during his career. One of Prof. Bailey’s many accomplishments is that he is the chairperson for the National Association of Social Workers Public Education Campaign!!!! Do you know what this means?!?!?!??! HE WAS THE GUY WHO ESSENTIALLY CAME UP WITH THE SLOGAN FOR WHICH I WAS TO ATTACK!!!! And he was THE keynote speaker…as in he will be the guy who will follow my piddly little acceptance speech!

baileynew2

 

I was nervous all afternoon and especially leading up to my acceptance of the award. When that time came, I received the award, gave the speech and sat down with roaring applause. Not only did I not get kicked out of the banquet hall (which I thought would happen), but much to my great surprise, the folks in the room loved what I said! My acceptance speech was followed by two other awardees for different awards. And then after a 15 minute introduction given by some local news anchor, WTHR’s Sandra Chapman, the academically formidable Prof. Bailey took the stage.

 

I was nervous. I was scared. I almost hid under the table in fear of this guy’s wicked and intellectually superior rebuttal to my claims against his brainchild of a slogan, “Help Starts Here”. He began his speech with great wit and charm. After some introduction on his own accord, Bailey looked over at me and said “I’d expect reference to a French Philosopher from someone who came from such a good University.” Then he went on to quote like Satre, Camus, or some shit like that.

 

“Hum, was that an insult?” I thought to myself. “Or, did he just send me a compliment? He did…that was a nice compliment!” I realized that this guy went out of his way to call one of my references in the speech out on the table and stroke it with positive affirmation. Then, a few minutes later, Bailey started talking about the notion of ‘help’. Again, he looked over at me from his podium and explained his stance on the issue. In the same breath, he sided with me and defended his side of the issue. He was a master of negotiation and hero of diplomacy. He did nothing to polarize me by pushing some dichotomous perspective counter to my own speech. But, he also did nothing to stand down from the motto he created. It was an incredible experience!

 

After all speeches were made, and everyone was wondering around the room visiting with each other, I experienced something I hadn’t experienced before: A truly supportive and caring profession. I observed colleagues listening to one another, laughing with one another, and sharing with one another. Many, many of my new fellow social workers came up to me with congratulatory remarks and personal introductions. Several folks spent a few minutes of conversation to explain what they liked about my speech and asked me questions about my job at the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center.

 

Then, I made my way to Gary Bailey to extend a personal introduction and apologize for stepping on his toes, if I had. I got caught up in a couple conversations on my way to Bailey, but he noticed that I was heading his way and paced towards me to interrupt my interfering chats (which was welcomed, believe me). He shook my hand, chuckled a little bit and congratulated me on my award. With somewhat of a nervous smile, I explained the anxiety I had when I learned that he was the keynote speaker, considering the subject matter of my speech. He laughed with me for a second and then explained to me the difficulty he had in coming up with the motto and usage the word “help” in the education campaign. He said that he just couldn’t think of a better way to describe, in American culture, the connectivity and exchange of spirit that happens in the social work profession. In just a few minute conversation, he taught me so much about my chosen profession and the value of my education there in.

 

We wrapped up this little learning experience with a discussion about Doctorate Programs in Social Work. He said that I was articulate and would do very well in a Doctorate Program. Someday I would like to do the PhD, but I want to go to a great school and have a dynamic experience. Maybe, just maybe, Gary Bailey and my new social work friend can HELP.

 

P.S. We were able to buy an awesome new crib set for Max with the scholarship money from this award. Thanks, so much, to the NASW for providing my soon-to-be born son with a nice place to sleep! He will certainly uphold the ethics of our work in his life, considering the many great nights of sleep you will provide to him. Here’s a picture of the crib set pieces (in case you’re interested….gosh I am a doofus):

con_combo

con_crib

 

07
Oct
07

And the Envelope Please.

The text below is the speech I gave this week in reception of the 2007 MSW Student of the Year for the State of Indiana. I’ll write more about this event in just a second (click here to read more about it). But, for now, here’s what I said at the podium (by the way, Sherry Gass is a good friend of mine and a Professor in the MSW program at IU. She is the one who nominated me and introduced me to the folks at the gala; just to give you some background).

 

“Thanks, Sherry. Sherry Gass is a tremendous asset to our profession and especially to the IU School of Social Work. Some of you may know that she is like the gateway into the School of Social Work for most MSW students as she teaches the first class of the program; a survey of social work so to speak. She has been a great teacher to me, a mentor, and someone I am so happy to call “a friend”. When MSW students begin their program at the IUSSW, before they even enter the classroom on their first day, they are all required to read the captivating work of Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed. Sherry, as a great facilitator of learning, provides a solid framework for students to think critically about Ehrenreich’s words and experience outlined in this book. It’s a book about people living in the margins in America; Folks working in low wage jobs, trying to find meaning and value in a society that all too often devalues life as it equates success with stature and income. Clearly, this exercise, for beginning MSW students, starts a great discourse for the beginning of our work as ‘professional social workers’. It introduces us, or reintroduces us, to life on the margin.

Through my experience as an MSW student, I’ve come to learn that the Social Work Profession is, perhaps, the only practicing profession that centers itself on people who live in the same margins that Ehrenreich documents. And I add that we, Social Work Professionals, are better off for it. Quite frankly, I don’t care about life inside of the margins for existence there is stodgy, mainstream, common, and completely boring. I’ve turned down subscriptions to other professions, like law, medicine, and engineering because they do not hold at their core the great esteem for who the French Philosopher Emmanual Levinas calls the other (come on…no speech is complete without reference to a French Philosopher) I wanted a profession that places the value of life above strata, above income, and above garnering respect from the academy. Cause we do, don’t we? That is why I am now proud to carry the MSW credentials.

With these things said, using the critical thinking skills and frameworks presented through out the MSW program, I call into question our profession’s current rallying slogan, Help Starts Here. I get the context of the word Help indicated in this slogan: it is meant to denote the spirit and concern of our work. I understand that when we say help we mean us doing something to make this world better. But, I am afraid of the word’s other meanings. In America, Help has for too long been used as a noun, a way to describe servants. Isn’t there a better way to articulate our work as professionals? In recognition of my sincere interest for working outside and not within the margins, it seems that the word help better qualifies what happens to the Social Worker, not the folks we serve. For it is exactly our people, our populations that give us, Social Work professionals, meaning, future, and livelihood. Clearly, Help Starts Here because we are helped by the populations we serve just as much, if not more, than we help them. Hopefully, somewhere in the mix, we don’t really help others, but we appreciate others, we care for others, and we love others…others, of course, meaning the people who fill our offices, our therapy rooms, and our home visits. If I were a Social Work Marketing Professional, I would amend said motto to proclaim, “Social Work: Abundant Life Starts Here” or “Social Work: Upholding the Preciousness of Life” or better yet “Social Work: A group of people who think you are irrevocably and totally awesome!”

I hope that I am receiving this award, not because of good grades or because of sitting in front of the classroom, but because I took a tip from the undertow current that oozes out of the teachers, mentors, and friends at the school and in the profession. Their message spells this motivating truth: All life is precious. The gift of my MSW education is a gift of understanding and critical analysis. Thanks Sherry Gass, and all those in the hallways of the school and the offices of this profession, for teaching me the tremendous value of our lives together.”

28
Sep
07

A Chip Off the Ol’ Block

When people see me with my dad they always say, “Well, you’re just a chip off of the ol’ block, aren’t ya there, Marc?!?”. Clearly, my dad and I share many similar traits. Our heads are shaped the same. Our hair lines are basically the same (i.e. bald). Our profile…the same. I guess you could say that we have both been blessed with the same good looks and handsome disposition.
composite2

Dad

Naturally, then, I am always honored to hear that cliché recognizing the likeness which I’ve inherited from my Dad. And believe me, my sense of honor comes less from the physical likeness and more from the likeness of character, personality, and being. Here’s a list of great things about my Dad.

(1) When he was like 16 years old, he saved a dude’s life!! That’s right…he did something to stop someone from dying. I think the story goes that some guy was thrown out of a window next to a grocery story that my dad worked in when he was in high school. The guy’s jugular vein was almost severed and he was bleeding out the wazoo. My dad, who knew a thing or two about first aid (thanks to Boy Scouts), took off his apron and wrapped it around the guy’s neck. The pressure helped minimize the bleeding and, voila…the dude lived!

(2) He was/is an eagle scout.

(3) He worked his way through college at Marquette University making donuts!

(4) While in Medical School at Indiana University, his gross anatomy lab partners joined him in cutting the pubic region off of their cadaver and secretly placing it in another student’s lab coat pocket. I guess that guy freaked out when he discovered the harry mound when he reached to grab his scalpel. Oh, the birth of a prankster.

(5) He has the best farts!

(6) One time, while giving an anesthetic in the O.R., my dad mooned the surgeon in the adjacent O.R. (the two O.R.’s were connected by a window).

(7) He is a truly giving person (which is sometimes a blessing…sometimes a curse).

(8) When my brother and I were approaching adolescence, he agreed to let us get our own subscription to Playboy! Don’t worry, though, my mom stopped that one before it got to the mailbox!

(9) He has THE BEST one liners. One of my favorites is this one: “yeah, that went over about as well as a pay toilet on the diarrhea ward!” Where does he get this shit (pun only kind of intended?).

(10) Sometimes he gives the best, simple advice about life. One time Karen and I thought our cat, Kelso, had run away (only to find out later that the contractors of our new house accidentally installed Kelso into the wall when they installed the dish washer). But, before we found Kelso in the wall, my dad and I drove around the neighborhood looking for him. I was in tears most of the time as my Dad kept an eye out for our cat. I kept on asking “Why, Dad? Why is this happening to us?”

When my Dad was 26 (and an intern at a Fort Wayne Hospital in the E.R.) his 16 year old brother, Johnny, was killed in a car accident. To this day, my Dad rarely talks about that experience (he was actually on call that night and was called in to work on HIS OWN BROTHER!). As my Dad listened to me piss and moan, on an on about our little cat, he quietly and with great comfort responded by saying, “I asked the same question when Uncle Johnny died. And, Marc, sometimes we will just never know why these things happen.” I melted right there in the car.

(11) He does the BEST dance impression of Axl Rose (which was a huge hit with my friends when I was in Junior High).

(12) My dad supports me in everything I do. If I wanted to be a lawyer, he would be proud. If I wanted to be a doctor, he would be proud. If I wanted to be a Korean Nail Technician, HE WOULD BE PROUD.

(13) When I told my dad that I was going to marry Karen, he cried with happiness.

(14) When Karen and I told my dad that we were having a baby, he cried with happiness.

(15) When I told my dad that we were having a boy, he said “It’s going to be a little Max!” and then…he cried with happiness.

I am missing many more great things about my Dad, but I think you get the point. I am proud of him and I have learned many, many things from him (both due to omissions and commissions).

As you may have gathered, I am going to be a Dad. Kind of like my Dad is, but me instead of him. I will be a different Dad than my Dad was to me, because I am a different person. But, I will most likely carry on many of the ‘fatherness’ that my Dad extended to me…besides I am, as you know, a chip off the ol’ block.

[This is my first official blog entry. I want to write things that my son, Max, who will arrive in February, might appreciate reading someday. I also thought some of my friends and family might enjoy these reflections as well. Let me know what you think.]

27
Sep
07

Hello world!

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