About Wanda

It is with passion and purpose that I live my life and strive to help others do the same. I am an independent professional woman who is also a wife, mother, survivor ,social worker, motivational speaker, writer, educator and therapist. In 2003 an ATV accident left me a T6 paraplegic. which changed my life forever. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker i work as a mental health professional I am politically active and believe in social justice and n 2012 I ran as the Democratic Candidate for Congress in the 16th Congressional District of Illinois.. Live your truth!

Voted early… life update!

This video was posted on Facebook, but had trouble uploading to other platforms.

I believe in voting early. Exercising my right to have a voice in my government is a something I was taught very early in my life. My very Republican father told me ” if you don’t vote… don’t bitch!” I have to say I kinda agree with the statement. As a woman and a social worker I believe that it is my responsibility as a citizen to vote. Decisions are made by those who show up !

Social change is slow and requires responsible adults who work for changes that benefit the people who have little to no voice. That is why I ran for office in 2012 but that is a story for another time!

Still in between jobs but working on that as well.

www.youtube.com/playlist

Life at this level!

Life at this level! Is a new category on my blog. I am going to link posts like this one to my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/cn6TBQxRjGg

and Instagram .

https://instagram.com/p/Bhy_t8XFgY0/

This is me

These moments will require more than skill and knowledge but also vulnerability and fear…. These are the moments when I am brave because I am far from perfect…

Perfect is how we want to present ourselves to the world, especially women, but life as we know it is messy and imperfect, it is the ties that bind who we are and what we all have in common!

The video attached to this post is shot in my kitchen on a cold and gloomy Saturday afternoon. As I was cooking and listening to TED & TEDx talks which help to motivate me, inspire me and helps me to stay positive, I realized that it is these moments, the everyday aspects of our ordinary daily life that most people take for granted that pose the greatest challenges for me and others like me.

Everything can be a teachable moment if you are brave enough to share the experience, so that is what I am doing!

Cooking ….

As the weather gets colder and the holidays are approaching I, and every other woman I know will be spending more time cooking. Think about it… the planning , the shopping, the prep and the actual act of cooking for your family …. now do it from a wheelchair… !

If your immediate response is ” I can’t” well… unless you are rich and can hire someone else to do it for you or you plan to eat out all the time you will need to learn how, just like I did.

I don’t know how many times I’ve burnt myself and dropped things including entire pans full of food, which my dogs never seem to mind, but I do. It’s a balancing act and took a long time to figure out.

Food is a requirement of life, feeding your family is necessary so learning how to do that from my wheelchair was also necessary. I am lucky I have a husband who will carry pans if I plan for that and if he can ( he does not cook, never has and never will). The over is also a challenge because it’s not just that I can’t stand or walk I also have no balance or muscle control from my ribcage down so getting pans in and out of the over without burning myself is a challenge.

https://youtu.be/cn6TBQxRjGg

I do not share this so people feel sorry for me… no I share it so the next time you are cooking remind yourself to be grateful that you can!

I am grateful that I was able to figure it out and that I can do so many of the normal things… I just do it differently.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving! ❤️

It’s not just a job…It’s my passion!

My passion for public mental health stems from my belief that everyone is entitled to quality mental health services from highly trained professionals. I am an advocate for those I serve and work tirelessly to provide them with the best care possible, constantly improving my skills and seeking new interventions in service of diverse populations.
Using the vast skill set I have developed to assist another person in decreasing their emotional distress and encouraging new ways to cope verses using the maladaptive coping skills that may have contributed to their current crisis or situation is my goal.

 

I have the ability and life experience to offer patients a different perspective. I approach each individual from the strengths perspective, using previous success to build hope and reduce anxiety and using person first language encourages the patient and others to see the patient for who they are and not as their diagnosis or for what they have done. I believe in this approach because helps patients , who are often from disadvantaged backgrounds to see themselves differently, it fosters hope and often encourages positive change. Having the ability and desire to help people improve their quality of life, to adjust to their new normal and build self esteem is my purpose and is immensely gratifying as a mental health professional.
I became a Social Worker to use my experience and my education in service of others, to be the voice of the voiceless and to speak for those who either will not or cannot speak for themselves.

 

My life’s journey calls me to help inspire others to find courage in their fear , to believe in themselves and that being brave is the first step in achieving the big goals. I truly believe in living a purposeful life because life is meant to be lived to its fullest, to be enjoyed, to be trans formative not simply endured, no matter the situation , environment, education or socioeconomic status.

Giving Back!

As a Social Worker It is my purpose in life to work in service of others, my calling to be the voice of the voiceless and to do everything within my power to improve the lives of those in need. So it’s no wonder that being the wife and mother of Marines is so important to me and feels like part of my purpose.

Spend some time with a group of veterans and you will see that they all have a connection to each other, now put a group of Marines together and you will see a bond that is stronger than family, stronger than blood, it’s a brotherhood, an unwavering commitment to each other. I am blessed to be surrounded by this commitment, this family who are now part of my family.

My husband and son are both Marine Corp veterans and belong to a motor cycle club for Marines veterans only and it’s also a 501C ( Charitable Organization ).this club allows these Marines to stay connected to each other with their families and it provides them many opportunities to give back to a multitude of veteran organizations and causes.

The Mission Continues!

No matter what branch of the military a veteran has served, these Marines are happy to help.

Veteran causes have events all year long from Fishing with the Vets at the Manteno Veterans Home in Manteno, Illinois the spring, https://www2.Illinois.gov/veterans/homes/Pages/Manteno.aspx

to Toys for Tots in the fall as well as attending coming home ceremonies for a Honor Flight to Washington DC ,

escorting The Wall That Heals which is a traveling version of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC , and Laying of Wreaths at Military Cemeteries including the Abraham Lincoln Veterans Cemetery in Elwood. Il.

https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/abrahamlincoln.asp

and funeral escorts for the fallen. This group of veterans never forgets their oath and their obligation to one another. I am very proud to have them as my family and although it is very late in the riding season this past weekend was a local event for The Middles Eastern Conflict Wall in Marseilles, Illinois.

A memorial that unfortunately continues to have names added

I am blessed to be part of this group as a SO ( Significant Other) we are loved and supported by each other.

The last 15 years of my life have been about giving back, and being a veteran’s wife and mother is a big part of that.

If you are a veteran, ” Thank you for your service!”

If you have a spouse , child or other family member who is or has served, ” thank you for supporting them!”

To my MVMC family ” I love you and thank you for making us a part of the family!”

https://www.facebook.com/1556343052/posts/10218235989521945/

music is not mine. It is Keith Urban

Making it work!

IMG_0535Ever think that if it wasn’t for bad luck you’d have no luck at all?  That is me, just when I think its ok to relax and take a breath something always happens to remind me not to get too comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I know how blessed I am to be alive, to have the people in my life that I do and the things I have been able to provide for my family; however it always feels like a struggle, and I am very thankful I don’t have to face the struggle alone.
When I met my husband our lives were very different from the way they are now. Looking back it seems like a lifetime ago, neither one of us was looking for anything serious, but isn’t that always the way life goes. When we met ( in a bar and that is a story for another time) We both knew what we wanted and what we didn’t want in a partner, which appears to be the clarity you gain during a divorce. The relationship that started out just as fun, moved quickly into much more, we moved in together and a few months later on Valentine’s Day he asked me to be his wife. IMG_0543We started to make plans for our future, but then life threw us something we never saw coming and soon our plans were as shattered as my spine.
My husband and I have been together for 16 years, married for 7. Our relationship has been far from easy or perfect, and if I believed it was supposed to be either of those things I would have given up a long time ago. Marriage is work. It’s a combination or amazing and WTF moments, supportive hugs and conversations, fights with words you wish you could take back but you can’t, because that’s life, we live with the consequences of our actions.

After my accident I decided to build a better future for myself and my family. I refused to be a victim, believing in a powerful truth, ” if you don’t like your life, change it!” So I did, well more accurately,  we did.

I really thought when I started school to become a Social Worker I would be able to achieve some stability.  I knew I wouldn’t be rich, but I thought I would find a good job, make a decent living , pay my bills, maybe even buy a house someday that is actually built for me. We truly believed that we would eventually have a “normal life”, but our life has been far from normal. Ive been looking for work for 6 weeks and I know what I’m good at and where I belong but getting a recruiter to see that is a different story. When I’m discouraged, like I have been lately I have a hard time believing in myself and seeing past the chair. Which is when I am most thankful for his support and ability to remind me that no matter what, we will make it work because we always have .

IMG_0540Now, if my hubby sounds like a saint, trust me he is not, but he is a United States Marine Corp Veteran and if you have had the honor to know one you understand what I mean when I say ” they are like no other men I have ever met!” Marines don’t run from a challenge they adapt, improvise and overcomeIMG_0537 so when he makes a commitment he stands by it, and if he says “we will make it work”, we do.

I can always trust that he has my back so when I left my last job without having one lined up, he wasn’t thrilled but I knew we would be able to make it work.
I have learned an important lesson in my life and that is that every challenge can be faced but when you attack those challenges with the support of someone you love and that loves you, success is possible!  I know we will be successful some day, until then we will simply be making it work!

The Life of a Social Worker

This is going to be one of those “whiplash moments” I previously warned about.I’m a Social Worker…

 Image result

I actually am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker ( LCSW) and I work in the mental health field, mostly as a therapist. I know I haven’t gotten to that point in the story of my life yet  but today is one of those days where my current reality is more important than my past.

Earlier today while I was checking emails and reading a few posts on Facebook I came across an article on my college alumni page that hit very close to home given my current professional situation and it made me think about the jobs I have had and why I chose this profession given the environment we live in…

The Social Work Job Offer: Decline or Accept?”

Since graduating Aurora University​ with my MSW in 2011,  I have worked in several different environments and had to change jobs more often than I would like. In fact today ( Friday, April 27, 2018 ) is my last day at my current job where I am the Director of Behavioral Health at an HIV Clinic and I am sad to be leaving, but excited about the next chapter.  I love what I do for a living , but as always  I will miss my patients and my coworkers.

I currently work in a small non profit clinic that offered me an opportunity to grow and develop professionally which is always the hope of a new job.  In a previous position I had been tasked with leadership responsibilities as part of my job while working at a community health clinic including providing supervision for student interns, helping to develop policy and basically creating a behavioral health department inside a primary care clinic where there wasn’t one before. Although the work was hard and incredibly rewarding, the downfall was that I was not given the official title or the pay that should have come along with it. My boss, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) gave me high praise and tremendous support to create the Integrated Behavioral Health Department that I was so proud of, where I earned the respect of the medical clinicians I interacted with everyday. and the entire clinic staff. I was able to create a program, educate staff and be called on as an expert where mental health issues were concerned.  I was so proud of the work I was doing and the program I was developing; as well as, the sense of purpose I felt even on the hardest of days.  However, the sad reality of this work can be that if you work in public mental health in the state of Illinois under the current political leadership, the funding for your position may not always be there and it was exactly that issue, a state budget crisis, that inevitably made me leave the position that I loved, which lead to the biggest mistake of my career.

In uncertain times we can often make the wrong choice for what we feel , at the time to be the right reasons and that was so true for me when I unfortunately took a job I thought I would like. When you are forced to leave a job you love, due to no fault of your own, where you are a vital part of a successful team and you are respected, it can be very hard to adjust one’s own expectations.  I sought out a similar position, provided 8 letters of professional recommendation and was very clear about what type of responsibilities I wanted and what I was capable of bringing to the position. I had been taught to be confident in my skills and to only seek positions that allow those abilities to shine and grow, to identify the role I wanted to play in an organization and how my unique skill set could bring that to fruition.  It was at that time that professional promises were made and responsibilities were agreed upon, the job was offered and  I happily accepted. I knew what I wanted in my new job , I had asked for it and I got it, not because they simply offered it, but because I was able to articulate my goals ,my abilities  and how I could be beneficial to the team.  However, what I soon found at my new job was a change in leadership, which almost immediately had me asking myself if I had made a mistake.

Good leaders do not have to be experts at everything, but they do have to be aware of the deficits in their knowledge and have the ability to surround themselves with people who are experts, and be confident enough to listen to them when needed. This can be a challenge for some and appeared to be problematic for my new boss.

I’ve never been one to feel trapped by a situation, I have always found a way to make things work but after only 10 months my husband and I decided it just wasn’t going to work and I was so unhappy I started looking for a new job This was not an easy decision for me, I knew it wasn’t where I needed to be, but leaving meant more than just looking for another job, more than going through this whole process again, it also meant turning down the federal grant money I had recently been awarded that would have paid off my sizable student loan debt. However, turning it down was easier than I thought it would be because in order to receive the money I would have been required to make a 2 year commitment to  the clinic and it was not worth it to stay.

Professional and personal goals can sometimes dictate the job offer you except even more so than money. Recently while interviewing I was offered a clinical position and the pay was well, lets just say significantly more than I had been making but it just didn’t fit my personal needs, so I turned it down, which was not an easy thing to do . I had decided I was leaving a job where if I stayed my student loans would be paid off, but I had to do what was best for me and my family so I keep interviewing. I eventually was offered and accepted a position as MISA Coordinator ( Director of Behavioral Health ) with a small non profit agency that would allow me to achieve both my professional goals and my personal needs. The work environment was more collaborative and promoted a healthy work/life balance and even though it didn’t pay the most the benefits to my career growth were significant and it allowed me more time with my family. However, in accepting this job I broke one of my own professional rules, it was grant funded and I had swore I would never take a job that had an expiration date, but after discussing it with my husband we decided the potential for professional growth was worth the risk , and the truth is that changing jobs will always be risky, and as my luck would have it the funding for my current position is no longer available and I was once again forced to find a new job.

While I take the pictures off the wall and pack up my office preparing for the next opportunity I stop and think about what I have gained from my time in this job.  I have truly enjoyed the experience and feel I have grown as a clinician, a supervisor and had an opportunity to develop new skills in my leadership role. Although I am sad because I am saying goodbye to the friends I have made, my colleges and my patients I am looking forward to the nest step in my professional journey.

There are many challenges in this profession including but not limited to the constant change and uncertainty that can be hard on my family, but the rewards make it all worthwhile. Working in the mental health field, being a Social Worker has been one of the great joys of my life, allowing me to live a purposeful life. Since starting down this road I have been asked why I wanted to be a social worker, well it sure isn’t for the money because social workers are not paid what they are worth, I became a Social Worker to make a difference. The pride I feel helping my patients improve their quality of life, helping them find joy after pain and sorrow, fighting for social justice, being the voice of the voiceless, advocating for those who either cannot or will not speak for themselves is why I do what I do. So today as I pack my things and close my office door for the last time I am sad, but I can smile because I know I made a difference here and it’s just time for me to make a difference someplace else…

There is such a variety of things to consider when looking for a new job and when deciding which offer to accept or decline but the most important ones should always be will it make you happy in the long run? Will it meet your professional and personal goals? Will it pay enough to meet your needs? Will you achieve a healthy work /life balance?, Does it promote self care and a healthy environment and most importantly will it make you proud of who you are and the work that you do?…and if the answer is no, don’t take it and if things change and you find yourself in a position like I did where a professional change is required, do what needs to be done.  It may sound silly, but I have found that life is too short and the world is too hard and cruel at times to spend my life doing things that don’t make my soul sing.. find your joy in both your personal and professional life and the rest will fall into place.