I came home this afternoon and pulled a slim letter from Portland State University out of my mailbox, kind of  pay-your-library-fees-already sized.  Only, I knew I had paid my library fees because I had viewed my grades just fine two weeks ago, please and thank you.

This, however, was not a library fine letter.  (This won't surprise you:  I don't get library fines.  Too compulsive for that sort of thing.)

No, instead, this was the letter,

"Dear Lisa,

Congratulations!  We are pleased to announce that you have been selected as the first student to receive the Astrid Schlaps Scholarship ..."

And I was thrilled beyond measure.  Any bit helps.  Any.  And then in the next breath, I grieved.

Astrid Schlaps was a professor at the GSSW until early this year, when she was killed at her home in an apparent murder-suicide in Manzanita.  Although I had never met Astrid, she was well loved by previous graduates as well as her professional colleagues.

The scholarship is geared toward students wishing to continue in careers working with victims of abuse and trauma.  I read the letter, I rejoice.  I read the letter, I grieve.  Quite suddenly, I come into full realization that I am receiving assistance towards my education because a woman's life has been lost.  And when I think about Astrid, I think about my very first shelter client.  And the second.  And the 5th.  And the 55th.  Because you never really forget any of them.  And I think about the first abused child I advocated for.  And the children who followed.  Because you never forget any of them, either.   And I think about the children I'll be working with this year at my internship.

I'm still a Courtesy Guardian Ad Litem for the Vineyard County because one of the first kids on my caseload was transferred here right as I was moving here.  I visited with him last night, his case is almost closed, and I said softly, "My God, (kid).  Look at how much you've come through in the past four years."

And that kid?  He grinned.  Because he knows.  He knows how much he's gone through and he's seen that things can get so much better.

Better in a way that nobody (maybe not even me) could have expected.  It doesn't happen every time.  But it happens enough to know it's worth the work. This is a strange career.  Very strange.  We're certainly not in it for the (imaginary) money and I spent a lot of time wishing I didn't have a job -- that these issues and inequalities would level out to put me right out of work.

Then again, I have no idea what else I'd do.
This is where it's always been for me.  

And once again I am bored.

I'm positive the DSM V will have a diagnosis for me, once it's released.  The boredom isn't for lack of things to do.  I'm busy morning until night.  But it's uninspired time at a relatively uninspired job.  More on that in a future posting, maybe.

I have a few pictures to share.  A few summer happenings.  Things like ... It was my birthday on Saturday.  I turned 27.

For the 7th time, but whatever, who's counting?  (O, right.  Me.)

But for now I'm too lazy to download those pictures so, for now, Book Club catchings up because I have been very errant in doing so.  (By the way, I can't write about literature worth beans, hence the ever present "blurb from the back").

Time Before Last:  The Help, Kathryn Stockett.

Blurb From the Back:  There is no blurb from the back.  There is a rather long jacket description, so here's a snippet, "Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss ... Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child ... Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi... Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them at risk.  And why?  Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times."

Verdict:  100 stars out of a possible 5 from everybody.  Ok, we don't use stars.  But we all gobbled this book up and appreciated the complex motivation of each character.  It'll get read again by the summer's end.  What can I say?  We all loved it.   Go read it.

Last time:  Night, Elie Wiesel.

Blurb From the Back: "Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald.  Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel's memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man."

Verdict:  This is an extremely difficult book to get through, said Captain Obvious.  The events Wiesel describes are humanity at its absolute worst and I repeatedly had to slow down and make myself read every sentence, every word. I kept speeding up, as if by doing so, I could make the darkness less real.  We would all recommend it ... or, rather, when you are ready, you should read it.

Next time:  Zazen, Vanessa Vaselka.

And I also finished:  The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami.  Mr. Murakami is too smart for me.  I only started to catch on at the very end, and then I felt foolish.  And embarrassed.  And a little cheesed.  It takes some brain power, but if you like books that feel like acid trips (which I actually have no frame of reference for), it's the book for you.

And I just ordered:  Counseling Treatment for Children and Adolescents With DSM IV TR Disorders, 2nd Edition.  Holy Soybeans, that was an expensive book.

I probably won't recommend that one.  Heard the ending's a little ambiguous.

So ... I have a little bit of free time this summer.

Any recommendations?
Or so I always tell Shoes.

Friday morning I headed to campus to stash my car, pick up my final papers and catch the bus up to the hospital for a job interview.  In true Lisa form, I was incredibly early and stopped in at a coffee shop to kill some time.

A middle aged man approached my table and asked if he could sit with me.    Of course, and I went back to reading my book.

He was holding his mocha with both hands, drinking very carefully, absolutely beaming, and kept repeating to himself, "This is so good.  So good.  So so good."

After he had drained it, he stood up carefully, sat down, stood up carefully, sat down, wiped the table a little with his napkin, and stood up.   Still beaming, he said, "Thank you for letting me sit with you.  Have a nice day.  Have a nice day.  Thank you.  Have a nice day."  I couldn't help but smile at his authenticity and pureness of spirit.

Then he took the napkin and blew his nose.

And then he thoroughly and carefully wiped the table again with it.

And it reminded me of why I love people.  And why I carry anti-bacterial wipes in my purse.

Blessed be.
In all of the end of the school year-final papers-ending at internship-trying to find a new job insanity that has been the last month, I completed neglected to wish this blog a Happy 5th Birthday (as of May).

In human years, 5 year olds are at a sort of transitional part in their lives.  Not really preschoolers and not like the older kids in the middle childhood cohort, they like unicorns and batman and swimming and mommy and daddy's attention.

5 year olds are figuring out life's greatest mysteries.  How to tie their shoes.  Figuring out what's real and what's imaginary.  Figuring out why.  (5 year olds are not so great yet at figuring out intent - why somebody said what s/he did.)

My blog still doesn't know how to tie its shoes.  :(

But.  This blog has seen the following developmental milestones:

*  A job with incarcerated youth I loved.  (I loved the job and I loved the youth)
*  Best of MSN in 2006.  Good job, blog!
*  The amazing bloggers I've met (virtually, but in real life, too) through the blog.  (I have amazing amounts of super massive tender feelings for these guys).
*  A great plan to get a Master's to teach High School English and the joy of taking state licensure tests
*  Acceptance into a Masters of Teaching Education Program!
*  The devastating, sudden disintegration of a church marriage
*  The healing that came with said dissolution
*  The difficult decision to forgo the MTE
*  A job promotion to supervise a Guardian  Ad Litem Program
*  A time period where not a lot happened.  (That's not a milestone, but that is life).
*  The decision to apply to an MSW program.
*  The beginning of a courtship with a handsome deputy prosecuting attorney
*  Acceptance into the MSW program!
*  A move to Portland!
*  A DPA who concluded our relationship was paramount to him and said he was all in, despite the distance
*  LEARNING HOW TO RIDE THE BUS ALL BY MYSELF (now, if that doesn't say 5 year old, I don't know what does ...)
*  Ups and downs of school.  Mostly ups.
*  Amazing new social worker friends
*  A challenging and tender and difficult and beautiful internship counseling the elderly
*  Acceptance into my internship of first choice for next year

Happy 5th Birthday, Blog.  I started you on a whim while working graveyards at the juvenile detention center, but you've become an outlet and a concrete way to keep my anecdotal (non research related) writing skills sharp.    You're a reminder of the not so good and the absolutely fantastic.  We're still figuring out together what's real and what's imaginary and what peoples' intent are.

And I am also so very, very grateful to the amazing people I've met through the blogging community.  The brief notes, the check ins, the witty remarks, the "you can do its"...  I have neighborhood people who tell me this, too, but there's something to be said about the kindness of relative strangers.   Bless you guys.

To birthdays!
It was a rough public transit morning this morning.  People high, people not showering, people asking me what time it is every 5 minutes and a man who shouted (literally - shouted) to me, "I'M COMPLIMENTING YOU ON YOUR PERFUME.  YOU SMELL NICE."

Coursework is done for the term.  Two more days of internship, a truckload of small details to take care of, and by 3:00 pm Friday I'll be done with this school year.  One year left.  I have no idea where the last two years have gone, but I think quite a bit of my energy has been sopped up trying to keep myself safe and sane on the 17, 8, 44 and 1.  The 64 always treats me well, but it's basically an express bus for OHSU workers.  No major worries there.

End of the year MSW shindig Friday night; MSW graduation on Saturday; and Elizabeth and I are getting together on Sunday to eat cookies and covertly talk about secret ops event details (the event that will legalize me and Shoes' coupledom).  

Also, we will be celebrating the fact that it has been 10 years since we graduated from undergraduate school.
10! I don't know where that 10 years has gone either, but, go Mountaineers!

I will tell you that Shoes and I have somehow managed to jump from cheery, unmarried, breezy coupledom to me saying, "Darling, if we are planning to legalize our coupledom and collect a tax break, we should probably decide by August or September how that's going to look as many venues require reservations a year in advance."

Shoes says, "Definitely by August we'll decide.  September is the start of college football."

That's true.  It cannot be interfered with.  I knew this before Shoes and I started dating.  Cougar Football will probably make its way into the wedding vows.

Gretchen (Shoes' mom) says, "He took me ring shopping!  But then he wanted to make the final decision by himself."  She's so super, endearingly excited about these nuptials and says, "This family needs a happy event."  Indeed, the family has been faced with untold challenges since March. But there are good things happening, too ... the birth of a baby in July, the loveliness of three grandsons, the celebration of an acceptance into Pharmacy school, the collective rush of healing thoughts for a  family member experiencing a complicated health issue ...

I said, "Maybe we should just go to Vegas."

Gretchen said, "That's absolutely fine!"

My mom said ... well, my mom wasn't there.  But I know she'd support anything I decided.  She's crazy unconditional that way. I'm sure she'd be the first person to arrive in Vegas with her motor home and mother of the bride dress.

Shoes said, "Nah. Let's not go to Vegas.  Let's do this:"

{Actual venue site; photo not hyperlinked.}

I said, "Really?"

Shoes said, "Absolutely.  That's just fine with me."

At the beginning of graduate school, my advisor told us that the one thing we absolutely should not do is plan a wedding before graduation.

And plagiarize.  We definitely shouldn't plagiarize. (Like I did when I posted the venue site without crediting the source.)

The thought is overwhelming for me ... especially right now as I finish up this term, think about the intensity of my final year, look for another job as I will lose my current position at the end of the summer ... 

But then I think, "Wedding Schmedding.   I just want to have a happy party with the people closest to us in the fantastic Palouse surrounded by green rolling hills" (Read:  Very Small).

And more than anything, I just want to come home at the end of my day at the same time Shoes does ... No four hour drives, no nightly marathon phone calls, just regular, normal, everyday, boring, fantastic life.  With two dogs.  And town chickens.  And raised garden beds.  And weekly trips to the Farmer's Market.  And gratitude.

Supreme gratitude.  

Shoes is surprising in the most surprisingest of ways.  I'm keeping the "how we met" post until the formal proposal. Suffice it to say he's not who I thought I would have chosen.  And I don't know why he picked me.   But he did.  I did.  We did.

We will.  Eventually.

I like tax breaks.