My last night at OHSU was spent pretending to be interested in data entry and was followed by a couple of hours at a Pearl brewery with my co-workers (my amazingly gifted, loving co-workers).
The next morning the car was loaded (and I mean, loaded) and I was headed East on I 84 to La Grande, followed by an afternoon in the Vineyard Town, followed by a drive to Pullman. 
In true Lisa fashion, I was initially very focused on getting to La Grande and getting through the 4 hour drive.   Very focused.

I have a tendancy to speed.  I just usually don't enjoy the trip.


Somewhere outside of Hood River, I realized what I was doing.  It was the weekend after graduate school graduation.  I am unemployed.  I am not in school.  I have the support and love of some very important people in my life to be able to do that.  Not everybody has that support.  When I realized that, when I realized my privilege in that moment, I let go.

And I saw it was sunny outside.
And the Columbia River an outrageous blue.
And the green in the first part of the Gorge a sexy green.  You know what I mean?  A really seductive, earthy green.

That's when I realized that that was my after graduation road trip.  And although I normally hate driving, I decided to ... not.  To not hate it.  To enjoy 4 hours to myself.  I opened the sun roof.  I turned up the radio.  I sang.  (Singing regulates your breathing and produces endorphins.  Fyi.)

And then I started remembering.  Because that entire drive - from the Coast to the Idaho State Border, travelling East on I 84, is a collage of my life.  Outside Hood River, I found myself (metaphorically) headed West, following Shoes in the U-Haul, excited and scared to death about moving to Portland and starting graduate school.  I am grateful for Shoes and wondering if we'll make this relationship work.

Approaching Boardman, the song "1st of tha month" (thanks to an old boyfriend I wish I could have remained friends with) floods into my head and I am a sophomore and I am socially awkward and painfully shy and then I am a senior and at prom and then I am wondering how the class of 1996 is doing.

7 miles later, I am passing the house we lived in and remembering not so awesome things, so I keep driving.

In Pendleton, I am starting my first job as a summer apprentice at NOAA Weather Radio and I am struck with boredom because there is very little weather that happens in Pendleton in July.  I am staring out the window with the fire guy watching dust devils swirl.

And then I am headed up Meacham into La Grande and I am an undergraduate freshman and I am delivering pizzas for Dominos and then I am a sophomore and I am breaking up with the Bone Thugs N Harmony boyfriend and then we are getting back together and then we are breaking up.  I am graduating with two bachelors on a sunny afternoon and have started my first social work job {not realizing then that I was making a life decision that would forever change how I related to people}.

In La Grande, I am meeting Former Husband for the first time and we are starting our courtship and marriage.  I am taking kids to Mexico for missions trips. 

Later, when headed to the Vineyard Town to meet Shoes, the memories stop and I am in present time.  I am not returning to the scene of any crime any longer.  I am meeting a partner who has loved and shown love and provided and made me laugh until my sides hurt because his wittiness drowns you.

Now, I am here in Pullman, where I have created very few memories.
The graduation road trip is over.

It is sunny a lot here.  Cloudless skies over rolling green wheat fields.
I have been sleeping in. 
I have been smiling. 

This is a good place, I think.
... which I do not.

So there appears to be an entire chunk of graduation pictures that belong now only to our collective conscious, but that's ok.  It still happened.  I got hooded.

I'm an MSW.

Here are some pictures that did not disappear into technological netherworld:

Our graduating class:

I threw my hat inside.  Then I put it on sloppily:

There used to be one of me looking backwards at the bizarre hood.  That one is gone.  But this one of Sister Cheryl and I is still here!

This is my excellent friend, cohort and now colleague Mrs. BreAnna:

And this is Sister Cheryl, Mom in Law Gretchen, my Mom, Shoes (still edited!) and my Step-dad:

Graduation dinner Harborside.  O, how I adore this man.  Seriously.  Adore.

So Mrs. BreAnna's Mr. has the same first name as my Mr.  We are literally in a Shoes Sandwich right here and BreAnna's Mr. has gotten a little sassy...

I have taken more naps in the last 4 days than I have taken in the past 3 years.  Something about graduate school, clinical internship and working makes for a tired girl.

Now.  Did you hear the one about the girl who finished graduate school and then moved in 4 days?

I'll let you know the punchline when we get there ...
In a few short hours, I'll be walking across the stage at the Portland State University, handing my Master's hood to my Advanced Practice Instructor to have her place around my neck, shaking the Deen's hand and accepting my scroll.

I will have been conferred the Master of Social Work.

I have no doubt I'll be leaking copious amounts of tears, but that's ok.  I have a plan for how to stuff tissue up my Master's robe.

I know, I know.  What's the big deal, right?  Thousands of people graduate from undergraduate and graduate school every May and June.  In that vein, it's nothing special.  I completed the degree requirement, paid my tuition and now am being awarded the next logical step.

And of course, I'm completely biased, but when I think about social work and what it has meant for me in the past 11 years, I know this is not just a degree and not just a job.  Yep.  I've been in this field 11 years.  When I decided on graduate school, I knew deep down in my bones that I need to be in this line of work.

(I always, always, always, recommend that people work for at least a year in the field before they enter an MSW program.  This is tear-jerking, back breaking [yet incredibly fulfilling and inspiring] work for which we get paid pennies.  I have some classmates who have already decided that they will not be continuing in the field.)

In this job, I get the supreme opportunity to connect with people - human beings - who are struggling.  And we all struggle.  There is no room for holier than thou attitudes when you're trying to do meaningful, authentic work. Social workers provide 68% of mental health services in America.  68%.  In a few years, I'll be licensed for private practice.  My degree has awarded me the opportunity to counsel a wide range of people going through a wide range of difficulties.  I bristle a little when people think that social workers are "just case managers" or that other degrees "are more clinical."  Both of my clinical placements were spent providing therapy.  However, being an MSW also means that I have a special emphasis on social ecology, person in environment and oppression and social injustice.  But again, I digress.

I think about the 11 years I've spent in this field and the incredibly meaningful and authentic connections I've made with the people I've been honored to work with.  This is not just a degree.  This is a commitment to listening.  A commitment to human beings.  A commitment to social advocacy.

A commitment to bringing my best work all the time.

We take this seriously in my program.  We have a little thing we say to each other:  "He/she is an MSW" and that explains something.  It's code. It means that we know people who are ready to fight for each other's rights.  We know people who know about empowerment and respect.  Ideally, anyway.  There's a few soft apples in every barrel, but today I am so proud of my co-horts.  I am so confident in our abilities to change systems.  We have cried together, and laughed until we were crying, and stressed over papers, and had personal and family difficulties, and we are still here.  Still committed.

These past 3 years I have studied and studied and studied.  I brought everything I have and some of what I didn't know I had.  I have specialized in the aging and specialized in children and families.  I have cried over statistics.  I have worked long hours at OHSU to make ends meet - first in Research Administration and now in Psychiatry Research.  I have, out of sheer necessity, not spent the time with family and good friends that I would have liked to.  I have wanted to punch people during group projects (btw, that never gets better - no matter which degree you're obtaining).  Shoes and I made our long distance relationship work - no, strike that - we found a way to make it thrive.  I have sat with clients as they lie in their bed dying (last year). I have sat with children as they found ways to tell me, through puppets and drawings, of obscene things no child should ever have to go through. I have laughed. I have been enraged.

I have been exhausted.

This degree, however, is even more than that.

This degree was my chance to leave the Vineyard Town and see what else besides Sadness and Worry were in the world for me.  I needed to know there was an additional step.  I needed to know there was more for me, personally.

This is the post I published when I first got in to graduate school:

... a couple of short breaths.

The email says: results have been posted. Go to the applicant log in page to find out. I logged in incorrectly twice ... and then was afraid I was going to get locked out and have to wait for the snail mail acceptance / rejection letter.

It's not just: Did I get in?

It's: Is there something better for me out there?
It's: Am I stronger and better than the past 2 years?
It's: Has the work I've been doing for the past 8 years accumulated to anything?
It's: My Lord, I've told a lot of people I've applied.
It's: Does God really have a plan for a life I barely recognize anymore?

It's: Yes.

It's: Congratulations.

It's: Get ready for more change.

It's: Thankful. So incredibly thankful.

And I am.
I do not really recognize my life anymore - not from the point in August of 2009 when I moved to Portland.
It is better than what I could have asked for.

Graduation pictures to come.  
But I could not wait that long to share this with you.
Today, I am proud to become a Master of Social Work.
Alternatively titled:  About Finishing Grad School
Alternatively titled:  About Rebekah's 4th Birthday
Alternatively titled:  About Bollywood Fantastic-ness
Alternatively titled  About realizing it's not normal to say goodbye to all of your everything all at once.

And that's in a nutshell where I am.

So, I'll keep Finishing Grad School until later.  Suffice it to say, my final presentation on PTSD in Children went well -- except for that little part about where my slide about the joke re: p=0.053 did not go well because nobody understood it.

Really?  Come on.  A sufficient P Value is 0.05 and below.  Get it?  No?  Ok.  I am a geek!

Graduation is on Saturday.  We'll chat about it more then.  It is not like graduating from undergrad.  Not at all.  Not even a little.  Not for me.

Sister Cheryl and I took a Bollywood Dancing Class Downtown Portland last week.  I shook it like nobody can shake it.  If this therapist thing falls through, I think I can make a living out of it ...


Where I'm headed with this new venture:

It was also uber important to connect with my goddaughter on her 4th Birthday (especially since I'll be leaving the weekend of her party!).  Rebekah was uber excited about the monkeys.  I mean, uber, uber excited.  As in:  Where are the monkeys?  Are the monkeys soon?  Are we going to see the monkeys?  Look at that monkey!  Why is that monkey doing that?  Why is the monkey sleeping?  The monkey is looking at me!  Can we see the monkeys again?

Love her.

Love them all.  In this one, Rebekah's "Cheese Noodles" turns into something like: "Cheese Nooooooooooooooodles!"

And then there are things I don't have pictures of:  Lab Parties for all of us graduating with Masters or getting into Ph.D. programs, last coffee dates with friends and packing up my house.

And I thought there was going to be all this blank space in my planner ....
Presently, I am in the library right before I need to leave for my Restorative Yoga class (the last one of the year).  My mind and heart and spirit are swirling with everything that's going on right now and I'm really feeling the need to sit and be and start to process through what all of the endings and transitions mean (Note to Self:  Put that in the Planner).  I had my last Graduate class yesterday afternoon, pot luck style, and as I sat around my practice instructor's living room with a group of therapists I have truly come to love, it began to hit me what a loss this is going to be.

An exciting loss.  A loss filled with promise.  A loss none-the-less.

I have one more presentation to give at my clinical placement on Tuesday and, man.  Can I just tell you there is anything else that I would rather do?   Mom, do you need the pig barn cleaned out?  I'm totally willing to do it.  Tuesday at 10:00 am, especially.    I'm presenting on the proposed changes in the DSM V (which is scheduled for publication apparently never ...) to the Dx of PTSD - especially as it relates to children - as well as current Evidence Based Practices and Practice Based Programs.  This weekend will be filled polishing it up.

And because it's also celebration season, I will also be spending the weekend at the Zoo with my goddaughter and her parents for her birthday and at a little "Education Transition Party" for the lab.  Seems like most of us are either graduating, have obtained doctoral internships or have just been accepted into Ph.D. programs.  I'm proud of all of us.

With that, I'm also holding the fact that my wedding to my amazing, charming, witty and loving Shoes is about 2 1/2 months away.  I cannot believe we planned a wedding in the midst of all the other crazy, and planned it long-distance, at that.  I cannot believe in just 2 weeks, Shoes and I will end the long-portion element of our relationship.  We have been committed to each other and this relationship for almost 3 years, separated by at least 4 hours.

I kind of hope we do not drive each other crazy once we live in the same town.

I kind of think it will be ok.  This is the same man who admitted to me, on the phone last night, that sometimes, when he has fancy attorney lunches at the golf course, he peeks into the event space (our venue) because he can't wait for our wedding day.  I wanted to hug him when he said that.  But I couldn't.  Because he's 6 hours away.

A lot to hold right now.  A lot to be excited about.  A lot to be slightly worried about.   A lot to not know what to think about.

And that's ok.  It has to be.  Because right now, that's how it is.
This weekend was so chock full of goodness, sweetness and friendship, I almost don't know what to say.
It is a very humbling and filling feeling to know that people wish you nothing but the best.
It is very humbling to think about the rock solid friendships I have been favored with in my 3 years here in Portland.
I was blessed beyond belief by two afternoons of laughter and love and, well, honestly, naughtiness by my co workers at the lab in the name of celebrating my pending nuptials and ending my bachelorette-hood.
Because I don't know what to say, I'll show you some pictures.
Of *most* things...

At Enso Winery on SE Stark, B. creates a table for the small group of ladies to gather around, sip wine, and talk about our upcoming graduation and my wedding that seems sometimes out of control.  Do you see the middle plate?  Those are homemade, beyond delicious homemade macarons by B.'s Mr.  Do you see the pitcher to your left?  Strawberry Basil Lemonade.  No kidding.

Sister Cheryl.
Is Stunning.

No good words.
Just good feelings.

B. hosted the two days.
She had a leeetle bit of help with the Naughty.
I cannot say how much I am going to miss her.
There are some things about graduating and moving on that are really Very Hard.
I can't think about it right now.

We did not drink all the wine in the barrels.
But these lovely ladies are my social worker peeps -- and my sister -- who has been adopted by all of us.

The night before the slightly chilly late Spring winery afternoon, we gathered for a very different purpose.
And that's all I can say.
These ladies above are my co workers at the lab.
They are nerds (at least 14 college degrees at that table and if you need a statistical analysis run?  They're your go to gals...)
They are gorgeous.
And they are supremely loving.
They are nerdy, hot, supremely loving ladies.
I am so very, very, very lucky to have them.
The  next pictures are just a teensy bit of icing on the weekend ...

Sister Cheryl is showing you something here - on the Sidewalk - in Southeast Portland. 
I have always wanted to see one, find  one, on my own.
And one of my last weekends, I did.
And, ok, I squealed, loudly, and jumped out of the car.

It's a horse ring from a million years ago.
Ride your horse to town.
Tie it up.
Blessed be.

Thank you, lab ladies, for all of your company this weekend.
Thank you, B., for hosting a weekend full of lab goodness, lightness and thank you, even, for the Naughty.
I wonder what my life would be like without you in it.
Good thing I don't have to know.
My last graduate school paper started in stacks on the bed.  Orderly piles of articles, handouts, post it notes of flashes of genius (or not) to add to the rough draft.

I find it ironic that the paper I started using to post my additions to was my syllabus for Restorative Yoga.  

And then the orderly piles made it to a big fat mess on my dining (read:  card) table.  It was unholy.  (The Mess.)

And that is me.
With my Last Graduate School Paper,
the paper that details all of the fabulous theoretic underpinnings which guide my clinical practice.
A page turner, I'm sure.

One desk reference book to edit.
One presentation on Child PTSD / Proposed Changes for the new DSM / Current EBPs.
Graduation in on 6/16.

I do not think I know where the last 3 years have gone...