Eulogy Postponed

And the miracle of today

Second Trimester Begins!

Happy November! And today it actually feels like fall here in Waco. It’s a brisk 65 degrees, overcast with a [very, very] slight chance of showers. And I think I saw a tree that was changing colors yesterday. If that wasn’t sign enough, the football fanatics would be. So since we are Falling Back today, I have a whole extra hour in my day- it’s magic! What better way to spend it than writing home?

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Hmm… Maybe eating a beet-walnut-feta burger from Lula Jane’s? Self-care at its finest!

Ok, that’s a half truth. I went to the Friends of the Library Book Sale and spent the extra hour and some cash on awesome books! 7 months before planning to drive my car back to Oregon. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s ok. What would I do without a cookbook from Texas to add to my future kitchen?

My class load has seemed lighter this semester, but my internship has been weightier. Having students come to the Cove has changed everything! We have had a dozen students come so far and two have been coming since the very beginning. Their stories. Have I told you what I think of students that are caring for their drug addicted parents? Or kids who feel safer on park benches than at ‘home’? Or kids that have to miss opportunities and maybe even skip school to babysit their siblings while their parents work? Or parents who throw their kids out of their houses because their kids are struggling? Or foster parents that abuse the kids they take into their lives and are supposed to provide a safe place for because their parents were not loving them? Or families who don’t have all the resources they need and have to move in with their “cousins” who are also barely getting by and no one can thrive? I tell you. It breaks my heart!

There are two students who come every single day they can. Both are struggling. They come to the Cove because they don’t want to be “home” at the place they are staying where they would either be alone in the house or they would feel like they were in the way of the other people in the house. They are struggling with lots of issues. Yet they are working SO hard. While they are at the Cove, they can make up for missed school time which will allow them to catch up and hopefully graduate on time. It is so awesome to see how badly they want to improve.

My favorite part about the Cove is that every night, a hot, family style meal is donated from the community and shared by everyone there. There is so much laughter and joy around the table that you can’t help but forget that this isn’t a gathering of a bunch of high school friends. And the students have said on numerous occasions that being at the Cove is the best part of their day.

One of my favorite days so far was when we had a guest speaker. He shared his story of being homeless through high school, getting a full scholarship to play ivy league football but dropping out after his freshman year, then coming to Baylor and wanting to play, but having any money, couldn’t stay. He said he didn’t realize he’d have to pay upfront- how would he know that when no one in his life had gone to college before and his first year was taken care of with a scholarship. So he walked back to his home in California- hitched is probably more accurate- and turned his life around in between.

And these kids! To watch the students as he was telling his story, it was as if this rowdy group of teenagers turned into kindergarteners at story time. They were completely sucked in and he was so great! He was down to earth about himself and all he had done.

He decided to come back to Baylor but didn’t realize it’s more complicated than just letting your friend’s grandpa pay when the NCAA is involved. So he got kicked out, but it ends happily ever after- he just got back from playing professional football in Germany. Here’s an article about what’s up with Silas:

All that to say, these kids are kids just like any other kids, except they don’t have adults to love on them. They don’t know what direction they should be going and even when they are trying to make good choices, there can be so many roadblocks and tripping points for a 16 year old kid who is riding a roller coaster of hormones and life change stuff without the Welcome mat being ripped out from under their feet.

All that to say the light on the horizon was a little bit brighter for them after he left.

All that to say, I want to come back to Oregon and work with homeless youth. Not just because these kids are inspiring and heartbreakingly resilient. Not just because the homelessness in Oregon is a huge problem. Not just because my boss is eradicating poverty in Waco and the most impressive woman! The thought of kiddos wandering around looking for safe park benches. Oregon is the only place in the world I can imagine living and if there are kids that need a home, hey, I’ve got enough cookbooks to make a house feel like home!

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60:30

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Mother Neff State Park

What to share in the minutes before class?

LOTS OF PHOTOS!

I miss you all! It’s been raining the last few days and I LOVE the thunderstorms. This semester does not seem quite as ferocious as last semester- so much so that I’m coming home for the weekend of birthday shenanigans!!! 

Half and half party, we’re calling it. I can’t wait! Half mama’a age, half as awesome as she is, halfway finished with my MSW, half full-a knowledge!! There’s an 80:20 rule about 80 percent of the income is held by 20 percent of the population or something, right? Or 80% of the results come from 20% of the inputs. If that’s truly the case, then I can let up on 80% of the work I’m doing and spent twice as much time writing silly blog posts for y’all, right? :]

So, internship is going really well. A new Executive Director has been hired and she is outstanding! With 23 years of experience in childhood education and with HUD as Homeless Administrator for the past 6 years- she has essentially eradicated chronic homelessness (meaning there are no people literally living under the bridges- there are beds for every person in Waco every night). She retired [again] to take the job with the Cove. Now all we need is a Case Manager! We are planning for the first students to join us October 3rd. Exactly one week from this afternoon. They’ll be walking in our front door. 4:30pm next Monday. Interiorly I may be a tiny bit terrified that we are not ready. But mostly just super excited to meet all these kids!

14359082_710516972433341_8046232223384650464_nI have group supervision with the 3 interns that work with Homeless Outreach on the high school campuses, so I have heard bits and pieces of stories of these kids. Lots of crummy parents out there. Lots of broken families. Lots of strong kids.

My research project for the next year is going to focus on home for these youth. How do they find a place to stay when they don’t have stability? What do they look for when looking for tonight’s housing when there is no mom to tuck them in after dinner. What are their stories and how can we help? Right now the city of Waco is not interested in opening another shelter, so at 8pm, these kiddos must leave the Cove and we can help them find accommodation, but we cannot let them stay. The hope is that we can set up a host home program like Safe Families for Children…. But that is the hope, not the reality.

So. Since last time, I went on a hike. With signs like these out, you know Lots of beauties and beasties. More beasties, but that made it more fun!

First the beauties:

The end of the wildflower season is mediocre at best. Still lovely to get out into the woods a bit.

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Two beastly looking beauties?

You know about Sasquatch? Well there’s a neatly hairy creature that lives in the Mother Neff State Park. That wasn’t the reason I went, but when I got there, the ranger warned me and I kept my eyeballs peeled as I walked. I don’t know how to upload videos and I have one that shows the creature. In full order, not just one of those shadowy clips that could be anything- you can really see it! If only I knew how to work these technology things….

And some beasties:

You can see his hairy belly there, you just can’t see him moving! Eek!

I tried to take a selfie with him, but he tickled my ear, so I ran away. Literally ran!

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If this was a video….

Ok, class time is here and I’m not in class. See you guys in a week!

Oh, I also went to the Baylor football game… Which was delayed an hour and a half for lightning. So I watched the LSU game on the big tv at the stadium over an empty field [before leaving to watch the Baylor game on a little tv].

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Love hugs and wish me luck on my IRB Research Proposal, Mid Term Evaluation, and Neighborhood Map Assessment due before I go.

So, in applying the 60:30, Half and Half Rule, I am working like a crazy person to get ahead on all this silly schoolwork so I can come home and drink half and half all weekend. I can envision the Lackner-style feast already. Yum!

 

 

Due in 9 months

Hard to believe I only have 9 months left in dear old Texas and then I can come home! Home to home. And be home. It’s so exciting I could die!!!

First week has been the longest week ever. It’s common knowledge that the professors assign more reading material than is humanly possible for even the most invested students to ever read word for word, so I have 5 courses with literally more work than I could ever complete to have read, digested, and applied over the next 14 weeks with presentations, projects, and papers to prove it. The first week is such an odd mix of excitement and professor pep-talks filled with amazing examples of the completed projects that other Community Concentration Social Workers have done that we are familiar with in the Waco community juxtaposed with these syllabi that seem utterly impossible. Expecting this, I prolonged my denial that I am chained to impossible tasks these next few months and went to Colorado Bend State Park this weekend past. Here are some photos:

Ok, so there are some beautiful things in Texas. The best part was when it started raining and I was out in the woods with not a car to be heard. And the humidity was tolerable because of the rain. I Loved it! Notice the rocks in the creek? That’s the trail. Not quite forging the river- my shoes did get wet enough that they are a bit stinky. It was beautiful and oh, so peaceful. The dirty water from the rain wasn’t gorgeous, although the rain was feeding those gorgeous waterfalls. Just what I had been seeking. Until I realized I was walking in Texas where rain comes with thunderstorms which come with lightning and maybe being on top of a “waterfall” was not the best location to be when I’d driven two hours to go hiking alone. At least my parent’s phone knew where I was :)

Apparently Colorado Bend is known for some of the rock formations at the falls I did not have time to hike into. And Caves! If these little guys are any example, it would definitely be worth the 2 hour drive to get there and check out some other time. No Silver Creek, but a definitely by Texas standards. Stay in Texas over Christmas break and check them out? Come home and hike Silver Creek Falls? Hmmm….

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In other news, the dogs are still awesome (Judah, the hardest working Doberman you’ve ever met is still hard at work- keeping skunks away last night. I think he must’ve killed it under my window! Can you smell it from there, too? Or is that my sneakers from the hike?), the horses are still gorgeously present, the crepe mertle I planted last fall is still alive but crispy after last week, Waco is still too hot (although this year I missed the week of 100+ degree weather- Thank God!), the School of Social Work is still more amazing than imaginable (think $2000 scholarship), the other students I have in my classes are amazing and it is indescribably wonderful to sit next to people and wonder how they will be changing the world in the days and years to come, my internship is doing some of the most groundbreaking work to fight the problems faced by unaccompanied [homeless] students here in Waco, and my kombucha scabby is super happy in my less than air conditioned kitchen. All is well! Oh, I’m also working for Dr. Yancey, my favorite professor, who asked me to work on a giant project to reinvigorate an old program for the school- yes, please! Although it meant declining a job working at World Hunger Relief Farms this year. I have to keep reminding myself that I can’t do it all.

My internship is the best ever. If you’ve forgotten, I’m at The Cove. A nurturing center for unaccompanied (kids the school district labels as ‘homeless’ but it’s more complicated than that. Check out McKinney Vento if you’re interested) students after school from 4pm-8pm. Targeting students whose safety net is comprised of others living in insecurity. Because if they are well fed, have their homework done, showered, and have their laundry done they will have an easier time finding a friend to take them in. Finding a couch to sleep on is easy if that’s all you need. It is so exciting to be on the startup end of such an amazing agency. http://www.thecovewaco.org.

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An attempt at taking a picture of the room full of couches, aka my office, a HUD grant proposal, and my mug o’ hot tea. Because coffee doesn’t really work.

Mark your calendars! May 2, 2017 is the day we will be introducing the birth of Sarah Lackner’s MSW Research. We will be celebrating the most grueling adventure I have undertaken so far. The stress, the countless sleepless nights, rigorous doctors demanding seemingly impossible tasks, endless days of hard work and plenty of labor will result in one project to be presented to the world on the second of May….

And then I can look forward to being in my happy place again:

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