Friday, May 22, 2015

So... You Help People Find Jobs?

When I tell people I'm an occupational therapist, I tend to get a blank expression followed by a quick recovery and "Oh, so you help people find jobs?" If you had asked me the same question six years ago, I probably would have had the same answer. For an occupation that's so pervasive in all areas of healthcare, it's funny how little recognition there is among the general public. As a profession, we really do it to ourselves. See, the best part about occupational therapy is also what makes it so difficult to define. Occupational therapists do everything from showing someone how to move safely after a hip replacement to job training for people with mental health issues. They adapt living supplies (think: toothpaste and pill bottles) for people with rheumatoid arthritis and teach kids how to hold a pencil. Occupational therapists work in rehabilitation hospitals, schools, hand therapy clinics, mental health facilities, group homes for disabled adults, nursing homes, and sensory clinics. During my first quarter of graduate school, I even had an entire class dedicated to the question "What is Occupational Therapy?" Now, my best explanation is this- we help people perform their occupation, and "occupation" is defined as whatever is important to that person. A child's occupation is school and play. An adult's occupation may be the ability to perform their actual job, or it may be teaching them how to care for their kids after a major catastrophe like a spinal cord injury. The first question we ask a client is "What's important to you?" "Independent" and "functional" are huge buzz words in OT. We help people gain independence with the functional routines of daily life. Still confused? It's okay sometimes I am, too.

Now, after that whole explanation, I'll risk more confusion by identifying myself as a pediatric occupational therapist. I knew I wanted to be a pediatric OT from the moment I learned about occupational therapy. I was a lost 23-year-old with absolutely no clue about my career path. However, soul-searching didn't quite pay the bills so I reverted to my old standby of nannying. I always liked kids, but I didn't want to be a teacher. I also liked health topics, but I did not have the patience for med school. When I got asked to nanny for a girl with special needs, I agreed with a slight hint of anxiety. As someone who went to private school my entire life, I hadn't even been exposed to kids with special needs. (Yet another reason my kids will attend public school someday.) But, from the moment I met her, I was totally smitten. This little girl was a fighter. In her five years of life, she had already had a multitude of surgeries including the placement of a feeding tube and tracheostomy tube. Her mom was (and still is) one of the greatest moms around. They knew in utero that it was going to be a long road, and she became her daughter's greatest advocate. After I'd been nannying for a few weeks, I asked what had made the greatest difference in helping her develop into "a regular kid". Without missing a beat, she said "occupational therapy." I knew my youngest brother had some OT in grade school when he had trouble writing, but that was the extent of my knowledge. You mean this OT thing does more than teach kids how to hold a pencil? For the next 15 minutes, she explained going to an intensive sensory integration camp down in Florida where they did things like place her daughter on a board, blindfold her, and spin her to the beat of music. Uh... I'm sorry but what kind of voodoo is this? She swore that her daughter had been afraid to walk without assistance and could not read before her time in Florida. Afterwards, she was running and reading like nobody's business.

I've probably already lost some people as I understand this sounds completely nuts. If you've never heard of occupational therapy, you've definitely never heard of sensory integration or sensory processing disorder. This topic area has become my passion, and it's truly why I became an OT. The gist of it is this- every human takes in information from their senses, and it is processed by the brain. The brain interprets the sensation and generates an appropriate motor response. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, a lot can go very, very wrong. Everyone processes sensory experiences differently. For example, I have terrible eye/hand coordination. My eyes and my body just don't work well together, and this caused a lot of anxiety growing up. I really hated gym class, and I also got nervous any time we had to learn new games during Girl Scouts. I usually coped by trying to hide in the corner or pretending I was sick.

Now, imagine if, instead of living in a state of constant anxiety, there was a safe place I could go and practice these skills. That's exactly what a pediatric OT with sensory integration training can do. These OTs are trained to look at how a child processes sensory information, where the dysfunction occurs, and determine activities to help them better navigate their world, despite the challenges. Here's an example of how most people look at a child's behavior vs. how an OT views it-

Most people: Chris is a brat. Everyday at recess, he picks the same game and forces his friends to play it over and over. If they say they don't want to, he starts yelling "You're so mean! You're not my friend!" Then, he'll go sulk in the corner and refuse to do anything. During class time, he's constantly fidgeting in his seat. We tell him he has to sit still, but he just won't. He still can't write within the lines of the paper, and he doesn't know how to use scissors.

An OT: Chris has very poor postural control (core strength) which causes him to constantly wiggle in his seat. This poor postural control also interferes with his motor planning, or his body's ability to plan and execute movement. New activities are very hard for Chris to learn so once he learns a game he wants to stick with it. When his friends suggest a new game, the amount of anxiety is so overwhelming that he will yell and cry. It's not that Chris doesn't want to play- it's that he doesn't know how. All of these issues are affecting his school work as well. The ability to write and cut actually begins with good core strength. A strong core provides the base for shoulder, elbow, wrist, and, finally, finger stability. A child cannot perform small, isolated movements if their base isn't strong.

For the past two years, I worked in a therapeutic day school for kids with autism. There's an even deeper level when working with autism thanks to the delay or absence of language, lack of coping skills, and distractibility. I think autism will always be my favorite population to work with, but I'm excited to start a new job on June 8th working with a variety of diagnoses. The school system has its pluses, but I'm excited for the increased flexibility that working in an outpatient clinic will bring. I can still work with kids on school-based skills, but I can also address things like motor planning challenges, inflexibility, and even motion sickness. If you ever have the chance to see an outpatient OT clinic, do it! It's filled with slides, swings, trampolines, scooters, and a million other things to encourage movement and exploration. If we can't give these kids a safe place to explore, then they'll never have the chance.

So, think back- was there something you dealt with in childhood that really impacted your day-to-day life? I can't promise I can "fix" it at this point, but maybe I can give you a little insight! At the very least, I hope I educated a few more people on the merits of OT.

Oh! And that little girl I talked about earlier in the post? She's doing great, and I'm actually babysitting for her tomorrow! She "graduated" from OT a few years ago, and I love seeing that those foundational skills she received years ago continue to aid in her development.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Little Thing Called Summerfest

Jacket- J. Crew Factory / Tee- J. Crew (old) / Jeans- J. Crew / Scarf- Francesca's (old) / Earrings- J. Crew / Sunglasses- RayBan / Shoes- Sperry 

As a lifelong Chicagoan, summer music has always been allllll about Lollapalooza. For those of you who haven't been exposed to the organized chaos that is Lolla, it's basically a gigantic music festival in Grant Park which is right on the Chicago lakefront. In the past 10 years, headliners have included Mumford and Sons, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and this year Sam Smith. It's 3 days filled with every type of music you could want, and it's in one of the best cities in the world (personal bias). Personally, I've only been once, and it was a great experience thanks to 4-5 of my absolute favorite bands, phenomenal weather, and being able to stay somewhere for free. After having such a great first experience, I was always a little afraid to mess with perfection. Plus, at $250 (at least) for a 3-day pass, it's not the cheapest experience.

Despite living less than 100 miles away for most of my life, I seriously knew nothing about Milwaukee until Denny and I first started dating. And I think the first thing I learned about was Summerfest. Denny's a bit of a music junkie so he makes a point to see as much live music as he can. When he started talking about this bizarre "island" that was nothing but an outdoor concert venue, I had many questions. Why would a city build a permanent outdoor music structure when it spends most of the year under 60 degrees? Does this entire island exist only for Summerfest? Who actually plays at Summerfest? I finally got to go for the first time two years ago, and, let me tell you, it is a sight. Whereas Lollapalooza is half obnoxious, nearly-naked teens and half people who hate those obnoxious, nearly-naked teens, Summerfest feels more like a family affair (at least during the day). It's filled with food, beer, and, yes, live music. It doesn't feel quite as jam-packed, and the $16 admission ticket is pretty great. My favorite Summerfest experience had to be seeing GirlTalk last year at one of the late-night shows. I think it's safe to say that Summerfest is one of the big reasons Milwaukee gets its rep for being an awesome city in the summertime.

What's the best part of Summerfest now? Denny and I only live two blocks away! I know I'll be hating my life when I literally can't drive down my own street, but I'm sure the ease of seeing live music in such a great venue will make up for it... At least I hope so.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Little Sunday Antiquing

Blouse- Loft / White jeans- J. Crew / Scarf- Loft / Sandals- J. Crew (old) / Earrings- Kate Spade 

When did you start to consider yourself an adult? The day you moved out of your parent's home? The day you got married? The day you had your first child? Mine would have to be the day Denny and I decided to spend our Sunday antiquing.

I'm only sort of kidding. I lived downtown Chicago with roommates for years before Denny and I ever moved in together, but these last few months have felt really different. I guess it's because I know that, unlike moves past, I'll never move back in with my parents. I also don't plan on ever getting a new roommate. He's now stuck with me, and it's been really fun starting to build our little life together. We've spent the past few weekends deciding where to put fancy shower gifts, discussing what else needs to be done in our humble abode, and, yes, antiquing. The art of antiquing was instilled in me at a young age by my mother. She has a gift for finding the shittiest piece in the entire antique store and turning it into an amazing piece of art. I need to start amassing more "before and after" photos just to show off her mad skillz. Our tv/media stand was $54 antique store find that now looks brand new after a coat of black paint and some gold spray paint on the handles. Once I figure out how to reattach the door, I'll post photos.

So, yes, you can now add antiquing to our list of weekend activities. We didn't purchase anything yesterday, but you can bet we'll keep hitting up the shops on 1st street until we find a rare gem... And then we'll spend another two months trying to figure out how to rehab it. It's a process, okay?

Happy Shopping!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Step One: Buy All The Stuff, Step Two: Return Almost All The Stuff

I do about 90% of my shopping online. I feel like seeing the clothes on actual human beings gives me a better idea of what they'll look like on me, and it also gives me time to plug in coupon codes, find free shipping, and generally figure out the cheapest way to get what I want. The downside of online shopping is that it's too damn easy. You add something to your cart, hit some button that says "Purchase," and imaginary monetary funds float out into the internets. All of these factors have contributed to some strange disorder I've seemed to develop- the habit of buying one hundred things and returning 99 of them. I do this all the time. Now, since I'm scamming my way out of paying shipping fees, I rarely lose any money by doing this, but I just have to wonder- what drives the pattern? I swear my subconscious already knows I'll return everything even as I hit the "Purchase" button. Does this mean I actually like the thrill of buying more than I actually like owning the clothes? It would seem that way.

Some of the time, it's actually a good way of sticking to my budget. When there are giant sales, I usually order a bunch just so I can pick my favorites while they're at a great price. For instance, I purchased everything above during Loft's last 50% off with free shipping sale. I ended up keeping all five tops since they were under $100 combined, but both dresses and two other blouses went back.

However, sometimes I think I really do just like the idea of buying without committing. I'd even take it one step further and say I like the idea of returning something just to see that money go back in my account. It almost feels like making money off shopping even though I know that's ludicrous and completely untrue. I've been very open about the fact that I have a tendency to shop out of boredom or stress so I suppose this is just an extension of that. If I can buy something to relieve stress, and then return it and get the happy feeling of seeing that money back in my account, then I guess it's a win-win?

Or, I'm just completely insane. That's also very possible. But will I stop doing it? As long as I stay within my overall budget, then.... nah.

Anyone else have a habit of doing this? Or any other weird shopping tics we should know about (and maybe try)? 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Spring Is Here!!!

Tee- Loft / Skirt- J. Crew Factory / Necklace- Bauble Bar / Flats- J. Crew (old)  

Milwaukee did something amazing today- it gave us warm weather!! I swear it hasn't been above 55 degrees here, and I was starting to resign myself to a life time of jackets. But not today! Of course, I decided to wake up, eat approximately three breakfasts, and then take a 2-hour nap before I ever ventured outdoors, but, when I did, wearing a skirt was the only option. I first ventured into the "paperbag" (I swear I've heard it called that) skirt trend last year with this version, and I wore it so often that I made a mental note to purchase another one this year. I loved the coral color, but I was a little concerned it wouldn't go with many things in my closet. Once it arrived, I made sure it paired well with at least five different tops I already owned. I used to have a bad habit of buying things that weren't very versatile, and that would usually necessitate buying even more pieces in order to create outfits. I've worked hard this year on making a well-rounded closet, and I'm glad this skirt has been a good addition!

As a former Kentucky girl (it was only for 3 years- but still!), I obviously had to pay homage to the Derby yesterday. My friends and I attended a local racetrack dressed in our Derby best, and we had a blast. Truthfully, I'm not the biggest fan of horse racing as I seem to care more about the well-being of animals than people, but the horses were beautiful, and my friend assured me they're treated well. It was appeasing enough that I had a great time by getting tipsy off one drink and then eating a large sandwich. All-in-all, a very successful day.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Friday, May 1, 2015

April Budget 2015

Loft Squared Pointelle Bib Shell- Mint ($27) and White ($19)
Lilly Pulitzer for Target Espadrilles- $24
Loft Black Jacquard Scallop shorts (not pictured)- $23
J. Crew Crystal Peapod Necklace (not pictured)- $18

April total= $360

Quarterly budget $500- $360= $140 remaining for May and June

This was my first month on a new quarterly budget (you can read about that decision here), and I'm pretty happy with how I did! I obviously spent a good portion of the amount I allotted for April, May, and June, but I was able to fill some closet holes while also getting every piece on sale. Here are the main factors that influenced how I spent my money-

1. Perhaps the biggest influence on how much I shop is the amount of free time I have to actually, well, shop. From January to early March, I only spent about $250 total on shopping. That was partly because I wasn't as influenced by seeing other blogger's finds, but it was also because I was insanely busy. I look back on my old job with fond memories, but it really detracted from my personal life. I didn't have as much time for my family, my friends, my hobbies, and, well, shopping. It's a lot easier to refrain from buying when you don't even have the time to browse. However, once I left my job in mid-March, I was confronted with nothing but time. I spent a solid month not working, and I also ended up with a bad flu that kept me couch-bound for a solid week. Oh, and what happened to coincide with that flu bug? The Loft 50% off everything + Free Shipping sale of course! I'll be honest that I turned away from Loft a lot in the past year. When I did a closet purge after grad school, I realized that a lot of the items I no longer wanted were from Loft. Looking back, I primarily attribute that to buying and keeping pieces that didn't fit well or were made of material I disliked. However, I decided to browse the site and ended up ordering a ton of stuff. (I'll be discussing my urge to order all the stuff and then return 90% of the stuff in a future post.) To my pleasant surprise, I found quite a few things that I absolutely loved! And, at those prices, I could justify keeping more than usual.

2. I generally hate summer clothes. Well, maybe "hate" is too strong a word, but I've always felt much more confident in my winter wardrobe than my summer one. Once the calendar hits July, I usually just give up and spend the next two months in t-shirts waiting until layering season starts again. When I unpacked my warm-weather wardrobe last month (because I finally have a closet big enough to hang all my things at once!), I really reevaluated everything I had. I never want to keep something "just because it fits," and I don't want to put on something that just sort of bums me out. I also looked through some summer posts from last year and really zeroed in on my favorite outfits. I remember wanting to wear this top every single day, and this skirt had been a warm weather revelation. I also wore this top all the time, and I loved styling this skirt. With all this in mind, I decided my closet could really use more solid colored, structured tops as well as 1-2 patterned items that would pair easily with neutrals. All of the Loft tops really hit that first mark on the head, and I just couldn't pass up the J. Crew Factory top in my favorite skirt print from last year. I feel confident that this portion of my budget was well spent, and I foresee a summer of fairly basic outfits with a few fun pops!

3. In the back of my mind, I also find myself asking "Can I wear this for wedding-related festivities?" Denny and I are getting married in San Juan, Puerto Rico this October, and that means an entire week of tropical-weather wear. My mom and I are also going down next month (!) just to check everything out and make sure it's coming along. (I mean, we have to, right?) We have friends who are already planning to arrive Monday (way ahead of our Friday wedding) so I have no idea how many dinners, cocktail hours, or adventures the week will hold. I want to make sure I have a solid mix of items that can go from the beach to the rehearsal dinner. I admit I used to roll my eyes at girls who wore nothing but white ensembles in the days leading up to their wedding, but that J. Crew midi skirt? Oh yeah that was definitely purchased with "wedding" on the brain. I wore it to the bridal shower Denny's family hosted for me last weekend, and it might be one of my favorite pieces in my closet. You can bet it will be making many appearances over these next few months...

The next two months will be less eventful in terms of closet curating. I'm pretty content with what I have going into the first weeks of summer, and I also find myself lacking that thing called time again. From now until the end of May, I'm working a temporary OT position in a school before my permanent job starts in June. This school-based job is a lot more low-key than my old school... but it's over an hour-and-a-half away. That's right, I commute at least 3.5 hours every day. It sounds a little nuts, but the pay for temp jobs is notoriously higher than average so it's worth doing for a month. I've discovered that two cups of coffee and a book on tape actually make it slightly enjoyable.

I'm obviously linking up with Fran over at Budgeting Bloggers! How did you do this month?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Road Trippin

Sweater- J. Crew (old) (Factory Version) / Jeans- J. Crew / Scarf- Loft 

I'm not usually into tassels and/or fringe, but this scarf charmed me. Even more charming? Its 50% off price tag. Any time there's a monster sale I tend to order a ton and then decide what to keep once it all arrives. (I'll be having a post on this soon- including how I'm getting even more selective.) I love scarves for the spring since, again, I find warm weather clothes can get a little boring. I'm hoping it's light enough to wear into the summer months as well.

Denny and I are heading to Pennsylvania tomorrow for a wedding shower his side of the family is throwing me. Denny comes from a huge family- his dad is one of 11 and his mom is one of 8. Since they live on the east coast, I haven't gotten a chance to meet any of them! It looks like Saturday will be a giant meet and greet/first official wedding festivity/awesome gift exchange all in one. (Omg maybe we'll finally own more than 3 forks!!) I'm not great at being the center of attention so I'm admittedly anxious, but I guess I better get used to it for the next few months...

Also, thank you to everyone who has been reading and commenting! I promise I will get back to you ASAP. I started a new job this week, and it involves 3 hours of commuting per day. It's only until the end of May so it's bearable, but I basically get home, crash, and leave less than 12 hours later. I got spoiled with a 10 minute "commute" for my last job so I guess this is payback.

Happy Weekend (almost)! 

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