About Ro Washington

I'm a USC graduate (Fight On), a bit of a Netflix junkie and am really excited to have joined the team here at MSAA. I enjoy photography and traveling and photographing my travels. I grew up in an Army family and moved around a good deal but I have found that this has made me an outgoing person unafraid to walk up to strangers and say hello (I have a great story about this by the way, just ask if you would like to know :) ).

Who’s in Your Social Network?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Summer. Rising temperatures have engulfed many parts of the country as we head into three months off for many schools and time marked by vacations, day trips and outings around town. One of the things often associated with summer are the get-togethers with friends and family, cookouts and time to connect. After the long chill of winter and rains of spring, being social and connecting with others can breathe new life into our daily routines. But being social can also be difficult to manage and navigate. Where to start and what to do to put yourself out there are some questions that you may ask as you venture into being social. Here are some helpful things to keep in mind this time of year as you look for ways to put yourself out there.

  • Set a goal: This summer I want to make one new interaction a week. Goals are important, they keep us accountable and give us something to aspire to. Make sure your goals are reasonable, obtainable and of interest to you.
  • Reach out to volunteer: Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, discover a new interest and also give back to the community around you. There are sites such as Volunteer Match as well as your local community center than can help you get started.
  • Plan something you’ve wanted to do: Maybe you’ve been saying you want to have people over or get together with a friend who you haven’t seen in a while. Now’s the time to reach out and put something in the books.discuss
  • Give the internet a try: Now I know the internet is pretty much part of all our lives and one of the reasons is it’s ability to provide us with new and fun ways to interact. Join a new online community such as MeetUp.com where you will be able to find local opportunities to join others interested in board games, cooking classes, paint nights and any number of activities.
  • Give yourself a break: Doing new things and getting out there to meet new people or even planning things with those you know can be a lot, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Give yourself a break if your goal is to make one new interaction this summer or you have to reschedule that dinner with friends. What’s important is that you are seeking the engagement and building new connections.

Staying social is great to our overall well-being. It gives us outlets, keeps us connected and provides other individuals that we can reach out to in times of need. This summer add some points of contact to your social network.

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Ahhh Spring…

162309-It-s-SpringThe birds, the flowers, the sun and the showers! This season is a rejuvenating time where we can cast off the dusty winter and break out the cool breezes of spring. Over the winter all of our favorite outdoor activities close down in anticipation of cold weather (how rude). Park gates shut earlier, boardwalks are silent and activities in general slow to a standstill. Things take a break for winter and sleep waiting for this time of year to come back round again. Now that spring has started to reappear across the country, it’s a great time to get back out to some of your favorite spots. There are festivals and farmers markets. Concerts and exhibits. Parks reopen and stay open longer as the sunshine stretches well past 5 PM allowing you to explore your city or county well into the evening.

There are events both small and large to be attended and taking a look at your state, county or city website can give you an idea of what activities or happenings are going on in your neck of the woods. You may find a new concert series you didn’t know was happening, an art or food festival near by or something new your town is trying out for the first time. Here in Philadelphia we are gearing up to host our first ever Chinese Lantern Festival at the end of the month. In DC the cherry blossoms are all the rage while in Texas the rodeo is kicking up. Seattle is getting expressive with their art festivals and the Wisconsin Film Festival starts at the end of the week.

This spring make yourself a promise to get out and explore one new activity your area offers, you may be surprised by what you find!

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March is almost over…But before we go

This month we’ve been highlighting MS Awareness as we present different topics important to and associated with MS as well as ways in which we can educate ourselves and those around us. In addition to MS Awareness, March is also Social Work Month. Social workers play a vital role in overall health and wellness, mental health, as well as in areas far outside of the health sciences.

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Social workers have been around since before the 1800’s working diligently on issues of injustice, inequality and to help empower individuals and communities to use their collective strength to make a difference. Some of our most noted alums here in the United States started institutions such as the Hull House in Chicago in 1889, which was established to help the surrounding low-income neighborhoods have access to education programs, health care services and recreational opportunities. In addition to reaching out to low-income communities, social workers throughout history have partnered with the Red Cross to treat soldiers returning from war, been civil rights activists, served on presidential cabinets and worked in legislative arenas as catalysts for change. Social workers are often thought of as the caseworkers in hospitals or with children and family services. While those are two of the important roles that social workers take on, social workers also work with the military or international businesses as well as be political campaign workers, community organizers, run nonprofit organizations and are behavior and mental health professionals. Our first lady Michelle Obama has an MSW (Master of Social Work) on her team to initiate new programs and services across the country.

Social work as a profession has evolved from those early years but some things still remain. The individuals who enter into social work are dedicated, compassionate, innovative, inclusive and hard working professionals who cover a bevy of occupations and can be found in almost every avenue. We meet people on some of their worst days and walk with them through circumstances and over obstacles while assisting them to build on their own strengths to come out the other side better equipped to tackle some of life’s uncertainty. It takes a special person to be a social worker and partner with others to be the difference someone may need.

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Thank any social workers you know for all their hard work not just in the month of March but whenever you get the chance.

 

 

 

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The Decision To Go

A friend of mine recently left for a Peace Corps assignment. Two years in Thailand. Not the tourist sector or the flashy areas you see in magazines but very rural areas that you may have never heard of or that ever get much attention. Her journey to finding the Peace Corps and ultimately the decision to go wasn’t easy. She went back and forth and more than once was tempted to say “No, it sounds good but not for me”. Ultimately after one delay and many long stretches of talking with her family and friends she made the decision to go. Listening to her talk about it made me stop to think of the decisions in life that we make. How we come to crossroads, opportunities or big decisions and have to decide left or right, to go or to stay.

There are plenty of times in our lives that we sit down with our trusty pen and paper, or notebook app what have you, to make the list of Pros and Cons that we ultimately hope will clearly spell out what we should do. But what happens when you’re in a dead heat? When the reasons to go equal the number of reasons to stay? When it means leaving familiar surroundings or being uncomfortable? When you aren’t really sure and the idea of just deciding is pretty daunting. If you’re my friend you take the leap of faith and hope that it works out. But many people (myself included at times) find this, making the decision, hard to do. This month we talked about goal setting and resolution keeping, about ways we can branch out and make changes. But change is difficult. It can be messy and complicated and downright scary. The decision to leave a job you’ve been at for a while or to take on a new challenge. To talk with our doctor about a possible prognosis or make changes to our lifestyle. All the changes, they start with a decision.Challenge-Quotes-57

The decisions we make and the paths we go down may be complicated and the path I chose may not look anything like yours. But deciding to go, to change, to work through the problem, to have that tough talk with your spouse or go to see the physician is worth the skipped beat your heart makes when you do it. To get over that first step…the decision… then to move into the next phase and see where it takes you.

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One of the best things you can do for yourself…is be quiet

We spend so much of our time doing this and running there with music and podcasts, directions and instructions, jingles and audiobooks, theme songs and storylines. Our world is pretty loud and I’m as guilty as the next person. I put in my ear buds as soon as I step outside the door. Turn on something when I come home and have a constant barrage of stuff running through my head. The holidays only make it that much more apparent. There’s socializing and classic tunes, conversations of what to get the kids, where to go for the best deals and whose home you’re having dinner. Commercials run back to back from everywhere asking you to buy this or try that.

We’re inundated with sound.But from time to time we just have to stop. Put down the phone, step away from the TV, and power down the laptop. Ask the family for a few minutes and turn it off. Taking some time for silence and sitting, walking or laying in quiet, and just “being” is one of the hardest things to do. Just think about when you try to go to bed, the entire day wants to run a recap in your head as you struggle to find some quiet corner in your sub-consciousness to conk out in. I know it can be hard, but it’s worth the effort.

Take some time to really quiet the world around you and just be. Now I’m not so naïve as to think that while you intend to sit in silence your brain won’t sneak in with the to-do list or the last song you heard on the radio won’t rear it’s head wanting to say Hi, introduce itself and ask you if enough time has passed for you two to meet up (yep, I heart Adele too). But make some time to take a deep breath and exhale the catchy lyrics and never ending schedule for even a few minutes.

Silence, I’ve found, can be scary, we’re so used to the clamor that we aren’t sure what will happen when it’s gone. What will happen you ask?? I can’t answer you for sure but what I can say is that when I have intentionally sought out some quiet I’m able to feel my heart beat, hear myself slow down my breathing, relax my muscles into the lack of filled-in sound, and center myself.keep-calm-this-is-a-quiet-zone-8

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and settle on your couch, sit in a chair, close your eyes and breathe. You can even head outside and just quiet your mind and get some fresh (albeit possibly cold) air. During this holiday season I encourage you to take some time, even if it’s just 5 minutes, and be quiet in the silence. You may find you’re better able to tackle the wall of stuff you have to get done with some help from that few minutes you spent just sitting on the back porch.

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It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like…

The holidays…that’s right. They’re quickly approaching and if you’ve seen any advertisements or store displays you’d think it’s been here since the start of October. Right about mid-November straight into January are some of the most festive times of the year. Gatherings, parties and decorations as the sounds and smells of old holiday classics fill the air. Most people think of this time of year and are instantly thrown back to childhood memories of parades, waiting to open gifts, big family dinners and traditions that predate you. They break out the recipe cards and address book in anticipation of all that the holidays bring.

This year before the holidays actually start (I’m telling you they should begin the Monday before Thanksgiving not the end of September) take some time to look at how you have celebrated the season in the past. Do you gather with family around a warm table and welcome meal? Get together with friends who are from far and wide to celebrate the connections you’ve built over the past year? Do you lend a hand and volunteer for an organization? Spend every waking moment coming up with just the right gift? Plan the details from décor to the meals to the stamps for your cards? Or maybe your holidays are quiet and calm.

keep-calm-holidays-are-comingYour holiday doesn’t have to look just like mine or like anyone’s for that matter. It doesn’t have to be a Norman Rockwell painting or look like the commercials you see for Pillsbury to be wonderful. There’s no one way to celebrate this time of year. Maybe this year your celebration will be completely different than years past and that’s ok. Take the time before the holidays begin and give yourself permission for this year to be this year. Circumstances may be different and life may not look the same. Take a moment to feel any losses and acknowledge the shift. Take in the changes and celebrate even the smallest of victories and good memories.

As the weather begins to turn cold and the days seem shorter take a moment to think back and find those things you most want to make part of your holidays this year and celebrate them.

Happy New Year… oh wait, we aren’t there yet 😉

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Wellness is More Than Just What Goes in the Body

It may just be me but when someone says the word ‘wellness’ my immediate thought is “what physical activity do you have in mind now?” While physical health is very important there are other aspects to consider when you think about your overall wellness. Intellectual wellness is a sometimes over looked car on the wellness train but taking the time to find ways to stretch and build on your own intellectual wellness will do you a world of good.

While in school we are continually challenged to stretch our minds, think outside the box, be open to new ideas and continue to grow our set of learning skills. Then we become adults and too often we stop challenging ourselves to think creatively and others cease pushing us to grow in that way. When we talk about our total wellness we have to include our intellectual measures. Which can cover a wide variety of topics and areas but they all relate back to us valuing the mentally stimulating activities that can help us to rediscover long put away interests or come across new avenues of expression.

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Taking care of your intellectual wellness can be in the form of a number of things. Try your hand at picking up a new hobby such as painting or crafting. You can join a book discussion in a book club or online forum. Spend some time learning about local politics. Stretch your horizons by challenging yourself to learn a new language or take up blogging, which I hear can be very rewarding. How about strengthening your funny bone by writing some jokes to share with friends and family or hone your artists’ eye by capturing your world photography. You could also add to your circle of interest by trying out a Broadway show, music festival, museum or gallery. Growing intellectually doesn’t have to be overthought or something we do only while being challenged in grade school. I’m sure there are plenty of activities you’ve always wanted to try or once loved and haven’t picked back up in a while. The next time someone mentions to you what you’re doing for your wellness you could reply back with ‘Working on a few new words in Italian’.

Arrivederci Amici 🙂

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Hi, Nice to meet you.

Hello Blog Community (in my best Good Morning Vietnam impersonation). My name is Roshawnda Washington but everyone calls me Ro and I’d like to take a few lines to introduce myself. I joined the MSAA team as an intern at the beginning of September and am so looking forward to working here. I’m currently working toward my MSW with the University of Southern California (Fight On!) after earning a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Why the switch you may ask…I was looking for something that would allow me to make a difference. About a year and a half ago I sat at work thinking that while I enjoy science and was working for a fantastic research institute I couldn’t see myself waking up in 10 years and still enjoying what I was doing. In typical Generation Y fashion I took to Google and typed in some of the words I was pretty sure I was looking for; people, help, professional, fulfilling, compassion, diverse and career. There were others like million dollars, international travel and fabulous but it took 6 seconds before I remembered that I’m not a reality TV star so my first few were probably good. Several things popped up and the one I almost immediately dismissed was Social Worker. “They’re the people who take children from homes and put them in other homes right”…Pass, that’s not for me and I continued on my search for my fabulous, million dollar (kidding) new path in life.

At work as I was speaking with some of our staff I expressed the new hunt for my future and someone mentioned, “you should look into social work”. I stopped and thought to myself, what are the odds. We began speaking about what Social Workers actually do, some of the areas where they are needed and specifically what the workers part was in our team at the hospital. I had previously had few occasions to interact with the Social Workers who partnered with our patient families and clinical teams. Getting to really speak with them I was able to learn that Social Workers are not the ‘baby snatchers’ or any of the negative stereotypes that many others and I had been associating with the vocation. Again I took to my trusty Google and in true predictive type mode it directed me to several programs offering an MSW and USC was at the top of the list.

Over the past year I have had the privilege of working with some wonderful professors and professionals as well as my fellow students to learn what being a Social Worker really is. I’ve been able to look at my parents’ history of being a foster family and the care that our worker put into each child she placed. In the VA workers who diligently and persistently advocate for veterans to make sure they are getting the services they need. In the awesome workers, who partner with families in hospitals to be the shoulder to lean on and the voice when they don’t know what to ask. I’ve learned that while many Social Workers do work with children and family services to make sure children are in caring and safe homes they also work in schools, therapist offices, businesses, corporations, hospitals, for counseling services and at non-profit organizations like here at MSAA (as well as a ton of places it would take a dozen blogs for me to list). Social Workers are professional, diverse, compassionate people who seek to help others fulfill needs and they do all this and more as a career (like how I used all my search words 😀 ). I will probably never make a million dollars, my international travel will be on vacations (unless I become that TV star) but I think that Social Workers are pretty fabulous and I’m beyond excited to get started on this path and see the difference I’m able to make.

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