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 :) ).

Dollars and Cents? No, Hours and Minutes

When someone mentions the word budget most people instantly think of dollars and cents. But budgeting our time and commitments is just as much work as budgeting our money, and even more difficult for some (myself included). Budgeting to fit in the pull of work, family, friends, school, volunteer activities, participation in groups… regular sleep hours… it takes a lot. I’m a juggler (not really), but I often fill my proverbial plates with more than I should and from time to time something takes a fall. All the good intentions aren’t enough to always keep things going. The start of fall, with all its changes and starting of new activities and programs has been a good time for me to look at all the things in my life that vie for my attention and decide how best to budget out my commitments. Take stock of the things most important to me and learn to say “No” to those that I just can’t fit into the 24 hours a day I’ve got.

catinthehat-214x300Taking the time to really asses our time and commitments can be more difficult than it sounds. If like me you like to stay busy, be involved and take on new things, you’re looking for ways to do it all. Be at the soccer games and make the deadline, help decorate the hall and run the meeting, work on projects and help a friend pick out their wedding favors. While keeping busy and involved can be exciting and interesting it can also take its toll. Realizing that while we’d love to juggle all the objects that life has to offer, it’s best to decide which of them is most important and put the others down takes thought. It takes being honest with ourselves that we have limits and that our time isn’t infinite. Choosing the activities or tasks that are the most important to us and saying no to others. Budgeting with money is important to make sure the bills get paid and there’s something left over to save. But budgeting our time is important to make sure we have something left over. To ensure we don’t burn the candle at both ends and end up missing things, moments or chances that we’ll regret. Yes, I want to be there for my friends and family, do well at work and help where I can but there are times when not maxing out my budget will save me from running in the red in more than just my bank account.

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What is Your Perspective?

On our helpline here at MSAA we speak with clients every day from across the country who contact us for any number of things. Resources for assistance, information on our programs, clarification on something they saw or read on our site or in our publications and at times they’re looking for someone to speak to who they can bounce ideas off of or just have a listening ear. Recently I spoke with a client who was more newly diagnosed and called to get some broad spectrum information. What struck me at the end of our call was that the client taught me probably more than I did them.

During our conversation we happened upon the idea of changes in perspective. They recounted to me how their world had very much changed when they were diagnosed with MS, in the not too distant past, and how at first they were not sure at all what to do. There were lots of questions, some of which were unfortunately met with little, or vague answers. New terminology to learn. Medicine to juggle. Periods of anger, frustration, and sadness. New planning to do they hadn’t thought of before. I listened as they recounted one such day that found them sitting on the bedroom floor in the dark not sure of what to do next. Unaware of the time that was passing, just sitting. “This,” they told me, “was my finding perspective. I sat on the floor recounting stories to myself of events in my life, and in the middle of my thoughts I found a new way to see things.” After a good deal of time angry and upset on their bedroom floor they sat and recounted all the events that made them proud, excited, and happy. The client didn’t want those events to be the only memories with a happy connotation that they would ever have. All in the past.

The client said they pulled out some scrap paper and made lists of the things they were angry and frustrated over.  Things that they felt they had lost or missed. Along with that, they scribed a list of the things they enjoyed, they wanted to do, they were good at or had interest in. This list, they said, was there perspective. This list was longer and when they read it over they found in it thoughts of how to still visit all the European countries on their bucket list, while dealing with the uncomfortable temperatures. How to volunteer and be part of their community while working in different time increments or events. There they thought of how best to use their love of blogs, working with people and photography to connect with others and raise awareness.

They said they had two ways to go about this and the one they were deciding on was to choose their attitude not to let their attitude be chosen for them. They looked at the list of things they were angry over and decided to choose their attitude toward it. Would it always be easy to change the way they thought about being diagnosed?  No. But if they chose to change their perspective, not from the things they had lost, but toward the things they had and could do, and use and focus on those…it gave them a different perspective. “That,” they told me, “got me off the floor onto my bed.” Then a little while longer to their dining room table where they started to brainstorm, make some new plans and objectives keeping their MS in mind, but not letting their MS choose the plans. Perspective is just what you make it and sometimes that’s easier said than done. But we all have a choice to make in changing the way we look at things. What is your perspective?perspective

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Where Did It Go?

I can’t believe that summer is halfway over! I remember as a kid my parents telling me that time speeds up as you get older and to treasure how summer was. Of course being the precocious child I sometimes was, I would respond ‘Oh please, you’re pulling my leg. Time is still the same no matter what”. But… my parents were right. Time has seemed to speed up and it’s weird but not being in school and having summer break to look forward to, the start of another school year to dread and those 3-ish months to soak up and enjoy as much as possible free afternoons and outings with friends, time and the summer just go running by. Remember when summer was special, it was what you lived all year for? You counted down the days right around Memorial Day. Started planning what you were going to do the first day off, how many times you were going to go to the pool, mall, movies, amusement park, Maria or Tim’s house (insert your own childhood friends names of course). The smell of summer, the warm breezes and long hours of light, it was all you could do to keep yourself in your desk ’til the last bell on the last day of the year. Then summer seemed like this endless thing in front of you.

Nowadays summer is the pretty much the same as spring and fall and winter. Work, weekends, occasional days off. Appointments, errands and holidays sprinkled in. Summer is going by pretty quickly and from time to time I sit in my car after a long day at work, on my back patio on a Saturday morning, or on a walk down some nearby trails and think where in the world did the time go. I know we’ve all heard it before ‘Make the most of the time we are given’ or ‘Stop occasionally and smell the roses’ and they seem like ancient clichés that we smile and nod to when people older than us expel them for our benefit. But truly as someone who is at 31 finally, albeit slowly, learning the value of the time I have, I’m telling you… stop for even a few seconds and really take in the sunrises and daylight that lasts past 8pm, cool breezes on hot days and small moments of reflection in this second half of summer before it’s gone. Slow down for a moment and just… take it in. Take in the here and now, the age you are and where you are. Appreciate the things you have and try not to dwell on the things you don’t. Appreciate the sunrises and sunsets, the ocean breezes off the shore, green leaves building canopies over walkways, the light streaks the sun makes thru windows, the sounds of kids playing without a care in the world. Don’t let time just go whizzing by and before you know it end up realizing that it’s August 31st and then think ‘Where did the time go?’.

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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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