Made Peace With The Highs and Lows

I’m still trooping through the year trying to figure out what PEACE is, what it looks life in my life, and how to let more of it in, and let the bad stuff out.

Something I’ve come to recognize (okay, really, just be honest with myself) these past few months are my struggles with the ups and downs of life. In high school I used to joke with my friends that I didn’t need to do drugs because I was already so “high on life.” A large aspect of my personality is this effervescent bubbly-ness. The bottom line is I DESPERATELY want to be happy, so I seek these things out. This could look like being easily entertained, or enjoying the simple things in life (like a cupcake in a classroom because its a kids birthday).

I started this blog in one of those low times after I got married. I’d gotten married and graduated and quickly learned that neither one of those things were going to bring me the complete happiness I was looking for. I felt purposeless not having a course syllabus to guide my life, and I realized all of my poisonous relationship insecurities. So, this blog became a redirection (a counseling term, basically distracting yourself) to focus on the little things in life, and maybe I’d figure out the big things later.

I really am just so addicted to being happy. I want the high energy levels. Those are the times when I’m able to follow through with this thing that I hate in my life (chores). I want my spirit to soar.

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Sometimes in little bad times, I’m able to just sort of “positive attitude” myself out of them. My personality type (ENFP) LOVES those moments, sees them as challenges to rise above. But, after awhile we can get drained. That far reaching telescope of brightness easily reverses to inspect all of the tiny minutiae of my life, pointing out everything that is “wrong.”

This has probably been the most intense this past week. I was on the high of having completed my first year at the local community service board. In discussing my progress with my supervisor she reflected how much I’d grown, and I easily agreed with her. I could -feel- the gained experience, especially the ability to be more present with my clients.

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Then, I had a rough week. A couple of things came up. Basically, it boils down to not being present with those two cases. I didn’t meet those teens where they were. It was crushing to hear this in their self reports. One of them I thought we’d have a great therapeutic relationship, but it turned out that I annoyed her. At the end of the day I was thankful for the diverse personality among my teammates, that is the point, we are all different. BUT, and I really did let that BUT be bigger than any other truths. I FELT crushed thinking that I was sucking at the fundamentals of counseling (you know, being a good listener).  It led to deep reflection, not all of it as healthy as I’d like to admit.

BUT (see let’s use some of those for the positive!)

I did a vision board earlier this year as part of Ali Edward’s One Little Word prompts. I always enjoy the freeing ability in these types of projects, saving magazines that I find all the time. (I also got to use my amazing folding table in my amazing new craft room!!!)

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This theme of finding peace by thru emotional balance can easily be observed. (And is represented by the pictures of various seasons, oh I just LOVE how it came together)

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One of my favorite magazine cut out finds is this quote, “If you are only happy at the summit you aren’t going to be happy very often” Its from an adventure magazine interview with someone who ACTUALLY scales mountains. (It makes me wish I still had the rest of the article to see if there is more wisdom there). The vision board sits on my desk next to my computer and I see this statement often. Its true, if we are only happy when we are succeeding at the very top of whatever our mountains are, we will be happy like 1% of the time. We love movies about people overcoming the odds, in the harsh realities of life, because the majority of life is the struggle.

Isaiah 26:3 says “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (See! there’s that BUT being used for the power of GOOD!)

So, I want to learn to find lasting peace in the struggle. I want to learn to focus on Christ in all things.

Seen the End of the Journey

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Once upon a time I began my counseling career after my internship. It was challenging phsyically, emotionally, in all the ways. I desperately wanted to reach these kids who were known to be some of the most aggressive and tough. I hurt because of their hurts, wondering how I could better help them. I cried in our break area so many times, only to hear from other hardened staff, “oh you just need to toughen up,” as I nursed bruises, and frustrations at being ineffective.

After a grueling summer, each supervisor wanted me on their team, I praise God for my displayed work ethic and passion. I accepted the alternative school placement.

I went on my annual beach vacation, and returned to school politics and an agency that didn’t defend me, giving the position away. I was broken hearted and betrayed professionally. I later cried to my supervisor who was going to be my team lead at the alternative school. I think that I was the most broken hearted because of how much I wanted to partner with this school. The teachers were wonderful, and had amazing structure for these behaviorally challenged children. I was going to be successful at this location. Then this dream was suddenly ripped away from me. (Ironically some of the structure at the school bent under the pressures of intense kids and more politics, so likely God was sparing me from something).

I stepped down from this agency and chilled out for awhile, scared to restart my career, not knowing if I could trust employers not to put
me in such risky positions only to be betrayed by politics.

Then, last year, in my month of living courageously and stepping out of my comfort zone, I followed up with the recommendation to apply at the local community service board. I applied for any position I was qualified for, including crisis services even though individual outpatient and daytreatment were things I’d done before.

I got hired to this team with amazing people and management. I met the CEO the first week, was provided the resources to do my job. We were even given a new building recently to better serve our rural community.

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But one of the coolest things was to see God tie some of the threads of my life together this week!

An assignment came up in the city, which we always enjoy. I met the client, he was familiar, and I recognized the names of the teachers. I explained that I’d worked for the previous organization. Later that day I discovered that even though the alternative program was at a different base school, it was still the same amazing program I’d longed to partner with! In an unexpected twist I was back at this school, working with these incredibly understanding teachers helping this kid stay in their school location! So many things were similar, including this map carpet that I had been all too fascinated with.

I worry much more than I ever have need to about the future. I want to know how things will end, how meaningless choices affect the outcomes. In these moments, seeing God reveal His hand it is easy to believe and to trust. I’ll revel in those gifts, but I really want to focus on the ways God has revealed Himself in the past the next time something uncertain happens.

Isaiah 26:3- You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Counted Down to 2016 Twice

When you work with kids you take EVERY opportunity to do fun things like celebrate the holidays. This meant that my coworker and I planned to have them celebrate the New Year’s festivities with making pizza, art projects, noise makers, and counting down at noon. They really seemed to enjoy it.

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Later I went to a party with people my own age to do another count down. While at the party it was a nice chance to catch up, and people were asking me about my job, what I do, and the differences between this job and another. One new friend asked about the kinds of kids we work with, basically asking how we know if we are effective. Honestly, since I work such short term programs either 15 or 30 days, I only know the middle of their stories and don’t usually know how things work out. Because my agency is so large sometimes I’m able to get a short update from a case manager who still works with them, but there are several dear to me cases that have been closed that I have no idea how their lives are going now.

Randomly, as I was returning the borrowed work vehicle to one of our offices I saw a former client and his family. His mom bragged about how well he’d done on his 9 weeks tests, and I discovered that he was still enrolled in his public school. I was surprised by this given how fed up the teachers were during his struggle to adjust, but he was able to pull through, and even admitted that he hadn’t received in school suspension in a couple of months. In was an unanticipated short encounter with a former client whom I’d labeled resistant and hadn’t been able to progress much work with, but he was beginning to thrive. That, is why I do what I do :0)

When discussing the differences between my first attempts at starting this career at the place where the children were out of control as compared to where I work now, another friend offered an insight that reflects on this professional development for the past year. She said that she noticed how at the last job my posts were usually dealing with so many frustrations, of getting through, but that now my posts are much happier, really enjoying what I do.

I’m incredibly thankful to have this job, at this agency, in this particular country, with my awesome supervisor and coworkers. Do I grumble each and every morning and say something to the husband like, “Please, can I just quit? Can I just not work” Yes, pretty much almost every single morning, because I want more time to do fun things like blogging, but I’m incredibly blessed and so excited to see where this career and upcoming year takes me!

Cheers to 2016!

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(This may or may not be my champagne and raspberries before I manage to dump it all over myself, which is doubly ironic as it is just due to clumsiness. Maybe coordination should be a goal in the new year?)

Become a Counseling Resident

Sorry I’ve disappeared over the past few months, work/life balance is hard for me. A few months ago I accepted a position with the local community service board.

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In another blog post later I’ll share about the journey that day. Long story short I was struggling on April 1st. I felt defeated thinking about how I was supposed to be starting a job in January where I’d be working as an in home therapist. I wondered how long I’d be waiting, what that next step even was. I prayed, journaled, and redirected my attitude determined to soar through all of the things I was waiting on in my life (apartment restructures, a house, job/career etc).

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Then, around 5pm I got a call from HR offering me the position! I was told that I was the cream of the crop and they were excited to have me. I teased him about making me an offer on April Fool’s day and he laughed.

Starting with this company I had flash backs to my last job. I was honestly scared of it being terrible and soul sucking again. But from the moment of my first training session I was treated like a professional, like I inherently had value. I even met the CEO on the first day.

I was given an office.

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A work laptop.

I got a name plate for that office.

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Got a work phone.

And I know those are just physical things but they represent resources this company is willing to invest in me.

My supervisor and coworkers have been incredible. They are legit Christians with passions for missions. It’s neat to discuss the mental health issues of our clients from a Biblical worldview in our secular organization. After a difficult case with a client a coworker and I actually prayed in her office :). Let alone they are just fun spirited and we do fun things like make sushi for fun friday.

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As for my job I’m a Crisis counselor who works with kids and teens. We often work with individuals who are coming out of residential treatment for attempting to hurt themselves or others, to make sure they don’t go back to the hospital. Or we work with kids that have behavior problems in the school and are in danger of being removed from the school. It’s stressful, long hours but I really so love it. And trust me the honeymoon period is over.

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At the beginning of June I applied to begin working towards licensure. Today I received an email saying my paperwork was accepted. I’m a counseling resident. (Only like 3,400 hours to go…) My professional title changed to LMHP-R!

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So we celebrated with yummy crab legs.

This approval came at such a timely moment. I’ve been struggling with a defiant client that won’t let me help him. I’ve often felt discouraged wondering if I’ll ever be good at this job. But I learned some more behavior tricks and gained some ground with my little buddy. I’m beginning/continuing something pretty awesome! I know that God will finish what he started.

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Begun My Counseling Career

Obviously, in April I disappeared from the face of the Earth.

I began my counseling career!

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I interviewed and accepted their offer to be a day treatment counselor for behavioral and emotionally challenged children. Basically, everything that I’ve been doing for the past 5 months can be summed up in this quote:

The kids who need the most love, will ask for it in the most unloving ways.

Daily, moment by moment, I’m challenged by these kids with their temper tantrums, anger outbursts, verbal and physical assaults. But, when I pursue through that ugliness there is the chance to see these beautiful vulnerable children who are really thirsting for someone to notice them and love them.

The school year was the hardest, being thrown in during the last two months, when the students were ready for the year to be over. I learned to redefine what it meant to be successful in my job. I learned that even if I tried to use all of my best redirection skills, the kids could still decide to make bad decisions. Honestly, the reason I held on through it was knowing that I’d do more harm to quit on them, and as a counselor I’ve promised not to harm them.

June came around, and with it our intensive summer program. During the summer I didn’t have to fight with them to do schoolwork that they didn’t want to do. I just had to plan 5 hours of programming…which is a LONG day with 4-6 of these time bombs waiting to go off. And each bomb is diffused in a different way, and if not diffused quick enough will probably trigger other bombs. It was a physically and emotionally draining summer.

In preparing for the school year, one of my supervisors took me to another one of our sites to tour. She asked me in the parking lot, “Do you like kids?”

Asking me a few years ago, I would have laughed in her face. I was studying youth ministry, I wanted to have deep and meaningful conversations with teenagers. When church leaders suggested I work with children, I’d be offended, believing that they were sterotyping me as a woman, when I never even spent much time babysitting.

Truth is, I love working with the kids. As much as these kids make me cry over their foul words, behaviors, and punches at me, I’ve also teared up as they happily sung “Let it Go” on the way to camp. I enjoy playing with them on such a deep level. It is exciting to see them make positive decisions.

Its the hardest job I’ve ever had, but one where I felt I’ve been challenged to be the most like Christ. Daily, moment by moment I’m granted the opportunity to love these unloved children in a way they don’t deserve, because HE loves me in a way I don’t deserve.

Here’s to the first day of school tomorrow!

Completed My Counseling Internship

All of 2013 has been about the culmination of my Professional Counseling Master’s degree, begun in January 2010.

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This has been an incredibly long journey through which I’ve really struggled. I’ve wrestled with papers, tests, rejection from internship opportunities, no shows, insecurities, and it finally came down to the wire. The question of the hour was “would I get all of the needed face to face hours?!” Would I have my full 60 hour degree, or would I get bumped down to a 30 hour Human Services degree?

The last few weeks there were moments of worry, doubt, and extreme anxiety. However, I clung to the promise that God had started me on this journey, and that He’d finish it with me. The last few week there were so many moments with clients that were supernaturally filled with the Holy Spirit, that truly reminded me that God had ordained me to be at this place at this moment in time.

It was evidenced to me that He’d allowed me to struggle through my own issues in my personal counseling sessions, to be able to become a more secure and competent counselor.

He’d allowed me to grow into my retention skills, allowing me to experience a greater diversity of counseling while working with other therapists.

The last day I was filled with peace and excitement, waiting in expectation for God to really show up! I was nervous as good byes can be awkward, especially in this new professional sense. By the end of the day 4 out of 6 schedule clients had shown up for their appointments…and I’d earned my face to face hours by 1 hour!

It was so incredible, it just felt surreal. I don’t know if it will feel completely real until there is a diploma in my hand!

Everyone keeps asking me, “What’s next?”

I’d decided to take the rest of December off, due to the erratic schedule of cotherapy (during the other counselor’s schedules) and stress of it all. Come January, I’d start applying places.

Sadly, I’ve been enjoying my time off probably more than I should. I weigh through the different options. At this time there was not the possibility to continue at my site, as there are already 2 Masters level therapists. I’m interested in pursuing my licensure…but its difficult to commit to a new beginning know that the journey is 4,000 hours long. I’ll just have to look around and see what is available, see what doors God opens.

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The coolest thing was that our Christmas party was on the same date I began my internship in 2012! It was awesome as I rushed to complete my hours, to have an opportunity the following week to really savor time with everyone. We played Christmas games, and the December birthdays were given gifts. I was floored by the generosity shown by my peers. They spoiled me with Amazon and Kroger gift cards. I will really miss all of them and I hope to save all of the lessons that they taught me!

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Entered the Final Quarter of Internship

keepcalmandcounselon It’s been awhile since I posted about my internship progress, some of it was due to wanting to avoid ethical entanglements, making sure I wasn’t actually discussing my clients, etc.

Now, I’m in final quarter of my final semester of internship…I can’t believe I’m at this point! Here are the stats: 191.25 F2F, 24.5 Individual Supervision, 22.75 Group Supervision, 401.25 Related Activities hours for a grand total of 639.75!! In total we are supposed to have 600 hours, but its about getting the “right” 600 hours. At this point I need 48.75 face to face hours left (9.5 of which can be observations) to reach by Dec. 14th. It’ll still be close, but I’m averaging more like 7-10 hours per week now.

Entering this last stretch is cause for reflection at the rest of the journey. Beginning my 3rd semester placed me in the role of Office Manager again unexpectedly…but I felt more confident in that position. Oddly, I liked the symmetry at beginning and ending my internship in the same way. One of the biggest difficulties in my internship has been the problem of “no shows.” Due to having fewer of my own clients I participated more in cotherapy. This meant that I was able to see other types of therapies: family therapy, EMDR, play therapy, premarital and other styles of doing therapy.

Counseling is teased as a “social non serious science” but in my opinion that makes it more challenging! Gravity and other physical laws will always behave in those ways, whereas each depressed person will respond differently to the same technique! Cotherapy has been an enriching experience that I’m grateful for, as I know many others are unable to sample such variety of counseling.

At this point I can confidently say that I know that I click in counseling. There is nothing more fulfilling than being able to be Jesus to these people as they go through trials in their lives, and hoping to help them develop coping skills. As difficult, challenging, and infuriating as aspects of being a counselor can be, I know that I was made to do this.

I know that I want to pursue residency to obtain licensure to open more doors in the future. I have no idea where this will be, but I know that God will show me in His time. At this point I’m focusing on 240 hours, going to veg the last two weeks of December. Then, in January I’ll figure out my “next steps.”

Begun My 2nd Semester of Internship

IMG_3546I’ve just finished the first quarter review in my second semester of counseling internship. Here are the stats: Week #25 Face to Face: 97.25 hours, Individual Supervision: 12.75 hours, Group Supervision: 11 hours, and Related Activity: 283 for a grand total of 404 hours.

The past few weeks I’ve felt less like a counseling intern and more like a general office aide. I’ve covered for our office manager/admin assistant over the Memorial Day holiday, and have spent many related activity hours on a networking open house event for churches in the area. Also, the summer weather seems to have increased the amount of no shows and late cancellations that we have. Its been discouraging because I want to keep growing in my therapy skills.

It doesn’t help that the group I was co leading has now ended, as that was a great source of hours on a weekly basis. Through teaching group using Boundaries materials by Cloud and Townsend, and doing premarital using Prepare/Enrich I realize how comfortable I am in more of the structured teaching role. It is enjoyable having the outline structure, and then being able to tweak it as we desired. The Boundaries DVD and work text is set up as a 9 week course, but likely it would be better to be further stretched out as they teach so much material each session, and focus less on application until the last few sessions.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to make up for the lack of my own regular clients by doing co therapy with some of the other counselors again. In those times I have to work through my insecurity of bugging them, and hope that I’m actually helping some of those who have such a heavy case load themselves.

One thing that I started towards the end of my first semester was my own personal counseling. My supervisor suggested it, stating that her school’s program actually required it. When she first suggested it, I wanted to avoid it. I thought “eh, I don’t really need it. I mean I could just talk with a good Christian friend.” In watching that inner dialogue I realized that I was being a giant hypocrite in wanting to avoid it.

I was so nervous even in completing the intake over the phone. When asked what the presenting problem was I said “past issues.” Realizing how generic that was I said, “umm like family of origin” She laughed and said, “You sound like a counselor!” I replied, “well….I may or may not be a counseling student.” She was very encouraging, saying how valuable it was to be able to have time to work on my own issues as well as being able to experience what my own clients experience. So far I’ve had 6 sessions and I really look forward to it each week. I see this as another educational experience, her modeling techniques while we’re working through any of my personal life struggles.

Pushing through the slower/lack of direct client hours lately, I try to focus on the positives. I try to focus on the fact that in actively having to participate in the process to gain new clients I’m gaining important marketing skills. In spreading out counseling experience over time, I try to focus on the fact that I will have a full years worth of experience come December (and the end of my 3rd semester). Little by little. At least now all I really need to obtain are my face to face and supervision hours :0).

Completed 1 Semester of Internship

On May 5th I completed my first semester of internship! Here were the stats: Week #21 Face to face: 81.25 (my goal was 1/3 of the 240 which I surpassed!), Individual Supervision: 11.5 (out of 25), Group Supervision: 9 (out of 25), and Related Activities: 229.75 (out of 310). A grand total of: 331.5.

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It’s pretty incredible to have already accumulated so many hours! It does mean though that the accumulation will slow throughout my second semester of internship, through to my third semester of internship. However, I enjoy the idea of giving back to my site helping the office manager with daily tasks, and helping to increase our marketing/networking in the community.

One feat that I accomplished this semester is that I never duplicated an outfit to work. This challenge was to inspire me to create more outfits, instead of just wearing a shirt and pants. I challenged myself to be creative with what I had. Researching on Pinterest to see different color and style combinations. This was something that would not be necessary for everyone, but helped me develop more confidence in my professional abilities and presence.

I’ve been able to participate or observe many different types of therapies: group, cothearpy, individual, EMDR, pre-marital, and family therapy. Family therapy has been one of the most inspirational to assist in. I feel like there is something magical about the idea of helping a family push tighter together to withstand the adjustments that they are having to face.

I’m excited about my second semester and continuing to grow in experience. I know that the summer can be kind of slower, but I’m trying to remain steadfast in the truth that God will bring the people that He wants to work with me in His timing.

Walked For My Master’s Degree

This past weekend I was able to do something really exciting, walk for my Professional Counseling Master’s degree! I say “walking” because I have not yet technically graduated. I’m done with all of the course work, and am continuing in my real life field experience for a few more semesters. You can walk with up to 6 credits outstanding. I did the same thing for my undergraduate degree.

 

For awhile I debated about not walking, this would have been my husband and my’s 3rd time participating in graduation, and it can be extremely hectic. Technically, I also viewed this spectacle one year while working at the campus bookstore, that was not a pleasant experience. However, I discovered that several of my undergraduate friends would be graduating as well, so at least I wouldn’t be by myself. Also, I figured it would be a great opportunity for my dad to visit again, since he was unable to attend my bachelor’s graduation.

 

By Friday midday the traffic was already a nightmare! Luckily, my school keeps getting smarter at how to host an extra bazillion people on campus, so check-in was very painless and smooth. They’d reserved parking spaces for the graduates (sorry to my friends who are staff members for this sacrifice), and provided a large option space to check in to pick up our reader cards.

 

Dad and I spent the morning looking for a suit for me. I’d only wanted a couple of jackets to dress up outfits, but conceded to a full suit, because really its probably time that I have one.

 

That evening was the baccalaureate speech, but we decided to reserve our strength and avoid campus for the night. Instead, we decided to watch “The Host” at the cheap movie theatre. I had been looking forward to this movie. Overall, I was fairly impressed with the film adaptation. However, I think they “overamped” the relationship aspects and reduced the sci-fi elements that made it so intriguing. It is first and foremost a love story, the idea that love can conquer all. The problem is that when you play hyped up music trying to make the scene “epic” it ends up loosing the true love sense that it could have other wise had.

 

Saturday morning came too quickly. They tell us to be on campus by 7:30, despite that we don’t start walking onto the football field until 9:00am. I remembered from my first graduation that really you could show up by 8:45am and still be fine. So when we were running a little bit late I wasn’t worried. I met up with the Xtreme Impact Costa Rica 2009 crew quickly. This group is probably the most cohesive mission trip group, that has consistently stuck together since they first met before college. I would say that unity is really what set our high school trips apart. It was an honor to graduate with them. The last generation of XI supervisors were in the bunch, so we took a photo together. xisupervisors Due to rain storms the previous night the grass in front of the visitor’s center was vastly squishy. I was happy I’d chosen to wear my “touristy” sandals in lieu of cute flats that I actually cared about.

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While waiting someone teased me about the blog title. Someone else decided “hey we should play that game” lol. Yes, I did use my fall back of “never have I ever fallen asleep in class”

IMG_1587 While lined up suddenly, I heard some people call my full name. I turned in surprise, not recognizing their faces. They quickly explained that they recognized me for my decorated cap, from our counseling Facebook groups! I felt like a superstar/famous person for a second. We chatted for a moment and I said I’d see them at our degree presentation ceremony later.

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The opening ceremony passed by fairly quickly, teasing the different silly aspects of the ceremony. Overall though I’d say the speaker was one of the better one’s we’ve had recently. She was actually a Christian, sharing a Christian message. It was inspiring hearing her discuss her career journey. There were moments when the doors to her dreams were slammed shut in her face, but now she sees that without those crushing moments she wouldn’t have the incredible job in news journalism that she has now.

 

After the first ceremony, Husband, Dad, and I booked it as it looked like the sky was finally about to burst down on us. We retreated to Husband’s office where we’d camp out at least until traffic cleared to head home, or waiting until the actual degree presentation. Another brilliant development by the school is renting several golf carts to bus people around in. Many of husband’s friends and coworkers were the drivers, so we may or may not have taken advantage of this in order to get lunch.

 

Finally, it was time for the 3:30 counseling degree presentation! Much to my surprise and enjoyment, a person I knew from real life was also graduating! My team leader from this past year’s Italy trip was walking in this ceremony. :0) He’s actually completely done, so I’m slightly jealous. 

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It felt nice to have that moment of having my name called, and walking across the stage. Though it signifies less to me that I’m done. For me it is more of the extra “oomf” to stay strong through my several semesters of internship. It was exciting to meet with some professors of intensives, getting a photo with Dr. John Thomas to taught my first and final intensive!

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The weather was gorgeous and sunny, it had yet to thunderstorm like the weather reports had promised. We took advantage of the bright sunniness taking a few obligatory shots with our DSLR. 

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Husband simply rolled his eyes at me, but I thought you’d like to see that they’ve officially demolished our dorms.

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