15 August 2015

The Light at the End of the Internship

I just completed the final hours of my college internship and the final assignments of my last college course. You guys. I am all set to receive my diploma with a BS in psychology from Liberty University! I crammed this last big piece to the puzzle into the 3rd trimester of my pregnancy while chasing a high-spirited one-year-old and missing my long-distance parent-partner. I'd say the last months were missing any amount of normalcy (unless you're military- then you know these last months were filled with our exact brand of normalcy), and I'm certainly not going to recommend it.

I'll admit that I was concerned that my personal circumstances would prevent me from graduating. But my internship went so well. If I had to add a part-time job to the mix, I couldn't have asked for a better situation. I had flexible hours and a flexible learning environment. I was able to drop Eli at CDC a block from our house and drive not more than 15 mins on base to work each day. The people I worked with took an interest in my professional development, as well as my personal growth and well-being, and I appreciated every minute of learning from them.

I worked with the Family Matters Program on JBER. The program included all military and family member support services. I had jobs all over the installation, but mainly worked out of three locations: (1) the Servicemember and Family Assistance Center (SFAC) for ill or injured soldiers and their families, (2) what used to be known as Army Community Services (ACS) in Bldg 600 on the Ft Richardson side, and (3) the Military and Family Support Center, a.k.a. the Log Cabin, on Elmendorf. I was encouraged to visit each center, meet with directors and staff, and learn the objectives and services provided by each program. I was also able to assist with events and classes including the Military Appreciation Picnic, Spouse Orientation, Newcomer's Orientation, ACS Birthday Celebration, the U.S. Chamber Transition Summit, and Operation Homefront's Back-to-School Brigade, and Family Readiness Group (FRG) trainings.

The Transition Summit event was one of my last days on the job. It was really cool to see a project of this size which such an amazing mission come to life. I was honestly a little sad to be done with with my internship and was missing my husband and was feeling like a whale that day. Two different ladies approached me to tell me I looked beautiful. Of course, I cried both times, because it was exactly what I needed. I'm including this little excerpt because I never want to forget what a simple compliment and a small kindness can do. Pass it on!

At the end of my hours, a few of my supervisors took me to lunch and gave me a baby gift. My site supervisor, Ms. Mary, is over the Warfighter and Family Services programs on all of JBER. Mr. Russ, the kindest man who loves to teach and provide resources and shake hands and make a difference in the JBER and Anchorage communities, was who I assisted most of my hours in preparation for the Transition Summit. He wrote and made several copies of a very generous reference letter for my future employment. I will never forget Mr. Russ. I never told him, but he reminds me so much of my Papa. Ms. Pam and Ms. Cathy were my initial guides when I started working and are the sweetest ladies you'll ever meet. Ms. Lisa is a go-getter and is a master trainer for military spouses in FRG and volunteer positions at Bldg 600. Ms. Jeri is a gentle, thoughtful, and invested woman in the spouse community at the Log Cabin. These were just my direct supervisors, and I could mention many more kind, caring staff that offered me information and guidance for my coursework and hour requirements. This internship affirmed my decision to prepare for a helping profession and in my ability to offer support services. I was dreading leaving Eli in daycare and doing an important job through discomfort and exhaustion of the 3rd trimester. But this experience ended up being one of the biggest blessings of this deployment for me and I am so grateful for it.

I also cannot end this post without talking about Eli's daycare. We get 16 free hours a month during deployment, and then it's only $2.50 an hour after that. I have never once had to second guess leaving him in the facility or with the staff at Kodiak CDC. It is a HUGE reason why my internship was even possible and a HUGE reason why it was a positive experience. Having Eli at Kodiak was stress-free, guilt-free, and tear-free (most of the time)! He absolutely loves the caregivers and other kiddos. He always comes home messy, tired, and happy. I'm so so so grateful. (He's in the blue shirt on the stairs.)

What are my future plans from here? Well, I will continue to work at my current assignment. My job titles are Wife, Mama, and CFO of the Woodard Household. My job description is everything. My duties and responsibilities will change slightly (only slightly) when our CEO returns from his required work trip with his second job. The hours are terrible and the pay is worse. But it's the most important job I'll ever have and it's one I'm deeply glad I get to do. 

We're less than 4 weeks from baby's due date, almost halfway through our second deployment, and about a year out from leaving Alaska. We're still stuck right in the middle of this challenging year, and, let me tell ya, it's already one for books. So, for now, I'm loving on Eli, taking some naps, and nesting. Things are pretty much ready for baby dos since we already have one, but I'm excited to get a few items in order since it's probably the last time I will have the opportunity to do so in the next….ummm, 18 years or so? Anyways, I'm relieved to be done with school before this second baby arrives. And I'm ecstatic that I graduated debt-free! Did you read that?? DEBT-FREE! (I'm pretty sure Hubs is too.) I loved investing in our family's future by pursuing a goal that made us both proud. I don't have career plans but have created an opportunity to go in that direction if we need/want to make that change later. Until then, I'm going to sit in my sweatpants and enjoy not doing any homework EVER.