“It’s The Garden Spot of Ceti Alpha Five!”

I’m glad to be home.

Advanced Peer Support training was interesting, and I brought back the official certificate to prove my worthiness.  But class ended every day by 2:00, so I had a lot of time to fill.  Since I was in better health his time around, I thought I’d explore Council Bluffs a little.

Green Acres Natural FoodsI found a funky little natural market with homeopathic remedies, essential oils, supplements, cruelty-free cosmetics and some organic foods.  It smelled like heaven, or more like the hippy apothecary I used to frequent in Minneapolis, Present Moment.  I chatted with the staff for a while and bought a packet of lavender bath salts.  I figured I might as well enjoy my hotel room’s large tub while I had it.

One afternoon I visited the public library to see if their computer lab ran any faster than the ancient Windows machine at the hotel.  It was the weirdest set-up I’d ever seen.  Each carrel had a glass top.  Patrons had to look down through the glass to the screen under the desk.  I’m sure there’s some ergonomic reason for this, or maybe the computers felt safer locked away from humans, but I left after a half hour ready for that hot soak.

rebumbant bikeMostly I just hit the great Chinese restaurant on my way back to the hotel, watched endless episodes of Supernatural and NCIS, and went to bed.  Which meant I woke up at an ungodly hour.  But, no one else was in the Fitness Room at 3:30 in the morning, so that worked out fine.

horseshoe casino, council bluffsMy hotel was in the casino part of town, which might have been an option if I wanted to empty my billfold and eat at Hooters.  There was also an AMC theater down the street, but why go to a movie with back-to-back episodes of Castle on TV?  Psssht.

I did enjoy the free breakfast every morning.  The ladies in charge were saintly in their patience with the guests who stumbled in and tried to make their own waffles.  We talked about putting up a sign with directions on how to do it, but decided folks that hung-over and bleary-eyed would never read it.

Peer Support Specialist Training, Dr. Braden DanielsIn the final analysis, it was a successful road trip.  I learned some stuff, got to hang out with the same great dudes from Basic Training, and ate fabulous Chinese take-out.  And I didn’t get sick.  So, while Council Bluffs may not be my vacation Mecca, it took me where I needed to go.  With waffles.

A thousand points to the fellow nerdling who knows the source of this post’s title.

Passing Grade

handmade greeting cards, collage artBack from my first round of the Peer Support Specialist certification process, I come victorious with my Basic Training diploma… and a nasty-ass chest cold.  Ah, the yin/yang of life!  There’s something oh-so poetic about how the instructor whispered to me that I’d gotten a perfect score on the test (I thought you maybe had answers written on your arm or something), and I then high-fived him with a hand crawling with virulent lung cooties.

I’m thinking it was the murky hotel pool.  Or maybe the phlegmy air conditioner in my room.  Whatever the source, my immediate surge of snot and fever kept me from enjoying any delights Council Bluffs had to offer—except for the Hy Vee pharmacy.  I collapsed in my room after our daily instruction with the cable guide and as many styrofoam cups as I could carry.  The hotel offered a hot breakfast every morning and kept the beverages available all day.  I barked my thanks to the staff for this service since I needed all the hot tea and orange juice I could down.

The class itself was not at all what I expected.  As a Peer, our most important asset is our own story—it’s how we can relate to others suffering with their mental illness and how they can begin to see some hope for recovery.  Much of the training centered around how to tell that story effectively, how to use it in different ways to either draw a client out, put them at ease, or offer a new perspective.  There was one day of dry legalese (state regulations, code of ethics, HIPPA laws, etc.), but most of the time we focused on The Story and the skills we needed to use it well.

I loved it.  And I liked our instructor—also someone with “lived experience,” as the lingo goes.  Since there was only one other student in this particular class, the three of us went out to lunch each day and got to know each other.  It was a lovely, intimate experience and made learning all that more fun.

I was worried about memorizing some of the drier stuff for the exam, but we received a pre-test, which took away the anxiety and gave me something specific to study.  I was shocked that I did so well, but feel even more confident now in pressing on to take the Advanced Training and to sit for the State Board Certification afterward.  Like our instructor, Dr. Daniels, kept saying, “We can do some stuff.”

For now, I’ll tend this infection, go to the doctor for the high-powered antibiotics and inhaler that can knock it back, and not repeat last fall.  Last year I was sick with this crud for months, then was depressed for months, then ended up in the hospital— where I first heard about Peer Support Specialists.  Everything has a purpose.  There are no accidents.  But, this year I’d rather circle around to a different lesson.  And maybe I can pass that one, too.

Peer Support Specialist, Life Connections

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