Hospice: 10 Things Patients and Families Need to Know

Hospice is a care philosophy that focuses on maximizing the quality of life as opposed to the quantity of life. Hospice may incl...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Non-Monetary Costs of Commuting

Sorry for the lack of updates! I've had one day off this past week and haven't had much time for anything else but working, commuting, and sleeping. I'll try to post a more substantial update when I actually have more than one day off.

In the meantime, I'm going to use this post to talk about commuting. Currently, I commute between 25-50 miles one way each day to get to a given hospital. This allows me to continue to live at home and save some money. However, I've concluded that there are a number of non-monetary expenses associated with long commutes. These include the following:

-Time: I spend roughly 2-4 hours each day commuting. By the time I get home, I don't have much time to do anything other than eat, shower, watch baseball/exercise/blog/surf the net/work on hobbies/talk to my boyfriend online (more or less simultaneously depending on my energy level), and sleep.

-Sleep: I try to get about 8 hours of sleep a night, but normally I only manage 7 hours or less because there's simply too much I want to do once I get home. Typically, I have about 4 hours of time after getting home before having to be asleep. Either I have to rush to get everything done, neglect a few items off my "to do" list, or stay up a few extra hours. Depending on how little sleep I get during the week, I spend a good portion of the weekend sleeping.

-Housekeeping: My room is a mess. My bathroom is certainly not as clean as I want it to be. While I probably should prioritize housework, I'd rather spend my free time after work doing something fun and/or relaxing.

-Exhaustion: Long commutes are tiring. Most days, I'm too tired to do anything once I get home from work. In fact, my typical routine is to get home, change my clothes, eat some dinner, and flop down on my bed.

-Safety: Driving is scary. More than once I've seen near accidents occur. Additionally, there have been times when I've had to pull over to nap because I've started to doze off behind the wheel. While riding the subway is less scary, it also doubles my commute time. Furthermore, I've been harassed by people on the subway demanding money or use of my cell phone. On top of that, I worry about the bacteria on the plush subway seats and sometimes wonder if I'll ultimately contract MRSA that way.

While I do saving lots of money by commuting, it seems like I am sacrificing a lot more. I suppose in come cases I am putting myself at risk for some steep monetary expenses, such as health bills and accident repair costs. The more I think about it, the more moving makes sense to me. Currently, I am in the process of looking at apartments closer to my multiple jobs. I'm definitely looking forward to the shorter travel times! In the meantime, I think it's time to go to bed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to Book a Cheap Trip to Las Vegas

Since I'm fortunate enough to have flexible per diem jobs, I've managed to schedule a week of vacation at the end of this month. So far, my plan is to fly to Las Vegas with some friends and spend a few days relaxing and having fun! I didn't want to spend too much on this trip, and thanks to some shopping around and early planning I'm spending less than $150 on housing and airfare!

Here are some tips on how you can save money on a trip to Las Vegas (which can also be applied to other locations):

-Shop around and book early: I cannot stress this enough. When I decided I wanted to go to Las Vegas, I immediately started searching travel websites like Expedia, Priceline, Kayak and comparing rates. My friends and I decided to book a room at a hotel located in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip for $24.50 a night. The next day, the price went up to $27.00. Today, the same room is $33 a night. By booking early, you ensure you have a room and extra spending money to spend on money and shopping! I'm pretty pleased that I'm paying less than $7 a night to stay in a themed Las Vegas hotel after splitting the cost with my friends.

-Schedule your vacations during weekdays and non-holidays: Weekday hotel room rates tend to be significantly cheaper than weekend and holiday rates. When booking my hotel I noticed that the Friday night rate was $125, a whopping $25 more than the total cost of the four weekday nights I'm staying. Weekends and holidays also tend to be more crowded at popular tourist locations, which can be good or bad depending on your preference. Personally, I'd prefer to save some money and not wait in line when I use that said money on shows and buffets!

-Use budget airline companies: Search Slickdeals deals being offered by major airlines. Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America tend to offer reasonable fares, and Spirit Airlines offers low cost ticket prices for people who travel light and don't mind skimping on certain services. I'll be writing a review of Spirit Airlines at a later date.

By using these tips, I've managed to book a trip to Las Vegas that leaves me extra money in my budget to spend on other things. Knowing this definitely leaves me more relaxed, as opposed to worried about paying for the whole thing. I can't wait for my vacation!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Social Work: Where Workplace Violence is the Norm, Not the Exception

In Major League Baseball, fights such as last night's bench clearing brawl between the Giants and the Phillies are not the norm. Contrarily, workplace violence is a risk faced by social workers on a daily basis.

Since entering the work force a little over a year ago, I've been bitten/chased by dogs, exposed to a multitude of diseases, threatened with physical harm, assigned to unsafe neighborhoods, and called to deal with aggressive individuals. I know that as I continue my career as a medical and home health social worker, I'll inevitably encounter many more risky situations. While I try to be aware of my surroundings and take precautionary measures (such as keeping pepper spray in my purse during home health visits), there are those scary moments when I find myself thinking, "Please don't hurt me!"

Here are a few things I've done in an attempt to minimize my risk at work:
-Carry pepper spray with me during home visits
-Inform friends and family when I'm going to be doing a home visit, and asking them to call me after a set amount of time
-If possible, position myself in an area near a door so I can escape if necessary
-Ensure that Cody Gray situations are stabilized before attempting to see the patient

Another thing I might do that someone recommended is purchase a white lab coat with "Social Worker" embroidered on it to use for my home health job. Since individuals associate white lab coats with the medical profession, outsiders will likely be less suspicious when I pull up for a visit. In fact, I've heard stories of social workers in white lab coats that have had gang members protect their cars during house appointments with family members.

How do other social workers out there minimize risk during home visits? What tips/recommendations do you follow when it comes to keeping safe on the job? I'd certainly like to hear your input!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I finally signed up for a Twitter account! Feel free to add me for the latest updates: Follow me on Twitter!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How the Debt Ceiling Deal Affects MSW (and other Graduate) Students

After much political drama, the House of Representatives has finally passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, meant to stop the U.S. government from defaulting on its payments to U.S. government bondholders. This bill is bound to have many impacts, but for this particular post I will focus on Title V and its affects on graduate students, especially future social workers.

Title V consists of several parts:

$17 Billion to Save Pell Grants: According to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Budget Control Act of 2011 will allocate $17 billion towards the Federal Pell Grant Program in the next 3 years. The Pell Grant Program provides financial aid to low-income undergraduate and certain graduate students who likely would not be able to afford college otherwise. Unlike loans, these grants do not need to be repaid.

Elimination of Federal Direct Stafford Loans for Graduate Students: Currently, college students with financial need are allowed to receive $8500 in subsidized loans a year. These are loans where interest is paid for until 6 months after graduation. Starting July 12, 2012, graduate students will only qualify for Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans, which accrue interest while students are still in school. According to the CBO report, this will save $18.1 billion in the next 10 years.

Elimination of Incentives for On-Time Loan Payments: Subsidized and unsubsidized loans have a 1% origination or activation fee. Currently, students only have to pay 0.5% - half the fee - which is refunded if they make 12 on time monthly loan payments. Under the new bill, this fee will no longer be refunded. According to the CBO, this will save $3.6 billion in the next decade.

As a social worker, I find myself asking many questions. Is saving the Federal Pell Grant Program worth the financial hardship that will inevitably be faced by numerous graduate students as a result of higher loan payments? How will this affect the social work profession in the long run? Considering that an MSW's salary is much lower when compared to other professions with the same training/education level, will increased loan payments cause those interested in social work to pursue careers in more lucrative fields?

Seems like there might be some hard times ahead for students. The amount of barriers students face these days make me thankful that I was able to finish school when I did. My thoughts are with those who will be seriously impacted by this new budget bill.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tiger Mom: Revisited

Lately, I've been reading the blog of Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, Amy Chua's daughter. Not only is Sophia obviously intelligent and hard working, but to my surprise also appears to be creative, witty, personable, and well-rounded. She also seems to have a great relationship with her mother, and is genuinely thankful for the way she was raised.

In several interviews following the release of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", Amy Chua stated that her book was meant to be a satire. After reading Sophia's blog, I'm more inclined to believe that Amy Chua exaggerated parts of her book and that she really wasn't that strict at all (relative to how I was raised). To compare, when I was Sophia's age I was not allowed to have a job, have a boyfriend, wear clothes that stylish (or even shave my legs), have my grades drop from from an A+ to A, and not major in anything but pre-med. Additionally, I have yet to read about Sophia or her sister Lulu receiving physical punishment for poor performances or disagreeing with their parents. It really seems that Amy Chua did allow her daughters some liberty in their lives.

While reading Sophia's blog, one entry of interest was when she discussed her trip to China. Here, Sophia talked about how many Chinese readers viewed the "comic list of 'things [she and sister Lulu] were never allowed to do' as the new 10 Commandments". Furthermore, she described the Chinese translation of her mother's book as "totally literal and devoid of humor". In fact, author Amy Chua had to correct the misconception that she was some sort of education expert, telling her daughter, "How am I supposed to defend a position? I don't have a position! This is just my life!" and later defending the merits of the American education system.

Sophia and her mother seemed surprised at the Chinese reaction to "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". However, I knew that this was going to happen from the moment I read the initial Wall Street Journal article. From the beginning, my biggest criticism of Amy Chua's book (in addition to the flashbacks I've experienced from reading about it) has been that despite its comedic nature, many parents will miss the humor and use it as a parenting guide. As illustrated by Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, it seems as if a number of parents now view Amy Chua as a parenting expert and her book a "how to" guide on how to raise academically successful children.

As someone still recovering from the strict Tiger Parenting described in the most extreme parts of "Battle Hymn", it saddens me to think about the children that will be subject to this type of parent style as a result of this book. While no one can deny that Tiger Parenting produces individuals like Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, what happens to those that, for whatever reason, cannot meet their parents' high expectations? Is success at all costs really worth the potential consequences? I can only hope that most parents that read "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" see it as the biographical satire it's meant to be.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Newbie's Take on Airline Rewards Programs

Apparently, I'm going to Las Vegas next month! With ridiculously cheap weekday hotel room rates and soon to be expiring deals from airlines like Southwest and Virgin America, it's prime time for a cheap Vegas vacation (if you can handle the heat)! More on this in another post.

After booking my tickets, I spent several hours signing up for and redeeming mileage points from various airline rewards programs. It was actually my first time dealing with airline rewards since I don't fly on my own that often. Here are a few things I learned in the process:

1) Sign up for the rewards program before booking the flight: I booked my flights before signing up for the programs, and hence wasted a good amount of time trying to figure out how to get my flights retroactively credited.

2) Don't wait too long to get your points credited: Most airlines will only credit points up to 3 to 12 months after your flight. Don't wait or you may lose your points forever!

3) Don't hesitate to ask for expired points: Call center representatives have a lot of power. When I called United Airlines asking for points that expired 9 months ago, they credited my account. Airline companies want your business, and will do what it takes if it means you'll fly with them again or enroll in their credit card program. Unfortunately for the kind United call center rep, I declined the credit card. However, I'll definitely fly United again at some point!

4) Don't pay to be part of special airline discount programs: Unless you plan on traveling a lot with a single airline company, then it's probably not worth paying to be part of airline rewards or discount club programs. Make sure to read all the fine print so you're not surprised with a bill. The same concept applies for a credit card - not worth it unless you fly regularly with a single carrier.

Traveling is fun, so why not make the most of your money by getting some rewards points! Thanks to these programs, I hope to someday earn myself a free flight or two!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Discounted Restaurant Food

One of my vices is going out for food. While I know I can save tons of money with a home cooked meal, I simply like going to a restaurant every now and then and enjoying the ambiance, the people watching, the food, and not having to do dishes afterwards. Unfortunately, with my plans to move out soon, I should probably curtail my eating out habits... or try to get more food for less money!

Deal of the day sites such as Groupon, Townhog, and LivingSocial have increased in popularity these past few years. While I've used these places to get discounts on shopping, I've predominantly taken advantage of the great restaurant offers. Thanks to deal of the day sites, I've been able to try food from places that otherwise would have been out of my price range. My boyfriend and I have also gone on numerous dates to nice restaurants while only paying half price.

Once I'm moved out, I anticipate I'll be more diligent in checking these sites daily for deals. Every dollar spent is an extra dollar to spend on something else!

Moving Out: A Debate of Values

Yesterday, I received a call from one of my jobs asking me if I wanted to try working at a few more hospitals. I happily agreed, as this would definitely give me more working hours and an opportunity to check out other facilities. Also, these hospitals are far enough away from my home that I would be "forced" to move. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that things work out so I can put the apartment search into high gear and have my own place by next month.

While my mom is pleased at the idea of me working at more hospitals - especially ones with more name recognition - she is not pleased with the idea that I will probably be moving soon. In a conversation we had earlier, my mom reiterated that children who move out after college are ungrateful to their parents for not staying. My mom complained that she hasn't had a chance to "enjoy my company" since I've only been at home for a year. She stated that if I had siblings, I'd still be living at home paying for their college tuition.

I suppose I should try to cut my mom some slack, as her perspective is based on a set of personal beliefs she terms "Filipino values" (which of course varies from Filipino to Filipino). My mom came from a family that obligates older children to return after college to help the parents and younger children financially. Since children are not allowed to work while in school/university, this is a way to repay the parents for their financial sacrifices. Typically, children live at home until they get married, or longer if the spouses become parts of the household.

As someone who grew up exposed to a different set of values, I view moving out after college as a sign that parents have raised successful children who no longer need to rely on them. Adult children can still help their parents financially and emotionally if necessary, and certainly do not need to live at home to do so. Parents are not going to be around forever, hence I feel it's necessary that adult children grow their own wings and learn to take care of themselves. If my mom views financial independence and non-reliance on the parents as such a bad thing, then why put so much pressure on me to overachieve? My mom (along with many of her friends/family members) certainly doesn't see things this way, and I question whether we'll ever come to a compromise when it comes to this issue.

Many of my friends and co-workers have children whom they can't wait to kick out of the house. Most of these children do not have a means to survive without their parents, with some not even trying to get jobs because they feel their parents will support them indefinitely. My problem is the complete opposite. I can only hope that I can eventually get my parents to interpret my leaving as a sign that they have done their part as parents, not a slap in the face by an ungrateful daughter.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More Moving Out Woes

As you all know, I've been in the process of apartment hunting so I can move out of my parents' house. It's been a rather stressful process, and has resulted in numerous arguments with my parents these past few weeks.

To break it down, here are my main arguments for moving out:
1) Driving an hour each way to get to work is tiring, and by the end of the day I often get sleepy behind the wheel. Living closer to my jobs will give me a shorter commute and more time to work on side projects. Also, living somewhere near public transportation will allow me to take advantage of my job's commuter check program, saving even more on costs. Currently, I pay over $300 a month in gasoline.
2) I'm in my late 20s, have a job, and can afford to move out. It's time.
3) I personally find it embarrassing being a boomerang kid. Part of the reason I got a masters degree was to be able to sustain myself enough such that I can live on my own.
4) Social work burnout as a result of living at home.

My parents' arguments for staying at home are as follows:
1) Living at home will allow me to save money. While I've tried to pay my parents money for rent, they've refused. Hence I am saving a good amount of money on rent, food, and utilities.
2) My parents believe that renting an apartment is simply throwing away my money. They want me to live at home until I can buy a house (and not a condo).
3) My parents are concerns about my choice to work multiple per diem jobs instead of one full time job. They don't seem to comprehend that I picked this non-traditional job schedule due to its flexibility, and that things won't change for a few years.
4) In my parents' country, kids live at home until marriage. They tell me that if I'm going to get married in the next 5 years, I might as well live at home until then. In 5 years, I'll be in my early 30s.
*By the way, I have a boyfriend of two years. Living with him before marriage is not an option because it will get me disowned by my parents and make me the Hester Prynne of my family.
5) My parents feel that if I rent a room in a house, I might as well stay at home with them. They also worry that having roommates will put me in physical danger.
6) I can apparently do what I want living at home (not true), so why leave?.
7) My parents view the concept of kids moving out as "abandoning their parents". "Next, they'll throw us in a nursing home to die."

I am thankful that my parents are allowing me to live at home, unlike a lot of people I know out there. However, now that I am able to sustain myself, I find it frustrating and disempowering that they do not want me to leave. My parents view autonomy negatively, and tell me stories about friends' kids who have jobs and are able to pay for things like weddings and houses without parental help as if it's a bad thing. While I understand the fears associated with me leaving, my parents' attempts to keep me at home is making me want to break away even more.

It seems as if the more my parents and I discuss moving out, the more nervous I feel. They do make good points about saving money by living at home. In fact, I currently have enough money in the bank to sustain myself for probably a year if necessary. If I were to live at home for another year or two, I could definitely afford the 20% down on a house. However, I'm not sure if buying is worth it if you stay for less than 5 years, as who knows where I'll be then.

I think I know what my choice will be when it comes to moving out. I'll just have to continue reminding myself that in this situation, having money is not equating to happiness. While moving out will not necessarily mean freedom, it's certainly a step in that direction.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I don't know much about what's going on in Southern California with the shutdown of the 405 freeway. However, you know your public transportation system is flawed when you need to take an airplane to travel a distance of roughly 40 miles. This is almost the same distance separating the airports in San Francisco and San Jose.

I suppose this is another reason I'm lucky to live in the Bay Area. Between buses, BART, and Caltrain, I have many ways to get around if my car is ever unavailable. Bay Area public transportation is great, and location relative to public transport has played a key factor in my apartment search. My eventual plan is to rely primary on buses and BART to get to work, and use discounted commuter checks provided by my job to save money on fares.

Good luck to everyone that will be affected by the 405 shutdown! I will admit that $4 (with $1 extra for first class) is a great deal to ride JetBlue . Definitely something I would have considered if I lived down there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You have got to be kidding me...

According to an article posted on the NASW blog, actor Charlie Sheen is involved in a new project where he plays a social worker with anger management issues. The profession is already often misrepresented and poorly portrayed in the media. Having Charlie Sheen play a scriptwriter's portrayal of a "social worker" can only mean more bad publicity for our profession.

What sets social work apart from other jobs such as politicians, soldiers, doctors, and nurses is that the public has a general idea of what these professions do. When it comes to social work, our profession is often associated with child welfare. Hence, social workers are typically seen in antagonistic "baby snatcher" roles on TV and film. While Charlie Sheen won't be playing a child welfare social worker on his new show, I'm still skeptical he will provide a remotely respectable imitation of the profession.

Furthermore, many dramas and films use medical, political, and military consultants to review scripts (i.e. House, The West Wing, and Battle: Los Angeles). I have yet to hear of a social worker consultant that works for Hollywood to ensure our profession is portrayed correctly. Until this happens, expect to continue seeing very telescopic interpretations of how social work in roles written and edited by non-social workers.

I doubt I'll watch Charlie Sheen's new show, but I'm sure I'll probably have to defend social work at some point as a result. It's the least I can do to help combat the nonsense perpetuated by popular media.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Happy 7/11!

Good morning! This is my first mobile post!

In honor of 7/11, 7-11 will be giving away free slurpies today! A great way to treat yourself on this summer Monday!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How Other Professions View Social Work

Yesterday, I was talking to my mom about how the RN case managers at one of my jobs often have to stay several hours after their shift making reports to different insurance companies. My mom, a bedside nurse of over 20 years, scoffed at the idea of RN case managers having stressful jobs and stated, "All they do is talk and sit in front of a computer all day. Their job is so easy." In the past, my mom has made similar comments about social work, stating that all we do is "talk to people", while people like her have to clean bodily fluids and give medication. Hence, my mom feels that MSW salaries are fair when compared to Associates and Bachelor's degrees in nursing.

I feel that despite being a nurse for so long, my mom still lacks understanding of what social workers and RN case managers do in a hospital setting. While I do try to educate her, my mom frequently reminds me that I am a "rookie" and that she has been in the field for 20 years. Out or respect for her work experience - and my sanity - I try not to engage in extended debates with her when she brings up the subject.

However, these conversations with my mom make me wonder about how other medical professions view social work. I know that my RN case manager co-workers value the services we provide, with some even advocating for social worker salary raises because we do the same discharging planning work as they do. But what about bedside nurses, therapists, pharmacists, doctors, and others who don't see what we're doing all day? I realize that there will always be "rivalries" between different professions, but shouldn't we acknowledge the unique contributions of each job in providing care instead of making diminishing statements about one other? I'd definitely like to see my mom work in case management one day and see if she still finds it "easy" afterwards.

In other news, I'm still working on finding a place to live. Haven't found an ideal place yet, but I'm keeping my hopes up!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Social Work and the Laws of Economics

In an older post, I discussed why other majors seem to make more money than others. While this article focused mostly on the surplus of humanities and social science majors relative to job demand, I briefly touched on social work and how its altruistic nature results in less profit and hence lower salaries.

What differentiates social work from other humanities and social science fields is its increasing demand. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, social worker employment is expected to grow faster than average in the next decade. Contributing to this trend are the aging baby boomer generation, growing student enrollments in schools, and prison systems increasingly requiring substance users to participate in rehab programs as part of their sentence.

Now, a demand for social workers combined with a shortage of social workers due to retirement or burnout should result in higher wages, right? Unfortunately, many of us working in the field know that this is not the case. Why is it that basic economic rules seem to ignore the social work profession entirely?

While exploring some online forums, I came across a relevant blog post by fellow social worker Dr. Lynn K. Jones. In "Better Wages for Social Workers...Why Not, Dr. Jones further elaborates on points I've made in the past regarding why social workers are underpaid, such as lack of title protection and self-advocacy within the profession. I won't attempt to summarize here, as her article essentially speaks for itself.

The only part of Dr. Jones' article I will discuss here is the "Career Strategy" section, which tells readers to take control of their careers and not leave it up to "chance". As a first year MSW student, I also told someone that I was led into a social work career as opposed to choosing it. However, I also went into my masters program with the intention of obtaining a decent paying job upon graduation, exploring options within my targeted wage and areas of interest. While I'll never make as much as an engineer, my current salary is pleasantly higher than what I had expected. Indeed, by doing some research and having a game plan for what to expect from a social work career, one can definitely obtain a job that is both financially and emotionally fulfilling. I feel this is the best way for social workers to improve their wage prospects while waiting for our advocacy efforts to produce results on a macroscopic level.

Anyway, check out Dr. Jones' blog post. It's a must read for all social workers concerned about the future of their wages.

Monday, June 27, 2011

San Francisco Pride

Happy Monday! Here goes another week!

Yesterday was the annual SF Pride Parade. While I didn't attend the parade, I saw parts of it as I was walking towards the bus stop to go to another event. When I came back to Downtown San Francisco later that evening, clean-up crews were sweeping the sidewalks and taking down street barriers.

As I continued wandering San Francisco's Union Square area, I couldn't help but notice how the place was decorated. Above me, rainbow flags flew from windows, light posts, and flag poles. Different stores had unique signs and displays commemorating the weekend (which I doubt would be found anywhere else, except maybe New York). For instance, The Body Shop had a window display where its soaps were arranged according to the colors of the rainbow. Another store, Lush, had a sign in front of its store which read, "Support the Respect for Marriage Act". Inside the Westfield San Francisco Shopping Center, there were Pride Weekend displays in front of stores like Nordstrom.

It was amazing to see this support towards the LGBT population. While I'm sure there are other places that are just as accepting, I have yet to hear of another city rally around this community as much as San Francisco. I mean, even the SF Giants baseball team has contributed by releasing its own "It Gets Better" commercial against LGBT bullying. The Bay Area is really a special place because of its diversity and tolerance, and I can't help but think of how lucky I am to be living here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cheap Sunday in San Francisco

Today, I went to San Francisco to enjoy a free concert in Golden Gate Park with my boyfriend. While I was expecting a pretty mellow day in the city, I completely forgot that the SF Pride Parade and an SF Giants baseball game were happening on the same day! Indeed, it seemed like the entire Bay Area was packed into San Francisco today! While I had a good time in the city with seeing parts of the Pride Parade, getting free stuff at the concert, and eating cheap food at SF Chinatown, I think I'm done with battling large crowds for a while!

Anyway, I wouldn't have known about the free concert in Golden Gate Park if it weren't for FunCheapSF, a website that compiles a list of free/cheap things to do in the Bay Area. My boyfriend and I frequent this site when we can't think of anything to do on a particular weekend, and have many fun cheap dates as a result!

What are your favorite websites for fun cheap events in your area?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thank You, Jeanne Philips!

While browsing one of my favorite social worker blogs, I ran across a post praising Jeanna Philips, also known as "Dear Abby", for defending the social work profession in her daily advice column. The text of the original article can be found here: Dear Abby

I can definitely relate to the "Melanie" discussed in the Dear Abby letter. As discussed in a previous post, I've been subject to many negative remarks from strangers, acquaintances, and even family members since graduating with my MSW. Reading something like today's Dear Abby column reminds me that there are people out there who actually appreciate the social work profession. Thank you, Jeanne Philips, for brightening my day!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Costs of Moving Out

Hello, and once again, my apologies for not posting for so long! For a quick update, please check out my post here.

Currently, I'm working towards moving out of my parents' house. Given that I have fairly reliable work hours and a decent sum of money saved, I feel that I can support myself on my own. However, while the ideas of independence and self-sufficiency are appealing, I'm somewhat pensive about the fact that I won't be able to save much, if any, once I move out. Here's a sample budget I've drafted showing my monthly expenses:

Rent: $850 for a studio (Bay Area housing is expensive)
Utilities: $50
Internet: $50
Food: $250
Health insurance: $250
Car insurance: $100
Gas/Car Maintenance/Commuter checks/BART (subway) parking: $150
Hygiene, cleaning supplies: $50
Grand Total: $1750

Eeep! While my estimates look pretty scary, they are a little on the high side. I know I can cut down on some of the costs by conserving energy (using energy saving bulbs and skimping on heating and A/C), taking advantage of cheap internet deals, downgrading my health insurance plan, and cutting down on food. Here's an updated budget accounting for this:

Rent: $850
Utilities: $30
Internet: $20
Food: $150
Health insurance: $200
Car insurance: $100
Gas/Car Maintenance/Commuter checks/BART (subway) parking: $150
Hygiene, cleaning supplies: $30
Grand Total: $1530
Annual Cost: $18,360

The above budget does not include retirement savings, rainy day fund, vacation spending, entertainment, shopping, and future home savings. If I were to move out, I would have to make some sacrifices when to comes to my remaining expenses. For instance, I could choose to max out my IRA and 401K, but that would leave me no vacation money, no rainy day fund, and a small sum for a future house down payment. Most likely, I'll choose not to max out my 401K (since none of my jobs offer one anyway) and delegate that money towards other things.

I suppose other methods I could employ to save even more money include finding a cheaper apartment, getting roommates, finding a part time job with health benefits, and/or settling into a full time job with benefits. Another option is to stay with my parents. However, I feel that the non-monetary benefits of moving out outweigh the money I'd save by staying at home.

The apartment hunt will likely continue over the next few weeks/months. I'll try to keep everyone updated on my progress! Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Hello, and sorry for the lack of updates these past few months! I'll try to do a better job in keeping this blog updated. Thank you to those of you who have left kind and supportive comments!

Since my last post, things have picked up in the job market. While on vacation last April, I received several phone calls from companies to which I had submitted applications months ago. I guess they never threw away my résumé. Upon coming back from vacation, I interviewed for several positions and got two job offers! On top of that, my current job decided to hire me as a permanent employee! Just shows that persistence and patient do pay off in the long run.

Now, I'm juggling three per diem jobs. While this may sound crazy, it actually works for my current lifestyle. The beauty of per diem work is the flexibility you have in setting your own schedule. At this point I'm not ready to settle into a 9-6pm position that will only allow me 10 vacation days a year. I don't mind sacrificing salary for some free time to travel and work on side projects (like this blog). Of course, things will probably change once I decide to settle down, start a family, and whatnot.

Unfortunately, I haven't had much free time these past two months since I've been working full time hours to fill in for people on vacation. Since it's summertime, I anticipate that things will stay this way the next few months. I don't mind, as I prefer to vacation in the fall and winter. It's also good money that I'll use to cover rent during the months I'm not working 5 days a week.

Speaking of rent, I've spent my free time hunting for apartments. While living at home is the ultimate way to save money, I feel that it's time for me to move into my own place. So far I haven't had much luck, but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping I can find something in the next month or two. I'll probably post updates about my finds on my other blog.

Well, I guess I'll leave it at that! I'll try not to wait 2.5 months until my next update!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Review: Catch Me... I'm in Love!

While my mom was reading a Filipino newspaper last night, she found out that a nearby theater was playing a movie starring her favorite Filipino singer. Almost instantly, I was in the car with my parents on the way to watch "Catch Me... I'm in Love".

In the United States, singer/actress Sarah Geronimo is essentially unknown. However, she is likely one of the most popular celebrities in the Philippines, rivaling boxer Manny Pacquiao and overshadowing Charice Pempengo. I suppose the best way to describe Sarah Geronimo is that she has a voice comparable to Celine Dion with a multi-generation fan base as rabid as Justin Bieber's. When my folks an I got to the theater, the line to buy tickets essentially stretched around the building.

The experience of watching a Filipino movie can be as entertaining as the film itself. People get really into the movie, howling with laughter at certain scenes and screaming like fangirls during more romantic parts. I suppose I haven't been to enough midnight screenings, but I've never experienced as much enthusiasm from an audience while watching non-Filipino films.

As for the movie itself, I found it surprisingly enjoying. The best part of "Catch Me... I'm in Love" was Sarah Geronimo's role, which was a social worker for an NGO. For part of the movie, she had to take the self-centered and unsympathetic son of the Philippine president (played by Gerald Anderson) to a farm village in an isolated part of the Philippines. It was heartwarming to watch her portray the social work profession with such warmth and love, and see how the children and residents were so gracious in return. Perhaps the best line in the film was the response when the President's son stated that the children simply wanted money from her. Sarah's character replied that for the children wanted more than that, as time and companionship were equally important to them. As the movie progressed, seeing this kindness towards the less fortunate changed the President's son for the better.

Social work is an often unfamiliar and misunderstood profession to many. In my family, social work is often associated with simply being a discharge planner in a hospital. To see social work portrayed so positively by the Philippines' biggest star makes me ecstatic. Hopefully this will be a first step in bringing increased respect and recognition to the services provided by social workers in that nation. Thank you, Philippine film makers. Perhaps the United States can follow suit...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Social Work Burnout Happens In Different Ways

While having a discussion with my mom today, she said the following: "Chinese people don't want to be social workers because there is no prestige in the profession. They all want to be doctors." Instead of arguing the many things wrong with her statement, I opted to remain silent as I've had this conversation with her thousands of times before to no avail.

What sets me apart from many of my social work friends is that the majority of my stress does not come from work. It comes from having to come home at the end of the day and hear about how I am "less than" because I do not have a more "prestigious" job. Furthermore, coming home from work is like going to a second job. Since my mom is a nurse, she spends dinner time railing about her latest problem patient (like I don't encounter lots of them at work) and lecturing me about what I should be doing at work as a medical social worker. She tells me that nursing is significantly harder than anything a social worker has to do, hence making social workers deserving of a salary half that of a nurse. Unfortunately, my family takes a militant "no secrets" approach which prevents me from setting boundaries at home. Hence, I go to work to escape the stress associated from being at home.

There are three reasons I continue to live at home. The first is to save money. The second is that I have yet to find a stable full time/part time job that will allow me to move out without draining my savings. The third is the cultural belief within my family that unmarried adult children who move out are ungrateful and abandoning their parents. To cope with this situation, I involve myself in extracurricular activities and surround myself with supportive friends. I am also on the hunt for jobs that are not within commuting distance from my house.

In the next few weeks, I will revamp my resume and cover letter and re-intensify my job search in hopes that I can move out before my one year anniversary of graduating with my MSW. Social work jobs right now are pretty tight, and a medical social work position is even more difficult to obtain. As living at home is beginning to result in medical social work burnout, I am open to jobs in different settings such as college campuses.

For the immediate future, my main goals are to find a job and move out. I also want to go on a nice vacation with the money I've saved from living at home. I'll definitely keep everyone updated on my exploits. Wish me luck!

Opening a Roth IRA

Today, I opened a Vanguard Roth IRA thanks to some help from my boyfriend. It was a fairly simple process that took me less than 10 minutes. While I am roughly six years behind my peers who opened accounts after receiving undergraduate degrees, it's never too late to start saving for retirement.

What makes a Roth IRA different from a Traditional IRA is that you're taxed when you deposit money as opposed to when you withdraw it. Since I'm an entry level social worker working per diem, my income and tax rate is not very high. A Roth IRA seemed like the practical choice as I'd rather pay taxes now than have to pay more later.

I feel that as a social worker, I should be especially conscious about saving money. I'm not only saying this because of my profession's reputation for being underpaid. By being knowledgeable about money issues and applying money saving tactics to my own life, I can better counsel individuals and families with their own money problems. One tip I will definitely suggest is to open an IRA and put as much money as possible each year. As of today, I have maxed out my IRA contribution for 2010 and plan to max out subsequent years.

This is not to say that I don't like to shop and have fun, as I've been doing a considerable amount of shopping lately and have a few excursions planned for the immediate future! However, there should always be some balance between spending now and saving up for more fun down the line. I suppose I will (hopefully) see the money I deposited today again in 35-40 years!

I'll post another update later about the different funds I picked and why. This is all new to me, and I have a lot to learn about the investing process!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

(not so) Cheap St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Similar to how I typically only eat roasted turkey during Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day is the one day out of the year I eat corned beef and cabbage! In past years, I've gone to restaurants to enjoy this dish. Since I'm currently living at home, I decided to modify a corned beef and cabbage recipe
and make it in my parent's kitchen.

When I've eaten at restaurants on St. Patrick's Day in past years, a plate of corned beef and cabbage cost me upwards of $12. A pint of green beer or Guinness usually cost about $4. Add in (California) tax and tip and you have a St. Patrick's Day meal that sets you back roughly $20.

For my St. Patrick's Day meal, I decided to take advantage of the weekly deals on corned beef, cabbage, beef broth, and Guinness at Safeway. Here's my cost breakdown:

3.06 pounds corned beef brisket * $3.99/pound = $12.21
32 oz. box of beef broth = $2
2.26 pounds cabbage head * $0.39/pound = $0.88
1.06 pounds of baby red potatoes * $0.99/pound = $1.05
0.70 pound of carrots * $0.99/pound = $0.69
FOOD TOTAL: $16.83

After a cash register mishap, I purchased a 4 pack of Guinness for $6.77 with tax included.


$23.60 for a St. Patrick's Day meal for 4 to 6 people seems like a pretty good deal compared to paying $20 per person at a restaurant. Since there are only three people in my household, there will be plenty of leftovers. Maybe I should start cooking every year!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to Make the Most of Birthday Freebies

I recently celebrated my birthday, which is not only a great excuse to have fun with friends, but my favorite time a year to receive free stuff! In this post, I will share how I go about maximizing my annual freebies. My view is that all my meals should be free or have a freebie the week of my birthday!

Step 1: Start preparing for your birthday several weeks in advance. Many freebies can be used as soon as two weeks before your birthday up to two weeks after.

Step 2: Scour websites/blogs/forums for lists of birthday freebies. The main ones I use are on slickdeals.net and fatwallet.com

Step 3: Sign up for websites that offer birthday freebies! If want, you can even open a new e-mail address so your inbox doesn't get cluttered by a barrage of e-mails when your birthday hits. Remember to sign up early, for these e-mails can start coming as soon as two weeks before your birthday. The year I started, several restaurants gave me freebies for just signing up for their mailing lists, making for extra free stuff on my birthday!

Step 4: Wait and watch as you start receiving birthday freebies in your e-mail. When printing out/writing down your freebies, organize them by expiration date. One year, I missed out on a free meal because the coupon expired sooner than I expected.

Step 5: Enjoy your birthday freebies!

A few side notes:
-Don't try to cheat the system! Many restaurants check ID to make sure it's your birthday. At Denny's, they actually wrote down my driver's license number.
-Make sure to tip for the amount before discount! Restaurant employees deserve full tips for good service!
-Offer to split the cost of buy one/get one free meals with your friend. You can also get your friend to sign up for birthday freebies and pay the full priced meal then.
-Have fun and make the most of your special day!

Quick Ways To Help Japan

The situation in Japan is both horrifying and heartbreaking. While I know that many of us want to help, traveling to Japan might not be possible. Therefore, here are some quick and simple ways to assist the relief process:

Donate via text:
-Red Cross: Text "REDCROSS" to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

-Salvation Army: Text "Japan" or "Quake" to 80888 to donate $10.

-World Vision: Text "4JAPAN" to 20222 to make a $10 donation.

An extensive list can be found here: Text to donate

Donate via Paypal:
You can use your Paypal account to donate to one of eight charities.

Please spread the world so we can provide maximum assistance to those impacted by this catastrophe. Also, if you are looking for a loved one please know that Google has launched a people finder that might have some information.

It seems like so many places have been impacted by natural disasters recently. Let's hope that they can all recover as soon as possible.

Friday, March 11, 2011

8.9 Japan Earthquake

I've spent this evening watching news coverage of the earthquake in Japan and texting family in nearby countries to get to higher ground. Events like these are absolutely horrifying and a stern reminder that natural disasters can strike without warning.

While listening to the news, I decided that I needed to have an emergency kit in my room. Grabbing a backpack from my closet, I stuffed it with clothes, first aid tools, a flashlight, batteries, and a bottle of Gatorade. I don't really have much at home, so I might invest in a real disaster kit sometime soon. Since I live in an earthquake prone area, it's probably wise to have basic necessities in a bag so I could just grab it and go.

Apparently the entire West Cost is on tsunami alert. My hope is that this is only a safety precaution. Be safe, everyone!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Social Work Month!

This March we celebrate Social Work Month, dedicated to increasing the knowledge and awareness of the social work profession nationwide. While social workers are commonly stereotyped as child protective service workers, this profession is much more than that. In fact, social workers work with a diverse population of individuals, representing various cultures, socio-economic groups, and age ranges. Social workers can also be found in a number of settings from schools, hospitals, non-profit organizations, corporations, to various government agencies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 640,000 social workers in the United States.

Social workers perform a number of vital tasks. According to a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), social workers comprise the largest group of mental health services providers in the United States, outnumbering psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses combined. The Departments of Veterans Affairs employs over 6,000 social workers to provide counseling, substance abuse treatment, post-combat readjustment assistance, and other services to veterans and family members. Additionally, over 40 percent of American Red Cross volunteers are social workers. When it comes to the country's most vulnerable populations, social workers are always there to assist and empower.

Becoming a social worker typically requires an advanced degree and extensive work experience. According to a study conducted by the National Association of Social Workers, about 79 percent of practicing social workers have master's of social work (MSW) degrees. Many entry level social work degrees require an MSW, with opportunities to move up if one becomes licensed. To become licensed in California, a person with an MSW much complete a minimum of 3,200 supervised work hours, 104 weeks of supervision, and 57 hours of continuing education, in addition to passing two state licensing exams. One might think that social workers are compensated well for their credentials, but this is simply not the case. While social workers could work higher paying and less stressful jobs elsewhere, many choose to stay in the field because of their passion for improving the lives of the sick, poor, and disenfranchised.

The theme for this year's Social Work Month is "Social Workers Change Futures". Indeed, social workers work to improve society by creating positive change among its most susceptible members. This month, please thank your friendly social worker for the selfless and benevolent services they provide on a daily basis.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Giving Tree

Earlier this evening, my boyfriend (who is close to finishing his last quarter of graduate school) mentioned that he felt like the old man pictured on the last page of The Giving Tree. Not being able to recall this book from my childhood, I went ahead an looked up the Wikipedia article. The plot description nearly brought me to tears. Watching the following video all but pushed me over the edge:

In fact, I could only watch portions of it because seeing the story unfold through animation was just so depressing.

I suppose what saddened me most about this story were the sacrifices made by both the tree and the boy. In order to make the boy happy, the tree gradually allowed parts of her to be removed to be sold or constructed into a house and boat. The tree gave freely, while the boy simply took and took in return. Ultimately, only the tree's stump was left.

The boy, on the other hand, sacrificed his carefree childhood spent with the tree to fulfill "adult" tasks such as working, making profit, and accumulating and maintaining assets (such as the house). Despite this, he still found life unsatisfying and used the tree's trunk in an attempt to escape. In the end, the boy, now an old man with simpler needs, found comfort sitting on top of what was left of his lifelong friend.

I suppose The Giving Tree tells two stories here. One is about unconditional self-sacrifice due to love. The other is a lament for a simple and carefree childhood lost to the adult world of endless responsibilities. Both stories resonate pretty equally with me. Having been with my boyfriend for almost two years, I know I would probably make the same sacrifices the tree made for the boy in a heartbeat. Now that I'm done with school and work, I sometimes long for those childhood days that seemed free from care and worry. With the work I do with the elderly in the hospital, I can't help but sometimes feel like I'm aging at an accelerated rate.

Before going to bed, my boyfriend told me that rereading The Giving Tree helped him put things into perspective. Indeed, this story has given me new insight into the meaning of unconditional personal sacrifice and reminded me of the joys of a carefree life. These are definitely important lessons I intend to incorporate into my own daily living in an attempt to decelerate my self-perceived aging!

I'm not scheduled to work tomorrow. Perhaps I'll look for something cheery to do during the day.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Look

I spent the majority of today messing around with Blogger's different templates. As much as I enjoyed the polka dots, I feel that the new templates give my blogs a cleaner and fresher look. Maybe someday I'll learn CSS and design something really awesome involving polka dots.

I have work tomorrow, so that means I should probably go to bed early instead of playing around with my blogs. In the meantime, check out my latest article on my Cheap Social Worker blog, which gives advice on balancing becoming a social worker career with addressing financial wants and needs. Have a great evening everyone!

Balancing Financial Needs With Becoming a Social Worker

Let me preface this article by stating that no one goes into social work thinking that they will become rich. Similarly, no one becomes a social worker thinking that they will have to struggle financially for the duration of their careers. There must be a balance between doing what one loves and having the money to pay the bills, feed the family, and engage in some quality self-care. While many social workers live within their means and are happy with their lifestyles, there are some that ultimately burn out and switch careers to earn better wages. This article provides advice on how one can balance becoming a social worker with wanting a higher standard of living. I'm sure some of these tips could be extrapolated towards other careers as well.

Tip #1: Evaluate the standard of life that you hope to have. There's nothing wrong with wanting a big house, luxury car, fancy wardrobe, private jet, and vacation house in the South of France. However, if you're expecting to fulfill all of these dreams on a social worker salary, then you may want to reevaluate your college major and career aspirations. Please read my article on why certain majors are more profitable than others.

Tip #2: Get your degree from a public school (unless you're offered a generous scholarship to a private school). I obtained my masters degree from a state university. Currently, the only difference between me and my co-workers who attended private schools is the amount of debt we have to repay. Given an average social worker's salary, it just seems unwise to spend $50,000 a year to get a bachelors or masters degree. Even if a more prestigious school were to offer a slightly better education than a state university, I don't think it's worth having to repay student loans until I qualify for Medicare. Those hundreds of dollars a month could be better used on a car, house down payment, or vacation in the South of France.

Tip #3: Get paid to receive your degree. There are several ways to accomplish this. One way is to work for an employer that will pay for you to go back to school for a degree. Another way is to choose paid internships while in school to offset tuition costs. Additionally, scholarships and grants are a great way to lower education costs. In California, the Title IV-E offers generous stipends in exchange for two years work at a child welfare agency upon graduation.

Tip #4: Target higher paying social work jobs in government or the medical setting. These jobs typically pay significantly higher salaries than positions at smaller non-profit agencies. If you have a social work license and enjoy counseling, consider opening a private practice.  However, if you happen to enjoy your current setting then by all means stay.  The happiness and quality of life brought from working somewhere you love simply can't be purchased with a higher salary.

Tip #5: Obtain your social work license. Not only will you be able to privately practice therapy, you will open the doors to a number of new social work positions which require licensure, hence increasing your income potential.

As stated above, if you are hoping to become exceedingly wealthy as a social worker, then you might want to consider changing your career for your sake and the sake of your clients. For everyone else, it is more than possible to have a rewarding and financially stable career as a social worker with some careful financial planning. I suppose part of the beauty of my field is that I get paid for following one of my passions in life, and I consider myself lucky in that respect.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Yet another new beginning...

Hello, and welcome to Adventures of a (not so) Cheap Social Worker! Here, you'll find me talking about my life as a social worker, ranging from daily happenings to discussions pertaining to relevant social work issues to other random topics. I have a wide variety of interests and hobbies in addition to what I do for a living, so expect anything and everything on this blog!

This blog is an off-shoot from my main site, (not so) Cheap Social Worker. Since I wanted to limit the scope of that site to money saving matters, this blog was created and all non-pertinent articles were moved here. Don't forget to check out my other blog and read about my adventures in making the most out of my social worker salary!

I am pretty excited about this site and will make it a goal to post regular updates. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to have more material soon!

Recent changes to this blog

Lately, I've been thinking about the scope of this blog. While I enjoy writing about money saving tips and social work issues, I feel that having both topics on the same blog may be a little too much. Hence, I've decided to divide my writing into two different blogs!

(not so) Cheap Social Worker will focus on my attempts to make the most of my social worker salary. This site will not just be for social workers, but for anyone who wishes to maximize fun while minimizing expenditures.

Adventures of a (not so) Cheap Social Worker will function as my personal blog. Here, I will talk about happenings in my life along with random social work topics. As many in our field like to say, "Social work is not just a career, it's a passion!"

As you can see, I have already moved posts leaning more towards social work and my personal life to my Adventures blog. I hope this new format works well for everyone, as I am pretty excited about this change!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bad Publicity Yet Again

I stopped by the CNN.com website tonight, only to find this video on the front page:

As much as I like Anderson Cooper and AC360, I found this entire video to be rather unsettling. Right from the beginning this report seemed to have a biased, condemnatory tone towards the medical staff caring for the baby and child protective services as a whole. While the parents may have felt that a great injustice was committed against them, I think that the hospital staff was completely appropriate in the manner they responded to this suspected shaken baby case. What surprises me, though, is the fact that the other child was actually placed in foster care for two weeks. Typically, removals are usually done only as a last resort and if a child is suspected of being in immediate danger. It's hard to say whether child protective services was justified in removing the second child, and I feel that there's more to this case than what was shown in the news report.

What bothers me most about this video is negative portrayal of social workers as individuals who take babies away on a whim. Social workers already have to deal with the "baby snatcher" stereotype, and news reports like the one on AC360 only seem to perpetuate this misconception. To me, it's safe to say that social workers provide more help than harm to people on a daily basis. Is it so hard for the media to run a story that isn't an abasement of our profession?

Social work receives bad publicity from the news media yet again. I suppose this shouldn't be news at all.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reflections from a Wounded Tiger Child

About a week ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article called "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" containing excepts of Yale Law Professor Amy Chua's book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". If you haven't read it yet, then please stop reading this post and read the article before proceeding. Needless to say, her authoritarian parenting methods, attack of "Western" parenting styles, and overall use of dichotomous and overly simplistic comparisons of Western vs. "Chinese" culture have resulted in much uproar and debate from people representing differing cultures and parenting styles. A number of responses have popped up online, easily accessible with a simple Google search.

I realize this article was published almost two weeks ago, but I suppose the reason it's taken me this long to respond is because of my initial reaction upon reading it for the first time. Let's just say I was left so distraught that I was essentially incapacitated for the rest of the weekend. While I've read controversial and infuriating pieces of literature in the past, the last thing I expected was to have such a strong emotional response from something published in the Wall Street Journal. After spending a good amount of time perusing blogs, talking to my friends (who are tired of hearing about this subject), talking to my mother (who didn't help things at the time), and doing some self-reflection, I think I've calmed to the point where I can now discuss the subject of "Tiger Mothering" without resorting to vitriol.

The subject of my masters thesis was the relationship between perceived parental pressure and the onset of mental illness among college aged students. Initially, my plan was to discuss the potential harms of "Tiger Mothering" using studies from my literature review. I had also plan to discuss the fallacious "Western vs. Chinese" ideas perpetuated by Amy Chua's article and book. However, I know these subjects have been discussed ad nauseum on other blogs and news sites. Hence, I think a more effective use of this space would be to discuss my personal experiences with Asian parents who employed some "Tiger Mother" tactics. When it comes to my parents I always have a lot say, but to prevent this post from turning into a novel I'll try to keep the scope focused on their parenting style in relation to Amy Chua's methods.

Upon personal reflection, there are some big differences between my parents and Amy Chua. Unlike Amy Chua's children I was allowed to go on occasion playdates, choose my own extracurricular activities, be in a school play, watch TV, play video games, and play flute and percussion (in addition to piano). However, like Amy Chua's children I was not allowed to attend sleepovers or get grades less than an A. Additionally, having my grades drop from an A+ to an A was an issue of contention with my mother, who nearly confronted one of my teachers at one point. Regarding class ranks, the junior high school and high school I attended didn't have any, and I was fortunate enough to be valedictorian of my elementary school class. However, I knew being the best was important to my parents. Similar to Amy Chua, I was reprimanded when I only received 2nd place in an 8th grade spelling bee contest. During freshman year of high school, I was grounded for telling my parents that they shouldn't expect me to be valedictorian (before I found out my school didn't have one).

It's hard to say whether parental pressure put me at an advantage in life. In many ways, I feel the pressure ultimately left me at a disadvantage. From elementary through high school, I got straight As due to the utter fear of being punished if I brought home a B. My classmates and friends never understood why I was so against getting a B, and I was often bullied for my perfectionist tendencies. I suppose many of my teachers didn't understand either, with one teacher nicknaming me "Ms. Perfect" and another telling me to tell my parents to "get a life" (nearly resulting in a confrontation with my mom later that day). However, in an urban school district with a lot of problem students, most teachers appreciated my passive and overachieving nature. Such an attitude kept me out of trouble, brought straight As, and eventually earned me some respect among my peers. Similarly, a submissive and obedient attitude was the easiest way to avoid criticism at home, though the most minute slight would nevertheless result in hours of verbal lashing and unfounded accusations of slacking off, drug use, and/or sexual behavior. I suppose this pressure to please everyone paid off with my acceptance into one of the top public universities in the nation. However, the need to satisfy everyone at the expense of my needs would result in a litany of problems to come.

When it came time to go to college, I was essentially told by my parents that I had to go to medical school or "go to hell". By that time, going to medical school was something I did not want to do. I recall one night when I broke down and pleaded with them to let me study something else, but they would not budge. While they viewed becoming a doctor as a way to achieve wealth and prestige in life, I saw it as a lifetime enslaved to something for which I had no passion. In fact, I knew by then that my passion was in music. Little did my parents know about the amount of time I spent playing music, as I practiced in private due to their tendency to yell at me if I made too many mistakes or played something "useless" like warm-up scales. My parents essentially disallowed the notion of studying music in college, and I can't help but wonder if Amy Chua will react the same way if her prodigious children consider music as a major when they reach college.

Needless to say, my grades suffered greatly as an undergraduate. I had no passion for the subject I was studying and essentially had no hope for any happiness in my future. Furthermore, I turned into a problem student due to my poor test scores and began to receive insults from my peers concerning my academic performance. When I complained to my parents about how much I hated what I was studying, they merely screamed at me to further bury myself in my studies so I enjoy it. College life was miserable, though this misery was masked by the euphoria I experienced from playing in my university's marching band.

Unfortunately, this joy was short lived as this extracurricular activity brought a new slew of challenges. While I took an active part in my college marching band, I ultimately was never given an opportunity to have a leadership role in the group. Each time I applied, I was denied, with fellow bandmembers stating that it was due to my lack of self-confidence and leadership ability. More blunt members stated that my passivity and push-over demeanor made me socially awkward and unlikable. Personality traits that worked for me in high school no longer worked for me in my college social relationships. In fact, when I being in constant contact with the same band members opened the door to dating, I was repeated passed up for females who exuded more confidence in themselves. Eventually, I got fed up I forced myself to become more assertive and resistant to the relationship setbacks, put-downs, and bullying. Unfortunately, this was unfamiliar emotional territory for me, and ultimately resulted in me angrily throwing a glass of water in someone's face for making a friendly joke about my instrument. Needless to say, I often wonder how things would have turned out differently if I was allowed me more time to explore social relationships and even date in high school. Moreover, I can't help but think that things would have been different if my parents used a parenting style that promoted confidence, courage, and resilience instead of obedience, acquiescence, and fear.

Two years into college my parents finally realized how unhappy I had become and relented on their desire to have me go to medical school. While I ultimately went on to graduate school and completed my Master of Social Work program with honors, I know that deep inside my parents are disappointed that I did not fulfill their dream of me becoming a doctor. While I still have no desire to become a doctor today, the idea that I have shamed my family by something inferior in their eyes is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It is also something I will have to face on a daily basis if I choose to stay in a field of social work that requires constant interaction with doctors.

That's not to say that I don't feel gratitude towards my parents. I am forever thankful to my parents because of their sacrifices while I growing up and their financial (and eventually emotional support) while I was in college. I know that without them, I would not be where I am today. Concurrently, I strongly feel that the way I was raised played a major factor in my decision to become a social worker.

Following graduate school, I moved back home with my parents to save money while I looked for a more permanent job/vegetated after 17 years of school. Things have definitely been different compared to when I lived with my parents while growing up. Nowadays, I get away with leaving the house to see friends and debating my parents when I feel they're wrong on an issue. However, there are old habits I still can't change, such as my avoidance of the piano when my parents are home.

I've read a number of great responses online from Asian-Americans negatively affected by their "Tiger Parents" rearing. I know that college is over, but to say that the way I was parented doesn't affect me today would be downright dishonest. While I like my profession, I often wonder if I would be happier as a musician or band director (their salaries are similar to that of a social worker anyway). My close friends continue to express concern regarding my lack of self-confidence, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. Despite having a decent number of friends and acquaintances, I feel that my social skills pale when it comes to meeting new people, carrying discussions, and avoiding social awkwardness. When it comes to my own profession, I still feel insecure because my family does not deem it as lucrative or prestigious than if I had become a doctor or lawyer. My own boyfriend is an engineer, and while he has repeatedly stated that he supports my profession, I still can't help but wonder if he and his parents also view me as inferior because I am a social worker and not something "better". Every day is a new battle against myself and my past, and while I've made plenty of progress in attempting to reclaim my life, I anticipate it may take a while to finally overcome the hold my parents have on me from their "Tiger Parenting" tendencies.

Well, that's my story, which turned out a lot longer than I anticipated. It's amazing how a simple book except can trigger years worth of memories and repressed emotions. That's not to say that I'm entirely against Amy Chua and the message she attempts to send in her book. I will acknowledge that she makes some good points about the "softness" of some parents in existence today, resulting in some lazy, spoiled, and entitled children. Additionally, I will give her credit for reforming her authoritarian ways by the end of her book following the rebellion of her 13 year old daughter. It seems that the Wall Street Journal article did misrepresent her book as a whole, but the resulting controversy probably did her a favor by boosting her sales. As for me, I never plan on buying or reading her book. As interesting of a read as it might be, I'd rather spend my free time not reliving these painful aspects of my childhood. If a Wall Street Journal article can put me in such a state of distress, then I fear what "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" might do to this already wounded "Tiger Child".