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Keith John Paul Horcasitas

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Member Since: Apr, 2008

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A Sabbatical Experience after Hurricane Katrina, Hot Springs/Arkansas Vacation, Starting a new private business, Spirituality, Pursuing Hobbies, Writing, Recording Music

A Sabbatical Experience / Hot Springs Vacation

I just received a post card from Roger informing me of his recent retirement and plans to travel the country. He had been my social work supervisor in 1981 when I did a year stint in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps doing mental health work in California. He had recently enjoyed "RV-ing," so it brought back memories of a prolonged vacation that I took a few years ago when we took our first RV trip!

In 2008, I was blessed to take a sabbatical from regular work for about 6 months. I never thought I would be able to do something like that, as I recalled in college or graduate school that I would just dream of that when a professor would occasionally be on such a leave!

Both of my parents died in 2006 in Baton Rouge after they were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. So after providing direct care for them, grieving their loss, giving up administrative job responsibilities and dealing with some other family issues, it became apparent that I needed to take some time off from my regular social work jobs. Fortunately, my parents had provided the means for me to financially be able to actually do something like that.

I started off the sabbatical experience in the Spring of 2008 during Easter school vacation with a fun vacation to Arkansas with my family. We rented a rather large RV, something we never had done previously - usually just tenting out on most vacations! As the price of gas had just begun to skyrocket, it wasn't fun filling up the gas tank! First, we went to see some Catholic lay evangelists in Morrillton who provide dvds and other media and then, we went made our way to Hot Springs, including Garvan Woodland Gardens - since my wife is such a "Green Thumb!

We really enjoyed the ambiance of the Hot Springs area. With a heavy professional background in gerontology, I had some fleetly thoughts of us moving there, since so many elderly with joint problems seem to be there - I saw many assisted living and nursing home facilities there. JP and I were actually able to take our own individual "hot bath" experiences at one of those available there. It was so soothing to get a medicinal bath like that when they drape you with those hot spring drenched towels! Caution: as my wife noted: you have to go "in your birthday suit" to be able to fully experience this type of bath!

Following the trip, it was scary at first to simply entertain the consideration of not doing regular work. Being someone who has OCD and ADD tendencies, I couldn't fathom not going to a 8 - 5 job 5 days a week. So I decided to focus my free time on some pursuits that I'd always loved but never had enough time to dedicate to, such as music and writing. And this time off opened the door to more spiritual pursuits, particularly like going to daily Mass.

Also, since I have always been involved with volunteer work in one way or another, I spent many days during my sabbatical helping at a local center that provides direct assistance to expectant mothers per counseling and practical needs, such as providing baby and maternity clothing and diapers. Cutting the grass - when it's not your own! - was also something that I enjoyed doing to help at the facility.

The chance to open up my own business where I could be "my own CEO" was something that I had also considered as I was approaching the sabbatical. Doing Geriatric Assessments and providing info and referral to caregivers in need had always been a dream, since I have the clinical credentials to be able to do that. So why not try it out when I had the chance?

Having previous experience in marketing to doctors and health care facilities helped as I began to promote my new venture towards the middle of the sabbatical experience. It was a hope that the private practice initiated could possibly turn into my own full-time work. I planned to allow some "pro-bono" allocation in the new service. While the program still continues and is in operation, it has not been self-sustaining but has been a source of great satisfaction to me - which most human resource researchers tell you is a critical element to anyone's job performance and retention!

Last year and recently, I have been able to do more writing and recording of music, which has always been fun to do! I produced some songs dedicated to inspirational people like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta during the time off and for the "Year of the Priests" most recently. Also, during the sabbatical, I was blessed to put all of my writings onto a format that helps me organize them and make them available online!

As my sabbatical was getting closer to an end and I began to realize that my private practice would not be able to sustain our family needs, I put out some feelers in the social services network. Not long later, it was truly a blessing to be able to find employment in an area that hit home to what I had experienced on a personal level - helping evacuees (my parents). I have been able to work with Katrina and Gustav evacuees who are still dealing with the monumental tasks of coping with losses and performing life management skills.

I have realized that we all need to take mini-sabbaticals every day for our sanity and well-being. We can all take what I like to call a “mini-retreat” every day by incorporating some of the principles from the Spiritual Exercises' of St. Ignatius in practical and meaningful ways:

1. Schedule Daily Time: it is imperative for us to mark out time each day for some form of prayer;

2. Be Consistent: any meaningful relationship (God, spouse, family, friends, co-workers) requires a commitment;

3. Just Show Up: whatever mood or feeling we may have is acceptable - and will not keep us from coming before God; He accepts us as we are and not as we think we “should be;”

4. Find a Quiet Place: a silent environment may be difficult to find, but is essential;

5. Journaling: putting your thoughts and feelings into writing can be a great way to communicate with God and provides a way to look back at your growth;

6. Spiritual Direction: meet regularly with a specific Clergy member or peer for feedback and sharing;

7. Group Sharing: usually a church/synagogue/temple will have some type of prayer groups or gatherings on a regular basis that can be helpful.

Keith John Paul Horcasitas, LSCW, MHA, 1133 Knollhaven Drive, BRLA 70810,, November 8, 2009. 

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