Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Holidays

I type this as I lay in my bed, here on the day before December 25, Christmas. This has already been a very hard week for me, as the realization that my father is no longer here to talk my ear off, has hit. This time last year, my family was here with me; my mom and her husband, my brother and my dad all drove down to visit the kiddios and I. It was an odd combination (my mom and her husband, and then my dad as well?), but it worked. And of course, we had to have the regular family spat, but we all love each other at the end of the day.

Anyway, I pray that each and every one of you cherish these merry times with your family, no matter who you believe your creator to be, because all creators teach that you love one another. Be good to one another, and be better, if needbe. Remember to take a moment to reflect on the past year, smile at what you've accomplished, and be determined to finish what you've started. If there is something you have yet to complete, look forward to bringing it to fruition in the New Year.

Merry Holidays, loves...see you in 2010.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What's goin on?

Just a brief check in, to let you know whats going on in the world of MommaYonna...

~Had an appointment with the new therapist this past Thursday. Mind you, this would be our first, since I had an appointment back in October, which was rescheduled for November, which was rescheduled (yes, AGAIN) for this past Thursday. I was just excited to have NOT gotten another phone call from the office saying we'd have to reschedule again. So I make my way to the office, ready to go! Go up the elevator, to the office door and BAM! Slapped in the face with the HEAVY, syrupy scent of Artificial Cinnamon. It was so thick that my eyes immediately began to itch and well up with tears...for those of you who don't know me well, or in person, I am allergic to artificial cinnamon. It swells my respiratory passages rather quickly, and I already can't breathe, having asthma. I walk up to the receptionist (how nice, you're hidden behind a glass window, away from this demon air), and tell her I'm here for my appointment. She asks me if I'm okay, and I tell her that I am allergic to their air fresheners, as I fumble with my purse, looking for my Benedryl. (I keep lots on hand this time of year, since that scent is synonymous with the holidays) She just looks at me like I am wasting her time. I finally take a Benedryl Melt Away and hope for the she hands me a stack of paperwork to fill out. I ask her if that one Plug-In I'm seeing is the only one in the small waiting room, she says "No, there are 2". I can't escape it. I tell her I will be right back, and go into the hallway to fill out my paperwork.

Once I am finished, I return to the waiting room, and ask her if the doctor's office is scented as well, and she tells me that it isn't. So I sit in the office, scarf wrapped around my face tightly, my hand securing it, looking like a true mental case to everyone else in the room. Clearly, I'm sure they thought, she is in the right place.

So a half hour later, I am still sitting in the waiting room, and I hear the receptionist on the phone with someone. By now, there is only myself and one other patient in the room, and with it being 11:30, she came early for her 11:45. I hear the receptionist asking 'how long will you be?' to someone, and then 'well, your 11 o'clock is here' (that's me). She then gets off the phone. I'm expecting her to let me know that the doctor will be in shortly, he's parking, he's caught in traffic, ANYTHING...but she doesn't.

After another 5 minutes, I politely muffle through my scarf that I cannot take it anymore, I can't breathe, and I'm gonna have to go. She asked me if I wanted to reschedule, and I replied No. You've rescheduled me 3 times. The doctor isn't here, and who knows when he will be. You're assaulting me with histamines, and you don't really care. No. I will not be returning to this office. EVER.

The students are having a sleepover this coming Monday night, since we haven't had program in almost a week, and will not until January 4, when school resumes. This should be interesting.

The last day of program, we had a special, Secret guest come and speak to us. We prepared the students on how to act when a special guest comes, but for some reason, our Directors couldn't tell us who the guest was. Not even me, and I'm on staff! It was hard to help them prepare the girls, but for some reason, this guest needed complete press, no pictures, nothing but extra police protection. And this person was coming SPECIFICALLY to see our girls.

It turns out that our special guest was Dr. Maya Sotorro-Ng. (Also know as POTUS Barack Obama's little sister). I, for one, was blown away. She has been outspoken about Mixed Races in America, and is someone I look up to. She has also moved MANY times in her life (as I have) and taught middle school. She was in situations that many of our girls have faced, and was an all around great guest. She recognized when they were starting to zone out, and made sure to keep them engaged. A wonderful speaker!

She explained that she didn't want anyone else to know she was coming because she didnt want to draw attention to herself. She had been visiting DC for about 4 months now (is moving back to Hawaii in a couple of days) and loves her anonymity. She has only been recognized 6 times out of 4 months, and uses it to her family's advantage. She told us how just the day before, she had taken Sasha and Malia out to a bookstore, and while the public knew who the girls were, they didnt know who she was. She was able to keep people away from the girls, asking them to "allow the girls to have just a bit of normalcy", and they obliged. She is able to make runs here and there for Barack and Michele, that they would never be able to do themselves without a motorcade and pomp and circumstance. I can understand that! I was just honored to have her there with us.

In a little more than a week, the kiddios and I will be going on vacation, meeting my mother at our destination. This should be interesting, as I have never done anything like this before. Its always been me and the kiddios, or me and mom; never the 5 of us. I'm sure I will have plenty to share about that when I return, maybe even a few pictures.

Sheesh...didnt mean to be so long winded. My apologies.

See you next time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Butterfly Effect

Good morning (or day, whenever it is that you get a chance to read this). Its a great day to be alive, oh yes, it is. Clearly, the sun is peeking through my mini-blinds, and I'm in a great mood!

First things first, I had to change things up around here, and got myself a new background, and some different colors...and they make me smile. I have a 'thing' for argyle right now, and purple being my favorite color, I just could not go wrong with this one. That and the fact that the youth in the background made my day! What do you think?

So, yesterday, Deputy Director and I went to an AYD reunion. Basically, anyone who went to an AYD training within the past year or so was invited back to check in, network, and be re-inspired about the work that us youth workers do. And BOY, was it inspiring.

The creator of the AYD Curriculum was there, and she explained how and why she came to write it, and then how she worked to get it to us. She ended up teaching the first 3 or 4 AYD trainings in the same church basement that I took my training in, the same one we were sitting in yesterday, 10 years ago. Boy, the effects those trainings had on the metro DC area!

Then, a wonderful family therapist (among a laundry list of other titles she carries,) Adrienne Noel of Baltimore, MD, served as our keynote speaker, explaining that the way a family communicates with one another is the way that they will act out their lives in society.

The way that she broke down our sample family made so much sense! I know that not only did I see these exact examples in some of my students families, but in my own as well.

For example:

*A woman refers to "My Baby's Father", and her teenaged daughter referring to her own "My baby's daddy". The daughter takes note from her own mother on how to 'show respect' to the father of her child, in giving him this title.

*Son of the family being called "Lil Man" as he is growing up, and then the pressures that are put on him prematurely, in order to live up to the moniker. (The same would apply, I feel, in a case of a little girl being called "Lil Mama")

*The way that parenting styles are carried out, especially between parents and offspring that are less than 20 years in age apart. How its usually one way (I'm the parent, children are to speak when spoken to, hard core discipline) or the other (I'm my childs best friend/we talk about EVERYTHING, but why won't they take my discipline seriously) and being able to find a balance, or not.

I also learned that the way that I communicate with my students can change their whole family. When I 'have a moment' with my girls (usually a disciplinary action, where we ask a disruptive student to take a moment in the hall, and we go and speak to them about it individually), I have to make sure that they understand why I have asked them to step out, realize what they did wrong, and how we can avoid this in the future. But I also have to make sure that they know I care about them; that I am not making judgement calls about them; that they are Important to Me, that I care enough to notice their actions, and that I see where they can improve and where I can offer my help. In most cases, if the student is comfortable with me, I make sure I hug them at the end of our conversation, because I want them to know that what I have said to them is genuine; I DO care about my girls, and want them to succeed. I also know that sometimes, these may be the only hugs that they get, for whatever reason, and this small amount of nurturing will go a long way.

I make sure that they know exactly how I feel about them (in the positive light). I remember telling one of my students just the other day, that I know she is a respectful young lady. She has two sisters in the program with her, and in listening to them speak, I know that they have been taught to resolve conflicts on a one on one basis. They actually use the term 'conflict resolution' in their everyday conversation! I let her know that I KNOW you have been taught this, that she knows how it works, but maybe we should try approaching it in a different way. Then I just told her plainly "I pay attention to you, what you do and what you say. You are an amazing person, but even amazing people have bad moments; let's work through this and get back to having amazing moments ." We went on to talk about getting past the issue, and getting back on track. Then I gave her a hug, and told her that I was glad she was in the program, and that she is so important to me, and why I am here (in the program). Then I sent her back into the classroom. Later on that day, the staff member that she had the conflict with gave her a shout out (which is a BIG DEAL to our students) for coming to her and solving the conflict on her own. I could do nothing but smile to know that Middle Sister had gone to the staff member on her own, and taken care of this in a quiet, inconspicuous manner, and that all was well in her world.

In turn, Middle Sister will now take this information she has just gathered back to her household. She will think about how she deals with someone, and this will pass along to the rest of her siblings, possibly even her parents. If so, I have done an effective job of youth development...for the day.

Youth development is ongoing, its constant. Youth are never fully developed. there are always teachable moments, just as there will always be learning moments. I am glad to have people and resources in my life that understand that, and are willing to teach and learn.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Its an unsunny Saturday...

And its raining, so its gonna be a lazy one.

On thing I learned while living in Michigan is that the color of the sky can effect your mood. Its unfortunate, but this is true. I have (what is politely known as) Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Lucky me.

When the sky is sunny, blue or even bright and white with clouds, things are swell. Even at night, when the sky is clear, I'm okay. But on dreary days such as today, when grey is all you see as you look up, the effects trickle down into moods. Like mine.

SAD is (another) form of depression, which occurs according to the seasons, most often winter. (HELLO December!) It has a number of symptom, including:
* Afternoon slumps with decreased energy and concentration
* Carbohydrate cravings
* Decreased interest in work or other activities
* Depression that starts in fall or winter
* Increased appetite with weight gain
* Increased sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness
* Lack of energy
* Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
* Social withdrawal

So, out of those 9 symptoms, I can honestly say that I experience 6 of them on the regular, and about 4 or 5 of them as I type this. This is something that I have spoken to Dr. A about, he is going to have me begin light therapy treatments for this. Basically, you sit in a small room with a special type of bright light, which is supposed to mimic sunlight, for a period of time. It sounds crazy (or even like something you should be able to do at home!), be honest, it is. Who woulda thunk it, right?

Well...I've tried it. And no, I can't mimic this at home. The smallest room in my house is a huge storage closet (beyond the bathroom, I mean), and it isnt very well lit. Besides that, I dont have a lamp that would provide enough light, and although I would love to take a shopping trip to IKEA for one, now is not the time. My insurance pays for this treatment (Thank God for that-the insurance and them being willing to pay), so I will take my book/laptop/iPod and get my hour in the manmade sun on!

For my readers information, I was able to find a bit of info that may help you recognize this, should you feel that you may deal with this, or know someone who may. I am not a doctor, and do not claim to be one, but should you see these symptoms, the affected person should seek professional help.

The disorder may begin in adolescence or early adulthood. Like other forms of depression, it occurs more frequently in women than in men. Most people with the "winter blahs" or "cabin fever" do not have SAD.

The cause of SAD is not known, but it is thought to be related to numerous factors, including:

* Ambient light (this one is me, for sure!)
* Body temperature (I am always the opposite of everyone else)
* Hormone regulation (Once again, this is me!)

A rare form occurs in the summer.

Hopefully, you have gotten something out of this. I find that discussing these issues makes me Think about them more, and Suffer from them less (although I don't like to say I Suffer from the depressions; instead I DEAL with them!)

Have a wonderful, unsunny day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Realization that its working...

The kiddios and I spent Thanksgiving with my mom up in MI. It was a nice holiday (the exception being that I realized I'm allergic to mom's dog, the ONLY dog Ive ever liked in this world).

Of course, kids being kids, there were many opportunities to flex my AYD at Home skills. I mean, when you put 2 adults and 3 kids in a VERY small 2 bedroom apartment, things get really close, really quick.

I realized though, that the AYD works when my mom and I were having a conversation with Q. He was having an issue with Bean and she came out of the room, feelings hurt because he told her "I'm starting to hate you now". So of course, I had to have a conversation with them both.

I explained that first of all, words CAN hurt a person. That I think I understood what Q meant, but I don't think Bean did. There's no secret in our house that everyone really does (down deep) love each other, but that siblings annoy one another. That's kind of part of being a sibling, especially a younger one. The younger sib tests the patience of the older. But the way that the older expresses that annoyance effects the situation. I asked Q if I told him that I was starting to hate him, would his feelings be hurt? He said yes. I asked him if I told him he was getting on my nerves, would his feeling be hurt in the same way; he said nope, that doesn't hurt him, he just knows to back off. Then he got my point.

My mom then explained that in dealing with the kiddios, I talk to them, not at them. We discuss what our issues are, and I ask them for alternatives. I ask for and value their opinions, and listen to them, treating them with respect. She said that I treat them like young people, not little kids.

That was my AHA moment.

Someone else saw what I was trying to do.

I feel like this really is working, and its worth something.