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a slice of pizza

tonight, i attended an orientation for the z88.3 dream team. we’re a group of volunteers for our local Christian radio station. we help out at various events in the central florida area, answer phones during their share-athons, and other activities as needed. you can attend the orientation as often as they offer it – so there were people there that have been doing this for years. i joined the dream team back in november of 2013 when i was part of the phone crew for the fall fundraiser. this station is fully listener supported and commercial free. i have been a faithful listener for 8 of the 9 years i’ve been in orlando.

anyhow, they served us pizza and cookies. being a little bit of a pizza snob – growing up in the new york/new jersey area, you get some of the best pizza on the face of the earth and it’s a bit difficult to find really good pizza in orlando – i had to admit that the pizza they brought in was pretty good.

as i was noshing on a slice of pizza and enjoying the fellowship with the other dream team members, i couldn’t help but stop for a moment and think about the men and women in the central florida area who would be wondering if they were going to get anything to eat tonight. the weather had been pretty bad today and i didn’t know if the group i volunteer with most tuesdays would still have their weekly food share in downtown orlando. would these special friends get to eat? would someone see them and have compassion, either buying them a meal or sandwich, give them a little money to get a bite to eat or maybe give them whatever food they happened to have on them at the time? or would they have to forage through the many trash cans that line the sidewalks in the city? would they wait behind a local eatery, hoping to find some scraps that were tossed away but yet still edible? here i was, sitting inside a warm, dry building….eating some pizza that was warm and flavorful, ending the meal with a nice little treat of soft cookies. looking back, i wish i had thought to ask if i could grab some of the remaining slices to keep in the refrigerator until i went to see my friends on friday evening. ask if i could have the leftover cookies to share. they say that hindsight is 20/20.

i’ll be going to a food share on friday evening. i’ll take a couple of bags of fruit that i’ll pick up from the local produce market. i know that the recipients will be thankful. but i bet they would love to have that wonderful slice of pizza.

 

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light at the end of the tunnel

here’s an update to my last post……

you may recall that i shared that i’m coming to a crossroad regarding my future with my current position as a youth advocate. i’ve been dealing with the fact that i may have to look for different employment due to not making enough money to make ends meet. it doesn’t matter that it’s a job that i love. nor does it matter that it’s a job that, according to everyone who knows me even a little, comes naturally to me. to have to give up working with teenagers (and their families) is one that has caused me great heartache in the last couple of weeks, but i could not put off having a difficult conversation with my director.

as i do every monday morning, i went into the office to complete my many forms that document my visits and activities with my clients. i dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s”. i make sure everything is signed and dated and all numbers for hours, mileage and receipts add up properly. once i’ve done that and turned it over to the administrative assistant and get my paycheck, i wait for my turn to have my weekly progress update meeting with my director. we discuss the previous week’s progress with each client i have been assigned to. the ups and downs. the good and the bad. my observations and my conversations. i’m given constructive criticism – mainly ideas how to improve on what i’m already doing as well as to make an idea work for the best possible outcome when utilized. when my director was happy at what i’d presented, i took a deep breath and told her we needed to talk – to really talk.

i shared my feelings about the position i’d interviewed for a month ago and was honest in stating that at this current time, the pay increase and guaranteed hours that go along with it were no longer just a small part of the desire to get that job. i was forthcoming about my current situation and with a heavy heart admitted that looking for something else may have to be strongly considered. i stated that leaving the organization was not something i wanted to do – in fact – it was causing me much anguish and heartache every time i thought about it. i told her for the first time, i felt i was in a job that was perfectly meant for me and i could no longer imagine myself doing anything else. i got a surprise. my director has made an offer that i never saw coming.

she is going to make a proposal to our other local office, the one i’d be working out of should i get the other position i’m waiting on. i’d still be in my current position as a youth advocate where i am now, but i would also work part time as a family partner out of the other office, getting 3-4 families to work with. she also offered to give me some in-office hours, helping with the front desk and other administrative duties. further, should the other office turn down her proposal, she’s going to give me additional clients, with one that just got referred to the program. AND two of the clients that i’ve taken over to work with until they are discharged from the program in a few weeks….i have the option of asking for them to get an extension (actually it would be yet another one) and keep them a little longer. she wants to do what she can to help because she’s admitted she would hate to see me have to leave.

i will admit – i had to restrain myself from first jumping up and down for joy, clapping my hands in excitement and keep from crying in relief. when i came home and shared this news with david, i repeated what had taken place during the conversation with my director and myself. between the work he’s doing, comments he made just recently about his own feelings with his work and its impact on our little home and the efforts of my boss to help me stay with the organization while bringing in more income to my household, the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t seem quite so far away.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in A Very Amateur Photographer

 

where’s the money tree?

i am coming to a crossroad and i have a difficult decision to make soon. it unfortunately involves my current job.

i love what i do. i’m what’s referred to as a youth advocate. another word for a mentor. i work with the youth that are either in the mental health system, the juvenile justice system or both. my role is to help the youth gain a voice and advocate for themselves. i’m there to show them how to make positive choices that will make their future better. teach them how to make positive changes in their behavior so that they can strive to be a better person. encourage the baby steps they make toward those positive goals and when they take that backward step, show them that it’s ok to make a mistake once in a while. teach them how to learn from those mistakes so that they are much less inclined to head in that negative direction again. if school is part of the problem, work with them to change study habits and come up with education plans that will put them on the right track towards reaching their career goals that they’ve shared. there’s these things and so much more.

while working with the youth, i’m also working with the family. if the youth’s problems are affecting the family, then by making positive changes and positive choices, then at some point, the family begins to work more positively. sometimes there needs to be a little parental coaching. point out observations between the parent and child. suggest looking at things with a new perspective. remind them that behaviors and attitudes are in the progress of changing. remind them that positive reinforcement by the parent can make a big difference for their child. with praise and encouragement, cycles can be broken.

but there’s one big problem. it doesn’t pay enough. my position pays at different rates depending on what i am doing. if i’m with one client, i get one rate. if i am with more than one, i get another rate – per client. then there’s another rate if i am doing my paperwork, attending a training session, attending a staff meeting, or attending a live webinar. with gas prices as they are, what we are reimbursed for mileage doesn’t quite foot the bill. my clients live on the other side of the county i live in so my commute just to pick any of them up is 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. then you’ve got driving time to get to the various activities you take them to – whether it’s to the library for study time, the park for a little recreation or a workshop held at the office for our clients. for my one client, the closest thing we do is the library – it’s 2 miles from her home. but everything else is at least 25-30 minutes away. even having a little ford escort, i still burn gas.

my monthly expenses are rent, car insurance, renter’s insurance, electric bill and phone. add gas for my own personal errands and activities (are you kidding), and groceries for me and david and you wind up in a deficit before you even start.

there’s a position i’ve interviewed for within the same organization i work for now. it’s guaranteed 40 hours with the same pay rate across the board – no variances depending on what you do. there’s a bit of a difference in what i’d be doing, but i’d welcome the challenges that this new position would bring.

the problem i have is this…..how to tell my boss that while i love my job, i can’t afford to continue to do it. how to tell her that the position i’m being considered for would be very welcomed as the pay is (unfortunately) part of the attraction to it. how to tell her that i may have to start looking for something else. these decisions and more weigh so heavily on my mind.

oh to find a million dollars under a rock so that i can continue to do what i love. better yet, just plant a money tree outside of my patio door and i’ll be fine (as long as i don’t kill it).

 

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it’s all in the bag

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while looking at the photos I had taken with my phone at the last two food shares in downtown Orlando, I noticed something that I hadn’t really paid attention to before. all the people there waiting to be fed had bags slightly under the bench they sat on, with it placed just so that their feet were touching part of them.

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some had one large bag while others had several smaller bags. there were lots of backpacks and a couple of suitcases. those that were fortunate to own a bike had a place to put their bags. others weren’t so lucky and had to bear their loads in their arms, and/or on their backs.
what’s inside? contained within the bags were, for the most part, their every possession that was a necessary part of their lives. chances are, you wouldn’t find large makeup kits or a stack of CDs and DVDs. what you’ll probably find are clothes – what little they own; toiletries – when they are able to get their hands on some; and probably some nonperishable food – granola bars, some easy open canned food that don’t require heating  and other things that they are fortunate to get at food shares and possibly a food bank. for those who are suffering from various forms of mental disorders, there could be items that one might find extremely odd, but something most needed for their reality.

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some will hold on to their belongings tightly, (understandably) afraid someone will come and take all that they own. I’m sure that a large number carry many of the plastic shopping bags given when you go to Walmart or Target or your local convenience shop. those will be used to carry food. the food given at the many food shares they can find, hoping that there’s enough to go around where they could score seconds and maybe even thirds. those extra portions can be at least 2-3 meals in case there’s no handouts the next day.
I’m thinking of a sweet friend who is facing life on the streets. she, and her family have been hit with one stroke of bad luck after another and all of the bad luck is starting to cave in on them. it’s bad enough to face this as an adult, but she has two children to take care of. No matter what she and her husband try to do, it just gets worse. if she lived in the same state as I do, I could find a way to help. I don’t have room for 4 more people in my little apartment, but i know enough that might be able to help or at least point the way to get help. of course there’s no guarantees, but I would do my darnedest to make sure that their lives weren’t reduced to a few bags.

 

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Special People

I met a special young man, who I’ll call “Tom”, a couple of days ago. he is a 14 year old gentle giant. I say giant because at the age of 14, he a!ready stands at 6 ft 4 inches tall. I barely make the 5 ft mark. Now imagine taking that tall body and folding it into my little ford escort. He managed but it wasn’t easy, I’m sure.

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This young man will be etched into my mind and heart for a long time. Tom is special. He’s very polite….showing that someone took the time to teach him to use his manners. He’s bright. I had to transport Tom to an appointment in an area I was unfamiliar with. When we were done, Tom was able to tell me how to get back home. I had the GPS on and his directions matched exactly. But Tom is special. Little things and details seemed to surprise him in a way that most would not be bothered with. Not many people think it’s amazing how a box of crackers from the dollar store only cost…. you guessed it….$1.00. Throughout my short time with Tom, there were little things that told me a little about him. There’s something special about him.
And as special as he is, his relatives (who he was visiting during spring break) love him. Little cousins ran circles around his legs and hugged him. They called his name as they grabbed him to love on him. And throughout out it all, Tom softly smiles.
A gentle giant who is special.

 
 

am i cute?

“everyone should strive to be cute”
this comment comes from my young client, the one who owns lots of clothes.

each time i take her out – even when it’s just to the library to study or to downtown orlando to help feed the homeless, she has to make sure that she looks cute. a quick primp in front of the mirror as we head out the door. run fingers over the hair, making sure to smooth out the few stray flyaway strands. apply yet another fresh coat of lip gloss.

“miss lisa, i gotta look cute” she states as she makes that face that teenage girls are famous for. all i can do is laugh at the cuteness. as we arrive at whatever our destination is for that day, there’s that one last check or two for cuteness.

pet_city_1395104428848   i play a game on facebook called pet city. you adopt a virtual pet and take care of it. you can make your pet pretty much anything you want it to be. i created my pet “cindy” to be a bit of a girly girl – a diva. i guess i’ve developed her to be cute. i chose her basic look – one that makes her appear innocent and, yes, cute. her clothes have to right. her hair has to be right. it’s a little fun to make her the way she is, but it’s not real. cindy is a part of a game. it’s not real life. in reality, most of us, unless we’re extremely blessed, won’t have someone to select that perfect look for us. we’re on our own folks.

i believe in trying to look your best – but there’s so much more in life than looking hot or cute or drop dead gorgeous. there is respect and integrity. there’s working hard to be your best at school or work. there are people out there who don’t have what it takes to get that “cute” look. no money to buy makeup, no money to get the hair done at a salon. you’re lucky to have more than one pair of pants and a couple of shirts that don’t have any rips or stains. maybe that one pair of shoes you own don’t quite fit right but at least they don’t have any holes in them.

i’m not really sure where this is supposed to go, but this “you gotta be cute” to get anywhere has been on my mind for most of the last week. so that’s my story and i’m sticking to it.

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clothes

I was talking with my young client (who will be 16 this summer) after I picked her up today. We were heading to her favorite shop to add her allowance to her gift card that she can use for a day of shopping. She was telling me that she has to go through her closet because she has a lot of clothes that she no longer wears and wants to sell them at a trendy shop that trades gently used clothes for other gently used trendy clothes. It’s a great concept if you have the closet space.  During this conversation, she revealed that she owns approximately 48 pairs of jeans. 48 pairs of jeans!!! She said that this doesn’t include shorts or other pants not made of denim. and shirts and dresses and skirts and who knows what else…..

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i am having a hard time wrapping my head around this. Yes, it’s ok to have nice clothes and even trendy clothes at that if that’s what you’re into. but when you have so many clothes that you say it’s not a good idea for a visitor to go in your room because there’s no room in the closet and dresser drawers for all the clothes, then I think it’s definitely a bit much.
Just in jeans alone, there’s enough there to wear something different for a month and a half!! And I know that oftentimes, my young client will change her clothes after school so that’s two outfits a day, not counting pj’s. that’s a lot of clothes my friend. and a lot of laundry. 
we’re going shopping later this week. we have a gift card. we have coupons to save when you spend!!! and we’re shopping for….you guessed it……clothes!!!

 
 

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