Personal

What To Do with Children (no, seriously, please tell me)

I clearly do not know how to handle children that have been put into my care. Surly teenagers, that’s my jam. Even pre-pubescent pre-teens I can handle. But young children, I haven’t a clue. I can’t even play Clue with them. I can’t play most games with them and the youngest is nowhere near ready for jigsaw puzzles. Those are my go-to moves and I can’t even use them, but at 6 and 3, there’s not much I can do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love these kids, but I think sometimes it’s hard to tell in the way I show it. They are my boyfriends’ girls and the most important two people in his life, even though we don’t get them often. They are adorable and funny, but also stubborn and annoying. They laugh, they cry, they puke, they sing, they dance, they whine, and they won’t eat the food we put in front of them (which, my sister says is total karma).

I probably come off surly around them, but I don’t mean to be. I don’t feel surly. I just want them to be good kids, and I tend to go over-board controlling on things that I feel responsible for (thank you responsibility strength). So, I end up telling them don’t do this and stop that more than I say good job and keep it up. I don’t mean to. Really I don’t. I just want them to be good kids. But what defines a good kid?

Just like in the classroom, I think what I need is a set of definite expectations and rules for the kids to be successful kids. That can help a lot with using positive language instead of negative language. Instead of saying “don’t complain” I can say “is that being grateful? No? Then let’s try being grateful instead.” I swear I did more of that last time we had them for more than a few days, but I think it may have taken a few days to get there. My boyfriend has even said, “I know you don’t like the girls” to me before, which hurts because it isn’t true at all and I hate that I might come off that way. I swear I don’t mean to. It’s hard for me to try and rationalize with a human or is unable or barely able to rationalize. How else are you supposed to interact with someone?

I think a lot of it is the blatant selfishness of the kids. But it’s not just them. It’s all young children. And they really aren’t that bad compared to other kids I’ve seen. It’s in their nature and enforced in our culture. With this land of plenty, they have room to want things because all their needs are met and then some. So, being a tiny, adorable human that the world clearly revolves around, they want and want and want. Then they are so disappointed when you say no, it makes it seem like they don’t care at all about what they do have and everything that you have given them and done for them. It’s hard to be nice to someone like that. It makes you not want to do things for them. So, I’ve been saying don’t whine and don’t be selfish instead of be grateful, and I come off like I don’t like them.

But they do like me. They shout my name and run when they see me. They give me random hugs that melt my heart. They call mean ‘aunt’ because they want to feel connected to me more than just some girl in their life. And they love for me to do things with them – when I can figure out what to do with them. I suppose they are quick to forget the “don’t do this” and “stop that”s that I feel like I am constantly saying to them. But I don’t. I hate feeling like I have more negative interactions with them than positive ones. In the classroom, it’s good to have a least a 3 to 1 positive to negative comment/interaction ratio. I wan’t to apply that with these kids, too.

Back to needing expectations. Expectations will help me keep the important stuff in mind and let everything else go. They’re still unique humans after all, and I need to let them be them instead of being so controlling. Below I’m going to try and sketch out some expectations and what they mean in order to be successful and happy children.

  1. I expect them to be respectful. This means saying ma’am and sir.
  2. I expect them to be polite. This means saying please, thank you, you’re welcome, and bless you.
  3. I expect them to be grateful. This means showing appreciation for the food they get, the things they get, the people they get to spend time with, and the places they get to go and things they get to do.
  4. I expect them to want things, but to be graceful about it. This means politely asking for something and then saying yes sir or yes ma’am and moving on when told ‘no.’
  5. I expect them to be healthy. This means eating a good portion of the vegetables and meat we serve them and staying away from anything with sugar.
  6. I expect them to be children. This means playing, laughing, singing, blowing snot bubbles, crying, falling, puking, and giving random hugs that melt your heart.

I understand that number 4 may still be unrealistic for the younger one. Maybe even the older one. Or maybe we just haven’t gotten a chance to work on it enough. At least with these expectations in mind, I can use more positive language to steer them towards expected behavior and away from negative behavior, instead of just telling them to stop the negative behavior.

I still have no idea how to handle the younger one when she completely ignores me telling her to do something. But her dad doesn’t seem to fare much better, so maybe there’s not a good way. Or maybe we’re both doing it wrong. Suggestions?

How do you interact with children this young? Do you have any games or activities that an adult could do with a 6 and a 3-year-old? We take them to parks and play places and the pool, but I want something indoors that I or we can do with both of them that doesn’t involve watching TV. Do you have any suggestions or insights for someone who isn’t used to interacting with young children? I clearly need some help in this area and would love to read your input, insight, and suggestions. Thank you.

Inspired

Our Need for a Purpose

A friend of mine recently made the comment that she was wanting to “find a purpose”. I think that’s something we all share. We all want to find our purpose in life. We all want to find a way to make a difference, to better ourselves, and to better the world. Sometimes we feel this desire so strongly that it feels like a need, like we might die without it. But where did this need come from? I guarantee you that my cat has no such need or desire. He could care less about finding his purpose or bettering himself in some way. He just wants food, water, belly rubs, head scratches, and to finally catch that elusive red dot. He is purrfectly content playing, napping, eating, and grooming all day long. So why aren’t we?

While it certainly seems like we are content working just enough to pay the bills and watching Netflix all day, deep down inside most of us aren’t. We may enjoy it at the time, but there’s that nagging voice deep within us telling us we should be doing more. We should be reading, writing, creating, exercising, and planning in order to improve ourselves. We look for our purpose in the things we make, the ways we improve, the volunteer work we do, and the career path we choose. We want to find a way in which we can contribute that will give us that sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

Where does this come from? What part of our brain developed this inner voice pushing us to do better instead of being satisfied with just enough? Where along the evolutionary trail did we develop this need? And why do we have it? What purpose does this almost primal feeling serve that drives us to work harder and nags us when we relax?

Perhaps it’s sociological. Improving oneself and the community is rewarded with praise, admiration, and increased social status. Whether it’s having a fit body, working with a charity, or being knowledgeable in trivia, we are impressed by skills, knowledge, and selfless acts shown by others.

Or perhaps it’s instinctual. When the community is improved, it improves our own lives as well. Being fit or talented can help when threatened. And when people are in awe of someone, it’s easier for that person to manipulate his/her fans for self-gain.

Whatever the reason, we all have this drive to find that sense of purpose. That one thing that will give us a sense of fulfillment and help leave our mark on this world. Have you found yours?

What do you think causes this need for purpose? Why do we need this type of fulfillment? What purpose have you found for yourself? How did you discover it? Or are you still searching?

Me? I want to be a teacher, a writer, a mentor, and a mother.

Inspired

Impressive Talents

What is it about seeing others’ success that makes us want to be able to do the same thing? I always feel more motivated to work out after watching an action movie with a lot of skilled fighting than I do from reading about how exercise is good for me. I feel an urge to learn how to grind a pipe on my roller blades after watching someone else do it. I even feel more inspired to write after watching a TV show with a successful author than from daydreaming of a new story or poem idea. Nothing makes me want to study more than watching Bones or Big Bang Theory (when they actually talk about their research, anyway) so I can strive to be as smart as those characters. This also applies when I see friends or colleagues show off knowledge or a talent, such as doing a hand stand, describing how different chemicals react together, playing an instrument or singing, or explaining how something works. Often times when I wish I was better at something, it stems from me feeling a sense of  awe as I watch someone else showcase a talent or knowledge. This makes it difficult to determine what hobbies I genially enjoy and what hobbies I just want to get good at in order to show off. Piano, for example, is something I used to care about getting good at to show off to others, but now I only play for myself, because of how much I love it. Jigsaw puzzles are also something I enjoy, although I do love showing off my skill at those. Knitting, while I enjoy making things and I enjoy the Zen in it, I believe is a talent that I enjoy showing off what I make more than actually making things. But that’s still something I am trying to figure out because I also do enjoy making things for other people. I am no good at drawing and gave that up years ago because I never felt like I would be good, even though I used to love to draw. Writing is always something I have loved, and certainly not something that I show off, although I do enjoy sharing my writing. I’ve never found a good enough reason to really get in shape and get strong. Anytime I want to, it’s to be able to show off, and I never stick with the work outs for more than a few months. I’ve just never found a good enough personal reason to stick with it. But I always get motivated after watching Black Widow kick butt in the Avenger movies. Or Bones, for that matter. She’s a much more realistic goal too. But back to the main question: why does feeling awe at someone else’s talent make us what to also possess that talent? (I’m assuming I’m not unique in this, although I recognize that probably not everyone feels this way.) I suppose it would have to do with what we personally hold value. I see the value in being able to fight, in case I was to be assaulted. Therefore, I’m impressed by awesome fighting skills. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe I’m impressed by a skill, so I decide it must have value. One way to get someone to like you more is to ask them to do a small favor for you. Social convention will oblige that person to say yes, and they will subconsciously justify doing you a favor by deciding that they must like you. So perhaps I am putting value into skills I see others do that impress me in order to justify being impressed by them. After all, what practical need would I have for doing a handstand or taking out 10 guys at once who all have on body armor?  What need would I have for being able to pop a wheelie on a motor cycle or be phenomenal at Mario Cart? Both those talents impress me, but that doesn’t mean they are valuable or that I need to accomplish them (as much as I may day dream about accomplishing them). After all, I am impressed by doctors and dentist, but have zero desire to do either of those jobs. I suppose the trick is to consciously separate things that impress me and things in that I am genially interested. That way, I can stop day dreaming about fighting with the Avengers and start actually doing things that bring me joy and satisfaction.

Personal

It Takes a Day to Break

I imagine those of you who suffer from chronic, oh so persistent, depression will relate to this the most, but maybe everyone will.

This is going to be a personal post, and possibly a bit depressing, so Mom you might want to skip this one.

It feels like my life is a cycle is pulling myself together, getting my life on track, being on a good streak, and then falling. It’s annoying a best and completely discouraging at worst.

B-Ravin, what are you talking about?

I’m talking about how one day can set you back so, so much. It takes three days to form a habit, and one day to break it. Lets say you feel like you’ve got your life finally on track. Or, on track for your situation. You’re in college, developed a good study regiment, a good workout routine, and you’ve been sticking to your new diet for two weeks now. Great! You’ve probably worked really hard to get to that point. Then you have a day where you get sick. You don’t work out for a few days due to exhaustion and you break your diet because you only feel like eating jello. You study the minimum amount so you can spend the rest of the time sleeping and watching tv and hope that this illness only last a day or two. Your whole routine, the one you’ve worked so hard to establish and perfect, is ruined. Once you feel better, you first have to catch up on all the studying and homework you put off. This leaves little time for cooking and working out, so you get take out and skip the exercise. Slowly, so slowly you may be able to force yourself to get back on track with studying, get off the junk food and back to cooking, and eventually back to the gym. For a few weeks. Maybe even a few months. Then you get sick again.

B-Ravin, I know exactly what you’re talking about.

While most everyone can relate to this if I’m talking about a cold or an ear infection, not everyone realizes that depression is just as bad. You spend one day where you just can’t force yourself to get out of that bed, and everything falls apart. The next day, it’s hard to get up, but you may eventually do it. Then you’ve got to set what’s priority and focus on catching up on those priorities. Then slowly break all the bad habits you formed while playing catch-up, and replace them with new ones.

That’s the cycle of my life. At least, that’s how it feels. I still haven’t managed to get back into a regular workout routine after a few months (I’ve worked out on and off, but haven’t formed a habit). Granted, part of that is because I’m not in a great situation at the moment – many things in my life are very unstable right now – which causes more frequent days of not getting out of bed until noon, if at all, because hey – why bother? But even when things were good – nearly perfect even – I had sick days that would just throw off everything.

I’m not even sure what happened. I had a regular work out habit, diet, chores, and job hunting routine that I followed daily. After a while, they just feel apart, and I have been struggling to get them back together ever since.

What do you do to get back into the swing of things once that swing has been thrown off? Do you struggle going back to set habits & routine after you spend a few days with a cold or depression?

Personal

New Year Resolutions

It’s been a while since I’ve made New Year Resolutions, so I thought I would this year. I used to find the idea of these annual resolutions a little silly because I didn’t like the idea of waiting until the new year to set goals for yourself. I still don’t. However, a lot of my goals have taken a long break due to a nasty break up, general discouragement, and the holidays. So, I thought I would use the new year as an excuse to revamp my goals and get back on them. And maybe add a few new ones. Like, go a full year without smoking a cigarette.

Anyway, it seemed like a lot of people would put off making a goal until the New Year, and then they would only stick with it for a few months, give up, and say “maybe next year.” Which is the reason I have not done them in the past. If I wanted to set a goal, I just set it at the time. But there is some romance in the idea of making a new change with a new year. Similar to a new start to a new semester at college (those didn’t last either). It also makes for a good excuse when someone asks about a new habit of yours – everyone understands a New Year Resolution. So, in the spirit of the new year, I will make some resolutions of things I have been wanting to do or goals I had been working on, but have drifted away from. The rest of this post is more for me than you, but feel free to skim through if you need or want ideas for your own or are genuinely interested in my resolutions. Also, please comment and share your own resolutions, if you’ve made any.

1. Get a job in my field of interest.
This is a big one. I’ve had a Civil Engineering job doing general work (sidewalks, drainage, piers/boardwalks, boat launches, and dredging – so much dredging) and I didn’t like it. I learned a lot, but I have a passion for water and wastewater treatment and reclaimed water. So, that’s what I’m looking for. I currently have business cards (for me), a list of companies to look into, and some networking with some of the companies. I think my first step getting back into the job hunt is to organize what companies I have done what with – either applied for a job or the contacts I have gained from Networking with contact info and notes. The next step is to re-check job postings in companies I have already looked at to see if anything new has been added with the new year. Next will be to continue through the list of companies, making network connections and looking at job postings, keeping notes all the while.

2. Blog More (writing and reading blogs)
My brain is constantly running and I enjoy writing a lot, so blogging makes sense, however I just don’t make the effort to sit down and write it out. So, for the new year, my goal will be to post at least twice a week, and read a least two blog entries a day.

3. Go the whole year without smoking
With an allotted 10 slip-ups (because, reality).

4. Publish a Cook Book
I have an idea for a cook book a want to do, and I love cooking, so I want to make one this year. Nothing big – 20 to 30 recipes, but they will be themed. Step one is to see if there are any copyright or patent things with cook books and recipes, since so many books have very similar recipes. Step two is to actually write out the amounts and cooking steps for the ones I know I want to do, and try them out the way I’ve written them to make sure it works. Step three is to come up with new ideas to add and try them out as well. Step four is to look into publishing and all that it entails. Step five is to publish. I think I can do all that in a year. If I set monthly goals.

5. Set Monthly Workout Goals
And follow-through.
January’s goals will be to complete a 30-day plank challenge and be able to touch my toes without bending my knees.

6. Learn Spanish
No, I don’t expect to get fluent. My goal would be to do a Rosetta Stone lesson at least three times a week and find a Spanish learning buddy to learn and practice with.

7. Make and Stick with a Sleep Schedule
This includes a daily wake up time, a bed-time ritual, and a morning ritual.

8. Cut the Caffeine
Limit to one caffeinated beverage a day. I’m looking forward to this one the least.

9. Spend at least 10 min a day in the sun
Considering the fact that our society is built to avoid the outdoors as much as possible (A/C, heaters, indoor activities, vehicles to get us from one building to the other, etc.), some days I just don’t get outside enough. Obviously I’d love to get more than 10 min of sunshine a day, but some days I know that just won’t happen.

10. Keep in better touch with friends and family
I don’t have a lot of close friends, so a voice or video call once a month shouldn’t been too hard to incorporate. And that will be my goal. Parents and sister will be once a week (at least). Close friends and relatives once a month. Slightly less close relatives once every other month. And for every one else, there’s email.

This does seem like a lot at one time, especially because I have other goals such as working on sight reading (for music), make more time for hobbies (including reading/writing), read more educational articles, keep up with the news better, and general health goals, but I think with some planning and organization I can at least do the big 10 and then slowly incorporate the others.

What (if any) resolutions are you making for 2016? What do New Year Resolutions mean to you? Do you make resolutions every year?

Inspired

The Evils of Pride and Judgment

There’s a reason Pride is one of the 7 deadly sins: it pins us against each other. It leads to judgment, disrespect, possibly hate, and even discrimination. And yet, pride is pushed in our society. “Be proud of who you are,” is a popular slogan, with alterations such as “be proud to be black,” “be proud to be educated,” and “be proud to be an American.” But being proud of who we are often means we look down on others for not being us. For example: If I’m something to be proud of, and you’re nothing like me, then you must not be something to be proud of, which means I judge and ridicule you for not being me. It sounds ridiculous when said that way, but it’s what happens. Even though that’s not what we are consciously thinking, that is the story we are really telling ourselves when we judge others based on their looks or actions. “I can’t believe he’s doing that. I would never do that.” “Why in the world does she think it’s okay to dress like that? I would never dress like that.” “I can’t believe how fat that person let himself get. I would never let myself get that fat.” “Ew, look at how buff her arms are. They’re huge. I would never let my arms get that big.”

We have a hard time understanding why someone would do something or look a certain way when it’s different from what we like or believe. It’s hard to understand why someone would want to go out to a noisy bar instead of curling up at home with a good book. It’s hard to understand why someone would stay at home and read a boring book when they could go out and have fun at a bar. It’s all about perspective. And pride. Since we’re proud of the way we do things, proud of the things we like, and proud of the way we look, we can’t fathom why someone would want to do, think, or look differently. We truly believe that if we don’t like doing something, we can judge others for enjoying it. We truly believe that if we don’t feel comfortable showing off our legs, we can judge others for showing off their legs.

Before I realized why I was doing it, it used to judge and look down on others a lot. Probably about the same amount as the average person, but it felt like all the time. Being fit and physically healthy is important to me, so I looked down on others who are obese. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let myself go like some people do (for now, ignoring the fact that some obese people really do have a serious medical condition). I was horrified at those that do let themselves get obese and wonder how they can even stand it. I thought of them as horrible people for letting themselves be that way. I looked down on them because I have PRIDE. In reality, we just have different values. Physical fitness and health isn’t a priority to them like it is to me. It’s a simple matter of lifestyle CHOICE and neither is better than the other. They are simply different.

Another example is that my sister enjoys going out to bars and clubs with her friends even though she doesn’t drink. The reason she doesn’t drink is because she has a drinking problem. She has been through rehab and attends AA meetings daily and is very involved in the AA community. However, she is a very social person and makes friends of all kinds. A lot of people might judge her for going to bars and clubs with her condition. Most people can’t fathom a bar or club being fun without alcohol and they wonder why she surrounds herself with that temptation. Well, from her perspective, alcohol is no longer tempting to her. Yes, sometimes she has bad days and it is tempting, but she doesn’t go to bars on those days; she spends extra time with her AA friends. From her perspective, she has a lot of fun at bars with her friends. Just because you or I don’t understand it, because we’re different people, doesn’t mean we have the right to judge her for it. It’s her life and she enjoys going out and being social. (I should also point out that she is in college, and most people go out to be social at bars and clubs at that age.)

If we are going to be unified (or just happy), we need to stop separating ourselves from one another by judging each other based on  differences. The easiest way to do this is to let go of pride. By letting go of pride, you can more easily accept that it’s okay to have different views and lifestyles than your own. If you’re fit, it’s a lot easier to not hate someone for being fat. If you like to stay at home and read, it’s a lot easier to not isolate yourself from friends or family who prefer to go to bars and clubs. If you like to dress modestly, it’s a lot easier to not judge those who like to dress to show off their skin. By just letting go of pride and accepting the fact that other lifestyles are no worse or better than your own – simply different – then we can let go of hate we didn’t even know we had. We can bond with others more easily and more deeply because we have removed this invisible barrier that we weren’t even aware we had put up.

I used to have a hatred for those very different from me. It used to hate and be disgusted by obese people, girls who wore a lot of makeup and showed off their legs, and anyone who was very promiscuous with many partners. I wouldn’t have even classified myself as a very judgey person (I think most people don’t). I didn’t have any idea why I felt this hate or disgust towards certain people. I finally realized it was because I was proud. I was proud to be [somewhat] thin/fit. I was proud that I didn’t wear makeup. I was proud that I didn’t wear super short shorts or have sex with people I’d just met. I shouldn’t be proud of any of those things. Being proud of those things was leading me to judge and hate others for not being those things.

In order to let go of that silly hate, thus leading me to be a happier person overall, I am letting go of pride. It’s a work in progress. The most important thing to letting go of pride is to not let go of your self-esteem or self-worth. I don’t think I’m any prettier or uglier than girls who wear a lot of make up. I don’t think I’m a better or worse person for watching my weight. I don’t think I’m any smarter or dumber than people who want to spend there night at a bar instead of reading at home. I don’t think I’m any greater or lesser than those with a different skin color or different sex than me. I’m not “proud” to be a woman. I’m not “proud” to be white. I’m not “proud” to be an American. Because as soon as I am proud to be one of these things, I am isolating people that are not one of these things. Don’t get me wrong, I like being a woman, I like being an American, and I like my Irish heritage, but I’m not proud of any of those things. I think that is an important difference to recognize.

What are your thoughts about pride? What aspect about yourself are you proud of? Thinking back, have you realized any time when your pride in that aspect may have isolated someone you’ve seen or been in contact with? Has it ever made it hard to be really close friends with someone or accept someone they way they are?

Poetry

The Change

What I wouldn’t give to be with you before
you changed. To enjoy the holidays together before
you changed. To make love with the passion we had before
you changed. To go outside and play like before
you changed. To sit at a bar and read together like before
you changed. Oh the love I felt for you before
you changed. So much so I couldn’t contain it all before
you changed. How was the sun so warm and the colors so bright before
you changed? How now the clouds are darker unlike before
you changed? The holidays are cold and lonely unlike before
you changed. Doubt and darkness has replaced the love that existed before
you changed. And though we hate it, we go our separate ways because, after all,
I’ve changed.

Inspired

Skin Color is a Physical Trait, Not a Personality Type

I’ll mostly be talking about “black people” and “white people” in this post, because that’s what I see the most of relative to the particular sort of racism, but I’m sure it applies to others as well.

This is going to be a rant about how black and white are COLORS, NOT personality types. One of the reasons racism is still alive in everyday life is because people have labeled black and white as personality types, coming up with terms such as “oreo” for people who are “black on the outside but white on the inside” and “wigger” for people who “are white on the outside but black on the inside.” Phrases like “he/she is so white” or “damn girl, you must be black on the inside with dance moves like that” do more to keep racism alive than people realize. And they hurt. It makes it so people with black skin don’t want to do well in school because then they would be “white” on the inside. White is a skin color, not a personality type. Black is a skin color, not a personality type. I can’t express that enough. Saying things like “that’s such a white thing to do” has become an insult to people with black or white skin, it seems.

Why can’t people with black skin be smart without getting called white? Why can’t people with white skin dance well without getting called black? Why the separation? It’s just another way to separate white people and black people instead of integrating and just calling everyone people. There are all kinds of personality types that go beyond race, skin color, and gender for that matter. We all feel the same emotions, we all have different skills and interests, so why is it that some are associated with “white” personality and some associated with “black” personality. How about just saying “hey, that guy makes good grades” instead of “hey, that guy is so white”?

Skin color is a PHYSICAL trait. It’s a way to PHYSICALLY describe someone. Just like eye color, hair color, and shirt color.

Smart, nice, mean, hard-ass, caring, determined, focused, spiteful, loving, etc are ways to describe someones personality. Notice that white, black, and brown are not in that list because they are NOT personality traits.

I’m calling for a stop to using skin color as a personality type. It’s not. Someone who is smart and focused could be white skinned, black skinned, or brown skinned. Someone who is a mean hard-ass could be white skinned, black skinned, or brown skinned. Personality types come in all color skin. That’s why they are two separate things. Calling someone white or black for any reason other than the color of their skin just adds to the discrimination and separation of the two races. If we’re going to grow and become stronger as a community, we need to stop viewing things this way. We need to see skin color as skin color and not judge a personality based on that or label a personality as a color. Please, stop.

Please share any of your own thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc. because I love reading them. Do you agree or disagree with my point? Why? What similar phrases have you heard that you think are harmful?

Inspired

A Rose for Stacey

This post is going to be long. At least read the first half.

This post is going to hurt to write and I hope it hurts to read.

This post will [hopefully] be worth it.

This post will probably not be proof-read, so please ignore any errors. I just can’t read through it again.

We went to New Orleans this weekend – my boyfriend, his sister, his aunt, and me. It was awful. Don’t get me wrong, the shops were cool, the parade was great, and the company was fantastic, but it was loud/crowded, dirty, and there was poverty everywhere. That’s what made it bad. The evidence was everywhere – people sleeping on the streets and in the park, people asking for money or leftovers, people just sitting on the ground, staring at nothing. People riding a bike walking around with what looked like everything they own on their back. People who didn’t own anything but the clothes on their back. And Stacey.

Stacey was a bright spot, though not at first. I felt for her immediately. The first time I saw her burned into my brain. We just got some drinks and were continuing our walk down the sidewalk when I saw her. She had a box lid in front of here with a few coins in it and a sign that said “anything helps.” She wasn’t begging. She wasn’t asking passersby if they could spare a dollar. She was sitting on the ground, back against the wall, arms wrapped around her knees, looking withdrawn and defeated. I felt an immediate connection and my heart reached out for her. I wanted to give her everything – my shirt, my jacket, my drink, and all the money I had in my pocket. I wanted to giver a home and a life. I wanted to know her story. I wanted her to be okay. I wanted to give her hope.

We kept walking, and I kept thinking about her. And thinking about her. And thinking about her. Several times I tried to tell the group that I was going to go run off on my own for a bit, so I could go and see her. But, I’m introverted, I’m shy, and I just couldn’t. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I told my SO I was going to walk ahead. He was very confused (since I have social anxiety and there’s crowds of people everywhere), but let me go. I went to the Cafe and got two orders of bennetts, a small coffee, and two water bottles. Then I marched over to where Stacey had been. Had been. I walked around a little more, determined to find her. I almost asked another person playing music if he had seen her, but I couldn’t bring myself to. There was a cop standing where she had been sitting and after three tries, I finally mustered up the courage to ask him if he’d seen her. He pointed her out to me, walking away with a guy with a pit bull.

I walked as fast as I could to catch up to her. Mind you, all the homeless people tore into my soul, but Stacey tore at my heart. My soul still hurts from all the poverty I saw. I wonder if all cities are like that. It hurts to think about. I guess that’s why people don’t. And you never know just how to help. Some people stay homeless and just take handouts without trying to do better. Not all, but some. That makes it hard to just give money or food or clothes to someone. I guess the reason Stacey caught me is because if I was in her situation, where I had to ask people for money because I didn’t have another means of getting any, I would have sat and looked just like she did. Even though I know I’ll never be in that situation, I somehow saw myself in her.

I caught up to her. She was carrying a bag with little food. I told her I saw her earlier and I bought some doughnuts and asked if we could hang out and talk. She said yes, so we found a place to sit out of the way and I gave her some bennetts and the coffee and a water bottle. She was introverted too. I guess I expected her to tell me all her troubles, because that’s what others in bad situations have done, but she didn’t. She didn’t talk much at all. So, I had to prompt her a little bit. She did talk some and she asked a few questions about me like who I was with and how long I was staying. I found out that the pit bull was hers and only 7 months. The guy walking the dog was a friend of hers who lets the dog stay with him since the shelter doesn’t allow it. I found out that people feed the dog better than they feed her. I found out that she sleeps at a shelter every night that she is able to scrape together enough money to do so. She likes to stay at the shelter that costs money because there’s less crime there. She owns nothing more than the clothes on her back and that little bit of food she was able to buy. She gets jumped occasionally. The last time she got jumped, they took her social security card and her I.D. card, so she’s starting from scratch. She has asthma which makes it difficult to work (though she tries and she’s determined to get another job), and she can’t afford an inhaler. She also has bad allergies, like me. I can’t help but to think that if she had all the opportunities that I did, she would have done something great with her life, like I’m trying to do. I also found out that she doesn’t drink alcohol and she really likes Monster energy drinks.

She has a positive attitude, regardless. One thing I liked is she never told me how much it costs to get into the shelter (until I asked – $10) and she never told me that she didn’t get enough to get in that night (though I knew she didn’t). She has hopes and dreams. She calls this time “a bump in the road” and she’s determined to get back on track. She’s second in line to get placed into a home. I told her I was routing for her and hoped that life got better. I gave her $20 so she could get more food and get into the shelter. I told her I would try to see her tomorrow when we would be out shopping around, and I gave my two uneaten bennetts to her friend as I left.

I didn’t see her the next day, and I feel awful about it. When I finally got back to the group, my boyfriend had been worried, and while his aunt and sister said it was nice that I took her some bennetts, my SO didn’t get it. He didn’t say it, but the look on his face said (I thought) “why the fuck would do that for some homeless nobody?” I really hope I misread that, but sadly, I don’t think that’s the case.

The day we went to the french market. I found a necklace there that I bought to give to Stacey, hoping we would walk that way and I would see her – we didn’t. It was a simple, silver rose on a silver chain. A rose for Stacey. A rose she never got. A rose that I have in my bed-side drawer. I feel so guilty. I never even tried to get the group to go that way. It wouldn’t have been too much out our way, and I don’t think the two ladies would have minded. It was the look that my SO had on his face when I showed him what I bought for Stacey that caused me to hide my tongue. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. I just wish he would have tried to understand. If it’s something I care about, then he should care about it too, right? Or at least ask me about it and try to understand why I wanted to be nice to her and give her the necklace. I like her. I connect with her. I care about her. And he won’t even try. And I’m too afraid to speak up. I feel like I bite my tongue around him a lot lately, but that’s a different story. And this is not the end of this blog.

I said it would be long. But there’s more I need to get off my chest. Even if you don’t want to read anymore, at least read the favor I’m about to ask.

If you ever go to NO, please, please check on her. She sits in front of the Walgreen’s on Decatur St., by Wilkinson St. She’s black, looks to be in later 20’s or maybe early 30’s and she was wearing black pants and a black hoodie. Please, just give her something – anything: a Monster drink, a cup of coffee, some fruit, some bennetts, a dollar, a hug, a smile. Just give her something, look her in the eyes, and tell her that Brandy is thinking about her and rooting for her. Tell her you’re rooting for her too. Give her hope. Keep her spirit alive. Also, ask her what shelter she goes to and let me know. I want to send a donation there.

Now onto a few more events that I just need to get out.

One, a comment the boyfriend made when I told him about meeting up with Stacey and that I ended up also giving her enough money to get into the Shelter (with a little extra): “hopefully we don’t see her in a bar later.” Why? Her life seems horrible. She has no money, job, home, or even identification. She gets jumped regularly, so it’s not like she would work on saving up money for anything, because it would just get stolen. If I was in her situation, and I had a little extra cash, I would buy a drink or two. If they’d let me without and I.D. People look down on the homeless when they drink (and I used to also), but who cares? It’s not like society is really willing to give them a chance with anything. Not a lot of people are willing to hire someone homeless and jobless. Not a lot of people are willing to share their home with someone who doesn’t have one and help them find the means to support themselves. It’s not like they have a lot of options. If they want to buy a bottle and get so drunk that they can’t think straight so they don’t have to mull over their situation, let them. It’s hard to come out of rock bottom, especially when society isn’t looking to help.

Another, someone asked for our leftovers after leaving a nice restaurant. Now, Brandy, why would that bother you when you were willing to give the shirt off your back to someone else? Good question, Reader. Because I don’t know them and I don’t like being pressured. No, I didn’t know Stacey either, but she also didn’t pressure me. These guys seem perfectly well off. There was a group of them. They all had back packs and some had instruments. Instead of buying their own food (though, I don’t know for sure that they had the money to), they hung around an expensive restaurant, knowing the portions were big and that people would leave with leftovers, then ask for that food. So, they got a nice, expensive meal for free. That just rubbed me the wrong way, I guess. However, I was thinking about it, and they probably would have been thrown away, anyway. it takes oil, water, work, and money to make food, and it costs money, and a large percent of all food made never reaches a human mouth – just goes straight into the garbage. So, I guess if those guys kept that food from going in the trash, and got a nice meal, then, that’s okay.

Another is a guy standing out by the french market asking for money. Again, why would he bother me and not Stacey? Well, first off, he had his hands in his pants, which is just creepy. I guess that was really the main thing that bothered me. He was asking people if they could spare a dollar so he could get some food. But still, why would you approach me with your hands down your pants asking for money? Ask me for a banana and keep your hand visible.

One small instant was I witnessed some guy steel something like it was nothing. He just walked up, grabbed a soda w/out paying, and walked off. He was also holding one of those containers of sugar that you see at Waffle House that I’m pretty sure he stole too. He didn’t even look like he was bad off, he just looked like a bad person. White skin, black hair, and dressed hard core gothic.

Last one – a vendor. At the French market, there were many, many vendors and a few of them were selling marble sculptors/figures, cups, shot glasses, and little boxes. One of these tables also had marble chess sets. I’ve been wanting a marble chess set. One of them had jade and white pieces. It was beautiful. I bought it. I hate that I bought it. Here’s why – the main reason I bought it, was the vendor pressured me too much. Have I mentioned I’m an introvert? I can’t handle pressure from others very well. Don’t get me wrong, at first I really, really wanted it. But, the more I thought about it, and my boyfriend said a few things, the more I realized it was a dumb purchase and tried to get out of it. It was heavy, I already have a chess set that’s part of a multi-game box, and I haven’t played chess with another human since I graduated college almost a year ago. And we’re looking at moving into a smaller space soon, so we need to be downsizing, not buying stupid crap. That, and it wasn’t in my budget. But the guy kept pressuring me and lowering the price and I tried to get away a few times but there was just so much pressure and I just bought the damn thing and cried about it on and off the rest of the day (it doesn’t help that this weekend and today are pms days).

So, that was my [awful] trip to New Orleans. I wish I knew how to help the poverty. But I don’t. I don’t think feeding them and giving them money straight up is a help. Maybe donating to the shelters and the programs that help house them is a help. My Grandpa’s church offered their church as a living space for one of those programs. The first family who moved in was a man and woman and three kids (why the hell would you have three kids if you don’t have a house?). They were pretty terrible. The man kept saying he was trying to find a job, but he really wasn’t. One of the ladies even got him an interview at Walmart because she has a contact there, but he never went to it even though he said he did. They let their middle child draw all over the walls and furniture and just in general let their kids run wild. The shelter was supposed to send food and water supplies once a month, but didn’t, so the church fed them. The church finally kicked them out. However, they did keep doing the program, and the next person who was housed there was a loner and got a job and was soon able to move out. So, not everyone simply rides the system, but I think too many do ride the system, which makes it hard to help those who are really trying to get out of it. You want to help people, but only people who are willing to help themselves. Stacey sees her situation as a set back, so I didn’t mind helping her during her rough patch because I know she is trying to get out of it. I know she’s not riding the system. That first family that stayed at my grandpa’s church – they were just in it for the free ride. I feel bad for those kids. I feel bad for society. I feel bad for not giving Stacey her rose.

Please, please, please share any thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc that you have. Even if you only read the first half. How do you think we can help the homeless, or if we even can? Do you have a story where you tried to help someone in need or at least talked to them and heard their story? Do you have a story of someone abusing the system?

Personal

What to do with My Life??

I would think at 23, with a college degree and a job, I would have a good idea on what I want to do with the rest of my life. NOPE. All I know for sure is that I don’t like my current job and that I do not want to be a doctor or a veterinarian. Or a nurse.

My current job involves me sitting at a desk 90% of the time and on a computer 80% of the time. I have my Engineer Intern certification and I’m working under a Professional Engineer, which means I’m getting hours towards getting my Professional Engineering degree, but not with what I’m interested in. I work in a small Civil Engineering and Surveying firm, so we do all kinds of different projects and don’t specialize in anything. I am in charge of all the environmental permitting, which I don’t mind too much, and I’m the head of a few projects. I just finished putting together my first book of specifications for one of my projects, which was kind of interesting, but mostly boring.

Point is, I want to be outside more. And I want to be doing something interesting. I thought I wanted to pursue water and waste water treatment because I find it absolutely fascinating and I want to design them one day. My current plan is to find a job a water or waste water treatment plant to get a feel for how everything works, rather than just reading about it in a text book and working problems for imaginary situations (which I’ve done plenty of). Then maybe get a Master’s and a job at a firm that specializes in treatment plants or find a related job that doesn’t need a Master’s degree.

However, in addition to the voluntary GED tutoring, I recently started doing some paid private tutoring. I have enjoyed this more than I expected. I thought it would be a fun way to get some extra cash, but I never expected to enjoy it so much. I found that I love making lessons as well as working directly with my individual students.

I also recently discovered this thing called Earthships which is right up my ally of almost all my loves combined: renewable energy, recycling/reusing, home-grown food, reduced water use, AND helping people. Those five things sum up most of my passions. Maybe all of them. I love helping people, hence my volunteer work. I love renewable energy and if I had an interest in electricity, might have gone into that field. I try to reduce, reuse, & recycle as much as possible. I think home-grown food is great because it increases the plants in the area, reduces the amount of fuel used to transport food, and often tastes better. Being passionate about water and waste water treatment, I’m also passionate about reducing the amount of water used. Plus, since these things are built in many different places, it’s a great opportunity to travel, which I also love doing. Honestly, if I wasn’t with the person I think I want to spend the rest of my life with, I’d probably jump right into that. I think continuing with my engineering and water/waste water treatment experience and knowledge will help if and when I do pursue Earthships. The only real problem I see with that is trying to tutor and having a husband who has a steady job that doesn’t travel. Maybe it’s not the best idea, but it seems so perfect for me.

The point is, I’m quite lost with how to pursue and shape my future.

I’ve also looked into working for the USDA Forestry Service because that would include getting to work outside a lot and possible travel.

For now, I’m planning on moving to FL in June and looking for a job in my field or something similar. I put in an application for a waste water treatment plant, but I’m not extremely hopeful. I might even look into some tutoring or substitute teaching jobs. I feel like it would be easier if I knew what my ultimate goal was that I was aiming for. I guess for now, I’ll act as though I still plan on designing water and waste water treatment plants, but there are so many other fun opportunities out there like Earthship or teaching GED classes full time.

I’d love to hear [read] any advice, thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc, that you’d like to share. How/when did you decide on your career path? Have you struggled with deciding what you want to do in life? Do you have any advice on the matter?