Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A sort of not so uplifting holiday post--but please read anyway!

I have been thinking about this post for a while, and thought while I am stuck inside due to a gigantic pileup if snow outside here in Wisconsin I would write. As most of you know, I am a social worker right now in the inner city working with very low income families who have children with autism, or children who are waiting for a diagnosis of autism. Many of these families would consider their child’s autism to be the least of their worries . . .

In this job I have come face to face with poverty and disparity like I had only read about in textbooks. Families who are living within a system that doesn’t even give them a chance to get ahead that so many of them stop trying. Most of the families I work with are single moms who cannot afford to go to work, because their minimum wage jobs would not meet their needs—paying for child care, feeding kids, living in a home. What incentive do these moms have to go out and work when the system doesn’t help support them?

As a social worker with these families, I am working in their homes and I see firsthand the conditions in which they live. The bugs they have come to ignore, the bone chilling cold they fight through, the violence outside their doors—in some cases the violence inside their homes.

Yes, I know, this is my job, and not everyone can do it. Thing is, sometimes I question MY ability to do it. I question myself most during the holidays. This all started when I worked with a family to get their stuff ready for Toys for Tots. The mom called me a few weeks ago and asked if I could get some toys for her 6 year old son. I barely got her on the list, and called her last week to say I would be there to deliver the toys. She began to cry and said she didn’t know if I was going to get stuff for her, and she was prepared to tell her kids that Santa just couldn’t come this year. This made me so very sad. Glad that I could get her stuff, but for every child who gets some stuff, there is any number of kids who Santa won’t come to.

I get to drive away from the city after my day is over and leave that behind. Though it doesn’t really leave my mind. I often think about these families and how resilient they are. Could I live in a home that had holes in it to the ground below outside? Could I ignore the bugs crawling on the walls? Could I live with 5 other people in one room? Could I walk my kids to school each day past the drug dealers and prostitutes? It makes me sad that people even have to do this.

I wonder at times what these families could/would do if only given a fair chance at making it . . .if they had schools that actually taught their children instead of maintaining them during the day. If the streets were safe for kids to play in and the children could play with one another instead of watch TV, which by the way is powered by a cord going out their window and into the next door neighbors house since they don’t have electricity. What if they had good food to eat and it was just as cost efficient for them to eat healthy food as it was to get friend chicken. I can’t tell you how many times I have been offered fried chicken . . .

I read a book once called “The Myth of the Welfare Queen” and a majority of it was based in my city. It was fascinating to read about the lengths that some families go to get their needs met, and how defeated even the best of intentions can make them feel. I feel often like I am striking a fine balance between wanting to be helpful and not being demeaning and patronizing.

I am not sure where all this is going. I just know that this year, more than most I was having strong feelings about my job, the families I work with, and the conditions in which they live. Maybe I am feeling guilty about giving up this job in order to go work in the suburbs . . . though truth be told I wouldn’t be leaving if I knew I had continued funding in this job. As hard as it is, it has also been the most rewarding job I have ever had. I have learned so much from these families, and have even told them so. This means more to them than any gift I would/could give them I think. To know that they are able to give back, to mean something to someone. Isn’t that what any of us want? To be loved, to know you are thought of and cared for?

As I sit here looking at a tree full to the brim with presents, I send well wishes to my families and all those around who are not as fortunate as we are. I wish them love and peace in this season. I wish I could do more, give more, be more, have more, say more, mean more. I have given what I can, and at the end of the day I have to be ok with that-though it is hard to be so limited sometimes. I feel bad at times for what I do have—like last year as I was leaving work early to get home in a snow storm. A family called me to tell me their heater wasn’t working and the landlord was not responding. I cried that night in my warm home thinking of those kids and that family.

One last thing gift that these families have given me . . .they have made me look at the way I have judged others and how I have fed into stereotypes. For instance, I went to visit a family, and as I was driving up to the house I was scared. It was a street with rows of abandoned homes with doors beaten down, windows knocked out, and trash littering the street. I located the number of the house-which has been spray painted on and was fading. I took a deep breath, made sure I had my cell phone in hand, and went to the door. What I found on the other side was nothing less than beautiful. While there was little furnishings, it was warm-not temperature, but it was a home. It was probably the neatest home I had been in thus far, and the family was as caring as could be. Now when I drive by these homes I think of all the wonderful things happening behind those doors. I know there are other doors that have ugly evil things happening, but for now I choose to focus on the good.

Ok, this very long post . . . Send up a good thought or prayer for all these families and others, maybe- your own family members or friends who aren’t as fortunate this time of year, or any other time of the year. I wish love, grace, and peace to all of you this day.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

And we're off . .almost

Tomorrow morning we leave for Wisconsin. We hear it is very cold there, and should make it all the way up to 6 degrees tomorrow when we arrive. This used to be a problem when I was reluctant to wear my winter coat. Mostly because I hated to sit down in my jacket as it would all push up and I would have a big bulge to deal with.

Well friends, I discovered something that apparently EVERYONE else in the world has known for years except me. Did YOU know that the double zipper on jackets was for you to zip UP in order to sit down? I never knew this, and since this discovery a few days ago my life has been transformed. I am no longer resistant to wear my winter coat. The cold weather is much more manageable now!

What else . . .I have been working a lot. I gave my official notice last Friday . . .and I have been doing a few hours each week at the new job in order to overlap with the current social workers. It has been good, but makes for long weeks.

I have a post inside of my head about being a social worker during the holiday season. Perhaps on Tuesday I will get that one out. Don't hold your breathe!!

If I am not back before the holiday, I wish all 4 of you a very happy, healthy, wondiferous holiday and new year.

Oh, in other news I will be another year older in a few days as well, and I am hoping old-agehood is good to me! Happy Birthday to me!

Hope all is well, and WARM in your parts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Muddy Buddy

For you Lyn!

9 c. Chex cereals (corn, rice and/or wheat)
1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. butter
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Pour cereal into large bowl and set aside. Combine chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter in 1 quart microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until smooth (stir after 1 minute). Stir in vanilla. Pour chocolate mixture over cereal and stir until all pieces are evenly coated.

Pour cereal mixture into large container (with seal) with powdered sugar. Seal securely. Shake until all pieces are well coated. Spread on wax paper to cool. Store in an airtight container. Makes 9 cups.

from: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,176,159183-232197,00.html

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How Facebook has taken over my life

I am not sure who started me on it, but damn that fool who thought I could be responsible and not abuse the privilege of seeing into the lives of a million of my friends--some close, some so very far away you wonder if you really even know them or if they just happened upon your lunch table and asked to sit down.

It has been a very good waster of time, facilitator of relationships, vehicle by which to see hideous pictures of your friends, and a faith builder in hopes that your friends don't post hideous pictures of YOU!

It has been wonderful to catch up with folks from high school, college, and other random places--even some bloggers here have found me. A little wild that so many of your worlds can collide in one place.

Well, I am off to see if anyone else wants to be my friend!

Friday, December 05, 2008


Since I haven't posted any photos lately . . .

Monday, December 01, 2008

Oh what a week . . .

What a busy week. Surgery, turkey, family, hooligan puppies . . .

Sheesh. I should have more to say, but right now I am tired and need to be ready to go to work tomorrow. I started again today, but worked at home.

I need to get used to going back to an office daily . .more about that later.

Hope you are all well and had a great holiday. I had the last of the leftovers today and they were yummy-licious!