Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Life Changing

When I found out that we would need to do service hours I was nervous.  I wasn’t sure when I would find the time.  I also tend to get antsy when I’m put in new situations.  It wasn’t really worrying about working with disabled people as much as working with strangers in an unknown environment.  I don’t know why I worry.  Whenever I extend outside my comfort circle I end up being very happy that I did it.  The same happened with this opportunity.

I looked through the list of community opportunities.  When I found the Children’s Center I knew that was the one.  I love children, but I haven’t had an opportunity to work or play with them in quite some time.  In fact, when I was young I wanted to be a pediatrician.  Children are generally drawn to me.  They feel safe.

So I went to the Children’s Center for my orientation.  They were very genuine and helpful.  They explained what we would be doing.  It did a lot to relieve my tension.

In a few days I started my actual service.  I volunteered in the morning in a pre-school aged class.  There was about eight students and two teachers.  As soon as you start playing with the children, you are forming bonds.  Though the students may have various levels of disability, (mostly autism) it isn’t readily apparent.  As you get to know them you can see their differences.  Some of the children are very gregarious and outgoing.  Others are quiet and never say a word.  You don’t see it right away, but you can see that some of them have difficulties with human touch.  They may have a larger personal bubble or don’t want to be touched at all.  You have to earn their trust.  In the orientation the spoke about some of the children coming from difficult homes.  None of my children seemed abused, but that might not be completely obvious.

The day will start with us going down the stairs to greet the children at the busses.  Many of the children will run from the bus to hug their teachers.  They were cautious around me.  Then we help the children go up the three flights of stairs to their classrooms.  In the foyer we stop and put away our coats.  The teachers put out a blanket and we sing the welcome song.  Then we get out the lotion and show each other any owies we might have.  Once done we go into the class and have cereal and milk.  The teacher will pull out two books and have the children vote for which one they would like to hear.  Next is play time.  There are different toys each day.  The children are encouraged to share.  I have a preconception, perhaps unfounded, that autistic children have a hard time sharing.  Well, any pre-school aged child would.  But these children really seemed to understand.  Yes, sometimes one would grab something that isn’t his, but he’s quickly but kindly corrected.  After play time we clean up and it’s time for a lesson.  On the first day we learned about our bodies and how they grow.  There are small babies, children, and big people.  The children were very interested.  Afterward, we have lunch.  It was fun watching the children and the inevitable messes that happen.  They get such a concerned look when they spill.  I was only there three hours, but it went by so quickly.

So yesterday, Andy and I were playing together.  He’s a bigger kid and sometimes uses his size to get what he wants.  We were building something and it accidentally fell.  He said an expletive and looked at me with big eyes.  He knew he has said something he shouldn’t.  The look also said, “What are you going to do?”  I replied, “Andy, we don’t use that word.”  He then looked at me questioningly and asked, “Oh my goodness?”  He wanted to know if that was the correct response.  “Yes, Oh my goodness, Andy.”  He smiled and continued playing.

I love this program.  Yes, it is geared to the mental health of children that may be disabled.  But really it’s something that any pre-school aged child would benefit from.  Education from caring adults with a very good child-adult ratio makes for a wonderful experience.  The children feel included and loved.  At this age they probably don’t face much discrimination yet.  None of the children were visibly disabled.  But the skills and lesson they learned here will enable them to better adapt to childhood and adulthood.

We’ve talked about normalizing disability and not sequestering them away.  I agree one-hundred percent, but somehow this seems different.  In a way its preventative.  They don’t live in the center, they’re only there three hours a day.  But I imagine it gives the parents an opportunity to relax from the stress of having a disabled child.  It would feel good too to know that your child is with people you can trust.  In a way, this is like a blind person going through training to be able to walk outside on his own.  These children are learning how to interact with both adults and other children.  A lesson often given was using our words to tell others what we’d like or what we don’t like.  But as I said, this is something all children need to learn.

I think this program must increase the quality of life of these children dramatically.  A safe space with loving adults and interesting children provide a great opportunity for learning.

I’ve decided to continue volunteering here.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I’m doing something fulfilling and worthwhile.  My job doesn’t fulfill me in the slightest.  But at the Children’s Center I know I’m making a difference in a child’s life.  Seeing that trust being built is absolutely priceless.  I’m glad that I did the service.  I only wish I hadn’t have procrastinated.  I’d have even more time with those little guys and girls.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Presidential Opinion

Today President Obama announced that his views have evolved and he now supports gay marriage.  Hoorah!  It really is a momentous day!  It is one more step towards marriage equality.  But you know we all expected it anyway.  Way back when he first said his views were evolving, we knew that was code for, "I'm waiting for the right time to share those views."  That day is today!

So I was reading the Yahoo article on the announcement.  In the comments (which are always hilarious/interesting) there were a lot of detractors.  Here was my response:

I love hearing how so many of you say, "Oh this will never happen..  Oh these numbers are cooked," etc.  But cast your thoughts forward.  How do you see this ending?  In ten years will it be illegal to be gay?  Will we have found a cure for homosexuality?  Will we have passed a Constitutional ban on gay marriage and that will be the end of story? 


Do you think that gay people will settle for some form of middle ground and leave it there? 


So where does that leave us?  Full marriage equality.  Gays and lesbians fully accepted as complete strong members of society.  Just think it through logically.  Peel away your bias and ask what will happen. You may be afraid of the answer, but it is the same answer anyway.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Published Letter

So earlier this week I wrote a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune.  They published it!

Sex-Ed Ignorance

Sex-ed Ignorance
I agree with legislators that abstinence, contraception, sexuality and other life choices should be taught in the home.
However, how will parents teach these topics if they themselves weren't taught?
This is why comprehensive sex education is crucial.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Future Note

This post is more for me than anyone else.  I know that my blog is a sort of journal and I'll read this post in the future and remember.  Scott, when you write your book, "The Four Sins of Gaydom", remember "Oh the Places You'll Go," when it comes to writing about stagnation.

That is all.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Another Step Forward

One more step down today.  I met with a general counselor to help plan my classes.  I learned a lot too.  But I am such a procrastinator.  After all, classes start on the 9th.  But that step is done.

I have to say, I am nervous.  Not per se for the classes, or for college itself, but balancing school and a full-time job.  It has been my anger/disappointment/frustration with work that has spurred me to return to college to get my degree.  We have cashiers that have been there for over 15 years.  And no offense, but they're worn out husks of what they probably could have been.  I don't want to be that and I think I have so much untapped potential that retail will never touch.

The counselor recommended that I take two classes or about six credits.  That sounds good to me.  He said that English was a good choice.  Math, science and English were the only areas where "you won't just be unemployed after graduation."  He also talked about English teachers being able to teach other topics like drama, etc.  That sort of makes me cringe.  Not that those topics aren't very important to students, but that to have a career I'd have to generalize more.  Ugh.  But, I want a career, not just an empty degree. 

He also recommended that I get to know the EDU professors very well.  I'll need a letter of recommendation to get into a teaching program.  That will be a change for me and one that I knew I'd need to make.  Back in high school, teachers really loved me.  I had one that cried when I graduated.  I got along well with all of them and really well with a few.  Skip forward to BYU.  I don't think any professors knew my name or anything about me.  And it wasn't just because of large classes or something.  I went to class, took notes, and left.  I never liked those students you'd see crowding the professor after class asking questions and getting attention.  But... it's probably those students who finished their degrees and have promising careers and homes now. 

So what advice do any of you have so that I can step out of my comfort zone and know professors well enough that when the time comes, they can write me an excellent letter of recommendation?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to all! Thanksgiving isn't the only time to be thankful. I'm thankful for my family, my Layton friends, my Salt Lake friends, my Provo friends, prietenii mei de misunea, and my co-workers. Each of you have contributed to who I am.

A special thank you to Aaron who is my one and only. You make Christmas special!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No Candy!

For the month of November, Aaron and I have been on a no candy diet.  The idea had been rattling around in my head for a month or so.  It took shape on Halloween.  We had purchased a giant bag of really good candy to give out.  We only got one child.  I gave him a huge handful of the goodies, but that left us with pounds of candy. 

I don't know about you, but even really good food can seem gross if there's a lot of in one place.  My best example:  I like mayo on my sandwiches, but when I see a large vat of it... Gross!  I got that feeling when I looked at the bag of candy. 

So for the whole month, I haven't had a Reece's Pieces, a fruit snack, or a candy bar. 

There have been hard parts.  Walking down the candy aisle at work was a major temptation.  I think my nose had become sensitive to the smell.  I could smell the chocolate and I craved it.

Another time, Aaron accidentally put fruit snacks in my lunch.  When I pulled them out, I groaned.  I wanted them so bad. 

So yesterday, I got the idea to make brownies.  That really hit the spot. 

The day after tomorrow I can eat the peanut butter M&Ms I have sitting behind me.  I can't wait!