Monday, January 23, 2006

Today was a good day

Let me start with, yes I really enjoy my job, but at times it can be quite stressful (placing 60 refugee/immigrant children in one building tends to do this). I like going to work in the morning, but after I return from my lunch break and my role switches from facility manager to after-school program staff, I am not always as enthusiastic. If I'm tired or not feeling my best, I am not always up for the challenge, which makes the afternoon difficult. For example, I didn't feel so good at the end of last week and I returned home from work Thursday and Friday in a bad mood. Chaos erupted in the computer lab again on Thursday and Friday was just unorganized, which led to kids fighting, among other things. I was wiped out and felt like I had to force myself to be in a good mood again. I really needed this weekend to get a break and relax. I am feeling better today and started the week off optimistically, and today was a good day! Not that it was any less stressful. Today my position was at the desk in the library, where all the kids have to go first before they can get a pass to go elsewhere. On these days, I have to prepare myself to help someone with their homework while responding to ten questions at once. For example, "Miss Maria, I need a pass/this calculator doesn't work/ when will the gym open/I swear I did my homework/can you sign my reading sheet/I need a ruler/Alex hit me/I need help/where's Ms. Amy/you aren't listening to me!" all at once, all coming from different kids, while I am trying to help someone with their math. But as I said, today was a good day and I was up to the challenge. I can really have fun with these kids. Two sixth grade girls who usually give me major attitude were rather nice today. They actually did their homework, while taking breaks to style my hair and talk to me in a friendly way! How amazing (maybe it's because I gave them both $2.50 to help sponsor a school trip to Chicago - I guess they're cheap to win over!) And the two teenage boys who always give me hell were no different today, but I had fun with it. They complimented me on several features, from the color of my skin to my small mouth, and kept coming up with different scenarios to see if I would marry them in that situation. Salim admitted he likes to get under my skin, and at one point said "Miss Maria, you look like you want to slap me." And I simply told him, "I do." And he laughed. These boys are something else, and I keep trying to come up with new solutions for their behavior. This is my latest: I told them today that I do have a boyfriend (which I should have told them from the start!). They don't believe me and said they wanted to see a picture, so I am going to bring in one tomorrow of Adam and I from a few months ago. Maybe I should start wearing that fake diamond ring again and say I am engaged. I'll let you know how it goes. So anyways, although there will always be those crazy days, the good definitely outnumber the bad. I am discovering that a lot of it depends on my attitude. It's those days where I am tired or have a headache that make it difficult. I am learning every day how to balance being a friend, a mentor, and a disciplinarian. And I think the kids are learning that Ms. Maria doesn't take any crap, but I can also be fun and am always willing to help or listen (if I'm not busy with ten other things that is).

Nothing much to report from my weekend. It was good, but yet again not particularly exciting. I saw two plays back to back at Actors Theatre on Saturday. (I would not recommend this if you have a short attention span). The first one was "Intimate Apparel". It was pretty good, but definitely did not have a happy ending (a woman who doesn't find love until her thirties ends up alone after her husband cheats and then leaves, doesn't that give me hope!) And after we had just enough time to walk to the nearest fast food place and scarf down some food, we saw the play "I Am My Own Wife." Now that was an excellent, very well-written play, but yet again, not too uplifting! (it took place in Nazi Germany). It was a one-man show. The actor was very talented, playing around 40 different characters. The play has won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for Best Play. I think this brings up the grand total to 9 plays I have seen at an outstanding theatre for absolutely free! (not counting the plays put on by the apprentices, which are free to the public). Thanks Ben!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Time For An Update

After a wonderful and relaxing three day weekend, I was back to work today and I got to go home early because the after-school program was closed! (the kids did not have school today). I love working with these kids, but every once and awhile I need a well-deserved break. I had my first staff evaluation today and it went really well. I heard a lot of positive feedback which is always nice. And since I have two job titles with two supervisors I still have another evaluation awaiting me. Today's was with the youth programs coordinator. Next I get to hear from the big man, Mr. Edgardo.

Anyways, back to my three day weekend. Friday was interesting. We had a group of 11 people (ten students, one teacher) from Berea College in KY stay with us. We learned of this event only a couple days before via an e-mail from our director which went something like this "oh by the way you will have a group of students staying with you Friday night." It was a January term class. They are studying different communities, and for some reason decided to study us. We were asked a lot of questions about living in community that I have never even thought about. They came for part of our seminar Friday morning and stayed until the next morning. They brought their own food and paper plates (thank God!) and cooked us dinner Friday evening. They all slept on the floor in sleeping bags. All my housemates and I went out Friday night, leaving them in our apartment which I thought was amusing. We invited them to come with us, but they had a meeting. We went to Actors Theatre for the second time that week to see a set of ten minute plays put on by the apprentices (including my housemate Ben). The plays were enjoyable, and afterwards there was a reception with lots of free food and alcohol. Can't go wrong there. I especially enjoyed the meatballs and the wine.

You may be wondering about the picture I posted. On Saturday afternoon we went to Cave Hill Cemetery here in Louisville, a "tourist attraction" we had yet to visit. I still find it odd to walk around in cemeteries, but I did enjoy it. It was really beautiful and I would like to go back in the spring. There are a few famous people buried there, and one of them is good old Col. Sanders, the founder of the "Kentucky Fried Chicken Empire" as it says on his grave. The picture is of me and some of my housemates by his grave. Notice the bust of the Colonel. Saturday night I went out dancing with a couple of my co-workers which was a lot of fun. The bars & clubs here are open until 4 a.m. and I took advantage of that for the first time.

The rest of the weekend I did not do much and I enjoyed it. I watched the movie "Crash" Sunday night. I would recommend it if you haven't seen it. Monday afternoon I had an interview at a place called Transformations. They hire contract workers to work with families that have children with disabilites. I enjoyed my job with Will, and am hoping to get a job like that here just a few hours a week for some extra money. I interviewed with the two founders of this company and I really liked them. However if I go through this place it might end up being a pretty lengthy process. It also seemed like most of the people working for them are making a career out of this. Another concern of mine is it sounded like I might be expected to go into a family and plan the programming, which I am definitely not qualified for! I did therapy with Will, but someone else was teaching me what to do before I did it. Depending on the family, I might not get that here. During this hour conversation, I realized that working in the field of autism might be a good field to go into and you can make a good living, according to my interviewer. However I still have a lot to learn! I might look into how I could incorporate this into a social work program (since I just applied to grad school!) So I have to think awhile about this before I decide what to do. They suggested that I might want to look into families that can afford private pay, which would probably work better with my situation. I stumbled upon the job with Will and I am realizing it is not usually that easy! If I go through Transformations, it might take too much of my time that I do not really have. So we'll see what happens. I have a few other contacts that I should talk to before I make a decision.

Okay I'll stop now. Time for dinner and then I think I'm going to see Harry Potter again tonight!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Not Much To Say

I had a good weekend, but it was pretty uneventful. Friday night was fun. We invited a couple people over and had our first "game night -huh!" (don't ask). It consisted of cheap wine and some rowdy games of Apples to Apples and Dutch Blitz, and a not so rowdy game of Scrabble. My throat hurt the next morning because of all the yelling I did defending my card during Apples to Apples (if you have never played this game you should). Saturday was Andrea and I's first outing with our "littles", who can be seen in the picture. We took them to Art Sparks at the Speed Art Museum. It was a really neat place and they enjoyed it a lot. I had a good time. I am glad we decided to do this program. As we were leaving my "little sister" Krissy said, "well that was absolutely fun." It was cute (she's the one in the back by the way). And Denise if you are reading this, I am not replacing you :) Sunday we went to chuch and then I had a day full of rest and relaxation which was wonderful. Today the after-school program started back up at work and it went smoothly and was actually pretty low-key.

Updates: I received a $20 gift card in the mail today from that hair salon because of my last visit :) After I styled my hair myself and realized I like it, I felt pretty stupid about that whole incident. But I got 20 bucks out of it, so oh well! It was their fault (well really Becky's) that I didn't get the stylist I wanted, so I guess I deserve it huh?
Also, I have heard mostly positive reactions from our article in the paper, which was a surprise to me. But I guess from an outside perspective it doesn't sound so bad. I still think it is poorly written and do not like what she says about me. I just reread it to make sure I don't like it, and yup, still don't. Edgardo found out about the article and passed it around at the staff meeting today. Boy was I glad about that (sarcasm). So the first five minutes of the meeting was everyone joking with me about how my job makes me want to cry. I could tell Edgardo was not particularly pleased with the article, but he wasn't angry either, so that is good.

I took Abby Mo's suggestion and started reading "A Beginner's Guide to Changing the World" by Isabel Losada. What a great book! It is informative, funny, and inspirational. I think everyone should read it. I am almost done. I should finish it tonight because it needs to go back to the library (it is overdue and non-renewable). Other great books I have read lately: "Cry the Beloved Country" by Alan Paton, "Gracias" by Henri Nouwen, "Choosing Against War" by John Roth and of course Mr. Merton's "Seven Storey Mountain". I would recommend all of these, if you have some spare time to read! Well I guess I did have some stuff to say. Until next time....

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy 2006!

I am back in Kentucky now. On the drive back it felt like I had been gone a long time, but right as I was turning into our parking lot it felt like I had never left, if that makes any sense. The last couple of days at home were good. I saw another good movie, "The Producers." Oh how I love musicals. I celebrated Christmas at my grandma's house in Bluffton on New Year's Eve day. It is a strange feeling to be in Bluffton not as a college student. New Year's Eve was fun, spent at a party with my good friends Kim and Jenni. There were many people at this party who were also at the one I attended three years ago ...let's just say I will never live that one down. This year was quite different. Looking back, 2005 was a great year filled with sad endings and new beginnings. My last semester of college, a fabulous trip to Europe, graduation festivities, a vacation to the Smokey Mountains with the fam, lots of free Starbucks, my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary, and of course my move to Louisville which has so far turned out to be a great decision for me. I look forward to what 2006 has to bring. Which brings me to....

I finished my grad school applications tonight! All two of them. I basically did everything in two evenings. I had been looking into the MSW program (master of social work) at the University of Louisville, but I had not actually started any of the application materials. And after talking to my parents over break I decided to apply to the same program at The Ohio State University (go Bucks!) So yesterday at work I looked at their website for the first time and less than 48 hours later I have everything done. I think that is pretty impressive. Everything will be in the mail tomorrow. In case you are wondering, the GRE was not required for either of these programs unless your GPA is less than a 3.0. Hooray for social work. I knew I wanted to go back to school after this year, and I am glad that I have found something that seems to be a good fit. Right now I think I will most likely stay here in Louisville, but it is nice to have another option (and of course my parents like the idea of me being home). I am a little scared of the thought of making no money this year, then going straight to school where I pay thousands of dollars and make no money. will all work out in the end I'm sure.

I think I mentioned awhile ago that my housemates and I decided to do the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. Well after a two month waiting period after our interviews (it's a lengthy process apparently) I had my "match meeting" today and met my little sister! Andrea and my "littles" are sisters, so we met them together, along with their parents. Andrea's little sister is 9, and mine is 7 (her name is Kristian for future reference). Their family has been through quite a lot. They are Hurricane Katrina victims, the mom is a disabled veteran (she was in Iraq), and the parents are divorced. The girls are sweet and I am sure we will have lots of fun with them. We plan on hanging out with them a couple times a month at least. Our first outing will be this Saturday. Andrea and I are taking them to a children's art exhibit at a local museum. They both love art, so it should be a good time.

Okay this is going to make this entry very long but I have to go off about this! I mentioned in a previous entry that a local paper was going to run a story about our program. It kept getting delayed and I was looking forward to it. I thought it would be an article I would want to show to my family and friends. Well it finally came out today and let's just say it is an article I hope no one reads! The reporter who wrote the story was an intern our age and she hung out with us a few times. Basically, she took a lot of things out of context and exaggerated many things. She was a cool girl and it was easy to forget she was a reporter and not a friend hanging out with us. I am actually pretty upset about this article. Since she went to work with me a couple of times, I am discussed most often. There are a lot of quotes from me that I do not remember saying. And it really does not make me or the place I work sound good at all. I hope none of my coworkers read it, but I am sure someone will. According to the article my job makes me want to cry and I have no control over the children. It happens that the one day I did cry at work because of losing control of the kids in the computer lab, the reporter came over to "hang out." This was after we had met her a few times and the "interviews" were over. She came right when I got home from work and was still a little upset, and I told the story to her and my housemates. And then she details it in this article and makes it sound like that is what happens every day!! She referred to me as "a timid 22-year-old who's only learning how to manage discipline and make people listen." Apparently I am better at dancing with the kids to rap music and "shaking that laffy taffy." And would any of you reading this call me timid?? She also wrote that I do not always love what I am doing, but actually I do! What I actually said is my job can be difficult at times, but I really enjoy it. I also love how little off-hand comments we made went into the article. According to this, we spend most of our time watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and we are lacking in culinary talents (which is far from the truth). Oh man, I am really worried about my coworkers reading this and their reactions. I guess I will find out tomorrow. And I didn't even mention the hideous picture of me reading "Curious George" to Juma! AAAAAHHHHH! This article really makes me mad! I wish you could all read it so you would understand, but yet again, I do not want anyone to read it! Including my parents since she had to include the comment I made to her in casual conversation about how my dad is not happy about my decision to enter the social work field since I will not make any money. Moral of this story: Do not make friends with people writing stories about you!