Archive for the ‘Life's Passions’ Category

Finding Your Professional Moment

When I started this blog I wrote a long and lengthy entry tracing my journey into the non-profit world. As I get deeper and deeper into this current job of Case Manager for children in the care of the state, I think I finally I can finally pinpoint the moment where everything changed. I probably would have found my way to this position, even without this moment, but it just makes even more meaningful with the moment.  I think for young people, Generation Y (and even Generation X at some times) discovering and pinpointing that moment that drives you to your professional calling is key to finding your place in the professional world.

My moment involved two boys; two brothers who I came to love and adore during my time with Project Transformation. Their mother dropped them off on the last day, and in Spanish said, “They won’t be here tomorrow.” I explained to her that it was the last day and that it would be alright. We continued on to enjoy the last day. We gave all the kids big hugs, we gave them books, parents gave us going away presents, and some of the interns cried. I was one that cried. I probably cried too much (I have a history of crying too much).

As the kids started to trail off in the bright 4 o’clock Dallas sun, the boys’ mother came up to the door with their little cousins.  I had developed a pretty good relationship with the mother, as I and just a handful of the church staff could speak Spanish. She waited for the kids to run off to play and then started to cry. She said, through her tears (of course all in Spanish) that her husband had been taken away by immigration and that she was afraid for the boys. He made enough money through construction and other side jobs to support the family. She, however, did not work. She was so scared that the few interns that were around me started to get concerned. I’d reached the end of my Spanish proficiency so I called the office staff that I knew to discuss what we could do for her.  This was a turning point for me, politically as well. Before this I was worried about the democrats’ new star, Barack Obama and his ideas. Today, even though we’ve hit some rough patches, thanks to this mother and her boys, I believe in many of his ideas and his goals. Every time I think that his ideas are a bit off I think of these boys. And that’s how I got through ACORN (even if I didn’t agree with some ideas) – thinking of those boys and their mother.

Now, for these amazing little boys. I cannot remember their exact ages. I think they were 9 and 11. Aside from the occasional bad behavior I saw little emotion from these two. They were very close to their mother. They would hug her when they saw her in the afternoon. It was cute. And apparently, they were also very close to their father. She had told them he went to Mexico for vacation, but these boys were smart cookies. They knew why he was gone. After the office staff went to speak to their mother I went to see the boys. I had already cried about leaving these particular siblings. And then, the oldest boy started to cry. I hugged him like there was no tomorrow. I knew there was nothing that I could do for him, except be there for him.  I hugged the younger brother too, but the older brother, being the oldest and getting emotional was so hard. He was a tough guy. And he cried. And I cried. I don’t know if anyone else cried, but I do remember crying as well.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if the boys moved, if their father was able to come home or if their mother was able to survive on her own. It still makes me a little sad to think about this. It clicked with me sometime this week that this was the moment, when those boys showed some sort of emotion about the loss of their father, that makes me want to fix the world and do everything I can. I was leaning towards this vocation before I this event, but after this event, it was a foregone conclusion that whether it be helping people who cannot speak for themselves, like the boys’ mother, or the boys themselves, that’s what I’m going to do. I encourage all of you, no matter your age, to find that one particular moment in your life that drives you to do your job, whether that job is social work or public relations…find that one moment and live in that moment. The thing is, when you lose that moment is the second you lose your drive and purpose.

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A Voice for the Voiceless: Go Blue for Child Abuse Prevention Month on April 7!

National “Go Blue” Day is tomorrow, April 7, 2010. On the eve of this day which was created to honor those who have been lost due to child abuse and to encourage the prevention of child abuse, I was shocked to hear about one woman, Melissa Franco’s ability to leave her 4 children home alone at the care of a “neighbor.” One of these little ones was found wandering the dangerous streets Ms. Franco lives on.

What shocks me the most, though, is where these children live and that my previous job and my current job collided this evening when I heard about this. Ms. Franco lives in the oldest and one of the most dangerous public housing complexes in the city of San Antonio. Most native San Antonio residents know to avoid this area, Cassiano Homes, unless you have to be there or you happen to be buying drugs or police officer. I, as an ACORN employee, knocked on these doors encouraging these public housing residents to sign up for vocational training, daycare, register to vote and to prepare their taxes. When I heard Ms. Franco’s street name, my jaw dropped, not out of amazement or shock that it could or would happen here….but that I might have knocked on her door and that her children may have been alone, suffering from parental neglect and I couldn’t do anything, because I didn’t know.

Today, it is my job to make sure that these children, who are suffering from parental neglect, whether it is simply being left home alone, or the more visible physical abuse, are taken care of on a daily basis. I am here to help them feel wanted. I am here to make them feel loved and to know that there is someone there for them and that being left alone or abuse is not the way life should be.

So, tomorrow, April 7, 2010, “Go Blue” in honor of Melissa Franco’s children and all those other children who may have been behind that closed door I knocked on who have no voice. “Go Blue” because child abuse is preventable and that we can give a voice to the voiceless.

Info on Melissa Franco

Report suspected abuse or neglect to the Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or online at http://www.txabusehotline.org Last year 280 children in Texas died due to abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents or other caregivers, and a total of 68,326 children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect. On any given day, approximately 16,000 Texas children are in foster care because they have been victims.

The Dream Job Versus The Job

One of my best friends in the whole wide world is going off to graduate school in a few weeks. Well, not so much “going off to” since the university is about 5 minutes from our mutual stomping grounds, but she will be starting school, and I will continue my job hunt. As we were talking about her classes (they sound fun and I kind of get that itch to go back….) she asked if I had applied for jobs in areas that do not appeal to me (i.e. – telemarketing, seasonal tax preparation, administrative assistant)

This got me thinking, when is it time to give up on your “dream job”, move on and look for just “the job”? I’m going on about 10 weeks of sustained unemployment. I’ve mentioned before that the average job hunt takes 6 months, that’s 26 weeks? I haven’t even hit the halfway point. How am I supposed to start really worrying about things when I haven’t even hit the official average halfway point in the job hunt? Of course there are the days where I wonder why that interviewer didn’t call back. I rocked that interview. Or wonder why I never did get a call back about that position for which I poured my soul out in my cover letter never did call me back

Here’s the thing. I went to my local workforce office today to take a typing test for two jobs. Surprise! I wasn’t the only person there. And if I had asked how long a handful of those people have been unemployed, I’m sure that at least a few of them have been unemployed longer than I have and haven’t given up looking for the “dream job.” So, no best friend who most likely will be in my same position two years from now (with a big juicy diploma and a fancy M.A. at the end of her name), I am not giving up looking for “the dream job” just to find “the job.” Well, at least not yet.

Foreclosure, calling, and others who share my passion

I have mentioned before that Project Transformation helped me find my call to service. My call service my not be outward, it may not be at the pulpit, it may not be at a church, and it may not be noticeable to many. In the long run, however, that calling in between me and God. However, for those of you that are looking for that call to service let me share with you a short story about Reverend John Lasseigne, the city of San Antonio, me, and how they all are intertwined.

This Saturday, August 9, 2009, I flipped through the newspaper and saw the headline “Saving souls and homes: LA priest labors to keep his flock out of foreclosure.” I would have read this article no matter what, the topic is near and dear to my heart, since 45 hours of my week are devoted to the cause. As I began reading the article a particular line struck me, “Works of justice are an integral part of the priesthood. We have to take stands in aiding the needy and denouncing the injustices of society. ”

Social justice for the needy is what ACORN stands for, and part of why I initially applied to work for them.  As I began my time with ACORN I began working on my campaigns and was pointed towards foreclosures. At the time the word was nothing but a small thirty second story on CNN or MSNBC to me. Texas was a bubble. We were immune. My boss, however, said, “if we can stop it now, it doesn’t have to become a problem.” And that’s the approach I took. And that’s how I look at it today. There are foreclosures and delinquencies all over the city. It may not be a thirty second story on CNN, but it’s there. And that’s what I’m dedicated to, because that’s what social justice and my calling is.

Back to the priest… so Rev. Lasseigne didn’t start out devoted to foreclosures. It wasn’t on his radar. It wasn’t something he thought of on a daily basis. But, what he did know, as I mentioned before, was that Social justice was important. He has a J.D. and only after struggling with the thought of attending seminary, decided to join the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. At this point he learned Spanish and worked within the surrounding community, which was predominately latino and low income.  After finishing up his time in San Antonio he moved his way over to a similar neighborhood in Los Angeles.  It was not until a parishioners asked the Reverend to pray for them because they were going to lose their home to foreclosure that foreclosure came up on his radar. This was not his first, nor would it be the last family who would ask for his prayers and support through this tough time. These tough times is what has allowed this man, who has been called to Social justice, and to the Word, to help more the 1,500 people in one sitting.

I have, on occasion, said that I will pray for families that have come in to the office, only after they have brought it up. And I do. And it’s not just that day, but I have a whole list of families that I think of on a daily basis. Some have been helped through the housing counseling that my organization provides, some have been lost in the shuffle, and others I have lost complete contact with. In a weird twist of prayer, one client who was on this list, came in to the office a few days ago because she needs help again. Her son, who was the main source of her grief, had brain surgery, and massive medical bills which she was paying. Things are better for her son now, but her bills are still around and she still needs help. She is still on my list. There is another family, who says they will pray for me every time I get off the phone with them. And I will do the same. And not just because they say they will bring me enchiladas all the way from New Braunfels.

So, this interwined mess of serice, Social justice, the Word, non-profits, and life is crazy. And its never ending.  And I love it.

For the full article about Rev. Lasseigne read the article here.

For information about Foreclosure Prevention click here.

To Splurge or Not To Splurge. That is the Question

A few years back the Federal Government iniated a loan repayment plan for students and former students who wanted to enter the non-profit or social service sector after graduation called the Income Based Repayment Plan (herein called IBR).

IBR sounded fabulous to begin with. It reduces student loan payments for students based on the percentage above or below the national poverty level. After a certain number of years of paying off your loans, and depending on the type of work you’re in, your loans get canceled and they get added to your taxes as earned income (Bummer! But it’s just for a year). This all took effect on July 1, 2009. I began counting down the days when I found out about this in late May.

¡Dios Mio!

¡Dios mio! ¡Demasiada deuda!

So, come July 1, I called up my lender, Sallie Mae and said, “Hey, what do I need to do?” I answered a few questions, filled out a few pieces of paper and found out that I didn’t have to make any payments (this wasn’t a deferment, this was just no payments y’all!) for a year. But, then after that…my payments would jump from the $278 that I was paying before to $376.

Ummm..where’s the fun in that? And you have to re-qualify every single year. Right? Well, I took that option, and decided to save that $100 every month (in my own private lock box of  a savings account). It gives me an extra $178 a month to spend on whatever I want.

However, here’s the real kicker everyone. I deferred these loans in November of 2008 because of my loss of employment. I saved close to $1,500 to pay off my loans. Wow! And what would you do with that money? I didn’t need to put it towards the loans anymore because the government said, “Here…we’ll let you take a year off of paying that…just save $100 for a while and then come back to us.”

So, what to do with that money? In the Luxury fashion world that is not a lot of money. Not at all, no,no,no.  I pulled out about $750 for a long overdue laptop for myself (oh happy dance!) and then another $350 for extra stuff that I really just didn’t need but wanted.

And that’s where the splurge comes in. Do I hang on to that $350 or do I just stash that back away with the other money that I put in my private lock box? Oh wait! Too late. I spent $160 on shoes. Whoops. And $60 on a cardigan and the rest went back to savings. But, to be honest…. they were all investments. One was a pair of sandals that I’m going to wear to death and another was a long overdue pair of Uggs.  And finally, the cardigan. If you read Splendicity you know I love them and will wear them every single day of the week.

This IBR thing is great, for the people it’s going to help a lot, and to be honest, I really don’t know who it’s going to help. It just deferred some payments for a year and then tacked on $100 in the long run. In the housing counseling business you would call that a crappy forbearance agreement. It’s just a matter of understanding what you’ve gotten in to. So, now that I’ve got all this under control, it’s time to stash that cash and forget about it until something else comes up.

Have you gotten set up with IBR? Did it affect you? Have you made any changes based on your loan payments?

For more information on IBR you can go to IBRinfo.com

Passions and Direction in a Blog

¿Dónde?

¿Dónde?

I sat in front of my laptop for about thirty minutes trying to find a direction and purpose in this blog. I’m not going to lie. I’m like most people, I say I’ll keep this up and keep a direction and not make this a personal rant and rave “journal” since I’m officially an adult now, however, there may be some deviation.

At the thirty one minute mark I came to a conclusion. There really is not way to separate myself from all my passions and who I am. There are three distinct parts of me: there is the non-profit/housing progressive thinker, the fashionista and then there’s the spiritual United Methodist Texan who is still searching for direction in my life. And all my thoughts and work encompass all these beings.

Until I can come to terms with this and this blog evolves into something more then it can handle there will be discinct parts and pieces to it. It’s an evolution of passion in my life. And I’d love to share it with the world.

So, ready…and…go!