Author: National Safe Place Network

About National Safe Place Network

National Safe Place Network (NSPN) is the national standard for a community-wide response to ensuring all youth are safe and valued. Through unique public/private partnerships, NSPN provides leadership to youth and family serving organizations across the country and 19,089 Safe Place sites that provide access to immediate help and safety for young people in crisis all across the U.S. Last year our Safe Place program served 6,716 youth in crisis at Safe Place sites, counseled 9,053 youth by phone and text, and educated nearly one million people about Safe Place options! NSPN also provides high quality training and technical support for organizations around the country, to ensure an effective and efficient system of response for youth in crisis at a local, state, and national level.

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: The Gift of Giving . . . and Receiving

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

Tis the season for giving . . . and receiving. Have you ever thought about why it’s sometimes hard to receive gifts? Most people like to give gifts instead of receive them. There’s something to say about having a giving heart—to be responsible for invoking happiness in another. Happiness is contagious. It feels good to know you helped make someone smile. You experience excitement and glee as you wait for the person to find out what you’ve gotten them. You don’t do it for the “thank you,” you give because you know you’re sharing a positive, uplifting emotion with someone you’re connected to.  What a great feeling, right?

Giving gifts feels good, but if you think about it, receiving gifts offers an opportunity to experience an entirely different emotion. It also “feels good,” but there’s something “deep” that tends to happen.  Sometimes the sense of gratitude can be overwhelming (in a good way). When you receive a gift, you feel warm, peaceful, and sometimes tearful. You don’t become thankful because the gift is useful or fun (although sometimes gifts are AMAZING); you’re thankful because the person who gave you the gift cared about you. They dedicated a moment of their life—just to you. That’s pretty amazing too, right?

Since it’s the season of giving and receiving, take your time during each exchange and focus on the emotions you experience. Feel the sense of bright, joyful glee—and appreciate the warm feeling of gratitude.

As mentioned above, sometimes the gifts you give—or receive—are pretty awesome. We asked your NSPN family, “What is the best gift you ever gave or received?” Here’s how they answered:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “The most memorable gift for me is a longer story than just an answer. Prior to my coming to Louisville, my family and I would host a Christmas dinner party each year for our friends. Each year there would be a gift exchange. It was a great time and a great event. After several years the decision was made that all of the couples didn’t really need gifts as all of us were blessed in our lives with our families, connections and lifestyles. We all made the decision that our normal routine of “gift giving to each other” would change and we would adopt a family each year instead. As there were six couples and multiple singles we chose larger families with several children. While it was always satisfying, the first year was truly the best as it just felt right and all of the participants truly embraced the decision and the action. There are many stories of how much were we able to give an how much we could stack in the entry way. We truly loved giving and celebrating our friendships in this manner.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “I told my mom that I wanted to take up music again and mentioned that I might like to get a keyboard. My mother passed in November and a week after she was buried, I found the keyboard she had ordered for me for Christmas. I thought it was the last gift I would ever receive from her and so it holds a special place in my heart. Little did I know that she has continued to find ways to send me gifts when I least expect but most need them.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “Music is a pretty core part of my identity, and I have driven a 1991 Volvo without a functional radio for more than 12 years. One Christmas, my partner completely surprised me with an iPod, engraved with the message, ‘Music is where it began. We make the perfect duet.’”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “The best gifts I ever received are life, free will, and faith. The best gifts I have ever given are trust and loyalty.”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “When I was in sixth grade, my younger brother, my sister, and I gathered up all of our allowance money and spare change around the house and planted a flower garden for our mother on Mother’s Day. While we were working, a lot of the other neighborhood kids came over and helped out, so by the time the garden was planted and we showed it to her, there was a crowd of kids watching. She was quite touched and still brings it up to this day!”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “A day off with no obligation.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “The most memorable and biggest gift I received was a Christmas gift from my mother in 1979. It was a Dodge Omni O24.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “I’ll always remember my first car, gifted to me from my parents. I had just come back home from a show choir competition in Branson, Missouri, and the car was waiting for me in the driveway. It was a 1998 Chevy Cavalier.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I’ve been given a lot of gifts in life that are important to me, but I think the best gift I received was being taught to have faith and to be a good person—no matter how difficult it is.”
  • Autumn Sandlin, Operations Specialist: “There isn’t one particular gift I can pinpoint as the best given or received. I have very creative, thoughtful family and friends who always manage to come up with something amazing during the holiday season. I also love giving gifts to the people I care about, so I’d hope they’d all think that any gift I’ve given them is the best gift at the time.”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “The best gift I ever received was a scroll from my girlfriend on Christmas Day accepting my proposal of marriage four months earlier. My mother read it in front of our family.”

Learn more about your NSPN family at https://nspn.memberclicks.net/our-team.

What’s the best gift you ever gave—or received? Feel free to comment below.

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Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Being Thankful

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

Each month, we share a little something about your NSPN family as a way to help you get to know us better. Sometimes the posts include fun facts and sometimes the answers are pretty meaningful. This month, we asked the team, “What are you most thankful for?”

The answers are below—but before you take a look, we want to say on behalf of the entire team of National Safe Place Network, we are thankful for you. We are thankful for each and every person who believes in our vision of creating a world where all youth are safe—and supports our mission to ensure an effective system of response for youth in crisis through public and private partnerships at a local, state, and national level. We’re thankful for the time you spend with us, the time you dedicate to teach and learn from us, and all of the times you share us with people you know. Thank you for allowing us to meet your needs and be your network and for working with us—because, together we can.

“What are you most thankful for?”

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “My family and friends.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “My family and the unique relationship I have with each member.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “My partner in life and love—Kimberly Brooks.”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “I’m most thankful for my life experiences.”
  • Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: “My family.”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “The support of friends and family. I would not be where I am without them.”
  • Autumn Sandlin, Operations Specialist: “I try and be thankful for the good parts of my life. I graduated this year, and I’m thankful for my time interning at NSPN and their willingness to let me make this work my full-time job. My nephew is one of the best parts of my life, and I’m thankful for his curiosity and intuitiveness that he shares with me. My friends who show me support and love I might not know I need, as well as my mom and sister. And cute dog videos. Always cute dog videos.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “My beautiful bear and wonderful family and friends.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I’m thankful for family and friends.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “My family, my faith, that I am healthy and whole, my dog Buddy.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “My family and my health.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I’m fortunate and blessed to have a few good family members, but I was born with them. I don’t really know what it’s like without them—or their impact on my life. So, when I think about being thankful for something, I immediately connect it with something that I have personally developed true appreciation for. I’m most thankful for my job. I worked hard to earn the skills I have to do my job; I worked hard to get my job; and I work hard to keep my job. It’s something I have done on my own and I’m proud of what I do and the organization I work for. I continue to be thankful for my job on a daily basis because no one is indispensable. I also know what it’s like to work for a company that doesn’t have NSPN’s standards of ethics and dedication toward its members and mission.”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “I’m most thankful for my wife.”

Learn more about your NSPN family at https://nspn.memberclicks.net/our-team.

 

Receiving RHY Funding News: When Hope Turns to Uncertainty

Written by: Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network

If you applied for RHY funding this year, the staff of NSPN hope you have received good news. The work you do in your community is important and youth depend on your services. If you were successful, congratulations!

Unfortunately, due to increased competition and static funding levels, there isn’t enough money to go around and some of you will be dealing with significant loss. If you did not receive RHY funding, here are a few things you can do to increase awareness and support for your program(s):

  • If your application was not approved, it’s important to note that applications are often very well written and still may not be funded. NSPN members with the Organizational Development package are encouraged to connect with April Carthorn (acarthorn@nspnetwork.org) to share your reviewer comments. The NSPN team will work to help you understand what may be improved in your response to future funding opportunity announcements.
  • Although you should have well established city, county, and state congressional relationships before you get the notice of the status of your application, it is never too late to reach out to community leaders. Visit your local representatives and share a packet of information to include statistics of service, outcomes of services, and projections of impact on the community if services are discontinued. Gap funding from city and county governments is not unheard of – especially for programs deeply grounded in the community landscape.
  • Reach out to all referral sources to explain what services will or won’t be continuing and ask for assistance from trusted partners in creating responses for youth to meet basic needs.
  • Craft a media release focusing on the impact of the loss of funding and the importance of additional resources for all RHY youth.
  • Create a social media support campaign (consider Go Fund Me) if the loss of funding will mean the discontinuation of all services.

Some of you have built sustainable programs capable of withstanding a loss, especially in the cases where reapplication is possible the next year. Others of you may be faced with closing facilities and laying off staff. There are no words of comfort or encouragement during these times that do not sound trite. All social service organizations face this loss at one time or another. Our best wishes are with you and your team as you make your decisions for what is next for your organization.

Children with Cerebral Palsy at Greater Risk of Bullying

Written by Cerebral Palsy Guidance

Youth and family service organizations serve a multitude of young people, including those with disabilities. Children living with any type of disability are more vulnerable to bullying than their peers. With those disabilities that make a child look different, including Cerebral Palsy, the risk of being a victim of bullying is even higher. The Forum for Equality estimates that nearly 15-25% of students in the United States are victims of bullying. While bullying is a big problem for a lot of children, and the consequences can be serious, there are things that can be done to prevent this victimization and to help victims cope.

 

Bullies Often Target Children Perceived as Different

Cerebral palsy affects a child’s muscle movements. There are different types of Cerebral Palsy and it affects everyone in different ways. According to Cerebral Palsy Guidance, individuals with the most common type of Cerebral Palsy, Spastic Cerebral Palsy, can experience stiff muscles, difficulty controlling muscles, and/or difficulty moving from one place to another. Some children may struggle to chew and swallow food, which can cause drooling. These kinds of factors cause other children to perceive them as being different or not normal. Statistics show that perceived differences are major factors in bullying, and this means that children with disabilities are at risk.

Children with a disability like cerebral palsy are more likely than their able-bodied peers to be bullied. A child with cerebral palsy may be targeted by a bully because they are perceived as being less able to defend themselves due to their various physical make-ups. Some children with cerebral palsy also have cognitive impairments that can make them vulnerable. These children may have a more difficult time distinguishing between friends, and individuals who are trying to hurt them.

 

Bullying Has Consequences

Both the victim and the perpetrator of bullying suffer negative consequences. Some are physical; bullying can cause real and serious injuries. A child with disabilities related to cerebral palsy may not be able to defend himself and can really get hurt by bullying. Of course, the psychological consequences are often the longer-lasting effects of bullying. Bullying increases a child’s risk for developing depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, low confidence, and could potentially lead to substance abuse issues. These psychological consequences can also affect the perpetrator of bullying.

 

Prevention and Support for Bullying Victims with Cerebral Palsy

Preventative measures can help put a stop to bullying. Adults, including teachers, parents, and others, must take an active role in teaching children to empathize with others and to stop bullying behaviors as soon as they are witnessed. Awareness and education can also play a big role in prevention. Teaching children about cerebral palsy helps build empathy and prevent bullying behaviors. This can be done at home, or in the classroom.

When a child with cerebral palsy does become a victim of bullying, they need support and guidance from both adults and peers in their life. A strong group of friends, adults who they feel comfortable talking to, and participation in activities of all types can go a long way in helping a child feel more confident and able to avoid some of the worst long-term consequences of bullying.

Living with cerebral palsy presents challenges that others don’t have to face, such as simply being able to walk. These children shouldn’t also have to face bullying and its side effects. Greater awareness, education, and support can help these children avoid bullying and stand up to it if it does occur.

 

Learn more about helping young people with cerebral palsy at:

cerebral palsy guidance-logo

Sensitivity to the Season

Written by: Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network

Autumn pumpkin background

It’s October and with the season comes such traditions as pumpkins, fall leaves, trick or treat, and brisk mornings. One only needs to look at theater listings or the aisles of your local department store to see signs of Halloween. Who remembers the first time you saw the movie Halloween and heard Jamie Lee Curtis scream? Have you seen any cars named Christine lately? How many hockey masks do you have? Do crows make you shiver? Why is that balloon tied to the storm drain?

If you are one who enjoys the season, frights can be fun and create memories worth sharing. However, for many youth and adults, the signs and sounds of the season can trigger memories of experiences scarier than most of us can imagine. Just like you, Safe Place® is committed to helping youth not only BE safe but FEEL safe. As you think about how to connect with youth during this time of year, consider the following activities:

  • Invite youth to create a collage (on paper or digitally) of the images that remind them of feeling safe. Make sure there are sufficient options to address differences across culture, age, and experience.
  • Have discussions with youth new to your program about any aspect of your organization’s physical layout that is frightening or uncomfortable for them.
  • Host a group discussion of things youth rely on when they’re scared. Be prepared to respond when youth say they are never scared or when they say they have nothing or no one to rely on in those moments.
  • Ensure you are not selecting movies for group viewing or seasonal activities without considering the needs of each youth. Allow for alternative activities without disparagement. Adults working with youth may not recognize specific triggers. Corn mazes may evoke feelings of being lost. Haunted houses may trigger unsuspected reactions. Pumpkins that smile are just wrong.

If the sound of chain saws make you cringe and the idea of summer camp makes you nauseous, you understand the power of images, sounds, and, memories. Work with your staff to create safe memories for the youth you serve. It will be the treat they never forget.

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: A Little Pick-Me-Up Please

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network 

 Coffee is the most coveted morning beverage of humanity. Coffee is so popular, people write about how great it is—a lot. The Huffington Post alone has a full web page dedicated to numerous blog posts about coffee, one of which is titled “19 Things You Didn’t Know About Coffee.” The article shares some interesting information. For example, legend says “coffee was discovered by a goat herder,” “a coffee plant can live up to 200 years,” and “coffee beans can vary in color”—not for the strange “cat” reason shared that no one would spend money on. Anyhow, who knew? Someone must really love coffee to dedicate precious time just to write about the goodness these little beans bring to the world. 

 Coffee can be consumed in many ways; however, most people like traditional coffee—black or with cream and/or sugar. But there are also some coffee concoctions that are unique, yet delicious: 

  •  Thai iced coffee 
  • Steaming mocha cocoa 
  • Turkish coffee 
  • Creamy iced vanilla caramel coffee 
  • Iced espresso marvo 
  • Coffee imperial 

Image credit: http://www.food.com/ideas/15-easy-coffee-drinks-6102?c=10188 

 These flavors are actually easy to make! You can get the recipes here 

Because there are so many different ways to make coffee, we thought the topic might offer a fun way for you to get to know your NSPN family. We asked them, “How do you like your coffee?”  

· Laurie Jackson, President / Chief Executive Officer: Flavored with a little cinnamon and cream

· Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: In someone else’s cup. I am so not a coffee drinker.

· Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: Medium Roast in a large mug with two packs of Splenda and a 4-count pour of real heavy cream.

· April Carthorn, General Specialist: Not at all.

· Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: Iced vanilla coffee

· Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: Black. Regular in the morning, decaf after noon.

· Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: Don’t drink coffee anymore. Made me sick while I was pregnant and I never picked it back up. I do enjoy a good cider or lemonade, depending on the season.

· Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: I love strong coffee – but not Starbucks strong – with nothing in it.

· Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: I only like the smell of coffee. Coffee is a lie because it smells amazing but tastes horrible. I don’t even like coffee ice cream.

· Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: It depends on my mood. Somedays, I like it black and other days, I like it with a generous portion of milk. I also enjoy a good cappuccino – it’s great for the soul.

·Autumn Sandlin, Marketing & Communications Intern: ICED! If I drink it hot, I have to have lots and lots of sugar and milk or creamer. I want it as far from black as possible.

· Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: I love coffee! To me, the perfect cup is 10oz of “Golden French Toast” or “Wild Mountain Blueberry” straight from the Keurig with a 3 count pour of “Sweet Cream” creamer. I can drink it all day – everyday. YUM

· Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: I like my coffee with two creams and three sugars.

Learn more about your NSPN family at https://nspn.memberclicks.net/our-team 

 How do you like your coffee? Feel free to let us know by commenting below. 

Social work: labor of love

Written by: Shauna Brooks, MSSW; Principal Investigator, National Safe Place Network

This was supposed to be a 4-day weekend for me – Labor Day holiday Monday, and a vacation day Friday to bring home a newly adopted pet and allow some time for her to adjust to her new environment.  This is the first time in almost 18 years my partner and I have added someone to our little family.  We have talked about it and delayed and negotiated our preferences for so long.  Kim wanted someone small, and I really like big dog personalities.  Kim wanted a fur family member to provide me with emotional support.  I also wanted a dog to help me be more active.  After months, even years, we just couldn’t push it back any longer.

The timing was, well… not ideal.  Kim is grieving the loss of her mom and dealing with difficult family in the midst of probate and estate issues which is weighing heavily on her.  She’s also unappreciated and disrespected at work despite a tremendous work ethic and high performance expectations for herself.  I love my work (which we’ll discuss more in just a moment), and three deadlines for major projects are converging this week, so there is some stress on my end as well.

We had impressions of the shelter dog formerly named Trixie, whom we now call PJ.  True, we each only met her for about half an hour (separately because of incongruous work schedules).  But the people who rescued her shared their observations, and her character and temperament were evident in pictures and in person.  She was thoughtful, almost pensive in photos.  She ambled around on a slip leash without pulling.  Taken outside, after wandering and sniffing about an 8’ by 8’ patch of grass, she lay down next to me in repose, offering her belly for a good rub without any hesitation – a mild-mannered young adult.

After a very sedate first night, spending the bulk of her time sleeping in a crate she instantly recognized as her own, her authentic personality began to emerge.  The great news is she seems to be comfortable enough to come out of her shell.  The more complicated discovery is that she is, in truth, a giant puppy.  She is brilliant and obstinate and could clearly jump our fence without even trying very hard.  Instead of running, she leaps like a deer.  We are working hard at consistency, patience, establishing communication, and teaching her boundaries, expectations and the big fun that rewards positive behavior.  Just consider for a moment the persistent and intensive attention this requires – literally every minute when she is not sleeping.  Thus, my grand plans of putting in some extra hours over the long weekend to help get ready for a very busy week were entirely shot.

But this is the reality of family.  Life is work.  Life is messy, and balancing priorities seems impossible sometimes.  I know these circumstances could look very different in someone else’s life.  Perhaps another person would have absolutely clear priorities that illuminate a path of certainty.  Perhaps someone who hasn’t benefited from the privilege that comes with being white or from having access to educational and employment opportunities I’ve had might face an unmanageable burden.  A person who isn’t as lucky as I am to share their life in unconditional love with a committed partner might find the experience lonely and overwhelming.  These are the dynamics of my environment.  My family, friends and co-workers provide a network of support.

Because partnering, parenting, working, negotiating, homemaking, studying, advocating, teaching, learning, trying, failing, surviving, striving, and everything else in life is hard work, it is humbling that people share their experiences with us.  It is a challenge to be worthy of that trust, to listen, to set aside judgment, to acknowledge personal bias, and to demonstrate respect to show people an example of how they deserve to be treated regardless of their circumstances.  Our work is both harder and more critical than ever in the culture of hate that is pervading our nation right now.

Social work is labor AND love.  It is doing AND being.  Social work is having empathy AND boundaries. We facilitate individual well-being, healthy communication, supportive relationships, and thriving communities.  We advocate for people served by public systems.  We fight for social justice and support policy solutions.  We work in schools and churches and community agencies.  We serve youth, families, teachers, students, veterans, and people experiencing homelessness, poverty, mental illness, and hospice care.  I have the privilege of serving people who serve runaway and homeless youth.  And for me, it is absolutely a labor of love.

SW-Labor-of-Love

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: That’s What They Said

Written by: Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

“Quotes.” Such a funny little word, yet “quotes” leave such a significant impression on our lives. Communication is a powerful thing when you think about it. Someone can say a simple sentence and it can evoke emotion and even completely change one’s way of thinking. It’s amazing that a few words can make someone smile, laugh, or cry—those words can really make an impact on the way someone is feeling. If you actively use social media sites, you see quotes every day through “memes” that are shared. Think about the emotions you experience while reading them.

Some of the best quotes are the ones that make you laugh—the ones that are innocent and kind, yet honest and humorous. Oftentimes, these types of quotes come from children. If you’d like to take a brain break and crack a smile—perhaps even laugh—here are “17 Kid Quotes That Will Make You Laugh So Hard You’ll Cry” from The Huffington Post.

To help you get to know your NSPN family a little better, we asked this question: “What is your favorite quote?” Here’s what was shared:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “There are too many to count—seriously—I don’t have a favorite; I have many favorites.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!” – Gloria Steinem
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “My favorite quote is, ‘This too shall pass.’ I also like the quote, ‘You don’t truly know a person until you know them.’”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Fred Rogers
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “To me, it’s always a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when you walk around. That way, if anybody says, ‘Hey can you give me a hand?,’ you can say, ‘Sorry, got these sacks.’” – Jack Handey
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “Tomorrow is another day.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E. B. White
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “Oh, there are so many! I will always love this one from Maya Angelou: ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’”
  • Autumn Sandlin, Marketing and Communications Intern: “I’m a huge quote person. I’m constantly highlighting, writing down, and folding down the pages of books I read with any quote I like on it. I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs by some of my favorite female comedians lately, so my favorite quote of the moment comes from Mindy Kaling. “If you don’t see a clear path for what you want, sometimes you have to make it yourself.”
  • Sabrina Smith, Development Intern: “To be soft is to be powerful.” – Rupi Kaur
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “Oh my goodness. I cannot choose just one. I love quotes and asking me to pick my favorite is like asking someone to pick their favorite child. Well . . . I guess with that said, one of my most favorable quotes is an original, which I say quite often. ‘Focus on doing the right thing. At the end of the day, I’m going to rest my head on my pillow knowing I did what’s right.’” – Elizabeth Smith Miller
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”Learn more about your NSPN family at www.nspnetwork.org/our-team.

    Feel free to leave your favorite quote below! “Sharing is caring.” ☺

Laughter Isn’t Always the Best Medicine

Written by Candace Leilani, Guest Blogger

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin

I remember incidents where laughter got me through different life events. Some of my favorite memories include me laughing. Some people can say that laughing has made their life better. Some people can say that laughter has sometimes made their life unbearable. What is laughter? A feeling? Something we do? The word, “laughter,” is defined as “an expression or appearance of merriment or amusement.”  I have often heard “Laughter is the best medicine.” If this is true, I wonder why and if it is true for everyone? There are many health benefits to laughing, more than I originally knew before writing this blog post. Laughter has been proven to not only be a stress reducer, but a pain reliever too. Laughter causes serotonin and endorphins to increase in the brain and decreases stress hormones. Why are these health benefits important? It can help you get through tough times physically, mentally, and emotionally. As an example, when a child is learning how to ride a bike and falls off, his or her scraped knee may not be as painful if laughter is encouraged by a smiling, joking father. One memory I have where laughter helped me physically is of when I was at my grandma’s farm-house and got a splinter in my finger from the old porch swing she had. I cried my eyes out; but, my loving grandma took a minute to make me smile by pretending to cry hysterically in the hopes of making me laugh. Believe it or not, it worked. My memory ends well with both of us laughing as she wiped away my tears and lead me inside the house for her to doctor up my finger as she did in the hospital some twenty years earlier as a nurse. Not only did laughter help me physically, it also helped me mentally and emotionally. I realized having a splinter was not as big of a deal as I thought it was and the event provided me with a memory of my grandma I will cherish forever.

 

However, I have also experience times in my laugh when laughter wasn’t uplifting or helpful. I was raised in a sheltered, Christian home where I did not have many friends. As a result almost any attention from guys in my grade seemed like flirting. When a guy even pretended that he liked me, I would freak out and think he did truly like me. One day in middle school, a popular guy acted extra nice to me. I was too shy to make first contact with him in person, so I did what I thought was the next best thing: write him a note asking for clarification of his intentions and for him to meet me to talk after school in the hallway. I put the note somewhere where I knew he would find it and waited for him to read it. The moment I saw his reaction to the note, I immediately regretted it. We were not alone and I was confronted with almost all the popular kids with their phones out to take video or photos of our interaction. I didn’t even get to talk to him due to everyone laughing and all the photos being taken. I went home that day crying, begging for my parents not to make me go to school the next day. During that incident, laughter caused me emotional pain and reminded me kids can be cruel.

Erma Bombeck was correct when she said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

I have shared two instances when laughter impacted who I am today as a person. One filled with joy and the other pain. I will always be sensitive to the sound of laughter and will always wonder, at least for a moment, if the laughter is with me or about me. However, the sound of laughter is something I long for in my life. It reminds me of my grandma and it reminds me I am stronger than those who may use their laughter as a weapon. When you laugh at a situation involving others, please take a moment to think about if you are making things better or making things worse.

I know I am the person I am today because of my experiences. I appreciate God for all the events that have happened in my life. I am a stronger person mentally and emotionally because of them. Science has proven that laughter is good for the soul, mind, and body.  And I am ready for a good laugh. How about you?

“Laughter is important, not only because it makes us happy, it also has actual health benefits. And that’s because laughter completely engages the body and releases the mind. It connects us to others and that in itself has a healing effect.” – Marlo Thomas

Self-Care: So Who Takes Care of You?

Written by: Mark W. Wolf, Training Director at National Safe Place Network

This is my first attempt at a blog so bear with me.  I volunteered to do this one because the most significant thing I have learned in my nearly 40 year career in the youth work field is the importance of taking care of yourself.

It has always struck me how so many youth care workers, who are superstars at caring for others, fail so miserably at taking care of themselves. The other thing I know to be true is how those most effective in this field care down to their core. That kind of care takes a toll on you emotionally and physically, and often leads to burnout.  If you want to continue to work in the field and be effective you absolutely must make a plan to take care of yourself. Many of us learn to take care of ourselves the hard way and many drop out of the field, unfortunately, because they do not learn in time. Fortunately, self-care can be learned.  With guidance, support, and good role models I learned some things along the way about work and self-care that helped me in my career and life.

Before you can make a self-care plan, there are some things you need to figure out about your work.  You have to examine why you are doing the work you are doing, and who are you doing this work for. It’s ok that we all meet some of our needs through our work, but our work cannot be the sole provider, or even the primary provider.  Remember that in our work we are there to meet other’s needs, not our own.  We need to meet our own needs in our own way, on our own time. Most importantly, we must be realistic in our expectations of how much we can do at one time, it is indeed a marathon. Understand that at best, we are support agents that facilitate change and growth that must be self directed. In the end, hopefully we know and believe we are worthy and deserve to be cared about by ourselves and others.

Once you figure all this out, and it can be complicated and take some significant time and effort unraveling who we are and what we need, you are ready to make a self-care plan.  First, understand that self-care is a bit of a misnomer. Much of self-care is making sure you have people around you that care about you and for you. The self-care part is allowing these others in.  As for a self-care plan, make a list of things you do for yourself that energize and inspire you, make a schedule, and keep it. Develop a support system outside of your work that includes a variety of people and activities. Give yourself permission to make time to play, have fun, and be totally selfish with your time and what you choose to do with it.

I was fortunate to have lots of support, guidance and great role models along the way to help me figure out how to create and maintain balance in my life.  Go out and find the support and guidance and care you need along the way.  You already know this but it is worth saying again – if you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to help take care of others.