Thankful Thursday: Be A Blessing

Some time ago, I did a blog post on packing a blessing bag…… It is something I wanted to do but just never seemed to get to.  This post inspired someone to make it her mission.

I met Maxine through this “purse gig”.  She was on my team for a little bit.  She and I stayed in touch over the last few years by praying for each other and just being there for moral support.  She reached out to me to ask for some suggestions on growing a ministry which is near and dear to her heart.   Here is Maxine’s story in her own words…..

Awhile back I decided to do bags for homeless people. Nothing elaborate just simple items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, small soaps, a pen, a little note pad, a pair of socks, a razor, a pack of Kleenex, a granola bar, some cheese crackers, small snacks, hand sanitizer, and a rain poncho.  I was working as a home health care  aide and traveled on the bus every day.  I always carried a couple with me and if I came across someone in need I would give them one . I don’t put cash in them simply because you just never know.  Many people hustle for money for other things. Fast forward to now. I’m driving for Lyft and I come across a good number of people so I started doing it again.  Handing bags out to those who are in need – usually when I stop at a traffic light.  You can kind of tell who’s legit and who’s not when you hand it to them.  But regardless, I try to help everyone I can. I use ziplock bags to hold the items. I want to continue this ministry but I am struggling.  I come across a great number of people every day while I’m out driving.  I’ve been doing this all out of pocket!   The time has come when I can no longer afford to do it and it is breaking my heart . We are ourselves are  living in a hotel.  God has blessed up and we  get through day by day.  He makes a way!  Even when I cannot see it, He makes a way.  I am reaching out to others for donations – monetary and for items to fill the bags.

The hotel where we are staying has offered to do some extra soaps and shampoos to help.  I am reaching out to churches and other organizations to see if they can help with individually packaged snacks and things.  But there is still a gap.  The need is so great….

I am reaching out to my readers and my friends.  Won’t you consider helping?  Maxine has set up a PayPal account to collect monetary donations (https://paypal.me/maxineniemeier?locale.x=en_US).  Every little bit helps.  She lives in Chicago, so if you have any suggestions or contacts please let us know.  I’m trying to help her keep her ministry alive….

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

World AIDS Day 2016

wad-poster-thumb-2016This day every year makes me emotional as I reflect on the lives of those who lost their battle, those who continue to fight and those who unfortunately will still contract HIV.  For those who don’t know my story, you are probably wondering why this has such an impact on me, right?

When I first entered recovery, I was on PTI (Pre-Trial Intervention) and had to do community service.  They handed me a book and said “pick something”.  I selected the South Jersey AIDS Alliance and the rest is history.  It was then I started what would become a 15 year commitment to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.  From Case Manager to County Director to Advocate and County Ryan White Grant Manager.

For me, I am reflecting on the lessons that I learned when I worked for the South Jersey AIDS Alliance. As a new “inexperienced” Social Worker and a recovering addict, I was the “crazy white lady” stepping into Bridgeton wanting to help the world. Yes, many of my clients thought it and willing shared as we got to know each other.

I didn’t the people who walked through our doors as “diseased”, “hopeless” or less than. I saw them as people who because of their bad choices were sick. “There by the grace of God go I” was a constant reminder for me since I too had made bad choices over the years.

So what could I do in a little office (actually half a duplex) with little funding, the only paid staff, a handful of volunteers (who in many cases were also clients) and a heart to save them all. In the early years, AIDS was not a “manageable disease” for many it was a death sentence. It took babies from their mothers, it took moms and dads from their kids, it took people from all walks of life – yet no one talked about it. I can remember the first few funerals where the family said “they died of cancer” because they did not want their loved one to be remembered for the stigma of HIV/AIDS. This was the world I dedicated a large portion of my professional life to. Belinda grew up joining me in this battle to end the stigma of HIV/AIDS. She played with kids who were HIV-positive, she shared her toys, she helped with fundraising, as well as sorting and delivering holiday toys. She, too, grew up with a passion for helping people.

Fast forward to today, where little is spoken about HIV/AIDS unless a celebrity says the words. It is now a manageable disease so we seldom hear the prevention message. There are medicines, so why worry, right?

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We aren’t there yet – we are close. There are still 1.1 million people living with HIV in the US today. Only 1 in 4 people are making their way through the obstacles called health care and medications. Let’s not be complacent. Let’s continue to share how HIV can be transmitted.

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Today is in honor of those who lost their fight, and those who continue to fight every day. You blessed my life more than you will ever know. Thank you for allowing this “crazy white chick” to be a part of your lives.

The theme this year is “Leadership, Commitment Impact”.  What will you do to make an impact?  Consider donating to agencies who help improve the quality of life for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Our Self-Esteem Impacts Our Children

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Today is the day many kids are headed back to school.  With it comes fears and anxiety especially for those entering a new school or just starting school.  Regardless of the age, positive self-esteem is important.

As parents, we want to believe our kids are confident – maybe just a little shy.  We want to believe they are ready to handle any situation.  The truth is despite our best efforts, some children don’t always get it.  The cold hard fact is they learn by example.  They follow our lead.  Are you a picture of positive self-esteem or does Negative Nelly invade your space?

I struggled with low self-esteem since I was a child.  There is not one incident which changed things for me – just a lot of little things.  As I grew into an adult, the fears and negative self-esteem were stuffed deep down.  My fear of disappointing others became the one thing that controlled my life.  Only to later show up during my years of addiction and recovery.  There are still days when Negative Nelly shows her face.  There are still days the fear of disappointing others control my actions.  I say all of this to share how this impacted my daughter….

In reflection, my negative self-imagine had a dramatic impact on my daughter.  What I perceived as a confident, self-assured athlete with lots of friends was far from the truth.  I made excuses for her not showing emotion in most situations.  I tried to overcompensate so she would not fall victim to Negative Nellie.

Years later she shared her true feelings.  She shared about the years of bullying.  The years of stuffing the negative feelings.  The years of never wanting to disappoint me.  Why?  Because she saw me do it.  YIKES!  Despite my best efforts, Negative Nelly made her way through the “perfect veneer”.

Thirty One provides these statistics – my daughter was one of those statistics.

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Social media was not big until my daughter’s teen years, so the negative self-image was a direct result of what she saw in school, conversations she was involved in combined with the harsh words of the other children.  Now a days, social media is a strong  basis for social comparisons, self-evaluation or self-enhancement.   images

As our kids go off to school, we need to be aware.  Aware of their reaction to positive or negative evaluations of themself when they compare to others.  The verbal comparisons our kids make in conversation can shed the light on their personal self-esteem.  Also, the things they don’t say.  Their actions or lack of reactions.  Bullying or social comparison is HUGE in today’s society.  We unfortunately live in a world driven by more money, better clothes, the perfect looks and the need to have “it all” (whatever that is).

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In this busy world, full of social media which allows us access to information about a wide range of people and allowing unlimited networking opportunities, there is a potential downside to frequent social media use. When people with low self-esteem use social media sites, it can create a vicious cycle which can further impact their negative self-esteem.

Okay, so I have been rambling a bit today.  Some brain fog BUT I wanted to share how important this subject is especially as kids head back to school.

My concern is for the 62% of children who have low self-esteem; who think they are fat, or not pretty enough, or not good enough.  For those children who believe their parents aren’t as good as their friends who appear to have a perfect life.  I grew up in an era of, what happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors.  The secrets of the family stays in the family – so on the outside things looked perfect but on the inside things were a mess.  It is those beliefs perpetuating the negative comparisons that effect our children.

Let’s work together to put a stop to the bullying and the negative self-esteem.  Let’s make a difference in the life of a child, letting them know that they are special and worthy EVEN if they are different.  Won’t you join me?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

 

Your forgotten dresses can help others!

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Are there dresses hanging in your closet that you have only worn a few times? or that even still have the tags on them?

Redeem-Her, a not-for-profit organization helping women recently released from prison, jail, or rehab, is seeking donations of slightly used or new dresses for its fall fundraising event, “The Art of Dressing.”

The dresses will be sold at rock-bottom prices at the event on September 17, 2016 at Christ Church, Route 35 and Sycamore Avenue, Shrewsbury from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

All seasons, sizes and types of dresses are accepted. Donated dresses can be dropped off at the Second Chance Thrift Store, 101 Third Ave., Neptune City, NJ.

Or you can call the contact numbers here to schedule a pick-up: Jan Smith, 732-275-5486; Prudy White, 732-245-9055; Marilyn Rocky, 732-747-5373.

Proceeds from the sale will go toward supporting the education, training and basic daily needs of the women living in the Redeem-Her transitional house.

13227073_275533016122349_5982495762996308701_nRedeem-Her supports women who are pursuing a substance-free, productive life following drug rehab or incarceration. The organization maintains a transitional house for returning women in Toms River and supports employment for them at the Second Chances Thrift Store in Neptune City, which sells clothing, knacks, furniture, books and other household items. For more information, call:732.776.7006

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Happy Memorial Day

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Happy Memorial Day! For some today is an extra day off. For others it is spending time with family and friends kicking off the summer season…Today is really about remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Those who gave their lives so that we might live in freedom. It is about celebrating the lives of those who dedicated themselves to serving our country and who never returned home to their families.

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As the sun rises on Memorial Day, STOP and say a prayer asking for the safety of our men and women near and far who serve this country. Say a prayer for the families who have an empty seat at their barbecues.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!