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Embark | Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure

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e2Dear Friends and Readers,

It has been a pleasure writing about youth work over the past few years.

In response to a growing awareness of just how burned out I had become (see my last year of blog posts), I have made a new years resolution to go on a new adventure each week. I have started a project that I am calling Embark, in which I strive to live more intentionally, wholly, creatively and boldly. Join me at embark52.wordpress.com.

I may continue writing here as I feel inspired (It would be tough to write any less than I did in 2014!), but I will be posting at least weekly at Embark | Fifty-two Weeks of Adventure.

~Miss Brenda

The Very Tired Youth Worker

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In the light of the moon lay a little youth-worker in her cozy bed.

One Monday morning the warm sun came up and POP our of the covers came a very tired youth worker.

On Monday, she drank one pot of coffee, but she was still tired.

On Tuesday, she took two hours off, but she was still burned out.

On Wednesday, she had three reminders that the work she does is important, but she was still defeated.

On Thursday, she spent four hours answering emails, but she was still not finished.

On Friday, she organized her office, completed two grants, de-escalated three violent children, debriefed with four emotionally exhausted staff, wrote five reports for supervisors, answered six parent emails, called seven donors and forgot to eat lunch until 10:00 pm.

And on Saturday, she called her closest friends and families and told them she was going to quit her job.

And the next day was Sunday again. The youth-worker ate through one nice green leaf, and after that, she felt much better again.

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I once had a staff who told me that working at the Boys & Girls Club reminded him why he had become a teacher. It was fresh and new and kid-focused. There was energy and room for creativity and the staff were a family. Find a place that feels like that, because this work is too important and too difficult  if you don’t feel that way about where you are.

Sad Endings and New Beginings

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Dear Friends and Readers,

Let me tell a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down.

Let me take a minute just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bell Air.

Okay, so I’m definitely not the right gender to be a prince, but I do like the song Purple Rain (my favorite band in college did a cover of it and I’ve loved it ever since).

In recent months, my life has been turned upside down. Just substitute Northern Wisconsin for Bell Air.

In March, I made the hardest decision of my life. It is a decision that has proven to be excruciatingly painful.

I decided to leave.

I left my first adult hometown. I left friends and a church I loved. I left a job that I thought I would retire from.

In the years I lived in Indiana, I spent more I my waking life at that Boys & Girls Club than I did outside of it. I poured all of my time, energy and devotion into that place, those kids, that town. Leaving that place felt like splitting myself in half.

I still feel like I left my heart in the hands of those angel babies whom I will always think of as my own.

I moved to another Boys & Girls Club, in my home state, far closer to family. My new organization is a more positive environment, and my new hometown quite wonderful. I have a better work-life balance, and the health problems I experienced in Indiana seem to be subsiding.

I find myself loving new kids and families and staff. I find myself feeling a little bit more whole again with each passing day.

That terrible ache that began when I first applied for my new job is still there, along with the guilt of knowing not all of my kids and staff have transitioned well. But right alongside that pain is a growing feeling of hope, and a slow restoration of joy.

If you need to leave to be healthier, if you need to leave for the sake of you family, if you need to leave to be in a more positive environment, you can.

If the decision to leave is truly the right decision, it will be right for you, for everyone in your life and at your workplace, and for the greater community.

The world needs more whole, qualified, dedicated youth workers who are in it for the long haul. The world does not need more burned out, lonely, in-it-because-they-feel-too-guilty-to-leave youth workers.

If you are where you are supposed to be, stay. Continue to dedicate yourself to your family, your community and your work.

If you are not where you are supposed to be, give yourself permission to leave.

Will Smith started over in SoCal, and it worked out okay for him. I think moving on could work out okay for you and me too.

Buccaneers and Pirates

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Dear Friends and Readers, 

We are snowed/iced in today again, and so on goes the television. Flipping through the channels, my roommate found Peter Pan (the Disney version). Naturally, we both put down our work and watched. 

Just before leaving for Neverland, the Darling children talk in their room about what could be. John says that he wants to “cross swords with some real buccaneers.” Micheal chimes in to say that he wants to fight pirates. 

Crossing swords with buccaneers and fighting pirates. 

Sometimes we are trying to say the same thing, but are using different language. 

~Miss Brenda

Children are more than a test score.

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Dear Friends and Readers,

Today, a child I know spent over 20 minutes curled up on a set of stairs sobbing.

She wasn’t sick or injured. She wasn’t being bullied or abused. She wasn’t in a fight with her friends, or worried about her grades, or angry with Club staff, or throwing a tantrum.

She was stressed beyond belief about her standardized test, stressed to the point of not being able to eat.

No matter how hard caring adults tried to comfort her, no one could convince her that her worth was not determined by the score she received. No one could convince her that she wasn’t responsible for whether or not her teacher could keep her job. No one could convince her that she was valuable.

Testing doesn’t just restrict teachers. It doesn’t just steal valuable time that could be spent learning. It destroys the confidence of our children. It teaches them that what they produce is more important than who they are. And that, my friends, that idea of worth being determined by action rather than by existence, that is a lie.

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Children are more than a test score. 

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~Miss Brenda

The Grapefruit Race

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Dear Friends and Readers,

Do you remember the frozen grapefruit relay? It was a staple at junior high dances and parties. You would line up boy-girl, boy-girl. One person would start with the grapefruit under their neck, and it would be passed from neck to neck down the line and back again.

I don’t know what our parents and teachers were thinking.

Below is a slightly more g-rated grapefruit race.

  1. Take a few bags full of grape fruits and cut each in half.
  2. Divide into partners.
  3. Each partner group start with the same amount of grapefruit halves.
  4. Each partner group races to see who can get the most juice out of their grapefruits.
  5. Bonus points to whomever drinks the juice!

The same could work for lemons, limes, oranges, etc. Happy juicing!

~ Miss Brenda  

Food Chants

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Dear Friends and Readers,

For those of us who cannot sing (and I mean CANNOT sing), chanting is the greatest invention in the history of tone-deafness.

For those lulls between activities, and for when you are stalling until other staff arrive, and for when the activity you had planned was supposed to be in the room that is under 3 inches of water, chanting is a fast, fun and easy way to fill time.

I usually chant about food. Everyone loves food. Here are some staples of my chanting regimen:

  • I love tacos! (clap-clap clap-clap-clap) I love tacos! (clap-clap clap-clap-clap). As the cheer continues, I replace tacos with pizza, waffles, french fries, etc. 
  • I say apple, you say pie. Apple! Pie! Apple! Pie As the cheer continues, I replace apple pie with banana pudding, ice cream, etc. This is a very desert-heavy chant when I lead it. 
  • Chocolate cake! Chocolate cake! Chocolate cake! 
  • Bacon! (clap clap) Bacon! (clap clap)

Chant away,

~Miss Brenda 

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