Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Tis the Season

'Tis the season.....for depression.

Now, I don't want to be a complete downer, but amidst all the holiday hoopla, festivities, decorations, music, gift buying and giving, food, food, and more food, there are many among us struggling mightily with depression.....and feeling even more depressed, because they SHOULD be happy and "in the spirit".

When I was in private practice, my client load increased exponentially during and right after the holidays. These are very difficult times for those of us vulnerable to depression. Aside from the fact that it's the dead of winter, dark and cold, the stress of the holidays, coupled with the expectations of a "happy time" (promoted so heavily by media), wear heavily on many folks.

How do I know this? Because I've struggled with depression most of my life. Luckily, my last bout is long past, and with the help of a great support system, I have been able to keep the gray ghost at bay for years. But the dark days of winter bring it dangerously close at times; and it is at those times when my heart goes out to those in the midst of the battle.

Depression sucks the very life out of you.....and, by the way, everyone around you. It settles over you like a gray mist, leeching all color out of life. It steals your ambition, hope, energy. It makes you think crazy thoughts and do crazy things.

What's worse is, those who have experienced a bout of clinical depression are likely to have at least one recurrance, worse than the first. Serious depression changes your brain chemistry, and each episode makes it harder to repair the damage.

So, my message this holiday season is, GET HELP if you're feeling down or depressed. There is no shame in seeking a cure for this incidious disease. Set your ego aside, take antidepressants, go to therapy, do what your psychiatrist tells you do to. And if you are a friend or relative of someone you suspect is depressed, INTERVENE. Insist that they get help......which is what my dear friend did many years ago that probably saved my life (or someone else's!).

It is definitely the season......to pay attention to those around you.....and to yourself. Be kind, be attentive. You never know whose life you may be saving.

Monday, November 14, 2011

He's NOT a Pedophile

I’ve been hesitant to add to the rhetoric about the Penn State sex abuse scandal. However, I would be remiss in my duty as President of an agency whose sole mission is to protect the most vulnerable teens in our community, if I did not express my dismay and sorrow at the events that have recently unfolded. I stand with Penn State leadership in firing Paterno and his assistant coach, and my heart goes out to the families of all affected.

I would like to make an important distinction that the press and media continue to get incorrect. The man who perpetrated these acts is NOT a pedophile. He is a sex abuser. There is a BIG difference. Pedophilia is a diagnosable mental illness spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV, used by the psychiatric field. A pedophile is usually unable to function well in society, is severely developmentally stunted, and sees himself as approximately the same age as his victims.

This definition does NOT apply to the assistant coach, nor to most sex abusers. Most are “solid” citizens, many have families of their own and would be considered upstanding citizens in their communities.

Why do I care about the distinction? Because of the ability to hold the sex abuser accountable for his actions. If he can use the plea of pedophilia, which can show he is mentally ill, he is many times “off the hook” for his actions. Sex abusers are not mentally ill, by all western standards. Although their actions are horrific, they appear to be as normal as anyone else, even under psychiatric scrutiny.

Sex abuse and sexual assault are primarily abuses of power and of opportunity. To those of us who cannot imagine such acts, sex abusers seem sick and demented. What I don’t want, however, is for them to be able to use mental illness as an excuse for their actions. They must be held accountable by the highest letter of the law, without the distraction of a mental illness diagnosis.

It is the least we can do for the victims.

Friday, October 7, 2011

What is Your Elevator Speech

What is your elevator speech?

Promise House has struggled with this for years.

How do we say what we do in a compelling, meaningful, impactful 30 second blip? I know we can't be the only agency struggling with this; particularly those of us who offer a myriad of services not only to teens, but to adults and families.

So, when someone asks me, "What is Promise House?", my first thought is, "Oh, god, here I go again......how can I do this without their eyes glazing over???"

"We drag kids off the street and save them".....a bit drastic.
"We shelter homeless, runaway, and at-risk teens"..........BORING.
"We embrace homeless, runaway, and at-risk teens, giving them individualized skills, encouragement, and hope to live a better life".......too long and a bit touchy-feely, even if it is our mission statement!
"We serve kids in crisis".......too short and doesn't tell the whole story.
"We offer a myriad of services for runaway, homeless, and at-risk teens"........again, true but boring.

You get my drift?

How do we get to the heart of what we do? How do we describe in 30 seconds the transformation we see EVERY day with kids who come to us with literally nothing and leave with an education, a job, money, an apartment, and most importantly, self confidence and hope for the future?

How do we say in an elevator ride that the young homeless parents who come to us become GREAT parents, breaking the cycle of poverty, homelessness, repeat pregnancies, and child abuse?

What are 25 words or less than can describe the energy, the creativity, the passion, and the beauty that are embodied in the teens with whom we work?

How do we change people's perceptions about teens in general, and in particular the teens we serve, in two sentences?

I'm stumped. Ideas are welcome.

What is YOUR elevator speech?

Friday, September 23, 2011

The End-All Ain't Gonna End It

So, here is why HUD's end-all to solving the homelessness problem, Permanent Supportive Housing, will NOT end homelessness.

Reason One: The requirements of eligibility for Permanent Supportive Housing i.e., persons with mental or physical disabilities, and chronically homeless individuals and families knocks at least 80% of the homeless population out of the running for housing. The chronically homeless make up only 10 - 15% of the total homeless population, and yet currently receive 90% of services. There is something wrong with this equation!

Reason Two: Permanent Supportive Housing does NOTHING to plug the pipeline into chronic homelessness i.e., homeless teens and young adults, teens aging out of foster care and the juvenile justice system (up to 38% of whom will be homeless at least once in the two years following emancipation). 95% of teens and young adults are NOT chronically homeless (on the street for at least a year or 4 homeless episodes in the past 2 years), and we do not want them labeled as such; BUT they WILL be if they are not assisted now. Additionally, most teens do not qualify as disabled (thank heavens!), and we don't want them labeled as such. The teens at Promise House are in school, working, raising kids, and functioning in the world. But they wouldn't be without our help.

Reason Three: Teens and young adults have very different needs than do chronically homeless adults. They need a phased program that moves from fairly high structure and supervision all the way to independent living, which includes housing and support services. You can't just stick a teen in an apartment, or give a teen a housing voucher or 3 month's rent, say "Go be successful", and expect success.

The only way to truly stop chronic homelessness is to plug the pipeline into it. If you were to ask 20 chronically homeless adults if they were homeless as teens or young adults, at least 15 would say yes.

I don't know why this is such a difficult concept to get. Maybe when the "end homelessness by" deadlines pass and there is still homelessness, folks that make the funding decisions will scratch their heads and wonder why.

Maybe they should ask me.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Echoes From Our Children

It's awesome and a bit scary to see your children speak out on issues about which they are passionate. I have two daughters, both of whom are extremely articulate, are passionate about many causes, and who sounded off recently about the Texas Legislature cutting funds to Planned Parenthood. My oldest, Kat, wrote a commentary on her website, and my youngest, Leslie, posted an article from the Austin paper, adding a few choice words, which I won't repeat here.

Both girls were raised in diametrically opposed environments---liberal feminist with their mother and conservative conservative with their dads. What this forced them to do was forge their own beliefs from the two, which they did very well. Lucky for me, their beliefs landed much closer to mine than their dads' (LOL!). This is not to say, however, that they track right down the line with my beliefs. Leslie, for instance, was heavily influenced by her church experience and holds very different beliefs from me about all that. Kat, on the other hand, is even more "radical" than I on many issues and is totally unafraid to speak out uncensored about them.

What we are very close in belief about, however, is women's health. Kat has used Planned Parenthood most of her adult life for low-cost well-woman check-ups, birth control, and treatment for female ailments. Having had no insurance since graduating from college, PP was a godsend for her. So, to lose that resource is devastating to her. Although Leslie has never used PP, many of her friends have, for the same stuff that Kat did. What none of them has ever used PP for is abortions.

But I am not here to debate that issue. What I am here to say is how strange it is sometimes to hear echoes of my voice in my daughters' voices......how fearful I am sometimes for them for speaking out.....and how aware I am that they are so much more politically savvy, so much more aware of what's happening in the world, and SO much more willing to speak out about it than I was at their ages, that I often stand in awe of both of them.

It has often been said that our children reflect both the best and worst of us. I think I lucked out with my girls. They seemed to have gotten the best of both their dads and me. And though it is a little scary to see and hear them stand up, speak out, take the heat for their beliefs, when I hear those echoes, it does my heart good to know they GOT what I wanted them to get........their OWN, strong voices.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"Repurpose" the Texas Legislature

My friend Larry James wrote about this today, and I just can't help chiming in with him about what a disgrace it is that the Texas Legislature actually "repurposed" funds that were raised by "six million Texas power customers paying a little extra each month to provide utility-bill assistance to those who otherwise couldn't afford to stay cool" (Dallas Morning News Editorial 8-2-11).


As leader of a nonprofit like my friend Larry, I, too, would be in BIG trouble if I "repurposed" restricted funds to fill holes in my budget. Why, then, is it OK for legislators to do it.....particularly when it is MY money they are repurposing!!!

I suggest we cut off all power to every legislator's home and office until they gain even a miniscule amount of compassion for those less fortunate than they.

And, I demand a reckoning and an audit of these funds AND an explanation of exactly how the representatives of ME will restore these funds for such needy folks.

I think if I keep writing about this, my head will explode. Suffice it to say, I am DONE with these hyjinks, both at the state and federal level.

It may be time to march......or "repurpose" the state legislature.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Same Old

So, here's a funny. Over the weekend, I was called at 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning to help the overnight shelter staff find the fire alarm key to disarm the alarm that had been pulled by a 9-year-old resident. The firefighters were going to break down the door of the office where the key was, so I decided to high-tail it up there.

I got to the shelter, unlocked the office, found the fire alarm key, gave it to the firefighters, laughed with them a bit about the false alarm (what IS it about firefighters that is SO engaging?), and then asked about the youngster who had pulled the alarm.

Upon learning his name, I wandered over to him and asked how he was doing. Crying, he said, "Not good." Me: "Why?" Him: "Cause I was trying to escape to find my mamaw." Me: "Did you pull the alarm?" Him: "No." Hmmmmm.......

Then he looks at me for the first time with tears running down his face and says, "You my mamaw!" Me: "You mean I look like her?" Him: "Yeah. Same old."

SAME OLD???? SAME OLD???? Now, I have to admit, I did NOT look my best after rolling out of bed to get here, but really? OLD???

Actually, I thought it was HILARIOUS. Only out of the mouths of kids would something like that come.

When I saw him the next day, he wasn't in a much better mood, but he did remember me. I was tempted to ask him if he thought I still looked "old", but decided not to risk it!

Gotta love 'em.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Were You Raised in a Barn??

My daughter FINALLY found a job in Austin. At 20 years of age, she was among the 24.5% of young people who are unemployed in this country. The report of 9.something% unemployment that we all hear about constantly is very misleading, since it applies only to "adults".

Looking for a job is stressful as it is, but these days, it is a total whippin'. Leslie did all the right things.....followed the directions......got many interviews......wrote thank you notes......made follow up calls.......and would get NO RESPONSE FROM ANYONE. Even when they told her they would call her back, THEY DIDN'T. What is that about??? What happened to business etiquette? Are the pickings that great that you don't even have to be civil to another human being anymore?

I can't tell you how discouraging it was for her, and for me having to hear it from her. Total silence. Total rudeness. Trying to answer her questions of how can people be so callous, so uncaring made my blood boil, made me want to call those people up and tell them a thing or two, like, "Were you raised in a barn???", "Were you raised by wolves?" "Have you ever heard of MANNERS??" Instead, all I could say was, "No matter how they act, YOU must do your part and follow good business etiquette. Something will pop."

And, finally, it did. After six months of discouragement, anger, anguish.....of "what's wrong with me?" something did pop. But not without collateral damage, not without a not-very-fun this-is-how-the-real-world-can-be lesson.

The one thing I hope Leslie takes from this is to NEVER treat others as she has been treated this past six months. If she is ever in a position to hire people, to think back on this experience and make sure she is NOT silent, NOT rude, DOES call back when she says she will, ESPECIALLY when she is not going to hire someone. That is the least she can do.

After all, isn't that what we all want? To be acknowledged, to be left with our honor and our egos in tact, even in rejection?

Seems little to ask.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ten Year Tally

I have been President of Promise House for ten years this month and with the agency 13. Hard to believe. There are days I think I have accomplished absolutely nothing, and then other days when I feel pretty good about what we’ve done. Here’s some of the good stuff:

• I’ve had my same executive team for 9 years.
• I have the BEST executive assistant in the universe.
• We have gone from raising a little over $200,000 in local funds the first
year I took over to now raising over $1,000,000 per year.
• We have had a lot of fun.
• We have had some incredibly funny stories and weird happenings to keep us
from being bored.
• We totally re-branded the agency i.e., new vision, mission, values, new logo
and tag line, new website, new collaterals, banners, the whole 9 yards.
• We jumped into the Social Media world with both feet. I LOVE it!
• I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the most incredible people across
the country through my involvement with National Council on Youth Policy and
Grant Review.
• We saved our largest state program from total anihilization.
• We’ve served over 40,000 teens and their family members since I took over.
• My Leadership Team (VPs, Managers, and me) has grown tremendously in areas
of conflict resolution, team work across departments, productivity,
connection with and respect for each other.
• Our Street Outreach Team has more than tripled the number of teens brought
into the shelter and transitional living annually. They are awesome!
• We have gone from the best kept secret in Dallas to a pretty-well-known
agency. Long way to go still.
• I have worked with some incredibly dedicated board members over the last 10
• PH continues to have unbelievably dedicated staff.
• The kids—what a blast to be able to interact and hang out with them on a
daily basis.

Here’s Some of the Bad Stuff:
• Government continues to be the bane and life-blood of our existence. With
the recent news of the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Program totally
closing at the federal level, we are losing our Parents with Promise Program
TOTALLY. The volatility of government funding SUCKS.
• Turn over is still too high at the case manager level. We are working
currently to grade that position to give folks somewhere to go in the agency.
• We STILL cannot seem to get the attention of the important people in
• We still need to grow our board of directors, both in numbers and in
• We haven’t grown like I want us to. Several attempts at expansion have not
worked out. Still pondering how to do that.
• Raising unrestricted $$ gets harder and harder every year.
• State Government…..enough said.
• Impact of the great recession. Survival mode is not fun.
• Day-to-day grind of never enough, never good enough, never fast enough,
never having time to savor victories or good stuff before something bad
WHAMS us in the face.

So, the rule of feedback is to sandwich bad stuff between good stuff, and end with hope. Therefore, I’ll end with the BEST thing:

I work in an honorable profession, have the honor and privilege of being involved in the lives of some of the most incredible teens on earth, get to work with dedicated and mission-driven staff, get to meet terrific people from across the country, have an incredible network of support when I need it, and, as a colleague from Oklahoma once said, I get to make whatever I want out of this job and the agency.

When I look at it that way, I think the good pretty well Xs out the bad. Here’s to 10 more.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

One of Our Own Advances!

Congratulations are in order for Regina Levine, Promise House Transitional Living Program Manager! She has been promoted to manage BOTH the Emergency Shelter AND TLP services for PH.

Regina has been with Promise House eight (8) years and has progressively increased her skills and credentials to be positioned as an expert in the youth services field. She originally came to PH as an intern working on her Masters degree in Counseling from Texas A&M Commerce. Of course we hired her when she finished and has served as Program Manager for several different programs. Along the way, she has become a Licensed Child Care Administrator and a Licensed Child Placement Administrator (both necessary to work with teens who have children). This August, she will receive her SECOND masters degree in social work! She has also participated in federal grant reviews, giving her a broad-spectrum knowledge of programs and grant-writing.

We are thrilled to have been able to promote from within, which is always our first choice and Regina was the perfect candidate. Her experience with teens and with parenting teens is tremendously valuable; especially since we are currently writing a grant to provide emergency shelter services to young teen parents (under the age of 18) and their children. She will be instrumental in helping to design this program.

It is ALWAYS such a thrill for me to watch employees grow and mature in their profession and aspire to advance, especially someone who has worked as hard as Regina has.

So, congratulations once again, Regina! Looking forward to great things from you!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Ask

My father used to say about his mother, who was a Republican National Committeewoman for years in Arkansas (and who tirelessly worked to get women out to vote), that you never wanted to start a conversation with her, because she would corner you and start asking for money for the Republican Party. I have a feeling my friends and family may be feeling the same way about me!

In my role as President of PH, I certainly have my hand out a lot. And here I am again, touting the golf tournament and auction, asking each of you to dig deep in support of our teens. Asking never gets easier for me. I get the “willies” just like anyone else when it comes to asking folks I know for money. BUT, and it is a very big but, the cause for which I am asking is SO critical and SO important to the future, not only of the teens we serve, but of our community, our state, our nation, that it overrides the fear.

So I am asking. I’m asking my board members, my staff, my friends, my colleagues, my neighbors. I’m asking that you sponsor the tournament. I’m asking that you give us names of potential sponsors. I’m asking that you bid on the auction. I’m asking that you secure auction items for us to add to the auction. I’m asking, and I’m offering you the opportunity to save a teen’s life, to give him hope for a bright future, to help her become a productive and independent citizen of our community.

I’m asking and I’m going to keep on asking. I’ll try not to corner you, however.

Have a great weekend. It’s supposed to be beautiful!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Inspiration Amidst Trial and Tribulation

Amidst all the tribulations of budget cuts, program cuts, outrageous bills being passed, and general dismal news, there are still great and inspirational things happening every day in the non-profit world, facilitated by incredible people. Promise House was recently on the receiving end of one such event.

There is a group in Dallas called The Real Estate Council (TREC), whose members are not only realtors, but other folks that support the industry i.e. attorneys, architects, electrical contractors, etc. Within the group is an Associate Leadership Class, made up of young, promising men and women in the profession. Every year, this class takes on a BIG capital project for a non-profit, and THIS year, Promise House was their beneficiary.

What they did was totally amazing. Our proposal to them was to build a 2,000 square foot storage facility in which to house donations for all of our programs. Well, when they got to Promise House and saw that ½ of the upstairs in our main building was still not finished out, they decided the storage building was not enough, and that they wanted to finish out half of that space as well, for us to use for our teens.

SOOOO, not only did they build our 2,000 square foot storage facility (and build side-walks, plant grass and flowers, and clean up the play area), they TOTALLY created and finished out two rooms upstairs, one for a “store” for our clients and the other (very large) for a multipurpose room for our teens. They erected walls, sheet-rocked and painted, put in HVAC, lighting, carpet, and whatever else was needed to get us green-tagged by the city. Their contribution to PH ended up being well over $100,000.

AND at the dedication ceremony last week, THEY thanked US for being able to do the project for PH! How cool is that??

We have always loved our volunteers, and this project is a very big reason why. Promise House could not do what we do without the help of passionate, committed, creative, and talented volunteers.

I know each of you has similar inspirational stories to tell. I would love to hear them!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Story Seekers

While I was in Austin last week, I had the privilege of seeing my daughter, Kat’s, new play, The Story Seekers. She wrote the play specifically to fit the grounds of the Elizabet Ney Museum in Hyde Park. What a fabulous scene! The museum itself looks like a castle, and it is set on fantastical grounds with foot bridges, creeks, tree swings, and winding paths—PERFECT for the fantasy she wrote.

The story involves a princess, a Story Teller, and lost children. The princess, Bet, is about to be killed by a mean General who has taken over the kingdom and dictated that NO stories will ever be told again. The kingdom must live only in the present and future—no history allowed! The Story Teller saves her by taking her to a magical place where there are only children. The trick, however, is that he takes their life stories and changes them as he pleases; and only HE can tell stories in this land. The longer they stay with him, the more they forget their stories, until they no longer even know who they were, where they came from, or what their names were.

Of course, two of the children (along with Bet) outsmart the Story Teller, take their stories back, send him running, and restore Bet to her kingdom (very short synopsis of the outcome).

I was so struck watching this fantastical play at the powerful metaphor of stories. I’ve said so many times how difficult it is for the teens at Promise House to maintain their history, to know and remember their stories; and how important we are in anchoring them to a GOOD and HOPEFUL story. I know this is why so many stay in touch with us. We ARE their story. We ARE their history. We ARE the beginning of their GOOD story.

So many of our kids have had their stories stolen, changed, convoluted, erased, forgotten, or damaged by years in the system, moving from place to place, being abused, being lied to, being forgotten. Thank god we can reconnect them, or connect them back to themselves. Hallelujah for stories and for the power to influence them in positive ways.

Aside from the fact that I think Kat is a genius and incredibly talented (where DID she get that??), I am so grateful to have been able to see this fun, magical, and powerful play. It re-confirmed for me how important our work at Promise House is and how fortunate we are to be in the presence of such great young people, my daughter included.

What is YOUR story? How do you keep it alive?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stressor of the Day - Promise House Style

So......I'm sitting at my desk today and see two police cars in front of our building. They were side by side blocking the street, and it looked like they were just chatting with each other.....UNTIL....I see one of the officers get out of her car and walk toward a white van that was parked incorrectly in front of our building. As she started writing the ticket, I jumped up from my desk, ran down the hall to the lobby, asked whose van it was, found out it belonged to a parent who was bringing her son here for help, told her she was getting a ticket, and ran outside to see if I could stop them from writing it. The mother ran out with me, but we were too late.

The police cars had pulled away. I took the ticket from the windshield--$45.00!! I thought the woman was going to faint. Her son came out with her, and she started talking to him in a foreign language. I couldn't understand the language, but I could certainly understand the tone. She was VERY angry. When I asked her what she said, she told me that she told him it was his fault that she got the ticket, because if she hadn't needed to bring him here, none of this would have happened!

NOW......before you judge this woman harshly for what she said to her son, try to remember the amount of stress she is under and what additional stress was added by this $45.00 ticket. She can't pay that ticket! And if she doesn't pay it in 30 days, the amount doubles, and then if she doesn't pay that, they issue a warrant for her arrest. Just what she needs. I did, however, say that maybe she shouldn't go so far as to say the ticket per se was her son's fault. She agreed and iterated what I already knew.....this was one more stressor she did not need.

About this time, the two police cars had stopped up the block at the stop sign. We ran up to the corner and asked if they could reverse the ticket, since she and her son were clients of Promise House and had NO money and didn't know where to park or that parking that way was illegal.
Nope. The officer said they can't "undo" tickets once they've been written, but she could call the number on the back of the ticket, give them the circumstances and see if they would dismiss it. I encouraged her to do so and to have the police call me if they needed verification of the story.

This very frustrating story is a perfect metaphor for what our families go through every day. One barrier after another, never enough money, or time, or food, or clothing, or resources to fix what to most of us would have been a minor inconvenience.

Which is exactly why I jumped up and ran outside to try and stop the police. I KNOW what this will do to this mother, her relationship with her son, and the incredible stress it will put on her financially.
I just really hope she calls that number on the back of the ticket and that whoever she talks with that day is feeling compassionate, or that they will at least call me. Keep your fingers crossed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Has Sprung!!

Spring has Sprung in Dallas!! My Redbud Tree is blooming, as is my Yellow Jasmine. My Japanese Maple has tiny buds just about to burst into beautiful red leaves, and my Jonquils are very yellow! No purple Iris yet, but they will emerge soon, I’m sure.

The dead plants in my various porch planters look REALLY dead now that other stuff is blooming, so I guess I know what I’ll be doing this weekend.

I LOVE Spring and Summer! I’m sorry for those of you up North who are still waiting, but I am jumping up and down with glee over the “bustin’-out-all-over I see happening in Big D. The azaleas are just about to add to the riot of color all over town (my all time favorite!), and The Dallas Aboretum is literally bursting with color and a zillion new flowers! Daylight Savings Time is right around the corner, (Hallelujah!)--I don’t even mind losing the hour—time just seems to expand with the longer days.

Time to get the screen porch spiffed up and cleaned for porch-sittin’ and spying on the neighbors (one of my favorite past times), put some color in the porch planters, clean out the flower beds (of course, I’M not going to do that, but time to do it anyway), and generally do some Spring Cleaning.

Speaking of which, what kind of Spring Cleaning do you need to do? Besides all the house stuff, how about clearing the cobwebs out of our brains and letting in some new thoughts, ideas, and information? Time to take the vacuum cleaner to our heads and clean out all that dead stuff that’s been hibernating all winter. Time to breathe in new life and exhale all that old, dusty stuff.

Or, if you’ve been incubating new plans, ideas, or projects all winter, NOW is the time to put them into action! Paint that wall, put in that bird bath, redesign your living room, create! Spring is the time for birth, rebirth, resurrection. The death of Winter gives way to the newness of Spring and all the possibilities that come with it. Time to come out of hibernation and create something grand!

OMG! I just saw a Robin for the first time this Spring! How cool is that?

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Well, I sat at home once again yesterday as Mother Nature blew sleet and snow all over this totally unprepared city. Dallas schools were once again closed, along with eight million others in North Texas. I know all you folks up North think we are a bunch of wusses down here in Texas, and we no doubt are!

Furthermore, I really don’t want to become a winter weather warrior. I live in Texas because I love warm weather, even hotter than hot weather. I HATE cold weather! When it gets below 65, I start getting grumpy. Imagine my state of mind yesterday and today at 18 balmy degrees with wind chill at minus one!!

Last week, schools were closed for an unprecedented four days! I have lived in Dallas over 40 years, and that has never happened. And, of course, you all know the effect of the weather on the pre-Super Bowl activities. Thank goodness it did at least become beautiful in time for the weekend. But, geez, what torture leading up to the big game!

And speaking of the big game, what happened to the thousands of prostitutes that were supposed to be transported in? Promise House heard nary a peep from Dallas police, and to my knowledge, only one guy was arrested for bringing in underage girls. Did the weather keep them at home, or was the estimate totally overblown, as was opined by the Dallas Observer, Dallas’ alternative news source?!

And my poor direct-care staff. We should use the Post Office slogan…..neither sleet nor snow or whatever keeps them from coming to work…….because they HAVE to! Kids don’t disappear just because it’s snowing or sleeting. One of my morning staffers left her house at 3:30 a.m. to get to work at 7:00!! That is ridiculous!

We admit it. We have no clue how to handle this stuff!! Last Thursday I braved the streets to buy groceries for the shelter (I live only one mile from work so get elected to do all kinds of fun things), since the Food Bank was closed and no one could leave the shelter. In my brand new Jeep (which I wasn’t too keen about exposing to the idiots on the road) I did just fine, and you would’ve thought I was the Messiah when I brought in the over $400 worth of bounty, which by the way, lasted a whopping 2 ½ days (those kids can EAT!!) I brought my trusty dog with me who I have nicknamed The Hulk, because he is a giant Golden Retriever, and when I left one of the guys said, “Thank you for bringing your dog and THANK YOU SO MUCH for bringing the FOOD!” It’s the little things.

My only saving grace out of this entire debacle is that this summer the joke will be on y’all. When it’s 103 up there in the North 40, you will be prostrate on the floor without air conditioning, and we’ll be cool as little cucumbers with our totally climate-controlled world. For that we ARE prepared!!

Stay warm. It's 18 degrees in Dallas, TX......unbelievable.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Different Side of the Super Bowl

As all of you know, the Super Bowl is coming to Dallas. Well here’s a side to it that you never hear about….at least publically. My V.P. of Programs, Alex, was contacted this week by the Child Exploitation Unit of the Dallas Police Department for Promise House to be a shelter for under-age prostitutes that get picked up during the Super Bowl. I’ve been haunted thinking about this discussion and the numbers of prostitutes that will be brought in for the Super Bowl. Is this Las Vegas or something? Geez, I simply cannot get my head around this kind of blatant, slimy, behavior engaged in by so many people. The even more horrific thought is the number of under-age prostitutes, both girls and boys, who will brought in to be used and abused.

Promise House is no stranger to helping prostitutes, both under-age and young adults. Thankfully, not in the numbers that are projected to be dealt with during the Super Bowl, but still, the issues are the same. So many get caught up in it simply trying to survive, trying to get something to eat, have someplace to stay. Teens (both boys and girls) 18 and under on the street will be approached by a “pimp” within 48 hours of “arriving” on the street. Lost, hungry, and confused, they get lured in and the downward spiral begins. They are objectified, bought, sold, used and abused in horrific ways.

Thankfully, the Dallas Police Department is beginning to understand the fact that under-age prostitutes are victims, not criminals. Letot Center, the shelter run by the Juvenile Justice Department here in town, is doing some great work with these kids. Instead of being arrested, these kids are now brought to Letot for special programming and help. This is what we will be doing during the Super Bowl. We have no idea how many will come to Promise House, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

These kids are someone’s children. They had hopes and dreams. They didn’t say when they were little, “Gee, I think I want to be on the street and become a prostitute when I grow up.” They certainly didn’t say, “I’m looking forward to being bought and sold and used and abused when I grow up.” They’ve had their childhoods and youth snatched from them in the most traumatic way. Hopefully, while they are with us, we can give them back a little of that youth and some of their hopes and dreams. At the very least, we can offer them a warm bed, good food, clean clothes, a shower, and a listening ear…..all with no strings attached.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On Turning 60....

Thursday, January 6, I turned 60. Every time I say that, I have such cognitive dissonance that I think my brain will explode. Sixty,sixty, sixty. Maybe if I say it enough, it will no longer freak me out. I have outlived my mother and my older brother, Bill. Fortunately, however, not my father or my other sibs. My brother, Ross, is even more freaked out about my birthday than I; because it means he's NEXT!!

How can we be this old? It really is unfathomable to me that sixty years of my life have passed. Really, I'm stunned. I'm just stunned.......particularly when so much of my stream-of-consciousness thinking encompasses long-ago scenes, activities, memories, thoughts, and events that FEEL so current i.e., when I see a young mother struggling to corral her kids and flash on memories of myself doing the same; I certainly don't feel 30 years older than she at that moment.....it seems I was JUST doing what she is currently doing. Likewise, when I’m hanging out with Promise House teens or other young people, I don’t feel old enough to be their mother or even grandmother (heaven forbid!!). I feel as vital, passionate, energetic, and cool as they are; unless, of course, I try to play basketball or volleyball with them. Then, unfortunately, I am brought up short VERY QUICKLY as to my lack of youth! But when I’m with them, I don’t FEEL any age difference……I am right back in my own adolescence or young adulthood with them.

It's uncanny how ALL of my life is carried around with me, with parts of it being triggered by a scent, a sound, a song.....and I am RIGHT back there.....and it is CURRENT....and it is WITH me.....and I don't FEEL 60.....I feel 20 or 15 or 35 or 5....and then I notice myself in a mirror.....and I am once again stunned.....because I AM 60!

My vanity is really getting the best of me on this birthday. I have friends who have celebrated their graying hair, their increased wrinkles, proudly announcing that they earned every one of them and are happy to show them off. I, on the other hand, want no such part of this celebration. I will go to my grave covering at least some of my gray and fighting those pesky little wrinkles one by one!

I admit that I am of the Boomer group who wants to be eternally young, who is totally vain, self-involved, and bent on turning back time, as impossible as that is. I've often said that I'm going for 120, still lookin' and feelin' good. I have lucked out with fabulous genes, good health, pretty good looks, and a fair amount of athleticism and may get close to that; however, none of these will save me in the end. I will still get old (hopefully) and die.

Since I can’t go backwards, and the only other option is very unappealing, I guess 60 doesn’t look all that bad. I AM still above ground, functioning, healthy, happy, energetic, and optimistic. Hopefully, I have lots more years to wrestle the hands of time, if not backwards at least not so quickly forward. And I will continue to be stunned at the passage of time, the aging of my friends, family, and me; and I will continue to carry my life around with me and be all kinds of different ages all the time.....that is, until I spy myself in a mirror.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 New Years Resolutions for our Government

Happy New Year, Everyone!

During the holidays, I came up with a small list of resolutions our government should make in 2011 regarding the plight of homeless and runaway teens in our country:

Housing – The US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services (ACYF/FYSB) should get together to offer funding for housing and support services for our teens. HUD should re-open funds for transitional housing, which is critical for the success of our teens—they are NOT chronically homeless and most do not have a severe enough disability to be eligible for permanent supportive housing—and DHHS, through the Family Youth Services Bureau should offer funds for support services directly linked to the housing funds. These services would include case management, food, clothing, furnishings, medical and dental, family planning, and everything else we all currently provide for these kids. So, come on HUD and DHHS, what do you say???

Top Billing – Homeless and runaway teens and young adults should be DHHS’ and HUD’s top priority. They should resolve that in order to truly end homelessness in this country, these kids will be a priority focus this coming year and for at least the next 10 years.

Congressional Resolve – Both houses of Congress should resolve to end their neglect of these kids, as demonstrated by the paltry funding that continues to be dedicated to them, by resolving to dramatically increase funding to the Runaway/Homeless Youth Act, to transitional housing funds through HUD, and to other programs that serve these teens.

I’m sure there are many more I could up with, but these will do for a start. My BIG question to the Universe, Congress, and anyone else who will listen is, “When will we get that helping young people get off the streets is SOOOOO much cheaper and SOOOO much more effective than waiting until they are 45, addicted to everything on earth, in horrible health, with terrible mental health conditions?? It is SUCH a no-brainer for me,

Unfortunately, I know that I am preaching to the choir here. You all know the story. You see it every day. Somehow, we need to find the time and the voice to make sure that our government knows the story, that they see it EVERY day, and that they DO NOT ignore this most important story.

So, perhaps our New Year’s resolution should be to be the VERY loud, SQEAKY wheel that gets the grease!

Happy LOUD, SQUEAKY New Year!!!