I Still Believe In Santa!

Believe in Santa

I’ve struggled to write this because just thinking of it makes me emotional. As a child my favorite holiday memory was a year I knew my parents had no money for gifts. My mom worked tirelessly to hand sew me and my two younger siblings each a gift for Christmas. I’m not sure when the huge basket arrived on our door step but on Christmas morning I expected to wake to only the hand sewn gifts under the tree. Instead we woke to gifts from Santa, more wrapped gifts including books and clothes in each of our sizes PLUS the wonderful hand made gifts my mom made. “Santa” not only left a basket of gifts but a complete holiday dinner. Early that December my mom had told me that Santa wasn’t ‘real’ in hopes I could help soften the disappointment on Christmas morning with my younger siblings. I didn’t want to hear what she had to say because I still whole heartily believed in Santa. Yet on Christmas morning I was able to stand proud in my belief of Santa! I knew Santa was real but NOT because I thought a big guy in a read suit dropped off all these gifts. It was because some amazing people knew we couldn’t afford Christmas so they came together and made our Christmas happen.

Fast forward to this year. This has be the hardest year of my adult life. Every day/week/month seems to bring worse news than the day before. We have dealt with so many things in different areas of our life including; an unjustified home eviction, moving, changing schools, loss of my husband’s job/our only income, me returning to work, lack of work for husband for almost 5 months, debt as far as the eye can see, denial of help from the government, anxiety, depression, counseling for one child, new doctors, small health concerns, new medical denying needed procedures, social struggles at school, and so much more! Maybe 2015 wasn’t our year. Maybe we are just down on our luck. No matter what I’m sure this is all a part of the journey we must travel. This year has certainly strengthened our family unit and our relationship with God.

A little more than a month ago I realized there was no possible way I could give my kids any gifts for Christmas. We keep our Christmas modest with just four gifts per child: a Santa gift, a want, a need, and a read. I decided I would reach out to my friends and family to ask for help. This was difficult and humbling for me to do.  In one week just about every item on their list had been bought and money had been given to purchase the remaining items. We had friends give us their gently used clothes to fill some of the “need” items on the list. We had friends reach out to their friends asking for additional help in filling our kids list. Many of these people were strangers to us. They heard our story and wanted to help. I had friends and family reach out to give us meals and buy our groceries. I can’t even begin to name all of the people who have stepped up to help us not just now but over the last six months and even throughout the entire year. The love and support we have received has been absolutely amazing!!

When I say that I believe in Santa it is because I truly do! He may not be the one to place the presents under the tree for my kids but his spirit has shown through so many amazing people in our life this year. Every time someone gave freely without expectation they were spreading joy, love and light in our home!! These people will likely never know how much their acts of kindness have meant to us. A simple ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem like nearly enough for what they have given but it and my friendship is all I have to offer and for them that is enough. On behalf of everyone who has received something from your generosity this year I say THANK YOU! Thank you for being someone’s Santa!

Childhood Sexual Abuse Awareness Month & Somethings Parents Need to Know!

saam_logo-generalenglish_2

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse I wanted to shed some light on a topic that I think we as parents tend to shy away from, CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE. I am going to try to have several posts this month on my blog talking about sexual abuse. I will try to share some of my story to hopefully shed some light on things for parents, as well as anyone who have/are being sexually abused. This is not an easy topic for me to discuss but I know how important it is that we all start talking about it.

Recently I’ve read a few articles giving parents ‘tips to avoid sexual predators’. Although I am glad people are speaking out and sharing ideas/info I was angry because my mom had followed every single one of the tips and yet I was still preyed on, not by just one man but two! That being said the biggest thing I was upset about was the false sense of safety the parents commenting had. They say things like “Oh I already do all of these so no one will get near by children.” or “I’m mama bear and everyone who meets us knows this so they know not to mess with my kids.” The comments go on and on like this. And as much as I applaud these parents for getting informed sadly their comments and mind set are all wrong!

It has been 15 and 13 years since the sexual abuse I survived. Yet I still lay awake at night wondering why I was preyed on. My mom and I had a close relationship. I was a strong girl that knew what I wanted in life. I wasn’t sad, depressed, or any of the other ‘typical’ things some of the statistics say children are when they are sought out by a predator. I’m sure my mom has spent just as much time as I have wondering these same things. Or what she could have done to prevent it. The bottom line is there is no ‘full proof’ way to make sure your children wont be preyed on. It can happen to ANYONE.

I wanted to share a good source of helpful material for parents to read from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (nsvrc.org). Don’t wait to start reading all of the resources they provide!! Start educating yourself now!!

Your voice. Our future. Logo -- fixed clock

This month I am supporting the #SAAM campaign to help spread the word about sexual abuse! You can help speak up too!

  • On Instagram you can spread the word with the #30DayOfSAAM and tag @NSVRC in your posts. 
  • On Twitter you can do the #TweetAboutIt Tuesdays! It’s an hour-long town hall discussion every Tuesday in April on Twitter. 
  • Follow NSVRC on Facebook and share the resources they post!

It’s time to take action! Start speaking! Start listening! Start getting information! Start now!!
Signature

InspireU: A Mentoring Program with Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Big Brothers Big Sisters South Texas (BBBSST). I was compensated to participate but all opinions are mine.

When I learned about the student mentoring program, InspireU, in San Antonio it made me think back to my sophomore year of high school. On the first day of school my English teacher asked the class to write a paper on what we wanted to do after high school, what degree we would seek, at which college, to bring us closer to our dream career. Like most kids in my sophomore class I had absolutely no idea what career I wanted or college degree I would seek.

Fast forward to my senior year, I still had no idea what college degree I was planning to seek and no direction of what career I wanted. However there were a few students that had began doing internships during high school, even taking college courses our senior year to jump start their schooling. My husband was one of the high school students to take advantage of an internship. He interned with an oil field company. I used to tease him asking “what at the chances you’ll really seek a career in the oil field after college?”. Boy did he prove me wrong. He knew after those few years of interning that the oil field was the perfect career for him. I was left with no clear career direction.

Looking back I realize just how volatile those years were for each students future. All of the students that did an internship in my high school ended up going to college and following their dreams to their career. What if you could offer a student some insight into their dream career and help them plan for their future? Well now you can…

BBBS purple stacked

Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas has a mentoring program, InspireU, that matches “Littles” (mostly high school and middle school students) with “Bigs” (co-workers) to mentor at their place of business. These Bigs give one hour of each month to eat lunch and talk to their Littles about their future. Together they set goals, talk about possible careers, and plan for the Little’s future.

This video shares what some students and mentors in the InspireU program are feeling. (You might want tissues handy.)

Trisha (a Little in the InspireU mentor program) said, “My mom didn’t go to college, but Annie (mentor) did and she’s been through all that so she helps me.”  “My mom wants me, of course, to be someone in life and get a great education. Having Annie help me and guide me through everything has really helped me a lot.”

BBBS mentor month

There is no time like the present, being that January is National Mentoring Month, for you and your co-workers to begin mentoring with InspireU. Here is an InspireU Partnership Flyer with more on information on how you can get involved. 

 

Wondering just how effecting mentoring programs like InspireU are? I was too so let me share what I found…This LOCAL Chase Impact Study shows results of students paired with volunteer mentors from Chase Bank in “Beyond School Walls,” BBBS’ workplace mentoring program in the 2010-2011 school year. Of the 24 students in the program:

  •  20 improved their reading scores on the 2011 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) from the previous year, many by as much as 100 points 6 of the students were commended for their performance (compared to none the year before being
  •  6 of the students were commended for their performance (compared to none the year before being mentored).
  •  In the 2011 TAKS math scores, 20 of the 24 students improved their scores* (3 students did not have scores from the previous year available to compare).
  •  9 students mentored by Chase mentors were rated commendable for their Math TAKS performance.

PLUS according to the Program-Based Outcome Evaluation surveys completed by the students’ teachers, 96% improved their academic performance from the previous year and the school counselor confirmed that every student in the Beyond School Walls program advanced to the next grade.

Clearly this mentor program made quite the impact on those students as well as the volunteers.

A "Little" with her Clear Channel Mentor

A “Little” with her Clear Channel Mentor

I am known to say this often because I truly believe it and live by it, “You get more out of volunteering than you’ll ever be able to give.”

So what are you waiting for? Get your business involved in InspireU today by visiting BigMentor.org, send an email to info@bigmentor.org, or call 210-225-6322. Just think of what mentoring just one our a month could do to help change the future of a child! 
Signature

Ways to make a difference this holiday season in San Antonio!

Are you looking for ways to GIVE to those in need this holiday season? Well I was privileged this week to learn about TWO great organizations in San Antonio that are looking for your help this holiday season!

From Me To YouBig Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas is opening a From Me To You store in the Rolling Oaks Mall on Black Friday. This store isn’t like your typical store. Here is what their FB page says… “From Me To You is a store in Rolling Oaks Mall where kids can shop for holiday gifts for family and friends. All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sister.”  The way it works is a customer makes a donation to Big Brothers Big Sister of South Texas. Each donation earns you a designated amount of points that can be redeemed for gifts. Customers children can then make a list of the people they are getting gifts for, they go with an ‘Elf’ into the store to find a gift for each person, an ‘Elf’ helps them wrap and tag their gifts, all while their parents wait for them in the seating area of the store.

Having four kids myself I find this store to be GENIUS! Not only am I teaching my children about giving (by donating to Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas) but they are also getting to go “shopping” for their siblings, grand parents, parents, friends, etc with the help of an Elf giving them the chance to surprise everyone in the family. Shopping of any sort is always a big task with four kids in tow but the holiday season is especially stressful. My children are at an age where they do want to get gifts for their siblings and grandparents, which I love that they want to give. But it can be very difficult to do this in a normal store setting. This is why From Me To You is the perfect place to take your kids to do THEIR holiday ‘shopping’ this year!

~ALSO if you are looking to give more help to From Me To You they are looking for ‘Elves’ to come volunteer at the store during mall hours from Black Friday to Christmas Eve. You can email info@bigmentor.org to inquire for open time slots needing filled!~

 

Elf Louise ProjectElf Louise Project is unique in that they not only give gifts to less fortunate families with young children BUT children of all ages including TEENAGERS!! It is rare to find an organization that gifts to teens so I was thrilled to find this out when my son and I went to wrap gifts for teenagers this week with other San Antonio Bloggers as part of the #payitforward service they are doing!

Last year they gave over 19,000 presents to over 5,500 families in need in San Antonio! This is HUGE!! They are 100% volunteer ran and depend on donations each year to be able to give to as many less fortunate families as they possibly can! I was in awe at the amount of gifts they had ready for the children of all ages! What a great cause and a wonderful group of people to give their time to such a great organization!!

If you are looking to donate click here for me info. If you are interested in volunteering with the Elf Louise Project click here for more info.

I love this quote: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Dave Ramsey