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Every day, one in three women die as a result of domestic violence.

Scary number, isn’t it? Here’s another scary one: three out of four women know someone who is affected by domestic violence. That means that you probably know someone who is affected in some way.

The National Coalition of Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and truly last a lifetime.”

Domestic violence (DV) is a scary reality for many men and women in the country. It is an important topic to discuss. Women especially, need to talk openly about domestic violence. Tell your Gal Pals – whether it’s your best friend, sister, mother, daughter, niece, cousin or neighbor – to face domestic violence, share their opinions and experiences and show support for survivors.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has some tips for people who want to help a friend or family member:

Don’t be afraid to let him or her know that you are concerned for their safety. Help your friend or family member recognize the abuse. Tell him or her you see what is going on and that you want to help. Help them recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship.

Be non-judgmental. Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. He or she may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize his or her decisions or try to guilt them. He or she will need your support even more during those times.

Encourage him or her to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. Offer to go with him or her to talk to family and friends. If he or she has to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along for moral support.

If you need help getting a conversation started with a friend or loved one, visit ClickToEmpower.org for easy ways start the conversation, check out resources for survivors or read inspirational survivor stories. This website is a wonderful resource, and even has information on local DV coalitions in your area.

How can you help right now?

For each person who “likes” the Click To Empower! Facebook page, The Allstate Foundation will donate $1 to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (up to $20,000). Click here to go to the Facebook page.

The Allstate Foundation will donate another $1 if you take the pledge to Tell a Gal Pal about domestic violence. As part of the pledge, your photo will be added to the “Faces of Support” gallery to show survivors that they aren’t facing domestic violence alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call: THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE at 1-800-799-7233


I wrote this blog post while participating in The Allstate Foundation’s Tell a Gal Pal blogging program with TwitterMoms, making me eligible to get an interview with Cheryl Burke. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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With back to school shopping getting under way around the country, parents are now looking for great ways to save money. Here are some ideas to help you save a bit of cash.

1. Shop in your house first. Look through your closets, cabinets, junk drawers and anywhere else you can think of to see what you already have. You may not need a new pack of pencils if you’ve got 10 that are still usable. You may find a calculator, making it so that you don’t have to buy one. While these items may not seem expensive, they can definitely add up quickly, especially when shopping for more than one child. Let kids decorate old binders with stickers or photos to jazz them up. Instead of buying book covers, use paper shopping bags that kids can write on and decorate themselves.

2. Coupons, coupons, coupons. Kind of self explanatory, you’re going to save extra when using coupons. You’ll save even more if you can pair them up with sale prices at stores.

3. Shop for clothes after school starts. You’ll get a good vibe at what’s going to be the fashion trend, and prices will be coming down as new things start coming out for the next season.

4. Stick to the class list. Many teachers say that they are amazed at the number of students that come in with things they probably won’t use. If your kid is going to need it, it will be on the class list.

5. Decide how much you can spend, and stick with it. Don’t be afraid to let your kids know that there is a limit on anything they might want for school, and anything above and beyond either needs to wait, isn’t needed, or will have to come out of their piggy bank.

6. Pounce on the “loss leader” items at stores. You know the ones, the 10 cent spiral notebooks or the 25 cent box of Crayola crayons? But don’t go overboard. If you find out that the pens are on sale this week, buy the pens. If filler paper is on sale next week, wait until then to get it!

7. Separate wants from needs. That pencil sharpener that lights up may look really cool, but it’s going to be a distraction in class. The $1 three pack of sharpeners will do the same job without getting the child in trouble.

8. Buy basics in bulk. If there is a great sale on notebooks at the store, stock up. Your kid will probably need a few over the course of the school year.

9. Buy quality when necessary. If you buy that cheap backpack, it may break during the school year. If you replace it with another cheap one, it may break again. If this keeps up, you’re going to wind up spending more money on cheap backpacks than you will on one quality one that will last for four, or even eight, years. Leaky pens may cost more than that if you have to replace your son or daughters school uniform or clothes because you can’t get it out.

10. Invest in fun, reusable lunch-ware. Reusable water bottles and lunch boxes are better for the environment, and will save you money in the long run. It’s cheaper to buy juice in a bottle than to buy single serve juice boxes or pouches. It’s easy to find BPA-free plastics now, so spend the money ahead of time, and you’ll get a return on your investment at the end.

I hope these help you save a little bit of money while planning your back to school shopping trips. Share your favorite tips in the comments section!

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Staples blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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Lately, I’ve been working on putting together two things: A control journal for my family (Thank you very much, FLY Lady!), and an emergency binder. I thought I would share the emergency binder with you, because I think it’s great to have all the information you need stored in one, easy to access location. Once mine is complete, I plan on getting a safe deposit box at one of our local banks to store it in. I thought I’d walk you through what I’m putting in mine, in order to help you put together yours!

I picked out a three ring binder in a color that doesn’t look like any of the other ones sitting in my bookshelf in my kitchen. In my case, it happens to be purple. I put a label on the front that says Cardin Family Emergency Binder, as well as one on the side, so I can easily read it when scanning the shelf.’

Family Emergency BinderFamily Emergency Binder

I use tabbed dividers and put the pages in plastic sheet protectors, too.

Tabbed pages

The first section is for Emergency Contact Information. There is a great page all made up already that you can just print off and use. It’s also perfect for babysitters, nanny’s, and day cares.

Emergency Contact SheetI also have a copy of this in my control journal. I’ll talk about a control journal another time, but for now, let’s just focus on the emergency binder.

Section Two: Hannah. This is a section with all relevant information about my 2 year old daughter. I downloaded the forms from Emergency Binder, and keep them saved on my computer for easy updating. The information includes all medical insurance information, copies of her immunization records, a copy of her social security card (with the words COPY written on it, because it’s a color copy), and anything else the forms asked me for. She wears glasses, so I also keep her current eyeglass prescription there.

Sections Three and Four: Melissa and John. It’s pretty much all the same information as for Hannah, only it also includes information about the location of our spare car keys, access information for bank accounts, email addresses and other websites, as well as information about power of attorney and final arrangements.

Section Five: Home Owners Insurance. I actually keep an entire copy of our policy in there.

Section Six: Auto Insurance. Same thing – a whole copy of the policy.

Section Seven: Bank info – pretty self explainitory.

Section Eight: Photos. These are photos of all the big expensive things we own: Cars, piano, computers, TVs, and things like that. I just keep them on a CD, rather than keeping the hard copies of the photos themselves. I also keep copies uploaded somewhere online so I can access them from any computer.

Section Nine: Emergency Plans. Where should we meet if the house is on fire? What if we need to evacuate? What if we need to get away from the house, but not out of our neighborhood? That’s where all this information is. Everyone should know it BEFORE putting it in your binder. If only one of you knows it, and you take the binder, everyone else is out of luck. This also includes things to remember to pack if there is an emergency, such as a hurricane, a few days away and you’ll have time to grab a few things before leaving.

Section Ten: Vital Records – Birth Certificates, marriage certificates, adoption records, car titles, name changes, social security cards, all of that stuff. This is precisely why this information should all be kept in a safety deposit box, and NOT in your home. If your house catches on fire, you may not have time to grab it.

So that’s it, my basics on how to make an emergency binder. Please take the time to do it for you and your family. I pray you’ll never have to use it, but if you do, at least it will all be in one spot.

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Moms on strike

Today I checked out an amazing blog post by Holly Robinson, a freelance writer who works from home. A mom of three, ages 6 -16, she went on strike to show her family what it is, exactly, that she does around the house.

It’s a long, detailed description of how the seven days she spent on strike went, and it got me thinking. I would love to go on strike, so my husband could see how much housework and what not I do around the house.

Sure, he’s pretty good at keeping up with dishes, he cooks (more than me, usually), he mows the lawn and keeps up our car maintenance. Outside of those things, though, he doesn’t really DO anything around the house. He plays with Hannah (age 2) and our pets, but mostly he plays video games or whatever. I just had to explain to him why you can’t let Hannah stay up in her room for 30 minutes after she wakes up from a nap because she trashes her bedroom. She’s two, and she’s bored, for Pete’s sake! What else is she going to do?

I am usually the one to clean the kitchen, sweep, vacuum (though he’s been better about that since being home on summer vacation), and I’m the only one that does laundry. In his defense, he did fix the washer when it was broken, and he’s kind of a “d0-it-yourself-er,” because he’s tiled two floors in our house, and has the ambition to remodel our bathroom soon. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great. But sometimes it makes me want to go on strike too.

He claims he “doesn’t see”  the clutter that’s in our house. I would be the first one to believe that. I can’t tell you the number of times he’s walked by piles of clothes and not done anything about it. But I’d love to not do anything for a week and see what happens.

Oh sure, I’d still go to my job, but I mean not do anything around the house. No cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, no feeding the pets, no shopping. I’ll play with my daughter, but the discipline and everything? That would be all him. I would get to be the one to go out two or three nights a week, instead of him going to a rehearsal, I would just go out with a friend or something and let him do everything at home.

I don’t think I’d have the conviction to stick to it though. I guess this just means that we should talk about some of that stuff. Who knows, maybe I’ll get home today, and the new storm windows will be installed on my upstairs windows and the broken screen in the front of the house will be fixed. All without prompting. Maybe.

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… And that means that hubby is home for the summer now! While that has been a lot lifted off of me in terms of being a mom, it sure does add a lot to the household chores. I forget during the school year all the extra housework that comes from having a teacher husband who is home for the summer.

I’ll admit he’s been better about helping out around the house lately, but I’ve got to tell you – coming home to find that he’s eaten all of the only box of crackers (that I just purchased 2 days ago!), or all of our glasses are dirty and on his computer desk gets really old really fast.

So far, though, the summer has been pretty relaxing. We’ve got a lot to do on our to-do list, but nothing that should be too difficult. I’ll just be glad when we have the time to get it all done. We’ve already managed to get some of the smaller stuff done, like taking Hannah’s changing table out of her room (she doesn’t really need it anymore, even though she’s not potty trained yet – which is also on our to-do list, though not formally written down), and getting our wicker furniture out of the basement.

I’ve got to spend some time really decluttering the house. I feel like my house is in a constant state of clutter, and I don’t really know where to start. I’ve done pretty well, for the most part, getting rid of a lot of stuff, thanks to websites like Paperback Swap and Listia, but I still feel like I have a lot to clean out. I think it’s because I always wish I could be one of those “minimalist” people, but I’m just not. As I’ve said, I’ve gotten a lot better about it, but I’m definitely open to suggestions! I’ve tried the fly lady method, and I think that’s what I ultimately need to get back to, because it’s just building in housework to your daily routine, which I can deal with. I’m all about routines!

Anyway, speaking of routines, a show I want to watch just started, and I’ve missed the first 12 minutes. Will catch up again later!

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I thought I would share 25 things most people don’t know about me:

1. I have had 20 teeth pulled.
2. My husband doesn’t want another dog after ours gets old and goes to doggie heaven, but I want a little one.
3. I really enjoy doing paperwork. I’m weird like that.
4. I wish I could be an awesome blogger with a million readers.
5. I have an illogical fear of fishing because I’m afraid of getting a hook stuck in my finger.
6. If I were still single with no kids, I would want to live in Europe for a year.
7. My ideal job would be something to do from home.
8. I make and sell Scrabble Tile Pendants, and I REALLY want the business to succeed.
9. I often believe I was born in the wrong reality…
10. … or at least born in the wrong decade or century.
11. I don’t think I want to have any more kids. I’m really happy with just my one daughter.
12. I don’t believe myself to be really good at anything.
13. I am addicted to office supplies. I could live at a stationary store or Staples or something.
14. I want to take a pottery class.
15. I want to take a photography class.
16. I would like to own an SLR digital camera, but can’t afford one.
17. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, but I almost never eat one.
18. I hate to garden, but I love having gardens at my house.
19. I would LOVE to own a bed and breakfast.
20. I want to learn graphic design.
21. I have the biggest sweet tooth ever. EVER.
22. I’m afraid of spiders.
23. Yes, I’m a mom. Yes, I read Twilight. Yes, I love Edward.
24. Mama Luna’s Studio has a shop on cafepress.com too!
25. My husband and my daughter are the biggest loves of my life – forever and ever!

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This is the write up I did for my boss and the board of directors for work about my experience at the conference I just attended, so keep in mind that this is primarily geared towards the people I work with, but I really wanted to share my thoughts. Please feel free to let me know what you think!
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I wanted to start my description of the Family Promise conference, Dare to Dream, with some startling statistic or an interesting fact. The truth is, I can’t pick just one thing to start with. Maybe it’s that a startling 92% of homeless mothers are survivors of some kind of trauma. Maybe it’s that nationally, 3,450 families were served by IHN’s and Family Promise networks all over the country. Or perhaps, it’s just the reminder of what the broader Family Promise program is – a place to take care of people, love them, guide them, and steer them back into the communities the families so long to return to.
I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. The conference began on Friday morning with sessions for program staff. The first session I attended was on Trauma Informed Service with Families in Crisis. This is where I learned the statistic about the homeless mothers and traumatic events. Often times, this is where homelessness begins for these families, and it just compounds as the families move into our program. So, why should Family Promise staff care about these traumatic events? For one, these survivors can present a unique set of challenges to case management. These people can appear “non-compliant” with the program, or may appear to have ADHD. They can also appear to completely dissociate from everyone – “spacing out” or having “inappropriate emotions” such as smiling while discussing rape.
There are two different types of trauma that people can experience – Acute (such as a natural disaster or a car accident), and Complex (exposure to multiple traumatic events such as abuse). People suffering from Acute Trauma will likely move on with minimal amounts of assistance, where as people suffering from Complex Trauma are completely unaware that there is a different reality from the one they’ve known. Think for a second about how you feel after having a car accident: your heart starts racing, your palms are sweaty, and you don’t really know what to think or feel. People suffering from Traumatic Stress feel like this all the time. There are a lot of signs that people in our programs have been through some sort of trauma, and as the case manager, I now believe that it is my role to advocate for these people when I begin seeing these signs and symptoms before allowing their situation to get any worse.
It isn’t our job as staff or volunteers to provide counseling for them, but it is our job to make sure they get the help that they need. With that said, we can make accommodations for these people to help them regain control of their lives again, such as having well lit halls and bathrooms in our faith communities, making sure guests have privacy when changing their clothes or bathing. Even things like the temperature or the number of people at a church can affect how comfortable someone feels. Did you know that people who have experienced multiple traumatic events actually are cooler in temperature than those who have not? Though faith communities may be trying to save money on their heating bills, this may cause great discomfort to our guests, and we need to be aware of this.
I believe that it is essential to make sure that the board, staff and volunteers receive proper training on how to work effectively with guests who are suffering from traumatic stress, and would like to encourage the board and program director to look into this possibility, and I would be thoroughly happy to help with this.
The biggest thing that we, as the staff, board and volunteers need to remember for our guests is that we can’t get secure in who we think our guests are, but to look at who they really are. Not every guest that comes through our doors are “just like us, but homeless.” If the volunteers begin talking to our guests, and information begins to come out about a traumatic event that happened in that guests life, it isn’t the volunteers responsibility to counsel them through it. It is their responsibility to notify the staff, so that the appropriate referrals can be made.
We also have to keep an environment of self care for the staff. We need to demonstrate how to care for ourselves so our guests can learn to care for themselves. “It’s not healthy or a badge of honor that you don’t take a vacation or turn off your phone,” as the presenter said. We have to remember that we, as caregivers, can experience vicarious trauma by working with the guests we work with. As the Dali Lama put it, “In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering… if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have long-term perspective.”
This is a great lead in to describing a session I attended called Self Care – Knowing Your Boundaries. Hospitality is all about breaking boundaries, but some boundaries are good. They help preserve identity, prevent people from being used, and create respect. Some boundaries are about saying yes or no, but some are about setting limits. They allow us to connect without absorbing, or being absorbed by, others. It isn’t wrong to recognize our limits, but acknowledging them is the most difficult. The best quote I took from there is that “the end of boundaries is not freedom, the end of boundaries is the end of life.”
Knowing our limits can prevent us as staff, board and volunteers from becoming arrogant about our helping. We are not here to feed our own egos. We may try to remake our guests into our own image, instead of helping them become the person they are but we need to remember that this is the family’s journey, and we need to let them take it with our assistance. It isn’t our journey to take for the guests. They need to be allowed to do for themselves.
One great thing that our volunteers, staff and board can do is be an advocate for those who are experiencing homelessness. The 2010 advocacy campaign that Family Promise is rolling it is through a part of the program called Voices Uniting. The theme is “A Place To Call Home.”  Many people already acquainted with Family Promise are advocates but aren’t aware of it. People don’t have to know a lot to become an advocate, just talk about what they know. We need to encourage guests and former guests to take part as well. We need to involved our state and local congress people – bring them in to volunteer, or get someone on their staff to do it! Let’s get involved in writing our state and local senators and representatives and create broad based partnerships. The stronger our partners, the better!
Some interesting statistics that our advocates can share:
·         Nationally, we are 3.1 million homes short. That means that for every 40 homes there are, we need an additional one.
·         There are only 37 rental homes available and affordable for every 100 households with incomes below 30% of their area’s median income.
·         Approximately 1.5 million children experience homelessness in any given year.
·         The high school graduation rate for homeless students is less than 25%
·         There is no city or county anywhere in the U.S. where a worker making the minimum wage can afford a fair market rate one-bedroom apartment.
I’ve included at the end of this report some charts I made up with resources I was introduced to in this workshop as well. They are some interesting fast facts about poverty and homeless rates both nationally and state wide.
Family Mentoring is a great way to take advocacy down to a personal level. Mentors help families still living in the communities to access resources and develop their life skills. Typically, these are volunteers who complete special training for the program to become a family mentor. Mentors are able to utilize resources available from Family Promise, such as the Interfaith Self-Sufficiency Matrix to help a family determine where they are at. A great part of this workshop was being able to do a personality strength indicator that lets people see how they work with other people and what motivates them. Once I calculated my score, I was able to see on paper what my strengths are (I’m a Golden Retriever, by the way) and can have a good understanding of where I may need to adapt to be more effective with the guests in our program.
A great resource for people that are facing homelessness is the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing program. People that qualify for this program need to make 50% or less of the Area Median Income and are in need of temporary assistance to end or prevent homelessness. However, they must have the capacity to remain stable when the assistance ends.
One key interesting point is how differently the program is run in different states. Many states run HPRP for only 3 months, while in NH, residents get services for 6 months. The assistance can come in the form of helping with rental assistance or arrears in rent, utility assistance or arrears in utilities, deposits, moving costs and hotel/motel vouchers. People also get case management services from an HPRP case manager, outreach services, housing search and placement, legal services and credit repair, though not all facilities providing HPRP services need to offer all of those services. Some presenters at the session offered only the case management, others offered all but legal services. It still seems that there is a lot of confusion among people about the program, and it is possible that the program may be extended, but many of the questions won’t be answered until all states have utilized all the monies available. It is a “learn as you go” process.
Outside of all the sessions I sat in for at the conference, the best parts were the networking, meeting new people and learning about how other Family Promise organizations run. I talked to people who hadn’t even incorporated a Network yet, and people who have been directors for 13 years. I made some great connections with people, and believe I learned as much from them as I did in all the planning sessions. I would certainly enjoy attending another conference again in 2011.
Housing Matters
National
State
Fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment
$959
$1,023 
Housing Wage (required to afford a two-bedroom apartment)
$18.44 
$19.67 
Actual average renter’s wage
$14.44 
 $14.08
Minimum wage
$7.25
 $7.25
Weekly hours of work required at minimum wage to afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment
102 
 109
  
Our Children, Our Future
National
New Hampshire (2008)
Child Poverty in the United States


Number of children living in poverty
14,068,000
 25,622
Percentage of children living in poverty
19%
8.8% 
Percentage of children living in extreme poverty
7.8%
4.0%
Number of children who receive food stamps
12,559,379
 25,313
Percentage of eligible people who receive food stamps
65%
 55%
Number of children who are victims of abuse and neglect
905,000
 822
Child Poverty and Race


Percentage of white children in poverty
13.3%
 8.4%
Percentage of black children in poverty
34.5%
Percentage of Asian children in poverty
12%
 —
Uninsured Children


Number of children without health insurance
8,900,000
 21,000
Percentage of all children uninsured
11.3%
6.6% 
Who Is My Neighbor?
National
State
County
(Strafford)
Percent of People Below the Poverty Line
13.2%
 7.6%
10.7% 
Number of People Below the Poverty Line
39,829,000
 97,158
 12,365
Percent of Children Below the Poverty Line
19%
 9%
 9.0%
Number of Children Below the Poverty Line
14,068,000
 25,878
 2,321
Median Income by Household
$52,175
$63,989 
$60,230
  
Who Is My Neighbor?
National
State
County
(Rockingham)
Percent of People Below the Poverty Line
13.2%
 7.6%
4.0% 
Number of People Below the Poverty Line
39,829,000
 97,158
 11,902
Percent of Children Below the Poverty Line
19%
 9%
 3.4%
Number of Children Below the Poverty Line
14,068,000
 25,878
 2,290
Median Income by Household
$52,175
$63,989 
$75,424

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