Sunday, December 25, 2011

Spotlight on Families: The Copelands

This post will be the easiest post to write because I don't have to write it! My dear friend Lara volunteered her brood as one of our Spotlight families! Lara and I met during undergrad at KU (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!) where we received our degrees in English Education. Both of us shed our college coed personas to become mothers and wives. I absolutely love checking her blog to see all the fun things she is doing with her girls! Now that two of her daughters have performed in the Nutcracker, I'm secretly (not-so-secretly) living through her! I'm just a tad bit jealous of her experience. Rather than ramble on about how much I admire her, I will let Lara share her family with you all! Here's the Copeland family!(as told by Lara)

Squyres/Copeland family
Immediate family: Matt, Lara, and our daughters Kenli (6), Keira (5), Kaelyn (4), Makenzie (2.5), and Karys 9 months.
Extended family includes Alexandra Squyres (Lara's sister), Fran (Davidson) Squyres (Lara's mom), Sharyl Coffey (Matt's mom), Jerry Coffey (Matt's stepfather), John Copeland and Nancy Copeland (Matt's brother & sister-in-law),

Todd Coffey (Matt's stepbrother) and Chelsea Coffey (Matt's stepsister).
What makes us unique: Matt came from your average four person family. My parents divorced when I was four and my mom raised my sister and me, while my maternal grandmother stepped in as almost a second parent. Matt nor I ever planned on having many children, let alone 5 within 5.5 years. We've had to learn a lot about raising a larger than average family--which is hard when you come from an average size family (Matt's father passed away in 1999. When his mother remarried in 2006, he became part of a blended family).
How we make it work: Be flexible, willing to learn and willing to forgive. With such a young family, we're still learning how we make it work! We've made plenty of mistakes along the way, but we reevaluate, communicate, and continue to improve how we operate. Over the years we've learned we can't buy things like our parents did. We can't go out to eat or take vacations on a whim like some smaller families can. What we can do is show our children that we have a strong marriage and provide them with a foundation for love. We can teach them that the most important things in life aren't things--it's people. Yes our girls share rooms, clothes, toys and bathrooms--that's just part of being in a big family. But they also always have somebody to color with, tell secrets to, or hug. There's a simplicity that comes with living in a big family, but there's also noise and chaos--but rest assured it's mostly controlled. One tip I can give to anybody who is embarking on raising lots of little people-- if you can keep up on laundry and dishes, the rest of the house work will fall in to place. And if you can keep your kids on a somewhat flexible schedule, everybody will be a bit more flexible as well.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Duggars

Yesterday, I read an article about Mrs. Duggar's (I have no idea what her first name is) recent miscarriage. I'm the type of person, who skims through online articles and then takes my time reading the comments left by readers (does anyone else do this?). I was appalled at what many people said. It was almost like an "I told you so!" or "she got what she deserved" bashfest on the internet.

I do not pretend to know what possessed one woman to try to have 20 kids, but then again I don't really understand most families that aren't my own. I don't understand most families because they are different from my family. I think that's what consumers of the media really have a problem with, especially in regards to reality television; however, we are completely intrigued by them and tune in each week. I'll catch 19 Kids & Counting every so often, but I will sit and watch marathons of Sister Wives, Teen Mom, Kardashians, and any of the Real Housewives shows. Unlike most people, I can't watch too much Reality television too often because being a busy mom, I can't commit to watching the episodes each week. Instead I watch HGTV, wedding-related reality shows and Law & Order because I can watch when I can without having to know the backstories. I digress...

I truly think each and everyone of us suffers from the "their family is different from my family" syndrome. Instead of trying to understand where someone is coming from, we push our values and beliefs on them. Do I understand what it is like to be attracted to a member of my same-sex and want to start a family with them? Nope. Do I understand people who socially and politically conservative? Nope. Do I understand people who are radically liberal? Nope. Do I understand why someone would want to have 20+ children? Nope. However, I respect them and admire them for their commitment to their beliefs.

The people who commented on this article argue that their inappropriate statements toward the Duggars have to do with their concern for the children's well-being and Mrs. Duggar's health. "The older kids have to take care of the younger kids," "they don't get enough individual attention," and "the mom is risking her life."
If the kids learning responsibility at a young age is the only negative aspect of their child, I would deem Mr. and Mrs. Duggar ideal parents. Since I teach, I witness children who live in homes where no one hugs or says, "I love you." They have parents who work too much or who will not work to support the family. I have yet to see an episode where the Duggar parents didn't say I love you or express their love. I don't know how they provide individual attention to each child, but I assume they have some sort of system.

As someone who truly supports a woman's right to her own body, I support Mrs. Duggar's decision to have a large family. Mrs. Duggar does visit a physician, and I'm sure he has alerted her of the risks of having many children. The fact is that being pregnant is a risk no matter if it is your first or 20th. From what I have seen on the show, the Duggars lead a healthy lifestyle. The types of foods they eat are healthy and they have to eat in moderation with a family that size. I have yet to see her drink a glass of wine or any other alcohol. Their level of risk pales in comparison to most Americans who may drink, smoke cigarettes, eat highly processed foods, text while driving, etc.

I feel sorry for the Duggars as they experience this time of loss. Thankfully, they have each other to lean on for support. I hope people will be less judgmental and just plain mean in their comments. Finally, I hope that everyone will begin to respect, understand, and appreciate families that are different from their own.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Spotlight on Families: The Wahls Family

Ironically, after posting about wanting families to share their stories, someone posted this link of Facebook. I think what makes Zach Wahls' story unique is not how normal he is despite his family situation, but how amazing he is! Who wouldn't be over-the-moon proud to have him as a son? Click here to see Zach's story!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spotlight on Families

So, each month I would like to do something to celebrate families...all families! Growing up I never saw families like mine. I take that back, I did see families like mine periodically, but I was always surprised to learn that there were families like mine. I grew up in your typical nuclear family (2 parents, a daughter, a son, and a dog), but being an interracial family added an extra layer of uniqueness to us. In addition, Due to death and divorce, my extended family on both sides was/is largely blended. I think I counted that at one time I have had 8 grandparents (not great-grandparents)! Don't get me started on aunts, uncles, and cousins!

So, if you are part of a unique family, please let me know! Your family will be featured on here. I'll include an abbreviated family tree, photo (you provide) and biographical information. I'm looking for: large families, small families, blended families, interracial families, interfaith families, adoptive families, gay/lesbian families, donor families, and everything in between!

Share your family with me!

I guess I will kick it off with my own family! How lovely we are:
Family: Woodard/Campbell Family
Family Members: Our immediate family includes my husband Murad, our son Joel and our two dogs, Sampson & Maya. Our extended family includes: Abbygail Deal-Campbell (Murad's daughter) Ken & Barbara Woodard (Ashlea's parents), Ryan Woodard (Ashlea's brother), Joel & Barbara Campbell (Murad's parents) Fatimah Jefferson (Murad's mother), Qadree Campbell (Murad's brother), Ricky Robinson (Murad's maternal half brother), Colin Smith (Murad's paternal stepbrother)
What Makes Our Family Unique? We are truly a blended family in every sense of the word. I grew up in traditional family with my parents and younger brother. My father is African-American and my mother is white. Both of my parents worked, but my mother was the breadwinner. I grew up in a Christian household. Murad was raised mostly by his father and grandparents, as his parents divorced when he was young. His grandmother, who was born in the Dominican Republic, influenced his love of Caribbean culture. Murad grew up in a Sunni Muslim household.
How do we make it work? We plan to expose our son to a variety of different cultures, but give him a solid foundation as well. We surround ourselves around people who are making a difference in the world and we cherish time spent as a family. Although we do not see her often, we try to expose my stepdaughter to different cultures and provide her with experiences not readily available in her small town. In addition, we create our own traditions that we hope both of our children will continue.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Tale of Two Articles

My dream of being a writer just got a little boost! One of my articles was chosen to be featured on the website for the company with whom I freelance!!! I am so excited. I wrote two articles. One was on single-parenting and the other was about step-parenting. The article about step-parenting was chosen! I would like to thank all the single mothers who let me interview them on their experience, especially Mercedes Williams-Foxworth who provided valuable insight. I would also like to thank all the stepmothers who provided insight, my husband who helped me make some edits and, ultimately, my stepdaughter! Without my stepdaughter Abby, I would not have the inspiration to write on a topic with which so many step-parents struggle.
I will post my original articles and then I will post the abbreviated website version of the step-parenting article.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bibliotheraphy: An Introduction

Knowing Latin and Greek roots helps not only those planning to study medicine, but also people like me who like to create new words. While I did not coin the term bibliotherapy, I am a big fan of the term and the practice. For those out of the loop, "biblio" means book and in this self-help crazed society everyone should all know what therapy means.
In all seriousness, bibliotherapy can be beneficial to many groups of people. This article will explore how bibliotherapy can be implemented among three different age groups.

Most school districts devote a large part of their budget toward reaching at-risk students. This is done through prevention, but most of the attention is reactionary with reform and punishment. While bibliotherapy should not be the sole prevention method, some simple steps can be taken to implement a bibliotherapeutic environment (how's that for word creation?). The first simple step is the creation of a bibliography of books. Self-help books are not often found in junior high and high school libraries; however, there is not a shortage of fiction related to the issues that teens face: drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, parental problems, death, healthy eating, abuse, etc. The library media specialist can be in charge of creating this document or a group of avid student readers can take on the task for extra credit or community service hours. The bibliography should be easily accessible and visible to those students who visit the library.
Another simple step would be to start a book club. Students can read, study and discuss books from the bibliography in small groups, complete independent activities and use the books to discuss issues with their school counselor or outside counselor. This is a great option for schools that have after-school programs. It is also practical not only for junior high and high schools, but also elementary schools where small group interaction is more feasible.

In the Workplace
With all the disgruntled workers out there, bibliotherapy may be beneficial for employers wanting to create a more inviting, therapeutic work environment. Happy workers are more productive workers and most employers will see a direct increase in productivity because of this.
Bibliotherapy can be used when employees are facing difficult challenges at work, preparing for a presentation, dealing with coworker issues, and struggling to balance their personal and professional lives. Just as the bibliography in K-12 schools is visible and easily accessible, a work place bibliography needs to be the same.

The Elderly
I struggled to find an appropriate label for this section. I wanted something that would encompass all those undergoing drastic life changes due to age. As the elderly exit the workplace, reduce their responsibilities and adjust to this new stage in their lives, bibliotherapy provides a nonintrusive form of therapy for this population. In senior centers and nursing homes, more structured activities such as small group discussions will help the elderly make connections to the literature.

The Future of Bibliotherapy

What benefits beside psychological are realized with bibliotherapy? Tons, but one major benefit is a more literate society. While reading continues to be an area of weakness for students and adults alike, allowing people to read books that resonated with the issues in their lives will nurture a love of reading in most individuals. In the world of Reality Television, books have taken a backseat. Bibliotherapy could bring the world of literature to the driver's seat, or at least the front passenger seat!
As our society becomes more technologically savvy, bibliotherapy may evolve into mediatherapy. Those who utilize this type of therapy may not only read and discuss which is somewhat passive, but they may begin to express and create. This takes therapy to another level and allows for new ways of learning to take place. PowerPoint, MovieMaker, Glogster and other media-creation software and sites will be the tools of this form of therapy.

The world of therapy is expanding and growing. It is now possible to provide small-scale therapy in environments of convenience for the consumer. In addition, consumers may be able to express and create within their own environments.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My first post

As written in my profile information, I am beginning my freelance writing career. While I love teaching writing at the junior high and college level, I miss doing the act of writing. I like writing about anything: short stories, poetry, essays, news articles, etc. I'm a character writer when it comes to fiction, so I have a hard time telling the story; I just like inventing very complex characters. You won't see any novels from me anytime soon.
In addition to working as a junior high teacher, adjunct college professor, and mommy (hardly feels like work), I freelance as a writer for a business that does leadership training for women. I am excited about where my new career will take me.
Below is a piece I worked on for schools considering Student Assistance Team programs:
The Need for Student Assistance Teams Programs
At the end of each summer students and teachers anticipate the beginning of a new school year with a mixture of excitement and dread. The latter feeling due to the inevitable good-bye to lazy, hot days and extended time spent with family and friends. The excitement begins to build at the possibility of new friends, experiences and challenges. This feeling can be marred as quickly as excitement builds. Parental problems, poverty, eating disorders, substance abuse and other societal ills can wreak havoc on a young person’s academic success. While a student may have previously been an A plus student, the stress of these types of problems can affect this student’s ability to focus. While teachers may notice a student, he or she may not have the time or resources to intervene properly on a student’s behalf. In fact, it may take a team of faculty members to truly shine a light on the student’s problems.
Schools that have a Student Assistance Team (SAT), have faculty members who are dedicated to helping students. The SAT is usually made up of teachers, counselors, administrators, and other staff members. The team is usually small, three to four members, but includes many secondary members who are also dedicated to student success. This team relies on referrals made by staff members, usually teachers who have observed concerning behaviors in class, as well as, students concerned about themselves or friends. Once a referral is made, the team starts by identifying the presenting problems. Rather than diagnose or treat the student, they hope to help the student and intervene if necessary. One of the biggest successes of the Student Assistance Team is that students realize there are people who care greatly about them and their success.
While placing a Student Assistance Team in a school may seem expensive, the cost is minimal. On some campuses, members are compensated with a stipend; however, on other campuses the positions are completely voluntary. Members are encouraged to talk and connect with students, which costs nothing to the district. Since the cost is minimal one would assume that the reward would be minimal, but this could not be further from the truth. Some of the benefits include increased attendance, academic success and self-worth in students. In addition, decreased drop-out rates and substance abuse are also some of the benefits.
Despite the benefits, many school districts are reluctant to implement student assistance programs. This is true especially among rural school districts. Administrators in those school districts may feel that they do not face the same challenges as urban communities, but the Suicide Prevention Resource Center notes that suicide in rural communities remains higher than suburban and urban communities. Suicide continues to be the third leading cause of death in teenagers.
While the Student Assistance Team cannot prevent all suicides among teens, it can help to diminish the number by providing ongoing support and early intervention among at-risk students. In addition, if a suicide takes place on campus, the SAT is there to provide extra support to a crisis team and possibly prevent copycat suicides from occurring.
The Student Assistance Team does not require a large amount of money to start and maintain. Whatever costs are incurred by the school district are minor compared to the positive impact the program could have on campuses. While the focus of the SAT is prevention of many social problems including substance abuse and suicide, it also helps students achieve academic success and develop lifelong learning skills as students’ self-worth increases and they take responsibility for their learning. All of this is possible with a group of caring school staff members dedicated to helping students.