Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eye Opening

Scrapbooking last week was very enlightening, and not in a happy way. One of our volunteers had a scheduling conflict and was unable to join us. A gentleman that the absent volunteer has been helping was disappointed that "his" volunteer wasn't there. I told him that I would be happy to help him, I would just split my time. No big deal for me, but a very big deal for this man who was looking forward to the social aspect of scrapbooking.

One of the pages that we try to do in every scrapbook is a favorites page. We punch out some kind of shape and write favorite things on each shape ... favorite food, favorite color, favorite vacation, ....

While talking, I asked the gentleman to tell me one thing that he would like to do, that he has never done. I was amazed at the answer he gave me. It was a simple thing that he had obviously put a lot of thought into preparing to do. There is an obstacle in his plan, that he doesn't know how to overcome. Part of his plan would require him to attend a weekly event. Seemed like such a minor thing in this detailed plan ... OH ... reality. He doesn't have a car, or friends with a car, or public transit, or a staff person available at the time of the weekly event.

I was very disheartened. I wanted to jump in and do something, offer to drive, offer to do this or that or something else. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it all week. Where do I fit and how much can I do?

Thursday, April 9, 2009


We started scrapbooking at a new home last night. This home is a Specialized Community Residence (SCR). It’s a beautiful, light, airy home, with a really big kitchen. There is a huge island in the middle of the kitchen and a lot of counter space. (I am terribly jealous of all the counter space, which is completely missing in my kitchen!)

When we arrived, we were greeted with the expected mixed reactions. We met everyone, introduced ourselves, and asked if anyone wanted to scrapbook. Three of the individuals were thrilled to have something new to do with new people, and others watched us closely … from a distance. We managed to complete a few scrapbook pages, played checkers, talked, laughed, took some pictures, and discussed plans for Easter.

Two hours passed quickly, and we were ready to leave. I was packing up supplies and noticed two of the men, who were not at all interested in scrapbooking, elbowing each other. One man was asking the other if maybe they should try this thing next week. I took the opportunity to assure them that I would bring “guy stuff” (you know … car / truck/ motorcycle magazines, Sports Illustrated … guy stuff) for them to use in their scrapbooks. They agreed that if one would try it, the other would as well.

It was another good evening.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

End the use of the r-word

Today is National Awareness Day. Today is the day that we need to stop the use of the r-word. I would like to say that the word "retard" should be removed from our language, but at the same time, we can't remove it completely. If we don't remember the pain this word caused, we could be destined to repeat the pain.

I recently heard my daughter's friends throw the r-word around like it was no big deal. They have no idea the meaning behind the word. They have no idea the pain that the word has caused. They have no idea that the r-word is so damaging. They are too young to understand the power of words. As parents and family members, we must teach the next generation the power of words.

We have a responsibility to the next generation to teach them right from wrong. Let's all teach them the continued use of the r-word is WRONG.

Please go to www.r-word.org, and make a pledge to end the use of the r-word.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I did it! I did it! I did it!

I did one thing to make a difference in the life of one person! Today an individual, who I have been scrapbooking with, stood up in front of a room full of 55 (yes I said 55) people and spoke!

I started the workshop by explaining my inspriation for the project and the challenge issued by one of our VPs to do one thing to make a difference in the life of one individual. I then introduced a woman that I have spent the past 11 weeks getting to know a little. When I introduced her, she walked up in front of the room and told everyone that she was petrified, BUT she was going to try to talk to them. I was standing behind her, so I walked up and put my hand on her back. I wanted to reassure her that I was there for her, and give her some of my strength.

She talked about her past, and struggling with mental illness. She talked about what she likes ,and the kinds of things she puts in her scrapbooks. She talked about learning something new, meeting new people, and learning to see to positive things in life.

I am not in any way taking credit for the courage that she displayed today in standing up in front of a room full of strangers. I invited her, offered her an opportunity and she stepped through the door and took a chance. She made an incredible choice today, and I was privledged to be there to share in the joy of her success.

Today was a good day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Great News and Even Better News

The organization I work for is having an all staff conference this week. I am presenting a workshop about my scrapbooking project. For the past five months, I have pretty much been a broken record, talking about my project to anyone who stood still long enough. When I was asked to present a workshop at our conference, I was thrilled.

I hoped that maybe 10 or 20 people would register for my workshop. The great news is that ... I have 47 people registered for my workshop on Thursday morning. The even better news is that 3 of the individuals, who have completed scrapbooks, are attending! They will be bringing their scrapbooks, and will have the opportunity to talk about their experiences with us over the past eleven weeks.

I am really excited to spread the news within my organization, about what I believe is great project. Beyond that, 3 wonderful people, that I have become very attached to, will have a new opportunity to expand their lives just a little more through this project.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What matters?

We are almost finished scrapbooking at our first house. We will have completed eight scrapbooks in about ten weeks. To be completely honest, we could have been finished by now, but we have spent a lot of time in the past few weeks sitting and socializing. We've learned some unexpected lessons.

The individuals living in this home have taught us how small acts of kindness matter. They have taught us that listening ... matters. These two hours that we give ... matter.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coconut Cake

Two weeks ago, we completed our third scrapbook. On the last page of the book, Kendra, the volunteer, added a picture of both her and the individual she has spent the last several weeks assisting. She wrote a personal message about how much she enjoyed helping him with his scrapbook and getting to know him. The book is beautiful and seemed to be a great experience for everyone.

That was until last week! Last week, we discovered that the gentleman didn't understand that Kendra would no longer be helping him with his scrapbook ... that the project was complete. He brought his scrapbook to her at the beginning of the evening, just like before. She did spend a a little bit of time helping him to decorate the cover of his book, but he was clearly disappointed. He stayed and socialized with everyone, but was not himself.

So, in my typical "mom" mode, if I don't know what else to do ... I bake. I asked the gentlman what I could bake for him. Cake ... coconut cake. So the coconut cupcakes are in the oven to take along tomorrow. I hated seeing the disappointment on his face. I don't know what to do.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Desperately Seeking Volunteers

We are up to five scrapbookers, and at least two more waiting in the wings for a total of three volunteers. This disproportionate number caused some bickering between two of the three gentlemen I was helping last week.

So, yet another lesson was hammered home to me. Individuals recieving human service supports don't always have all of the same choices as others in our society. Sometimes vulnerable individuals need to live with other individuals that they don't like.

So what's next ...

I am desperately seeking volunteers. (Everytime I think that in my mind, an old movie title pops into my head. I'm sure that says something silly about me! Don't even try to analyze it.) Anyway, I have a few people who initially wanted to help but weren't available at the time. Hopefully, with Christmas behind us, they might be ready to get started. I am keeping my fingers crossed ... and begging!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Last Wednesday, my small group of volunteers and I spent two hours scrapbooking with four individuals receiving human service supports. It was an incredible experience to watch apprehension turn to smiles of joy, in both the individuals and the volunteers.

I cannot begin to explain the happiness I felt at the end of the evening. I’m a wife, mother, friend, employee and a myriad of other roles. Now, I’m a volunteer.

I gave two hours of my time. I smiled, and treated people with what I consider normal human kindness. Seems like a simple thing, but I helped four individuals, that I have never met before, to have fun. I watched their faces light up over the opportunity for a new experience. I witnessed joy.

I can’t wait to go tomorrow night!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wednesday is the big day!

Social Role Valorization (SRV) education challenged me to do one thing, to make a difference in the life of one person. So, after hearing David Pitonyak, a project was born. I committed to organize volunteers to assist indivduals receving human service supports to tell their own story.

After three months of planning, we are FINALLY ready to get started! (Patience is not one of my strenghts.) The first group of volunteers, for my scrapbooking project, completed their required training last week.

Wednesday is the big day! The volunteers and the individuals they will be assisting to create scrapbooks will meet each other. In this first meeting, the individuals will get to choose a scrapbook, receive a picture of his/her volunteer, talk a little and pick out some colors for the scrapbook.

The primary goal of the project is to create a scrapbook to assist an individual to tell his/her own story. Additionally, we will provide some education on scrapbooking as a hobby, and so maybe some of the individuals will develop the role of “scrapbooker”. Developing this role could create social opportunities for unpaid relationships or even employment opportunities for individuals receiving human service supports.

We will create two distinctly different types of scrapbooks depending on whether or not an individual has pictures and memorabilia from his/her past. For an individual who has pictures from his/her past, we will create a traditional scrapbook. The second type of scrapbook will be for an individual who doesn’t have pictures from his/her past, and will be a little more challenging. Both types of scrapbooks will have a lot of journaling about the individual on every page.

Our challenge for the second type of scrapbook will be to create the “feeling” of the story the individual wants to tell. We will take or gather current pictures and then write the story. There is no scrapbooking “rule” that says a picture has to match the journaling, and not all pictures in the scrapbook have to be of people. Some of the pictures could be pictures of favorite things, places, foods or activities that an individual already does or would like to learn to do.

So what's the status of my challenge? So far, I have convinced/coerced one of my closest friends and two family members to help three of the most vulnerable members of our society to tell their own story. What can you do to impact the life of one individual that is not part of your life today? Are you willing to accept the challenge?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What is "Life On A Page" about?

Life On A Page is about scrapbooking the stories of our lives. I have initiated a project to empower individuals receiving human service supports to tell their own stories through scrapbooking. I have organized a group of volunteers to assist with the project.

Recently, I was inspired by David Pitonyak, http://www.dimagine.com/, when he spoke to the employees of Keystone Human Services. One of the things that David talked about was that individuals with disabilities lose their stories. Individuals can be isolated from their families and lose long term, unpaid relationships. There is no one to "hold their stories". Many individuals have spent long, damaging years in institutional settings, with little community contact. Relationships can become centered around an individual's diagnosis, rather than the fabric of their life.

As I look at my life, I have close family and friends who “hold my stories”. At gatherings, we share our histories, triumphs, mistakes, the silly, giggling moments, the laughter and the tears. We laugh, and we cry, and we live, and the stories become part of our shared history. I know that I am important in the lives of the people who are important to me, because of those precious stories that are told and retold.

It's my turn to help someone else tell their own precious story. I hope you will follow along.