I Look Like Lady Gaga

Today, I wore this to work:

cute boots, right? and I'm not sure the picture does justice to my MUSTARD tights.

It is by far not the craziest thing I’ve ever worn. (My affinity for orange should be a clue there. And my favorite shirt used to say “Donde estas mi pantalones?” And no, I did not fully understand what that meant at the time).

My outfit consisted of a blue dress, black cardigan, the boooots (I have a serious boot addiction) and, of course, the mustard yellow tights.

I love my mustard tights. They’re fun and bright and remind me of fall and brighten up any dull outfit. Since I have to actually dress like a professional now, most of my clothes haven’t been very colorful. So I needed these tights.

(Backstory: I bought them on sale at a Macy’s on Black Friday in Seattle. With my grandma. She seemed fairly shocked by my color choice, and her favorite color is red. Maybe she was just shocked that I wear them with skirts that are above my knees. But still. Some of my cousins show more cleavage than I do and they’re like, 15. Plus my sister insists on wearing everything XXS even though she should totally switch to medium by now. Not that you shouldn’t flaunt it if you’ve got it, sister. And cousins.)

ANYWAY.

The response to my outfit was unexpected. It was quite a sensation.

“I love your outfit! Those earrings! Your hair!” *Said by one of my co-workers at our monthly breakfast meeting at Snoooooze!

“Amy! Look at your boots!” *Another co-worker.

You’re getting the picture: for the first half of the day, I was a hit. Once the kids started arriving, however…

“Miss Amy, did you tan your legs?” *Several kids said this in jest. One kid said it earnestly. But really, who has ever had legs that color? Not even my lifeguard co-worker in high school had legs that color, and she had a natural tan plus a fake tan.

“What are you wearing, Miss Amy? You look like a witch.” *Said by two kids on separate occasions, so this was not a copycat case.

“You look like Alice in Wonderland!”

“No, she looks like Lady Gaga! (GaGa?)” *Two kids arguing over who I looked like.

“I’ve got it! You look like an Oompa Loompa!” *My always sweet and complimentary boyfriend. Most of the kids are too young to understand the joys of Willy Wonka as portrayed by Gene Wilder and his creepy Oompas or else I’m sure I would have heard this before. At least his reference dates him.

So there you have it folks. I’m a weird congolmeration of two beloved fiction characters, one of our most insane (and well-known) current pop stars, and an evil lady who lures children into her cabin in the woods.

Although maybe I could be a nice witch.

But they probably don’t wear mustard tights.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Day!

I had to dedicate a post to MLK Day.

I work for the I Have a Dream Foundation, after all.

(Okay, the Colorado “I Have a Dream” Foundation. Just to be clear, if you didn’t already guess that I’m living in Denver).

Today, we took about 12 Dreamers (the kids in the program) to the annual Marade in Denver (Marching Parade if you didn’t get that…it took me about six months) to celebrate everything MLK stood for, and still stands for.

Many of the kids I work with still face the issues he was trying to overcome, and that is the mission of the overall I Have a Dream Foundation: to level the playing field, to get equal access to education for all. I could get on my soapbox and overload you with my opinions and experiences about how messed up our education system is, but I won’t. I’ll just leave you with this quote and a photo collection. Because if a photo collection (and a quote) won’t put you in a MLK-Day mood, nothing will.

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”  -Martin Luther King, Jr.

p.s. To protect those involved I tried not to show any faces. Except a few strangers. If you’re one of the peeps in these pics and are highly offended I’m showing you grab a cup o’ joe from a kid, let me know and I definitely remove it.

That Face

I’ve been working at the Opportunity Center for several months now, and while it is certainly one of few jobs I’ve had that I’ve really, really cared about (and not just because most longest running job before this was a courier for a law office) but I still have hours/days/weeks where I look at the mutinous face of a formerly adorable tween and wonder “What am I doing here?”

I spend much of my time wondering if I am actually making a difference in a life. Just one. As you may have guessed from my previous posts, I am highly emotionally motivated, and not feeling a connection, a purpose, with any of these kids was eating me alive.

In fact, after several disatrous field trips and increasingly bad behavior from said kiddos, my boss and co-workers and I decided to cut back on the enrichment (i.e. the fun part) and focus solely on academics.

I did not have high hopes for this, although I knew it was necessary.

It’s funny how people can surprise you, though.

As it’s optional for the kids to come to the after-school program, we have seen the predicted dwindling at the new, stricter standards (we’re even talking assigned seating. The horrors) but some of the kids, the more, er, shall we say rebellious ones, have actually been showing up and doing well.

There is one boy, we’ll call him J, who, at 11, is already much bigger than me and has often been kicked out of program for disruption, fighting, making girls cry (and that has almost included me), even throwing furniture (well, one of those small little chairs they have in preschools. But still) and the like.

When he came into program last Thursday, and gamboled over to my table, where his assigned seat is, I did not have high hopes.

“What is this, a school?” He wanted to know. (He hadn’t been there all week and was clearly not a fan of this new regime).

After a quick explanation and a warning that he had to behave if he wanted to stay (my exact emphasis) I waved a few worksheets in his face to give him something to do.

He unenthusiastically picked a spelling one (a boy after my own heart) and when I came to check on him later, he was easily circling all the correct answers.

Thrilled, I went to get him a harder one, still involving spelling, and when I was correcting this one, marking several wrong while still showering him with praise, when I saw it.

That look. The one I needed to remind me why I do this, the one that made every other bad interaction with a child or co-worker or boss completely worth it. Every minute of my crappy commute.

That sounds dramatic, but I don’t have very many moments like these.

(Does anyone? Legitimate question).

I saw J’s face, I saw him soak up the praise and want to quickly show me he could correct the wrong answers quickly. I said something corny like, “How come I didn’t know how smart you are?” and instead of the eye roll I was expecting (I would have eye-rolled) he looked delighted and shy.

J did really well the rest of the day, and I was so proud of him I almost grabbed him in a hug and danced.

I didn’t, of course; I try to be a professional most of the time.

But still.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment.

I’m so grateful for this moment, and I’m going to hold it with me for the rest of this year, and probably my life, and whenever I ask myself “What am I doing?” I am going to remind myself to remember that face.

Even if, as with some of the kids, it’s one step forward and two steps back, and this may happen with J, I’ll know that he has that face in there somewhere.

Peace Is Within You

“Peace comes from within. Seek it from yourself.”

(My most recent fortune cookie. Such wisdom).

Those words have been reverberating through my head, as I’ve spent the last three weeks working with rowdy middle schoolers.

A few thoughts:

I am going to remember just the look every thirteen year old girl/boy has given me in the last few weeks when I hit the “maybe-it’s-time-for-kids-do-I-really-want-them?” age (which may never hit, after these weeks).

Also, if I do have kids, I will seriously consider living close to their grandparents to have constant, easy access to babysitters who will adore them.

It really is a great job–even though hammering through the wall that surrounds our urban youth is no easy feat–and most of the kids are awesome.

Right, I forgot that I’m going with the theory that everyone has a decent inner core. Sometimes it’s buried deeply…like the kid who made the sweetest 11-year-old girl ever cry…but it’s still there.

Yes, I’m being an optimist. But our goal is to assume that all of these kids are going to graduate high school and go on to college, and often our after-school program is keeping them off the streets, keeping them away from their fascination with fire (which, according to my boyfriend, is a natural interest for a 12-year-old boy, but it still totally freaks me out) and in some cases, keeping them out of gangs.

So an optimistic frame of mind is sort of a prerequisite for the job.

I’m getting decent at applying this mind set to the kids–and some of them make it really easy, like the Somalian refugee who, despite his learning disability and permanent growth stunt leftover from extreme dehydration, wants to get through school, go back to Africa, and help all the people he had to leave behind.

Kids like that make this world go round, I swear.

Although unfortunately I do not have a naturally optimistic nature.

Isn’t it funny that some of these kids have more faith in  life than I do?

I’m going to start going to a Zen Club–searching for that inner sanctuary, baby.

So, peace for now!