Friday, April 18, 2014

Marijuana...long term effects?

Marijuana...medical use? recreational use? 
It's a topic we'll be hearing more of as states adopt relaxed legislation. When considering  decriminalization, a major concern is how will greater accessibility affect usage and consequences among teens? In the teen and young adult years the brain is still developing. Can substance use cause irreversible changes in brain chemistry? This recent study  published in the Journal of Neuroscience points to changes in regions of the brain affecting emotion and motivation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Find Your Voice

Today I saw a really powerful 29 second video that puts bullying into perspective. It's what we talk to kids about all the time. I  think I'm going to suggest we stop talking to them and just show then this video...it's that good. Got 29 seconds? Watch it now.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Deeper Meaning for a Warm Spring Day

Yesterday I spent the day in the yard, raking leaves, picking up sticks and delightedly basking in the beautiful warm sunshine. On that first perfect day of spring each year, I remember a gift a former client  gave me almost a decade ago. It wasn't a gift in a package it was a gift of understanding. At DVRC we hear enough people telling us what it was like to feel trapped in an abusive relationship that we can understand what abuse feels like. But this woman helped me to understand what it feels like when the abuse ends. Her imagery was so powerful that I think of her words each spring. Here's what she told me.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Inspiring Women

I'm a Soroptimist. What's Soroptimist you ask?

Soroptimist is an international organization whose mission is to improve  the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. We have a formal club meeting monthly, but our real work happens behind the scenes building better lives for women and girls both locally, and in places like Haiti, Ecuador, and Africa.  Our meeting Wednesday night was my favorite meeting of the year. It's the night we honor local women for their commitment to others and we announce the projects we'll be supporting in the next year.

Interestingly, at that meeting no one is bragging  about our impact... in fact just the opposite. We're honoring other women in the community who are also working to improve lives locally and abroad. As I  hear about the work and dedication

Beverly Lazar Davis was our Ruby Award winner. I've been honored to know Bev for about a decade and have always been impressed with her commitment and innovation in helping others. But as our awards chairwoman read Bev's award nomination, I was dumbstruck with all the work she's done that I didn't know about. From helping displaced homemakers to co-founding the Task Force against Child Abuse (now the Saratoga Center for the Family) to assisting those  with mental illness,  to inspiring youth toward community serve... the recurring themes of her life have been helping, innovating and inspiring.

Haley Perrone, a Saratoga Springs High School student and our Violet Richardson Award winner, was just as  inspiring. She has traveled to Uganda twice with the AIDS Orphans Education trust, delivering supplies and providing medical outreach in remote areas  of this third world country. What was I doing in high school? Nothing that impressive!

And if that wasn't enough, our club announced grants totaling $30,000 to 15 local organizations that help women and girls. I work with many of these agencies every day and can attest to the great work  they do: CAPTAIN, Rebuilding Together, Shelters of Saratoga, the Prevention Council, the Children's  Museum and Franklin Community Center to name a few.

If you want to learn more about Soroptimist International of Saratoga County visit their website

If you're not ready for that big a commitment, you can still help us raise funds for these needed programs and get some ideas to develop a green thumb. How? Come to our 20th annual Secret Garden Tour  on July 13th and be inspired by dozens of  breathtaking local gardens.

Related posts about Soroptimist:


Friday, April 4, 2014

"Everybody Cut Footloose".... and cut relationship abuse

I've been remiss in my blogging lately, but still spend a lot of time talking about issues of relationship and sexual abuse. The other day I was having a conversation with my staff about being bombarded with media depictions of abuse  tends to normalize it so we don't even recognize these red flags. To me that's one of our greatest obstacles in ending abuse... recognizing it early. Here's her response. 

This weekend and last weekend Saratoga Springs High School and Ballston Spa High School staged the fun-filled musical Footloose.  In Saratoga Springs there were sell out crowds and it was clear that the audience of young and old alike were having a wonderful time.  Audience members tapped their toes and laughed at the great renditions of colorful characters.  They also cried along with Pastor Moore as he  mourned the loss of his young teenage son in a drunk driving accident.  We watched as he struggled to find his way and allow life to go on in some semblance for him and his parishioners and especially the teenagers in town who just want to DANCE!!

Footloose also highlights the very real social problem of relationship abuse among teens.  The preacher’s daughter (Ariel) in an effort to capture her mourning father’s attention dates the young ruffian in town, Chuck Cranston.  Although Chuck is caricatured as a high school drop out, motorcycle riding, leather jacket wearing bad boy. It is clear to those of us who work with domestic violence victims every day that his treatment of Ariel is abusive. He yells at her, intimidates her and expects her to OBEY his wishes.  He ultimately ends up giving her a black eye when she puts up a fight against his orders.  In one scene it is evident how scared Ariel is of him. How she “handles” him by appeasing him and agreeing with him in order to keep him calm and most importantly keep herself safe.

As I sat there and watched the show I wondered what the high school students thought about Chuck and Ariel’s relationship.  I guessed that if asked, the girls would respond that Chuck was a “jerk” “loser” and would most fervently deny that they would ever date anyone like him.  However often in abusive relationships it is easy to get in (often they begin as romantic and very nice)  and not that easy to get out.  Ariel was fortunate in this fictional tale that she had a stage full of characters that were willing to take Chuck on and dance him off the stage for good!  In real life it is much more difficult to navigate controlling relationships.  When a woman or man is in this kind of relationship it can be difficult to see it for what it is and the goal becomes to get through the day and keep yourself safe.

If you think a friend of family member may be in this kind of relationship, there are ways to be helpful.  The first is to know that you cannot make the person end the relationship if they are not ready.  Be supportive and listen when they are ready to talk.  Do tell them that our agency is here and ready  to listen. We understand why leaving can be so difficult.  We will safety plan and will support them in whatever plan they want to pursue.  Our services are free of charge and completely confidential.

Congratulations to the wonderfully talented casts of Footloose and thank you for portraying so many serious issues with such sensitivity.  Bravo!