First Holiday Season with Baby

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Tis the Season….

Maybe you have big plans for this holiday season, or maybe big ideas of how it should go. This year you are entering into the unknown, for you, and for baby.  The holiday season is going to be different than last year and all the year’s before.

The key principle for this holiday season might be “Easy Does It”!

There are always so many things to do: busy things,  fun things, enjoyable events, happy memories to create! But this year it might be okay to bring things down a bit. Here are some things to consider and some ideas of how it can still be a memorable, magical time.

Things to consider

  • Babies can get overwhelmed by too many changes in their routine and their surroundings.
  • Adults can get overwhelmed by trying to take on too much and also by trying to live up to other people’s expectations.
  • There are a lot of germs circulating out there, and lots of people sharing them.
  • Too many gifts will more than likely confuse rather than delight your little one. Don’t they always prefer the box it came in?

Some Ideas

  • Decide ahead of time which gatherings are the most important. It might be a good idea to limit yourselves to those that are the most meaningful to you. There will be a next year and the significant people in your life will understand.
  • Start some new traditions, all your own.  Invite some people in to decorate cookies, watch a favorite Christmas program or take a stroll or a ride  around the neighborhood to see the lights. Donate to a local toy drive in honor of your child.
  • Limit the gifts you buy for your baby/infant, a few will suffice.  As the toys pile up from friends and relatives, go ahead and put some away, to be brought out gradually over the next few months.
  • I found a great suggestion for nursing moms at friend/family gatherings. If you are able to find a private room to nurse in, grab a friend or relative who you haven’t seen for awhile and take them with you. It is a great time to relax,  catch up and you won’t feel so isolated from the gathering.
  • Keeping things simple during this season of hustle and bustle might feel wrong, but it may afford you the opportunity to really enjoy those magical moments  that become the fondest of memories.

A few words about safety…

  • Be sure to keep choking hazards such as bows, ribbon, wrapping paper and tinsel out of baby’s reach.
  • A little tree, out of reach of baby, might be better than a big tree full of irresistible decorations.
  • Asking people, especially children, to wash their hands before touching or holding baby is perfectly okay.

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa,  or all three, here is hoping that your first winter holiday season with baby will be a pleasant, joyous and peaceful one!

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Playtime With Your Baby

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You are the best “plaything” for your baby! The interactions between you and your baby help you to get to know each other, and your baby learns to trust and depend on you. The bond between the two of  you grows stronger and it helps your infant to feel loved and secure, which is so important for their wellbeing.

Play experiences help parts of your baby’s brain to link together. It helps your baby learn about the world and how to interact with it. It also helps your baby with language development.

Play can also teach you a lot about your baby’s personality.  It won’t take long to figure out what your baby likes, whether it be rough and silly or quiet and calm.

Simple play can include:

  • Singing songs and nursery rhymes
  • Tickling, toe counting, blowing raspberries
  • Making  silly faces, smiling and laughing
  • Giving your baby objects with different textures to touch and feel
  • Taking your baby for walks around the house or the yard talking about what you see and feel
  • Reading to your baby. It is never too early to start.
  • Giving your baby “tummy time” each day. (You can begin at one or two months for brief periods, increasing the time at 3 or 4 months when the neck and shoulder muscles are more developed.). Your baby can practice holding up their head and they will get a chance to see things from a different point of view. You can even join them for a little tummy time if you are able.

Just like you,  there are times when your baby won’t feel like playing and they will let you know, but don’t miss out on the opportunity to “play” with your little one, for it is their work.

 

What Kind of Parent Am I?

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What kind of parent am I? Is this a question you have asked yourself, other than in a moment of horror, after you have made a regrettable decision or error? We all like to think of ourselves as “good” parents and, of course, feel like a “bad” parent from time to time.

Instead of thinking of yourself in such extreme terms, let’s examine something called “parenting styles”.  Depending on which expert you are reading, there are either 3 or 4 styles of parenting.  I will use what seems to be agreed upon in psychology today.  The four styles described are: Authoritarian, Permissive, Uninvolved, and Authoritative. I am going to describe each briefly:

  • Authoritarian parenting is characterized by high demands and low responsiveness. Children are expected to follow the rules as laid down by the parent(s) and there is little or no positive feedback or nurturing. Any feedback is usually of a negative sort and mistakes on the part of the children are normally met with punishment, sometimes rather harsh punishment.
  • Permissive  parenting, is characterized by low demands and high responsiveness.  These parents tend to be very loving, yet provide few guidelines or rules, and may seem more like a friend than a parental figure.
  • Uninvolved parenting is characterized by a lack of responsiveness to the child’s needs.  There are few to no demands on their children and these parents are often indifferent, dismissive or even completely neglectful.
  • Authoritative parenting is characterized by high demands but also high responsiveness to the needs of their children.  These parents encourage their children to be independent in their thinking and decision making but do put limits (rules and guidelines) on their actions.

I would like to add another style introduced to me by my grown son.  It is referred to as Peaceful Parenting.  This style of parent uses intentional, gently ways to guide their children using empathetic and cooperative solutions and avoids trying to control behavior with punishment.

Intentional may be the key word there. In other words deliberate, calculated, conscious, intended, planned, meant, studied, knowing, willful, purposeful, purposive, done on purpose, premeditated, preplanned, preconceived. How many of us live our lives this way, let alone parent? Our parenting style may be in the same style we were parented or as a reaction against the way we were parented.

There is never a better time than today to reflect on and evaluate what and how we are doing.  Maybe you have already figured this out. If so, good for you! It would be great to hear your story. If not there is a test you can take online to see “what style of parent you are”.  Then you can take it from there.  Do you need some input, education, training? Use your support system, seek guidance, enroll in a class, do some reading. You may also want to think about what type of parenting style your partner,  or the other parent(s),  and your care giver(s) use, and consider how that affects your parenting and your child (ren).

A link for one of the online tests is: psychology today.tests.psychtests.com

Changing Seasons

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As Summer fades into the rearview mirror and Fall quickly approaches, priorities  and routines change. Change, an inevitable fact of life, calls for adjustments that aren’t always the easiest to make. Sometimes the changes are invited and welcomed  and sometimes they are thrust upon you. The changing seasons are a picture of the many challenges that can happen in a life:

  • An old relationship, the end to a relationship, a new relationship
  • A new baby, a growing baby, an independent child
  • Back to school, a new semester, graduation
  • Looking for a job, finding a job, changing jobs
  • Moving
  • Friendships: old friends, making friends, losing friends
  • Health challenges
  • Challenges to our long held ideas, values and beliefs
  • On and on….

So what are some things you can do when change comes your way to minimize the distress and maximize the potential for a positive outcome? Well…

  • Prepare. Ok so the change has already begun and you are not prepared. That’s okay, you can prepare now for what is still to come. Mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
  • Think smaller. Break things down into manageable (as you define manageable) parts. Take one part at a time and deal with it. This can help to minimize that “overwhelmed” feeling.
  • Celebrate. As you work your way through the “parts”, allow yourself to feel good about what you have dealt with or accomplished. Give yourself a “pat on the back” or allow yourself to enjoy a little down time in whatever way pleases you.
  • Have the expectation, that all may not go smoothly. Sometimes it is two steps forward and one step back. You are still moving. So don’t give up.
  • Be patient. With yourself and others. You are in process. Be kind to yourself and those around you who may be going through it too.
  • Enlist those around you. For help, encouragement, prayer, accountability or whatever it is that you might need to see you through.
  • Be positive. Unless thinking negatively about things is what gets you through, thinking positively will help you to focus on the solutions you need, instead of bogging you down in the problems you face.

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Single-Parent-Person: “Staying Afloat”

 

 

I was thinking about our subject for this month’s blog and what came to mind is how hard it is to stay connected to other’s and yourself in a meaningful way when you are busy, as most of us are. If you are a “single parent” human person, YOU ARE BUSY!! You may be forced, through circumstance to be the only “bread-winner”/”caregiver” for yourself and your child(ren) or you may have sentenced yourself to such an existence by means of guilt, resignation or a sense of determination to  “show everyone, including yourself, that you CAN DO IT!”. The challenges of attempting to fulfill every need that arises can be downright draining and you may find yourself drowning in a sea of “overwhelming”.

What can be done?  I found some worthy suggestions in a blog post called “Single Parents: Ask For Help” written by Susan Stiffelman, Family Therapist and Author. I hope that you find these helpful.  First off, the title gives us the best advice for any human being, “ask for help”.  I was taught,  a long time ago,  from some very wise mentors, that to refrain from allowing others to help me, was to deprive others of the joy of giving. It took me awhile to learn, but eventually I got it. Here are her suggestions, followed by my commentary:

  • Find a tribe
  • Bring in the aunties and the uncles
  • Take mental health days
  • Don’t make your child your partner
  • Just do your best!

If you are not now, then put yourself,  in a position to meet others who have children around the same age as your own.  You can get together for play dates (even if the little ones are infants, the adults can share some adult conversation and laughter). Once you feel that you can trust these other parents, you can do some childcare swapping for errands or a little “me time”. These “others” can be found wherever adults with children are found,  including such places as your neighborhood, the grocery store, your place of worship, or the childcare room at your local gym. There may even be a parent meet-up or support  group in your area. I am sure you can think of other venues, as well.

Many of us have a favorite aunt, uncle, neighbor or adult friend of the family. You know the one! It can be of great benefit to your child(ren) to develop healthy relationships with safe and trustworthy adults, other than you. There are so many things they can offer your child(ren) including a listening ear, another perspective, a love for a favorite hobby or a particular skill you may not possess. You might be surprised at those who are willing and able to give step into that role-You may just need to ask!

“Me time” is not a selfish act, unless overdone, of course! It is important to take time to refresh oneself when the demands are many, as mentioned previously. A nap, a movie, a soak in the tub, a workout at the gym, a coffee and your ear buds at the local coffee bar, dinner or lunch with a friend or whatever “refreshes” you. Both you and your child will benefit. Ask a member of “your tribe” to watch your little one(s) and you can give back in whatever way fits. It is a win-win-win situation!

As a stressed out, overburdened single-parent-person, it is easy to put your child in the role of confidante. After all, as the children grow, it is natural to form a “partnership” with them as they are with you at all the times you would normally be talking to a “spouse”. It isn’t fair to place them in the position of “early adulthood”. They shouldn’t have to shoulder the burdens of finances, your work or social frustrations, or a “flaky” other parent. Be sure to develop and maintain a safe, healthy adult relationship, where you can share all of those concerns.

Just do your best! No one is perfect. (Sorry to be the one to tell you.) You are still finding your way and you will make mistakes. You will not always be as loving and as patient as you would like, nor will you always  be able to do everything for your child that you would like to do. When you fall short of your own expectations and speak or act in a way that is less-than-perfect, it is a praiseworthy thing to apologize to your child for your wrong behavior, attitude, or action.  It is a wonderful way to model this desirable trait for your child(ren).

“Stay Afloat” by asking  others for help. Everyone,  including you, will be glad you did!

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteering-The Surprising Benefits!

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Helping Others While Helping Yourself

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering are enormous to you, your family and your community.  The right match can help you find new friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills, and possibly even advance your career. Volunteering can also help protect your mental and physical health. Learn more about the many benefits of volunteering and find tips on getting started.

 

Benefit #1:Volunteering Connects You to Others One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of those you serve. And volunteering is a two-way street: It can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills.Volunteering helps you make new friends and contacts.Volunteering strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities. Volunteering increases your social and relationship skills.Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests.Volunteering as a family. While it might be a challenge to coordinate everyone’s schedules, volunteering as a family has many worthwhile benefits. Children watch everything you do. By giving back to the community, you show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help others and enact change. It’s also a valuable way for you to get to know organizations in the community and find resources and activities for your children and family.

Benefits #2: Volunteering is good for your mind and body. Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. Your role as a volunteer can give you a natural sense of accomplishment, pride and identity. The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and goals. Volunteering provides a sense of purpose. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life. Volunteering combats depression. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in regular communication with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times. Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants. Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.

Limited mobility? People with disabilities or chronic health conditions can still benefit greatly from volunteering. Research has shown that adults with disabilities or health conditions ranging from hearing and vision loss to heart disease, diabetes or digestive disorders all show improvement after volunteering. Whether due to a disability, a lack of transportation, or time constraints, many people choose to volunteer their time via phone or computer. There are many projects where you can help. If you think home-based volunteering might be right for you, contact organizations you like and ask about the possibilities.

Volunteering: The happiness effect

Helping others kindles happiness, as many studies have demonstrated. When researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were, according to a study in Social Science and Medicine. Compared with people who never volunteered, the odds of being “very happy” rose 7% among those who volunteer monthly and 12% for people who volunteer every two to four weeks. Among weekly volunteers, 16% felt very happy—a hike in happiness comparable to having an income of $75,000–$100,000 versus $20,000, say the researchers. (Adapted with permission from Simple Changes, Big Rewards: A Practical, Easy Guide for Healthy, Happy Living, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publications.)

Benefit#3: Volunteering can advance your career. Considering a new career? Volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, and organization. Volunteering can provide career experience. Volunteering offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. Your volunteer work might also expose you to professional organizations or internships that could be of benefit to your career. Volunteering can teach you valuable job skills. Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication, and marketing skills. When it comes to volunteering, passion and positivity are the main requirements. While learning new skills can be beneficial to many, it’s not a requirement for a fulfilling volunteer experience. Bear in mind that the most valuable skills you can bring to any volunteer effort are compassion, an open mind, a willingness to do whatever is needed, and a positive attitude.

Benefit#4: Volunteering brings fun/fulfillment to your life. Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be a relaxing, energizing escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school, or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life. Consider your goals and interests when volunteering. You will have a richer and more enjoyable volunteering experience if you first take some time to identify your goals and interests. Start by thinking about why you want to volunteer. Also think about what you would enjoy doing. Volunteer opportunities that match both your goals and your interests are most likely to be fun and fulfilling for you.

Finding the right volunteer opportunity. First, ask yourself if there is something specific you want to do. For example, do I want to…make it better around where I live? Meet people who are different from me? Try something new? Do something with my spare time? See a different way of life and new places? Have a go at the type of work I might want to do as a career? Do more with my interests and hobbies? Do something I’m good at? The best way to volunteer is to match your personality and interests. Having answers to these questions will help you narrow down your search. (Source: World Volunteer Web)

There are numerous volunteer opportunities available. The key is to find a volunteer position that you would enjoy and are capable of doing. It’s also important to make sure that your commitment matches the organization’s needs. The following questions can help you narrow your options: Would you like to work with adults, children, animals, or volunteer remotely from home? Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team? Are you better behind the scenes or do you prefer to take a more visible role? How much time are you willing and able to commit? How much responsibility are you ready to take on? What skills can you bring a volunteer job? What causes are important to you?

Consider several volunteer possibilities. In your search for the right volunteer opportunity, don’t limit yourself to just one organization or one specific type of job. Sometimes an opportunity looks great on paper, but the reality is quite different. Try to visit different organizations and get a feel for what they are like and if you click with other staff and volunteers. The more satisfaction you have as a volunteer, the better your contributions and the more likely you’ll continue.

Where do I find volunteer opportunities? Non-profit organizations/Community theaters, museums and monuments/Libraries/Senior centers/Service organizations such as Lions and Rotary Clubs/Local animal shelters and rescue organizations/Youth Organizations, sports teams and after-school programs/Food pantries/Places of worship such as churches, synagogues and mosques/Online databases: Just type in “Volunteer Opportunities” in your browser’s search bar.

How much time should you volunteer? Volunteering doesn’t have to take over your life to be beneficial. In fact, research shows that just two to three hours per week, or about 100 hours a year, can confer the most benefits—to both you and your chosen cause. The important thing is to volunteer only the amount of time that feels comfortable to you. Volunteering should feel like a fun and rewarding hobby, not another chore on your to-do list.

Getting the most out of volunteering.You’re donating your valuable time, so it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. It’s important to make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit and to communicate with the people you’re working with in the volunteer organization.

Ask questions. You want to make sure that the experience is right for your skills, your goals, and the time you want to spend. If you have any questions, be sure to speak up. Sample questions to your volunteer coordinator might address your time commitment, if there’s any training involved, who you will be working with, and what to do if you have questions during your experience.

Make sure you know what’s expected. Before starting, make sure you are comfortable with the organization, know what is expected, and understand the time commitment. Consider starting small so that you don’t over commit yourself at first. Give yourself some flexibility to change your focus if needed.

Don’t be afraid to make a change. Speak up if your experience isn’t what you expected. Don’t force yourself into a bad fit. Talk to the organization about changing your focus or consider looking for another match.

Enjoy yourself. Most importantly, make sure you’re having fun! The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer and the organization. If you’re not enjoying yourself, ask yourself why. Is it the tasks you’re performing? The people you’re working with? Or are you uncomfortable simply because the situation is new and unfamiliar? Pinpointing what’s bothering you can help you decide how to proceed.

An estimated 62.8 million people, logging 7.9 billion hours volunteered in the USA in 2015. Maybe you can be counted among those volunteering for 2016.

We would love to have you volunteer at Villa Majella. Please click on “About” and then click on “Volunteering” in the drop down menu to view volunteering opportunities. Then contact Kelly Kennedy, Executive Director at (805) 964-1650.

But even if you are not interested in volunteering with us, our hope is that you will bring benefit to your own life and your community by finding someplace to volunteer that is just right for you!

(This article has been adapted from an article found on helpguide.org)

 

6 Early Warning Signs you May be with an Emotional Abuser

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When I first started working at Villa Majella, I was in contact daily with women who were victims of abusive relationships. They ran the gamut from emotional to physical abuse. I acknowledged the bravery of these women for finding the courage to respect themselves to get out of these relationships so their babies and themselves could have better lives. From the outside, these women are different from me. I am not a single mother, I have never had the fear of being homeless and I’ve never been addicted to drugs. It wasn’t until I started reading about the signs of abuse that I realized I wasn’t different from these women because I was being emotionally abused.

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After recently separating myself from an abusive relationship, which is still a constant struggle after officially separating from him in September, I started to do research as to what the signs of abuse could have been at the beginning of dating him. The more I read, the more I realized the abusive qualities were right in front of me, I just didn’t know what I was looking for and I was too entranced in the love and lust to fully see them. I know how tough it can be to leave a person you thought you loved and you never want to think there are people out there that aren’t looking out for your best interest, however, they do exist, and I feel compelled to write this blog post to further educate myself and any woman out there who is currently in an abusive relationship or is newly dating someone. Being aware of the signs that may seem like commonplace at the beginning of a relationship will allow you to make more educated decisions on whether you want to continue dating this person or to leave for your own emotional and physical safety.

I admit these signs can also be difficult to detect if you sleep with your partner too quickly. So anything you can do to elongate the courtship will help you to gather more information about a person before you fully invest in them to the point where you want to get intimate in that way.

Early Abuse Warning Sign #1: Blame

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Do you notice when you talk to your partner that they seem to shift the blame of their issues onto other people? Do you find them shying away from taking responsibility for their actions? Some things they may say could include:

“ You are so sweet to me, I wish my ex was like that.”

“My boss is such a jerk, I can never get anything done when he’s around.”

“You are so nurturing, I never had that growing up.”

When you hear these phrases, you may feel he is reaching out for support and it can feel so good in the beginning to give it, almost like you feel you’re going to change his life for the better, however, think for a second, if he isn’t taking responsibility for his own actions in his daily life, will he be able to with you? Furthermore, in these instances, he is putting himself in the seat of the victim. Since he feels victimized he believes he has the right to retaliate in any way he sees fit. When it comes to blame, a blamer will tend to turn on the person closest to him, this could be you.

Early Abuse Warning Sign #2: Desire for Constant Contact

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It can be nice in the beginning to receive text messages that make you feel all fuzzy inside. He may say:

“Thinking about you, I feel so good when I’m around you.”

“Your kisses are so sweet.”

“I feel like I could be with you forever.”

You can accept these messages as compliments but don’t dive right in for the messages, keep your ears open, because, eventually these nice messages could turn into him wanting to go with you everywhere or you notice he panics when he can’t get in contact with you right away. These are all signs that he may have attachment issues. The healthy man will feel good doing activities outside of his relationship with you because he doesn’t feel threatened by your desire to do the same.

Early Abuse Warning Sign #3: Hypersensitivity

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When I first started dating my abuser, I noticed how I was drawn to his strong attitude towards life. He was steadfast in his opinions, and I was always impressed that he seemed to know his stance on every aspect of his life. I took these for morals and at times felt inadequate I hadn’t adopted the same “strength”. I later realized all of that was a façade to cover up his low self-esteem. When he would break down when I would give my opinion, I never thought to think what he deemed to be personal attacks were fueling the anger within him.

You may also notice how often he reverts the conversation back to him, even when you’re trying to speak about something related to you. Hypersensitivity can also be illustrated when he points out how your opinions differ and why his is right. This can be as little as your taste in food to big things like your personalities.

Early Abuse Warning Sign #4: High Standards

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Sometimes, a smart guy is good at covering up his high standards with making the excuse to you that he knows what he wants. The moment he says:

“I know what I want and I usually get what I want.”

This is a clear indicator of abuse or of him displaying controlling tendencies. Here is where I see many educated and high-powered women get trapped. These women make decisions all day, which makes them desire a man to take charge. When these particular women hear that phrase, they think the man is illustrating his ability to take care of her and not that he will try to control her to get what he wants.

Sometimes, a man with high standards can be illustrated more subtly. Notice how often he gets offended or disappointed with the people or situations he finds himself in every day. Do you feel like every time you see him he talks about a time when he didn’t get his way? Those are also signs of abuse. The worst part is over time, the more enabling a person like this gets, the more they will regard their feelings as being superior to yours. When I look back at my last relationship, I rarely remember conversations being about me or if they were, he constantly shut them down by seducing me or turning the situation back on him, to make himself the victim.

Early Abuse Warning Sign #5: Family Dynamics

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At the beginning of a relationship, it is good to talk about how you both grew up. It can tell you a lot about your partner’s core temperaments and what their morals are. If they had a close family and there was healthy communication, they will hold family, kindness, and connection in high regard. If they had a turbulent upbringing where their family felt strained due to divorce, money, illness or addiction, they may regard those stressful relationships to be normal ways of communicating and having a connection with their romantic partners.

When I first started reading about codependency, I noticed many women who find themselves in codependent relationships feel fulfilled knowing they are “helping” the broken, the individuals who came from rough backgrounds. I am not here to say people who come from these family dynamics are bad people, I am saying if they haven’t or refuse to take steps to further their personal growth in this area, it will come out in emotional, controlling ways in their relationships.

Early Abuse Warning Sign #6: Rushing the Relationship Flow

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This sign can be incredibly detrimental for women looking for men to fill some sort of void in their life whether it be a need for love, financial stability, religion, wanting to have babies, not wanting to be alone etc.

In a world of social media and constant communication, it can be difficult to not be swept away by the things you think you “need” because everyone else has them. I’m at an age right now where every time I sign into Facebook, cute couple photos bombard me; people getting engaged, married or having babies. It’s all in front of me and it definitely triggers that “What the hell is wrong with me, why don’t I have these things in my life”, thought process.

The more you think you need a man to fill a hole in your life, the more men who rush relationships will show up in your life. Signs of someone who may be rushing a relationship with you: they try to set up the next date when you’re still on the first date. When you tell them you’re busy and you’ll let them know when you can get together they say “okay”, but then badger you for the rest of the week to get together. They tell you how much they care about you and how they would commit to you right away if you gave them the green light or the guy who tries to get physical with you even after you’ve told him you want to take it slow. These are all signs of a man who doesn’t respect your boundaries and will continue to feel he can disrespect your boundaries the more you let him into your life.

How to Protect yourself From an Abuser

The best advice I can give to any of you out there who are experiencing these signs in their partner or have been in emotionally abusive relationships in the past is to take the time to educate yourself not only on the signs of abuse in a relationship, but also what you may be doing to prolong the abuse. Here are a couple books and blogs you may be interested in reviewing around this topic that I’ve found all of these very helpful in my recovery.

Books on Abuse Recovery

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It, Stopping It, Surviving It

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Exclusive Interview with Chelsea Lancaster About the EOPS and CARE Programs

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Since our GED blog post was so popular, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide all of you with an exclusive interview with Chelsea Lancaster, Student Program Advisor and SPARC Coordinator for EOPS, a state-funded program that provides support for Santa Barbara City College’s low-income, single parent population.

Can you describe what the EOPS program is and what you offer?

The Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) is a state-funded support program designed to provide academic support, financial assistance and encouragement for eligible, financially disadvantaged, and academically underprepared students. The goal of the program is to help eligible students meet their educational objectives, whether they seek occupational certificates, associate degrees or to transfer to four-year institutions. Our mission is to provide above-and-beyond support services to eligible, academically and economically under-prepared students to achieve their educational goals.

If I had to describe EOPS with one word, I would say it’s a family. We aim to create a crucial web of support for students who might not be able to pursue their educational goals due to a variety of barriers they face. I am personally a product of EOPS/CARE and really believe they make all the difference.

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How long has the program been around?

EOPS is a product of the Civil Rights Movement and has been around since the 1960s.

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What type of student enters into the EOPS program?

All kinds! We serve a wide variety of students from low-income, academically underrepresented backgrounds. Some of our students are just graduating high school, whereas others are returning to school after a long absence. Most are the first in their families to pursue higher education. EOPS serves aged-out Foster Youth through our Guardian Scholars Program. We also service eligible Dreamers.

Information on our three comprehensive (and very fun!) summer bridge programs are as follows:

  1. The Running Start program is geared toward working with local high school students completing the 12th grade.
  2. The SPARC (Single Parents Arriving Ready for College) program serves single parent students.
  3. The Transitions program is designed to work with individuals released from the California criminal justice system and/or those with substance abuse issues.

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Can you describe what the CARE program is and what you offer?

CARE is an additional state-funded program within EOPS, which provides additional support for SBCC’s low-income, single parent population. The CARE program provides educational support services designed for the academically underprepared. Financial assistance and childcare may be awarded as a means of strengthening the retention, persistence, graduation, and transfer rates. Students participating in CARE may choose to pursue a vocational certificate or license, an associate degree, or transfer to a four-year university.

We also offer a Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway for CARE families annually, in addition to a children’s book event at Christmas time. We have a Club as an additional support system, which allows single parent students to connect, empower, and support each other in a variety of ways.

How long has the CARE program been around?

CARE has been around as long as EOPS.

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How long have you been working in the EOPS and CARE programs? What is your job title?

I have been at SBCC for many years serving low-income families in a few different capacities since 2002. I started as a part-time peer advisor when I was an SBCC student and was fortunate enough to continue working there even after transferring to UCSB. I became a full-time Student Program Advisor in the CalWORKs Program in 2007 and was moved up to EOPS in 2012, where I assumed the CARE student caseload (in addition to CalWORKs).

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What makes you want to do this work?

I became a mom at the age of 17, in a very abusive relationship. Getting an education was the best thing I was every able to do for both myself and my daughter. I want the families I serve to be able to enjoy the empowerment and opportunity college afforded us. It was in college that I found myself and realized that being a teen mom didn’t mean I couldn’t have a promising future; my journey wasn’t right or wrong, it was just different! I can honestly say I look forward to coming to EOPS every day.

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When passion meets profession, you’ll never work a day in your life!

Can you describe the usual struggles that keep people from graduating from the program?

Single parents face a variety of struggles including housing instability, financial problems, unhealthy relationships, lack of adequate childcare, drug and alcohol issues, low self-esteem, and lack of support. In EOPS, we try to work with students to troubleshoot the barriers they face and provide necessary financial, educational, and emotional support to help them succeed.

Can you describe a success story that you experienced in EOPS or CARE?

There are so many! Below, you will find a donor thank you card, which highlights a beautiful success story in the student’s own words.

EOPS Success Story Letter

How do students enroll in either of these programs? And what is the cost?

There is no cost to enroll in EOPS. Students typically start the Steps to Enrollment to SBCC, then come see us once they are in their classes and have completed the application for Financial Aid (FAFSA). We understand that the enrollment process can be overwhelming, however, any student who needs assistance can come see us!

What advice would you give to students who could be seeking these types of programs?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Don’t be afraid to take that step, and don’t hesitate to ask for help along the way!

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Getting Ready for Villa Majella of Santa Barbara’s Fall Festival Fundraiser

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It is less than a month away from our Fall Festival Fundraiser and we are working hard to put together one of the best fundraisers yet. As donations come in for our silent auction, we are busy collaborating with Santa Barbara Gift Baskets to put together enticing gift baskets, plus, other fun items including a month free of CorePower Yoga classes, products from the grapeseed company, two day-tickets to Six Flags Magic Mountain and so much more. We also have wonderful raffle items to raffle off including Four One-Day Hopper Tickets to Disneyland Resort, a Samsung Smart Digital Camera and a Kindle Paperwhite. If you purchase raffle tickets, you don’t need to be present on the day of our event to win!

Lupe's kodak moments 214The infamous BBQ dinner will be provided by the Knights of Columbus including tri-tip, chicken, corn on the cobb and a decadent dessert table. We will also be offering a bar of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

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Did I mention there will also be live music for you to enjoy including the music stylings of guitarist, Doug Clegg and accordion player, Eustacchio Guadagnini.

Intense and sincere. His singing, especially, comes from so deep down; emotionally, it’s very satisfying…he plays like lightning, sings like thunder. Boston’s WUMB Radio

Our fundraiser takes place on October 17, 2015 from 4-8pm at Junipero Serra Hall. This event is open to the public and we would love to have all of you there. All proceeds will go to Villa Majella of Santa Barbara. If you’re interested in purchasing raffle, event tickets or both, please reach out to us at (805) 683-2838. Hope to see all of your smiling facings there!

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10 Signs of Pain to Look Out For When You’re Pregnant

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Having a baby can be exciting and scary at the same time. The Internet is chock-full of information about what pains you should or shouldn’t ignore during your pregnancy. While having lots of resources to guide you through your pregnancy is great, it can also be confusing for any mother-to-be. Everyone’s bodies are different and some people are more sensitive to certain pains than others, so how do you really know what pains are red flags and which ones are fine to shrug off? To ease this frustration, here are 10 common red flags of pain you shouldn’t ignore when you’re pregnant.images

  1. Vaginal Bleeding

If you’re experiencing vaginal bleeding during your first trimester, call your doctor because it could be a sign of a possible miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy (when the embryo implants outside the uterus). It’s also good to get this checked out, in order to prevent future complications such as pre-term delivery or placental abruption.

You may even notice you’re spotting here and there. Spotting can occur after intercourse because more blood flows to your cervix during pregnancy. Spotting can also be caused if you’ve recently had a pap smear or an internal exam. Furthermore, spotting could be a sign of infection or you’re nearing labor. Due to the many factors that cause spotting, it’s important that you call your doctor at the first sign of it.

2. Leaking Fluid From the Vagina

If you notice a clear or straw-colored liquid coming from your vagina, there’s a possibility that your membranes have ruptured. This is most serious if it occurs before 37 weeks into your pregnancy. Your doctor will then admit you to the hospital, so they can monitor you for a premature birth.

Sometimes the discharge can be a heavier consistency. This can be a red flag that you may be experiencing Bacterial Vaginosis, an infection caused by a bacterial imbalance in the vagina. The discharge usually has a fishy smell to it. Itching and/or burning can also be a symptom.

3. Severe Headache or Blurred Vision

Occasional headaches or a disruption in your vision is quite normal during pregnancy, however, if you’re experiencing a headache that lasts for two to three hours, followed by swelling of the body and blurred vision, you may be at risk for preeclampsia. Preeclampsia can occur during the second half of your pregnancy and it is caused by a decrease of blood flowing through the placenta. If this isn’t treated, your baby won’t get enough oxygen or nutrients, which will affect his/her growth.

Itching-During-Pregnancy_Its-Causes-Treatments-And-Home-Remedies4. Itching

Feeling itchy during your pregnancy isn’t uncommon, due to changes in your hormones. Your skin stretching around your belly and breasts to accommodate your baby are the main areas where you’ll experience the most itching. If you are prone to Eczema, you will notice an increase in it during pregnancy, however, it will lessen after you give birth.

To give your skin some relief, here are a couple activities to stay away from or increase during your pregnancy: avoid taking hot showers or baths, use unscented moisturizer after you shower, avoid sun exposure in the middle of the day, wear loose cotton clothing or take oatmeal baths.

If you’re experiencing severe itching on your palms or the soles of your feet during your second or third trimester, you may have intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), which you will want to consult a doctor on.

5. Significant Decrease in your Babies Movement

Your baby will go through periods of constant movement and quiet periods as well in utero. However, if you’re noticing a complete slowdown in movement, try this test: eat something, then go to a quiet room and count how many times your baby moves. You should count a minimum of 10 movements in a two-hour timespan. If you don’t notice any movement or very minimal movement in those two hours, call your doctor right away.

6. Leg Pain

Pregnant women are at greater risk for blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT), due to hormonal changes and the pressure in your growing uterus cutting off normal blood circulation throughout your body. While it’s normal for pregnant women to have swollen ankles and leg cramps, the telltale signs of DVT are when you experience pain in one leg that is swollen, red and warm to the touch. DVT usually appears in the back of your leg, on your pelvis or on your thigh. Blood clots are treated with an anticoagulant. You can prevent blood clots by eating healthy, exercising regularly or wearing compression stockings during long flights. These stockings squeeze your ankles; legs and thighs, to achieve quicker blood circulation.

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7. Sudden Swelling

It’s normal for pregnant women to experience swelling in varying degrees in their calves, hands, ankles and face. If swelling comes on quickly and it’s causing you pain, try to stay off your feet for a couple days and drink lots of water. If you are still feeling pain after a couple days, let your doctor know, so you can be checked out for potential preeclampsia or DVT.

8. Pain or Burning During Urination

Most pregnant women will experience the need to urinate often, however, urinating should never be painful. It is best to notify your doctor at the first sign of pain or burning when you urinate, so they can see if you need medical treatment for one of several possible causes. Your doctor will determine the best course to clear up your symptoms or treat your condition.

Overcoming-Back-Pain-And-Bad-Posture19. Pain in the lower back

Around three-quarters of women experience back pain during pregnancy. The most common types of back pain are Lumbar pain and posterior pelvic pain. Lumbar pain is felt around the waistline and lower back. Posterior pelvic pain is felt inside the buttocks or on the outside/ inside of your thighs. The pain can be brought on by most activities including walking, going up the stairs, getting in and out of the tub, lifting things or rolling around in bed.

If you start to feel numbing in your groin or genital area, making it difficult for you to pee or have a bowel movement, call your doctor right away.

The most severe type of back pain is sciatica, which only one percent of pregnant women are prone to. A compression of the sciatic nerve causes sciatica. You will feel sharp and shooting pain down your leg or pain from your butt to your leg.

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10. High Fever

If you hav a high fever during your first trimester that doesn’t subside after 24-36 hours, it is best to seek medical attention at that time.

Here at Villa Majella, we provide programs on health, to ensure our residents are always up-to-date on important red flags to watch out for during their pregnancy.

Resources:

http://www.babycenter.com/0_vaginal-bleeding-or-spotting-during-pregnancy_3081.bc

http://www.babycenter.com/pregnancy-symptoms-you-should-never-ignore

http://www.babycenter.com/0_preeclampsia_257.bc

http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a1048412/thrombosis-in-pregnancy

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/itching-obstetric-cholestasis-pregnant.aspx#close

http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1071762/10-pregnancy-symptoms-br-you-should-never-ignore

http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/aches-pains/pregnancy-symptoms-you-cant-ignore/

http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/pregnancy-ectopic-pregnancy

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premature-birth/basics/definition/con-20020050

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/placental-abruption/basics/definition/con-20024292

http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/bacterial-vaginosis.html

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1562288-overview

http://www.thebump.com/a/sciatica-during-pregnancy

http://www.thebump.com/a/bad-pregnancy-symptoms

http://www.fitpregnancy.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/whats-drip