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What Do You Celebrate?

What Do You Celebrate?

I wish I could remember who asked me that question. It was many years ago now but it made a profound difference to my approach to work and life.

When I was asked ‘what do I celebrate?’ I couldn’t answer the question. It shocked me to realize that I couldn’t think of anything to celebrate. I decided right then and there things were going to change.

I set about to actively look for celebratory moments at The River Center. I started including an agenda item at the beginning of the staff meetings for a time for celebration. I asked the staff to think of something to celebrate since the last meeting. It didn’t have to be a huge, life-changing event. Maybe a hug from a child or an Ah-ha moment in a parenting class. It could be a happy story from our own families or an achievement made by one of the families we serve. A hard won victory over a technology issue is definitely considered a cause for celebration.

As a result, we are encouraged by listening to each other’s celebration moments. We start to look for things to bring to our meeting that we are celebrating. Instead of looking at what isn’t working, we see what is working. It worked so well with the staff that a moment of celebration was added to the Board agenda.

December is a season for celebrations. We celebrate the first snow. We celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. We celebrate New Year’s Eve as we reflect over the past year and New Year’s Day as we look forward to the coming year. We celebrate the winter solstice. Now that is truly an example of searching for the positive in an otherwise dark day. We literally turn the darkest day of the year into a cause for celebration.

There are so many ways to celebrate all through the year. Celebrating firsts can include moments such as the baby’s first steps, the child’s first lose tooth, the first jump in the lake for the season, or the first ride in the new car. We celebrate finally finishing and submitting our tax return. We celebrate a quiet night in front of the fire.

So, let’s consider this question of ‘What do I celebrate?’ Do we have celebrations that are personal? Simple? Everyday? Celebrating that first cup of coffee in the morning. Celebrating the feel of a new pair of shoes. Celebrating the joy of being with our family.

As we enter into the darkest days of the year, let us consider how to increase the celebratory moments in our home, our work, and our life. Think about what is working, what brings joy, moments that bring a smile. And celebrate- talk about it, dance a spontaneous happy jig, light a candle, belt out the words to ‘Let It Snow’. Celebrate in your own unique way. Just celebrate!

The staff, Board and volunteers of The River Center Family and Community Resource Center wish everyone in our community a very Happy Holiday and filled with many celebratory moments!

Family Resource Centers in Action

Family Resource Centers in Action

Thank you to The Grapevine Family and Community Resource Center for quick and tangible response to support our community in a time of great sorrow and need.

We are saddened by the death of a Great Brook School student this month. The death of a young person affects everyone in a caring community- youth and adults alike. Within days, The Grapevine organized drop-in support for youth at Avenue A Teen and Community Center. They brought in the NH Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team to support youth that evening as they worked through shock, grief, and questions.

Within a week, they organized a gathering at the Antrim Town Hall to give “an opportunity to come together and connect with one another, share your sadness and concerns, and begin talking about how we move forward as a community.” Partners in this discussion were the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Disaster Behavioral Response Team through the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

The River Center and The Grapevine are both family and community resource centers. What does that mean? Family resource centers exist across our nation. Casey Family Programs describe family resource centers as “community based resource hubs where families can access formal and informal support to promote their health and well-being.” Both our organizations provide parenting education and support that comes through groups that meet weekly, presentations on special topics, family outings, and regular intensive in-home visits. In addition, The Grapevine has Avenue A, a teen center, as well as the Learning Vine, a preschool. The River Center has programs that meet in Jaffrey, Peterborough, and other locations. Both offer connections to community resources. Both are here to strengthen individuals and families in our communities.

The River Center and The Grapevine are part of Family Support New Hampshire, a statewide coalition of family resource centers and family support programs. In New Hampshire family resource centers each take on the character and reflect the needs of their community. In Portsmouth, Families First is part of a health clinic. Gorham Family Resource Center has five regional offices spread out throughout the North Country. Plymouth Whole Village houses many social service organizations in their building. Claremont’s TLC Family Resource Center focuses on in-home family support and recovery services. The Family Connections Center serves incarcerated parents and their families. What is the common thread? Serving the families of New Hampshire. One parent, one child, one family at a time.

The River Center and The Grapevine work together to support GrandFamilies and share a staff person. We are part of the Monadnock Home Visiting Alliance.

Please join The River Center tonight at 6:30 as we host Angela Hanscom speaking on her book, Balanced and Barefoot at Conval High School. She will motivate us to get our children outdoors to play! I hope to see you there.

Hurricanes and Hammocks

Hurricanes and Hammocks

There are times we need to give ourselves an extended break to relax and refresh. But it is also important to take mini-breaks on a regular basis.

Dave and I just returned from a camping trip in Newfoundland. And yes, we did experience a little extra wind and rain from Hurricane Dorian, but nothing problematic.

A vacation, a true vacation, for me at least, involves vacating. Getting away. And being outdoors as much as possible.

This trip involved some kayaking, biking, ferry rides, and bird watching (loved seeing puffins!) We went to an Irish concert in a sleepy coastal town, saw a number of lighthouses, and watched the seals.

Perhaps as important was the hammock time. A factor for the ideal campsite is the presence of trees in which to hang the hammocks. There are few things as relaxing as swinging gently in a hammock with a beautiful view. You can hear the birds talking to each other, you can hear the wind, you can hear the stillness. When was the last time you allowed yourself the time and space to listen to stillness?

There are times we need to give ourselves an extended break to relax and refresh. But it is also important to take mini-breaks on a regular basis. I am resolved after this vacation, to get outside during the work day and take a short walk. No big deal, no special shoes required, just walk outdoors and take a deep breath. I am the better for it.

My father had an expression, “let’s go blow the stink off”. This was how the Sunday afternoon drive was frequently described. By this he meant, he needed to go let the worries, concerns and to-do lists leave his brain and take a drive through some pretty countryside. It helped him relax and gain fresh perspective. I was enthusiastic as it usually involved ice cream.

So, back to the idea of being outdoors: this is important for all in the family. As we start the new school year, children are now in the school building for extended periods of time. Most adults spend a good portion of our work day indoors. It is easy to come home and put on the fuzzy slippers.  All of us, children and adults, benefit from getting outdoors. Rake the lawn, toss the ball, walk the dog, run around in circles. Even swing in that hammock for a bit.

This fall, The River Center is excited to host Angela Hanscom, author of Balanced and Barefoot. Angela is a pediatric occupational therapist who will give us strategies to help children thrive through outdoor play. I am guessing adults will be inspired as well. She will be speaking at 6:30 Tuesday, October 15, in the Lucy Hurlin Theatre at Conval High School. I encourage parents, caregivers, educational professionals, anyone who is interested to join us for this evening. We are grateful to Vose Farm Business Center, Monadnock Paper Mills, and RiverMead for sponsoring this evening so we can offer it to you at no cost.

There are lots of programs to support and encourage parents and caregivers at The River Center this fall. Check out our programs at rivercenter.us or give us a call at 924-6800.

Back-To-School Transitions

Back-To-School Transitions

Have you noticed that emotions can run a little ragged in the family during the last couple of weeks before school starts?

 

Transitions can be stressful. Moving. Starting a new job. Having a baby. Getting up in the morning. Starting the new school year can also be a stressful time- and not just for the student but also the parents and caregivers.

What am I going to wear? Will I like the teacher? Will I be bullied? Who will sit next to me? Will the work be too hard for me? Will I be bored? Will I embarrass myself? Oh, the list can go on and on. Many of us had those very same concerns (and, if we are honest, we still do when entering new situations.)

Have you noticed that emotions can run a little ragged in the family during the last couple of weeks before school starts?

The incoming middle school student has a whole new school to worry about. Where is the bathroom? What if I get lost on the first day? Will I know anyone in my new class? Going from the elementary school to the middle school means switching from being one of the oldest students in school to being the youngest. Different buses, different start times. The kids aren’t the only ones concerned about this transition.

Freshman in high school have their own challenges. The upper classmen have a persona that exhibits indifference and makes you think it is no big deal to start a new year. Freshman have to navigate a new building, a confusing maze of hallways jammed with lots of people, tight schedules, and top it all off with raging hormones. How many adults would love to return to freshman year of high school?? Enough said.

The kindergarten kids have a refreshing attitude. For the most part, they are ready. They are beyond ready. This is what Big Kids do- they go to school. They are excited about getting the backpack, the pencils, new sneakers. Our youngest was so excited to start kindergarten. When I went to check in on her before I went to bed, I found her sound asleep with her outfit for the first day of school carefully laid out on the floor beside the bed. She was ready.

It is time once again for the back to school transition. Next week the buses will be on the road, picking up teenagers who haven’t seen these early hours for a couple of months. Teachers are already at the schools sprucing up their classrooms, counting out the supplies, readying the lesson plans.

It is also time for The River Center’s 9th Tidy Trims Day on Monday, August 26. Many local hair stylists and barbers volunteer their time to provide free back to school haircuts for families that find it a hardship to cover back to school costs. If your family or someone you know, could benefit from this service, please contact The River Center at 924-6800, info@rivercenter.us or look us up on Eventbrite.com. Haircuts will be on a first come first serve basis.

Once your kids have their new haircuts, it is time for parents and caregivers to consider how to lessen stress. The week of September 9, we will begin weekly parenting groups for parents and caregivers of all age children. Take a look at our website or give us a call for more information. Take a deep breath. Parenting can be stressful, but our parent educators can help you navigate the growing up years with more confidence and joy.

Sibling Reunion and Reflections on Family

Sibling Reunion and Reflections on Family

“As I reflect on my own sibling reunion, I am grateful for my big brother and big sister. I am thankful they bore with me through the awkward years…”

I am the baby of the family. My mother called me that for years after I towered over her. Let’s just say it is somewhat embarrassing to be called the baby when you are fifteen.

Over the fourth, my brother and I ventured out to Wyoming to visit with my sister. It has been fifteen years since the three of us have been together, the last time being at our mother’s funeral in 2004.

My brother lives five miles from where we grew up in rural Maine. My sister ventured out West, settling two thousand miles away. I dared to cross the state line and settle in New Hampshire, almost two hundred miles away.

Here are some of my reflections from this time with my siblings. I am not the baby anymore. For years, I felt the residual effects of being the youngest. A little less confident, a little clumsier, and a bit of a need to prove myself. I am happy to report that I finally accept that I am an adult on equal footing with my siblings.

My siblings are interesting people. My sister is a retired librarian, knows a lot about a wide variety of topics. They live in a beautiful part of the country with a view of snow covered mountains and antelope right outside their kitchen window. She can spin her own yarn and knit anything she sets her mind to, with or without directions. My brother is a retired steeple wright, having refurbished steeples all over the State of Maine. He has sailed most of the coast, built his own home and many others, and grows a large vegetable garden each year.

Martha and Bob are older than me. Our parents became more laid back as they gained experience in parenting.  As with many families, there was a certain understanding that I was getting away with far more things than my siblings, which I can’t deny. I also had parents who were sometimes mistaken as my grandparents. I believe there are benefits and challenges no matter what your spot in the birth order.

We share much in common. There are stories and experiences and life views that the three of us share that no one else fully understands. We were raised by the same parents, in the same house, with the same relatives and family history. We saw the same books on the shelf, helped our dad in the same workshop, and watched our mother bake the same cookie recipes that we still know and love today. We grew up on overcooked string beans (which my siblings happen to love….), red flannel hash, and baked apples made from our Tolman Sweet tree.

We were not a family that easily said ‘I love you’. My father would purchase the fanciest Valentine or anniversary card he could find and then write in it ‘To Mary, from Robert’. They never talked about love, but we all knew we were loved. Actions truly do speak louder than words, but I have found that both words and actions are helpful.

At the core, I have concluded that we are siblings and will always be siblings. Martha will always be my sister and Bob will always be my brother. We will be there for each other. I can’t bring my sister dinner if she needs it tomorrow, but I can stay in touch. The wonders of email and texting and phone calls. I can send her pictures of my life and my family and she can do likewise. I can meet my brother and his wife in Kittery or visit for the weekend. We are family.

I know that every family is different. Not everyone can say they were raised by their birth parents, were loved, and are still in communication with their siblings. Families can be painful, guilt-inducing, and unhealthy. I get it.

As I reflect on my own sibling reunion, I am grateful for my big brother and big sister. I am thankful they bore with me through the awkward years when I was stepping on feet, laughing with a snort, and following them around like a puppy dog. I am thankful for the parents that raised us, with their quirks and foibles. They did their best and loved us. And it turned out alright.

Family. I am glad to work at The River Center Family and Community Resource Center. We are here to strengthen families. Strong families make strong communities. And that makes it better for all of us.

Are you a parent? Caring for your grandchildren? The River Center is here for you. www.rivercenter.us.

Guess I should send my siblings some of those photos I took…..

Grandparents and Grandfamilies

Grandparents and Grandfamilies

I have just spent some time in North Carolina with our 21 month old and 4 ½ year old granddaughters. My daughter and her husband had an opportunity to go on a vacation and we offered to help care for Lila and Linnea while they were gone.

Dave and I have three grown daughters. Our middle daughter has two daughters. We’ve done this before. It’s like riding a bike, right?

It was wonderful to spend a chunk of time with the girls- over two weeks. We got them up, helped them get dressed, fed them, played with them, settled them for naps, read them books, bathed them, and tucked them in. We showered lots of love on them and received lots of love return – hugs and sloppy kisses in abundance.

We also wiped bottoms, dried tears, applied band aids, received a good many scowls and heard “No!” more times than I can count. Negotiations were on-going and intense, reminding me of my days in labor management.

You should know that we were not alone. The other grandma was there as well as an aunt. We were able to share the care of the girls. Even so, at almost two and almost 5, there is an abundance of energy. Always. If they are awake, they are moving, talking, prodding, and needing something. Outings are planned around the naps. Naps are key to everyone’s good attitude.

This time with our granddaughters made me think about the grandparents who are in the position of parenting their grandchildren. The day in and day out responsibility for active little ones can be daunting. At a time when they are retiring or thinking of retiring, many grandparents find they must keep working because there are more mouths to feed, clothes to buy for growing children, school supplies to purchase, and educations to consider. The ability to put your feet up at the end of the day is gone. There is homework to oversee, baths to be run, lunches to pack. In addition to this round-the-clock care for grandchildren, add the legal and emotional quagmire of caring for your children’s children.

The River Center and The Grapevine both are family and community resource centers. Together we have facilitated a group for grandparents who are parenting their grandchildren since 2015. The grandparents in this group have supported each other, learned about resources available to support their families, and been a significant voice for other families facing similar challenges.

In 2017 testimony from several of these local grandparents resulted in new legislation. HB 629 established grandparents as preference for guardianship in cases of parent’s substance misuse and is the first of its kind in the nation. SB 148 created a commission to study the impact of the opioid crisis on grandparents. They have met with Senator Hassan to tell their stories and answer her questions in preparation for her work on the national level.  Over the past year they have supported the creation of a similar group for grandparents in Keene.

In New Hampshire there are well over 10,000 grandparents parenting their grandchildren. They love their families and will do whatever it takes to care for their grandchildren.

The men and women who take on the challenge of raising their grandchildren have my deepest respect. They are doing whatever it takes to provide love, stability and a nurturing environment for the next generation. They are brave and determined. Thank you for being willing and able. You are heroes.

Check out Families, Forests, and Farms- weekly fun field trips all over our region. For details go to www.rivercenter.us or give us a call at 924-6800.

Margaret Nelson

Executive Director

The River Center Family and Community Resource Center

 

 

 

 

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