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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

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

 

 

 

 

What Is The River Center?

People ask, “What is The River Center?”
Here’s my answer:

The River Center is about playtime with parents and their little ones. Visiting local farms with other families. Parents of teens and tweens brainstorming creative solutions to smooth out strained relationships. New parents facing sleepless nights and the challenges of caring for newborns. Attending a film or listening to a author/speaker  on parenting issues. Getting answers to questions every parent faces. Knowing that you are not alone.

The River Center is a place to go to get a tax return completed by IRS certified volunteers. A place to meet with a money coach to demystify household finances and make a plan to reduce debt.

It is a place to go when you don’t know where else to turn: facing eviction; applying for food assistance; seeking help for a neighbor.

The River Center is a family and community resource center- a place where individuals and families can get connected with services and programs that they need to thrive. The River Center is here for you, your family, your neighbors, your co-workers, our community.

Consider us during the statewide 24 hours of giving event, NH Gives so that we may continue to support individuals and families with our programs. Strong families = strong communities!

NH Gives Banner 2019

Conversations: Meet Heather, A Happy Tax Filer

Happy tax filer

Heather is a tax filer who reached out to us in February after she had her tax return prepared at our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site.

How did you hear about The River Center’s free tax prep program?

Through the Keene Public Library.

How long have you been coming to have your taxes done here?

5 years

When you think of doing your taxes, how do you feel about it?

AWESOME! The River Center makes the whole process friendly and not scary.

Tell us about your experience in our VITA program.

I got lost and Janine was very patient and kind on the phone when I called to say I was going to be late and VERY reassuring. She told me to “take my time” when I found myself completely frazzled. I showed up 30 min. late for my appointment and she was kind enough to come into the living room, where I sat, and help me with any questions that I had on the confusing paper I needed to fill out. I loved her energy!

Geoff and Fran both wore striped shirts and I began our interaction with pointing out that I must have “missed the stripe memo” as I didn’t have stripes on. They were patient and clear and calm and professional. I loved the story Fran told me as well.

What did you think of the volunteers who prepared your taxes? 

AMAZING! They looked like twins both wearing striped shirts that day….

What do you wish people knew about our tax program?

It is FREE and available! Free things “go away” when not “used”. Take advantage!!

Do you feel that this tax program is a benefit to the community and if so, what do you think it brings to the table for people? If not, what do you think could be done differently?

Definitely benefit. I am a single Mom, I don’t itemize and I can’t afford the $200 fee [elsewhere] just so a computer program can do 90% of the work…

If you plan on coming back here, what draws you here vs going elsewhere?

FREE and friendly atmosphere.  I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone!  I tell everyone about you guys!

Consider us during the statewide 24 hours of giving event, NH Gives so that we may continue to support people like Heather in our Money Matters program which includes Money Coaching and Free Tax Prep.

NH Gives Banner 2019

Conversations: Meet Tara, Tax Time Saver

SaveYourRefund 2018 Grand Prize Winning Entry

Tara’s photo entry depicting why she chose to save part of her refund

I am teaching her the value of saving money every week for:

The future

Her education

My retirement

An emergency fund

That vacation…

Every little bit counts. So start small. Think big. Create the life you want – one dollar at a time.

 

How did you hear about The River Center’s free tax prep program? 

I was looking for free or low cost tax filing assistance online and found the River Center’s free tax prep program.

How long have you been coming to have your taxes done here?

3 years.

When you think of doing your taxes, how do you feel about it? 

I used to dread it, but I don’t anymore.

Tell us about your experience with our tax program. 

When I get my taxes prepared at the River Center, the volunteer tax preparers are very thorough and then a [quality reviewer] checks the final draft of the tax return before it is filed. I feel confident that I am getting the best possible refund.

What do you think of the volunteers who prepared your taxes?

Everyone is very personable and they are happy to answer all of my questions.

What do you wish people knew about our tax program? 

Besides being an easy and stress free process, if you save part of your tax refund, you are eligible to enter a contest to win $10,000.

Do you feel that this tax program is a benefit to the community and if so, what do you think it brings to the table for people? If not, what do you think could be done differently?

Yes, I feel that the tax program is a benefit to the community. You have more money to go towards your financial goals and the opportunity to establish or build savings. The River Center even offers resources on how to save money.

If you plan on coming back here, what draws you here vs going elsewhere?

I like getting my taxes done by people I’ve come to know and trust. I’m not just a number.

 

Tara was one of  SaveYourRefund‘s 2018 Grand Prize Winners. Tara started by putting some of her refund that year into savings and when she won, she also put those winnings into savings. She tells us that having this cushion to fall back on has given her the confidence and the freedom to make life choices she wouldn’t have made otherwise.

Consider us during the statewide 24 hours of giving event, NH Gives so that we may continue to support people like Tara in our Money Matters program which includes Money Coaching and Free Tax Prep.

NH Gives Banner 2019

 

New Shoes and Inspiration

I recently splurged on some new shoes. Why? you may ask. I went on a Big Trip. I was in Washington DC the first week of May for a conference of the National Family Support Network. And, of course, I needed new shoes- shoes I could walk in, talk in, and think big thoughts. Some of you know what I am talking about.

Anyway, new shoes aside, the gathering of family resource center networks from across the country was inspiring. It would seem that supporting families is universal. Families in California and Maine, Florida and Wisconsin need support. We share a core vision of ensuring that every family has what they need to thrive and that children can grow in a stable and nurturing environment.

What we do is surround families with what are known as the five protective factors for strong families:

  1. enhancing parental resilience; 
  2. connecting families with concrete supports in times of need;
  3. facilitating knowledge of parenting and child development
  4. supporting healthy social and emotional development in children; and
  5. creating social connections.

Strong families make for strong communities and ultimately a stronger world for us all.

Family resource centers provide this support through parent education and support: parenting classes, support groups, play groups for parents and young children, baby groups. Through these groups and interactions new friendships development and social connections result. Intensive in-home support for families is provided, supporting pregnant women, infants, and the family through regular visits. Connecting families with food, clothing, housing, employment, counseling, transportation, or whatever the need is another important role of the family resource center.

How we do this support differs from state to state, community to community. In Kentucky, there are 854 family resource centers located in the schools. In Vermont they are called Parent Child Centers. In New Jersey they are called Family Success Centers. Some family resource centers include childcare programs, food pantries, thrift shops and English as a second language. Some are funded with state or federal dollars, others are not (New Hampshire is not). All family resource centers reflect their communities. In New Hampshire we have a thirteen family resource centers ranging from self-standing nonprofits (like The River Center and The Grapevine) to the Family Connections Center located in the state prison, to Whole Village Family Resource Center in Plymouth that houses multiple nonprofits that support families.

I attended this convening in my role as President of the Board of Family Support New Hampshire, the coalition of family resource centers and family support programs of New Hampshire. I was encouraged to meet women and men from across the country who are engaged in supporting families through family resource centers. I came away encouraged by their enthusiasm, passion, and thoughtful leadership. We are convinced that families need support to thrive. Children don’t come with instructions. Parenting is a tough job and we can’t do it alone. Family resource centers are here to help.

So, remember that The River Center is a family and community resource center. Right here in your community. We offer parenting classes like the Challenge of Teens and Tweens with Bonnie Harris. We have a parent group that meets in Jaffrey on Friday mornings for parents with young children. Thursday mornings Families, Forests, and Farms, is a fun group for parents and children exploring our community. Our home visitors support families with young children through regular in-home visits. We have a Safe Sitter babysitting class coming up on June 1 for 11-14 year olds. And then there is money coaching and help with your taxes. And don’t forget that we are here to help connect you with community resources by calling 924-6800, walk in at 9 Vose Farm Rd, Suite 115, or go to www.rivercenter.us for our on-line Factbook resource guide to services in the Eastern Monadnock Region.

Strong families make strong communities which result in a better world for all of us. Let us know how we can support your family.

Margaret Nelson
Executive Director
The River Center Family and Community Resource Center
mnelson@rivercenter.us