So Monday I started leading my 'Choices' group for some teenagers our organization has worked with in one form or another over the past few months. We wanted to bring a few of them together to give them a chance to connect with other kids that may have gone through similar things. There was weeks of prep time, finding good readings, activities, and getting everything 'approved' by my supervisor, etc. and on the way to group I called Matt (feeling a little nervous I guess) and said 'what if only two kids show up?' (instead of the 7 we had signed up for the course). Matt instantly said 'well, two is a group, so you'll be fine'. Very sweet, very supportive and always appreciated. I agreed with Matt and continued on to lead the class. I had the lovely help of another co-worker and a good friend and guess what? All 7 kids showed up! We will have five more meetings on the next five Mondays. So very happy the first meeting went well and even though it was tiring, I think it will be a valuable course for the kiddos and for us.
Next day Tuesday was busy with meetings all day and by 5:30 myself and four other co-workers were all on the road headed to a small town a few hours away for a work conference. I have been to conferences like this before but I will say the information presented here was very valuable and I am glad I came. We of course were given two nights at a hotel and $30 per person per day with food (which we never even used that full amount due to other food being available through the conference).
The hotel was... pretty gross. Now I am aware that I am already a weirdo when it comes to hotels (or am I completely normal and everyone else is weird about it?) We all drove up in a company car and I was the only one that sat with a pillow in their laps and that is where the questions started. Why did you bring your own pillow? And then of course I mentioned that the second I enter a hotel room I throw the comforter on the floor, then we talk about Dateline episodes and black lights... then I even told them that I put towels down across the bathroom floor and do my very best not to touch the tile barefoot. This is when my freak flag flew and the car grew silent. "Do you have house slippers too?" Puzzled I said 'no, I just do that at hotels, I am fine at home with our germs...' This conversation made my co-worker (the only other woman that came on this trip) and she said 'do they not wash everything? i just assume they wash everything... maybe i am too trusting'. And yes I think, maybe you are. Later in the day she said one of her hotel pillows fell on the floor and she did not pick it up because of me and our germ conversation. I told her that was a good idea and I only felt bad about breaking her trust of hotel cleanliness for a second.
Here's the rundown: the lobby is large filled with games mostly broken ones that just give you false hope of playing air hockey or double shot only to find out they are permanently broken, or by the time you ask to play ping pong the front desk lady says 'it's too late, come back at 8 a.m.' lame. There was definite mold in my bathroom, a tile in the lobby had fallen down and was spread out along the carpet dew to mildew. Something started smoking in the lobby and they put out a huge fan that just blew thick smokeness back and forth. The pool looked stale and lame, but did I mention there was a water slide? Tonight we decided to spend some time at the pool, hot tub and enjoy the slide. I found a kid's football underneath my bed, because of course I look under the bed, that's normal right? The hot tub was hot and the slide was windy and freakin fast, so hilarious and ended up being really fun.
Lastly there's this; myself, the other woman and two guys we were with played lots of pool as in billards. Now I am not great, but if I take my time I can make some pretty good shots from time to time. One of the guys we were with was getting kind of heated that I kept doing so well, and so much better than him. We beat his team several times either by his partner scratching the 8 ball or I hit the last few in and won for realsy. Either way he was just dumbfounded that one let alone two 'girls' beat him. I find it hilarious and still kind of odd (even though I have been familiar with this behavior for my entire life) that he felt even more competitive about wanting to win because he was playing against women. Personally I think it's a sign of insecurity and just a lame stereotype that 'you got beat by a girl' is still a big deal for some guys. Ever since I was little I have been able to play sports naturally. I remember racing on the soccer fields in elementary school and myself and one other girl could beat the other boys and it was a great achievement for us and a horrible defeat for them, much worse than losing to a boy. So after we won that last game he said 'let's go play football so we can actually beat them at something'. We obviously did not play football, but we did that video golf game, which I find to be kind of lame and you don't need much skill to do. That said, I 'drove' my ball further than this guys several times and he again felt defeated. Should I have let him win to make him feel better about the situation? Because I don't want any guy I play to ease up on me when we play games. Clearly there are physical things this guy and lots of guys could beat me at, but that doesn't belittle the fact that I am a good athlete and can legitimately kick his butt and other guys' butts at certain games. I just think it would be nice if he could be a good sport about it and not get down about it, or blame it on luck or something else.
Another thing I have always appreciated about Matt. He has never once felt threatened by my intelligence, talents or abilities (obviously or we would not be married) but he is very supportive of pretty much anything I do but definitely encouraged me to 'kick their butts' at whatever games we play.
At the end of the trip we all had a good time and today we had the honor of receiving a presentation by four kids who have been through or are still in the foster care system. They shared their traumas and their triumphs and the fact that they are all doing so very well today. It was inspiring and I think they need more of that at these social work conferences. We know what we do isn't going to save every kid and there may always be horrible awful happenings that we won't have the chance to prevent or help, but what makes the work important is those kids that we do get to come in contact with and hopefully help "We need you to believe in us..." the 16 year old bright eyed girl who helped with the presentation.
Turns out this post is much more of a novel, my apologies, unless you've stopped reading and you didn't make it this far, then nevermind. :)
I will be home tomorrow, with my husband, and our dogs, surrounded with our own germs.... can't wait.