Friday, October 24, 2008


Last Saturday was Red Ribbon & my On TRACK girls had the opportunity to perform before a good size audience. Ryan, the dance instructor, was not going to be able to make it to the event but in the end showed up. It was quite a surprise for the girls...they were thrilled! The time finally came for them to perfom, I was so excited! It almost felt like I was the one going up :-) I couldn't hold back the tears as I watched them "do their thang". We've been through so much drama these last 6 weeks and they pulled it off beautifully! I am so proud of them and the work that we've done together.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Red Ribbon Day

Red Ribbon week honors the memory of USDEA Agent, Enrique Camarena and others, who lost their lives in the fight against drugs. It is a nationwide campaign to raise drug awareness. Prevention Links, the organization I work for, is the host for the main event in Union County, NJ. The 10th annual Red Ribbon Day will be this Saturday at Nomahegan Park in Cranford. It is an all day, fun-filled family event. Activities include a countywide parade, rock wall climbing, face painting, helicopter landings, award ceremony, and performances. The main performance will be by the On TRACK kids. This is the group of kids I work with.On TRACK is one of our agency's youth program and the one I am personally in charge of. It stands for Teens Reaching Artistic Creativity & Knowledge of Self. It's A weekly after School & Summer Program designed to build each child’s internal assets and foster the development of healthy life-skill while integrating creative arts activities as means to help each child tap into his/her unique talents. The program is funded by the Union County Youth Services Commission.
The group I am currently working with is composed 7 very dedicated 12 year-old girls. We hired a hip-hop dance instructor who has been working with them for the past 6 weeks. In this little time they learned the moves and will be dancing to "I Believe I Can" by Yolanda Adams. It is on the "Honey" soundtrack. If you read the lyrics you'll see that it is the perfect song for this program. I am very proud of the girls and can't wait to see them perfom tomorrow!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Preparing for the GRE

I will finally start my GRE preparation. For my international readers, the Graduate Record Examination is a standardized test required for admission for many graduate schools in the US (some other countries as well). There is a General Test and various Subject Tests. Most graduate programs require the general one. This exam measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and critical thinking and analytical writing skills. From what I understand, the material tested is not particularly difficult, but, as with all Standardized exams, time constraint is everyone's problem. I can't say I'm a terrible test taker. I definitely get very nervous, but if I know the material I can get myself under control. I know people whose minds go blank or they get sick to their stomach, even though they know the material.

When it comes to my performance on the GRE, my main concern is the math section. I am one of those "I can't do math" people. Rationally, I know I can learn math if I put enough effort into it. The problem is that after years of telling myself "I can't", it's ingrained in my subconscious. I know that the first step in my GRE math preparation is to change my belief system in regards to my math abilities.

In that spirit, this morning before work (I don't start until 1pm on Thursdays) Gaby & I finally made our way to the Kearny Public Library. I'm ashamed to say that I've been living here for months & only now did get my card. My first thought as I walked in, "God I miss Rutgers". After getting over how small & cramped the place was, I found the math section. I took out 6 books, including a GRE prep, an algebra textbook (algebra is my math monster), and a conquering math anxiety book. The other 3 are also math books but will probably not be used. For some reason I have a difficult time taking out few books from the library. It becomes a problem when I miss the due date & end up paying fines for books I never opened.

I can't see myself going back to school until Gaby is at least two, so I won't be taking the test until sometime next year. I figure by then she'll be a more independent (she'll be walking!) & I'll have a little more time. I'll also have been in the workforce for a while and it will be easier for me to change my work schedule to accommodate my classes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ana Rebeka Andrade

Wednesday my friend Patricia and I went to Ana's wake. It was difficult being there and seeing her family distraught by the tragedy. It was closed casket. Knowing why it had to be closed saddened me, but I couldn't help the feeling relief when I realized I would not see her. It was a night of mixed emotions. I was happy to see many people I had not seen in years but sad that it happened under those circumstances. I had thought my emotions were under control but the wake brought it all gushing back. I couldn't help the tears. At home I couldn't sleep and I was having a hard time being alone. At every idle moment, my mind wondered back to it all. I felt despair. Despair in knowing my friend had died a terrible death. Despair in knowing that, so many times, I had disregarded the urge to see her and that, in this life time, I would not have that opportunity again. I felt a great sense of loss. A feeling that I had felt weeks before, when I thought about her but now intensified to the 1000th power. In Portuguese, we have a word... saudade. That's what I felt. Saudade of the good times we had together. Saudade of our many conversations and laughter. Saudade of all the moments that could have been but never were. After nights of lost sleep & even nightmares, I made the decision to honor my friend by laying to rest all what-ifs and simply cherishing the years we were in each other's lives and those wonderful memories.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Loss of a Friend

The last 12 hours have been very difficult. Yesterday, a good friend of mine was a passenger in a fatal car accident. Ana died at the scene, she was only 24 years old. She was an extraordinary person with a heart of gold and the voice of an angel. I'll always remember her beautiful smile.

I had known Ana since the 6th grade, but unfortunately we grew apart after high school. It saddens me that, since moving back to New Jersey, I had been meaning to reach out to her but never made the time to do so. It's amazing how easy it is to postpone things, thinking there is always tomorrow. How easy it is to take for granted the chances we have to be with those we care about. Life is so fragile. We know this, but often forget it. I pray that God may comfort her family, bringing them strength to endure this trying time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Halloween: to be or not to be... a part of its festivities?

It is October first and Halloween is right around the corner. For most American, whether or not to participate in Halloween tradition is not even a question. I however, only dressed up & went Trick or Treating once. I was seven years-old & had just move to the US from Brazil in April of that year. My cousin & dressed as witches, my little brother was a pumpkin. That afternoon, my aunt took us out. We walked around stopping at stores/homes along the way, collecting candy & other goodies. In Brazil we do not have Halloween, and I still remember my amazement with the holiday. The art projects, the costumes...even School was so much fun that week! A national day of free candy & fun, what a marvelous idea! "They should have this everywhere!", I thought. When we returned home, my mother said she had been listening to the Spanish christian radio station & that she had heard a very long sermon about the evils of Halloween. Out of genuine concern for our souls, my mom decided it was not a good idea to celebrate the holiday and that was the end of it for my brother & I (my aunt thought it was ridiculous to spoil an innocent day &

continued to allow my cousin to participate). For the next few years I resented the fact that I was the only person in my class who could not get involved with anything that had to do with this day. And every 31st of October I was allowed to miss school. I can't remember exactly when I embraced the non-practice of Halloween as my own, but eventually I did. Once that happened, not only did it not bother me to not practice it, I felt proud to make a public statement of my beliefs. Now, almost 20 years later, Halloween is once again haunting me.

Six years ago, it would have never crossed my mind to involve my child in Halloween. Since then, I have questioned many of my beliefs (this being one of them) and have struggled with finding a balance for my life. I still consider myself a Christian. Most Christians I know probably would not, but I still do. When it comes it this, I almost feel like putting the issue on a shelf until Gaby is old enough to make the decision for herself. That means I would have to resist the temptation to dress her up! What scrap booking mom would not want to see her cutie patootie as a lady bug, bunny or a little lamb?

I have been trying so hard to step away from all the superstition that comes along with religion & I feel that this would be a great opportunity to do so. I also know that not only would I have to overcome years of mental programming & subconscious fear-based beliefs. I know I will also be confronted by my mother on this topic.

At Karena's suggestion, I will research the origins & practice of Halloween, so I can be better informed when making my decision. I would appreciate your comment & personal stand on the matter. TIA!