Category: My World, My Community


If you are familiar with the term “urban exploration,” you know in most cases it’s illegal.  People who are urban explorers discover normally unseen or off-limits parts of urban areas like abandoned buildings or other unique places.  While interesting as it may be, this activity could be dangerous and some activities associated with urban exploration could be considered trespassing or violations of local or regional laws which include (but not limited to), invasion of privacy and certain broadly interpreted anti-terrorism laws.

While I find urban exploration fascinating, I’m not an advocate for breaking the law.  So I’ve developed my own  interpretation of urban exploration.  It’s completely legal and a great way to support your local community and economy.

Urban exploration, to me, is going out and exploring your urban surrounding.  If you are looking for something to do, this a great activity for a Saturday or Sunday.  Take a day and hop on public transportation.  Walk through different neighborhoods and get a sense of their community and culture.  Go to an area that you’ve never been to and check out a cafe, museum or boutique.  Pretend you are a tourist and check out the sights.  The idea is simple, but a great way to learn about the unique aspects of the local community.

Before you go out and do any kind of urban exploring, please do some research. While spontaneity is always fun, it’s best not to go into it blindly.  To make sure your day of exploring is fun, always keep in mind your safety. Don’t go to a neighborhood or part of town where your safety might be a concern.   

With that being said, here are some resources to help you with your research.

Yelp:  People just like you review local businesses and happenings around town.  Check it out and see what people have to say.  It can help map out your day of urban exploration.

Foursquare: Follow people who posts where they go.  This can help give you ideas of places you want to explore.  Once you find a new and unique place, check-in.  Share your location with others.

Brightkite:  A simple way to meet new people, keep up with friends and places and enjoy your neighborhoods. 

All three websites can connect to your Facebook and Twitter as well.  So take advantage of these online resources.  And don’t forget to share your adventures 🙂

As my closest friends and family know, I’m not that “into” children. Don’t get me wrong. I love children and being around them.  But do I have that “mothering” instinct?  Honestly, I think it’s buried deep, deep, DEEP down inside of me.  

To everyone’s amazement, I’ve worked at Crisis Nursery for over 3 1/2 years.  My boyfriend early on in our relationship asked me, why do you work at a children’s organization when you don’t really like kids?  He said it somewhat joking because he knows I enjoy playing with kids and being around them, but  it did make me think. 

 What I love about Crisis Nursery is that in addition to working directly with children, they also work directly with their parents.  Providing parents with referrals to community resources, encouragement to be an active part of their children’s lives and most importantly support. When their family and friends have turned their back on them or even at times it feels like the community has turned their back on them, Crisis Nursery is there to help them.  Yes, these parents made mistakes, some really bad mistakes.   But at one point people realize they have to change.    They are facing their hard realities and owning up to their mistakes.  What takes real courage is turning to someone for help to make amends and to move forward not only for their sake but the sake of their children.

The people who seek help from Crisis Nursery feel they have no where else to turn to.  Maybe for some reason or another they burnt bridges with their friends and family due to substance abuse or untreated mental illness.  Some find themselves isolated because of domestic violence.  Or some people moved here away from family to seek a better life, but when they arrived here, they were laid off and struggle to put food on the table or a roof over their heads.  The reasons can go on and on, but what remains the same is that Crisis Nursery is there to help.

Many people think if a parent abuses or neglects their child, lock them up in prison and throw away the key.  Yes, I believe there should be consequences for their actions, but it doesn’t mean the memory of the abuse or neglect goes away.  You may see it as breaking news in the media, but when the hoopla dies down these children and their parents keep living.   Their children live with the knowledge of the abuse and the live with this knowledge as they grow up and become adults.  Parents have to live with their actions and live with it until they die.  In a magical world, it would be nice if the effects of child abuse and neglect would disappear once the verdict is made, but that’s not reality. 

Most parents do not intentionally want to abuse or neglect their child.  Abuse happens when stress levels are high.  Given our economy and the difficult times we are all facing, these are the times we are going to see abuse and neglect rates start to climb.  We as a community can prevent another child from being abused or neglected.  Support programs that helps and supports vulnerable families.  Donate and volunteer to organizations like Crisis Nursery.  Or the new organizations I’m working for…Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS).  We work with men, women and children to empower them to end homelessness.   Advocate for programs that help children and families.  With the state trying to balance its budget, cuts have already been made to essential education and human services.  The State is looking to make more cuts to potentially reduce or dismantle these essential services.  Speak up and have your voices heard vulnerable children and families need your help.

I am deeply concerned about Arizona’s future.  Last week, I learned that cuts to critical funding for early childhood programs and activities may lay in the hands of Arizona voters.  First Things First is an initiative that dedicates a tax on tobacco products to be used on expanding early learning and health programs for children birth through age five.  Arizona voters approved First Things First in 2006 by a landslide. This demonstrated that Arizonans value early childhood as the foundation of a child’s learning and are committed to investing in children to be more successful in school and in life.

In November, Arizona voters may be asked to vote to dismantle First Things First.  This will effectively wipe out Arizona’s investment over the last three years in early childhood education and health programs.  The elimination of First Things First will impact literally tens of thousands of children and their families throughout Arizona.  This will also effect hundreds of jobs supported by First Things First funds.

Arizona has traditionally ranked in the bottom 20% on almost all areas of child well-being.  Even in prosperous times, State funding for children’s services has not begun to meet identified needs.  Funding from First Things First has helped to keep essential human services intact.  If it is eliminated, I wonder where will vulnerable children and families in our community turn for help?  The State has eliminated or significantly cut funds to human services and education.  Nonprofits struggle to secure revenue to sustain their programs.  The loss of First Things First will only create a greater disparity.  Recognizing the current economic crisis Arizona faces, First Things First has offered an interest free loan to the State $3,000,000.  To date this potential win-win proposal has not been accepted. 

I encourage all of you who are concerned about the children and families to voice your concerns to our elected officials and at the ballot box in November. Our children, families and the future of our community are depending on all of you! 

 To learn more about First Things First, visit their website at azftf.gov.

Is Arizona a Lost Cause?

About four years ago, I moved to Arizona.  And I won’t lie, I moved here from Missouri for a guy. Even though the relationship didn’t last and he moved back to Missouri.  I continue to live here.   I love Arizona; from the weather (ok not the summer but the other seasons) to the hiking to the great nightlife and restaurants.  What’s not to love about this state?

While there’s a lot of glitz and glam, I believe this facade only hides some big issues this state faces.  Everyone hopes that the recession will pass, Arizona will get out of this economic slump and become a thriving and bustling state.  But this seems like a “pie in the sky dream” when Arizona is considered one of the worst states in the nation suffering right now.

While politicians debate about how to balance a nearly $2 billion deficit through exploring budget cuts and increasing taxes, real children and families are hurting.  As I work to help raise awareness and funding for a children’s welfare organization, I constantly question the measures taking place to balance the budget.  Is it in the best interest of ALL who live in Arizona?

I would like to think that the state and community I live in cares about the most vulnerable children and families in our community, but I’m consistently disappointed by decisions made by lawmakers.  Today Gov. Janet Brewer signed a package to cut $300 million in state spending to reduce the budget deficit.  Through this package, DES is facing yet another significant cut.  This time it’s $155 million dollars.  Education is facing another cut of $144 million.  My concern lies within how our state continues to operate essential human and educational services after imposing more budget cuts.  Also, is cutting programs that help children and families the only way to balance the budget ?

When the government makes cuts, it’s not a gradual process.  It’s quick and swift, and action takes place immediately. It takes a lot of time for programs and services to recover from these hits.  Time human services and education in Arizona has not been afforded.  While some would say that the current human services and educational system lack skilled workers, proper management and leadership, one has to wonder can programs be adequately operated and maintained when resources and funding continues to be cut?  Just because budgets are cut and programs and services are reduced or eliminated, that doesn’t mean these issues and/or people go away.  It just adds to the growing problems and increasing number of struggling children and families in our community.

Many people feel that in order to resolve all the problems Arizona faces, we need to stimulate the state’s economy.  While I agree that’s part of the resolution I don’t think it’s the end all be all to save Arizona from total despair.  We all want  businesses to move and remain in Arizona.  Economic packages are being created to try and stimulate our economy. But is that enough of an incentive to move or live in this state?

Great economic package helps to bring business here, but who actually moves to this state?  People.  Would you want to move to a state that actively does not support families?  The actions taken by the state makes it evident to me they don’t support families.   If I had kids, I would not want to send them to schools in this state, especially with the current budget cuts.  Unemployment, loss of housing, substance abuse, untreated mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence will continue to run rampant with an inadequate human services system.  And at this point, can we truly rely on nonprofits to totally pick up the slack.  They too are suffering with losses in government funding and flat and waning charitable giving. 

As a fundraiser, I constantly think about the future.  My organization has been hit by cuts in government funding.  We struggle day to day on how we are going to make up these losses and it’s been a real challenge to fundraise.  While I and my co-workers hope the economy will turn around and our government will rebuild the educational and human services system, some of  more experienced co-workers I know seem to think it won’t make a difference.  The tell me, “Look at what happened to education.  This is a issue that hits everyone.  They rallied, signed letters and talked to politicians, yet they cut education even more.  If they are willing to do that to education, they won’t think twice about cutting human services.  They just don’t care.”

It’s unacceptable to me that Arizona is ranked 40th (out of 50 states) for overall children’s well-being (Kidscount 2009).  We have some of the highest teen pregnancy, dropout birth and death rates in the nation.  The list of very disappointing statistics for Arizona children and families goes on and on.  Despite these dismal facts and statistics,  I don’t agree with my co-workers.  I believe there is hope and if we work together as a community we can change these outcomes.  Call me an optimist, but I belive something can be done.  I’m ready and willing to work for a healthy, strong and thriving Arizona.  Are you?

 cow

As I was driving home to Maricopa this evening I was welcomed into the city by the wretched stench of cow poop.  Why, oh why, does Maricopa have to smell so bad?

This is why…

(Photo by Sam McCallie, Maricopa 360.com)

(Photo by Sam McCallie, Maricopa 360.com)

In the late 1950s, the emergence of prosperous ranches and booming livestock businesses propelled Pinal County’s economic growth. Due to issues with feedlot operations in Phoenix, Pinal County offered tremendous opportunities for feedlots to relocate.  Today, there are 31 dairies and seven feedlots in Pinal County. Maricopa is home to one of the major four cow complexes in the county.  The “Cowtown” complex is located between Maricopa and Casa Grande.  Cowtown spans miles and miles of land and is home to thousands and thousands of cows. 

Throughout the years, steps have been taken by the citizens of Maricopa to drive Cowtown out of the community.  Despite issues around air quality and water pollution, Cowtown and the other feedlots continue to operate.  There has been some discussion around the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designating Maricopa as a “non-attainment” area due to pollutants in the air that are associated with premature mortality and other serious health effects.  Research shows when the EPA designates sites as non-attainment areas, this can lead to a reduction in home values up to 50%.  In addition, this designation could make it difficult for regional growth and economic development.  This can really hurt a community who has seen phenomenal growth in a short amount of time.  Maricopa has grown from 1,040 people in 2000 to the estimated population of over 44,000 people today.   

Aside from this stinky drawbacks, there are a lot of advantages to living in Maricopa.  With cheap housing prices, wonderful fellowship, thriving educational system and potential for great economic growth and development, Maricopa is a very attractive community to live in for new and growing families.  These are among the many reason why people decide to move to Maricopa.  I believe after the economy bounces back, Maricopa will once thrive again despite the cows. 

Yes, Maricopa can be a really stinky place to live.    Some days are better than others.  The smell is really bad after rain.  And in the winter, the stench comes out at night.  I imagine as it gets cooler the steaming piles of cow crap sets off the odor.  On especially smelly days,  I throw up in my mouth just a little.  After three years, one would think I would get use to it.  Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened yet. 

Throughout the years, I’ve thought of possible ways to combat this awful stench.  Maybe industrial strength air freshners on every lightpost could do the trick.  Or Lysol stands throughout the city automatically squirting once every 30 minutes?  I don’t know what the future holds for Cowtown.  One could only dream that they would move far, far away.  But at this point there’s no resolution in sight.  For now, I will just have to grin and bear it.

Last night my boyfriend, his roommate and I took the Lightrail to Downtown Phoenix.  We wanted to check out the night scene at Hanny’s.  We enjoyed our evening of eating pizza, dessert and having a few drinks before heading back to Tempe.

Everything was awesome until our ride back on the Lightrail.  We were all pretty tired and ready to hit the sack.  At the 3rd Street and Jefferson stop a group of drunk, rowdy people hopped on.  There were about  13 of them.  They were all yelling and being totally obnoxious.  The couple sitting across from us decided to get up and go towards the front of the train.  We, being extremely tired and lazy, decided to stay put. 

At one point, they decided to take pictures of them hanging upside down from the handrail.  Their feet hitting the window as they tried to hoist themselves up and scrapping it has they got down.  I’m really surprised the handrail didn’t break for there were three of them all on it at one time.  Here’s the picture.

In the middle of the ride, the conductor told us that there was an accident ahead and we had to wait until we got the all clear. I thought, “Oh great, more time with these losers.” 

 A few minutes later the conductor asked on the loudspeaker for the people in back to be keep quiet.  Their response to him was to yell back.  Then they proceeded to insult other passengers on the train by calling them names.   

I was becoming increasingly more irritated with them.  I know my boyfriend and his roommate were really annoyed.  If you were in our situation what would you do?

The Lightrail’s extended hours are operating on a trial basis.  I’m concerned about safety issues on the trains as they operate late at night.  I know that is an added costs, but what would happen if an incident happened on a train while it was moving? 

I’m also concerned that a few obnoxious riders could ruin it for us all. As a citizen, is there anything we should have done?   I would have loved to confront them, but I know that it could have been an unsafe situation for me and my friends considering they were drunk and rowdy.  I’m a huge proponent for the Lightrail and I would hate it if extended hours were taken away due to a few stupid people.  What would you have done?

The following story I am posting is a story I wrote for Crisis Nursery’s 2009 Spring Newsletter.  I believe that this is the best newsletter I’ve written to date.  Unfortunately, our Spring Newsletter is not our most read newsletter.  Our holiday newsletter is a lot more received, but nonetheless, I love it.  I’m not posting it to “toot my own horn” (okay maybe a little) but it brings me an issue that I think about a lot.  So read on and then I will explain.

Every community across the nation has heard horrific stories of child abuse and neglect…

A 14 year-old girl stops at the school nurse’s office complaining of stomach pains. The nurse notices the teen had put on some weight but would never have guessed she was pregnant. After a few minutes, the girl tells the nurse she is feeling better and leaves her office. A short distance away, she gives birth, panics and places the healthy baby in a wastebasket. Authorities find the baby, immediately take it into custody and the teenager now faces child abuse charges.

An unconscious 2 year old boy is rushed to the emergency room by his mother and her boyfriend.  The toddler’s intestines were ruptured due to blunt force trauma. His arm was also broken, and he had numerous bruises, scratches on his back and burns on his hands. The boyfriend was watching the little boy while his mom was at work. He later told authorities he punched the child because he would not stop crying.

A 38 year-old mother rolled over her vehicle and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. She initially told authorities that her two children may be in the car. When her children were no where to be found, police were then sent to her apartment.  They found her 4 year old and 7 month-old baby asleep and unattended.  The mother is facing two counts of child abuse.

These are not just stories, these are real situations that happened to children and families right here in our community just last year. The first incident occurred at Osborn Middle School in Phoenix. Fernando is the name of the 2-year old Phoenix boy taken to the hospital. And Heather is the name of the 38 year old Scottsdale mother now facing child abuse charges. These are just three of the hundreds of substantiated abuse and neglect cases that happened throughout Maricopa County last year. 

Physical, psychological and behavioral consequences of child abuse and neglect impact not just the child and family, but the community as a whole.  Everyone has to live with the effects of this epidemic; however, child abuse and neglect is not solely the responsibility of the family. As a community, we need to raise awareness of these issues and work
together to develop a healthy community for all.

For over 31 years, Crisis Nursery has worked to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect in Maricopa County. Our programs offer a safe and nurturing environment for children and provide families with the help, support and encouragement they need to overcome issues that put their children at risk for abuse, neglect or homelessness. We know that we cannot do it alone. It takes the combined effort of all the stakeholders in our community.

This issue of Nursery Tales is dedicated to raising awareness of the challenges that affect our community and how we must come together to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect.

Please take a look at the whole issue.  Go to http://www.crisisnurseryphx.org/nursery/uploads/pdf/NurseryTales/newsletter-vol_17_2009_04_08.pdf

Community extends far beyond people living in a common area.  Community for me is a place where people are supportive of each other.  When I speak to people about Crisis Nursery and the children and families we serve, normally people say “Oh it makes me so sad that children are going through this. ” or “How could parents do this to their children? They should all be locked up!”  Yeah these situations are sad.  But instead of being sad for these families, be proud that they have the courage to seek out help.

The one common thing that I see in all the families we serve other than the usual risk factors of homelessness, substance abuse, domestic violence, unemployment, untreated mental health, etc. is their lack of support.  These families feel they have no where else to turn to.  If I ever had an issue come up were maybe I lost my job or had a medical emergency.  I know I could turn to my family for help.  Not only to get me out of my bind, but to help care for me.  But the families we serve for some reason or another, do not have that support.  It could be they burned bridges with their family because of their substance abuse issues or untreated mental health.  Maybe they were in a domestic violence situation and  cut ties to their family and friends.  Maybe their families have such huge issues themselves that they can’t be support for them.  The reasons are endless.

Many of you might think, “Well this doesn’t affect me at all.”  Well, you’re wrong…it does!  These children and families are living in our community.  They go to our schools, go to the same shopping centers we go to, take part in the same community events, and then they grow up to be part of a workforce or end up in jail.  It can affect your homelife and the money in your pocket.

I can rant and rave forever, but that’s not a solution.  One hope I have for our community is to really look at the root issues that are plaguing our community and to come up with solutions to combat these issues.  Yeah, I am proud of the fact people of Arizona are rallying around securing proper funding for education.  Children in our schools are not doing that well compared to other states.  However, you have to think, “Is it because they are not properly funded?”  Yes, that could be it, but could it also be that their families are not getting proper support and our plagued with much harder issues that doesn’t make the enviroment for learning a priority.  And could it be that because they lack this support, their children are acting out in class disrupting the learning process in class.  Yeah, I that could be it too.  While these discussions go on about education, where does that leave social services?