Sunday, March 30, 2008


Well, I learned a few weeks ago that trying to get anything accomplished for this project with all of my informants in the same spot is impossible. So I started to try meeting with them one-on-one. That worked for a week or so and I'm seeing that this is hard to do as well because there are so many of them and my life is crazy busy.

They all enjoy filling out those surveys on myspace, so I basically just took all of the information I want from them and put it in survey form for them to reply to. Then I'll sift through their answers and find areas where I can get them to go deeper with a few more questions about their answers.

This weekend was rough with the kids. I felt like every time I turned around one of them was calling or texting me with some kind of crisis...most were little petty things, but one was a whopper. I can't even get into it, it was so bad.

I think I have the general direction I'm going in for the final two sections, I just need to narrow it down some.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Houston....We Have A Problem....

School Progress Reports came out. Out of my 4 informants, 3 are grounded because of their grades. NONE of these kids should be failing, they've always been on the honor roll. I think I may need to start a homework club or something.

One of my informants told me that she doesn't like herself, and in an effort to change who she is she's trying different things. She doesn't want to do drugs (thank God), or any really destructive behavior. For a while she was "the bully" but then she realized that the people she was bullying were the people that were most important to her, so she stopped doing that. Before failing wasn't an option. It still isn't, no one will let this continue, but I think it's what she's using to define herself right now. "I failed three classes and I don't even care!"

I don't know whats going on with the rest of them, but I think this is going to seriously hinder what I can accomplish with them.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Pain He's In...

I went onto one of my informant’s MySpace page the other day and I noticed that he had added a video from YouTube, so I watched it. It was a video to the song “Perfect” by Simple Plan. The content was of gay teens and the things they face. Starting with a comment made by a father to his young child, “I’d rather a dead son than gay.” It told of how lonely these kids feel and how all they want is to be loved and accepted. Then the statistics started…”Hate Killed Me.” The statistics were of how common suicide is among gay teens, and the video was filled with pictures of teenagers who had killed themselves as a result of not being accepted. I’d say it was a pretty powerful video.

Stephen was the one who put it up. Since I know that he tried to commit suicide less than a year ago for the same reasons, being bullied and not accepted by his family, the video sent up red flags for me. I wasn’t sure if he put it up as an informative thing or if it was his way of telling everyone how much pain he’s in and that he’s thinking of hurting himself again. So I immediately contacted him and he told me that I was right. It is his way of telling everyone how much pain he is in.

He assured me that if he needed to escape his house (or life in general) that I’d be the first he’d call, and that at least for that night, he was going to stay alive…and he thanked me for caring enough to ask about it. I'm kind of worried about him, and I'm not completelly sure what I should be I'm just kind of trusting that he'll actually reach out if he needs help.

"One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love." -Sophocles

The Bond of Friendship

These kids never cease to amaze me. They are such good friends to each other, and they really keep each other in line. Whenever one of them is being/acting stupid or doing something that could potentially have negative life-altering consequences, they don't even hesitate for a second to call each other out.

They keep tabs on each other, encourage one another, depend on each other, and are real with each other.
They're learning what they can handle in regards to each other and what they can't handle, and are bringing the bigger issues to me, and asking for advice or for me to just step in.

They aren't afraid of having a friend mad at them. If helping someone and calling them out in front of others (or bringing me into the situation) ends up making them mad for a few days, they don't care...they just want to see the others in the group safe and happy.

They definitely get mad at each other, and have their bad moments, but they give each other space when it's needed and always work it out...and they don't even worry that it won't eventually work out. They don't even make that an option.

It's really an amazing thing to watch.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Beth's World

I have known Beth forever. I used to babysit her, was her Sunday school teacher and now she's in the youth group I lead. It's been fun to watch her grow up, and on Monday she let me into her room - which is completely different from the last time I saw it, it's no longer a little girls room, but a teenagers room.

When I rang the bell, Danny, Beth's brother, opened the door and her dad told me that she was in her room. So I went down the hall, knocked on the door and she said to come in. The walls are bright blue, and it smelled like coconut. There were clothes on the floor and draped from a chair, make-up everywhere, and Beth was laying on her bed, listening to music and reading a book.

I won't take you on the entire tour now, I'll save it for the paper. But it was cool to see how her room was transformed from pink walls with stuffed animals everywhere to what it is now.

The funniest part about the afternoon was that the first thing she pointed out in the tour were the crutches in her closet. I asked why (although I already knew the answer) and she said...well, they're pretty much a part of my everyday life. (Beth has broken more bones in her 15 years than most people in a lifetime...she really has spent most of her life in a cast.)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I'm Finally Getting Them Alone!

Today I actually met with one of my informants individually as opposed to the group thing I've been doing. It went so well, and my first informant wasn't the one that I knew the best or was most comfortable with, so it was encouraging that it went well and I'm looking forward to meeting with the rest individually.

My first victim was Stephen.
"You know how they say, 'don't sweat the small stuff?' Well, I sweat everything." -Stephen
The place that he chose to show me as his "space" was actually the room where we have youth group. He picked this room because it's the only place he really feels safe and like he can be himself. There's really nothing material in the room. He talked about the couches that line the walls. There are five and none of them match. One wall is splattered with different colors of paint and there is a border at the top of the's the hand-prints of (almost) every kid that has gone through the youth group at Berlin Baptist. He likes it because it is a symbol of all of the people who have been there before and that it's like they all left their own personal "mark" in the room and in the church. I was trying to get him to go a little deeper about why he chose the youth room, but those were the main things. He likes that it is 2 hours of the week where he is away from "everyone else." He likes the people in the group and says that he can just let go and be himself. And he said he believes that nothing bad can happen in a church and that's another reason he likes it. He doesn't really go on the computer much, or have anywhere where he can be real without being majorly judged. He feels "safe" at youth group.

Now, the thing with Stephen is that he's gay. Which for me, makes it even more interesting that he chose the room in the church as the space he feels safest and judgement-free in. Since the room basically consists of a bunch of couches and a chalk board, it didn't really take him any time to tell me about the things that stood out for him, so we spent about an hour just talking. He talked openly about being gay, a guy he was interested in, and how his mom found out through a note she found that was written by that guy, and is in complete denial about it. She makes comments to him about how his dad would fall over dead if he knew and that the girl down the street would be a good match for Stephen, and that he's "ungrateful" (as if he's doing this to hurt his mom in some way). He was clearly upset and frustrated with the fact that these comments keep coming from his mom. He said that he's in enough pain and turmoil without her doing that, and it just makes things worse.
He goes camping in the summer with his family and he told me how he "came out" to his friends there and how they were so accepting of him. Not like here. Here the kids found out through one bully shouting it to the class at junior high graduation, and no one was very accepting, and everyone felt the need to make jokes.

He shared with me about how before high school he had no idea what depression and anxiety were, but with the arrival of his freshman year both of those words became known to him and are essentially what he is on a daily basis. Anxious and depressed. He attributed this to making new friends and establishing new relationships, and leaving old friends behind. The friends left behind don't like the new friends, and they get mad causing "drama." He said that losing friends makes him depressed, and knowing that old friends are mad at him makes him anxious. He also has an incredible fear of the school bus, so his mom has to drive him to school every day.

The final thing we talked about was his suicide attempt last year. I won't get into those details, but despite everything, he's glad that his attempts failed.

Tomorrow, I meet with Beth after she gets home from school. She'll be showing me her room.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

OK. They're 14.

A long overdue introduction...Meet my informants!

(from left to right) Beth, Courtney, Stephen, and Phillip

Tonight I hung out with my group and they were crazy! The first 2 hours were a regular youth group meeting, with other students as well as my 4 informants. After youth group I took my 4 to the diner where they did an excellent job at embarassing me and making me regret taking them anywhere... but I got over it pretty quickly and let them just be 14.

I got to do a lot of observing them and their behavior and interactions. There was eating sugar straight from the container, water spit across the table (several times) because they crack each other up...pretty gross, but, absolutelly hysterical....they were singing, making fun of each other...typical teenage stuff. The surprise of the evening was the conflict/resoloution that took place without me having to say a word. Good stuff. And I got a lot more "teen talk" phrases that I'll put on that link.

The thing that I realized after tonight is that I can't meet with all of them at the same time if I want them to actually talk about something serious. There's nothing that can hold their attention outside of themselves for any period of time when they're all together. So I'm thinking I'll try 2 at a time...I'm not sure, I have to think about that because I do think the group interaction is good. It's just not very productive.