Welcome everybody to my first post for From the Mind of Deanna. I attend Opportunity Networks on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but I really can’t wait to be able to go all week, because I have the opportunity to be myself there. I can express myself in my own way, and my friends (staff and program participants) there are very supportive of my goals and dreams.
My dream of becoming a writer started with an interest in photography. I thought that explaining photos that I took would help readers understand the meaning behind my photos. After a while, my passion for writing took the spotlight, and photography became a nice complement to that.
Someday I want to compile a book of short stories that I have written, and Opportunity Networks staff and program participants can act as peer editors to provide feedback before I publish my work. I have felt such a high level of support with Opportunity Networks up to this point, and I can visualize my book being reviewed, edited, and sent to be published!
Until next time, keep dreaming, night and day.
Blog Post # 12
This blog post is my take on family ties, and how we as human beings create and develop family ties. Surprise…not all family ties are forged in blood. Family is what you make it, and I consider many people in my life to be part of my “family.” I was happy to work on this article with a new member of the Opportunity Networks “Family”, Margaret. I need to thank her for her contributions to this piece!
Family…they’re hard to live with, but impossible to live without! Family is so wonderful…Family makes you happy…and I’m not even talking about ONLY blood relatives. Friends, pets, close acquaintances, and oddly enough, teachers, all seem to make the cut for Family. I have teachers who I confide in, can tell my secrets to, and they are extremely good listeners. You may only get one biological family, but that doesn’t matter, because family is who you choose…to trust, to love, to work together with to reach a common goal.
Foster and adopted children have even more appreciation for family, even without blood relation and family ties. They are brought into a situation they don’t know and given an opportunity to start over anew, create a fresh start, lead better lives with the support and love their new families. Bands have a special kind of family tie, a brother-or-sisterhood that transcends the traditional definition of family. A group of people who have a common goal in mind, and work together in harmony to create music, something everyone loves, and collaborate to create music that builds a fan-base. However you choose to look at family, the framework remains the same. There is shared respect; they will always be there for you no matter what. They are a shoulder to lean on when tired, cry on when sad, or grab for balance when caught in a laugh.
Family by association can be some of the best family. I have friends, and in many instances their family becomes my second, third and so on family. My best friend, Cassie, is a wonderful example of this! We spend a lot of time together (way too much!), and now I consider her family an additional family to me. They are people I trust. Those are the best relationships to find, because you can spread love to others and get love back in return. In the end you get a huge Friendship Tree© that continually sprouts new branches, and as each branch grows it brings new life, makes you feel better about who you are, and eventually, bringing new friends into your tree causes your tree and their tree to become intertwined or connected. Pretty soon, you find yourself in a forest of interconnected lives.
Think about your circle of friends. You have your inner circle (the smallest) which is reserved for your closest friends, maybe only your best friend or an extremely loved family member(s). The next circle is the middle ring, or “associates circle,” which are people you associate with, you probably like them enough to keep a steady conversation going. The final circle is the outer circle: people you know, but either don’t have much in common with, maybe you don’t like that much but you need to be connected in some way. There are no more circles, but there is some space outside all of the circles for people you don’t know or who have caused you so much pain that they can no longer reside within one of your circles.
Always choose your friends wisely, grow the branches of your tree into theirs, and eventually, you will always find your inner circle, your branches will grow further and further until you reach everyone who you need or who needs you.
Until next time, keep dreaming day and night,
Blog Post #11
A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Movie Galaxy; From Star Wars to The Notebook (Good Luck Not Getting Lost!)
You won’t find a great guide for hitchhiking; however, movie hitchhiking has volumes of information to look through. There are plenty of reviews, pieces and web blogs that discuss different old, new and upcoming movies. There are genres for every taste, and there is no limit to the creativity of movies that producers make. Many times, movies come out right at the right time (i.e. scary movies at Halloween-time, tragedy movies following real tragedies, and romantic comedies around Valentine’s Day…clearly very smart marketing by the producing team). I will attempt to dissect what makes the human mind tick for different types of movies, depending on the time of year, changing interests, what is going on in the world, and a lot of other factors that are specific to each person.
Movie companies like Disney, Pixar, Universal, MGM, Lionsgate, and others all have their place with different viewers, looking for their type of movie. Take High School Musical for instance; those movies cater to a very specific audience, but they also can be found appealing by others not in the general category of “adolescent girl.” While I am not a huge fan of these movies, I still watch them, and there are aspects in even those movies that speak to a part of my life. The point is, even children’s movies tend to have some level of adult content or humor in them, so that they can keep the attention of the adults supervising children watching them. The underlying adult content flies by the radar of little kids watching the movies, but it is easily picked up by the adults accompanying. Most of you probably already get this, but if not, pay close attention to the next kid’s movie you watch…I guarantee you’ll pick up on some things that are meant specifically for you!
OK…quickly, back to our theme for this post. The one thing I don’t get about movies; you know the plotline. You see something coming and it’s very obvious. Even trailers now seem to give away the whole movie. The Lifetime movies, for instance, are SOOOOOOO predictable! Guy meets girl, or girl meets guy, they fall in love, something happens to break them up, and then it is a mad dash to get them back together before THE END. But, predictable is what we need as human beings…we need to know what’s going to happen next, we need to know that the good guy wins, we need to know that everything will turn out OK. What if they made a movie where the bad guy wins, all the wrong things happen to the hero and then you see credits, the relationship gets destroyed and then the movie is over; what would we do if this was the case? We certainly wouldn’t see the movie again, and we would probably tell all of our friends how awful a movie it was, causing a snowball effect which would make the movie less money and it would fail. But is this a good or bad thing? Would breaking away from the norm be helpful? Would it make us less dependent on media? Could we start a movement? Good luck getting people on board for that!
Until next time, keep dreaming, day and night.
Blog Post #10
This blog post is about the how television might seem degrading, teach poor morals and cause people to make poor choices, but how it also can teach us to make better choices with our own lives. So…television is both good and evil, depending on how you look at it.
My all-time favorite show (which is not on anymore) is One Tree Hill. I wanted a High School drama to make my life seem simple, and that show did just that. It is kind of funny how shows like that can be so unbelievable, but can make you look at your own life differently. Obviously, I know most High Schoolers don’t party uncontrollably, have horrible family lives, run away from home, get into all sorts of trouble that they somehow need to get out of, and all the rest of the scenarios that pull us in as viewers, but would most likely never happen in real life. You can’t watch a show nowadays that doesn’t have a bunch of unnecessary violence, drama, swearing, sex, and all the other things that go into popular TV shows. It’s exciting to see the extremes in life, and it helps you get through the minor problems in your own life.
I’m the kind of person who likes the old romance type shows, and they’re hard to find now. Reality shows, inappropriate situations and ratings seem to be all that matters in television now. I won’t lie to you, I watch Teen Mom, but it’s just so I know what not to do with my life (no offense to teen mom)…and maybe that’s the point. These shows are meant to teach us what NOT to do in our lives…Don’t have a baby too young, don’t date multiple people at the same time, don’t kill someone and try to get away with it, don’t drink and drive, don’t quit your job because you’re planning to move to Nashville and become a country singer, etc…
Who knows…maybe today’s television is actually around to be our saving grace, and teach us the consequences of the types of people portrayed in many of these shows. I don’t like drama, but I LOVE watching drama, so I’ll stick with my teen drama shows!
Until next time…Keep dreaming day and night.
Find Your Outlook
This blog post is all about finding and maintaining a positive outlook on life. I share my secrets to how I do this in my way. Everyone has their own strategies, but this works for me. Staying positive, and dealing with setbacks in the moment, so you don’t need to dwell on them, will help you to live a better, fuller life.
People always say I am so confident in myself…that’s not true! I am not always comfortable in my own skin, and trying different styles of hair, clothing, etc., has always been something that I changed to try to find my comfort zone. I am not in love with myself, but I do respect myself; I get that I need work just like everyone else. Every time I feel low, or suffer a setback, I use music to lift myself back up. I’ve done some bad things in my life, but I’ve also done a lot of good, and I am of the opinion that as long as the good outweighs the bad, I’m in pretty good shape. It all depends on the day, and when I wake up in the morning and put conscious effort forward to make it a good day, it typically turns out that way.
Now, this isn’t saying that we don’t all plan to have good days, and nothing can happen to change that. Life wouldn’t be life if there wasn’t some element of mystery and the uncertain involved. We never know how our day is going to turn out, regardless of how we plan for it. With that in mind, I find it is best to go into each day with the attitude that it’s going to be great, and then let life unfold as it is inevitably going to do. If you go into it with a positive outlook, then if something goes wrong you are more likely to deal with it in a better way.
I don’t claim to be an expert on living the best, happiest life possible. If you meet someone who has all the answers, please refer them to me. I’m just saying that this approach has worked for me in the past, and I plan to keep going in this way. Find what works for you, and please let me know your approach. I am certainly open to trying new ideas!
Until next time, keep dreaming, day and night,
The Best Day of the Week
Friday!!! It’s the best day of the week, hands down. I’m sitting here with my good friend Brittany, and we are talking about how Fridays mean free time to spend with our friends. I like Fridays because I know I won’t have to wake up early for the next couple days, so I can stay up later. We also get to hang out at the music group with Alex, and now I will be able to spend time there with Brittany. Brittany loves Fridays because the weekend comes up next, and she gets to watch television at home with her sister Courtney. Summer Fridays are even better, because you have more opportunities to hang out with friends. School is out for kids, and work is out for the weekend, so there is more hustle and bustle going on.
You know what’s even better than Fridays? Three and four day weekends! Those are the best, because it’s like you get a mini vacation. I’m almost tempted to say every day should be Friday…but on further inspection, then we would never get weekends, and every day would be a work day! So I guess in fact what I mean to say when I say I love Fridays, is that I love the idea of what Friday represents…the end of the week, and a nice break for a couple days from the typical routine of the week. It’s kind of like “hey week! I’ve had enough of you, let’s get to Friday and the weekend already!” Then you get to think about all of the fun weekend things to do; camping (minus the bugs), glam-ping (in a camper with all the amenities), hiking, sleeping, and being with family.
I leave you with a wonderful acronym: TGIF!
Until next time, keep dreaming day and night,
Music: The Universal Language
Here is my take on music: Music helps everyone, and there are so many different types; pop, rock, classical, hip-hop, rap. You don’t need to like every type of music, and rarely people do, but I like country, pop, hip-hop and have recently taken a liking to a band called NeedtoBreathe (thanks to Alex Rainey, who is awesome), which is kind of southern-alternative-folk-bluesy-Christian rock music. My summer playlist at the moment consists of:
- Won’t Let Go – James Arthur
- Let’s Stay Home Tonight – NeedtoBreathe
- Clear – NeedtoBreathe
- Piece by Piece – Kelly Clarkson
- Most Girls – Hailee Steinfeld
I like my playlists to project the power and freedom that I feel I have as an individual, and I always pick songs that speak to some aspect of my life (as I think all people do). I need music because it helps me pull myself back up, pull myself together, and give me a better appreciation for life. I had so much on my plate, and so many unnecessary thoughts in High School, and escaping into my world of music really helped me to push all the unnecessary aside and focus on being me.
For me, music is a way to express how I feel, because sometimes it is extremely hard to express how I feel in other ways. That has always been a challenge for me, but when I channel my thoughts through music, it makes issues easier to handle, and the good times that much better! Music is for everyone, and everyone is for music. Everyone has at least one song they will cherish for the rest of their life, and plenty of others that come and go with the times.Find your song(s), and always remember how they make or made you feel the first time you listened to it. It will always take you back to a place of strength and power!
Until next time,
Future Leaders of America…Unite!
When I attended the New England Student Leadership Conference a few years back, I learned a lot about respect, being yourself, and treating others the way you want to be treated. There was a man, James, who spoke at the conference about loving yourself and understanding the person that you are, and being open to possibilities. I have lived by these ideals since being a part of this conference, have kept in touch with him since the conference, and he gives me advice when I need someone to help me self-direct my path. I know that sounds weird, but everyone needs a little help sometimes to make their own life better, and though I make my own decisions, it is good to get feedback on occasion to make sure I am still staying true to my path. James is a motivational speaker, and writes music too! Here is a link to one of his songs that I really love called Boat Shoes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8bDJs6b_UQ
The conference was a great experience, and it taught me not only to be selective in the information that I give out (not everyone needs to know everything!), but also to speak my mind when I have something to share, something to agree with or protest, and to always keep kindness and forgiveness in mind. I’m still working on getting better at all of these things; it’s a work in progress, but the conference gave me an experience to remember and reflect on when I feel myself getting off track.
Next time you have something to say, or an opinion to share, think carefully, and be sure that you are being respectful to all, and that you are showing good leadership skills…sometimes leadership is about listening, not talking!
Until next time…
A story about me going down memory lane…Back to a wonderful young man I met at the NESLC a few years ago. Sometimes you meet someone in life that helps you to see yourself in a way you never thought possible. James is that person for me. I owe him, and this conference, a lot for making me the strong person I am today.
My grandfather is super cool…until he starts talking about golf (surprisingly similar to watching golf), and then I have trouble maintaining my focus. But seriously, he is a wonderful person and influence in my life. He is very supportive, and wants to come and visit Opportunity Networks at some point for the day, to be involved in my life and see the place that I enjoy spending my time at! He is very funny, likes to joke a lot, and can make everyone around him feel great about themselves. Once, I was checking out FaceBook, and noticed that he had friended a bunch of my friends; I’m not sure if this was because he wanted to have something to talk about with me, or because he wanted to pump up his friend numbers, but I thought it was sweet regardless.
I remember a trip we took to Florida to visit my grandparents, and we were hanging out at a local golf course. My grandmother and I were driving around in a golf cart, checking out the tan boys and enjoying the wonderful weather. He let me drive the golf cart, when nobody else wanted to, and it made me feel older and independent. I also remember when my cousin and I painted the fingernails on one of his hands black; he let us do it!
Grandpa, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that I love you, and you are one of the best things in my life. Thank you for being a wonderful grandfather, and for spoiling me like all great grandfathers should! There are plenty of great memories in my life thanks to you.
Until next time,
What if? Such a simple question, but so super-charged. What if you made different choices in life; choosing where you work, choosing the people you hang around with, the people you love. All of these are what if questions, and they all lead people to what if choices that are going to shape their lives. Have you ever asked yourself, “what if I had made a different choice? Picked something different? Chosen a different option?
What if people didn’t base their lives around TV shows, buying the hottest new items, and having everything that others say they need? What if human connection was all that we needed? I’d like to speak with all of the inventors of technology that has made us become less engaged on a personal level, and give them a piece of my mind. When was the last time you went a whole day without looking at your phone, your computer/tablet, driven your car, and just been in the moment with someone you are with. What would you do? Would you be able to keep up a meaningful, engaging conversation? Or would you run out of things to say and be grasping at the cloth of your pants pockets within five minutes?
Would your life be different if the people you met and know well hadn’t walked through the metaphorical door at precisely the right moment? Would your life be different if you had a different set of beliefs, opinions and options? The answer is probably yes, but our paths to that answer are very different. There is no way to know how our choices will affect our lives down the road, but you can be sure there is a ripple effect that will cause something in your life to change. Are your choices affecting change in the right direction in your life? If not, it might be time to make different choices. Who knows? Maybe changing something simple will cause a ripple effect that will bring ultimate peace and happiness to your life. What if?
Until next time,
This post is all about that question in life that everyone asks, but it’s impossible to learn the answer unless you have the strength to say yes all the time! Unrealistic, right? What if is a question that can change the course of your life, and nobody can know if they made the right decision. The best we can do is try to choose the best decisions to find true happiness, and if you’re lucky, you make enough of the right decisions to be as happy as possible.
Happiness can be elusive, but when you find it, it can make you feel better than ever. On the flip side, when you don’t feel happy, you would give anything to get back to that happy place. There have been plenty of times in my life when I have been full of happiness, and can’t imagine feeling any other way; but, there are inevitably the tough times that make you wonder how you’ll go on.
I’ve been happy, and I’ve been sad, perfectly natural human emotions; I’ve learned that many times you need to do things for yourself in order to find that happiness, rather than waiting for others to do for you. Having a job you love, having your life (kind of) together, and having supportive friends and family are very important, but happiness, true love and success are all pieces of the puzzle that lead to inner peace. To paraphrase a quote from Beauty and the Beast; “A beast can treat you better than a prince.” To me, that means that there is someone out there for everyone, and you should look past the superficial to find real beauty and love. There is something that everyone is looking for in life, and what is right for one person isn’t right for the next. I think love is the same way. One thing is for sure; love is messy, complicated and difficult to navigate. But it is also beautiful, and while everyone has their own path to take in life, I believe that in the end, if it is meant to be, it will be.
Love makes you feel good, it hurts, and it can confuse you, sometimes all at the same time. It is the only emotion that doesn’t follow some kind of mold, which is why it is so difficult to navigate. You can love someone and be completely certain of why, and you can love without that certainty. Dear love, you are awesome…and you suck!
Until Next Time,
So…lately I’ve been thinking about changing the days that I spend at Opportunity Networks. I know I get to spend two days with them, but I’ve been feeling like two days is not enough. If nothing else, I would like to switch my days to Thursday and Friday, because Opportunity Networks does a lot of really cool things on those days, including the News Crew and Music Group. I know that it will take a conversation with my school, and I will have the support of my family and my friends from Opportunity Networks, so I don’t think it will be an issue.
Honestly, I can’t wait until I am 21 so that I can start spending my whole week with Opportunity Networks. I feel like the people there are part of a community, and it’s a place where I can be included, and people care what I have to say. If you read my last blog post, you know that I am working to be as independent as possible, and I hope someday to live completely independently, with some supports. That will happen through self-advocacy, my own strength as a person, and help from those who care about me.
I have a friend who is starting to transition over to Opportunity Networks, and I have always felt like sort of a mentor to her. We went to school together, and I’m really glad that we will be able to spend more time together. I used to help her at school with her talker (augmentative communication device), and I would do anything for her. When I help her, it makes me feel so good about myself, and I know that it makes her feel good and more comfortable as well. I look forward to hanging out and being able to help her at Opportunity Networks, as well.
Until next time,