Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It Shows.

My brother and I went down to the Neiman Marcus downtown on December 26.  We went because our mother had given me a bottle of perfume and my brother a bottle of cologne and we wanted to smell them before opening the package in case we wanted to trade them in for a smell that we preferred.
The store wasn’t too crowded (the reason we chose to go downtown instead of to NorthPark) and it was fun to see the store and look around a little.  The thing that stood out to me was the gal who was working at the men’s cologne counter.  She was darling and sweet and even though she knew that we weren’t going to buy anything, she went out of her way to make sure that we had a great experience – even providing my brother with some great samples of other colognes that she made up herself while we waited and chatted.  She had just gotten a new puppy and so we talked about that, about my brother’s dog (the best dog in the world, bar none), etc.  She had worked both Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas, so she had not been able to see her out-of-town family for the holiday.
Many other people in her situation would not have been so nice – see what happens the next time you go to the Post Office – but is the difference because of the NM training, or is it the individual?
Now I know that Neiman Marcus has great customer service and training for their employees (I am a product of their training – it was my first job after college.), and NM is known the world over for it.  The Container Store is another example of great training, combined with an employee-first culture.  But the more I think about it, I think the individual employee is what makes the difference.
You can give someone the best training in the world, but if they are an unhappy person, it will show.  If they are a person who feels put-upon, woe-is-me, what’s-in-it-for-me, and so on, they are never going to be the right employee.
So, let’s surround ourselves with happy people in 2012.  It shows.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I feel so lucky.

I'm finished with shopping, wrapping (well, to be honest it's mostly "sacking and tissuing"), and now I'm just waiting for Sunday. I feel so lucky. I know that there are children in Dallas who are hurting. Families who are separated due to military service, distance, and just strife amongst themselves.

My family is here. We have enough money to give gifts, pay the mortgage, and have food on the table. I feel so lucky. I know that there are children in Dallas who are hurting. Some who won't receive a visit from Santa, lay down their heads on a clean bed, nor have a decent meal.

To our donors at Community Partners of Dallas, thank you. You helped 5,304 children feel lucky this year at our big Toy Drive.

And you helped me feel lucky too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Running the Traps

Tomorrow (Wednesday, December 14, 2011) is the wish distribution day for our 5,000+ kids.  It is my 9th toy drive distribution day and it has gotten easier and more efficient each year, even though we serve a lot more kids than we did 9 years ago.  Anyway, as I said we’ve been doing this for a long time now and we have a basic formula that we tweak each year to improve.  Thanks to Peacock Alley, our staff, and our great volunteers, the distribution formula works.
But this year we’re scared.
Scared to death.
The weather report has been saying for a week that we are looking at rain and thunderstorms tomorrow and since our formula says that the most effective and fast way to get the toys into the vehicles of the caseworkers is to set up in the parking lot – LIKE WE ALWAYS DO – well, I have had lots of sleepless nights the past week trying to figure out the best way to make adjustments.
The staff here is getting pretty sick of me saying things like:  Well, what about this?  What if this happens, then what?  I’m worried about this, let’s talk it through.  I think we need to look at changing this if this happens.  Blah, blah, blah.
Yes, my co-workers are sick of me trying to think every detail though, but I have to do it.  It’s my job.
We’ve made a rain plan if we need it and now I’m letting go.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I f'd up the Secret Santa.

I f’d up the Secret Santa today.  Well, actually I f’d it up last week, but I really don’t even believe that I did it, I think I was perfect and Ann was the one and, well I digress.  Here’s the poop:
Each year the staff at CPD does a Secret Santa and we have 2 or 3 days of secret gifts and then the final “reveal” is the night of the holiday dinner at a restaurant.  It is fun and during the toy drive it is about the only thing we have that is not moving at a maniacal and frantic pace.
Anyway, today was the first day of the secret phase.  When I arrived at the office this morning I had a lovely gift of a tin of Two Sisters Spiced Tea Mix (Theirs is the BEST, bar none, you will be spoiled for any other, highly recommended!).  Yea, I thought – my Secret Santa is a good one and they know what I like.  Then I went out for a meeting at 10 am and returned about 11:30.
Low and behold, I find another Secret Santa gift on my desk!  Super cute – a darling pot scrubber thing designed like a cute girl with red hair (you know that I loved that, especially if you are a regular reader of this blog) – but I was puzzled.  Why did I get 2 gifts on the same day?
Of course I immediately go to Joanna and tell her what has happened and we discuss.  I decide that my Secret Santa is Renee and she doesn’t work on Thursday and Friday, so she just decided to rush the Secret Santa season.
About an hour later the plot thickens – Joanna has found out that my Secret Santa did not give me the pot scrubber. 
Oh no – this means that I must have 2 Secret Santas which means that someone else ain’t gettin' squat.  I then send an email to find out who has done what and who has not given anyone anything, another staff member on her own goes out and buys for one person who hadn’t yet received anything, but that was in error, her Santa just had not yet delivered, well suffice to say that
I f’d up the Secret Santa.
Pray for me.
P.S.  Of course my friend Cynthia said that if I was going to give myself 2, why didn’t I just put my name on everyone’s little piece of paper so I’d get 10 gifts on day one, but my co-workers would have figured that out too quickly.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Wish

The Toy Drive is upon us at Community Partners of Dallas!
This year we have wishes from more children than ever before – over 5,300.  That means that we have more than 10,600 wishes to fill, plus even more than that for those kids who will come into care of CPS today and every day until the holiday is over.
The thing that always gets me every year is thinking about what it must feel like to be one of our kids.  When you have been let down over and over again by the adults in your life, when your hopes have been dashed, and promises not kept – well, even speaking a wish out loud is hard.  Your wishes have never been filled and your parents have never delivered upon a promise.  So when your CPS caseworker asks you what you want for Christmas you might whisper an answer, but all the time you know that it probably won’t ever come true. 
But when that wish is fulfilled, when that caseworker arrives at your foster home with the very thing that you asked for, you once again start to hope.
And a hope can become a dream and a dream can become reality.
We could use your help right now.
We have LOTS of wishes left and our deadline is Saturday, December 10th.  These wishes and dreams from these kids are not extravagant either:
  • Anthonia is 10 and she wants a Dairy Queen Blizzard Maker.
  • Freddy is 4 and wants a Leapfrog toy.
  • Jayleen is 11 and wants some pre-teen books.
  • King is 1 and wants a Tonka Truck.
For 10 or 20 bucks you can show a child you will never know that she matters.  That he can have a dream fulfilled.
Call us and a wish will be on its way to you – 214-624-7557.  Thanks!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is tomorrow so, of course, I want to write about what I am thankful for this year.
  • God’s grace.  Enough said.
  • My family, especially my mom.  I love them more than they will ever know.
  • My great job.  It is a privilege and a blessing to have a small part in helping the innocent victims of child abuse and neglect.  And without our great board members and donors and volunteers, none of it would be possible.
  • My co-workers.  These remarkable women inspire me every day.  They are smart, energetic, caring, and beautiful.
  • The USPS.  I love being able to write someone a note and have it arrive at their house the very next day for 44 cents.  You couldn’t pay me 20 dollars to do that.
  • The Dallas Morning News and The Today Show.  They are pretty much my only news providers except E.
  • My sweet and wonderful housekeeper, Isabel.  She makes my life easier and her smile will stop traffic.
  • My best friends.  My world would be cold and harsh without these fabulous people:  Joanna, Cynthia, Maria, Lynn, Jill, Jan, Lori, and Joe. 
  • My new friend, Dave Romanelli.  Dave is known as “Yeah Dave” and can be found at  Dave has changed my way of thinking about things this year.  He has encouraged me to find something beautiful, delicious, and funny every day.  I wish that I had our phone conversations on tape.  His wisdom has helped me to get over some long-held crap.
  • You.  When I started this blog just over a year ago, I really didn’t know if I would like writing.  I do.  And I am so grateful that you like me enough to read it.
I’m sitting here now with a few tears in my eyes.  At this time last year I wrote about all of the things in my life that I loved – my car, my IPad, etc.  I find it interesting that this year it is about people.
I am wishing you a blessed and happy holiday.  Tomorrow, hug those people around you a little closer.  They deserve it.  You do too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I'm thinking about Coats

Community Partners of Dallas is giving away Coats tomorrow.  Unless you have lived without one, you may not know just how important a Coat can be.

  • Coats keep us warm.
  • Coats keep us from getting sick – at least according to my mom who is adamant that you can get sick if you don’t keep warm.
  • Coats are fashionable and will help define your personal style – my favorite reason for a coat.
  • Coats help us remember that it really will get cold some day in Dallas – I promise, it will.

For the abused and neglected kids of Dallas County, a Coat is a not just a Coat and not even just those things I listed above.

For these kids, even if their lives are in turmoil and they have started to believe all the things they have been told by their parents – that they are stupid and worthless and ugly and dumb – a Coat is something special.

  • Coats mean that someone cared about them.
  • Coats mean they are warm and fashionable.
  • Coats mean they are just like the other “normal” kids at school.
  • Coats mean that they fit in.

And for them, that might be all they need to see a new future.

P.S.  Please join me in thanking the Presenting Sponsor of our Coat Drive, Fidelity Investments, and all of the other donors and many volunteers who worked to make this drive happen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seventeen Children

Seventeen children died due to abuse and neglect last year in Dallas County. 

Didn’t someone else know about these children – know that they were in terrible danger?  Why didn’t their relatives intervene?  What about a teacher, a neighbor, a pizza delivery guy?

Surely someone knew.  In a world where we have instant access to the World Wide Web in our pockets, news bombarding us 24 hours a day, instant updates, live feeds, Skype, and more – why couldn’t someone save these children?

The author Toni Morrison devised a test many years ago that I use in assessing people.  Watch people and notice this:

Do their eyes light up when their child (or any child) walks into a room?

I would venture to guess that these 17 children faced dark eyes just prior to their deaths.  But I also bet that multitudes of other dark, blank, sad, and dead eyes looked away.

P.S.  You are required by law to report suspected child abuse.  In Texas, use this secure website: or call 1-800-252-5400.  If you are not sure if the situation is abuse, please call the hotline and the staff will discuss the matter with you.  You may remain anonymous if you choose. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Does Your Hair Color Matter?

I was super excited this summer when Alyssa Campanella won Miss USA.  I didn’t watch the Miss USA show – although I used to when I was young because my grandmother and I always watched together – but the next day I saw Alyssa on The Today Show.  Why was I so excited?


If you are not a redhead, you probably don’t get it.  Redheads are different.  We have freckles.  Patti Stanger (The Millionaire Matchmaker) hates us.  The most famous redheads are Lucille Ball and Carrot Top.  Bozo the Clown and Pippi Longstocking come to mind as well, and not that there’s anything wrong with them, but well, they’re funny – not necessarily considered beautiful. 

NOTE:  I know that you’re thinking about Nicole Kidman and yes she is beautiful, but the new lips really bug me now – don’t they you?

For me, there were always jokes about the milkman since I am the only redhead in my immediate family.  And being a pudgy redhead at Highland Park High School was not much of a draw for dates to Homecoming – I went once in 4 years and my date and his husband are currently very happy together.  And I still bring it up to Joe that he took a sophomore girl (a blonde) our senior year while I stayed home, but back to my story…

The other thing that made me feel different was that it was almost impossible to find a redheaded doll.  Raggedy Ann was in there, but other than that the choices were few and far between.  And certainly very few of the redheaded dolls were beautiful.  My mother searched and searched, but to no avail.  Doesn’t every little girl want to have a doll that looks like she does, but better?  Of course, as I gave up playing with dolls, this issue became less important.

Fast forward to about10 years ago when I started working for Community Partners of Dallas…

Our annual Holiday Toy Drive serves 5,000+ CPS kids with toys.  We rely on donors to fill wishes for individual kids and we also collect money from donors who don’t have time to shop but still want to make a child’s dream come true for the holiday.  In other words, lots of us (both volunteers and staff members) are out shopping for toys in December.  And that first year that my mom and I went out shopping for our wishes (my mom loves to do this with me each year – we always take my nieces too) – every bit of my redheaded doll problems came rushing back to me in a flash. 

It is very difficult to find African American dolls.  And since about 1,250 of our kids for the Toy Drive will be African American girls – this is a problem.  At first, I thought I just must have been shopping in the wrong store, but no.  This is universal – no matter the type of store, the neighborhood, etc..  I asked some of my African American friends about this and they confirmed it.  Why is this the case?  I don’t have an answer, but I think it hurts our little girls.  To not have a doll that looks like you confirms that you are different or at least maybe not what the world thinks is beautiful.

And we all need to think that we are beautiful – whether we’re 5 or 50.

So, when you are out and about during the holiday season, we sure would appreciate your purchase of any African American dolls to donate to us.  And if you have any influence with any mass-manufactured doll makers out there – I’d love to have a conversation with them about this problem.

Oh, and that thing about redheads having a temper?  It’s true.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Oprah, Maya, and Mom

When someone shows you who they are – believe them.

I love this line.  Maya Angelou said it to Oprah and she passed it along to me (Yes, Oprah and Maya and I are friends, if only in my mind.).

Of course I think of this line often when someone does me wrong.  You know the times when once again your friend is late to a meeting and you think about how you can’t believe she is late.  Why can’t you believe it?  She is late every time!  Or what about the friend who tells you every November that she wishes that her husband would get her a piece of jewelry for Christmas, but she never tells him that because she wants him to figure out what she wants.  Why is she disappointed that she gets another sweater wrapped under the tree?

We have to realize that it is very difficult to get people to change.  We have to accept them for what they show us.  And, most importantly, we have to decide how we want to react to that person.  Since we know that they probably will not change certain behaviors, we must decide how to deal with them – or if we no longer want to deal with them at all.

Now, I wouldn’t be working for Community Partners of Dallas if I didn’t believe that people can change bad behavior – but they have to want to change.  Parents who once let drugs rule their lives can give them up (with a hell of a fight) and become good parents.  Relatives can turn their own lives upside down and change their own living situations in order to take children out of the foster care system. Change can happen with anyone if they want it enough.

But back to our line:  When someone shows you who they are – believe them.

My mom turns 76 this weekend and she shows me who she is every single day.  I’m not saying she’s perfect (none of us are), but she’s the closest thing I’ve ever met.  If you ever have the chance to get to know Cindrette, you’ll find out right away that she is smart as a whip, hilarious, curious about everything (especially about what people like to eat and how they got skinny), and honest.  She’ll give you advice about your colon, your hairstyle, and shout hooray for the Texas Rangers – all in one breath.

I wish every kid in Dallas County CPS care could have had a mother like mine.

She’ll show you who she is with every word.  And she is someone you can believe.

Here she is at lunch today.  76 and still going strong.  XXOO

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Paige McDaniel: I Got Schooled

Paige McDaniel: I Got Schooled: I tend to “dance with the one that brung me” most of time. I stick with my favorite charities like CPD, JLD, HPUMC, and a few others. ...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Got Schooled

I tend to “dance with the one that brung me” most of time.  I stick with my favorite charities like CPD, JLD, HPUMC, and a few others.  Never have really branched out much and while I graduated from college (in 4 years, I might add), that is pretty much where my education ended.  But the more I think about where our country and world are heading, I keep coming back to the importance of education.  So, I set out to learn a little more.  Here’s my first report:

Recently I have found out about a couple of great things that are happening here in Dallas and I want to share them with you…

First, I visited the KIPP Truth Academy at the invitation of my friend and Junior League of Dallas President Susan Wells.  KIPP Dallas is a charter school and they are doing great things with the kids who attend.  Here is their mission statement:

The mission of KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth is to provide underserved children in our community with a free, rigorous, high quality education that offers the knowledge, skills and character traits necessary to thrive in school, college and the competitive world beyond.

The Aha Moment for me came while we were on our student-led tour.  Outside of each classroom a sign was posted that listed the instructor’s name and the university from which he or she had graduated.  How smart is that?  In order to get kids to be excited about college, they need to know people who graduated and are proud of it.

Check out KIPP at  You’ll be “KIPP-notized” too!

Another great agency making a difference in our community is the Dallas After School Network.  Their CEO Tanya McDonald and I are friends and I have been on a tour of some of the agencies that they support.  Just this morning the DASN revealed their new campaign called “I Do” – it is the answer to the question “Who Cares About Tomorrow?” – and my answer is I Do. 

You may see some cars sporting their new logo or spot a DART bus with info about the campaign.  Remember you heard it here first.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to stop future child abuse is by better educating our kids now. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Paige McDaniel: Little Bird Has Gone

Paige McDaniel: Little Bird Has Gone: On September 15 th , I received a very excited email from one of my young friends. I met J in bible study several years ago and she is jus...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Paige McDaniel: Little Bird Has Gone

Paige McDaniel: Little Bird Has Gone: On September 15 th , I received a very excited email from one of my young friends. I met J in bible study several years ago and she is jus...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Little Bird Has Gone

On September 15th, I received a very excited email from one of my young friends.  I met J in bible study several years ago and she is just a darling girl.  Absolutely smart, gorgeous, funny – everything you’d want in a friend.  J is probably in her early 30s and so is her husband, N. 

Anyway, J and N had let me know many months ago that they had decided to become foster parents.  This precious young couple doesn’t have any children of their own, but felt led to do this important work.  When they told me the news, I was elated – they are perfect and I knew that any children placed in their care would be loved and well-treated.

After many months of training, jumping through hoops and more, J and N were told they were on the open list and were ready to receive a foster child.  Just a few days later, the call came and a 15 month old little girl arrived at their home – that is when I received the excited email and was asked to pray for J and N and for the little girl who was coming to stay.

I prayed.

I didn’t hear much from J and N until yesterday, when this email arrived:

We received the much anticipated call this evening.  CPS will pick up Little Bird from our home at 8:30am tomorrow (Tuesday) morning and place her with relatives.  We don't know much beyond that. 

She was in our home for 28 days and it was the best 28 days EVER!

Your continued prayers for her, her family and us would be greatly appreciated.  

All our love,
N and J

PS - Please forgive us if we go "off the grid" for a few days, as we are learning how to heal from this.

How will J and N heal?  How do you love and care for a child, then let her go? 

I sent J and N this response:

What you did for that little thing will stay with her forever.  And I know with you also.  XXOO

I hope it stays or resonates with you too. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I hate Beverly Drive.

I hate Beverly Drive.  Well, let me be more specific – I hate the construction on Beverly Drive.
It was one thing when it was just the blocks between Westside and Douglas – annoying, but I could maneuver around that pretty easily.  Just made one or two different turns in my route and I was fine.  It was almost fun to see some new scenery.
But now that they have also closed the block between Douglas and Preston, my life has been significantly impacted.  Traffic on Preston during busy hours is a nightmare.  I pretty much have to take Beverly to get to my mom’s house – and if you know me, you know how often I have to get over there – and Beverly is just my best thoroughfare to get really anywhere.
I hate it.  I hate having to think.  Before, I could just auto-pilot my way to where I was going while belting out some Broadway show tunes.  Now I forget about the road closure and all of a sudden – damn. 
Now I have to think.  If I forget, I end up getting stuck in traffic or maneuvering way out of my way.
It is different for an abused child.  A little girl may have small periods of normalcy while mom and dad are “up” and all is fine, but the most part of her every day is spent living in fear – living in the moment – with ever-present danger all around.
There’s no forgetting it.
A teen survivor of child abuse told me that when he was a young boy he really didn’t think a lot about the future – he just kept thinking about how to make it until the next day.
The next time I forget and find myself faced with the Beverly construction, I’m going to remember him.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Paige McDaniel: Throwing Away the Negative

Paige McDaniel: Throwing Away the Negative: Recently Mark Craig gave a sermon that I keep thinking about. Mark is the Senior Minister at Highland Park United Methodist Church and when ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Paige McDaniel: Throwing Away the Negative

Paige McDaniel: Throwing Away the Negative: Recently Mark Craig gave a sermon that I keep thinking about. Mark is the Senior Minister at Highland Park United Methodist Church and when ...

Throwing Away the Negative

Recently Mark Craig gave a sermon that I keep thinking about.
Mark is the Senior Minister at Highland Park United Methodist Church and when he first started working for HPUMC in 1995, he came into the job knowing that many of his friends and colleagues had wanted the job that he ended up getting.  He also was told that he was not the first choice.  He also knew that he was coming into a congregation that had enjoyed a long-time well-loved minister.
So, here Mark was – starting a job that is considered one of the “plum” jobs in Methodism – but he certainly wasn’t feeling the love.  You might expect that friends and colleagues would have sent congratulatory notes and cards, but no.  Instead he got a letter signed by several people asking for his removal. 
His only letter of congratulations came from someone he didn’t even know, someone from another faith.  It was from Dr. W.A. Criswell, the leader of First Baptist downtown – and one of the most important leaders of Christianity in the country.  Mark still has that letter.
Mark went on to say that he learned something from that experience.  First, that he keeps a folder of nice and encouraging letters that he can pull out whenever he likes.  Second, that when presented with something negative, he deals with it, and then throws it away.
When I heard Mark give this sermon it really hit me.  It hit me because I tend to do the opposite.  Yes, I’m a positive people person who loves to laugh, but I don’t have a folder of encouraging notes and cards (although I am lucky enough to have been the recipient of some).  I have a folder of doomsday articles from The Dallas Morning News and others about the state of the economy, why charitable giving is down, and stuff like that.  It also includes some emails that were written about me by fired employees – written after they knew that they were going to be fired, so as you might imagine, the emails are not flattering!  This is the crap I have been keeping – not the good.
I am confessing this to you to be held accountable.  I’m throwing away the negative and starting afresh.  Keeping the positive, the encouraging, the kind, the good. 
Will you join me?  And if so, will you send me a note for my folder?  I’ll return the favor.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Paige McDaniel: Tips on Keeping a Great Board Engaged

Paige McDaniel: Tips on Keeping a Great Board Engaged: We had a fantastic board meeting today at CPD. Our full board only meets four times a year, so when we meet as a group, we really try to p...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paige McDaniel: Tips on Keeping a Great Board Engaged

Paige McDaniel: Tips on Keeping a Great Board Engaged: We had a fantastic board meeting today at CPD. Our full board only meets four times a year, so when we meet as a group, we really try to p...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tips on Keeping a Great Board Engaged

We had a fantastic board meeting today at CPD.  Our full board only meets four times a year, so when we meet as a group, we really try to pack a lot of action into the meeting. 

The board members at Community Partners of Dallas are great.  Some of them have been with us since before I started here (almost 10 years ago), some are serving in the first year of their first term, but the vast majority are somewhere in between.

I think that most of them (If not every single damn one of them!) would tell you that they like serving on our board.  Here are some reasons why:
  1. They were provided with the expectations of service prior to joining the board.  This means the time, talent, and treasure requirements.
  2. We start our board meetings on time and we end on time. 
  3. Every board meeting includes some special reminder of why CPD is here to serve the abused and neglected children of Dallas County.  When a board member hears a story of abuse and neglect directly from a CPS caseworker or sees a great video about reporting child abuse, we are able to remind them why they care.
  4. Our staff members really make sure that our board members have everything they need to be successful.  This means that if we are asking them to ask their friends to give to our next event, join our woman’s auxiliary group, etc., they have an email to forward or a letter to sign, stamps, addressed envelopes, even a pen waiting for pickup at the front desk or delivered to their home. 
  5. We try to make sure that our board members are thanked and recognized for everything they do for us.  We send personal thank you notes, recognize them at board meetings, etc.
  6. Service on our executive committee is considered a true above and beyond gift to the agency.  The board members chosen as officers by their peers know that they are truly needed and feel it is a privilege to serve in this capacity. 
  7. Each board member’s special talents are acknowledged and promoted in the best way to serve the agency – we want their advice and we make sure that they know it!

What makes you want to serve and/or keeps you serving on a non-profit board?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Paige McDaniel: My thoughts on 9-11

Paige McDaniel: My thoughts on 9-11: I was in church on Sunday, 9-11. The ten year anniversary of the tragedy. Some people said they weren’t going to church that morning bec...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My thoughts on 9-11

I was in church on Sunday, 9-11.  The ten year anniversary of the tragedy.  Some people said they weren’t going to church that morning because they were afraid that our church might be a target.  
NOTE:  If you have to get bombed (not the drinking kind, but the terrorist kind), where better to be than in church, I ask you?

But my mom and I went right on over to HPUMC to the main sanctuary for the 9:30 service.  I ushered – even got to do the collection in the main aisle (for those of you who don’t know, this is prime real estate in the ushering game), took off my carnation and nametag, then found my seat next to mom in our regular seats.

NOTE:  Why do regulars always want to sit in the same spot at church?  Does it have something to with assigned seats in elementary school?  Some people really get their bibles in a wad when someone new is in “their” seat.  Remember, I’m an usher, so I am an expert in all things ush. 

While I was sitting there I started to think about what I would do if the church did get bombed right then.  In the pew in front of us was a small family – mom, dad, and 2 little kids, one boy about 5 and one girl about 3.  Mom and I had already punched each other and remarked about how cute they were, etc.  Anyway, I just knew that if the church was bombed right then, even though my mom was sitting next to me, I would have tried to protect those children.  Covered them and their parents with my body.  Tried to help them out first. 

You know.  You would have done it too, unless you needed to protect your own kids.

Contrast this with the 22 year old mom whose two year old daughter Joselyn was on life support this past week.  On Friday, The Dallas Morning News reported that the little girl’s mother had kicked her in the stomach, hit her with a milk jug, and glued her hands to the wall.  The police record stated that “Glue and paint were stuck to the palms of the hand with skin torn away where the glue is absent.”

How does this happen?  Why would most people I know protect an unknown child over their own life, but Joselyn’s own mother did what she did to her own precious child? 

I don’t have the answers.

When we got in the car to drive home, I told mom what I had been thinking and she said that she had gone through the same exercise that I had in her mind – if the bomb had hit, she was going to stay put in the pew, pray, and let everyone else out first.

And I think I have my answer.

P.S.  Mark Craig, if you are reading this, please know that our minds wandering had nothing to do with your sermon.  You rocked.

P.P.S.  Joselyn was released from the hospital this afternoon!  Read about it here:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

George's Story

I met with a Dallas County Child Protective Services caseworker yesterday.  I want to tell you the story that she told me. 

Tricia came to our offices to get clothing, shoes, and hygiene products for George, a 17 year old boy on her caseload who was released from a 2 month stint in jail on Labor Day.  Tricia placed him at a new foster home on Monday and of course, he had nothing to wear.

George went to jail because he and another boy from his umpteenth foster home decided to throw a rock into a school window and break into the school.  They did not get away with it.  The alarm sounded, the police arrived and George was arrested.  He spent the summer before his senior year in high school in jail.

George moved around to a lot of different foster homes.  Sometimes he was moved because he lashed out at a foster parent, sometimes he was moved because the foster home was closed, sometimes he didn’t get along with the other kids in the home – oh, just a myriad of reasons. 

George entered the CPS system when he was 11 years old.  I don’t know the reason for his removal from his family.  When your agency helps 16,000 kids a year, you don’t always ask.  Plus, what happened to George 6 years ago no longer much matters to Tricia, or even to CPS.  George is part of the system.  The state of Texas is his parent now.

I told this story backwards. This is unusual for me, as I like to tell a story (in all of its detail) from the beginning.  I even read magazines that way – always start on page one and go through to the end.

I wish I knew George’s ending.  I asked Tricia yesterday what George was going to do when he turns 18.  Tricia said that she keeps talking to him about it.  She said that she hopes that jail scared him.

I wish I knew George’s beginning.  I wish that we had a time machine and we could go back to the day George was born and talk to his mother.  Tell her what was going to happen to George if she didn’t straighten up, get off drugs, leave her abusive husband, quit partying all night, stop leaving George to fend for himself.

But for now, we’re waiting.  I hope George is scared.  I am.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tips for Interviewing with Me

Unfortunately, I have to interview people periodically.  I use the word unfortunately because that usually means that one of our great employees at Community Partners of Dallas has left us.  And that is unfortunate.  I really love all of the people with whom I work and when someone leaves, it is sad for me.  But, I am always happy to have some fresh blood – and a new person who hasn’t heard all my stories nor been the recipient of my sage advice!
So back to interviewing... 
I thought I’d give you some tips for applying for a job and interviewing.  It’s all stuff that you’ve probably heard before, but these are my tips, so if you’re interviewing with me, this is the way to stand out from the pack:
Before the Interview
  1. Do what the job notice says to do.  If it says to send an email with a cover letter with your salary requirements and resume, do that.  As a small employer with no HR department, I am the one looking at hundreds of emails for every job we post.  Don’t give me a reason to just delete you right off the bat.
  2. For me, it is the cover letter that interests me in even looking at the resume.  The one paragraph cover letter referring me to your resume is probably not going to get you an interview. 
  3. Show me that you have done a little research in your letter – mention something about the agency, me, or why you would like to work for me.  Also, be sure that you try to find the name of the person to whom you are applying if possible.  Since my work email is,  any applicant can easily go to our website and find out who I am, my last name, and my job title.  I know that this is not always easy at a larger company, but just show the potential employer that you tried.
  4. If you are called for the interview, don’t make the person who called to set the appointment give you directions to the agency.  Let them give you the address, but that is all you need.  This is the digital age – you can look up the directions to get yourself there on time.  If you are able, do a practice drive-by in advance.  Of course, if you have trouble finding us or are lost, please call.
At the Interview
  1. Don’t come too early.  I know, I know – they told all of us in school to arrive 30 minutes early, but I disagree.  I really like it when the person comes on time or maybe just 3 minutes early.  Certainly don’t be late – that is a killer.
  2. CPD is a super-casual place to work.  Does that mean you should interview that way?  Absolutely not.  Come in business casual.  No flip flops.  No low-cut or too tight clothing.  I always wear a jacket and pants to conduct our interviews. 
  3. Be yourself – or maybe a notch or two better.  The most recent person that I hired, Emily Loper (our new Program Director), came back with the best line ever when I went to get her from our reception area.  It was my birthday that week and my co-workers had surprised me by decorating my office and providing me with a crown and sash to wear.  We had just eaten birthday cake, so I was still wearing my crown.  I greeted Emily by saying “I guess you never expected you’d be interviewed by someone in a crown” to which she quickly responded “Gee, I’d hoped that I would be!”  Now, did this alone land Emily the job?  No.  But it sure helped her to stand out and get noticed. 
  4. Don't bad mouth your current or former employers or bosses.  It would be really hard for me to hire someone who did that.  Back when I was younger and interviewing, people always liked to ask why I left each job on my resume (I don't really do this for people I'm interviewing, but I might, so don't hold me to it!).  Anyway, I did have one job that I quit after 1 year, and I always got asked about it.  Of course, what I wanted to say was that the boss was crazy and the company was horrible, but the most I ever said was that "Well, I stayed in that job longer than anyone ever had before."  That always seemed to satisfy people!
  5. Back to research – know what we do at CPD.  Be ready to ask a few (but not too many) questions.  Don’t ask me about salary and benefits at the first interview – unless I bring it up.  We will discuss that when I offer you the job.  Emily did another great thing at her interview.  She told me that she read my blog. The other people I interviewed may have read it too, but if they did they didn’t tell me.  You not only have to do your research, you have to make sure that I know that you did your research!
I know that many people won’t agree with all this advice – and that is ok.  These are tips for a successful interview with me.  And I hope that I won’t be interviewing anyone soon.  I’m sick of good-byes.
P.S.  My friend Tami Cannizzaro writes a great blog called Tales of the Terminated and I know that she has addressed a lot of this  -- check it out at

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Out of Order Life

I love a routine.  I love my own routines and I love hearing about other people’s – you know, how they take off their makeup, read the newspaper, make their bed, really just anything.  My friend Joe Clark and I can happily spend an hour going over how each of us makes our oatmeal.  Joe has a true process -- doubles the recipe, toasts the oatmeal, freezes, and more that I cannot remember.  On our recent vacation, I explained my morning smoothie process starting with, “First, I get out of bed, walk downstairs, then…”  I know that it is hard to believe that Joe listened with rapt attention, but he really did.  A systematic, orderly, routine process is fun.
So, it really messed me up recently when I forgot to put my Kerastace leave-in conditioner and oleo relax on my hair prior to the blow dry.  I washed and conditioned (I use Davines smoothing shampoo and conditioner), got out of the shower, heard something on The Today Show that I wanted to see in the bedroom (I’m sure that this is what messed up my routine), then just came back in and started blow drying my hair.  While I was drying I could tell that the hair didn’t feel the same, but I didn’t yet realize what had gone so wrong.  I finished drying and squeezed the conditioner and oleo relax into my hand and put it into the dry hair – and that was when I realized my mistake.  Horrors.
NOTE:  One great benefit to our hot summer weather in Dallas is low humidity.  Low Humidity = Good Hair.
ANOTHER NOTE:  I use really expensive stuff on my hair.  I use drug store soap and makeup, but my hair enjoys the best.  It is a splurge, but man that stuff works to make frizzy, curly hair behave.
Anyway, this hair fiasco got me thinking about order in processes.  There is a traditional order to life.  The lucky ones of us were born to 2 parents who planned for and who wanted us.  We grew up in a decent home with a brother or sister or two, went to school until we were 18, headed off to college, graduated, got married, had kids, and the cycle continued.  But sometimes this order is changed.
Some kids in Dallas County aren’t born to parents who wanted them and once the kids arrive, that doesn’t change.  To some parents, finding the next high is more important than getting a kid off to school.  Some kids are born to other kids.  Many kids don’t graduate from school and college is as close to their reality as the moon. 
The traditional order is twisted.  The routine, the order, the process is off.  But the kids can’t blame The Today Show. 
BUT, just because a kid is born into an out-of-order life, he can still be successful.  And that is what we are trying to help ensure every day at Community Partners of Dallas.  Her parents may have loved heroin more than they loved her, but with help and support from a foster parent or a relative, that little girl will succeed.  And we can help that new family thrive.  We can help change the order.
P.S.  My hair turned out totally fine that day, in fact Joanna said she thought I was having a good hair day that day.   Routines can change.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Repost of "Not Advice from Your Mom -- 10 Tips for Young Women"

I originally wrote this post back in December of 2010.  It has been one of my more popular ones and what with the kids off to college and beyond, I thought it might be helpful. 

Hope so -- Paige

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Not Advice From Your Mom -- 10 Tips for Young Women

If you know me, you probably know that I like to give advice. 
So does my mom.  Even when you don’t want to hear it and she’s told you that a hundred times and I am an adult, and yes, I know you think I don’t wear enough blush, and
I digress.
As you might imagine, as the President and CEO of a small non-profit agency, I have lots of young women as co-workers.  At Community Partners of Dallas, we have 11 employees and numerous college and high school interns throughout the year.  These women are some of the best and brightest in the world and I’d put them up against any other team in town – they’d win in talent, creativity, work ethic, congeniality, trustworthiness, and beauty. 
CPD’s women don’t need a lot of advice.  I still give it.  I’m going to give some to you too.  Take it or leave it.
  1. Believe in something.
  2. Family comes before work.
  3. Really think before you get that tattoo and/or tongue piercing.
  4. Get a college degree.
  5. When you start working, do everything you can to make your boss’ life easier.
  6. Read for pleasure.
  7. Read the newspaper.
  8. Join the Junior League of Dallas or your local woman’s volunteer organization.
  9. When you move to a new apartment or home, invite all your neighbors over for a drop-by party.    I always did a breakfast on a Saturday from 8:30 until 10:30.  It is a cheap party without liquor.  Coffee from Starbucks, breakfast casseroles, donut holes, and OJ with cute paper plates and napkins.  You’ll be surprised how much this will help you connect.
  10. Smile and laugh.  A lot.
Advice is cheap.  Take it or leave it.
P.S.  I’d love your advice too, so comment.  Mom is on advice-break.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Smile as Big as Texas

I saw a smile as big as Texas last night.  It was on a little 3-year-old boy’s face named Ernest.  Ernest and his family were with me last night at GattiTown, along with a whole bunch of other kids, their families, and CPS caseworkers.  Here’s the story:

I have worked for Community Partners of Dallas for almost 10 years and in that time I have come to know LOTS of CPS caseworkers.  Most CPS caseworkers don’t stay with CPS – in fact they used to tell me that 60% of new caseworkers left before they even completed 6 months on the job.  It’s tough work and those who do stay for a few years often get moved up into supervisory roles.
Note:  Not all caseworkers want to move into supervisory roles – I’ve talked to some who moved up and then came back to casework because of the huge amounts of paperwork and the added stress. While a single caseworker may have 25-50 cases at a time, a supervisor has 8 caseworkers under them – all with 20-50 cases.  Holding that many young lives in your hands is terrifying.
Anyway, I tell you this to let you know that when a supervisor calls me and wants to meet with me about something – and the call is from someone I have known for years as both a caseworker and supervisor – I get interested immediately.  I mean, if I’ve known this person since I’ve been working with CPS, they are good.  They’ve stuck it out.  They know what they are talking about.
So a few months ago my friend Bobby, a CPS supervisor, called me and asked to have a meeting.  With him, he brought a well thought out written proposal (my little grant-writer’s heart fluttered).  Bobby and his team wanted to celebrate some successful families – those with whom they had worked and who had come out on the other side, better than before.  Families who had their lives turned upside down with an investigation of child abuse, but who had worked with their caseworker, gone to parenting classes,  and had proven that they could be successful parents.  Some were families where the children had been permanently removed from their birth parents and placed with loving relatives.  Successful families.
So instead of focusing on what most people think of when they think about CPS – tearing families apart – this event would be celebrating families who were a success.
Bobby brought us this great idea and it was one that our board at CPD loved.  And luckily for us, one of our board members is the owner of GattiTown, Mr. Paul Griffiths.  When I asked Paul and his wife Aimee if they would be willing to host this event, they said yes immediately.  What a HUGE gift they gave to us and to those families last night!  After a little presentation for each family, the pizza bar was opened and the games and rides were free to our guests.
Our Development VP, Joanna Clarke, and I just stood in the middle of the midway room watching the kids run around with tons of prize tickets, parents interacting with their kids and enjoying themselves, and even caseworkers running into each other in the bumper cars and laughing hysterically.  Joanna and Ernest even got me to ride the Frog Hopper ride – and I screamed more than any of the kids.
Toward the end of the night, Paul and I were standing in the midway, just taking it all in, and Bobby came over to once again thank us.  Bobby explained that one of the families in particular lived at a very low socio-economic level and they just would never have been able to have a night like this – not in their wildest dreams.
A wildest dream and a smile as big as Texas.  What a night.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Complaint Game

My electricity went off at least 8 times last night.  At 106+ degrees in Dallas, I guess that is understandable. 
I will be writing a letter to the mayor to ask him to contact Oncor and whoever else is in charge of these problems to try to get this fixed.  My side of our block goes out every single time there is a weather-based emergency, and our neighbors across the street seem to stay on.  My mother’s house never goes out.  It is such a pain. 
I was on twitter and Facebook last night complaining to everyone who would listen about this injustice.  Complaining is, of course, the best part of the fun of enduring a “hardship” – it reminds me of my favorite line from Steel Magnolias – “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, come sit next to me.” 
Of course, I know that this power outage is nothing in the grand scheme of things.  As Americans, we have such a high quality of life compared to the rest of the world.  But if my neighbors across the street got to watch Hell’s Kitchen in its entirety, then damn it, I should get to too. 
Tell that to Lisa and Pete.  They are teens who have never had a stable home life.  They’ve been homeless many times.  They have moved around from foster home to foster home.  They have moved around from group home to group home.
Don’t you know that they see other kids at the mall with credit cards and designer shoes and think, if they can have that, why can’t I? 
Don’t you know that they see other kids at school with parents who care enough to attend the school play or the football game and think, why didn’t I end up with parents like that?
My electricity may go out again tonight, and I’ll still be complaining about it to whoever will listen.  But I also know that Lisa and Pete have got me beat.