Well, this blog thing has me staying awake at night thinking about how to best tell the stories, move our community to action, reach your heart, tick you off, make you giggle, and make you come back for more. I've been reading my fellow Community Bloggers and enjoying the heck out of it! It's a neat feeling to use my words and thoughts; my company's laptop, and a big dose of insomnia to spread the substance abuse and HIV prevention message.
I'm packing tonight to leave for 6 days in HotLanta for the 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference - sponsored by the CDC, and for a Grantee Meeting with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (who fund the prevention programs at HSC, where I work). So it's going to be an exciting and busy week for me.
Some of the stuff I'm thinking about - Six days of conference chairs (probably those with no cushions), conference chicken lunches (there is a secret farm with a special breed of rubber chickens bred solely for this purpose), conference schedules (the meeting room you need for the 3:00 lecture is 3 football fields; two escalators and one long jog away from the one you're in now, and it's 2:59), conference room sound systems (with the required feedback howl that could just possibly bring on a seizure I'm sure), 4,231 PowerPoint presentations (three of which are simply amazing and make it completely worthwhile that I'm there!), I'm mostly joking - cause above all it's the opportunity to exist for almost a week with my awesome colleagues and fellow Prevention professionals, who most likely have a "calling", and are just meant to be doing this work.
If you grew up a "trailer park kid" like me in rural Alabama, you may remember the first time you traveled to the BIG CITY. Maybe it was New York, or Chicago, anywhere that was NOT Alabama. Seems like the world was faster, more colorful, louder, weirder and definitely exciting. That's how I feel when I'm with my peeps at a Prevention Conference. Because substance abuse and HIV do not discriminate there is the most diverse, edgy, intelligent, creative, and often just plain bizarre group of people who work in this field.
Risky behaviors such as injecting drug use, binge drinking, commercial sex work; and lifestyles that most likely would make your Mama blush are commonplace among the clients I work with daily. In order to effectively serve my community, spread the prevention message, and provide testing, counseling and treatment services, it is imperative that I and others like me maintain an impartial and non-judgmental perspective at all times.
So, for this chubby grandmother it is just a "regular day at the office" to be found alongside persons with a purple Mohawk or pink wig, piercings and tattoos, glittery nightclub attire with construction worker boots; persons in recovery from drugs and alcohol or deeply troubled by their misuse and abuse, persons who identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and a long list of other "labels" that they may have possibly chosen to call themselves or been given by others, some not printable here.
At a national conference such as the one in Atlanta, it is a hoot to people-watch. I absolutely LOVE "different". Unlike some of my stick in the mud relatives who get their panties in a wad because they still reside in that world where if your skin color, hairstyle, accent, or pedigree isn't like theirs you aren't welcome - I delight in the parade of beautiful people who seem to often wear their heart like a blinking neon sign because they care so much and want to make a difference for those who suffer from addiction or illness. To work in the social service or not for profit field, especially prevention, you don't have to be a former drug user, homeless, hungry, or be living with HIV or hepatitis, although many have "been there-done that" you can be an advocate for those who need help whatever your personal history. And these are "my people" (saying that just made me grin).
Some other stuff I'm thinking about:
1. Will Atlanta traffic be awful?
2. Will one of the researchers who speak at this conference be the ONE who finds a cure for AIDS?
3. I'm definitely going to get some of that awesome Mac and Cheese from that seafood restaurant down the street from the conference hotel.
4. Please let my federal Project Officer be proud of the Poster Presentation that we will be doing on Wednesday for our fellow grantees, I want to make them proud and I want our projects to continue to change people's lives.
5. Are flip-flops acceptable conference footwear? (mine have jewels, so I'm thinking YES).
6. Will I learn some new teaching technique, tip, or skill that will help me provide exceptional prevention counseling to someone who wants to change their life and behavior?
7. Please let there be speakers and presenters at this conference who have a sense of humor, live in the real world, and aren't "know it alls"!
8. I'm going to miss my hubby (from here on we'll call him Babe) my precious Shih Tzus; Rhett Butler and Dandy, and my Tempurpedic mattress. My Babe will be fishing, boating, having a nap in the back yard swing and missing me terribly I'm sure.
9. Saying to myself - "Please don't forget the IPhone charger when you checkout of the hotel".
10. I'm hoping you are enjoying the blog so far, and will give me your feedback and comments.
If you'd like to know more about the 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference check them out at www.2011nhpc.org and I'll keep you updated throughout the week.
Some stuff for YOU to think about:
Marijuana Fact Sheet http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/pdf/Marijuana.pdf
Prescription Drug Abuse Fact Sheet http://www.theantidrug.com/pdfs/prescription_report.pdf
Homeless Resource Center - http://homeless.samhsa.gov/
Suicide Prevention Resources - http://www.samhsa.gov/prevention/suicide.aspx
Health Services Center - www.hscal.org
HIV Testing Fact Sheets - http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/testing/resources/qa/index.htm
What Women Can Do - http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/women/protection.htm
Gay, Bisexual, Men Who Have Sex With Men Fact Sheet - http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/msm/index.htm
Be Safe, Know Your Status, Get Tested!