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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Christmas List

I told my mom I was doing this and so here it is! Gunn Family, the reunion is fast approaching and if you have a hard time figuring out what to surprise me with, here is a list. Please don't give me any bath stuff because I work for a bath company and only use their stuff. See you all on Christmas!


Whatever it takes - Paul Tough
Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
Acceptance - David L. Marcus
Student Development in College - Nancy J. Evans
American Higher Education in the 21st Century - Professor Philip G. Altbach
Half the Sky - Nicholas D. Kristof

Donate to my favorite charities:

LIFT (the organization I work for) - http://www.nspnet.org/donate/index.htm

Harlem Children s Zone - https://secure3.convio.net/hcz/site/Donation2?df_id=1260&1260.donation=form1

The University of Florida 'Center for Leadership and Service' - https://www.uff.ufl.edu/OnlineGiving/FundDetail.asp?FundCode=005099

Gift Cards to places I like:

Ikea - I don't have a mattress for my bed
Forever 21
Barnes and Noble

Other Stuff:

Winter Gear
Gator/UF stuff - http://gatorzone.teamfanshop.com/ (I'd really like some home stuff like blankets and some nice sweaters)

Big Gifts:

Laptop :).

Call or e-mail me if you have any questions!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I need a lift

I'm trying to help a client find a job who hasn't worked in 20 years. In any circumstance finding a job for him would be hard. But now.... I honestly believe he could find great work. He is very intelligent. I would hire him. But it's the out there that worries me.

A client came in today in such despair. "It's so hard out there." I let him know that we are behind him and he replied with "that's why I come here. I need a lift."

Do you ever look at things and wish they weren't this way. But the deep longing in our hearts must be a sign that a better world is possible? We all deserve something better. Than this.

Looking at the world from a bottom of a well by Mike Doughty

Thursday, August 13, 2009

give em' hope

So after a very emo day yesterday, I settled into my couch at home, snapped the lid off of a B&J Strawberry Cheesecake pint and prepared to watch some movies.

I watched MILK. It turned out to be just the movie. In the last scenes of the movie, Harvey Milk discusses the idea of hope. It brought me back to the work I do. It is so easy to become despaired and to become burdened by the weight of all the brokenness and pain in the world and distress. But you can create hope, you can break down barriers, you can do something. You can be a listening ear. It doesn't have to end with a question of "what do we do?" Because there is nothing to small.

There is an abandoned hotel in North Philadelphia right on Broad and Fairmount. Someone recently went to the roof and wrote 'free da hood.' Free da hood...

I ask this... If there should be an assassination, I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out - - If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door... And that's all. I ask for the movement to continue. Because it's not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power... it's about the "us's" out there. Not only gays, but the Blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us's. Without hope, the us's give up - I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. So you, and you, and you... You gotta give em' hope... you gotta give em' hope. Harvey Milk (Sean Penn)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

when you love...

My heart feels so heavy.

I came here to love the city. I think thats how I described it in my first blog entry. To love the city.
But love is much more complicated and painful and wonderful than I could have ever imagined. And sometimes when you really really love, love can break your heart.
We recently had an article about us posted in the newspaper. We have been yearning for some great outreach and it was definietely a success. And now our phone rings off the hook with people trying to connect to our services. People who need a place to stay for them and their children. People who have a place to move into but cannot afford the move in costs. People who can't find jobs and I wonder if we can find them jobs. The need is much greater and more devestating than I could have ever imagined. And I wonder if we are the ones that can help them. And I wonder why things are this way. And I wonder how far love can go.
Maybe I'm too sensitive, I worry too much.
But love, love makes everything more complicated. It makes you do crazy things so outside of your character that you fear you may have lost yourself.
I love this city and I love the people here. So now what, what do I do for the people that can't be so easily helped.
What happens when love isn't enough.

To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive - to grief, sorrow, and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before. Rollo May

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

# 6 Go to a Phillies Game

So I started a list of things I want to do in Philadelphia before I leave. I don't actually know the numbers because I lost the list, but I do remember the things. So our North office and West Office enjoyed a Phillies game. My first Phillies game and baseball game in general. It was so much fun!!!

There are many negative things said about Philadelphia but this city is a city of love and passion. It's the kind of tough gritty love that makes you sort of rough around the edges and maybe a little obnoxious at times. This city sure does love its Phillies and it was an honor to be apart of the hoopla. The field was a bit out of the city so I get to view an unadulterated sunset that was very beautiful. I even enjoyed a baseball tradition: chickie and pete's crab fries with cheese sauce. It was an absolute joy and even more fun with our staff.

More Philadelphia adventures to come!!!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

riding through clouds

There are many reasons I enjoy plane rides. One reason is that you can say "I rode through a cloud this morning" and have it be absolutely true.

I finally got back into Philly this afternoon. It was a great trip that involved a lot of opportunities for learning and growth. I got to spend time with some wonderful people including spending some time with mom. I really enjoy Florida and have now begun to see that it is a naturally beautiful place. It was crazy humid and even crazier hot but still I really enjoyed it. I really miss the beach and lament that I won't be able to just cruise down there whenever I want. I know that many people praise the Jersey shore but I can't imagine that it even holds a flame to a Florida beach.

I thought the trip would be purely relaxing but a few things happened to me that have placed me in a questioning phase. Mainly around my religious and spiritual place. A few things happened that made me think 'is my new found independence a distraction from my relationship with God?' After much deep thought and reflection I found this to be a silly idea but at the same time I realized that I had some really conservative inflexible ideas about my religion and society that I just didn't want to have anymore. Maria Shriver wrote a book a while ago called 'just who will you be?' In it she poses the idea that our life is now about finding out what you will be but who will you be. I returned to that book for some inspiration and guidance. My own spiritual journey has been a rocky road these past few years. Finding my voice within the larger context of a religious identity has brought about some really intense challenges. Am I not following God when I follow my own heart? To answer that question I first had to get at the root of who I think God is and whose concept of "following God" am I really measuring my own actions by?

I also learned that I still have many areas of growth in my life. I want to become the best version of my self but who is that exactly. I have felt so ungrounded and even more so these past few months. I really want to find my own voice and my place in society instead of being swayed by every good idea. I believe that I was created with a plan and that I am on that plan and yet the next step is still unclear to me. But also that life is about choices and commitment at some point you have to start living by that. I also want to change the world for the better. But maybe there is where I've stepped into too much pride. Maybe I should realize that I do have something that I contribute but I very well can't do everything. There are many capable and compassionate human beings out there all itching to make a difference in this world. I just have to find my place in that bigger picture and do the best that I can.

Ultimately over the past week, I've come to realize that life is very short. I am sorrounded my wonderful and inspiring human beings. I am very blessed. I am always becoming. I accept and embrace who I am and the mistakes I have made. And life is about finding love, giving it away and feeling it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I am very excited to be here. I already feel relaxed!

This morning I had to leave the house by 4 to catch my train to the airport. Preparing my stuff the night before was def. a huge help and prevented my past packing foibles such as forgetting my charger and such. I made it to the airport, early as usual because my worst fear is missing my flight. However I wasn't so luck on my connecting flight. I had a flight from Philly to Atlanta and then Atlanta to Jacksonville. My flight in from Philly was delayed and I got to the gate at 9:23 for my connecting flight. It was scheduled to depart at 9:30. I wasn't sure if I had missed the boarding because their were still people sitting there and thier was a lady at the desk. For some reason I didn't approach the desk until she walked away onto the boarding dock and closed the door. The man at the desk looks at me and goes "I hope that wasn't your flight." It was my flight. Missed.

But everything happens for the reason and I was determined to stay positive. I called my friend Kara who was picking me up and she suggested that I try to get a flight straight into Gainesville. Her tire light (I don't know anything about cars) had just gone off anyway so she had to go to the tire place? After checking with the Delta lady (Karen, really nice) I found out that there was a flight leaving to Gainesville at 10:57.

This is an amazing fact for many reasons. 1. I never fly Delta because it is too expensive but Delta is one of the like four airlines that flies into the Gainesville airport. 2. There are only two flights that leave Atlanta and head to Gainesville on any given day and one was later in the afternoon and 3. I got in the same time that I would have gotten in had I flown into Jacksonville and drove down. So I got to fly straight into Gainesville and it was wonderful. Everything happens for a reason and works out in the end. Just have a little faith.

I really love this place. While it holds a lot of memories it also just feels like home. I grew a lot here and while many of the people that I met during college no longer live here my two best friends are still here as well as many people from my church and of course my much loved advisors/mentors/generally good people-ers.

I really love my job. Like love love love. But the past few weeks I have just felt incredibly tired. I hate that feeling and so I'm thankful for the time to just reenergize. I hope that I enjoy it and make the best of it. Here's to straight chillin'.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

give a little love

The office has been unusually busy.

We have seen a rush of people looking for employment. The other day I worked with a women who had a Masters and worked as a social worker with families and children. Her computer skills were so severly limited that even explaning the job search online was daunting.
I worked with a client yesterday who was just a couple of months older than me. She really wanted a job and had a lot of experience in housekeeping. However she had a record from when she was a teen. She was consistenlty denied any form of public assistance. She recounted how she was once told that she needed 'to have babies' in order to qualify for anything.
Yesterday I met a young man who had a full scholarship to a local university, a promising career in the music industry, a promise of a job with his church when he graduates but he lost his job, he is getting evicted, he is so stressed that he is lossing focus on his studies. He fought a long battle to get off the streets and away from his old life of addiction and crime. He can see where he's going and yet he feels so far away.

There are times when my job requires me to step back and other times when it requires me to step into my clients shoes. It is those times when I feel heavy. I feel their heaviness.

Our world can be an unsettling place. Yet I know there is hope. We're brining a new day in.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

you know

I can think of a million ways this day could've been more productive...

Last night I ate half a pint of cinnabun icecream and couldn't fall asleep until around 4:00am. Now I have that weird tired feeling that you can get when you don't sleep and such. I came into work into a web of craziness and phone calls and people wanting to reschedule thier appointments and blah..and then I just settled into this simple unassuming stance of "I don't think I'm going to get anything done today."

However I did cross three things off my to-do list. Finally scheduled a doctors appointment and finally got my lease signed. And there I have suceeded....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

and here we are again

I can't believe its almost been a year since I moved to Philadelphia. About this time last year I was packing up the last of my stuff, leaving Gainesville and heading back to Ft.Lauderdale. I seem to be in the same cycle. I'm moving to a new apartment and so this week has consisted of packing boxes and preparing for another transition. But it still doesn't feel like a year.

The past few weeks at work have been unusually busy. In fact, right now, I have a whole to-do list staring back at me. But I've lost most of my energy and enthusiasm and I only seem to glimpse it in spurts and sputters. I got most of it back today though. I was sitting in on a client meeting that one of our interns was leading and just speaking to this young girl I feel that rush of something. It was a flood of caring and I really wanted to stop everything and just sit with this girl and try to find the resources that could help her retain some stability in her life. She just found out she is pregnant and is in need of housing and a job. One of the shelters we were able to find for her is the same place that she lived in with her mother when she was young. It hit me that this could be another cycle. It could be different for her child, but it could be the same. I fight for the resources that won't make it the same.

But then I'm back to my e-mail and hiring/training interns, meetings and designing trainings and reports and thinking about large ambiguous goals. I feel incredibly disconnected from the things enjoy about my job and drained by the things I do most often. I had that manager feeling today. That manager feeling that makes you feel at once removed from the work you try to influence.I feel so removed and I realize I don't like this feeling at all. And so what do I do to retain the feeling of being present and here and with the work that is going on in our office.

I hope that this blog has and will continue to provide in an depth look into the work that I'm doing. And at the very least introduce you to my many adventures. I came into this with very little knowledge and know I feel I have more than I could ever want. More questions than answers more ideas than solutions.

If anything, I wonder, who are people meant to be. What is our role in getting people there? What obstacles have we as a society and we as individuals put in their way? What are we doing right and what are we doing wrong? Where are we going and who are we leaving behind?

One thing I do believe and value, everyone should have an opportunity to reach their full potential, to enjoy their life in their own way and on their own terms. We should respect that and nurture it. I have reading up on programs that have successfully preppared young students from poverty for educational opportunities that can 'break the cycle.' We talk about this gap that is erased and how students are trained in 'middle class' values http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/08/opinion/08brooks.html?_r=2. And its all good and well that we have given people a leg up in society, but what does that mean. What do people really want for their lives...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Galileo come back

It is very hard to get back into work mood when you take some time off. Even though yesterday I practically had to induce shock therapy just to stop thinking about work!

I had a really liberating weekend. I had to time to think and reflect and see Night at the museum in IMaX!! I also needed to pack and start cleaning my apartment cause I'm moving this weekend. I don't like packing or cleaning so blah to that.

I'm tiring of this adult 9 to 5, cooking my own dinners and washing my own clothes thing. I feel like I could only be heading to progressively more adult things.

I have become a vegeterian! I am very excited about this decision and step in my life. I am trying to move towards a more sustainable mode of living and align my values in life in all the things I do. Its a complicated decision as I think all attempts at moral living are. I mean I can say that I don't want to support the meat industry but this is a way of life for people a job. So many issues at play but I know that for me it just feels like the right move and that is all of the conviction that I need. The more you think you know, the less you really do.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Never give up on you...

I had a truly inspiring morning.
I may have noted this before but I am on the Philadelphia AmeriCorps week planning committee. Today we had an AmeriCorps rally for members in the city which was followed by several service projects.

AmeriCorps slogan is 'getting things done' and we kept repeating that through the rally. It was ironically inspiring to hear others testimonials and to see so many other AmeriCorps members out there.

I had a great, no awesome, team and we cleaned up a lot in the North Philadelphia area. I think lot clean ups get a lot of slack because they're not necessarily sustainable service projects and they are pretty labor intensive. But I believe that lot clean ups make a significance difference to the community. It shows that someone cares and increases the worth of the community. So three hours of this and joking and laughing and bugs and posion ivy and we were done.

As I was walking back to our office I stopped to reflect (a carry over from our after service reflection) where I thought about how much more connected I felt to the North Philadephia community. In fact at that moment I loved it and felt indebted to it. I saw a lot of hope there and that small act with so many other committed and engaged citizens renewed my faith in the change that is possible.

As I kept moving towards the office I passed through Temple where several large commencement ceremonies were either happening, starting or ending. It was a special moment seeing all of those families and graduates embracing this moment. It reminded me of my own graduation a year ago. I was then flooded with a mix of emotions. One a great joy at seeing so many dreams accomplished, so much joy and pride, and then this other wave which I can't quite accurately described. But it was like frustration and maybe a clear momemt where I was able to touch the feelings that have been surging through me this past month and a half.

Service is great and I feel almost selfish admitting to this. But I felt a great wave of...I don 't know but it was like...I wanted that carefree feeling back. I wanted to feel the ability to move forward with ease without being so concerned with all of the things I find myself concerned with. Service is great but it can feel so heavy when you realize how deep issues are and how complicated this world is. And then I think well maybe I shouldn't think of that, maybe I should just do what I can and not think about it tooo much. And that's ok. A better way to phrase it is to cahnge the things I can and the serenity to know the difference and wisdom to discern the difference.

We are all these wanderig souls, searching for a way to our dreams. May we all find our way and contribute to others as they search.

And do all that I can and never give up...

Ron Sexsmith: Never give up on you http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vZaZNs0mhw

I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. Albert Schweitzer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sunday Morning


Step 1: Read article above
Step 2: Pause for deep reflection
Step 3: Speak out, in some way, for those who can't speak for themselves.

I can't figure out if the world is complex with simple answers or simple with complex answers. Either way, there are many people falling through the cracks.

In other, more lighthearted news, I think it is in everyone's best interest to dance at random times. To sing out of tune. To twirl when they are inspired. To laugh long and hard. To breathe.

I have been in a web of emotions lately. That happens sometimes I guess. But it is much more important to maintain a postive outlook and perspective. To remember the beauty and the possibilities and to remain focused on hope, especially against the odds.

And also to eat chocoloate and call your friends!

I keep thinking that I can swallow all of the worlds problems and produce some magical beautiful result. Giving up that hope seems like a surrender in some way. But I cannot absorb that role. There is a way and I can find that way and my place and give where I am. And maybe that is enough.

"There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self." -Aldous Huxley

Monday, May 11, 2009

is this my story...

I'm tired.
One of those tireds that require you to burst into tears at incredibly random and inconvenient moments.
Exciting things have happened.
Hired summer staff. (now trainings uurrgghh)
Found a new apartment. (hello to being broke for the next couple of months)
Great weekend, very social, free food!
Leadership team apprectiaion dinner tonight. (more free food, but also saying goodbye to our beloved leaders)

I feel like exploding.

Where are my great insights on poverty? My deep prose on the wonders of life? My detailed accounts of the many awkward moments that befall me on a daily basis? I'm not sure...

But today has been one of those days where people try to sit down and have conversations with me but I have so much going on. And then I feel horrible because, you know, aren't people more important then the things you need to do. But then it doesn't really stop the feeling. I struggle with being present and what that means. But I started this new meditation that is really helpful. I slowly repeat Psalm 46:10 like this:

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know
Be still

I know the heart of life is good....

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Back attack!!

So I have had an incredibly refreshing past few days with a few bumps on the road. I've learned some lessons and cried some tears and all that jazz.

I have learned that I am human. I make mistakes but my past does not dictate my future...unless I let it.

I am in control of my choices and my future and the decisions I make have real tangible consequences.

I am a stewart of many resources. One of those is the people in my life. I have a duty to God and the community of all of us to treat each person with respect and love.

I forgive myself.

I forgive others.

One of the most profound lessons I have gleaned from the events in the past few weeks is what style of leadership I would like to model as I grow.

(okay break, their is a tour of library graduate students behind me. They are interested in academic librarianship.Note to self. Sign?)

Servant leadership is the idea that leaders serve first, lead second. A model for this can be found in the Bible when Jesus spoke to the disciples and said:

The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

As I think about my second term and the influence I will have in the office, I have to consider what will my leadership style resemble. I hope that I can set a vision for our volunteers that will inspire them and bring our office to new heights. But ultimately I hope my role is one of service to our volunteers. I trully believe that if I empower them, guide them, train them and lead them then our client servive will be exceptional. If they feel comfortable and secure, than that translates into client successes. But its going to take a lot of work. Probably more work than I've ever committed to anything in my life.

But opportunities aren't just waiting for you. I have to take intiative. Make things happen.

In other news, I have no idea what to do with my life. I thought I was so unsure and maybe I am. Honestly I can't decide if the things I am being introduced to are shapping my future plans and that's why Im confused or I just want to do everything and that's why I'm confused. While I still believe that you spend your whole life figuring out, I just want to prepare for the next step. I just want to know where I'm going even if its a false idea. I don't like this wandering feeling.

I came into NSP pretty confident that my next step would be pursuing my Masters in Library and Information science and going on to a career in academic librarianship. Now I am not so sure.

I do know that I want to do something that is directly connected to service. I want to be involved with connecting those who have resources with those who need them. More concretly I would be interested in connecting large organizations with resources to nonprofits and to communities. I'd also be interested in ensuring that organizations maintain social responsibility. Example: So I went to this corporate leadership breakfast hosted by this volunteer organization. And they were giving out awards yadda yadda yadda. And this one organization got an award for the amount of community service they did as well as how many volunteers they bring to events. Well this particular organization also pays horrible wages to their employees. Just not wages anyone can live off of. And I have to make this point (even though robert egger already made it in 'begging for change.') What if an organization sends an employee out to volunteer with a little kid from a poorer community teaching them to read. But the reason that kids parents can't be there teaching them to read is because they work for that same organization and they make so little in wages that they have to work multiple jobs. Or their stressed. Or whatever. Volunteering isn't always enough. We can be more responsilble stewards of each other and the resources we have. Start where you are and watch the change ripple...

So yeah I don't know where my strenghts are best suited. Oh and another thing. I want to be involved in developing and empowering leaderswho choose to commit to these values. Time will tell and hopefully season because the time of year to apply for grad schools is fast approaching.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

and where...

I have a strong desire to run away from my life for a little while. It seems very childish. Or maybe a better way to say it is that my inner child feels the need to run away. Maybe it senses the impending doom of adulthood, ever growing responsibilities and lost idealism. And so therefore it wishes I would just run away to escape it all and find somewhere to play and remain a child forever in bliss. I am sure I am not alone in this.

I don't only feel I am facing reality but at the same time conforming into the world in such a way that I might never regain the strength to challenge it and then...

Exasperation. Frustration. Stalemate. Blah.

I wish only to be sorrounded by good friends, laughter, merriment and palm trees (or any trees, I guess).

Going back to this idea of guiding people along. It is very much what we are doing in our work and yet it feels so beyond human capability. Or does it? I am not sure but I struggle with previous notions I had that everyone was helpable and that everyone problem can somehow be solved. That idea has never been challenged in my mind and yet here I am. But I choose to belive it and I grasp it with all the energy I have left. Even if it is the most draining and painstaking work I will ever do I will believe that everyone, in deed, can be moved to a greater existence. Maybe it is not in our power to bring them there and that holds a truth we have to start seeing. Partnerships and alliances. People doing the work, connecting with people who can change the laws and systems connecting with the people who constantly find themselves worked on. I feel like we have been at this place sometime now ( a place with so many inequities and injsustices) and either we don't have the ability to move forward or we are simply not doing enough together to find a way.
But I know now how little we all know and how much we should be willing to learn.

"I wanted no more people coming to Kakuma unless they had no other choice. I wanted us to take care of ourselves, and to solve all this on our own, and to bring no innocents into the hole we had dug." What is the What

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

do you know the what?

I've been reading Dave Eggers "What is the What." I started reading it because I felt I should read it because so many other people I know have read it. Who knows if that's the correct reason to engage myself with a book and story but ehh sometimes I'm a sheep.

The accounts in the book are quite harrowing. I am chilled at the thought what was happening in Sudan was not detached form the world. It happened in this same earth that we inhabit. It could be happening right now, while so many of us go on complelety disconnected. It's just interesting I guess.

We are all just carrying each other along. We hold each other in our decisions and our judgements and our actions and our indifference. We carry each other along. Who put this power in our hands.

Monday, April 13, 2009

me and the government have some unfinished business

I don't know how to fill out a w-4. I'm waiting on the phone with the IRS. I owe them and now they are taking hours of my life and filling it with classical music and automated responses.

Take it all govies!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

beautiful disaster

This morning I went to a social entreprenuership conference on Temple's campus called "Local healthy food can transform our community." The conference focused on bringing nutrition and healthy food alternatives to the Philadelphia community. I went to to sessions, one on "Effective Food Nutrition Programs in Philadelphia" and a second one on "Getting great food into low socioeconomic urban areas." Both were very informative and discussed ways that local business and nonprofits were bringing nutrition education and food alternatives to underserved communities. Their was also some strong dialogue on barriers and opportunities. The organizations I got to hear from were:

I also got some awesome free snacks and met some cool cats. I went to a Marketing seminar yesterday where I got to hear from some industry professionals who spoke to us about marketing, pr and developing a plan on a small budget. I love these things, including the opportunity to run into people I saw at previous conferences! In my effort to stay abreast to whats going on in Philadelphia and be involved in as many ways as possible, I'm apart of the the AmeriCorps week planning committee. The committee is working on developing service projects for 100 AmeriCorps members. Right now, there are a few lot cleanups scheduled, but it would be great to have something more sustainable and far reaching for the community members. Not that clean lots don't have their significance!

I also just signed on for the Green economy task force job committee to help lay out some plans for green job trainings and opportunities in the Philadelphia community. Exciting! I have been engrossed in Van Jones book the Green economy and really trying to understand this possible new movement. The types of opportunities that come from this could be really transformative.
Work has been somewhat busy but I just developed this phenomenal to-do list using excel which has made my life so much easier, and COLOR CODED! Color coding things is like meditating to me, so euphoric.

Unfortunately I have been very tired, just so tired and I have no idea why. I can never seem to get enough sleep which is just poo oh and (drum roll please)

I GOT FOOD STAMPS!! It came at such a perfect time ($20 to my name folks) and I have fully stocked my kitchen and the ability to eat full meals every night is so fascinating to me. I am still getting over my grocery store anxiety. Since June I have had to keep my purchases under 60 bux and everything is counted and weighed and I have never been able to get all that I need and rationing has become my new pasttime. I don't complain though because I am still very fortunate. With food stamps I can return to eating healthy and nutritiously and being able to cook my own food at night is so empowering. The ability to choose and eat quality food has such value which cannot be underestimated. And here in Philly, many if not all farmers markets accept food stamps! My monthly allowance is $200. I officially filed for food stamps on January 28th and didn't receive them until last week due to lost paperwork and just blahness. Persistence payed off though and the money was applied retroactively so my food stamps came with about 400 on it plus the 200 I get for this month! Don't worry Mom, I won't spend it all at once!

Our client flow has picked up and we are feeling it. The end of tax season is fast approaching and despite the amount of taxes I have done for others I have yet to do my own, eeek. We have had really encouraging success and wonderful relationships developing. Still I feel a great deal of anxiety and sadness at times just encountering the challenges out there. There is so much that needs to be done system wise for our work to be more effective. It is very daunting and tiring. Last week I had a meeting with a social worker from a local legal assitance org. who shared housing resources with us. The point she drove home was that people need advocates in order to be successful. Yes they do.

Sunday Morning by Maroon 5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWsfrHvUMZM

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

if you had one chance

What does it take to change the world?

What does it take to end poverty?

What does it mean to be a leader?

I feel like this year has moved me closer to those answers and more. On Sunday, Philadelphia was hit with a wave of hail and a sporadic thunderstorm. Large pellets of water fell from the sky, pushing their way into the earth and flooding away the remnants of the winter. On Monday as I was walking to the subway I noticed there was a different smell in the air, something new painting the world around me: green. Green is my favorite color and I have never appreciated it more. Spring had sprung and green, lush, verdant life was emerging from the earth.

A volunteer just told me that in her meeting with a new client she was able to find a job for him and line up a house. Green, lush, verdant life emerging from the earth.

We live in a world of possibilities. I know that the present year has been lauded as a crisis but it is something much more precious, an opportunity. It's a wake up call, we've been going in the wrong direction, being uselessly exessive and unnecessarily proud. We have a new opportunity to make things better and more useful. If anything, we have been shown that we need to include more perspectives and voices in the work we do. We've got to realize how we are all connected, how our actions have consequences, not just for us but for so many others. We've got to keep up our enthusiasm in the face of seeminly immovable boundaries and we've got to be smart and understand the future as it relates to our actions in the present.

Green, lush, verdant life emerging from the earth. My life is my one chance to make in impact. There must be a God in this world, the way the earth seems with life. Yet we are here too and God flows through us. Has given us a piece of himself in hopes that we can all work together to bring this world to a greater place. And I am here to answer the call. I know that change is possible.

The challenge wasn't whether to buy a couple of bottles of champagne; it was instead not to take or privelege for granted and to use it in a way that served the world and our highest purpose.
Jacqueline Novogratz

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rise Above!!

My God is the God of sunrises,the God of running into old friends because a traffic jam made you late.The God of cool breezes,who leaves lessons for life in the flowers.My God is the God of teachers just when you need them,and silver linings revealed when you had given up hope.The God that laughs when you make plans,but ensures you always get where you need to be.My God is the God of sunsets, who hugs you when a door is slammed shut,and winks at you through the window cracked open.My God is the God of song and dance, who prefers this form of prayer,and delights in creativity, and other expressions of love. My God smiles at me from the moon and stars and reminds me that life is never not perfect. Allison Mills

Where have I been oh blog, away away away....

But I miss you so I'm back.

I haven't really been busy but I have. A lot of wonderful things have happened and a lot of not so wonderful things. I feel somewhat lost, and lonely. At times I really enjoy that feeling because when I there I feel closer to being found, how odd.

It feels good to come back to you and it feels to come back to things in general. I am struggling now with my concept of God and my faith and my spiritual connection to those around me. I feel there are many thoughts about God I have convinced myself to believe but I am finding my own now. My own connection to a God that is bigger than me and anything I can create about him.

What I miss most now is community. A community centered around a common love. Does anyone else out there miss those things as well? I am wondering now how I can create those for myself. I'm not sure if I ever had those in my church, although I think that was the point. But my heart longs for something more real. Not things I have to convince myself of. Things that don't take effort but just are because they are. I long for authenticity.

I am thinking about moving to another apartment in Philadelphia. This saddens and excites me for many reasons. I love the little home that I created for myself but I long to be apart of a house and have others to come home to. But maybe this is the time for me to be in my own space. To leaern more about my place in this big world.

I'm also studying for the GRE and researching grad schools. It feels like the right time. I know what I want out of a program and I feel lead to this place in my life.

It has been a very rainy day in Philadelphia. I did not feel like doing much work and fortunately neither did many people in my office. But we did have a rush of clients at various points so that really brought us back to reality. It was a nice day, I really do enjoy overcast days. Sometimes the sun can just be so bright and overcast seems like a needed reprieve from all that.

So I have adopted this mentality in life now. It is called Rise Above. A couple of weeks ago I found myself becoming really negative and being dragged down by external forces. I decided to just let go of all that and rise above. To focus on the bigger things, respond not react and live a life I can be proud of. It is has been so refreshing. When you feel the rip currents of negativity pulling you in, rise above!

I got a new journal cause I had gotten close to the end of my old one. I usually never finish a journal just get a few pages to the end and then stop. I leave pages at the end cause there is always more to the story. But my journal has proven to be a faithful friend.

I guess, thats it....

For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. Benjamin Button.

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, not small, but valuable. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don't really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void. Kathleen Kelly.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

at this point in my life

I can't believe this week went by so fast.

Wonderful things have been happening in our office and in the lives of the people we work with. I am blessed, its been good and has brought a smile to my heart.

Today when one of our volutneers was trying to find a job for the client she was working with, she found a cruise ship singer position. So she asked out loud, "can anyone sing." At that moment all of the clients in the office began belting out their favorite tunes. It wasn't long before the volunteers joined in. It was magical. Although the answer to that question was a definitive no and so the job search continues.

I can see the joy we bring people and we're bringing it all day long.

And there are days it feels daunting, absolutely. Particularly when you look at the dropout numbers, and when you look at what's not serving the students in the United States well. But then there are other times, you know, days like these when you're in a small school like this and it's exhilarating because you see the possibility. And it's the possibility that makes us keep working on this. Melinda Gates

Monday, March 2, 2009

saw it there

A snow storm rolled in last night and today our offices and most places in the city are closed. I came in today to e-mail the volunteers and call clients. All things, I realized, I could've done from home. I intended to stay for just an hour but of course I got into my e-mails. And then I need to purchase some plane tickets back to Ft. Lauderdale for next week. And then there was just some things to set up for upcoming absence from the office.

So now it is 12:20 and I am still here. Not really wanting to leave. Not that I'm a workaholic, I just feel comforted being in the office. A certain since of normalcy. You blink these days, and everything changes. I might go downtown to Rittenhouse. It is my favorite place to be when it snows.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

the sun is shining!

and it is getting warmer!

I had this wonderful observation about the work we're doing in our office. On one hand we come face to face with poverty, social inequity and injustice. But on the other we are growing this dedicated and empowered leaders who can (and I believe will) make the differences that need to be made.

It is an odd and inspiring thing to be in the midst of these two realities.

Yet the future has never seemed brighter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ready or not

Each time I meet with a client, it grabs a part of me. So much so that I worry I will have nothing left when I leave this job. This morning I met with a man who has struggled with drug addiction but wants so much to better his life. I had to bear down to keep the tears from coming. I don't know why it moves me so much.
Maybe I'm tired.
Or maybe I feel his struggle and see his pain and sense how much he needs help and wonder if at all I can give him that. And I cry for his past and his sense of rootlessness and the emptiness he must feel. I feel the void that he must leave in his children's life and how much that pain must weigh on him at times. He lives in a shelter. Shelter life is like a warzone. I don't speak from experience, only from the stories I hear. People in them just want to get out of them but there don't seem to be any clear paths.
In addition, for those that have felony records they are met by a constant barrage of stop signs and dead ends. Lacking little support, they resign to a sense of worthlessness and despair. A hell that very few have the resiliency to emerge from.
I want so much to help him, our office to assist him but I know the limits of what I can do and I wonder what will the others that are on his path contribute to his movement forward. Every life has worth, even if the one living it realizes that very late in life. How can we contribute to the success and growth of all the people I encounter.
In a way I try to stay detached from my emotions, they only serve to do me harm. I tend to get so passionate and absorbed and face only resistance if I refuse to take things as they are. But that way seems like a death. Sometimes you have to get angry and be upset and cry and feel the pain that others feel. Moving through this world unscathed by its atrocities only perpetuates them. I sat there as he poured himself out to me, so unabashed at what he might lose by being so vulnerable. And I felt him and in my naivety responded that I understood, but I don't, I don't have any clue.

Listening to Obama last night, I had this renewed sense of hope at what our government and country can do to bring opportunities to those that sit at the periphery of our existence, and now I feel that, although a little less. Maybe now with a little bit more grounding in the reality of the many lives that get overlooked and under appreciated. I feel it is my duty in some way to contribute to a change. Even if I only begin the ripple, I can't leave this world without contributing to the end of what suffering that I see. But I don't know what the best way is. I can see the ways more effective government structures could bring broader changes for all but inevitably people fall through the cracks of policies, even the best ones. It is then up to all of us, or for those that feel the sense of responsibility, to encourage individuals, to make a way for them. I just know that we can.

Make a difference
Use this degree which you
have earned to increase
virtue in your world

your people, all people
are hoping that you are
the ones to do so

the order is large
the need immense
but you can take heart
for you know that you

have already shown courage
and keep in mind
one person, with good purpose
can, constitute the majority
since life is our most precious gift
and since it is given to us to live but once
let us so live that we will not regret
years of uselessness and inertia
you will be surprised that these years of
sleepless nights and months of uneasy
days will be rolled into
and altering event called the
'good old days.' and you will not
be able to visit them even with an invitation
since that is so you must face your presence
you are prepared
go out and transform your world

Maya Angelou "Letter to my Daughter"

Monday, February 23, 2009

what do you love...

I heard love lists are theraputic and I would appreciate that right now, the order doesn't mean anything, consider it stream of conciousness. And I won't list people because I try very hard to love all of the people in my life:

1. The way the light flows through my window on Sunday mornings. It seems like liquid gold and the warmth of the sun feels like home on my skin. I love it.
2. Feeling a sense of peace. Recently my body has felt tense and unsettled and busy. Peace is possible.
3. My torquoise fireplace. The color reminds me of the essence of life.
4. The arts. going to museums. listening to new music. watching shows. We need the arts. I need the arts. It is the soul and heart of what we do, its redeeming and liberating. Expressing yourself through the
5. My job.
6. Being the best version of myself.
7. Florida Gators.
8. The movie I am Sam
9. Reconnecting with the people in my life, sharing our lives, support and caring and being an encouragement.

This weekend was our leadership team retreat. It was well received by all our team members and at the end of the week they had bonded in such wonderful and powerful way. It made me very proud. Yet it was all so tiring and all I wanted to do was sleep, just sleep forever. But alas, this morning it was back to the grind.

I was reminded of the power and delicateness of idealism in this world. How do you go out and change the world without the world changing you? And when/how do you find the balance between the change that becomes inevitable and necessary and the change that just doesn't feel right.

I recently read this in the Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/22/education/22fafsa.html?ref=education. It reinforced some of the work we've been doing in our office. Namely taking advantage of the new FAFSA application used by our partner.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

anywhere but here

Today, after a meeting, I had to go to CVS to print off some pictures of our volunteers for our vol board. As I was looking at their little faces I teared up. The CVS lab photo guy gave me a sympathetic smile and I had to restrain myself from blurting out..."I love these guys." But I do. I really do.

I feel emotionally cluttered. Very uneasy and off and torn and smooshed. I'm starting reading essential teachings from the Dalai Lama. It has already given my sould a sense of calm that I yearn for. I need to wash, clean my room.

I want to go to Australia.

I have also become inwardly frustrated by the daily inequities I see in the poorer urban areas of Philadelphia. Since I moved here and started working in North Philadelphia there have been a few buildings that looked abandoned and shut down. Now they're open and I know what they are, H&R blocks and Jackson Hewitts. I am sure that these tax places mean no harm but that doesn't pull them away from the reality that they do harm. As I was walking around the neighborhood today I was just, ehh, I don't even know the feeling. Maybe disgust, shame, frustration, sadness. Here are these people who get swarmed in on and victimized and battered and have no one to speak up for them.

I don't even feel I have room to take credit for the work I do. I constantly wonder about the work I am doing. There is a very thin line between helping people and enabling them. And while most of the time I know that our work is helping, a few instances bring my intentions into question and I wonder about it all.

What have I come here to do? Who am I in all of this? Am I the person I want to be? Is change happening? Are comfortale enough with change to let it happen?

I'm hurting...and for what I don't know. But hurting none the less. I have found myself in this place of questioning and confusion. Nothing seems clear or absolute and I wonder, what am I doing? What are we all doing here?

I was sitting in church on Sunday, listening to my pastor. Sermons that used to bring me such peace and understanding now only bring up questions in my head. And I think, cynically, how easy must the problems of the world be to a person who believes that poor will always be with us.

'Look around this world that we call 'civilized' and that for more than 2000 years has searched to obtain happiness and avoid suffering by false means: trickery, corruption, hate, abuse of power and exploitation of others. We have searched only for individual and material happiness, opposing people against each other; one race against another, social systems against others. This has led to a time of fear, of suffering, murder and famine...It is because each person has looked only for his own profit without fear of oppressing others for selfish goals, and this sad and pitiful world is the result. The root of this civilization is rotten, the world suffers, and if it continues in this way, it suffer more and more.' The Dalai Lama.

Monday, February 16, 2009

running past the madness

Do you ever have those weeks where you feel like you're getting smooshed or compressed in some sort of large awkward smooshing machine...really well I do!

The next few weeks seem to be a neverending surge of activities. Today I have off in honor of President's Day, whatever that means. But then the rest of this week will be spent preparing for our leadership team retreat this weekend. Tomorrow half of the day will be spent planning a conference workshop that I will help facilitate next weekend. And then Thursday our office will be hosting our organization's CEO.

I hate to laud these things as 'oh look at my busy week. I'm so busy and awesome. Busy me' but it just feels like a lot and really, come on, everyone loves to feel important. And then there is that upcoming week in DC for our next training/meeting/shinding/mushing over my beloved coworkers. I have been juggling these feelings of feeling like a failure, feeling overwhelmed, feeling inspired and feeling incredibly energized. My body also yearns to rest, just to take a breather and not feel the constant pushing and yearning of my desire to do something. But then I really don't have this acheiver yearning and I have no desire to do anything but merely to learn and be and more importantly be of service.

My apartment is a disaster zone ready to implode. But I'm treating it like Wall Street. The constant mess will at some moment explode within itself and then ,of course, the government will bail me out. Why be responsible when you can be dependent!

I love the work I do yet it keeps me in a state of questioning, altertness, awareness and frustration. Never a sense of peace. The closest I get is contemplation which is really the quiet before the storm. Am I rambling.

So have I learned anything recently. Let me enlighten you:

Pride comes before the fall

You don't really know anything you think you know

There is always work to be done

No man is an island, we must function as teams to get things done

Cherry coke is adictive, in the worst possible most ungodly way

Idealism is nice although pragmatisim is necessary in order to get things done

There is usually a path to the solution you're in search of.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Yesterday I spent three hours in the welfare office.
I have begun the journey of getting food stamps. I officially filled out my application last week. I have heard from my fellow SC's that have also applied for food stamps, that the process is frustraing demoralizing exhausting and tedious.
They were proven right.

The packet I got in the e-mail told me to get to the welfare office by 11:00am to meet my case manager. 'DON'T BE LATE' was boldly printed across the top. So I got there at 10:40 am waited in line to tell them I was there and have them page my case worker to come get me. I sat down and waited and waited and waited. I was ironically sitting in front of a sign on one of the windows that reported on how it is important to wait and that when you really value something you wait and wait. So I did, patiently and respectfully. Then it was 1:30 and well I just couldn't wait anymore. There were a couple also sitting in the large room who had been there since 8:30am and I didn't want that to be my story. And I saw one person after another go into see their case managers. I got up and went to the customer service lady who, despite the fact that no one was waiting to speak to her, made me sign to ask her a question. I let her know that I had been waiting for a while and no one had come out. She told me to go wait in line again. So I did, waiting and waiting. We wait for things we value.

I get up to the line and let her know that I had been waiting and no one had come out. She told me she needed to check her records to make sure I had signed in early. I had. I told her my case manager and then the customer service woman who had told me to go wait in line turned around and said 'he's not in today.'

So I was told to wait while they figured out what was going on.

I was then pulled to the back by a woman who was ready to leave and in fact left before I even finished getting my stuff together. She told me that my case manager wasn't there and neither was the man who picks up his load. So I was told to leave my documents with the front desk. So I got in line to wait again. Then I handed the documents to be copied one by one. What should've been an easy task, take the paper I'm giving you, copy it, check it off on the list, turned into 20 minutes of 'you didn't give me that paper' 'yes I did' 'no you didn't' 'it's right there next to your arm' 'Oh I'm sorry.'

And then I left and that was my day. How can a system that so many people depend on be so horribly inefficient. I was lucky, I could still go home and get something to eat. But there were people there pleading for their cards because they didn't have food for their kids that night or medicine or they hadn't been able to get in contact with their case manager for weeks. I'm sure that these workers are overworked and undersupported but my gosh.

I have learned from that experience that their is a culture of poverty. You can't be patient, you can't expect that people have your best interest at heart, you can't expect that if you show up on a time anyone will give a damn. In fact you can't really expect that anyone will give a damn. People waste your time like it's their jobs. I wasn't mad, I was contemplative. Not discouraged but engaged with what can be done to make the lives of the poor lease burdened. But it was only the first step. It brings new insight into a recent article I read http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/02/us/02welfare.html?ref=politics.

In lighter news, it snowed. Here are some pictures from my hood:

Friday, January 30, 2009

Hey Self Awareness

I had such a huge moment of self awareness last night during a meeting.

Sometimes I should be humble, but sometimes I need to step up and lead. I have a very participative style to leading which I think is really important but there are distinct times when I have a vision and people want to follow not necessarily give input input input. In those times I need to be willing to say, here it is what do you think, these are the roles I see all of us playing.

I find it difficult to lead anybody on anything. It isn't a role I would choose but sometimes you find yourself standing somewhere and you turn around and there are a line of people looking for you. I like circles more than lines. With our student leadership team I have found that things go much easier when you ask questions to faciliate thier inner dialogue as opposed to assuming that the right answer is on the tip of your tongue. But at the same time I do have a valuable perspective that I should contribute.

This may all be very confusing but the bottom line is balance. Balancing all of these different roles and perspectives and intentions. Hmm....

In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on things you have long taken for granted.
Bertrand Russell

The first people had questions and they were free. The second people had answers and they were forever enslaved.
Native American saying

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Don't cry...

I love this song

I thought it was snow

But it wasn't, it was ice.
We were hit with an ice storm and this morning was absolute craziness getting to work. All of the schools in the city are closed. Every org. in our building is closed except for (drum roll) us. Our clients canceled for the day and I told a few of our volunteers to just not worry about coming in. It still gives me a lot of time to get things done. I wasn't sure of how or if to close our office. Besides we have a LAB meeting today

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a book talk at the library. Azar Nafisi wrote the book 'Reading Lolita in Tehran' and has a new book out called 'Things I've been silent about.' It was a phenomenal book talk where she discussed the importance of reading and books, finding freedom in oppresive situations and the importance of connecting with our past. I loved how she discussed how books connect us to people we should be connected to in a way that not many other mediums can. She also discussed how love is imperfect in fact she defined perfection as death. "Life is beautiful and dynamic because it is imperfect" she mused with us. She also noted her hope for a march on Washington that is more than a march but becomes a national dialogue. It was inpsiring. Although, at the end, some of the questions that the audience shared were incredibly invasive. There were notable gasps, awky turtle!!
If I had a chance to ask a question, I would've hoped to ask her about her relationship with her female identity and how it has been shaped by the culutre of Iran that she comes from. I feel like here in America, even though we have many rights we didn't have years ago, we are past many struggles and are complacent in what we have received. In many ways we have not engaged in a dynamic relationship with what it means to be a woman in our culutre. Especially considering all it took to bring us here to this place where a woman can run for President and then be beaten, by a black man, whose middle name is Hussein. That is big! Something has shifted and continues to shift and as we gain this greater tolerance and freedom and inclusion, does our relation to ourselves began to change as well. I'd like to share this article...http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/education/23gap.html.

I'm excited about the chance to go to talks and book readings. Tonight after our LAB meeting I'm hoping to go to a discussion at Penn on the causes of homelessness. Both domestic and international. If I make it, I'll be back with insights!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

eek, aak, ook

I'm not really sure why this happens, but as soon as my to-do list gets longer I get less interested in tackling it.

We've had another busy time at the office. While it's exciting to see the influx of clients and the interactions between them and their volunteers. It is at times overwhelming to see the great need of this community. Yet my cup overfloweth because we have a mostly dedicated team and a wonderful leadership team and great work is being done...

I had a really wonderful conversation this morning with one of our leadership team members. She is such a sensitive soul and I'm thankful that she is apart of our team. Her insight and conversations always bring me back to the heart of what we are doing.
Today we discussed race relations in the city and the effects of gentrification on current city residents.
When college students/white residents/ move into a low-income community residents can easily become displaced as prices raise and movers try to 'improve' the neighborhood. It makes you wonder, how can we build inclusive communities that bring different people together and eliminate hostility when the system works against this. In economic terms, builders are going to go after what brings them the greatest utility and so what if their is a way to build incentive into keeping communities integrated...

I'm working with a client now and , although I don't think this is the role I should be adopting, I feel parental. She is about to age out of a lot of programs that can really get her back on her feet but she hasn't been going to any of the things we've told her about. I feel for her. A lot of times in our office we see people who have no idea how to have choices. It's frustrating but yet is a symptom of a larger issue.
Poverty is a multi-faceted issue but across the board, there is one thing that could've kept the clients we work with out of our office: education. An education that is effective and strong and prepares people for the lives they are meant to live. I recently found about this trully inspiring organization called Philly student union. http://home.phillystudentunion.org/. This organization is made up of high school students who are working together to improve the Philadelphia School district. It's inspiring to see people stand up and fight for what they deserve.
The fight makes us stronger, makes it worth it, makes it sweeter

Calling all Angels by Jane Siberry

Quote: Be the example; spread the hope. Cat Cora

Monday, January 26, 2009

I have to wear professional clothes to work...

What is service? http://www.soulflares.org/index.php?main_page=document_general_info&products_id=327

whoa...Not only was last week absolute madness but it looks like we're going to be mucho busy for the rest of the semester.

But so many exciting things have happened. Like last week we met with the director of the largest men's shelter (and the intake place for all of the men shelters in Philadelphia) to talk about partnering. Due to budge cuts they had to layoff all of their case managers. Fortunately we're in the community. We've been doing presentations every week and have already seen a few of the men from the shelter.

We also have a meeting next week with a rep. from another organization. They need volunteers to help do taxes for their people. We have volunteers trained on taxes, the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

And I'm working on a new iniative in our office (with our new intern) that is focused on FAFSA and college resource access. So much awesomness that I'm too excited to type it. Anyway we're setting up a meeting with Philadelphia YouthBuild to start working with thier families and students... sweetness!!!!

Yesterday we had our six hour volunteer training. It was the second time I've planned and faciliated one of those long boogers. Despite being an absolute pain in the butt to plan they are actually quite fun. We have a great leadership team and I'm looking forward to seeing them grow in these positions.

After the training I had a holiday party with my fellow Lush employees. It was SOOO much fun!! We went to this fancy restaurant in the city ($25 a person limit!!!) that I would never be able to afford to go to. I laughed all night it was a great ending.

Quick update for you ballers, I'll be back with reflections and musings at a later time!! Peace!!'

Also..the funniest part of my day included this:
PS35AGDewey (11:18:19 AM): how how it be? Are you teaching?
craniumkayak (11:42:27 AM): lol yeah - my laptop is being projected onto a large screen, and so i can't talk because my kids are watching and they can read now....
PS35AGDewey (11:42:38 AM): hey kids!!!!
craniumkayak (11:42:41 AM): we're about to watch a national geographic video
PS35AGDewey (11:42:54 AM): National Geographic is soooo cooolllll!!!
PS35AGDewey (11:42:57 AM): Bye Kids!!!
craniumkayak (11:43:08 AM): lol they say hey "asley" (they don't know their "sh" sound well yet)
PS35AGDewey (11:43:38 AM): You kids treat my friend Brittney well she's the best teacher you'll ever have!!!! Go Learning and Go Gators!!1
craniumkayak (11:44:14 AM): their doing the gator chomp at the screen right now - i have them conditioned
craniumkayak (11:44:19 AM): bye asley!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes we can

I am not an emotional person.
But watching the swearing in of Obama and then hearing his speech afterwards, that resembled more of a call to arms, I teared up.
We had a hard time with the internet feed so me and five of our volunteers headed down to the YouthBuild floor because we heard they had some big screens hooked up. Alas! So we sneaked in and sat on the floor sorrdounded by about 100 hard-working youth and staff. I read this in the paper today..."it would be the kind of experience that he inspired throughout the election to just stand there, with a bunch of people that don’t share your background, that you have nothing in common with, watching this thing happen." Youth Build is a program that allows youth who have dropped out of high school to obtain there high school diploma. All of the students also do community service, building homes for low-income families, and are considered AmeriCorp members. Here we were, college grads and college students who in many circumstances would have no other opportunity to interact or even feel like there was much we had in common with these students, sharing this experience. Sharing a hope.
That was that moment. I can't even find the words but I believed change was possible. It was refreshing and inspiring and I believed that changed was possible. I believe its possible because it begins with me and you and all of us. We have to take responsibility for the world we want to create, and for the world we hope to give to our children. We have to believe that great things are possible. In a world of loss and segregation and despair and poverty and all other ills, believing has more power than we allow ourselves to see.
But in the end, we have to get up and so something and say something , fight for something and not settle for anything less.
As I work to assemble our volunteers and prepare our office for the work we are going to do, I have a renewed hope that we can overcome this world and that we can change things. I believe it cause we are...

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. Barack Obama.

Desire by Ryan Adams
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqGqIWEAnq4&feature=related (crappy version of an awesome song)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

are you ready to serve?

It is sooooo cold.

So cold that my face hurts.

I am very excited because I have a saturday off from Lush. I love wandering around the city, even if it is cold. I look forward to getting down to the Target in South Philly and check out some rainboots/golashes. Indian buffets. Sleeping in (done and done) and just having MY time. It's so wonderful.

At the end of my work week yesterday I was flooded with some conflicting feelings. On one side I felt like a champion. I had gotten most of my to-do list scratched off and felt really succesful. But then we had a family of four come in, in desperate need of emergency housing. They were going to become homeless in the next couple of weeks. They had already done some research on their own so when our volunteer started working with them there wasn't much more we could offer them. They told us that they were constantly being told that they were too functional to recieve aid. Since no one in the family was on drugs or being abused it was difficult to find services. There had been many times, they said, when they discussed who would hit who first or who would take a hit of a substance just so they could be eligible for aid.It was heartbreaking to listen to this as their 10 and 3 year old children sat behind them.

So there I was feeling like I was on top of the world and at that same time feeling like I could do nothing to save it. Feeling like a hero and feeling so helpless. In times like these I do well by reminding myself of natural limitations in our ability to serve people, still it doesn't completely eliminate the care and concern you develop for people and your desire to make things right for them.

I am reminded that I love my job but I can't stay at this level of service forever. There is much more to be done and changed and it has to happen at a level far above what we have available now. Yet there is still a need in our society for acts of service that, however small they are, are instrumental in keeping peoples head above water. Listening, connecting, creating a sense of community, reaching out and doing what you can with you have. However big the problems of this world may be, we must know that the only limitations we face in solving them are the ones we create.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sgt. Gunn

What my day has looked like:

Woke up with a cold
Woke up to 0 degree weather
Had waffles with peanut butter on the, mmmm.
Got to work on time!
Checked and delted e-mails
Interviewed potential Summer Director candidate
Did intake for new client
Ordered office supplies and supplies for our leadership team training (yeah I love Staples)
Tweaked volunteer schedule and scheduled vols for the semester
Had my first cup of hot chocolate of the winter
Ate delicious leftovers
Planning for Leadership team training
Signed up for training on how to do taxes in prep. for tax season
Zoned out while listening to Keb'Mo (who else loves this mans music)
Finished up my self evaluation and evaluation for my co SC and sent them in
Searched high and low for our internship agreement that I need to return. Couldn't find it. E-maild to get a new one.
Finalized date for LD training
Realize it's only 2

While planning out our leadership team training, which is more cumbersome than I could've ever imagined, I suddenly had this feeling that I was assembling a small army. A small army that will join together to fight poverty in the North Philadelphia community. It was an exciting feeling and quite empowering. Bringing people to do something big, someting profound, something that will change the world , this is my job. Haha I am reminded of when I was in Gainesville last week (just last week, :(. ) sitting at the Swamp with my old FAB group and just chatting it up and we went off on this tangent about Captain Planet. Forces combine. The show was great, but don't you always feel bad about that little kid with the heart ring. I mean heart. Anyway tangent! I wake up every morning very excited to get to work and I've been trying to place that feeling so I need to wake up every morning and feel and know that the work I'm doing is making a difference and the lives are changed for the better because I showed up. It doesn't have to be this major thing either, just something you believe in. So I guess the heart part is important...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

sinus headache

That is all I can think of right now. The immense pressure building behind my forehead and the aches and pains. I think I may be coming down with a cold which is highly unfortunate because I have this huge to-do list which could care less about my health.

Today was a busy day with clients. It was pretty much back to back client meetingsvfrom 1 until about an hour ago. Although still successful. Our clients are so thankful and I'm not sure how to take it. I think it would be a much better world if we came to expect the best of others and believe that we are in an enviornment we are cared for. But I guess that is rare.

I also am still in the midst of working our our leadership team training and refining our volunteer schedule. I keep dreading it like the plague, I thought I enjoyed planning things. Yet today I found out I don't. I get more energized by those in the moment spontaneous things. Although I did find out some really good news that made me really happy.

Oh my, I think my head might explode. I'm going to head home...

Monday, January 12, 2009

live your life

I'm back and of course Philly welcomed me in with open arms.
I had the most magical weekend at CBC as usual. What I love about my experiences at camp is that you get to give 100% of yourself to these kids who are so thankful and so wonderful and so brave. The very first moment the girl I played with this weekend got out of the car she hid behind her aunt, by the end of the night she wouldn't let go of my arm and by the end of the weekend she was performing in the talent show with her two new friends. At the end of camp they gave us these tokens that say safe, loved, protected. I have to believe that is the environment that I created for her and this is what our service and our presence on earth should be about. Helping others to feel safe, loved and protected. I left on such a high but yet still very sad.
I would've never guessed that leaving Gainesville the second time around would be so hard. Today my boss came into the office which was nice because and mentioned that is hard being so far away from familiar faces. I teared up and that's when I had my aha moment about what I feel.
When I came back to Philly, it felt like another place but not home. But I believe you can build home, you can create that feeling and those relationships. But it's so hard to feel so close to people yet so far away. It's much harder than I imagined. Yet in the same way, I am so lucky to have so many people to love and so many moments to treasure and with the knowledge that there are more to come.
I've been back at work, working all day. I finally got back into my groove around one although still not quite there. I got home last night and realized that I needed serious grocery shopping done and serious washing of my clothes. And back to the real world...

Live your Life by TI

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

...we'll say hello again

Gainesville and my time at UF hold a special place in my heart. I've enjoyed my time here and even after a year I can still walk down the walkways and run into people I know. It won't be like that forever. And while I'm here I'm realizing that one day this will all be a memory very soon, the faces and the times I had. It won't ever be the same.
But the best part has been the opportunity to reconnect, face to face, with people that mean so much to me.
I love that my 07 FAB trip can still get together and laugh our asses off about the most ridiculous and irrelevant stuff. Also that the simple things like riding a friends bike through campus can be so exhilarating I am so very happy.

The Game is fast approaching and my fingers are crossed for a big win. Send all your good vibes to the Gators...

Monday, January 5, 2009

let it be

I am in Gainesville!!

So the holidays and the time off from work were incredible. I really enjoyed spending time with my family. Hi family!!!
I took the much needed break from work to reflect on the past semester and rest rest rest!! I flew into Florida on Saturday and have really enjoyed my time here. It feels like coming home. My intention is to do as little as possible. I merely want to be here, enjoying my time away from the city.
I can't express how much I love it here, it feels like I never left. So many wonderful memories and times and so many wonderful people here that I missed.
I have lunch today with an old advisor followed by a reunion dinner with some friends.

I miss my job though and am going to be using some of my time here to get some things done, now that I'm in a different state of mind.
Well hello and goodbye friends, enjoy your life family and friends. Be back soon.