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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.