August 31, 2009

Aligning my life with my values...

I am working at aligning my life more and more with my values.

My current goal is to figure out how to live more simply. Aidan, one of my roommates, and I have been having some conversations about this and I hope they can continue. I really want to live as simple life as possible. The other day I went through my closets and got rid of a ton of clothes that I didn't wear anymore. I had been holding on to some "just in case" or some I had been wearing, but only so I could justify keeping them, even though I didn't really like them. It felt good to get rid of it all and my drawers finally shut in my dresser. I hope I can continue this. If I do buy clothes, my new rule is that I need to get rid of some. I have also been trying to eat more simply. This means that I have been trying really hard to eat out less. I haven't been great at this, but I think I am improving. I am also trying to eat more simple food. This means rather than buying fancy fake meats or more processed food, I am striving to eat more beans and vegetables. At the moment, I have been looking at The Simple Living Network and I am finding it quite interesting.

Another place I am trying to align my life with my values involves my computer usage, specifically Facebook. I am addicted to Facebook and spend countless hours on it each day and even more just on my computer. I rail about how I hate television for so many reasons and I feel like the computer has many of the same things that I hate about television. I am not very good at this goal, but am attempting to make baby steps.

Another exciting change is that I have decided to switch my banking to Shorebank. So many large, corporate banks don't invest their (read "my") money in the local community, but instead use it to fund environment destroying projects or wars or many other terrible things. Shorebank, who's motto is "Let's change the world", focuses on local investment and the environment. In The Better World Handbook, Shorebank gets a rating of A+ in social responsibility. My current bank gets an F. I think it's time for a change. As a part of this, I also want to strive to keep better track of my financial records and keep a budget. We'll see how that goes.

All of this is part of my strive to "become responsible engaged in the world". It is true. I have become a 'happy Cobber' and Concordia haunts me still. I know a lot of people made fun of BREWing when I was there, but I really do love it. I want to think about how I can B.R.E.W. and make the world a better place.

August 24, 2009

A Tour of my Garden

This past year I have begun learning how to grow my own food. I started in containers in my apartment because we had no outdoor space. In August I moved to a new place and was able to move my plants outside. Here is what I have so far and hopefully next year I'll be able to expand into something awesome.

Planter boxes growing herbs. The outside 2 are basil and the middle is cilantro. The right picture is basil too. After this year I now understand how to prune basil so as to encourage it to bush out. It's starting to bush though it's kind of funky because it took some experimenting. The cilantro doesn't look the healthiest. I think it's ready to be done. I have harvested it multiple times and it looked good, but now it's getting light colored and kind of purple. I'm not really sure what that means. Maybe I need to do some research.

I just planted some beans. Apparently there is "one seed Chicago" and this year's seed is the bean. I got a free packet at an event I went to and decided I would plant them. I previously had carrots in this container and decided that hopefully the beans would help regenerate the soil because carrots take out a lot of nutrients.

These are my tomato plants. I got them from Slow Food Chicago when they were small. I kept them indoors and they didn't seem to want to flower. They grew really big and bushy but wouldn't flower. Since moving I brought them outside and they are finally flowering! Soon I will have cherry tomatoes.

I did a bit of guerilla gardening in our front yard. This area was full of weeds so I cleared a small area and planted mustard that the kids at church had left behind (we did a planting activity one day). I had to replant it so we'll see if it takes. If so, we'll have tons of tasty greens.

These are not from my garden, but still a fun garden related project. I got a ton of pickling cucumbers from the farmers market on Friday. I cut them up and made pickles! This is my first attempt at anything like it, but I think they tasted ok. I'm not sure if I could keep these jars out of the fridge or not, so I think I'll refrigerate them just to be safe. Hopefully next year, I can do this with stuff from my garden.

Finally, a picture of future plans. This is where we're hoping to plant a garden next year. The soil is in rough shape so we'll have to do a raised bed. It's also pretty shady so for sure I want to cut down those trees. I'm considering trying to put the bed in this year and attempting to build a cold frame for it. Greens into the winter would be a fun experiment. We'll see.

Sing a Song

Music. It's something that is a part of daily life. So many people walk around with white buds in their ears supplied by a constant drone of music from their ipod. With the advent of inventions like the ipod, music has become an individual activity, but it was not originally so. Music has had many uses throughout the centuries. It has been used to bring people together, to calm, to excite, to worship, and to protest.

It is this idea of protesting with music and using music to bring about social change that I am very interested in. Throughout the civil rights movement, music played a huge role. Many of the songs of the movement were written and taught at the Highlander Folk school. Today I was reading a book that was talking about the civil rights movement and it said that meetings would often be preceded by more than 2 hours of singing. It was singing that brought people into the movement and helped teach them what the movement was about.

I really want to reclaim music in this manner. On Saturday night I hosted a sing along at our house. I feel like many of the songs from earlier decades are being lost and we need to recoup them. It was wonderful to sit around and sing and I even learned a new song from my friend Cat that was quite powerful. I hope to continue these get-togethers to that we can continue to learn and sing and grow the movement.

August 22, 2009

I am taking my pursuits to living a radical way of life to new heights. I suppose none of it's too radical, but I feel like some of my moves are definitely outside the mainstream of what is typical for people my age.

Aidan moved in yesterday and our community is now up to 3. Andrew, our 4th, will be coming in a little over a week. I am excited to be living with roommates who are hopefully interested in seeing what we can do to make change in our world. Hopefully they will join me in my pursuits.

Gardening is off to a good start. A couple of days ago I planted all the mustard that the kids at church had left behind (we did a planting activity and only half of the kids took their plants home). I also planted some beans. My tomato plants, which I was really worried about, are finally growing some buds. Hopefully soon I will have cherry tomatoes! I also think when I go home in 2 weeks, I'm going to bring back some wood and build a raised bed in the backyard. I'm not sure if I'll get much, but I was thinking of building some cold frames and seeing what we could grow into November.

I have also been working on the composting project. I wanted to make a compost bin out of flats, but discovered that they don't fit in my car. So, I am on to option number 2. I think I might just get some wire mesh when I go home and make one that way. Maybe the future will include something fancier, but at the moment, I just really want to get started.

My project for Monday includes some pickling. I haven't decided if I am going to can these pickles or just keep them in the fridge. Jenny, the farmer who comes to the market I work at, gave me a ton of pickling cucumbers and a ton of peppers. So, I figured now is as good as time as any to learn to pickle.

I am feeling really good about these steps I am taking to living the alternative. I think there are so many problems in today's world and we need to do something to change things for the better. These are the small steps I am taking in my everyday life that I hope to share with others and slowly bring about the revolution that I know is coming.

August 8, 2009

It has been over a month since my last post and a crazy month it has been. I mentioned some of this is my last post, but so much more has happened.

About 6 weeks ago, Wes, the deacon at my church called and asked if I wanted to come and work in the garden on Saturday. I had nothing going on and so decided to join him and some others. While we were working, a small boy wandered up. He had the look of a kid who wanted to do something so I invited him to join me. Through conversation I found out he was 5. His mother was a couple blocks away and not watching him at all. He had a key so that he could go home when he wanted. Through conversation with Wes afterwards I learned that this was common in our neighborhood. I had heard and read about the term "latch key kids" but here it was a reality. Parents were often busy and couldn't afford afterschool and summer programs to keep the kids entertained. So instead the kids were just left to hang out at home or run around the neighborhood and take care of themselves. Wes began telling me about the afterschool program and the summer camp the church was running and I immediately felt called. I needed to do this. I didn't think I could afford it and I had just started another job, but I didn't care. I needed to be doing this. Circumstances ended up that I was able to back out of my job and I decided to live on loans for the summer and I was able to begin working with the summer camp.

We have gone 5 weeks and have 1 left and I have loved it. At times it has been incredibly stressful. Wes and I are the only ones who have been there everyday and then the rest of the time the camp has been staffed by volunteers. Some come on a semi-regular basis, but others only come for the day and then are gone. This presents many, many challenges. We have 60 kids that have tons of energy and most were born in places outside the United States; Mexico, Nigeria, Tanzania, Jamaica, etc.

Though there have been many challenges I have loved what I have been doing and realized that this is what I am called to. We have been working and figured out a way to set up a Federal Work Study position to pay me to work in the afterschool program. I felt really committed and realized there was a lot more work than could be covered by this work study position, so I decided I wanted to switch my internship site to the church.

Things have just continued to snowball. Now, if all works out as planned, I will get to work with the kids camp, the afterschool program, and mission groups that will come and work at our church. And the most exciting part is that all of this will hopefully be leading into a full time job.

I have never felt so called to something in my entire life. I have had an on-again off-again relationship with the church and I think part of that may be that I was running from the fact that I was called to work in something faith-based. This position, if it becomes a reality, covers so many positions that I have dream of as my "dream jobs" and there is a huge need. Everything seems to be falling into place which makes me believe that there is a higher power than just us involved in this whole process.