October 26, 2009

Push Me....

I've been thinking a lot about art lately and writing a bit. Here's a poem that came to me today in the library after coffee with a friend. I've been struggling a lot lately with the state of the world. I want to change the world. I see myself as an agent of social change. There is so much wrong with it. But sometimes I feel so overwhelmed. It's hard to find hope. There is so much bad in the world that sometimes it's hard to think that the change and revolution so many long for will ever come. This poem stems from some of my feelings. I haven't written a lot of poetry and think this poem needs some more work. But here's a first taste of something I've written.

Push me
Make me see something new
Something different

Push me
Make me uncomfortable
So uncomfortable I squirm

Push me
Out of my comfort
Out of my indifference
Out of my complacency

Push me
To learn something new
To evolve
To change the world

October 12, 2009

Welcome to the Ella Baker House...

I had a desire for so long to live in community and the day finally came. Four of us, Andrew, Aidan, Lisa, and me set out on a journey to try this grand experiment called an "intentional community."

So far we have been spending our time getting to know each other. We didn't know each other before moving in, but found we shared similar values and a desire for community.

Our first big project was to choose a house name. This was not an easy decision, but we finally decided on the Ella Baker House. Ella Baker was a civil rights activist that worked with many of the big activists of her time such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and W.E.B. DuBois. Despite her well-known cohorts, her name is not often heard. This is because she was many behind the scenes doing organizing. We really admired the fact that she didn't seem to care about being well known, but instead focused on the cause. It inspires us to keep on working for whatever issues we feel on our hearts and to work for change in our community.

We've also worked on other various projects such as making a compost bin, figuring out how to split groceries, cooking with the massive amounts of produce I get from my job at the farmers market, and hosting a housewarming party.

We have many more goals to set and accomplish and I am excited to see where we go as we try to change the world.

September 30, 2009

Non-profit or not?

For quite some time, whenever people have asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I have said work for a non-profit. Part of this goal included the desire to start my own non-profit. I was full of ideas about what this non-profit could be doing to change the world.

But my view of non-profits is becoming jaded. I am currently working on forming a non-profit for my internship and am realizing how much paperwork and legal jargon is involved. You need to have boards, forms, and all kinds of stuff. I also just finished reading the book The Revolution Will Not Be Funded. This book takes a look at what they call the "non-profit industrial complex" and how radical change has been stifled because of non-profits.

I do believe that we are at a time that needs radical change. The rich are growing richer while the poor are growing poorer. The environment is groaning under our material-driven, polluted, consumer world. And we have stopped forming relationships with other people and instead form relationships with our tvs, ipods, and computers. Something needs to be done.

Many people believe that non-profits are what can bring about change. But our current non-profit system leaves us with organizations that are bogged down with paperwork, understaffed, always thinking about where to find more funding, focused on charity more than justice, and limited by what they can do so they don't lose their funding.

If I'm going to work for radical change, I'm going to have to give up working within the system. Think outside the box. It is outside the confines of what people have already tried is where change is going to happen.

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.

July 5, 2009

It's been an interesting week. I've met some new friends and have been hanging out with a lot of new people. I feel like this is the key to getting out of a funk I have been in. I have desperately needed to expand my social circle and I hope that these relationships can continue to grow.

My whole work situation has also changed and this is scary but also exciting. I kept saying that I wished I had a way to back out of my serving job so I could go work at church. On Friday, I sat down with my manager and he said that he didn't think serving was working out for me. Here is my opportunity. The scary part is that I was depending on the income that this job was going to provide. Now I'm free to work at church, but I have no income at all. I've been feeling very called lately to the church and I think it's God that has been doing the calling. I have been running from this for a long time, but I think it's time for me to slow down a bit and start listening.

Finally, I thought I had my roommates for next year all figured out and I was really excited. But tonight that fell apart and I'm not really sure where I'm at with that. What I do know is that I really appreciate on of my future roommates. She has pledged to stick with me and continue to work on this project. This makes me feel so much less alone in this endeavor and I am so excited to live with her, even if ends up being just us two.

June 28, 2009

Reconciling in Christ Sunday

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. These riots started the gay rights movement that continues even today as our GLBTQ friends fight to be accepted as they are.

Today my church, the United Church of Rogers Park celebrated 'Reconciling Sunday.' This event involved celebrating how our church is open and affirming of people who identify as GLBTQ and they announced that they will be replacing the big pink triangle that has hung on the outside of the church and is definitely beginning to show its age with a new installation. They will be having a design contest to get the GLBTQ community involved and the winner's design will be made into a new symbol to announce our church's open and affirmingness.

This triangle is something that made me come to this church originally. Though I do not identify as GLBTQ, I know that I could never attend a church where my friends were not also welcome as they are. I get frustrated with churches that are teaching messages of hate for the GLBTQ community when the church is supposed to be all about love. The Bible says "God is love" (1 John 4:8b) and if we are not loving our brothers and sisters, we are not loving God. I want to worship in a place that is filled with God and filled with love and so I must attend a place where all are accepted no matter what.

June 10, 2009

Today at church we had a peace rally against violence in Chicago. 36 school aged kids died this year because of violence in this city. 36! One is too many. To encourage the kids to have a safe summer, we handed out hotdogs on the front lawn, had games, had some community organizations with tables, and then held a rally and peace march around the neighborhood.

It was wonderful and it got me thinking. I love the feeling I get at events like this. We come together as a community and pray. There is laughter and there were tears. Events like this leave me feeling so good and I question why I don't feel this way more often. There are three big areas I see that are present at these events that I feel are not present in my everyday life.

First, there is community. This is a huge one. People come together and care about each other. We joke and laugh. I made friends with a little girl who's name was Fatima today. I'm pretty sure didn't speak much English, but she'd smile at me and come and talk to me all day. I had a man joke with me while waiting for his hotdog. He didn't speak a word of English and I very little Spanish...but we laughed and joked anyways. I love standing on the corner handing out food to anyone who walks by. Why don't we do this more often?

The second thing stems from the first. This community is diverse. I get so frustrated in my daily life. I hang out with a bunch of rich, white people. Today we had the whole spectrum of colors with people speaking multiple languages. There were rich and there were poor. But no one knew who was who. We were just one community.

Finally, there is spirituality. Faith does not have a huge place in my life and I miss that. It's something I'm trying to understand but feel really lost about. I used to be really into church and my faith, but I don't like that person I was then. I judged people and didn't care about justice. Those are huge things and I have ended up associating my faith with those things. I know that that's not right, but I do. I need to work on reclaiming my faith. I love how we come together to pray and sing and it's just normal feeling.

My goal is to work to incorporate these things in my life more. I know it won't be easy and it will be uncomfortable at times, but I think if I can bring these things into (or back into) my life, I will be a much happier person.

June 4, 2009

I am obsessed with worms.

Last fall, one of my friends mentioned that he had worms under his sink. My response was "What? Ewww....gross." Then someone else mentioned it and some of my other friends started talking about it. This began my obsession. I set up my first worm bin and have been composting ever since.

One of my goals in life is to spread this cool way to compost your garbage. So far I have set up two other people with worms from my bin, plus made a mini-teaching bin to be used at Uncommon Ground with school groups.

I hope this is something that can catch on more and more. Apparently there is a Dunkin' Donuts in Florida who has 800 pounds of worms in a bin in their parking lot. So now I think I need to move on from spreading to individuals to spreading this to businesses too. No more organic waste in our landfills!

June 3, 2009

I am currently reading "Last Child in the Woods; Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder," and I am finding it fascinating. Richard Louv talks about so many things that I often think about.

I grew up in the dirt. We had a huge backyard and my brother and I would spend the summers outdoors. We would build forts with the help of our dad, play trucks, my Barbies would go camping, we'd hike and explore, and so much more. I think that has greatly affected my love of nature and caused me to care greatly about our Earth. It's frightening to think that many kids don't have these experiences and thus don't have this love of nature or environmentalism. There is so much talk about the green movement right now, but if people don't have these passions hardwired into them as I do, will this fad fade in a few years? It can't or we will be in huge trouble.

This book has also made me think about how much time I spend indoors. I need to reach out and reconnect and cultivate my love of nature. This is not always easy living in the city. But if I don't, I feel as if a huge part of myself is missing.Link

June 1, 2009

I want community.

Right now I feel as if I live alone. For many, this would be an ideal situation. I get privacy and can do as I please as I am often the only one home. This has it's advantages, but it's also incredibly lonely. I am a social person and need other people around me.

This is why I am so excited to live in an intentional community next year. I have wanted this for years. I want someone to ask how my day was when I come home and I want to ask someone that too. I want people to share my same values and who want to take on projects with me. I want to eat dinner with a group of people.

August can't come soon enough.

May 31, 2009

Since I moved to Chicago last fall, I have been volunteering at a soup kitchen. At first I really enjoyed it. I felt like I was helping people, but now I've taken a much more cynical view.

I have come to realize that we have all kinds of volunteers who come and work and we
often have more than we can handle. This means that when volunteers come, there are many weeks that we need to work extra hard to find projects for them to do. Sometimes we will bag up candy or crackers to hand out to people, even though the people coming already have a ton of food that we give them. It's not so much that people are hungry but more so that we need to find work for our volunteers.

There have also been a few weeks where we are short staffed, but we still manage to get everything done and it doesn't really seem like that much more work. Sometimes it's even less stressful than the weeks we have a ton of volunteers.

I have also come to learn that there are two other groups serving food in the same neighborhood on Sunday. One does lunch and one serves at 3:00. We serve dinner at 5.

All of this makes me wonder how much these people really need this. Is all this work we do more for our benefit or for the benefit of the people who come to eat. Yes, I do think it's good that the rich, white people who come in from the suburbs come into contact with people who are different them, but I don't feel it's fair to those who come and eat. Are we objectifying them when the volunteers come in and have an "experience" with them. These volunteers rarely go out and talk with the people eating and a huge divide exists between most of the volunteers and the guests.

I am having an incredibly hard time reconciling these feelings and keeping my ability to continue working at the soup kitchen.

May 30, 2009

Why can't I get paid for doing what I love?

Right now I'm working on a few projects which keep me super busy and I enjoy them all (even if some of them are incredibly frustrating sometimes), yet for all this work I am only being compensated with satisfaction and learning. That's great until you think about the fact that we live in a capitalistic society where things like food and rent cost money. Something I'm not getting out of these projects.

One of my projects is working on setting up a Network of Intentional Communities in Chicago. This is something I've wanted to for a long time and earlier this spring I was presented with the opportunity to work on this. My friend John organized a get-together of people interested in community and it was attended by over 50 people. As a part of this people expressed an interest in continuing to get together. Bam. Opportunity presented. I love the idea of people connecting and building community. These people are already trying to do it within their homes and now this allows them to reach broader.

I am also in the process of setting up my own intentional community. We're searching for a space now and it's really exciting. I can't wait to live with people who share similar values as myself. Hopefully we'll have a house and so be able to work on projects such as gardening. I long to have some one to come home to and to care about how my day went and for me to care about theirs. I also forsee us working on various projects together and I'm super excited about this.

Finally, my biggest project is interning at Uncommon Ground on their rooftop farm. I am working on education and outreach around the farming and I love it! I am learning a ton about farming and hopefully teaching others too. I think we are soon going to experience a major crisis in our food system (though you could also argue we already are). People need to be educated about healthy food and alternatives to today's industrial farm system. That is exactly what we're doing at Uncommon Ground.

If only I could convince someone to pay me to do all of this so I could afford to eat.

May 28, 2009

How can I encourage this writing thing? Writing is something that takes practice, and I recognize that. Yet that practice takes so much effort and involves so many decisions. Do I write online, do I write in my journal, or a Word document? Is this something I'll come back to or something that I just need to get out? What do I write about? So often I am overwhelmed by these questions and feel such pressure to write that I end up doing nothing.

I have said that my goal for this summer is to get something I have written published. I often get really excited about this kind of stuff, but then don't get much further than being excited and soon lose interest. But I must remain motivated to reach this goal.

March 22, 2009

I feel like I need to do something.

I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head of various projects that I want to do that I don't know where to start. I want to make change in my community but I don't know how. How do I bring people together to enact change? to make our world a better place?

I've started writing down ideas for a non-profit I'm thinking about starting. It's something that I've thought about for so long that I've wanted to do, but I've never actually done anything until a few weeks ago when I stationed myself at the coffee shop around the corner and just began trying to get out any vision I could. Once I can get something going, I figure it can grow from there.

Sometimes I think that I'm so scared of failing that I'm scared to start. To take that first step and have an event. Have something that my organization is doing.

But I need to be brave. I just need to do it. If I fail, I'll pick myself up and just attempt something else.