Friday, December 30, 2011

Faithful friends (and family!) who are dear to us. . .

I'm home!! I couldn't be more excited!  I get to see my cherished family and bestest friends, and have a good ol' time! 

Christmas eve/Christmas festivities were sure different with only Krystal and I in the house, but we had some great times: Christmas Eve church service, dinner with co-workers and then mass at the Cathedral, Christmas breakfast, work, and then over to Chris and Dan Delany's (the founders of L&F) for Christmas dinner. Christmas wasn't too crazy at the park. Only 600 people were there and a few extra volunteers stood in so the staff could take a day off.

Some great news from the park: Kenny, Richard, and Country found housing, and Jesse won his SSI case and gets back pay! (Yay!) 

Some bad news from the park: I lost my temper two days in a row.  Not proud moments for me.  Fortunately, one of the guests I blew up with accepted my apology and our relationship is just like it always was. 
Also in bad news, Safeground (the want-to-be tent city) got ransacked by the police.  Over 150 people were displaced, but they kept their tents and belongings.  20 hotel vouchers were made available, although most can't qualify for them.  The city also says it has an additional 60 beds in a shelter available, but that isn't enough.  For the full report from Sacrament newspaper click here.  I know the mess that I left in, and I pray for the people and our staff that will have to deal with it.  (The backlash from this will still be there when I return.)

But I'm so grateful I get to be home! I get to share in Christmas, birthday parties, New Year's Eve parties, sleepovers and hang out time with family and friends!  Yesterday, three of my nieces (the other were sick), two of my sisters (the other one stayed home with her girls), and my mom and dad surprised me at the airport!  We had impromptu family dinner, and today, we're off to celebrate family Christmas!  The rest of the week is booked solid, but I'm still trying to squeeze in as much time with my dear ones as I can.

Talk to you in the new year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Soon It Will Be Christmas Day!

Because the JVC life is such a busy one, I have decided to tell you about my home life in the first part of this post, then reviewing work, and recapping in the last part.  Good luck following!

Part 1: When I last wrote, Tessa already left and Kathleen did too.  The weekend uneventfully passed. 
On Monday morning, Anne left.  Our casa was down to four and we felt more like friends, not family.  Alice had prepared a great spirituality night where we focused on the winter solstice.  It was great to have candlelight and quiet time!
Tuesday night was our community night.  With only 4 in the community, we chose to do something that you wouldn't be able to do with 7 people: eat out!  We went to a pub, ordered some English fare, and then drove around the Sacramento area looking at Christmas lights.  One block had lights hanging in the trees that zig-zagged over the street, and EVERY house had Christmas lights on! It was beautiful!
Wednesday, Alice and Laura left. (*sad sigh.)  Krystal and I were the only ones left. . . Maryhouse (the women's program at Loaves and Fishes) was having a fundraiser at an Irish pub nearby.  My support person Madonna took the remaining MV (Bridget) and I to it, where we ate and drank for free!  (A volunteer we work with owns the pub.) 
Thursday flew by, and I went to bed early. . . not much happens when there's only two of you. . .
Work got out early Friday, so Krystal and I crafted the night away! While doing crafts and playing Christmas movies in the background, Krystal and I bracketed the best animated male.  Our three categories: princes, creatures, and other humans.  After two hours of debate, Dimitri from Anastasia beat out Prince Eric to win.  (The creature who was highest in his division was Woody from Toy Story. Without a moment of hesitation, we both agreed Woody was far better than Buzz.  Our friendship is eternal.)
Plans for Saturday are still up in the air.  All I know is that they will consist of crafting, gift wrapping, grocery shopping, church service and perhaps some more Christmas lights.
Sunday (CHRISTMAS!!!!) is well planned out! We will wake up about 6am, eat and Krystal will open her gifts, skype with family, and then off to work by 8am.  We will finish at work about 2pm, and most likely napping will follow.  Then we are going over to Chris and Dan Delany's (the founder of Loaves & Fishes) for Christmas dinner with their family.  We have work the next morning, so we won't be out long.

Part 2: I can't stress how hectic work is!  The Americorps volunteers had left, our Jesuit high school lunch helper left, several of the regular volunteers and a few staff members left for the week, Anne is gone, and Molly left Friday morning.  Not only are we short staffed with the holidays, but we have had groups coming in almost everyday to distribute a bonus bag with breakfast.  The park is reaching about 800 people a day, which is only about 50 people lower than this time previous months.  Donations have also been streaming in at the warehouse. Christmas hams, toiletries, stockings, underwear, toys, gloves, and blankets are abundant! It is so thrilling you can almost forget how busy you are. . . almost!
A few work highlights-
1. It is freezing temperature at night, so men's shelter opened their doors to create a warming center. It was opened for the past three days, but something is better than nothing. 
2. I got Chad to have a conversation with me!  I usually watch the sugar table in the morning, and Chad hangs out there.  He is very quiet, and I've only had limited interaction with him.  On Tuesday, we had a full conversation about the weather, where we are from originally, family, and other various subjects.  My next project is to see him (or even make him) smile!
3. Gabe is leaving for a job on Christmas!  A guy came to us a few months ago, newly homeless.  With a few months of hard work and perseverance on his part, he got a better job with the competitor of his former employer!  Take that poor economy!

Part 3: In conclusion, this week has been fun, lonely, busy, and amazing!  I can't wait to be home and see my family!!  Speaking of seeing my family. . . . BETH AND TOM ARE MOVING OUT HERE!!!  Tom got a position training with Olympic hopefuls an hour away and he will be out here in a few short weeks! Beth will join him in June/July, and then I'll get to see them whenever I want!  (No planes necessary!)

That is a happy Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. . .

"There'll be parties, for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and carolling out in the snow. . ."
-1 out of three ain't bad!! (There was no marshmallow toasting or snow to speak of!)

Like almost all weeks, this week has been a mixture of highs and lows.  So much has happened this week, that I can't hardly remember it all!  So here is a summary by day:

Last Saturday was our Casa Iggy Christmas party.  One word to describe it- Legen. . . wait for it. . . dary! (Legendary!!)  We had over 70 people in total, 40 of whom were JVs! 

Sunday was equally great- a nice breakfast spread for all the JVs that slept over, and when they left, a Titanic viewing!  (I'll never let go, Jack!)

Monday was work, then spirituality night where we discussed the poem, "Give a Little Jesus."

Tuesday was a crazy day at work with many pitfalls.  Later that day was our free night, so we all just vegged out!

Wednesday was Laura's birthday!!  We gave her gifts, had friends over and played Euchre, a card game the casa learned over Thanksgiving. (We play it all the time now!)

Thursday was chaotic at work!  Maryhouse, the women's program at Loaves & Fishes, had their Christmas brunch.  Over 200 women showed up to sing karaoke and eat a wonderful and hot breakfast!  Right after that, Women's Empowerment, a non-profit across the street where Alice and Laura work, had their graduation ceremony.  After a 6 week course, where women learn job skills and build self-esteem, they have a graduation ceremony to celebrate their achievement.  It is a very busy day for W.E., and everybody involved.  At the same time, Jesuit High School in Sacramento called Tim and I to pick up their coats and things from a month long drive.  This is the second time this month Tim and I have been called out, with the high school boys donating almost 200 sweaters and coats each time!  One boy was even so generous, that he donated his used jock strap!

Later that night, we celebrated Christmas at the Casa, because it was the last night we would all be together.  We did Secret Santa, and we got showered with presents!  I had Alice, and I made her a photo album and filled it with photos of the year so far.  Tessa had me and made me a BEAUTIFUL gray circle scarf, green coasters, and red jewelry wire!  Our Christmas was great!

Friday, when I should have posted, was Friendship Park's Christmas.  Anne led carols and the workers had a pizza party!  We played White Elephant, where I made out like a bandit!  I won straws, cat odor eaters, and a Chicago puzzle!  Santa even left a specific gift for me- a brand new jock strap!  I will cherish it forever!

After that, Krystal and I drove to see my brother-in-law, Tom!  He is checking out some training facility an hour and half away, so we got together and had a wonderful dinner!  It was so nice seeing him, and it reminded me that I will see the rest of my family in less than 2 weeks!!

Today, Saturday, we are just lounging around the house. Tessa left for the holidays Friday night, and Kathleen left this morning.  :(   Anne, Laura, and Alice leave us on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, respectively.  Our house will not be all together until I come back in January!  It is amazing how much of a family we are! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Oh Come All Ye Jesuit Volunteers. . .

Well, a correction is in order. . . Today (Saturday) is our Casa Iggy/ JV party, not yesterday.  Yesterday was a Loaves & Fishes Christmas party, followed by the Newman Catholic Center (on Sacramento State University) Christmas party. I was still unable to write a blog post due to primping.

This week's main feature has been prepping for our Christmas party!  While 5 of us in the casa were gone at the 49ers game all Sunday, Anne and Laura stayed back to decorate.  When I eventually arrived home after a 5 hour gridlock, I turned on the lights in our house and CHRISTMAS EXPLODED! They have both described the day as "the scene in Elf." 

Casa Iggy sans 2 (Tessa, Krystal, Alice, Kathleen and me) tailgaiting at 49ers game with numerous Sacramento friends

The rest of the week had the normal features (community night, spirituality night, meals together) with a Christmas spin!  We went down to the Capitol building and saw the tree lighting ceremony, and the mayor and governor were there!  We played cards, went shopping, cooked, and cleaned almost all week. 

Tonight is going to be awesome! Almost half (about 40) of the JVs in the Southwest region are coming!

But with all this hustle and bustle, I have to still mention my job! Have I mentioned how much I love it?  This week has made me truly realize how blessed I am (being in Sacramento, living with wonderful casa-mates, working at the park, being a part of Loaves & Fishes, being a JV!)  My true highlight of the week was hysterical! My story telling is better in person, but I will try writing this . . .

When you work in the park, you tend to get a ton of compliments, creepy as they may be. I met Al near the office and he needed shoes.  He immediately asked me, "Has anyone told you how pretty you are today?" He kept telling me how "pretty" I was.  Like I said, that's quite normal in the park, so I shrugged it off. When I took Al into the office, he saw Molly, another green hat worker in the park.  Without blinking he exclaimed, "Molly! You're f***ing beautiful!" Being a little incensed, I said, "She's f***ing beautiful, but I'm just pretty? Thanks, Al!"  It was a great moment!

I'm taking my "pretty" self and doing more prep work for the party tonight.  A great time will be had by all!

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas. . . Not!

From the blog post title, you, clever readers, can ascertain that in fact, it doesn't look like Christmas around here.  Loaves & Fishes and Casa Iggy have pulled out their decorations, but have not decorated with them, yet.  (I am in charge of decorating the park on Monday and we will decorate our house tomorrow.)  I doubt even after we decorate that it will look like Christmas.  Sacramento hasn't had snow in 11 years.  It was about 60 degrees today, and I worked in jeans and a long sleeve shirt.  (Be jealous!) 

A few things of note-worthiness happened here:
1. After a fun Thanksgiving weekend, it was time to go back to work.  Monday was difficult for everyone!
2. It was my turn to host our community night on Tuesday.  Since Krystal was missing and our community was not complete, I focused on something light-hearted: jewelry making! All the girls learned to make earrings and kept their treasures! Fun was had by all!
3. Krystal (and her parents) came back to Casa Iggy on Wednesday. . . with a car!! (It almost seems odd having one after going without for 4 months!)  We cannot wait to take a casa vacation!
4. Thursday was the first of the month, so the park was pretty empty (only about 600) compared with the day before, when we had 840 guests. The Winter Overflow shelter also opened, so at least 90 people have shelter this winter!
5. Today, the park held a memorial service for Steven, the man who passed away over 2 weeks ago.  It was my first memorial service I attended in the park, and the love, kindness, and true sincerity of the guests overwhelmed me.  It was very moving.

I'm looking forward to dinner tonight made by Krystal's parents, and then karaoke tonight!  Saturday is decorating day, and Sunday, we are going to the 49ers football game in San Francisco!  A fun weekend indeed!

P.S.- Next Friday is the Casa Iggy Christmas Party, so I will not be posting until Saturday.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart!

One of my favorite Veggie Tales is the story of Madame Blueberry, the blueberry who always wanted more stuff.  All of the songs are terrific (as most Veggie Tales songs are), but my favorite one is this, "The Thankfulness Song:"

I thank God for this day
For the sun in the sky
For my mom and my dad
For my piece of apple pie

For our house on the ground
For His love that's all around
That's why I say "Thanks" everyday

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart
I'm glad for what I have
That's an easy way to start

For the love that He shares
'Cause He listens to my prayers
That's why I say "Thanks" everyday!

That song pretty much sums up my life everyday, except I don't like apple pie!

You have probably guessed what else I'm thankful for: work, Casa Iggy, JVC, health, all my wonderful family, all my new Sacramento friends, all my friends I miss back home, all the people who let me into their lives everyday, etc.  This week has only reinforced those!  I miss home very much, but am so thankful that I got to be apart of Thanksgiving here!

The only day out of the year that Loaves & Fishes does not serve lunch is Thanksgiving.  So many other places serve a Thanksgiving day meal that it is utterly pointless to serve one here.  Instead, Loaves & Fishes has Thanksgiving on the Tuesday before.  There were almost 1200 guests that day!
After the Thanksgiving feast (the kitchen staff started cooking turkeys the day before, 50 extra volunteers came in, and an extra kitchen trailer was brought in just for more oven and stove space) EACH AND EVERY GUEST GOT A NEW PAIR OF SOCKS, GLOVES AND A HAT!  What a great day!

Other bonuses that happened:
- 105 pairs of new shoes were donated on Monday!
- There was so much food left over from Tuesday, that we also had it on Wednesday too!
- Casa Iggy had a great Thanksgiving where we all made dishes from home, so I made. . . PRETZEL JELLO! Although my casa-mates were skeptical, everyone liked it! (Duh. It's pretzel jello!)

Casa Iggy and friends are planning a hike/nature walk in a nearby Redwoods forest today, shopping and karaoke tomorrow, and the Bears and Raiders game on Sunday! 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

'Cause you had a bad day. . .

This week started out great!  Saturday, I went to San Francisco on a whim with Tessa and Laura (unfortunately, Alice and her sister were supposed to go too, but Alice got sick) and had a pretty good time doing nothing much! (On the way home I even got a chocolate milkshake from In and Out, which is a pretty big deal if you know my history with milkshakes.)  Sunday was spent just lounging around, watching one of the greatest shows of all time- Family Ties.  (Alex P. Keaton will forever remain one of my first loves.)  And that was where the fun stopped.

Everything on Monday seemed to be normal.  I didn't have any gloves to give out, but I had shoes and beanies.  One of my casa-mates who works at the park, Anne, felt sick and went home.  I had to work the lunch ticket line for a bit while other people were busy doing their numerous tasks.  A woman came up to the line and asked when the last time was when her brother was here.  A note on the screen said he passed away in his sleep on Friday night.  Fortunately another co-worker (Mark) was there and handled the situation.  I was dumbstruck.  I dove into the office and checked the lists Tim and I keep for hats, gloves, and sleeping bags.  Yup- I gave him gloves a week ago.  I knew him. I met him.  I took down his name.  And now, he's gone.  He was the first guest I know who has died.  And I can't remember his face.

Sure I said comforting things to myself.  "You see hundreds of guests a day."  "At least he had gloves."  "I bet I was nice to him."  I even conjured up a facial image that might be him.  But I'm not sure. 

So Monday was depressing at work.  Later that night I had an awful yoga experience but came home to a great community night with our support people, Madonna and Larry. 

That night, I got sick with "the disease," a flu that is spreading around our house.  I took Tuesday off and felt good enough to work on Wednesday.

Wednesday came and went without anything much happening.  I stayed out of view for the most part, ate lightly, and did not over exert myself, but Anne was still not feeling better and another one of my casa-mates, Tessa, came down with "the disease."

I went to work again Thursday, but was not feeling as good as I wanted to.  A large shipment of gloves came in though.  Having gloves is a mixed blessing.  They keep the men happy and warm who get them, but there are only about 20 pairs to give out in a day.  I have to keep track of the men I give gloves out to.  If they already got a gloves, I have to turn them down.  The gloves got stolen?  Sorry.  You lost them?  Sorry.  You gave them to your girl? Sorry, she could have gotton them at Maryhouse.  I'm checking state issued identification for frickin' gloves! 

Fortunately, there are several other places that hand out hats and gloves, but I hate turning guys down.

Later that day, a man asked for shoes.  His shoes appeared in good condition.  I can only exchange shoes when they are ripped, haves holes in the soles, or are hardly shoes at all.  I told him no.  He told me in a polite but demeaning way, "I'm not going to beg for shoes.  These have holes in them, but don't worry Baby Girl, I'm not going to beg for shoes."  I immediately apologized and asked where the holes are.  He repeated his statements, and asked me to go away.

I'm used to this kind of talk.  I'm used to saying no and being called awful names, much worse than that.  But this hit me hard today.  I found a quiet spot on a park bench and debated with myself.  I apologized more in my head.  I felt immense hurt at the way he said "Baby Girl" as if I was something of a pristine child that doesn't understand and doesn't care.  Maybe I don't fully understand, but I know I care. 

I felt nauseous once again and raced to the office.  I find my bosses talking alone in the office and ask to go home.  They ask simple questions, but I only want to go home.  Without hesitation, they say okay and Jim drives me home.

I amble slowly because my body is racked with guilt and pain. I find my way to the bed, and cry.

This is the first real cry I've had in years.  (Sure, tears have leaked out occasionally and I've swallowed a lump in my throat more times than I'd like to admit, but I don't genuinely release my tears often.)  I can't get over how I've contributed to a man's lack of dignity.  I cry over him, and his words.  I cry for the man who died that I can't remember, but knew.  I cry because of the pain I feel is nothing compared to the pain that almost all of our guests live through on a daily basis. 

My short-lived tears turned into a few hours nap.  I called Beth, told her as little as possible, but wanted to hear a friendly voice.  My mom beeps in and I talk to her.  She cheers me up with a little story and reminds me how much I'm loved. 

Today was much more bearable, though I avoid the man who refused shoes.  I take it light, don't eat much, pass out gloves, hear what a good job I'm doing, and try to help a man pay his electric bill.

Tonight, I'm going to a christian music concert (Winter Jam) with a few people from the Newman center on Sacramento State campus.  I haven't been to a christian concert in months, and am excited at the possibility of feeling normal again.

This week has been rough, and another one of my casa-mates, Laura, got "the disease" today.  Though I'm feeling less achy and am trying to keep my spirits up with juvenile novels, Family Ties, and inspirational books, I can't deny this week was seriously sucky.  I hate crying, but I will admit, I feel better.  I know that next week will be better (it is Thanksgiving after all!!) and that God is giving me the strength and courage to continue.  I just wish I didn't have to lean on Him so hard.

Friday, November 11, 2011

1, 2, 3, 4, tell me that you love me more. . .

I have had this song stuck in my head all week!  And it's no wonder- this week has definitely been loving!  The last two weeks were "blah."   I was feeling a mixture of homesickness, regular sickness (mainly a runny nose), and overwhelmed at work because we didn't have much cold weather gear.  But this week was SO much better!

Why? Here's 4 reasons:

1. Truthfully, I'm really not homesick this week.  I miss my family dearly, but with all the excitement Casa Iggy has been having and planning, I feel at home here too!

2. I have a great Sacramento family: co-workers, bosses, friends, and random people who are willing to help! Two examples: There were four of us who wanted to go to a documentary play about refugees, but tickets were $10. A random woman paid for us to go and my co-worker gave us her car to use for the weekend! In addition, my boss, Garren, took all of us at the park (about 30) out to dinner tonight! He's also taking the JVs to see the new Twilight movie after we have a Twilight saga movie marathon at his house.

3. Casa Iggy has been really together this week! We normally are on our game, but this week was especially awesome!  We had great community meals, a good spirituality night and a fantastic community night about the Occupy movement.  In addition, we got a wonderful (and giant!!) food box from the warehouse, so we've had really good food!

4. It's really difficult to turn guys away who are in desperate need of shoes or gloves because you don't have any.  We ran out of gloves early in the week, but we got a large donation of shoes and boots (most NEW!) on Monday.  There have only been three guys all week I couldn't help, but I'm going to keep trying.  Thank you to all those who have donated shoes! Hopefully I'll get them next week and I'll be able to help those guys (and many more!) out!

Here's a final story- Last blog post I told you about Sam, the guy who has been asking for shoes for the past three weeks.  Well, WE GOT HIM SHOES!  With the plethora of new shoes that came in, he got ones to fit.  However, Beth sent a special pair just for him, but it got here a few days too late.  Instead, the shoes went to a guy who just got out of jail.  He had on jail shoes, which are just canvas and thin soles. (Basically, the cheapest and worst things ever.) The shoes were even the same brand that he had before he went!  He was incredibly happy, and remarked about "feeling human again."

Yup, great week!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

We did the Mash. . . We did the Monster Mash!

First off, happy belated Halloween! Being the popular kids we are, we got 4 invitations to Halloween parties and chose to go to the WONDERFUL party thrown by our support person Larry, a.k.a. Ke$ha.  (He looked amazing!)  We dressed up as the 7 continents!
(From left to right) Tessa is Australia (crocodile hunter), Anne is Antarctica (glacier), Alice is North America (prospector), I'm Asia (ninja), Laura is South America (the Amazon), Kathleen is Africa (Somalian pirate), and Krystal is Europe (Guinness).

 Halloween at the park was something to see!  The green hats dressed in costume, while a lot of the guests asked for candy!  The kids from Mustard Seed School and the day care kids from Women's Empowerment trick or treated at all the different programs! (It was great seeing the children having a childhood experience!) After candy was passed out to the kids, we handed out candy to the guests. Everyone was in such a great mood, even though it was the end of the month and incredibly crowded!

The rest of the week was a complete 180! Hardly anyone was there (about 500 people per day).  The worst part was I felt I had nothing to give.  No shoes came in over the past week, and even though winter is starting here, we couldn't pass out gear: beanies, gloves, and ponchos.  Cash donations have not dropped in this economy (which is awesome!!), but in-kind donations have, and we can really feel it.  All of our hats, gloves, ponchos, shoes, sleeping bags, blankets, backpacks and jackets are donation based, and we don't have enough to go around.  You know they have blisters on their feet; ripped up shoes; freezing; unable to manage without what they are asking for, and you have to say, "No."  By far, that has been the hardest part of this job.

On a pleasant note, I shared this tale of woe with my sister Beth: There has been a man, Sam, who has on really thin shoes and has been asking for shoes everyday for three weeks.  Unfortunately, I've had nothing to give him.  But still he comes everyday to check.  When Beth heard this, she immediately jumped into action!  She is sending out a box of MEN'S SHOES!!  Yay Bethie, and whoever else donates! 

Also, my program coordinator for the JVC, Amber was here!  She spent the week with us and yesterday we had an all day community retreat to bring us back to the four tenets of the JVC.  It was such a blessing to examine our lives and re-dedicate them towards our common commitment!

Friday, October 28, 2011

We are family. . . I've got all my sisters and me!

This week has had a little unpleasantness, mostly due to the fact that I just want to be home.  A little homesickness crept in early in the week, and I needed to hug my family.  Most of my roommates have also had a bad week and a general yucky feeling settled on the house. One of my co-workers (Mark) noticed I was having a rough week.  He reminded me that I now have two families- the one I came from, and Friendship Park!  I'm not a touchy person, but I immediately hugged him!

Speaking of family, my roommates and I always joke about being sisterwives!  It's odd how true it is.  We hang out together all the time and share everything including money- that's what being in a community means! Depending on one another. 

To deal with my recent yuckiness, one of my roommates (Laura) and I went out on Wednesday to a fantastic Chicago style pizza restaurant, called "The Chicago Fire."  (Bad name, I know.)  We had a great time, just talking and eating stuffed pizza just like Nancy's.  On Thursday, I then went out thrift store shopping for Halloween costumes with roommate Krystal and found the most comfortable nightgown- a long sleeve, cotton, floor length night shirt.  It was only $2 and it makes me incredibly happy!  I've learned to appreciate the little things- and the great things like my roommates and family of co-workers!

I'm off to celebrate Friday with my new found family! (But I still miss my family back in Chicago!)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

We're all in this together. . .

It's Friday here and this week has been pretty good!  The usual happened here: got cussed out and guests cheered me up, worked sugar almost every day, did random jobs like cleaned the dishes for 700 people in the dining room . . .

What I really want to talk about is my spirituality and community nights.  Theses two events happen weekly and really help to bond us.  We have a rotation for spirituality nights and do a random activity on community nights.

For spirituality nights we have talked about our concept of God, prayer, spirituality in general, prayed the rosary as a community, etc.  This week we watched a documentary titled "They Killed Sister Dorothy."  A nun in South America fought for environmentalism and integrated her spirituality in it.  We discussed what we thought about the movie, what we integrated our spirituality with, the political and spiritual ramifications of environmentalism, and so forth.

Our house is beyond awesome, but a little sterile compared to the other JV houses we have seen, so for community night we wrote down our favorite quotes and put them around the house.   It was a great de-stresser and I found out that my casa-mate Laura loves Elf just as much as I do!!  (We have quotes from political figures, popes, the Bible, movies, song lyrics, poems, and others.  On previous community nights we have talked about a typical day of work for us, played games, gone to events, and stuff like that.  We typically take the house's temperature and see what we need that week, be it a stress reliever or something a little more in depth.

If you have any suggestions for community or spirituality nights, let me know.  We have a resource booklet for both, but are always open to new ideas.  This coming week's community night is a Casa Iggy photo shoot for Christmas cards we are going to send out!!

(Last night [Friday] was a Loaves and Fishes Volunteer Appreciation Banquet where Friendship Park and Mustard Seed School put on a skit.  I played Lucy Ricardo after Vitameatavegimin and Donald Trump.  Looks like all those theatre hours payed off, huh Ma?  I was told it was good but video proof has yet to be seen.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

We couldn't be happier. . . Thank Goodness!

Thanks for being patient faithful readers!  This week had some interesting moments at the park, but all of that was overshadowed by my parents visiting!

They came in on Wednesday and went to work with me on Thursday.  It was disheartening that most of my regulars that come hang out with me avoided me, but it was really good for my parents to see how work is, what Loaves & Fishes is really like, and how great the people I work with are!

On Friday I took off work and we visited San Fransisco for the day; we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, drove down Lombard Street (the crookedest street in America!), toured Fisherman's Wharf, took a bay cruise where we sailed under the Golden Gate and around Alcatraz, and went for sundaes at Ghiradelli Square!  The next day we drove south to San Jose (yes, my mother sang "Do you know the way to San Jose?" for almost the entire ride!) and toured Winchester mystery mansion.

Today (Sunday), we went to the Cathedral and out to brunch (with my roommates!).  They are off to Napa now. . .

It was beyond amazing to have them here!  I loved having them see where I work and live, and I REALLY appreciate them taking the time to come out to CALIFORNIA! 

It has really been a blessing having them here, but now I'm back in the really busy life that is JVC!!

(By the way- I really want to explain our community and spirituality nights we have weekly in JVC, but always forget.  Being with normal people from the outside world really puts the unique experience that is JVC into perspective!)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Keep your thoughts nice and lush. . . Wait. . .

Hey everybody!   I've had so many comments this week that people read my blog, but can't/don't post, so I'll just assume you are reading this! 

My parents came in this week!!  They came in on Wednesday (thanks to Aunt Mary and Uncle Caz) and and will be with me until Sunday.  Then they are off to Napa 'til Tuesday and then home.  (Thanks to Beth for making all the reservations!) 

I'll post a real post when my parents are gone, but until then, I just want to soak up some family time.  I'm sure you understand!

Check back on Monday!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Working hard or hardly working?

The park was closed this week for maintenance and winterization.  Some of the green hats and extra workers cleaned the service center, food service center, power washed the deck, hung up plastic sheeting along the huts, hung heaters, and did other general fix-it jobs, but I was fortunate enough not to do any of that.  We put up a table on the street and passed out lunch tickets.  That's all I did the majority of the week. I was bored out of my gourd. 

A few out of the ordinary events happened:
1. The park had shorten hours (8 am-1:30 pm) so I got to sleep in an extra hour and leave once we cleared the street.
2. I got Tuesday off!  I just lounged around for the day and it was glorious!
3. We had a staff retreat on Wednesday.  The full time staff at all L&F's programs (about 70) met at a retreat center, discussed a typical day at L&F, and shared the miracles that happened in our life so far.  It was lead by a cool nun (Sister Clare) and everyone had a great time!

But the story on my mind is Keith's.  He was released from jail shortly after I began here.  He is a mean-looking dude (covered in tattoos) but Donna (one of the nicest guests at the park) introduced me to him because he just had on jail shoes.  I exchanged his shoes and got to talking with him.  He was the kindest guy and I judged his appearance- something you just can't do at the park.  Yesterday, Keith gave me a silver chain anklet.  I put it on and his face lit up.  He then disappeared and three squad cars came to arrest him.  I don't know what he did or if I'll see him again.  It astounds me that a guy that nice (and he is nice to all green hats and people- not just me) can be in that big of trouble.

Working at L&F- seeing the police targeting the homeless and ticketing them with jay walking, littering, loitering, camping, and public exposure because they lock up the public bathrooms at night- has made me re-evaluate my feelings on the police.  L&F doesn't take any government funds (it is all supported by private donors), and doesn't like the government much. . . It's odd to look at the Capitol building and see all the injustice happening. 

To leave this on a happy note: MY PARENTS ARE COMING NEXT WEEK!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

What a Wonderful (and Small) World. . .

The head honcho at Loaves & Fishes is a Sister of Mercy, Sister Libby.  Since Aunt Suzanne is a nun with Holy Cross, I thought there would be little cross-over.  This week I met the founders' sister, a nun with Holy Cross, too!  She knew Aunt Suzanne!  I also exchanged voice mails with my Aunt Terri's niece, Alice.  And on another family note, my parents are planning to visit from October 12th-16th!!  I'm so excited to have family! 

The week has been pretty routine- no crazy fundraisers or carnivals.  The average day last month had 730 guests, and this month's average was 767.  Not a huge increase, but an increase nonetheless.

My lovely sister, Beth, reminded me that this blog doesn't have to be a diary of Friendship Park.  It can also be about me.  Due to the "routine-ness" of FP, I'm going to write a list of things I'm thankful for (in no particular order):

1. My bosses/co-workers.  (If ever I need protection/back-up, they're there.  I have had an overly friendly guest the past few weeks;  I handled the situation in the beginning, but Garren reminded him of my boundaries.)
2. My casa-mates and their willingness to communicate.  All things can be appropriately dealt with once communication is in play!
3. MY FAMILY!!  (Do I even need a reason?!)
4. Sacramento weather. (I'm not grateful for my farmer's tan, but grateful that it never rains!)
5. The Richards. (The two men that work at the warehouse in Loaves & Fishes are both named Richard.  They send us home with any supplies we need [shampoo, toilet paper, etc.] and give us plenty of food whenever we ask!)
6. Money. I know I have committed to "simple living," (and I am) but it hardly feels like it!  There is always plenty of food on the table, a roof over my head, and a warm bed to sleep in.  True, I'm not going to see the latest movies or buying the newest clothes, but somehow, everything works out alright!
7. Last but not least, GOD! I was recounting my story of picking JVC and the park to someone, and I couldn't believe how providential it all sounded.  I knew I was meant to be here, and God orchestrated it!  (So thanks Dude!)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Busy, Busy, Awesome-ly Busy

During the week I make little notes to myself about things that happened during the week that I want to publish on the blog.  As I was looking over them, I couldn't believe that some of this stuff only happened Monday! This week has been incredibly busy and I'm looking forward to just relaxing this weekend.  Here are the highlights:

Monday, I was made "Exucutive Director of the Shoe Department."  (I exchange shoes for the guests.)  Just this week, over 30 men needed shoes.  Because of our dwindling supply (only 3 pairs of gym or dress shoes and 2 pairs of sandals) I wasn't able to help most.  (Thankfully a donation of another 7 pairs came in today!)  Tuesday, Jim and Garren, the bosses, assigned the JVs (Krystal, Anne and I) tasks concerning the park duties.  We each have about 5 extra responsibilities (posting announcements, getting the volunteer schedule in order, buying soups, etc.).  I, personally, am really grateful to Jim and Garren that they trust us enough to take on extra responsibilities!

Wednesday was my casa-mate Kathleen's birthday!  (She works over at the school at Loaves & Fishes.)  We celebrated and hosted a party for a few of her co-workers until 10:30pm!  (Big deal for us because we like to be in bed by 10!)  She even had her favorite BBQ sauce flown in from St. Louis!

Thursday was my mom's birthday, a press conference at the park and the Women's Empowerment Gala.  Due to a lack of funding (or some other bureaucratic reason), Sacramento will not have an overflow shelter this winter.  That means all the people who sleep on the street every night, will have to do so in the winter months.  (Not only does Sacramento get cold, it also rains heavily and constantly during the winter months.)  The press conference was drawing attention to this, and general awareness of how awful the homeless population is being treated in Sacramento. 

The Gala was a much friendlier and fun!  Two of my casa-mates, Laura and Alice, work at Women's Empowerment (WE), an off-shoot non-profit from Loaves & Fishes.  WE offers classes for women to get their GED, job training, and computer skills. This wonderful, self-esteem building program has an annual party which our entire casa volunteered for.  Myself, along with Kathleen and Krystal, sold raffle tickets for the majority of the night.  By selling tickets, raffles, auction items, and general donations, WE raised over $110,000!! 

The greatest, and busiest, part of the week was today at Friendship Park, or "the park" as I call it, but it is also known as FP.  The park celebrated their 20th anniversary today.  (Loaves & Fishes has been around for 25 years, and they established FP 5 years later.) To celebrate this accomplishment, FP hosted a carnival!!  When the guests received their meal ticket, they were given 4 carnival tickets as well.  They could use these tickets at any booth they wanted: cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones, photo booth, balloon animals, or the dunk tank.  (We had a ton of guests use all four at the dunk tank! With each ticket they would receive three balls to try to hit the target and dunk whoever was in the tank: Garren, Jim, or a couple other green hats. Despite the many suggestions for me to get in the tank, I vehemently declined.)  It was the most fun, heart warming, awesome-est awesome day!  There were too many highlights to recall, and the pure joy of the guests was amazing to witness! 

Despite the hectic-ness of the week, I wouldn't have traded it for anything!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Like a Rolling Stone

There is no normal day at the park.  Yes, we (the green hats) perform typically the same duties, but we meet new people, do odd jobs, mix things up!  This week was a perfect example of that!

Nothing of deep importance happened Monday, so I’ll just skip that day, but the rest of the week was chocked full of new things!  Tuesday morning, I saw my first fist fight in the park.  I had heard about fights, even seen verbal fights, but I had never seen a full brawl before my eyes.  I was handing out forks at the breakfast line, when two people on the bridge (about 6 feet from me) started fighting.  (My bosses swooped in and stopped it immediately. It was shocking to see both of them in “mean” mode.)  

Also on Tuesday, a guest that I hand sugar packets to in the morning, left candy for me by name at the service counter.  Two things you need to know to put this story in context: one, I usually hand out sugar packets in the morning with the coffee because I hate working at the service center to hand out lunch tickets and shower tickets, and two I have had guests give me things before (a plastic watch and a Happy Meal toy), but I was with someone else at the time so they gave it to the group.  This guest, Tony, handed the candy bars to the service center worker and said, “This is for the Sugar Lady.”  (A lot of the guests call me “Sugar Lady” now.)

On Wednesday, I saw a man refilling his thermos with alcohol.  The park has 3 very strict rules:
1.      No drinking or drugs in the park.
2.      No violence or threat of violence
3.      No open radios (must have headphones)
Because I did not see him drink, he was not 86ed, but he still left the park.  The second milestone that happened on Wednesday was that I attended my first protest!  A few of the guests and administration have been trying to get a new program started called “Safe Ground.”  This would be a legal tent city with the same rules as the park.  (Right now, California does not allow this, and “campers” are constantly getting tickets from the police.  Beyond that, the shelters are overbooked, CA is strictly enforcing the “90 day maximum stay at a shelter” rule, and to “discourage” any homeless camping, public restrooms are being locked and water fountains are being shut off.) 
        (Krystal and I at the protest in our park uniforms.  Yes, I hate the hat.)

Thursday was our one month anniversary of working at Loaves and Fishes and we received our first earned paycheck!  (It is so nice to have more than $3 to your name!)  Besides me running out of sugar packets and having a near mob attack on me, Thursday was pretty slow and fun! (People are serious about their sugar!  I’m handing out about 6 packets for one mug!)  Sugar has returned, but it is no longer in the packet form.  My nickname is still safe though, because I’m the sugar monitor.  Some will try to pour sugar out of the cans into Ziploc baggies, which is not allowed.

Friday, today, was also fun.  Nothing horrific happened; the park got a new full-time worker, I monitored the street for awhile, an ice cream truck showed up, and I went warehouse shopping for the first time!  Charlie, a well-to-do volunteer buys out an ice cream truck twice a year, and everyone gets a free ice cream!  (I had a firecracker popsicle!)  The volunteer organizations (the JVs and the MVs) receive food boxes from the warehouse every few weeks (or every week if need be!)  These are food items that they don’t have enough of to serve in the dining room.  We got nutrisystem meals, couple cans of beef, chicken, and tomato sauce, two bags of beans, two loaves of bread, grits, Canadian bacon, a 48 package of hotdogs, and other goodies!  

Not much is happening this weekend.  Today is Mexican Independence day, so we are having some friends over to celebrate fiesta style!  Saturday, is the Tamale festival that a neighboring program (Clean and Sober) puts on.  I need to start cleaning, hanging streamers and making the chili con queso.  Toodles!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just the Way You Are. . .

A four day work week might seem pretty easy, and it was.  Nothing much of significance happened at the park.  

At the end of the day, the green hats gather to go over 86es, highlights and other news. I thought this week I’d share a few.

-Only one fight on Tuesday. (I was not involved!)
-Other than that, no one was kicked out of the park this week!

-Michael, one of our more particularly colorful and sassy guests, gave a green hat an Easter bonnet.  He’s only shown another green hat affection once (in the form of a hug) in the 10+ years he has been coming here.
-Our men’s washhouse has been out of commission for over a week.  (We went to retile the shower’s over labor day weekend and found mold. A complete restoration has been happening.)  Showers plan to resume on Monday!!
-There has only been an average of 650 guests per day!

Other news:
-It has been hot this week (almost 100 degrees) and we are out of water bottles. One man passed out from the heat and dehydration. (I bring a water bottle to work and refill it at least 3 times.)
-Another of the guests did not wake up or move on Friday when we closed the park.  He was breathing; the paramedics were called. We have yet to hear anything.
-One of the guests said I was the whitest out of all the volunteers and yet I have a visible farmer’s tan.
-I was also told I have very nice skin, and I’ve had a huge pimple on my chin this week.  He was looking right at it when he told me of my “nice skin.”
-2 meth addicts told me a long, twisted story of a girl being kidnapped, raped, and murdered.  To follow up on their claims I googled “Oregon wood chipper death” for an additional 30 minutes.  I will not believe meth addicts.

At the casa:
This week has flown by.  (As you might have guessed from the fact that I did not post on Friday.)  On Monday was the BBQ at the Jesuit center were we talked with the other JV house and the brothers and Brothers.  (Little b for those who are not priests yet.)  They sent us home with tons of food!!  On Tuesday, our two support people came over and we set up personal talks with them.  On Wednesday, I felt woozy after talking with Becca and hearing of the kids having strep, so I took my temperature and had a 102 fever.  I think it was a sympathy fever. I took some ibuprofen and took a 2 hour nap, and it went down to 100. I then took a freezing shower and it returned to normal.  Like any other hard working Chicagoan, I went to work the next day. (My casa-mates were shocked at my “work ethic.” I looked at them like they were crazy.)

That's been pretty much it.  I plan on hanging out with new friends (casa-mates, Newman peeps, the other volunteer kids) for the rest of this weekend, and then work starts on Monday again!  It's almost routine by this point.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Saturday in the Park (and the rest of Labor Day weekend!)

So this Labor Day weekend has been eventful, so I thought I'd share some pictures!  (I'm not big on pictures, so these have been stolen from my casa-mates!) 

I have a bunch of pictures to share (not just from this weekend) so I'm going to try to keep the writing short. 

Rundown of the weekend:
Friday: out with a few other volunteer kids in the area (Mercy Corps and ACE)
Saturday: watched a frisbee tournament at the Newman Center on Sac State campus, went to Chalk it Up as a casa
Sunday: farmer's market, went to Old Sacramento for Gold Rush Days and visited the Railroad museum, went across the Sacramento bridge, mass and dinner at Newman center, game night at Molly and Becca's. (They are two of the JVs from last year at Casa Iggy who stuck around)
Monday: nothing now, but some of us are planning on going to a nearby public pool, an autism awareness concert at the capitol building, mass and BBQ at the Jesuit community.

My casa-mates: Me, Tessa, Krystal, Alice, Anne, Laura, Kathleen
Casa Iggy!!

Justin (an ACE kid, who went to school with Kathleen!)

Chalk it up!

The outside squares had to be paid for, but the small sidewalk squares inside the park were free to the public! The more artistic ones drew us a square!!

My square! (I just got off the phone with Beth, so I promised I would draw her a square.)

Where we work!

2 girls in the other JV casa in Sacramento work at this school. 
4 seventh graders drew this!

Old Sacramento! (These pictures are from last weekend when it
wasn't crowded for Gold Rush Days. Add tons of people, some costumed performers, horses and buggies, and dirt roads, and that is what it looked like this weekend!)

Salt water taffy shop- take a free sample from every bucket!

The Sacramento Bridge! It is painted in gold.

Us and a few extra at the school in Loaves and Fishes!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hot times. . . Summer in the city

So this week has been a true roller coaster ride! Because this week started off at the end of the month, it was crazy busy!  (SSI checks are given out at the first of the month.  By the end, people don't have money left, therefore the park gets crowded.)  On Monday, over 900 lunches were served (the second time in seven years!) but we only had one person gets 86ed (our lingo for kicked out).  On Tuesday we didn't serve that many (about 850), but there were 4 fights and 7 people got 86ed.  Wednesday was better, but still crowded.

Then SSI checks came out.  Thursday seemed dead compared to the other days.  We served about 700 lunches, but it seemed more relaxed, almost happy.  (Odd isn't it that 700 people is "dead?") The park is usually not as busy on Fridays (I think it's because of food stamps, but I'm still not sure), and today was the least busy I've ever seen the park.  We only served about 550 lunches, and it seemed like only 200 or so people stuck around.  Without anything to do (service counter/ticket wise), I just hung out all day. 

Some negative things that happened this week:
- I got hit in the face on Tuesday with a jean jacket.  One particularly crazy lady was using her jacket as a weapon, and swung at me.  (Last Tuesday, a crazy man pushed me.) Tuesdays are not my days.  (Both my bosses know of the incidents and worker harassment is not tolerated.)
- Madonna (a former JV and worker at the park for 5 years) left on Wednesday to start work over at the women's day shelter across the street.
-Tasha (a worker of 8+ years) left today to work as the director of our dining room.
- I haven't seen a guest who is friendly with me for two days.  No one knows what happened to him and I pray that he is okay and see him Tuesday. 

Some positive things that happened this week:
- I don't have to work on Monday!!
- I networked with a guest of ours who worked in the country music field.  He gave me a name of a songwriter guru he worked with, and said that if I need a job after this, give this man a call!
- I had my first one-on-one talk with my casa-mate Alice! (As a casa, we organized a schedule where we could talk to each other, just two of us, once a week.) It was great getting to personally know her more, and on our way home, we ran into a kid asking us where a shelter was.  I directed him to Loaves and Fishes, and saw him there the next day!
- A guest at the park went home! This young man traveled out here for a girl, not realizing that she didn't feel the same way as he did.  After a few weeks of being homeless and unhappy, he decided to go back to his home state! (As much as I love the guests, I love not seeing them for the right reasons!)
- Last but not least, I got called "Miss Lady" today!  Beth and Tom are huge fans of the comedy "Stepbrothers" with Will Farrell and John C. Reiley.  I watched it with them, and one of the quotable lines from it is "Hello Miss Lady!" I was reminded of this comic scene and the joy of my family!

 All in all, this week has been an interesting one to experience.  I look forward to getting to know my casa-mates more, and more of the clients!

P.S.- I cooked dinner for the first time this week! Eggplant Parmigiana and Pasta Primervera with Chicken! Shout to Mom who gave me the "recipes."
P.P.S.- It is getting hotter here, almost a hundred! I think I drank 4 bottles of water today!

Friday, August 26, 2011

No tears (no fears)

This week has been more difficult than last week, but it's still a wonderful experience!  I'm still learning the little rules of the park, and, unfortunately, two of the older "green hats" will be leaving next week.  ("Green hats" are the workers. We have to wear these evergreen visors.  I look like a McDonald's worker in case you need a visual.)  I got my first hug (from a grandfather figure- super nice, old man) and my second (creepier) hug was from an older gentleman.  (Don't worry, they were both side hugs and I told them that hugs are inappropriate.)  I was also told I was "the cool one" from my "brother," Robert (60+), and who will accompany me to Christmas in Chicago, or so he says.  (I'm going to stay for Christmas, but will be home in time to celebrate the Anzy Christmas.) 

Besides the usual of playing dominoes with Shadeed and Robert (my "brother"), rolling cigarettes with Larry and his crew, and playing chess with random people, I also handed out the sugar for morning coffee, worked at the service center a little each day, learned about the library program, and delivered a feral cat to the pound with Jackie.  I was given some odd compliments, taught a little about how to deal with conflicts from Green hat Larry, and learned a few more names: Eric, Bruce, Quentin, Qumar, Krystal, Terry, Cynthia and George, Birdie and Willy, Mitch, Arkansas Tim, Dave, Charles, and about 20 more. 

I think this week is going to be like most- random duties and plenty of conversation.  One thought that I particularly dwelt on this week was "trying to find the God in everyone."  I know it's going to be a big theme this year, but at least I started early!

Stat of the week: Loaves & Fishes served over 14,000 lunches so far in the month of August.

P.S.- If you could leave me comments on what you guys want to hear more about, it would be most appreciated.
P.P.S.- No tears yet.

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's been one week (since you looked at me)

My first week of work is over and I'm overwhelmed; overwhelmed with awe, shock, sadness and hope.  This year is going to be so rewarding, but challenging, as well.  Just in the past week I've learned the basic rules, tried to remember names, played a few games, and rolled a few cigarettes with Larry.  I've met Chris from Florida, Martin from Kenya, Steven who was a history teacher, numerous Larrys, Bobs, and Davids.  I played dominoes with Robert and Shadeed, chess with Felix, and learned backgammon from Viking.  I've made Vernon feel special by remembering his name, and David laugh by singing a song.  I've filled out papers with Charles and his friend. I'm trying to see God in everyone I meet, and I just want to thank Him for letting me meet these people that I wouldn't have met without this experience (including my amazing co-workers and bosses!)

This week has also been a ton of fun at my casa!  We've had community meals, a community and spirituality night, a few funny stories (thanks to me taking a nap one night and waking up thinking it was the morning!), and a few new friends.

I'm excited to see what God has in store for next week, though I've heard it will be hard.  (On Monday, the three of us who are new to Friendship Park, received a ten minute orientation from our bosses, Jim and Garren.  They had many nuggets of wisdom, and one was, "Your first week, you'll walk around in shock.  The second week, you'll cry.") 

Well, the casa-mates and I are headed to a free concert downtown and are going to visit Old Sacramento tomorrow.  I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: this year will be an adventure!

P.S.- congrats to my friend Matt who finished the summer program for Mundelein in LA, and also congrats to my uncle Hank Anzelone (who got me my start at People's Resource Center) on the wonderful article written about his service at the PRC! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, Monday (and Tuesday too!)

I know I said I would update on Fridays, but I felt I should share with you what's happened so far.  My first weekend in Sac was great!  There was a free art walk Saturday where we met the other JV Sac house and a few other volunteers from ACE (a Catholic teaching program that's 2 years.)  On Sunday we went to the cathedral, and toured the capital building with a man named Jim who was 70+ and super nice.  Monday was my first day at worked, and it was a shock.  There are so many guidelines to follow, people to meet, and quirks you should know (much like any other job).  We know we have big shoes to fill, and the need here is immense.  (Yesterday we served lunch to over 750 men and women.  (That doesn't include the families who live at the shelter or the children who attend the school.)  By the end of the month, we serve around 800 or 900 people, and its only getting worse with the economy. 

There is so much to share, it doesn't seem like I've been there for only 2 days.  My brain is flooded with pictures, names, habits, and information I've learned and I'm going to learn that amount again tomorrow.  Just pray for the people I'm working with, and all the homeless in our country.  I can barely imagine the life they lead.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Hello everyone!  I got to my new casa (Casa Ignatius of Loyola, fondly called Iggy for short) yesterday after a busy week of Orientation.  There are 85 volunteers just in Arizona and California; 350, worldwide.  So camp was packed- not just with people, but also ideas, lectures, mass, prayer services, silent time, casa time, and WONDERFUL food!  (Never in my life have I ate so healthily and good for so long! But it wasn't as good as mom's food.) 

So now I'm "home," living with six other girls.  Iggy is GINORMOUS! (I think it might be bigger than home, but I don't know the square footage.)  We have 9 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, front and back porches, 10 foot ceilings with crown molding, and new mattresses, flooring, and a couch.  (We have all other furniture as well, but it isn't new.)  One of the great things about this house, is that we are completely spoiled! Not only do we have a beautiful house, but we have everything you can imagine! Books, movies, towels, sheets, spices, a full pantry, bikes, even a motorized scooter! (The only thing we don't have is a car, but we have several people willing to loan us theirs, and we're near public transportation, too.)  I feel guilty because we are supposed to be living in poverty, but then I see my paycheck and I feel better. . .

I'm so excited to start work!  We don't start until Monday, but today we are all heading down to work (we work in the same vicinity) to get to know the area, supervisors, and most importantly, guests.  It will be tough year, but not nearly as tough on me as it is on them.  Perspective is something that I'll be working on this year, as well as several other values.  Stay tuned for more!

(P.S.- I'll probably be updating this blog every Friday.)

Friday, August 5, 2011

We've only just begun!

Tomorrow I ship out and head west.  I will be flying in to San Jose airport and proceeding to camp from there.  (And no, I don't know the way to San Jose, yet.)  The camp is our orientation; a simple 6 days to leave everything we've known about and enter into a new world of the JVC.  The JVC is built around four values: spirituality, community, social justice, and simple living.  We will have a spirituality and community night every week.   I will live downtown (only a few short blocks away from the agency) with 6 other girls, who I do not know.  I will be working with the homeless in Friendship Park on the grounds of Loaves & Fishes.  I'm not really sure what the job entails, just that I will push kids on swings, have chats on the park benches, and eat lunch with the guests Monday through Friday.  I will be living as simply as possibly, with basic expenses covered by the JVC and a small monthly stipend.  Letters and emails are highly appreciated, and care packages are discouraged.  Part of signing up to do this means leaving the middle-class behind, and living among the people I will be serving: the poor and marginalized. Yes, this part is the most daunting as of now.  My suitcase is packed to the brim, and of the 5 pairs of shoes I brought, I keep thinking, "Will I need this?"  It is such a privilege to have everything we do (shoes, toiletries, a warm blanket, etc.) but so hard to imagine life without these things. 

All I know is that I'm ready to focus on others.  Yes, I will have to leave my home and creature comforts (cable, my bedroom, mom-cooked meals), but in exchange, I will serve others and hopefully discover myself along the way!

I'm nervous and excited, and I can't imagine a better feeling!  It's going to be a great (but challenging) year!