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.