Thursday, June 28, 2007

It is almost July...can you believe it? I certainly cannot! Hi everyone, I hope you are all enjoying the summer time. I do not have much time today but I thought I would write a little something.

Things here are still going well. Work is fabulous and I cannot believe that there is only a little over a month left of being here. It is hard to think about leaving. I am trying to think of what has happened since my last post but I guess not too much in the work world, or with my housemates for that matter.

I did have the chance to go home last week and it was amazing. I had not been to CA in 6 months and had not seen my family (besides Joe b/c he visited at Easter) for that long as well. It was so so good to be home. i got to see baby Dyllan, the newest addition to the family...he is precious. I just spent a lot of time with my brothers and sisters and babies. My niece, Abi is just adorable. I could go on and on but I'll spare you the details of my trip home...i will post the link in the next blog. I donated 10 inches of my hair to locks for love while I was home so my hair is super short but it is something that I have been wanting to do for a long time. I will write more about work and community next week...what is going on with everyone? what are the summer plans? I can't wait to be back in San Diego :) Miss you all tremendously hugs, kisses, love and blessings xoxoxoxoxoxo

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Happy May :) I can’t believe that it is May already. It has been exactly a year since graduation it is so surreal even still. I was lucky enough to speak to a few close friends during their commencement ceremony for MSMC this year and it made me so happy. I will let the names remain anonymous but know that you made me extremely happy, I so wished that I could have been there. I have been having a hard time letting go of what college was. The memories will forever be with me but I have been wishing I was still there a lot lately; it is still a tough transition all these months later. Some days are better than others and this week seems to be a relapse week. Let’s go back to the end of April with Displace Me…

Invisible Children is an organization set up by 3 guys from So Cal who decided one day to go to Africa and were taken by the amount of people affected by the violence and decided to do something about it. MSMC showed a screening of IC 2 years ago, I think. Last year they had a nation wide event called, the Global Night Commute. This was to raise awareness of the night commuters. Children all over Africa commute nightly to "safer" places to sleep so they are not kidnapped by the Lords Resistance Army and turned into child soldiers so IC had this event in 136 different cities and had about 80,000 participants. Participants commuted by foot from a designated area to another area where they spent the night to be in solidarity with the children in Africa. 3 months after this event peace talks began to end the 21 year war in Uganda.

This year I learned that about 85% of the Ugandan population lives in displaced persons camps that is about 1.5 million people. imagine. So they decided to go bigger with this event and only hold it in 15 major cities in hopes that people would travel to the cities and choose to really be displaced for a night. One of the cities was Chicago and my roommate Stacey and I signed up to be volunteers for the event. It was on Saturday April 28th. Registration started from 3-midnight and there was a lot going on in this time. Official check-in was from 3-4. As people came in they got their wristbands and dropped off what water and saltines they brought in and then were sent to the far end of the parking lot, our camp, to set up their cardboard huts. At about 7pm started a series of video clips and action. IC is known for filming and doing documentary type things so it started with filming everyone who was there which I am pretty sure ended up being around 5000 people. There was a poem and each city had big banners with the lines to the poem so they started with people holding the banners and altogether all 5000 people kneeled down and stood up and then creamed a cream of injustice. It was powerful, it gives me chills just thinking about it. So they filmed a few different segments and then the videos started. The first video was about the huts that the Ugandans lived in and talked about how they decorate then to make them more like home. So after the segment everyone returned to their huts and decorated them. A lot of people wrote anti-war slogan and bible versus or lyrics to songs that were powerful, it was awesome. The next segment was the food and water. All we had there was saltines and water; I mean thousands and thousands of boxes of saltines and bottles of water. So the video played and talked about the food and water situation at the camps. All of the women were in charge of getting water and the men the saltines. They could only pick up one water bottle and one sleeve of saltines at a time and then return to their camps, drop it off and come back until everyone in their camp had food and water. It was nothing like what the Ugandans really went through but is was amazing to see the amounts of people who were willing to come back again and again and to watch the line of people. The line was never ending, I'm tall and I stood on my tiptoes and could not see an end, that was real. After that there was a segment about the history of the war followed by 21 minutes of silence for the 21 years that the war has been taking place. All 5000 people were silent; you could hear nothing, well besides the city still moving and alive around us. Talk about major Goosebumps. The final screening was a little boy from Uganda asking as that as we fall asleep to remember him and dream of them. It was moving and then came the most uncomfortable night of sleep in my life. We slept on cardboard on the concrete in a sleeping bag. I could not fall asleep, I was ready to give up and I felt like such a baby. I thought about Phil, a homeless man I had met through the homeless ministry I did while at MSMC and how he does this every night and I thought about all those who do this every night. It was eye opening and a crude reality check. In the morning they had an African drum choir wake us up, it was beautiful. This is an experience that I will never forget, an uncomfortable yet very real, eye opening experience.

The weekend after this event was our much needed silent retreat. This retreat was pretty much amazing. It was in Milford, Ohio. I am becoming a hard core Midwest traveler this year, its fun! Anyway…so we were staying at a Jesuit Retreat Center there. There facilities were awesome; we were out of the city and were right on the outskirts of the town of Milford. If you walked down the street leading to the retreat center you entered right into town, it was both a grace and a challenge. A Challenge because it encouraged talking and not really being intentional and it was a grace because there were real down to earth people there and a feel of a community that you don’t get or see in the city. There was river down the hill which was walking distance from where we were staying. Jeff, a JV from Milwaukee, and I went wading one afternoon in the river. I also spent some times in the mornings reflecting and praying by the river. It was very peaceful and a place to listen not only to God but the nature and to be fully embraced by natures beauty. When we were wading we did see a snake though and that was kind of scary and disturbed the peace! Every one had their own rooms, very simple with a bed, desk, chair and sink. Also every room had a big window which was nice. We got there on Wednesday evening and in true JVC Chicago style we were late and the last car there again. This has become our tradition. So we get there and everyone is eating dinner already so we grab some before they put everything away. I actually couldn’t eat because I had gotten really sick and couldn’t eat for about 4 day’s total (that’s a different story). Wednesday night we had community check ins and we have these at every retreat where we all talk about one or 2 challenges an graces in community since the last retreat. It is always nice to hear how everyone is doing and also to hear that your community is not the only one struggling. After that the night was ours to chat and catch up with those who we haven’t seen in a while. Then Thursday was not a silent day. We had a speaker come a talk to us about his experience as a JV, he is now a Jesuit and I can’t remember his name but he talked to us about immersion after our JV year and how not to lose what we have. It was a great talk and we had time to break off into groups with people who were not in our communities and talk about a list of things from the talk. We pretty much had the rest of the day to hang out and get all the talking out for the rest of the day and then came the silence. On Thursday evening we were introduced to our spiritual directors for the retreat, mine was Marj. 5 of us had Marj so we all met with her and she introduced herself and told us a little bit about her role. She was there as a guide. If we were encountering struggles with the silence or anything that we were thinking about during the retreat she was there for us to talk to. I met with Marj every day, she is awesome! Then we all gathered in the chapel and yes, we were late. There we were to gather ourselves and prepare and when we were ready to enter into silence we left and pretty much everyone went to their rooms to read and sleep. Day one of silence was not so bad. We had breakfast first thing and the first meal was super awkward. People were just kind of staring out of the windows and at each other. At meals music was playing which eased the tension a little bit but it was really bad music! There was Morning Prayer in the main room and it was a meditation which was nice. Then I met with Marj and told her what I wanted to get out of the silent retreat which was just peace. I just wanted “to be” I wanted to spend time with God and to experience God as fully as I could. She game me some materials some centering prayers and mantras to think and pray about. Then the day was mine. The whole entire day was mine to be silent and reflective. This was tough, it was tough not to get bored because there was nothing planned so I took a few long walks outside, the weather was gorgeous, I played Frisbee in silence, I walked the labyrinth which was cool and I sat and read for a while. By night time I cracked. I was having a hard time being silent around so many people and on Friday evening a JV from Detroit asked me if I wanted to go for a walk so we did and we chatted a bit. It was nice though. That night some people built a bonfire in the fire pit and there was conversation there as well. Some of us ended up staying up until 4am chatting. It was really nice, not silent but very rewarding none the less. On Saturday I was intentionally silent in the morning. There was Morning Prayer after breakfast again and I met with Marj and told her about talking and she laughed but reassured me that it was ok. Then again, the day was mine. I was silent most of the daytime again except when I played Frisbee with Jeff, we were chatting and laughing, mostly because I didn’t know how to throw it. I slept that afternoon because I was super tired from hardly any sleep the night before. For evening prayer we had Tai Chi, which was fun, it was relaxing. After Tai Chi we went and played cards and baseball in the dining hall. The night was by far the toughest time to be quiet. When we gather at other retreats the nights are ours to play games and hang out so we naturally got really antsy and a big group of us ended up hanging out. It was a great time. I was really insistent on spending intentional time being silent and focusing on just being which Marj informed me at our last meeting that I had for sure accomplished just being. That was great to hear because I felt like I was failing miserably. She told me I was very peaceful and happiness radiated from me explaining how I was seeing God. It was really refreshing to hear what she had to say to me on Sunday morning. The weekend ended in Mass where we did not have to be silent. Oh, there was Mass every day during the “silence” also, that was also really refreshing. Masses are always fun when we are al together. When it gets to the “Peace be with you” the Priest always tells us to wait until the end so Jesus isn’t waiting for so long. It’s funny! We then shared our last meal being as noisy as we could, it was great food all weekend as well, well when I could eat it it was fabulous! Overall the weekend was so good. I have realized the true power of just being and appreciating the birds chirping and literally stopping to smell the roses in all aspects of life. I have learned how to talk to God about every and any thing like and old friend. I am still learning to trust fully and wholeheartedly in God. It is not an easy task but this year and the opportunity to reflect on things at this retreat has definitely made it a priority in my life now.

My whole perspective on JVC as a whole changed over this weekend also. I was not gung ho for recommending JVC to anyone based on all the disappointments that I encountered in the first few month of being here. It was really tough. I have learned though that it is what you make it. It is about embracing differences and accepting people for who they are rather than comparing them to who I am. It is about working hard in relationships and being intentional to where I am now. I have grown in so many ways and continue to do so and definitely would recommend JVC to others, I’ll even promote it!

Happy Mothers Day Moms! A little late but eh, it’s tradition. There is a new addition to our family, little Dyllan was born on Mothers day. He was 7lbs. 10.5 oz and 20 inches. He is adorable! My sister and Dyllan are both healthy and doing well. I can’t wait until I get to see him, just a month to go!

Next weekend we will head up to Detroit for Memorial Day weekend, it should be fun times, as always! I am continuing job searching in San Diego and am so excited to be moving back in June. Bev is coming to visit soon and I am so excited and Roberta will be visiting in July. She is doing JVC in Tennessee this year so it will be cool to talk about our experiences so far. There are exciting things coming up! Come and visit, Chicago summers are amazing I hear!

Happy Graduation to those who graduated! You are amazing :)

Love, Blessings and Peace to all xoxo


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hi Friends :)
I hope everyone is well! I am terrible at communicating with people so I apologize for not doing so. I think about everyone often though and keep everyone in my thoughts and prayers so even if you haven’t heard a peep from me personally I think about you often.

I can’t believe that it is April already and that March is over, it just flew right by. Time is such a crazy concept. I can’t even remember the beginning of March because it feels like so long ago and here April is. March was a busy month though. Early in March we had our volunteer appreciation party and that was a lot of fun. There was lots of good food and great people. Tommie, one of the volunteers who I work with about 3 days out of the week got the volunteer of the year award and that was great! He is such a great guy and has had a very interesting life. I had the pleasure of driving with him to go and get a food pick up on the west side which is about 35-40 minutes away from our West site and he was telling me a little but about himself and his family. I have gotten to know the volunteers that make everything at the pantry happen so well, it is hard to think that I will be leaving soon. Another volunteer, Leanne, is amazing woman. She has been volunteering at the pantry for years her son and daughter have both helped too. She suffered 4 strokes a few years ago and was diagnosed with bone cancer too but she is there everyday to volunteer. Some stories I hear are just amazing. Another volunteer, Era, this cute little Russian lady who helps in the clothing room at our main pantry was just diagnosed with cancer too. She is always so happy and optimistic about everything she is an inspiration and a breath of fresh air every time I see her it brings me pure joy. These people are becoming such a large part of my life and like family that it is going to be so hard to let go. I know that they are rooting for me though and they know that I am temporary but they are just so giving, loving and caring. I have learned so much from them.

They are a lot of the reason why I love working at the pantry. I am still loving my job very much. I have been getting more and more one on one contact with our clients and it has been fabulous. One of my April goals is to do a “solo day” at either the East site or West site. I have taken over for Greg (the supervisor for the east site) by myself before and I do intake every Tuesday night at the west site so it should not be too difficult. A full day solo consists of doing all of the pick-ups to Starbucks, Trader Joes, Borders, Whole Foods, 7-11, White Hen and Red Hen. All of these places donate things from pastries, bagels and muffins to frozen meat, produce and fresh flowers. It is so nice to have fresh flowers our clients love it, who wouldn’t! So I have to do pick ups and then get back where hopefully volunteer will be waiting or will be arriving shortly to set up for distribution. Set up consists of stocking the shelves with whatever needs to be filled up, bringing the frozen items out of the freezer at setting them up on the shelves and making sure the waiting areas are tidy and ready for the guests to arrive. It is definitely doable and I can’t wait until I have the chance to do it myself, it will be a great time!

I feel like there is just so much to share. I finally have some time off of work today so I can finish this entry that I have been meaning to finish for some time now!

HAPPY EASTER!! What an amazing season Easter is, it is for sure one of my favorites. My brother Joe came out to visit over Easter weekend and we had a fabulous time. I have found a new Church that I love. I had been going to St. Ignatius which is not too far from our apartment but I was not fulfilled going there. There is this feeling that was missing so I decided to do something about it because I felt so much that I was just going through the motions and nothing was meaningful so I went to another Church a few weeks ago, St. Ita. It is so multi cultural and so welcoming and alive, I am so happy there. Joe went there with me to celebrate the Triddum and he liked it too. It is great! I was bummed that it took me so long into the year to find this place to worship and celebrate Mass. On the up side I know what I want and need in a Church and that is what I have learned about finding St. Ita. Easter was a big celebration at our apartment. Stacey’s whole family was in town so we had a big feast and invited our upstairs neighbors, the Lost Boys of Sudan, and some of Stacey’s friends who are doing another volunteer program in Chicago called Mission Year (very cool) came too. We had about 14 people all together; it was a lot of fun!

We had our big fundraiser for the Pantry at the very end of March, it was a blast. It was called Swing into Spring. We had a live Swing band and swing dance lessons were given and there was a silent auction, food, beverages and a great time! After taking out all of the expenses we made around $17,000 which is fabulous and all of this money gos directly to food services for the pantry. I tell you, this place is amazing. So many people donate and support the pantry it is awesome. I know that some people do it b/c they feel like they have to or they want to give back to their community or they are just generous. Very little people give because they are so aware of the problem or poverty and hunger that they want to have a hand in alleviating it directly. This I do not understand but it is another questions that JVC brings to mind to add to the many that have arisen or been renewed in my mind this year. I just hope that I never become someone who feels obligated with no feeling to give.

I could write forever about everything but I wanted to get something posted before another month went by without me putting anything...Gaile, don’t kill me! I have good intentions, I promise! I think about doing it all the time but finding time is a challenge!

I miss you all too much to even express…oh and ps. I will be returning to CA in August. San Diego to be precise…be excited because I am!!!!!

Love to everyone xoxoxoxoxo

Thursday, March 01, 2007

So it seems that every time I say I am going to update this blog something else happens and the weekends have been crazy. I hope everyone is fabulous! So, a lot has been going on.

Work is still fabulous. We have our volunteer appreciation party coming up this weekend. This should be fun! I had a little bit of an emotional breakdown about 2 weeks ago. I was sitting at the intake desk at the pantry on a Tuesday night and I was done checking our guests (a much nicer word that client) in and I was watching volunteers interact w/ the guests and just soaking up every thing about that moment in the pantry and I got really emotional and realized that I would have to leave this place. I am falling in love with this place and I am going to have to leave it in 5 months. It was a tough realization for me. I know that this experience has been amazing and I have learned and grown so much and that is part of what this year is about but it is really hard. In my last blog I mentioned about the PROXY forms for the GCFD that we would have to start doing for Home Delivery. Well on both of the delivery dates in Feb we did them. On the 1oth things went really smoothly. All of the volunteers accepted the change well and were able to get the forms back to me before I left the pantry on that same day. This past delivery was a different story for one of the volunteers. She almost made me cry. She was just telling me how ridiculous and inconvenient this was and that she was not going to bring it back but instead fax it. She made this huge deal and you can’t fax these papers b/c they are official government paperwork so I was trying to explain all of this to her but she would talk over me and was not hearing anything I was saying. It was really frustrating. I was annoyed and I still haven’t seen the papers that she was supposed to return. This was my first encounter like this with a volunteer. I talked to Gary, Carrie and Greg about it and they said to direct her to them or to just fire her. Tikes, I don’t know if I could do that! I mean, how do you fire a volunteer? They are donating their time to you, I don’t know. It is a tough situation and I haven’t had to talk to her since so we’ll see what happens. Other than that little hiccup things have been great.

Mary Beth, our area director was in town this week for our area visit. She met with Gary and Carrie. Gary is the exec director of the Pantry and Carrie is my supervisor. We had a 1-1 with each other on Tues morning and had a fabulous breakfast date! We had a nice chat, mostly about community and work. We talked about the struggles in community, most of which I have talked about more specifically in previous blogs. It was really good though. I feel that because she has been where I am before that she relates and understands way more that just venting to someone else. I love talking to any one else about it too but there is that deeper level of understanding from Mary Beth. Anyway she says that we are at a healthy place in our community. We had a great talk last night at our community night which was facilitated by Mary Beth. We answered a few questions that focused on where we were personally in community and then about where our community stands as a whole in our opinion. It brought about great discussion. We talked a lot about conflict and different approaches and ways to address conflict and what we were comfortable with. We talked about ways in which we will and can be more pro active. About people feeling like they can’t be themselves b/c they feel judged or are holding grudges for the very beginning and are not allowing themselves to fully be present to community b/c of this. I think we all learned a lot about each other last night.
We have all decided that we do not “do stuff” together enough. Meaning that we don’t get out of our lame apartment and do things so this weekend we are going to go to Loyola and shoot hoops for a while and then next Wed we are going to go to a coffee shop and Dave is going to teach us a card game or something. It should be good, I just hope that things don’t feel forced and uncomfortable, that is the biggest fear I have. It is what we make it though and we all want this community to work and we all care about each other and so I just have to have faith knowing that we all want the same thing that it will be what we want it to be.

I was reading online yesterday about the Archdiocese of San Diego declaring bankruptcy. I feel so disconnected from everything; I don’t even know what is going on back home. I am curious to read more about it though. It seems sketchy but I don’t really know much about what is going on. We do get the Chicago Tribune every day and I love to have time to read the newspaper. There have been such sad stories lately. I read one the other day about a teenage boy. I think he was 12-13 who was beaten to death on the North Side (where I live) in a gang related violent attack. There have been a number of articles throughout the time I have been here about teenagers killed in car accidents. It is so so sad that so many, I mean hundreds of teens have been killed in car wrecks and it is not so much alcohol and drug related as it is speeding. I mean it doesn’t make sense that friends of the victims see what happens and that their friends get killed but it doesn’t stop them from doing the same thing. It just doesn’t make sense. A lot of things don’t make sense. Lately Stacey and I have been talking a lot about body image. We see posters everywhere for that Model show and the pictures of the women on them are just disgusting. They are beautiful women but they are just skin and bones. What happened in society that made this ok or that made younger girls think that this is the way one must look? Society has evolved into this monster that puts so much pressure on who we are to everyone else and has set this standard of who we are supposed to be and look alike and if we don’t meet it then we are some sort of failure or are not accepted in society at all. How did it get to be like this? I have fallen into this trap only to realize that I have and tried to snap back out but it is hard. It is hard to not walk around and thing that every one who looks at you is judging you by the way you look, dress, how skinny you are, your hair color…it’s so sad. Just another cruel reality that is making me ‘ruined for life’. There are so many questions like these that I wish I knew that answers too.

This weekend I have my 1-1 with Shane. He is one of our support people and A Jesuit Scholastic at Loyola. We are going to go to the Art Institute downtown. It should be fun!
Last weekend we were in Milwaukee, they hosted a ‘Pirate/Ninja Luau’ at their house so the Detroit and Pontiac communities came down from Michigan and Stacey and I went up there, it was a good time. Things get a bit out of control at these party’s. That has been something that I know I cannot change, I don’t take part but I accept. I think that JVC as a whole needs to do something about the amount of alcohol that is expected, yes, there is an expectation that if you are hosting a party/get together that alcohol will be there. I personally think that there should be a no-alcohol policy all together but it is what it is. There are a lot of things that I disagree with about JVC as a whole. They were hard to get over at first but there is a point where I just learned to accept the things I can’t change. Isn’t there a quote about that? Anyhoo, it’s a lot easier to just take one day as it comes!

I just finished reading a really good book, “Eat, Pray, Love” by Liz Gilbert. It is about Liz’s journey to find balance in her life. She travels to Italy, India and Indonesia to do just that. I recommend reading it. I have read so many books so far this year. I am pretty sure I have read just about every one that was given to me before I left and all the ones I brought with me. It is great! I love having the time to read for leisure. Please, if you have any recommendations, I would love to know. I want to read books that are meaningful to others.
This week I purchased tickets to a Cubs/Padres game at Wrigley field. This is huge! I am so so excited! I am a huge Padres fan and I cannot wait! It is going to be so much fun and the tix were not too expensive which makes it so much better. My community is going too; it should be a great time!
I hope that all that are going/have been to congress have/had an amazing time. I wish I could be there. I will be praying for you all and keeping you in my thoughts. GO MAR! I will be there in spirit! You are all amazing. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Know that mine are with you too. Much love, joy, peace and blessings to everyone!xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

ps it's getting warmer, a balmy 45 degrees today! woohoo, I don't have to wear a hat! :)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Hi friends :) wow has it been a LONG time since I have updated here. I thought I might have more time to update it since I have my computer here with me now but it seems I have had less and less time these days. A lot has been going on here in Chicago and in my life. Where to start…

Christmas break was AMAZING, I was so happy to be home and surrounded by family and familiar people, places and smiles. It is easy to get wrapped up in the superficial ness of the Christmas season which I felt like I was shopping down on Michigan Avenue and the magnificent mile but being back home brought me back. Just to be brought back to the familiarity reminded me of the joy and love of Christmas time. I enjoyed every moment I was there. I am sad that I didn’t get to see everyone up in LA but in time I will get there. I hope everyone’s Christmas and New Year was amazing too.

So lets see, back to JV life, it was a hard transition from home back the Chicago but here is what has been going on…

Community life was rocky and has been rocky as I am sure you have figured out have been expressing over these past few months. It is still not going as I think we would all like but things are slowly getting better in my opinion.

We had our winter retreat on Jan 19-23 which was mostly based on community. We started off the weekend with a speaker talking to us about prayerful discernment as we begin the last half of this year. It was really helpful to hear what he had to say and we had time to reflect and begin our discernment process by asking for direction and seeking God’s guidance through these next 7 months. I still have no idea what to do or in which direction I am going but it is a start! The rest of the retreat was based on community. We had a former JV couple and their 2 children, adorable girl and boy, spend the retreat weekend with us sharing their experiences with us. They talked to us about expectations and working through expectations and where to find God in the midst of everything that is going on with everyone personally and at work and where we find God in community in those times. We had one on one time with each other, Stacey and I each spent 45 minutes with Dave and Kev having intentional conversations which were really beneficial. Dave and I talked about some issues he was working through, he had an emotional weekend so I was glad that I could help him and be there, we grew a lot together that weekend. Kev and I had a good conversation too, we talked about relationships in general and about where we felt we were as a community and a few other things, it was just nice to have a real conversation with him. A lot of times we all small talk at home but don’t really have deep conversations with each other. We get home from work at different times and then eat dinner and converse over dinner but after dinner we get ready for bed, it’s sad. We also talked about challenging ourselves more, becoming more involved in our community, simplifying our lives more and having simplicity challenges and things like that. We were all gung-ho at retreat and then for a little bit after but then we fall out of that “retreat high”, (you know what I’m talking about) and it becomes just talk and no action. That is the most frustrating feeling; I know we all want to do these things but finding times and ways seems to be a challenge. I was looking back in my journal from orientation in August and I had defined what I wanted our community to be like it was something like, “a community who supports each other, prays together, laughs together, has fun together, does service together, learns about social justice together and loves together” I laughed after I read this because these things seem so far off now. We are definitely a support system for each other which is key but I feel like all these other things should fall into place but they haven’t yet. Please continue to pray for us and for these things, thank you!

On a little bit of a lighter note, work is fabulous! I love it. I have expanded the home delivery program to exceed my goals thus far which is fabulous. In January we delivered to 144 clients total compared to the 125 when I first started. The volunteer pool has drastically increased as well this is extremely helpful. We are starting new procedures for the program so some of the volunteers who have been volunteering for a while are a bit frustrated, they do not really like the changes but life goes on. The Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) is requiring that we have all clients sign a PROXY form. The in-pantry clients are required to sign in at the intake desk every time they pick up food and we are required by GCFD to keep records of everyone we give food to. They found out that we had 144 clients we were delivering to and freaked out so now we have to implement this program too. It is going to be a rocky start but I’m optimistic, we’ll see how it goes! We are currently planning our annual volunteer appreciation party which has been fun. I get to help with the logistics and making the invitation and doing the RSVP’s, it’s a lot of fun. In March we have our annual fundraiser this year it is “Swing into Spring”. We will have a live band and someone teaching the guests how to swing dance. It is going to be a lot of fun, Stacey, Dave, Kev and I will be volunteering at the event, I am going to try to recruit the Milwaukee house to come down and help too! All in all things at Lakeview Pantry are fantastic!

I find myself asking a lot of questions as I am seeing people everyday that go without food. Food is such a basic necessity it boggles my mind that so many people go without or very little. We live in the “great” Country and we are the “powerhouse” of the world but we have people who cannot afford shelter, food, drink, and the basic human rights that every person is entitled to. So what do I do about that? As one person I can only do so much but have a hard time trying to find a balance. Some days I want to march myself over to the White House and give President Bush a piece of my mind and others I just want to stay in bed and cry all day for these people. Other days I feel that no matter what I do things are not changing so why bother. I am constantly asking why I am in this program, why am I here in Chicago, what is this leading me to? Often times I feel lost and confused and am just waiting for answers and feel like they are never coming. My conversations with God often consist of these questions and asking for answers. Sometimes I wish the answers would fall from the sky and knock me off of my feet, but that would be too easy. I have learned to take each day as it comes and the answers will hopefully be unveiled to me. I continue to ask God for patience and guidance and fully trust that whatever path I am on is his will and I will try to patiently follow and give everyday to him and his goodness and glory.

Meanwhile, the Bears are in the Super bowl and the hype in this city is ridiculous. Everyday there are numerous sections in the newspaper about the bowl and Bears, it is seriously annoying. I must say I can’t help but jump on the bandwagon and root the Bears on though, I don’t think I really have a choice. All I can say is GO BEARS!

Does anyone have any good books they are reading lately? Any recommendation, I would like to start reading books people recommend to me. I am almost done with The Pursuit of Happyness, great book. I have not seen the movie but plan to when it comes out on DVD. Maryann gave me Mitch Albums (sp) new book, For One More Day, I finished it in about a day. It was really good too. Tell me your favorites, I’ll check them out!
Oh some good music artists to check out too, Shawn McDonald, Ally Rogers, Danielle Rose, Ginny Owens. Stacey had introduced me to a few of these artists and a few are my favorites. They are Christian music artists and some of their songs speak to me, they are great. I can’t remember tracks or song names; I am surprised that I can remember the artists’ names actually. One of my all time favorites is “Shelter Your Name” by Danielle Rose, it is beautiful. It is a reminder of God’s love, goodness and Glory. It reminds me to have an open mind and to trust in God always. Check them out though some of the songs have really helped me get through tough times, music moves and speaks to me more than I ever though, it is powerful.

I hope everyone is well. I think about you often and keep you in my thoughts and prayers always. I miss everyone so much especially as the weather reaches negative degrees with wind chill. Why did I choose Chicago again? God only knows! I’m freezing, seriously. I am wearing 2 sweatshirts a long sleeve, undershirt and tank top with a blanket wrapped around me and I still have chills. It is impossible to get warm. I heard it snowed in Malibu though, strange. Send that warm sun this way and remember if you are ever even passing through Chicago please let me know! I will come and give you a quick hug at the airport.

Lots of love, big bear hugs, smooches and never ending blessings to you xoxoxoxoxo

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all :)

I hope everyone had a splendid time celebrating Jesus with family and friends, I sure did!
I went home on Dec 23 and stayed in San Diego unitl Jan 2 and it was amazing. It was so great to see my Uncle and brother, Chris, at the airport. I got home and saw my Mom and almost lost it, I was so so happy to be home. The next morning Joe came in, I hadn't seen him yet, and I was so happy to se him too! It is hard to explain all of the emotions of being home. It was a very different feel than any other time I had been home.
It was so great to go to the beach, my brothers and I went to La Jolla shores a few times and took tons of pictures, it was awesome. On Christmas Eve we decided to take pics before we left for Mass and ended up almost being late and getting death stares from mom as we hurrily entered the doors!
I saw Kim, my eldest sister, and her hubby Steve and my lil neice Abi, we went to Seaworld and met them there and they came to dinner for Joes b-day. I didn't really see them as much as I would have liked but Steve's sister and brother in law and 2 neices and Mom were in the country for Christmas so they were busy doing to touristy stuff. I was glad I got to see them though.
Gigi, my other sister, and her boyfriend Pat came over Christmas morning which was nice. We didn't really get to spend a lot of time together but she was busy working a lot. She is also 5 1/2 months pregnant which is exciting, they are having a little boy!
My brothers and I got to spend a lot of time together which was really really nice. I feel like since I left for college I have missed out on so much of their lives (Joe, this is not lame). So spending time with them is always the most fun. Thats one of the things I look forward to most about any time I come home.
Mom was working most days I was home but we spent some good quality time together too. We got our nails done and went shopping. She was happy to have someone to do those things with. I miss her a lot. Mom's are so amazing. No matter how many times I screw up or upset her she is and will always be there, they're the best!

It was hard to come back to Chicago a few days ago. I was pleasantly surprised when the temperature the night I flew in was about 40 degrees. That was a treat. I was seriously expecting freezing temps and tons of snow. The weather has been great. But it dosen't feel like home. I guess no where really feels like home anymore. Inside my Mom's house does but being in Ranch Bernardo does not. I don't know anyone there anymore. When I walked into the apartment it was cold and dreary and just plan BLAH. I have been feeling this way since I got back. It's just a blah feeling.

Going back to work was great though. I know I have probably over emphasized this in previous blogs but being at the Pantry is what I wake up for every day of the week or else I would just lie in bed and wait for the days to be over until I could leave here. I am still really dissapointed w/ the JVC program and feel like I am not benefiting from it at all. Sure, I got placed at a great agency but that is about all I am grateful to JVC for right now, and placing me in Chicago w/ Stacey.

On Friday night, so last night, Stace and I were the only ones in the apartment. Kev wasn't back yet and Dave went out to see a movie. Stace and I got to talk a bit and we played scrabble and watch Chicago and crocheted, it was fun and we had a good time. We decided that we are going to make a list of everyhting that we want to do for the next 8 months like simplicity challenges, community building stuff in our immediate community, this we want to do round Chicago and just do them. We decided that it is important that we fulfill the goals that we have regardless of anything else. So we will!

I brought my computer back with me so hopfully I can frequent my blogs a little more.

I hope everyone is doing extremely well and is healthy and happy :) I hope 2007 has been amazing so far.

Much love and many blesings, missing everyone bunches xoxoxoxo

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Happy Saturday :) Only 7 more days until I go home, I am super excited! Today is HOme delivery day so I am at the Pnatry and decided (thanks Gaile) that it would be a good idea to post the text on here from the newspaper article about the program i oversee at the pantry. This way you don't have to subscribe to the Chicago Tribune :) Many Blessings, Shelley

Volunteers help keep pantries well stocked
By Josh Noel
Tribune staff reporter
Published December 13, 2006

In her two-room apartment, Jacqueline Burns waits every month for astranger to show up with two bags of groceries. Teeming with fresh and frozen foods, cereals and sweets, the brown paper sacks are vital for the 75-year-old, who gets by on $520 a month."Without these, I'd be sick all the time," said Burns, who mostly stays in a motorized wheelchair. "A lot of times I can't even go out."After carefully setting down the bags, the stranger will move on to another apartment of someone who, like Burns, barely gets by while others live nearby in comfort and affluence. Since 1970, the Lakeview Pantry has been feeding the less fortunate in and around Lakeview, a North Side community where need abounded when it opened its doors. Young professionals and rising property values have come to dominate the area, but pockets of poverty endure. Between trips to the yuppie bars or Wrigley Field, some may miss the less fortunate even though they live in plain sight, often in government-subsidized apartment buildings. In the early 1990s, the Pantry's board of directors considered whether it could do more good elsewhere, but decided Lakeview would need its help for along time, Executive Director Gary Garland said. Though few families live below the poverty line in Lakeview, there are thousands sprinkled in the neighborhood, primarily seniors and the disabled, who can't afford groceries, he said."The people we serve, they're for the most part invisible," Garland said."But they are there, and we suspect that this is a program that will be needed by
these folks for a long time."
Among Lakeview Pantry's core programs is home delivery, which began in 1989 with a handful of people having groceries delivered to their doors each month. Now serving as many as 130 people a month, the Lakeview Pantry is one of the beneficiaries of Chicago Tribune Holiday Giving, a campaign of Chicago Tribune Charities, a McCormick Tribune Foundation Fund. The Pantry also helps feed another 1,900 people who pick up their groceries every month. Home delivery begins about 9 a.m. every other Saturday, with about a dozen fast-moving volunteers setting up rows of brown paper bags across the green and blue linoleum tiles in its storefront location at 3831 N. Broadway. As classical music wafts from speakers above, a wide variety of items go into the bags with strategic flare: pinto beans, frozen meals, dried paella, macaroni and cheese, eye drops and loads of canned goods--corn, carrots,tuna, spaghetti sauce and vegetable stew, among others. On this Saturday,the needy will also get sizable boxes of chocolates. "Everyone deserves a treat," says Debbie Mevora, 54, a Pantry volunteer for about 10 years. In the corner sits Shelley Boniwell, 23, a staff member who oversees the home delivery program and divvies up the driving among eight volunteers. Earlier in the week, Boniwell sets the menu from a combination of donations, purchases and a trip to the Chicago Food Depository. The depository is a clearing house that provides free food to shelters, soup kitchens and organizations like the Pantry."I try to do a variety of canned soups, vegetables, cereal and produce,"says Boniwell, who is on the Pantry staff for a year through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. "I try to get some frozen meat in there. We try to get all the food groups."
For someone who graduated from college a year ago and was never much for shopping or cooking, Boniwell says filling the cupboards and refrigerators of more than 100 people was intimidating, at first. "It was pretty overwhelming," Boniwell says. "But you get into a routine and it flows nicely." By 10:15 a.m., the volunteer baggers are finished, and Boniwell is handing out marching orders. Norman Shanker, 42, a trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, gets seven deliveries from two buildings--on Sheffield Avenue(where million-dollar condominiums are for sale down the street) and on Fullerton Avenue. Two by two, he loads his 14 bags (two for each recipient)into the back of his black BMW SUV. Shanker began volunteering three years ago after wandering into thePantry while his daughters' soccer teams practiced across the street. He wanted to know if the Pantry needed help and was quickly put to work. "It's hard to believe, in an area of such affluence, that there could be this much need in your own back yard," says Shanker, who lives in nearbyLincoln Park. His first stop is a high-rise on Sheffield, where Justin Pulaski, 64,waits in the lobby in a motorized wheelchair. Pulaski is so excited that he doesn't want Shanker to take the bags to his apartment. He accepts them in the lobby, balancing one at his feet and the other on his lap. "This is really a very good thing for me right now," says Pulaski, a retired cab driver who lives on $623 a month. "If it wasn't for the Pantry, I'd really be stuck." With gratitude, he tells Shanker that he will have enough food to get by for two or three weeks."What I get from the Pantry is a tremendous help," he says. "They take a big burden off each month."As Shanker leaves to make another delivery, he pauses and says, "Well,that's good motivation to get out of bed at 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning right there."