Friday, August 3, 2012

Wait... it's already August again?

Can you believe it? I sure can't. August means I've lived in Asheville for a whole year! August means my first year with AmeriCorps is completed! August means summer is drawing to an end soon! August means my dad's birthday, hot afternoons and rainy evenings, a new house and roommates and neighborhood, new AmeriCorps team, new job placement site... wow that's a lot of new things. August does seem to fall into the "new beginnings" section of the life index, doesn't it?

Well... here I am. Measuring time in abstract ways... like all the things I listed above. This week, true to my annual tradition, I moved. The house reminds me of ones in Denton- old, quirky, inherited from friends, filled with laughs and friends, in a neighborhood biking distance from everything I could dream of. A few weeks ago summer camp ended and my AmeriCorps team completed our year of service with a touching, sentimental graduation. I'm proud to say I played a song I wrote! And didn't make a total buffoon of myself when it was my turn to openly reflect about my year to about 80 people both familiar and unfamiliar. I also committed to a second year of AmeriCorps with Project POWER! Cross your fingers with me that I'm assigned to one of the school garden positions :)

This summer has been a whirlwind... hence my absence from blogland. But rest assured- my absences indicate a saturation of adventure and activity in my life. This summer's adventures included...

- assisting my roommate Xandy in catering 300 Cake Pop/ balls at a wedding
- a solo adventure to the Rainbow Gathering where I met some fellow Ashevillians
- a visit from Cheshire and Ashitaka!
- a trip to Washington DC to visit my brother Joel, Aunt JoAnne, cousin Cara, friend Amanda, and my adopted (Diane's) parents
- Summer camp (10 hour days... whew!) with middle school kiddos and amazing coworkers, which was life changing
- Frequent tube floats down the French Broad and Green Rivers
- Hikes to waterfalls!
- learning how to make a magical elixer to strengthen the liver using burdock (yay for self-guided herbalism studies!)

Until next time... :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Springing out of hibernation

The birds are back- they wake me in the morning with their whistle songs and serenade me when I'm driving or walking. The sun is still up high when I leave work at 6:30. Trees are budding, flowering, and green is everywhere! A few weeks ago, the first baby bear sighting. He was caught in a tree near downtown (funny place for a bear...). But nature isn't alone in awakening from hibernation. And this awakening is just in time.

Consider my absence from this blog as just one dimension of my own hibernation. I have become so ingrained in a rhythm that seems to carry me through each day and week. Any attempts to alter the rhythm (ie, wake up early to go for a run, or go to after school early to prepare for the day) backfires. I wake up at the same time every day. Leave the house at the same time. Leave work at the same time. Go to bed at the same time.

But since spring has arrived, the rhythm has eased it's rigidity. I've found myself on a bike ride through town with friends the past two weekends and expanded my container window garden. I've been able to fit climbing into my lunch breaks. The biggest change, though, has been my own growth in strength and flexibility of both body and mind. And I attribute this to two things: an ashtanga yoga class, and rock climbing.

You see, the past three or so weeks have been insanely stressful, nearly comparable to Social Work Practice 3. The after school program I am starting up and directing has had a lot of major changes and a few kids with some major behavior and discipline issues. There has also been some drama with one of our tutors, and I have found myself pulling on my "social worker pants" and advocating for the three children that make my life hell most days because I refuse to be one more person who gives up on them. At the end of the day, I am reminded why I'm here and why I'm doing what I'm doing. And that I have a long way to go.

It seems that the Texas climate followed me to North Carolina. Winter left much to be desired as far as cold and snow goes, and spring has come and gone so fast it feels like summer is just around the corner. What is around the corner makes everything ok: Spring Break!!! Carol, Jenny, Peter, and a huge crew of folks from the Asheville climbing community are heading out to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky for a week of climbing and camping. I seriously cannot wait to live out of a tent and backpack for a week. This is way overdue. WAY overdue. And.... Ginny is joining us for a few days!!!!!!! By the way... have I mentioned that she moved to Atlanta... 4 hours away?? Yeah. That happened. And I am super excited.

So.. consider your friend Jordan awakened with Spring and back in action :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Outpouring all-inclusive love

This is a beautiful life. My friends are amazing- old and new. Each day in its entirety is beautiful, even when it leaves my body and mind gasping for energy by 6:00 pm. Unwinding is a time-illiterate process. Knitting. Yoga. Reading. Sitting on the back porch. Remembering that exhaling tension out my fingers upon the guitar strings feels so good after a long day.

Combining yoga and rock climbing makes every part of my body throw a party. Wednesdays I attend an amazing yoga class that brings new meaning to life. Carol and I have gone out to Rumbling Bald, this amazing acreage of boulder fields, and obsessing over a pretty challenging route on the ceiling of a quasi-cave boulder.

And this strength and flexibility practice is spreading into other areas of life. Yesterday I successfully played on monkeybars for the first time in my entire life. I spent most of the day playing with kids on playgrounds. I feel more and more in tune with the things going on around me and with the needs and energy of the kids I work with, but so fully immersed in it that I become consumed with feeding those needs.

Also for the first time, I am entirely involved in the processes of running my own show. Having a big idea -> taking some initiative to make it real -> planning -> enacting -> experiencing an idea/dream come true -> reflecting. I run tutoring groups. I run an after school program. What the fudge? (Sign you work with kids: saying things like that all the time).

Oh yeah. And there was Thanksgiving too. Talk about a soul recharge! Suddenly I felt like I could relate to all of my cousins. It felt like the maturity gap had almost entirely dissolved in the last year. We spent the better part of the long weekend making a movie continuing a saga started circa 1994, including some 2nd cousins. Look for a post to come with the youtube link.

Things I am looking forward to:
Seeing friends and family for the holidays... in 4 days!!!
Ginny moving to Atlanta- 4 hrs away!!!! And having a kickass Americorps gig to boot!
Winter's prolonged arrival (it was 65 degrees and sunny today!!!!!) with a snowstorm
2012 (dun dun dun)

May your heart be filled with compassion, kindness, and most importantly, love.
Let love pour out of you like sunbeams.
Don't leave a single person out!
You can do this!
And you will feel better than you have ever felt before.
- Lewis Rothlein

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Falling into place

October was blissfully gorgeous. For four weeks, I drove around with colors dancing in my eyes and spent inordinate amounts of time with children. With a brief jolt, November reminds me of how temporary life is. Last week began with a lot of newness. A new reading group of very sweet 2nd graders. A new after school site completely different in every way. A new black smear on my front bumper. And bare trees towering over sidewalks blanketed in leaves.

But before November could begin, before these changes, October had to end, and it went out with a BANG. Abbie and Jon visited from Denton and brought two friends for MOOGfest. Below we sit on a statuesque memorial bench randomly placed on the side of a building. All photo credits to Abbie.

Saturday I volunteered during the Flaming Lips show. My third time to see the band (always a BLAST), but this time, from a brand new and amazing perspective. Instead of dancing in a sea of confetti-showered folks in costume competing to punch giant balloons, I was working a booth right next to the crowd and watched the entire spectacle from there. It was windy, and the ginormous balloons kept getting stuck behind our tent. I nominated myself the balloon fetcher and had all the balloons to punch that my heart desired.

Sunday, I joined my visiting friends for a glorious day on the town. We had a tasty lunch, visited a drum shop that was hosting a jimbeh class, mosied over to sit in a dark room and enjoy Brian Eno's 77 Million Paintings installation (check out the link btw! it's about the installation) before hitting up some more music- M83 and Umphrey's McGee. But really, the highlight of the weekend was hanging out with friends from home (and new friends!). I often think of Denton and miss the wonderful people and community, and it made my heart sing to catch up and spend time with dear friends from home :)

Monday, during my lunch break, we took a stroll up the road and found a hidden trail, the leftover trash from a homeless camp that used to live in a gulch, and a breathtaking view of the city below in autumn glory. Below is a view down my street.

This is our view of the city from just up the hill/mountain/it's all relative just know it's mighty mighty steep. See the mountains in the background? Yeah. I STILL get goosenipplebumps looking at those.
A little peekaboo at just how bright the colors are. Crayola missed a few colors. There could be a whole box of 24 dedicated to Autumn in the Blue Ridge.

Things I'm looking forward to:
* Project RISE (my actual after school program that's been much delayed) finally starting next week.
* Road trip with brother bear to NY/CT area for Thanksgiving with the Diamond clan (more like squirming in my seat absolutely excitedly awaiting)
* Road trip with Carol to TEXAS for Christmakkahbirthday. Heads up, by the way. Dec 22- Jan 2. Denton/ Dallas/ McKinney/Austin, you will feel my love. More details later.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Socks & Sandals

Fall is in full shebang. Cold nights, warm afternoons, chilly winds shaking yellow, red, orange leaves from trees. And noses running, of course. Friday morning awakened to a blanket of white fuzz- the First Frost. Of course, I was in a tent, snuggled in a sleeping bag wearing long johns. I continue to wear my sandals, sporting the ever-classic socks & sandals look. The kids really like my rainbow toe socks, and point out when my socks don't match (most days). I procrastinate buying a pair of shoes.

Speaking of kids, I am absolutely in LOVE with the group at my after school site. I found out this week that I will be transferred to another after school site, and my heart hurts. Tomorrow is my last day in paradise with my brood. They don't know yet :( On the good side, I have also jumped aboard the YMCA Garden Team. They are expanding the garden, and need an extra hand while a member is away for a few months. I'll be working on sheet mulching to make new soil, making raised beds with cob building, rainwater collection barrels, and will have a greenhouse to my disposal at the new after school site! I am SUPER STOKED!!

Also this week, I have a new reading group of 2nd graders- sweet, adorable 2nd graders! The other groups are going just swell. We're all in the groove and already I see them growing so much in their reading, it's so awesome! Even at After School, I have a little group of kindergartners that read to me. It's so much fun watching them learn!

But the highlight of recent past is LEAF. Last weekend, I volunteered at the festival. My soul was recharged. Emily, Ashley, Johnsie, Brianna, Otis and myself camped in a giant field with hundreds of other camps. There were some pretty legit setups with kitchens and huge tents and portable fire rings. We froze the first night and then brought a fire ring back after a jaunt into town for Make A Difference Day. The entire weekend was filled with awesome music, stellar people watching and friend making, volunteering jaunts that included sitting in front of a giant stone fireplace playing with little children, and camp food. Lake Eden is in a valley amongst rolling mountains that are vibrant with fall colors, especially amazing during sunset when everything is gilded. The two best parts: children climbing in trees and bushes all over the place all the time, and watching some of my kiddos from school performing with their LEAF In Schools and Streets teacher from Malawi.

This weekend, Abbie is coming to Asheville for Moogfest. I'm super stoked to see her, play tour guide, and Again... hopefully seeing The Flaming Lips, Passion Pit, Umphreys McGee, St. Vincent, and more.... for free... because I'm volunteering. Serious perks to being a professional volunteer :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Good Idea Days

A month without a post tells the tale of the constant adventure that I live in. With both morning and afternoon work placements in full swing, time has begun to race by. I can't keep track of hours, days, weeks or months at all. Rather, I sense time progressing by the increasing attachment growing for each of the kiddos I work with and the easier it gets to help them sound out a hard word, redirect them during chaos at After School, and the better my answer gets to the question, "What's wrong with your hair?".

Signs of settling in are more noticeable, and a regular routine of sorts has emerged. Mornings come to soon, but by the time the first group of kids tumble into the tutoring lab, I'm ready to face the day with a mug of tea. After a morning of tutoring kids in reading, I head to Carol's house for a daily lunch date followed by a blissful hour reading in a hammock before heading to my After School site and spend the afternoon hanging outside with an awesome group of kids, some days working with them in the garden, some days just playing in the woods.

Weekends still are full of volunteering at festivals. It is now Fall Carnival season for the schools, and of course, Americorps volunteers are involved at each one. Sundays, however, are Adventure Days, and remain Good Idea Days as well. Check out the pictures from each of the hikes!

9/25- Deep Gap Trail, Mt. Mitchell State Park with Graham, Marian, Chrissy, Austin, and Luna
An absolutely stunning hike along the ridgeline of the Black Mountains. The trail is 4.5 miles and crosses 4 peaks. We got as far as Mt. Craig (6,647 ft- 2nd highest peak East of the Mississippi!) before we had to turn back b/c of time, but I really want to do an overnight backpack trip on the full trail. Between the peaks, the trail winds through a mixed hardwood and spruce forest. Rocks and trees are covered in green moss and it smells like Christmas trees. Emerging from the forest at the peak reveals the rainbow of trees in full Autumn bloom. Easily my favorite trail.

10/2- Yoga on the Mountain Hike to Hemphill Bald with Emily, Cam, and Nathan

We arrived late and met a group of fellow yogis at the top of Hemphill Bald on the Cataloochee Ranch in Maggie Valley- a 2.5 mi hike through private, protected land. The view was magnificent, especially from downward facing dog, looking up at the sky. After our yoga practice, we hiked back down the mountain and from a distance saw two black bear cubs! After much discussion, we decided it was safe for our large group of 9 to continue, making lots of noise and song to warn Mama Bear of our presence.

10/9- Bradley Falls with Carol and Alyssa. Beautiful 80 ft drop waterfall over black rocks, surrounded by trees vibrant with yellow, red, green, and orange leaves. The trail is flat and roped with roots and the occasional fallen tree, splitting off to smaller trails frequently. One split off is a steep climb down the mountain to the river and bottom of the falls. It requires hands and feet, especially on the climb back up, clambering on a natural "staircase" of roots and boulders. One part requires rapelling down a 20 ft rock face using a rope installed on a tree. We picnicked just beneath the falls on a rock and sang silly songs. I took pictures with the film camera, they'll come later.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blue in the Blue Ridge

Sometimes at night I feel mopey. It usually happens when I find myself alone at home and my roommates made plans together and I somehow missed the boat. Usually, they're going to a bar, and I don't feel like going anyway, but I find it an excuse to indulge in loneliness. I'll sit on the roof or in my room strumming songs that half make me feel better and half further the indulgence. Then I'll facebook stalk people from Texas and ache a bit for all the familiarity and friends and whatnot, and feel a little homesick.

It's been an off week. It's been an on week, too. I just feel weird. This weekend was pretty bipolar- some really awesome stuff- the Lexington Ave Arts & Fun Fest (LAFF), which I volunteered at; friends from Denton in town, a long weekend, and a cold front; and some really sad stuff- a breakup. LAFF really was amazing- street performers, bicycle jousting, live music, people in costume (lots of tutus). Having friends in town, playing tour guide and catching up was refreshing. But the breakup sucked and I feel especially needy for hugs and laughs from good ol' friends. I'm great at giving hugs, not so great at asking for them.

Work, however, has been a huge plus in my life. My morning reading tutoring program gives me a chance to plug into some social work background and learn a bit about teaching. Some of my kids require a bit of collaboration with teachers, and I recently learned one child is autistic. Tuesday I began at the after school site, where I basically hang out with awesome kiddos in the woods for a few hours. My particular program won't start til October, but it will be at the same site. A cold front blew in with Trop. Storm Lee this weekend, and so it is absolutely lovely and autumn is peeking around the corner. Today, I attempted to teach group of giggly little girls how to sew. Good news- no battle wounds or gouged eyes! They did really well :) The project goal is that the group will eventually make a quilt, each child embroidering their own patch! Isn't that adorable???? The site leader gave me the go-ahead to take on the project :)

I've sure got a lot to be grateful for- a WHOLE lot- though things are still transitioning and I'm a wee bit impatient at times and mopey at others. I am glad to say, the wars between my cat and a roommate's cat are lessening, and I even caught them licking each other for a brief second earlier.