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.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Giving and Receiving

Today was the first day at my actual position! I have my own little classroom at an elementary school where I tutor kids who need extra help with reading, using this cool computer program called Read Naturally. I never thought I'd have my own room and my own little group of kids. Each group comes in for about 30 minutes, so the day goes by pretty fast. It's tiny- even my little bedroom is bigger- but there's a wall of windows that look out to the mountains! And I have a blank wall to make posters and hang kids' drawings on :) In the afternoons, I will be working at a YMCA after school program, but that doesn't technically start til October, so the next month will be more a planning phase.

The past week, I've kept super busy. Friday night and Saturday, the team led crafts with kiddos at the Kid Zone at the Goombay Festival celebrating West African and Caribbean culture in Downtown while an urban youth stomp/dance team performed and a LEAF In Schools artist led a drum circle in the YMI Cultural center, a historic community center for the African American community of Asheville. We had some pretty nifty craft stations- Sijal and his group set up a "loom"- yarn tied between 8 chairs, coming together in the middle, where children wove different types of yarn, string, ribbon, and fabric to make a colorful "God's Eye"-esque craft, which we hung on display in the window of the YMI. On Friday, in partnership with City of Asheville's Easel Rider mobile art lab, myself, Johnsie, and Alyssa helped kiddos, parents, and adults create a collage mural of magazine clippings, which reminded me of the good ol' Panhandle House days in Denton when Ginny, Jaime, Josh, random friends, and I would go through National Geographic and make our own collages.

In my free time (that not spent volunteering), yoga, climbing, hanging out with my Americorps buddies, and playing concerts on my porch. Since finding a $5 pair of climbing shoes, I got a membership to the local climbing gym and gone 3-4 times a week, something I've wanted to do for over a year but kept putting off. I made a friend last week at the gym, who also works at a bar downtown that often has awesome bands play. He invited Carol and I to go out to Grandmother Mountain and boulder, so yesterday we packed into my little red car with 2 crash pads and drove out into the mountains. The rocks are AWESOME!!! Just high enough to push my acrophobia but keep my cool. We ran into some fellow Ashevillians and their dogs, and left when our hands were ripped up and covered in medical tape.

Also yesterday, friends Graham and Marion and I explored two of the many farmer's markets, which take our food stamps! We tasted fresh local honey and carried bags of the most delicious peaches, apples, and homemade sourdough bread to the car with a skip to our walk.

Asheville is amazing, the people are beautiful and happy, and there are so many exciting things to explore. I am so lucky to have this built-in group of friends, otherwise I'd probably feel overwhelmed by the big city. It's nice to start making friends outside the Americorps circle too, I certainly miss the small town community of Denton where I knew people everywhere I went. We have so much food at the house, it's humbling really, because it all came from a generous donation from the food bank to the Americorps team and from food stamps. We don't get paid until mid-September, and even then the pay will be meager. This is the life of professional volunteers. It's cool- we're all here to serve the community, and the community gives right back to us with equally open arms.

Friday, August 12, 2011

One man's trash, another's treasure

(This was written a week ago and I'm just now posting)

I wish I had pictures from today. Brian does, he takes about 200 pictures a day, and he said he'd send me his favorites. The reason is, we did our first service project at the Randolph Learning Center (RLC), the alternative school for kids with behavioral issues. Administration has decided to rename the school in favor of a new acronym after the students started calling themselves "Retarded Little Children".

Anyways, after a morning of presentations on all the job positions, we split into groups to do different projects around the school to spruce it up. A few others and myself removed a neglected terrarium from the cafeteria and cleaned weeds out the greenhouse. We found some treasure there: a massive tomato plant dripping with green bulbs and a copperhead. We relocated after meeting the snake, and I proudly rescued the tomato plant to the growing garden on Mt Buchanan. Another group that included my housemates Chrissy and Steven carried a bunch of furniture to a dumpster out front. Upon realizing that there were useable desks and chairs in the dumpster, about 5 of us climbed right in and used a power tool to remove the carpeted privacy walls from the desks (ya know... the kind you sit in in ISS...) and hauled them right back out of the dumpster. Now, all I need is a (real) bed!

It's been one hell of a great week. The team is like a family already, we're all on the same page and work harmoniously with one another. We went to karaoke night Wednesday, and Matt and his fiance Liz took the cake and made it to the finals; Matt came in 2nd. They are awesome, both hold theater degrees and are from Austin, TX! Last night, a group of about 6 of us went to a yoga class and left with super flexible hips from holding pigeon pose for wayyyyy too long. But here's what really brought us together: the Get Motivated! business conference, aka Get Scammed! We caravanned to Greenville, SC at 6 AM with high hopes of hearing Bill Cosby, Laura Bush, Steve Forbes, Rudy Giuliani, and a bunch of other big shot speakers. We arrived at an arena at capacity- 21,000 people- and promptly watched a circus spectacle complete with confetti, fire cannons, and spotlights. Some of the speakers had some good stuff to say, but mostly it was an infomercial for an investment management software aka scam. We left early.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I live on a mountain

Yes. A real mountain. In the middle of the city. The road is so steep, we downshift to 1st gear to get down, around a sharp few curves, and back down to the main road. We floor it to get uphill, and there are 5 cars (one an orange, empty 15-passenger van) gridlocked in the narrow driveway made for 2 minivans. Downtown is a 20 minute walk/ 15 minute strenuous hilly bike ride, where there are coffee shops, artsy shops, eateries, and local businesses galore, all using locally grown produce. Everyone wears chacos and drives a subaru, except the firefighters, and they get called out at least 6 times a day. We live behind a hospital; the sirens kinda replace the train whistles that you could set your clock to in Denton.

Today was the first day of orientation. The next three weeks will be a glorious medley of team building, paperwork, complimentary awesome food, get-to-know-ya games, and an overload of program information. Tomorrow: picnic on Mt. Pisgah, some serious paperwork stuff, and swimming in waterfall-fed pools. Wednesday: leadership conference, where Bill Cosby, Ross Perot, and Laura Bush are speaking, among others. The team- 25 adults of all sorts of ages, backgrounds, and such. Already, I've had some awesome conversations. It feels so great to instantly have a bunch of awesome friends. The good stuff definitely offsets the rocky start :)

In a book exchange on my way out of Denton, I was given the Autobiography of Mohandas Gandhi, which is catching me in a really great way. He talks about leaving India to study in London and having to learn a new culture of social norms and etiquette, language, and
diet in addition to studying to be a lawyer. Even he had a series of hiccups in the kickoff of his adventure. I feel like this book is speaking the words of friends and family of similar encouragement :)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Right place, right time

After a few day's delay, I am finally in Asheville, NC. Last Sunday, I drove out to meet my friend Meg who accompanied me on the journey. We left Tuesday, after watching a beautiful and much needed rainstorm. We made an adventure out of the drive- taking the Natchez Trace Parkway through Mississippi, a corner of Alabama, and Tennessee. The NTP is chock full of history and was an awesome alternative to taking the Interstate. No traffic, no semi-trucks, no billboards or big signs for fast food and truck stops. Instead, we stopped at scenic picnic areas, camped in a state park, and visited the Mississippi Craft Center, a museum of local folk crafts. In Tennessee, we took a few State Highways towards Lynchburg and toured the Jack Daniels distillery.

Fun Fact: It is legal to produce, but not to sell liquor, beer, and wine in the county where Jack Daniels Distillery is located, due to remaining Prohibition laws.

Thursday, we arrived at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and camped with Tera, a friend from Denton. We went on a few hikes, cooked some awesome camp food, and went tubing in the river at the campground. Along the trails, we swam in the river and a few waterfalls in our underwear. No shame :) And when we did finally pull into Asheville, this is what welcomed me to my new home:

Yep. Bele Chere is a FREE, four-stage music festival that completely takes over the downtown area- a good 6 square blocks- for three days. And lining the closed-off streets are booths of local businesses and craftsmen, amazingly talented street performers and side musical acts, and raging evangelists side-by-side the equally vocal members of the Asheville gay community.

Tomorrow, roommates move in. And thus, Welcome to Asheville, Jordan!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Murphy's Law is a sign of good fortune, right?

One week before I had planned to embark on Operation Major Life Change (aka moving across the country), my car, safely parked in front of my house, had a little run in. Needless to say.... OMLC has been delayed by Murphy's Law. Yeah, it's pretty frustrating, I was eager to get on with a new adventure. But I suppose in my eagerness I nearly left my home state with a few loose ends left untied. I suppose it's not what I had planned- staying with my parents for a week plus some, sharing a futon with my brother, reading and being lazy- but sometimes the best laid plans go awry to make room for a better plan. I'm glad, at least, to get some extra time to spend with family and some dear, old friends, and a chance to practice being a grown up before having to do it on my own in another time zone.

But seriously... I'm ready to get MOVING!!! :)

Silly quote:
"Picky-picky, I hope you have 9 lives, and you wake up tomorrow someone else's cat, and sometimes they feed you melon rinds."
- Ramona Quimby, from Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Cleary

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The choice is mine

Two roads diverged in yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler long I stood
And looked down one long as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

When should I move? Should I get a job? Should I do this? Should I do that? There are questions, so many uncertainties, and a dear friend explained to me yesterday, there are so many possibilities. And this is an adventure! But I keep catching myself wallowing in "can't" and "not" and "wish" and all those other words that build dissatisfaction inside of me instead of pricking my excitement for a new adventure. I love uncertainty! I love adventure! I love just going with the flow. The Debbie Downer fairy has gotten in my head, and by jove I want her out. This is the time of my life! And what the hell else am I on this planet for except to enjoy myself?

I'm making a list of things I want to do and setting an intention. The rest will follow suit.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thoughts on changing the world

"I am a change agent. I must be the change I wish to see in the world."

This phrase haunts me. At first, the phrase was innocent, motivational, thought provoking. But somewhere in the force-fed curriculum thrust at me from all directions, it turned into something of a vile dissatisfaction with the world. First, all of these imperfections with society were exploited as "social problems" that must be fixed. Next, all the ways to fix these problems were presented with smiling faces. And so the thought process began. And over and over again, I practiced identifying "social problems", "ways to fix them, and then developed a plan to intervene and change the world. Maybe that was just my reaction. But it began to seep into my every day thoughts on everything, and now all I see in the world around me are social problems.

Here's what I've been struggling with: this thought process comes from a complex that says "the world is not good enough!". It's synonymous with arrogant dissatisfaction. And they wonder why social workers burnout?? I have a chronic dissatisfaction with everything that isn't as I want it to be. I'm finding there's a big, big difference between helping people and trying to change people.

Here's the thought process that makes more sense to me: the world simply is the way it is. people are the way they are. and i'm not on this earth to change that. i'm on this earth to be a part of that. and things do change, things do evolve, and i'm a part of that too.

"If there's one thing that's certain, it's that everything I see of the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak"