Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmastime Empathy of Gunshots

The smell of fresh fruit, dried leaves and rotting pumpkins has passed. The trees have stiffened and dropped their leaves, which lay in constantly soggy clumps in the yard. The breeze just hovers and the chill clings to glass window. Colored lights now decorate the shinny city and wink as cheerful smiles pass on my quiet neighborhood streets.

Meanwhile this evening, just miles away, silence was the last thing that fell upon the mall at Clackamas Town Center. Repeated gunshots, sharp screams, the slamming of store front gates vibrated through the food court. And the constant whisper of Christmas hymns shared their message of peace, echoing through the decorated mall. Trembling souls watched the arms of clocks heave heavy minutes as they hid in offices and back storage closets of various stores as the shooter rampaged through the second level.

Not as many details have been released as there have been personal stories of friends, patrons, managers, families getting photos taken with Santa and consumers purchasing holiday gifts as Hanukkah is upon us and Christmas is around the corner. My roommates and I have hung an obnoxious poster of Santa Claus in our front picture window and "peace, love & joy" stockings on the living room wall above a jar of candy canes on the living room table. The red, green and white wrapping paper that we used to decorate our Yankee Candles really isn't much but sets the tune of the season. I can't imagine flicking on the lights of our mini Christmas tree, locking up our comfy and cozy little home, going to the mall and never returning. The two unsuspecting people who tragically passed away tonight will now be angels watching over us this season.

You can not prepare, you can not expect and I know this has happened repeatedly around the world but I couldn't help but feel sick to my stomach while watching the news at the gym. Knowing that one of my friends had locked herself in the managers office at her store was gut wrenching. I couldn't help but feel the fear of the family who's baby daughter was on Santa's lap during the time of the ringing riffle. Or the girl who's sister was one of the seven injured, now at OHSU (Portland's major hospital) and I couldn't imagine how all their families and friends felt when they found out.

Everyday, I make an effort to vocally share my gratitude of the beauty around me, my own friends & family, the challenges & goals in my life and the service I am able to provide for others. Whether or not you believe in gun control, people killing people or guns killing people, or unearthly natural selection, take the time to realize what you do have in your current lives because it could be gone in a wave of a hand. It is too bad that it takes a publicized disaster for some people to feel the emotion that could be shared regularly.

Maybe I am just over-emotional and ranting but please, just take care our yourselves and each other, this holiday and every day. Bless us all, for blessings come in a thousand different kinds of packages.

Stay warm, we are all where we belong.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


After a Thanksgiving spent with friends, coworkers, Addy the Dog, fantastic food, Jumanji and the Patriots creamin' the Jets… this image was the icing on the cake.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


30-D POD: 30

We went to the Portland Art Museum last night for "Free Fourth Friday" admission! The 4th floor was very modern and very much so my favorite. This piece stood out the most. Reduce, reuse recycle… into art!

And on this patriotic note, my 30 Day, Photo of the Day mission is completed. I may have not been very punctual all the time but these 30 photos represent the last month of my little life.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Douglas Fir

30-D POD: 29

Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Pioneer Square in a Portland drizzle; even the Hilton is all lit up!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Full of Turkey

30-D POD: 28

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last Thanksgiving, I was living on a team of 11 people, 45 miles out of the nearest town, in the Anza Borrego Desert. We had the holiday off and decided to volunteer at Julian, CA Town Hall by feeding the hungry, the homeless, the tourists, the veterans, the locals and stuffing ourselves with candied yams. I remember the chill in the air. Winter was approaching, even in Southern California. I talked to people who came through the line as I served them mashed potatoes out of serving trays and pouring ladles of gravy over their plates. They told me how thankful they were for my AmeriCorps NCCC's team service that day.

In my family, Christmas was always the largely celebrated holiday. We'd done the Thanksgiving dinners at home for years but it slowly just became easier to just go order a meal in a restaurant. No dishes! By the time I was working at CVS, I was pulling double shifts on Thanksgiving to get Christmas off. Meme wanted to have a home cooked meal though for Turkey Day 2010 and I closed the store early to get home. I'm glad I did because it was the last Thanksgiving I had with her.

After my team and I finished cleaning up Town Hall last year and started the long drive home, reality started settling around me. Not only was it my first Thanksgiving away from home but it was the first holiday season without my Meme. My team had heard me speak of her quite often but I needed their support that night more than anything. Missing her, still grieving her recent passing and still adjusting to my new endeavor of service, I took it upon myself as we sat around and ate more pie at our campsite, to start a sharing circle. I wanted to read to my team what I wrote and read aloud at Meme's funeral. This was the first time I cried when I read it since I wrote it. Heck, I didn't even cry when I wrote it! My teammates each ended up opening up and sharing some of their deep thanks. It was a milestone for our team's growth and I'm glad Meme was a bridge for that. I was most thankful to know how proud Meme was of me before she passed and even though she didn't get to hear about my stories on the other end of a phone line, I know she got to see all that I accomplished in my year of service.

Now that I'm back on the West Coast, this time in Portland but still not able to afford the time or the plane ticket, I'm absent from my family's festivities again. However, my fantastic supervisor, Nicole hosted an "Orphan Thanksgiving" for my new team of six. Four of us were able to bring dishes and many friends were in attendance. We made these handy-dandy-turkeys that are posted above (mine is the one with the umbrella) while waiting for the real deal to cook and over a fantastic dinner, we each spoke of where we were last year and what we were thankful for this year.

This year, I am thankful for my AmeriCorps experiences. In NCCC, I learned hands-on skills, traveled through California, met many angels of the day, learned how to appreciate love, improved my leadership capability, grew with my team and opened a door that lead right to where I am now, sitting here on my bed in Oregon, serving a second year of AmeriCorps. It was been life-shaping and I am grateful.

Miss you, Mem. Xoxo.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Got Thyme?

30-D POD: 26

I've got plenty of Thyme for my sweet Italian feast that I'm preparing for a visiting friend this weekend!

Monday, November 19, 2012


30-D POD: 25

In exactly 6 months, I will be on my way to Seattle for the Spring 2013 Build-a-Thon for Habitat! I love this photo! The piers, the Space Needle, the city, the ocean! I hope I can get up there for some puddle jumping soon!

Sunday, November 18, 2012


30-D POD: 24

The largest Women Builder's group that I have seen on site yet!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hawthorn Bridge

30-D POD: 23

At a board meeting, downtown, up on the 21st floor with suits and ties… and I'm in jeans and a baseball cap. The car is dead, parked in a lot we aren't suppose to be in but the view up here is fantastic!

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Put a bird on it!"

30-D POD: 22

This is our newest bedroom tapestry behind Jenna's bed.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Aunt Pat

30-D POD: 21

I spent the weekend with friends from San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and my Aunt Pat who escaped the weather in New Jersey!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


30-D POD: 20

Not Vegas, just my neighborhood TriMet Max stop.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


30-D POD: 18

I've never had a red pear before and it was so good, I nearly forgot to take a picture of it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


30-D POD: 17

When my supervisor told me this space heater had "a little" flames to watch out for, she wasn't kidding.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


30-D POD: 16

Just an awesome day at work under an early Winter Portland sky.

Monday, November 5, 2012


30-D POD: 16

"Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder, treason and plot…"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012


30-D POD: 14

Small accomplishment: I had to disassemble this vent, install the blocking and reassemble the vent!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


30-D POD: 13

I've always hated seeing smashed pumpkins the morning after Halloween but it frustrates me even more when I see them in the neighborhood I am helping construct.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rain, Rain, Rain

30-D POD: 12

Up and down wet scaffolding all day, briskly walked home from work and now off to Crunch gym; No candy for this boy this Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


30-D POD: 11

I signed up at the gym today hoping for one of these bags as a welcome gift… I didn't but I'm still excited for the next months at Crunch Gym!

Monday, October 29, 2012


30-D POD: 10

Today, Jenna and I volunteered with Friends of Seasonal and Service Workers by spending many many hours in a kitchen preparing and steaming hundreds of tamales for their Day of the Dead fundraiser (nearly $1,500 raised)!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


30-D POD: 9

My roommate, Jenna learned on Pinterest (an iPhone app I have yet to embark on) that by placing the roots of your chives in a bit of water, the herb regenerates! (This is our buddy's 3rd life!)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012


30-D POD: 7

I'm heading out of Alabama this morning realizing how shocked I am about lessons I learned, people I met, friends I made and experiences I had in just 5 short days.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


30-D POD: 6

2008 US Olympic silver medalist, fencer Tim Morehouse came to give a motivational speech to all of the Habit AmeriCorps members at our closing plenary… and I got to wear his metal.

Own Me (Revisited and Revised)

In honor of "Throw-back Thursdays,"
here is a poem, strongly revised, that in just a couple weeks turns 6 years old
but still burns in passionate skies.

Sunrise In November Sky

It’s pouring outside, come dance with me in the rain.
Stay close because it’s cold
and if you stray too far I may loose you in the fog.
I’ll take you by your hips and spin you around as the drops pelt this cold empty parking lot.
The white lines uniform the wet-with-black pavement.
White doesn’t look clean and sharp when there is no light to make it glow.
The grey clouds loom above the gutted-out maze and cast Sunday shadows on the vacant buildings.
Everyone has gone home to their warm beds for the morning…
that is where I want to be.

I want to burrow into your covers and lay flat beside you on your left.
I want feel our skin slide smooth together,
let our legs mingle and our hands wander.
Let the warmth between us heat up the frost bit room and melt away the ice sculptures of our pasts.
They’ll form bodies of water that reflect our future like a crystal ball.
Should I strain my gaze to penetrate the mirror-like surface and ruin the surprise?
I can't stand too close to the edge for if I fell in with a splash, I’d drown.
Could you revive me?
If you make time slow down, I’ll stay with you here in your place.

I’ll sit on the edge of your bed if you kiss my back.
I want to feel the irregular elevation of your heart bang inside your chest against mine
and to feel your breath on my neck as I draw you up closer to me.
Let me hold you up, up high on a pedestal.
We will make the sun rise.
I’ll let you run your finger tips down my sides if you wrap your arms around me.
Don’t let go; hold me as if I was being pulled away from you, out of your arms,
by the suns nearing appearance.

Hold me.
I’m yours.
Own me.

Own me like the first steps on the moon; lay your flag down on me.
Own me like a front row seat at one of my favorite shows; can you feel the power of sound?
Own me like the road owns the leaves as they fly around my car when I drive up North to lay with you.
If I knew I could stay forever in your eyes
and forever here in your bed,
I know I could let you own me in the morning lit skies.
Face to face, I look into your bottomless eyes.
I know you can taste my smile on the tip of your tongue,
when you press your lips against mine.
I will not let you go until the sun has reached it peak in the mid-day sky.
Hydrate me with your love
and let the beams burn though the blanket and into our minds.
May hands of light descend from above to deem dark's demise.

Though, this morning is a lonely one and only the pelting rain will hydrate me now.
I'll let it seep into my pores and replenish my life.
I’ll walk into the middle of this paring lot,
raise my arms at my sides and sway slowly.
Starting to spin, I'll gaze up at the shades of gray lifeless clouds above me,
let the beads of water burn my eyes,
drip down my cheeks
and collect in the part of my lips.

Then I’ll whisper your name and it will ring sweet and deep in a halo around my head.
I won't let it echo past my ears so that only I can hear it.
I’ll press closed my eyes again and be back in your bed,
owning you,
until the mid-day sun has reached it peak
in the damp,
November sky.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


30-D POD: 5

Someday, I will travel out of the country to build again.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


30-D POD 4

This conference center is so big, Jenna and I just hitched a ride on the back of a golf cart, provided by staff!

Monday, October 22, 2012


30-D POD 3

Talladega Bowling Center welcomed us with open arms; they must know AmeriCorps likes to... go bolwing.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


30-D POD: 2

I used my Walgreen's "free 8x10 print" coupon on a photo of Green 7!

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Now that I have your attention, I am going to try something simple and new to keep my blog interesting.

30-D POD.

30-Day Photo of the Day.

For the next 30 days! I'll post a picture with a one sentence caption and titled the first word that comes to mind when I see the photograph.

Day 1:

"Some people go to an office every day. I come here."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Throw-back Thursdays

In honor of "Throw-Back Thursdays,"
I present to you a poem, aging and unleashed to the world.

Shameless (May 2011)

When you pulled me in and we started to kiss,
I could not stop myself.
Torn between the soul of the blues and the rock of the roll,
I loved the way your lips parted without hesitation.
This one, lone, star found the heart of Texas.
Astonished and surrounded by moon towers and taxis,
I traced the bone of your jaw with my fingers
to the lids of your eyes,
unveiled from glass,
that brightend up the sky
long after we'd vacated the coverage of the trees in bloom.

Then, watching as you slept on air of ample respect,
I was committed to the heft of your breath.
Beads of sweat swelled on your brow
and I listened for the familiarity behind your breast.
Each heavy exhale was a desire
reflected off of the walls of a concrete, nervous laugh.
I had sprung crisp, involuntary
and clean inhalation of southern air
that pruned me down to sleep
through a pounding in my head
as I remembered how we held
hard-working hands
long after you'd placed them in your pockets for a day's deed done.

You are in the lead of a packed crowd like the Pied Piper
and I follow in the manor of a riskless city rodent.
The walk wasn't long for these boots to two-step,
twirling in the night of flesh
and the friends we are capable
of offering the world to
without fear.

I could have kissed you all night,
in my sleep,
with opened eyes,
wearing but a smile behind those locked doors,
as the skulking skin
of intoxicating boundaries vanished
as soon as they astablished
but be left
with but an empty wallet at day break.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ten and Two

In 2006, when I was in college, focusing mainly on my creative writing courses, I wrote a very choppy poem entitled, "Indistinct Daylight." At the time, most of my love-themed pros took on a poetic license of their own but this particular poem focused on my memories of being young during my Mom's coming to terms with her alcoholism. It was only read by a selected few. I never did much with the piece until last Christmas, on holiday break when I received an email-list update from Coyote Grace, a folk band I'd seen live a few times. I was shocked but very proud to hear the news that Joe, the lead guitarist was facing his addiction problems, seeking help and taking a hiatus. I was provoked to share my own experiences with him to provide emotional support, so I quickly pulled out my MacBook and typed in a search for my choppy poem "Indistinct Daylight" and from there, it took form as the finished product poured out of me.

September marked my Mom's 18th year of sobriety.

Ten and Two 2011

I am 24 years old. 25 in April. I am an only-child, a stubborn, yet well-grounded, earthly Taurus.

My grandfather died in 2007. He had emphysema, among other health issues. Throughout his life, he was a businessman. He owned a newspaper. He met my grandmother, married her, granted her with five precious children and eventually left her in the early 1960s'. My grandfather eventually had two other wives. He was a good man but my grandfather was an alcoholic. In the early 1990's when he was in his early 60's, he made the choice to sober up. He met Gail in AA and they remained sober together for about 15 years. My grandfather made changes in his life and remained a good man, a businessman, until the day he died.

My mother is a saint. She may still be a smoker but is still alive. She is a nurse, pediatrics but took care of my grandmother, who was not an alcoholic, who my grandfather left in the early 1960's, as her kidneys deteriorated for the past six years until my grandmother suddenly passed away, three months ago. I am still grieving but am reminded that a little extra life lives on in each and everyone of us.

Since, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, my mother is an alcoholic, though has been sober for 17 years now. I don't tell her enough how proud of her I am.

My parents tried for ten years to conceive my little self. I think the alcohol had a part in preventing it from happening. Everything happens for a reason and when she quit, I was born. When I was born, she started to drink again. When my dad would go off to work for the day and when I wasn't in school, I was raised by an alcoholic.

I remember the early morning bottles in the indistinct daylight. I would ask for her fingers to dial my father's extension and I would breathe into the phone about my fright and terror.
"What If…?" lingered through the line. My mother has a seizure disorder since before she had brain surgery to remove the clotted nerves when I was 1 and though she is on medication for the writhing curse, the alcohol did not help the disorder. I knew what to do if one ever occurred but
"What if…" lay lingering on the line and I pretended to rest reassured.

I remember one day, leaving the bedroom, descending down the staircase, my mother missed a step and tumbled to the perfectly-placed beanbag, that was beneath the final few feet of collapse, waiting to grab hold of her fall and prop her back up into her fog of reality. A laugh from her. Silence from me. Luck. Grateful.

One day, the little voice from little me, standing in the corner of my bedroom, with enormous sodden eyes, arms down at my side, caused so much frustration that anger hurled metal-toothed, zippered jeans across the room to zip my lips. Little me, with enormous sodden eyes, in the corner, now stood with a hand over my mouth. She cried. She apologized. I forgave because I thought it was ordinary.

I remember being lost in stores, not because I wandered too far but because my mother would.

I remember listening from the top of the stairs to the shouting between my parents. I clutched a stuffed dog with a zipper and inside, hidden, was a family portrait of the three of us. I feared then like the the way I feared the house would someday burn down; how I would pack my "valuables" and sit by the door. It was the fear of abandonment, I suppose.

I remember dreaming. In the car, after stopping to get gas in our city in Massachusetts, while the key was at half-turn to keep the battery running, I would drift aloof, listening to my mothers favorite adult-contemporary on the radio. I was envisioning I could drive. Assuming ease. In my mind, I had my arms out, both hands on the wheel at ten and two, slightly steering and jostling the petal to the floor. I would look over to my left and it was only indistinct daylight and me. The car was moving but behind the wheel: irregular void. Fear. But with a blink, a break, a jolt and a soccer-mom-arm-save I would awake to see she had never really gone away.

I remember on a couple occasions, late at night, after recovering from a seizure, while my father was making calls, I would wonder,
"If I walked around the kitchen table enough times, would I create a furrow?" A moat around the most important place a family can sit. I knew the alcohol was not helping the writhing curse. I suppose I knew life around me wasn't ordinary. I wanted it to be "normal" but what is "normal," anyway? There is no "normal." I was lucky that things weren't worse. Grateful.

I can't remember the excuse given when I asked my father why he took me to the zoo in Maine for a weekend but I do remember the hotel room. I remember hiding Teddy, with my mothers handkerchief tied around him, in the nightstand amid the two unmade beds just incase housekeeping, dressed in black and white French maid outfits adorn with whips and chains tried to shackle him away from me.

That weekend had been the last straw. An ultimatum. A choice. My father and I or the booze?

A decision. My father and I.

I can not remember the month without my mother, when she had gone to rehab at Beach Hill but I do remember the weekend I visited her. I remember walking, talking with my father around the tennis courts and I remember being in the front lobby, seeing her walk down the ramp, down the hall from where the bedrooms were hidden. I was excited. I was scared. I forgave, because I thought it was ordinary.

After that, the soccer-mom-arm-save never stopped. She's still here, sober. She cared enough about me and about herself and with the wave of an arm, someone saved her. She woke up from an irregular void in indistinct daylight and realized she was never alone.

I am an angel, with an openness to listen. I am an angel with a passion to teach the lessons I've learned and to learn the lessons to be taught, to fill the head on my sturdy shoulders and to overcome the battles I've fought. I am an angel with ever-growing wings. I am an angel and I need you to sing.

Continue to be an inspiration, shine and triumph.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Strangers on the Train

It seems as if I want to accomplish everything that the cast of Real World, who are currently filming in town, are NOT accomplishing. Though, they seem to run a lot and that is more cardio than I have achieved since I arrived. While I'm here in Portland, I want to have fun but I am continuing my fight to make this world a better place. It is simply amazing how a simple "hello" can put a smile on someone's face.

I tried it, once I could breathe again, on the way down from a hike up Multnomah Falls with my roommates a couple weekends ago. I greeted those I passed with a "hello," a compliment, a word of endearment, a smile and a glimmer in my eye. I even made some folks laugh. Each reaction I received was a positive one. I also love doing this in the grocery store, recently making snide remarks about the price of frozen fish at Safeway.

Now, I wouldn't necessarily consider Portland an extremely diverse city but as I watch the different cultures in my Gresham neighborhood converge, I love it. Even though it's a rough neighborhood, I want to serve my communities, volunteer as much as I can and immerse myself into what different cultures there are, here in Gresham as well as Portland.

I want wave to children as I walk down the street and I want to make eye contact with strangers on the train. I want to be someone's Angel of the Day, everyday, like I find in people around me. I'm not perfect by any means and I may not always be the brightest star in the sky but I try to make people feel happy. I'm a team motivator, dammit all.

The other evening's ride home from the Q Center on the Tri Met, I sat in the middle of a circle of "real life."

To my right, a black man shouting the term "revolution!" and the phrase "I'm a deviant!"
In front of me, a mexican man tried to calm the passenger down.
To my left sat a half-spanish-half-white woman with two young boys. Hers?
A few rows even further in front of me, a guy, comparable to my age and race called The Deviant out for his lack of respect for the (assuming) mother's two sons. This instigated a comment about freedom of speech.
Suddenly, the attention was upon the young boys playing their old school Gameboys. I can't even remember what the crazy man was saying but I wondered if I should just exit the train on the next stop and wait the 20 minutes for another ride. Then, I realized that I was the only thing in between the kids and The Deviant. And for whatever reason, that made me stay aboard.

The Deviant stood up to go reek havoc at the other end of the train car and the Mexican man "secret-hand-shaked" me and apologized on behalf of The Deviant. I wondered if they were together. He switched seats to distract the boys from the craziness and made stupid jokes.

By this point, my music playing in my earbuds had ended but I pretended to bob my head to some non-existing tunes. When I did this, I actually heard the Mexican man, who I had previous felt like I understood the most, tell the children that The Deviant was the devil and to go home and to love their Mom and themselves because God is in their hearts. He actually then reached out and put his hand on the older brother's chest. If none of the above crossed the line, I felt like that gesture had.

They were more angry tones exchanged between the two original men I had sat down next to. I guess they weren't traveling together.

As we got closer to my stop and the cast of characters exited one by one, I was left sitting with The "Mother" to my left. I took out both earbuds and mouthed the words "are you okay?" hoping to bring some sanity to her train ride.

Her eye lids fluttered, she looked down and back into my eyes and lipped a simple, "yeah."

When I stepped on the train, upon first assessment of the situation, I had to bite my tongue from laughing. But by the time I got to my neighborhood stop, I was trying to make sense of it all, confused and kind of sad. Even now, I'm still not sure why what I had witnessed struck at my heart strings. It was a very "real" moment that I was a part of with strangers on the train and the way all walks of life are connected. I can only hope that I will eventually realize what instances like these are suppose to mean. Or maybe these moments are just for me to observe and to not understand.

After the ride though, I strolled through my rough little South East Gresham neighborhood to my house. I smiled at the old Russian woman who was watching her grandbaby play in the driveway and I waved to the spanish kids playing on the street.

With all this love in my heart, I just want to feel connected to people. I should be careful what I wish for next time.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I arrived at the Q Center last Sunday morning to receive training from another, much older than I, volunteer. Mr. Devine, as I'll call him in this blog, sat behind the front desk with his stalky torso planted in the office chair and his legs rooted to the ground. His long grey beard covered his neck and his mustache just barely draped his top lip. Within the first 20 minutes of our conversation, I learned that Mr. Devine was in his early 60's, retired, gay, in a monogamous relationship for the past eight years and was originally from Ohio. He had moved to Portland two years prior and began volunteering the reception desk at the Q around the same time.

The Q Center is Portland's LGBTQ community center. For those of you who don't know, "LGBTQ" stands for "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Transexual, Queer and Questioning." It serves as a safe resource center, a support center and also hosts ones of the countries largest Queer libraries. Walking through it's front doors can be a big step for someone who is coming out, seeking help, needing support or showing that they are a friend or ally.

The Q also provides space for Alcoholics Anonymous and sex addicts meetings, bi, lesbian and trans support groups and special community events like holiday parties and even a wedding once. The main auditorium is rented out for special events as well as office space for an insurance company and The Portland Gay Yellow Pages.

If it wasn't for volunteers who run the reception desk, the center wouldn't be able to unlock their doors. Paid staff and fundraising are key components to keep the non-profit running but the volunteers keep it operating. Along with new volunteers come fresh ideas, a few of which I am currently cultivating myself. I'm thinking about restarting their Open Mike Night, a Youth Arts & Crafts Afternoon and something that has never been done before, "Christmas at the Q!" I would be there to unlock the doors for a community gathering of LGBTQ's and friends of, who don't have families or who like myself, can not afford to travel home for the holiday.

Mr. Devine showed me how the building operates, how to lock and unlock the doors, control the heat, lights and entertainment center and told me about what he has encountered at the center. However, what I found most intriguing were his stories about spending a year in New York City when he was 21 in the 1970's before going back to The Buckeye State where he had previously lived and continued to live after.

I was awestruck. I mean, I've heard stories. I've read books and seen documentaries on the NYC sex shops, book stores, bath houses, gay bars, night life, Fire Island, AIDs and Stonewall but never have I ever met someone who lived that life style, in that time, in the city. Gay Rights were booming in the 60's and 70's in New York City, where culture was already diverse to the extreme, I can only imagine throwing the gays and their glitter into the mix. Along with (lots of) sex, (mixing) drugs and (dancing in leather to) Rock and Roll, hah, who am I kidding… it was Disco, straight up Disco, with the feather boas, lots of skin, mirror balls and strobe lights added to the setting, I would have died to be a fly on the wall for just one night… a fly, mainly because I wouldn't want to know why my boots were sticking to the floor.

I'm not sure if I'll ever hear more stories like the ones Mr. Devine shared. Some, I can't even share because I don't know who exactly reads this blog. But being interviewed, orientated, acclimated and trained, ready to volunteer at the PDX Q Center for 16 hours a month, for the next 10 months, I'm sure I will hear my fair share.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Great Day

"Good morning and thank you for coming to volunteer with Habitat! Come on in the trailer, grab some coffee and let's get you checked in!"
That is how I've been starting my morning off. Well, I usually start my morning off by checking my email and on occasion, the news on my iPhone and wasting at least 15 minutes of time, in and out of consciousness, trying to wake up in bed.

Then I throw on my dirty jeans, brew my coffee, make a lunch and walk across my whole neighborhood to get to Division and 171st, the biggest Habitat for Humanity construction site in all of Oregon. 45 homes in two years.

All the houses on the site are in different stages. Some are flat foundations, others bare frames and a few completely finished! But when I walk up to the site and see the Habitat logo on posters of family portraits of soon to be first-time homeowners, I know I am right where I belong. I may not know what the heck I'm doing half the time but I'm learning and it's where I feel I'm suppose to be. I may not know much about construction, or what the heck I'm doing half the time but I'm learning lots and I am right where I feel I'm suppose to be!

It is my job now to educate my volunteers, my peers, family and those I meet on the street about how important Habitat for Humanity is.

It was the morning of the Hopebuild 2012 fundraising breakfast for Habitat PDX last Spring when I realized I had a passion for the organization. Two families were focused on at Portland Convention Center that morning. Pam had recently started caring for her grandson and feared how she could make do with what space she had when Pam had given up her own bed room and was sleeping on the couch. At the event, she spoke about  the moment she got the call from Habitat saying she had been selected as she drove to pick her grandson up at school. She had to pull over. She was going to own her first home. Pam also painted a picture of their first night in their new home. He almost bounced off the walls exclaiming "This is ours? This is ours! Look in the cabinets grandma!"

Of course, as Pam talked, my tears started to collect. I had painted her porch.

The Lund Family had also been recently selected for homeownership the beginning of the year. Ann is a single mother of two boys and one girl. Her daughter has Rett Syndrome, a neurodevelopment disorder and needs constant care. The astonishing part about this story is that not only does her daughter's not fit through the front door of their current apartment but can not even maneuver around the apartment itself!

I wanted to work closely with the families and hear more of their stories, so I wrote my first cover letter, improved my resume and was called for a phone interview. Then an in-person interview. Luckily, the timing was perfect as I was in town for my second Portland project in AmeriCorps NCCC.

I wasn't selected for that position; however, I was informed I had impressed and was encouraged to have a second phone interview, this time for Construction Site Crew Leader. A week later, while I was picking up sticks in San Bernardino Mountains, I received the call that I was chosen to serve as one of the 5 crew leaders to build homes and lead volunteers for the next year. What an honor!

So now, I'm teaching volunteers what I may have just learned that morning but I'm upfront with my amount (or lack of) knowledge and tell my volunteers...

"Thank you so much for coming out. If it wasn't for you, THIS wouldn't be here! From our regulars to our newbies, any way you help out today is a perfect way and we thank you. Today is going to be a Great Day!"

When I say, today is going to be a Great Day, I truly mean it. For you, for me, for everyone we are helping. A Great Day in deed.

Portland Youth Build house

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Portland Bound

My flight leaves in 8 hours! I'm a fiery ball of nervous energy as I finish packing and situate all 4 of my bags. I spent today saying goodbye to the important people. I got a visitor from the White Mountains. I drove from Gram's to Gail's. Had a farewell dinner out at Singapore restaurant with my parents and Andrew. Visited a campfire to smooch the baby and say goodbye to some close friends and then I found myself with an audience as I frantically ran around my bedroom counting how many pairs of shoes I'm bringing, bitching about the price of toiletries, getting tangled up in electronics and heaving a very large suitcase onto a teeny tiny scale to double check the poundage of my wardrobe. 43.5 lbs. 

And yes, I'm bringing my dumbbells and packing a bag of dirty clothes that I never got around washing.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time home but staying productive made my 5 week New England summer feel just like moments in time. I cleaned the house, cleaned the basement, and helped empty out Gram's house. I helped plan and host a Progen Hootenanny. I saw Batman, Our Lady Peace, visited Portsmouth, swam in the pool, mowed the lawn and most importantly, spent time with my family. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time home and can't help but to prepare for my return in a year. Too soon, I know.

From Cali to Mass back to PDX, I am ready for my next year facing a new job with Habitat for Humanity, living in my own house, learning hands on skills, improving leadership skills and preparing for a better future.

Rain gear: Check
Umbrella: Check
Cute boots: TBD

I'll see all y'all in Portland.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

About A Girl Named Sue

Yesterday, I spent the entire day with one of my best friends in the whole world, Carly Souza in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It's good to be home on the East Coast for the end of the summer, I LOVE Portsmouth. We went out to eat at Flat Bread Pizzeria followed by the last "Stranger Than Fiction" Improv comedy show of the season. We walked by Prescott Park, we drank wine, ate lots of white bean and basil hummus that Carl made and we even found time to sit on the front lawn to play some of our favorite songs...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Home Grown

I've always loved Tiger Lilies. Tall. Vibrant. Orange. Their roots withstand. I await their blossom every Spring. As the green leaves emerge, then long shoots sprout from within, they shrug their shoulders as if always ready for a hug and they lean in a little to share their love. They confidently tower in the sunlight and greet each morning with determination in their eyes. I look forward to their life each year as they grow stronger.

my lilies

This past year, I have grown stronger too. I have traveled through 30 US states, lived in a tent for 6 weeks in the desert, mentored 1,800 fifth and sixth graders, I gained confidence by leading volunteers, I helped restore a historic building, create a community garden, and ran a wood chipper! Even with all that participation, I reflected, prepared and most importantly learned. I learned how to be positive and I learned how to be inspirational.

Being able to travel, work with several non-profits, learn in-depth about diverse cultures, be a part of a community that is helping a community all while never being able to escape your teammates was life changing. AmeriCorps NCCC was a gift.

So I finish one adventure, I'm currently immersed in "home-life," stepping up to the plate of my next bold move, Habitat for Humanity in Portland, Oregon and I can't help but imagine my own future roots. I actually laid in bed last night, staring at a map of the US on my iPhone and narrowed down the only 10 states I can see myself settled in. I read the other day, "Each moment, we die to the present so the future can unfold." And with my future resting on my present, I need to grab these current moments and hold on tight.

ten states: California, Oregon, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, Pennsyvania, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island

Right now, I'm back in a familiar place but things are different and I'm slowly realizing home is where love grows. Hell, who am I kidding, love is everywhere! Home is where whomever you consider your family is and I love my family. I love planning and throwing summer parties that go off without a ounce of trouble and I even love cleaning out my parents basement with my dad in preparation for our 2012 Yard Sale Extravaganza at the house!

Tiger Lilies came with my parents house. Mom always hated them. They were rooted deep all around the front stoop and my father would tell me how committed these plants were. As if he was intimidated, he told me that when the time came that Mom wanted them gone, we would have to chop them down, hack the roots to bits, dig deep down beyond the plant and remove all the dirt… or else they would come back! Then there is the problem of, where do we put what we dug up because they'll relocate!

My roots are in New England, though I feel a pull to be everywhere all at once. Where can I set my roots? At least I've got a list of ten places now. I need a resilient system like the lilies, reroot, remove, relocate, rebirth.

Until the time came when Mom wanted the lilies gone, I never believed my Dad when he told me that they could relocate. How could something that was torn from it's roots be relocated?

This year, getting home in late July, just in time for the Summer Olympics, I quickly realized the flowers on my Tiger Lilies had come and gone. Their stems were but hollow, dried reeds ready to be yanked. Long, green, leggy leaves relaxed wilted yet outstretched on the bark mulch along the property line.

I remembered Dad and little me, standing in front of deep holes in the Earth, shovels in our hands, sweat in our eyes, looking at the dug up, tangled clumps we had thrown along the property line.

It's been a while and lots of improvements have been made in the yard over the years but the plants still thrive, several feet away but leaning toward the spot they use to reside along the front stoop.

This year, olympian Oscar Piscatorius inspired me more than my old lady lilies were able during my absence but after some time of transition, they will arise with renewed sense next year. We all will. The lilies, myself, Oscar. You will too. We always do.

Oscar Piscatorius