A Very Personal Decision

A friend was telling me about a housing program in New York City, possibly called Pathways. I'm not sure. Anyways, the program targets homeless adults who have a mental illness and usually some sort of CD issue as well.

The program provides housing and services to these individuals but does not have any requirements for individuals to stay in housing. The program doesn't even require tenants to stop using alcohol or drugs.

I know it sounds crazy, but seriously. It's like the most successful and also one of the most cost efficient programs there is. It sounds great to me for two reasons.

First, choosing to stop using alcohol or drugs is a very personal decision. No one else, not a housing program or church or even family, can use a stick and carrot that makes someone want to stop. When to stop is a unique decision and only the person can make it. This program seems to embrace the "everyone has their own timing, everyone has their own answers" philosophy which I think is very valuable.

Second, the program also seems to be based on the idea that there is value in helping people. There's value in helping people who can't participate in society in regular ways like holding a job or being sober through the day. The value of helping someone isn't what they can achieve with the help. The value of helping someone with an MI/CD issue isn't seeing them sober and in recovery. The value of helping someone who is unemployed isn't seeing them get a job. The value of helping someone, anyone, is helping them.

It's a tough thing to get your head around. The value of doing the job isn't the results, it is the job. (Possibly this is easier for process people to grasp, but again, maybe I'm just really different.) Once you can get your head around that philosophy, everything is much more successful because it changes your definition of success and achievement.

Revisiting the "Why Be Less?" Idea

I have been thinking the past few days about how strange my life really is. I can usually tell that my life is strange in other people's reaction to the choices I've made.

Really, I have made a few unorthodox choices, and it's usually because I value a different reward that most people do. I'm in AmeriCorps right now, so I obviously don't value money all that much. The second year of AmeriCorps is changing that view right now. But still, most people have a strange reaction to working 40 hours per week for sub minimum wage.

I am trying to think of the other things I've done that get a strange reaction. Studying bats, but that's for a whole different reason I think.

Anyways, the more I talk about my experiences the clearer it becomes that most people have different values than me. I usually try to do what makes me smarter, what makes me feel better. I rarely opt for things that give me more money, make me look better, or make me popular. It's funny how ok I am with being different really.

Anyways, I was looking at Marianne Williamsons Quote of the Day blog, and she had a couple of nice quotes up, one for today and one for yesterday about that very idea. Not being less to fit in, being what you are supposed to be and not being scared to not fit in.


Your Bad Attitude is Killing Me

I was listening to someone I work with today complain that she made less money than some of her other colleagues. Then I asked her if she could take some appointments for me one week in February when I will be out of the office. She opened up her planner and the week was completely empty. Then she told me to go ahead and cancel the appointments because she didn't want to take the meetings.

This coworker is the only other person there is who could have done these meetings. It's fine that she doesn't want to do them, because in her words, she might have other appointments by then. These are my appointments and my responsibility.

Then we were talking about a follow up support group and she was saying that no one was going to do anything, all we were going to hear was excuses and she didn't want to put the effort forth. "They will say this this and this, and nothing will happen. I've done this before." She doesn't want to put in the effort if the participants aren't going to put the same effort in.

And it was then that I realized, it's not her fault, she just has a horrible attitude. She's also a very outcome oriented person. I am totally not. I am almost 100% a process person. It's unusual in my field, any field really to be so process oriented. It's ok though because I wind up with a much better attitude. There's value in what I do. There's value in my putting effort into someone even if they don't return the effort. There's value in my putting effort into someone even if they don't ever achieve the outcome we were aiming for.

I work with this girl more than anyone else and it's been very interesting because we're almost total opposites. She's an extrovert and I am totally not. She's a feeler, I'm a thinker. She's very polychronic and a multitasker. I am the anal rententive one thing at a time type girl. She can feel attacked easily and doesn't often ask for help. I tend to have this self esteem that sings "I'm rubber, you're glue" all day and things don't bother me so much. She's very loose in how she finishes things and doesn't ever like to solidify details. I need to have all the details checked off so that I know I'm done. And she is an outcomes person while I am a process person.

There's value in the process and the whole process needs to happen. There's value in me taking part in the process even if the outcome is not my own. Another person's apathy toward the process or the goals doesn't devalue my own effort. My effort has value just existing.

So, I've been frustrated because I'm having trouble convincing others of that. How do you convince someone that there efforts were worthwhile when they help get someone a job and that person quits three weeks later? Their efforts were worthwhile. How do you show them that? The problem is that there's nothing there to touch, you just have to believe that what your doing is worthwhile. It's a very strange thing.


Why I Love Firefox

I go to the Cool Site of the Day most days. A couple days ago they had the sixteen best freeware programs listed on the cool site. One of them is a web browser called Firefox. They were hyping it up as this web browser that's supposed to be a lot better than internet explorer.

Well, I was bored at work today and thought I'd give it a shot. I am so happy that I did. The biggest problem I have with my computers at work is that they are old and take forever to load programs. The coolest thing about firefox is that you can have different web pages on tabs in one window so I don't have to open internet explorer fifty times to get something done.

I also downloaded some other programs. Spybot is one I've had before, Ad-aware from lavasoft is one I've read a lot about but you have to make sure you don't get a bum copy that actually is adware. I also installed this free virus scanner called AVG which is supposed to be really good.

On the downside of fire fox, some web pages can't be viewed correctly on it. Kelly's blog is one of them. Also, when editing in yahoo mail, you can only use the text editor and not the spiffy enhanced text editor with colors and sizes and things. Still I am much happier with firefox. It opens web pages much faster and has some other cool little options.


This is from a trip to the orchard which we took a long time ago. I just think it's a nice picture. Posted by Hello


Free Association

I keep seeing this on Kelly's blog, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's a free assocation game.

When I see... I think.....
Material World Gold
Satin sheets Moody Blues
Blizzard Minnesota
Real estate Land
Dress up Shoes
Wesley Crusher
Robber Dressed in black
Saliva Band
Slave Black
Shift Car

Running for Political Office

I was just thinking, in my car driving some where today... Yes, I work hard... Anyways, I was thinking that at some point in my life, I imagine when I'm old and looking for one final career move, that I would like to run for public office.

I was just thinking that this blog could come back at that point to bite me in the ass, because I basically say whatever I want on here. And I have said some pretty inflammatory things. (See, "killing is not ok, even when the government tells you to.")

I think that when my generation and especially the one after me starts running for public office we're going to start to see some of these blog scandals of things people wrote when they were 23 and too stupid to know any better.


Rough Drafts

It's been really fun lately to go back and look at some of my old blogs. I feel like everything here I write is a rough draft. As I read what I've written, I find myself editing things in my head, crossing things out, moving things around in each paragraph to make it sound better.

I've been able to write down my thoughts and see them in a way I didn't expect. I'm thinking about starting up a second blog, which would be revised writings from the a4bats blog, which is seeming to be a train of conscience's blog for now. Everything thing I think just gets put down into words, consequences be damned.

Really, no one knows who I am anyways, which is the good part of all this. More on if I do start a second blog, or a third. Everything I write here is like my internal thoughts about God and spirituality, I've also been thinking of having a blog that reads more like a journal of what I did today. More train of consciousness thoughts...

Talking While Drunk

I went out with my friend Kelly tonight after work. Kelly had a mudslide and I had two margarittas. The thing about margarittas are that I drink them faster than is probably advisable, so I get more intoxicated than I really should from only two, but whatever.

Kelly and I got to talking about religion. It's a common topic we wind up talking up. We were brought up in totally different backgrounds. Me, almost no church at all, and Kelly still goes to church every Sunday and works in youth ministry. So we were talking about God, and religion, and gay people and sex before marriage, and all kinds of things that I don't bother to bring up with her while I'm sober.

The thing about Kelly and I is that I realize she believes things that I don't. I'm ok with that really. She realizes I believe things she doesn't, and she's ok with it too. She also said something tonight that really made me think. Kelly said that because she has some conservative ideas, people don't tell her things because they expect her to be judgmental. Which I guess I can see. I don't talk about friends of mine who are gay or lesbians around her. But she's really not judgmental, which she pointed out and I can totally see.

So thanks for pointing out the obvious. Sometimes you need alcohol to loosen your tongues because some important things get said. The biggest thing with Kelly and I is that we trust each other when we're talking and respect each others view points so we really learn something when we're intoxicated. So thank you to my friends tequila and the mud slide.


The Plight of the Sick

I have been sick for the past couple of days. It's been quite unpleasant really.

On Monday, when I started getting sick, I thought it was just my reproductive system trying to kill me as it does once a month. Normally I get really bad cramps and really bad migraines, but Monday I felt really really bad.

Tuesday I had about eight appointments that I didn't want to cancel. I was all dressed and heading out the door when I realized that was a bad idea. I didn't have a thermometer at that time to tell me how high my fever was, but later that day medicine brought it down to 100 which is still really high for me. Normally I'm about 97 degrees. So, into bed I went. I only came out of bed to go buy medicine and stop by Blockbuster for movies.

Wednesday, that's today, I called in sick again. I had fewer appointments but felt worse about canceling them because I wasn't sure how technically sick I was. I think I did legitimately still have a fever most of the day. I took me temperature a couple of times and it was above 99, which again, still pretty high for me.

Today I wasn't feeling as bad though, so I called the U of M School of Social Work and talked to their field placement lady who was very nice. I also got back on the compute which I hadn't done Monday or Tuesday, perhaps a record for me.

I had time to read Marianne Williamson's blog, which I always do. I tend to like what she has to say. We seem to be of similar minds. This week, in honor of Martin Luther King day, she had a quote from him. It was about how religion does have an obligation to push for social change. It's interesting that I have no problem when Dr. King invokes religion in the civil rights movement, and I have no problem when Gandhi did it in India. I guess I only have a problem with people who I disagree with invoking religion.

I think the difference is, Dr. King, and Gandhi and scores of others have used religion as an argument to treat people better. It upsets me when I see people use religion as an excuse to treat people worse. Religion is not an excuse to ostracize gays and lesbians, it's not an excuse to enslave women, and it's not an excuse to bomb abortion clinics.

One of the biggest things I remember from traveling around the world was the number of men in the market places of some countries. Women had to stay home all day. Sometimes they even had to cover their faces and stay home all day. There was no freedom of movement. No freedom to go out and buy bread. That's wild.

The bombing abortion clinics, that just goes right along with the death penalty. Killing people doesn't help, it doesn't heal the pain, it doesn't restore the victim. Killing people is an expression of hatred and anger. Sometimes, it's scarier to forgive. It's scarier to let ourselves be that weak, and feel that much pain. It's a much more permanent thing, and feels much better in the long run. Once someone has been put to death, say in the electric chair, they're dead. The victim is still gone. The family is still in pain. Forgiving someone must be the scariest thing anyone has ever done. It's no wonder why so few people actually get around to it. It's hard to see the value in an process with so much pain and sadness. But value there is.

And now we come to my favorite, why God hates gay people, or not. What an awful thing. It's the only form of discrimination that is still legalized in this country. Probably not the only form, but I think it will be the next to go. After that will probably be the stigma around released convicts, but that's a whole other thing. It's interesting that while some states are pushing to recognize some for of gay union, other states are pushing equally hard to outlaw it with amendments. Knee jerk reaction, I think.

It must be hard to be so close minded, not to see the value in having a diverse population in your state. There's value in making sure everyone is welcome, there's value in making sure everyone is equal and there's value in loving everyone.

These are the things I have had time to contemplate during my two sick days.


The idea of letting go

I've been toying a lot lately with the idea of letting go, and the idea of finding god, and getting to know that part of me. It's a very strange concept. I wasn't really raised in a church or a particular faith, but my Mom taught me that God is in everyone. My Dad taught me that everyone is perfect, most people just don't know it yet.

I've been thinking about meditating, and starting to do that. I even downloaded a couple of guided meditations. It's a step, a little piece of the process I guess.

I've also been reading more about what people think of the war in Iraq, and all of that. It's such a horrible thing, but it's so hard to convince anyone who doesn't already believe that it's horrible. It's killing people. It's not about freeing people, it's just changing what dictator they are under. It's not about democracy if guns and tanks are rolling down the strets on election day. And yet, it's not about sticking it to President Bush either to make him say he was wrong or that he screwed up. That's another thing we have to let go of or nothing will ever get done.

Letting go, forgiving everything, is such an important process. It's in a lot of religions, asking forgiveness from people before asking forgiveness from God. Which is harder really? Letting go of the things that have been done to us in the past, letting go of the pain we have experienced. It's all an illusion anyway.

When my Dad meditates, he starts by blessing himself, and Mom and me, and everyone he sees every day, and everyone he sees once in a while, and everyone he has ever seen, and so the circle grows. The last blessing is for all the sentient beings alive. As the circle grows, at some point, people like George W Bush, and Saddam Hussein, and Osama Bin Laden are included. What an idea. Everyone is perfect, most of them just haven't been able to see that yet. They just haven't been able to let go so far.


I'm only slightly loosing my mind...

I am only slightly loosing my mind because I am the only one in the house who is able to take the trash out. I'm used to that. It's been that way for quite some time.

But now people seem to be developing a new deficiency in putting away clean dishes. I did dishes, and like a lot of dishes, Monday night. Tonight is Wednesday, and there they were waiting for me to put them away.

Seriously? That only slightly drives me up a wall.


It's not selfless if

I was watching the season premier of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy tonight. I shouldn't have watched it because I knew it was going to annoy me. Anyways, I was watching it. The guy tonight was a soldier who was going to be shipped out to Iraq. One of the Queer guys was saying how soldier guy was going to Iraq to protect people and how selfless that was.

It's not a selfless act going to Iraq, it's an act of war. It's not a selfless act defending anyone with guns. Guns kill people, people kill people. Anything that leads to violence is not selfless, it's just ill-advised.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Though violence you may murder the liar,but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater,but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate....Returning violence for violence multiples violence,adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I know that Saddam Hussein tried to kill the first President Bush, so it wasn't a shock that President W. Bush went after him, but what did that accomplish. Instead of ending tyranny and violence, it's only increased. This is who lives in the Middle East, where all of the oil basically in the world is. This is who we have to deal with, whether we like it or not, and trying to blow them off the face of the planet obviously isn't working.

It's not because these people are Muslim and we're Christian. It's not because they're fundamentalists or extremists or terrorists. It's because they can't let go, and neither can we, and not letting go of our past injuries and injustices is killing everyone.


Stream Of Consciousness

I work at Underwater Adventures, which is the aquarium in the Mall of America. Among other things we have a touch pool where kids (and adults) can touch horse-shoe crabs, sharks, and sting rays. The area around the touch pool is very loud, we have music and a couple of videos playing, and it's near the escalators which let sound in from the Mall above. We all wear head sets when we're at the touch pool so visitors can hear us explaining things, and also can hear us yelling at them when they grab the sting rays tails. Think of the head set microphone that Brittney Spears or Garth Brooks wear.

I was thinking today that it's good that those microphones don't amplify what I'm thinking as well, because I was having some pretty random thoughts on that mic. Most of it is from looking at visitors and that reminds me of something else, and then I'm off to the races. I was looking at one woman who was pregnant, and then of course I remembered the horror stories of labor from girls that I'd worked with. Mostly the pooping on the table before the kid is born. Kind of makes you miss squatting in the field. Oh, squatting in the field, that's what they probably still do in Africa. They're funny in Malawi though, women don't admit they're pregnant there. And then when they do have a child, they tell the kids that they bought it at the store.

See. This is how my mind works. And now I'm thinking about all the other things I did in Mpalale. There was Vivian's sister who totally denied being pregnant even though she was about to burst. What a conservative society.

I actually really miss Mpalale. I keep thinking that I'll do the Peace Corps again. It's like I just need a second try at the whole thing, and I'll be able to get ahold of my feelings and not go so crazy. Nothing really like going crazy in Malawi where if AIDS and Malaria don't kill you, the traffic or the wild animals could.


Why Be Less?

Today has been an interesting day. It's brought to light a very important question: why would anyone be less than they could be? What's the point in being mediocre?

I find that I have different values that guide me in my work, and one of those values is to work as hard as I can. My clients need me to work as hard as I can. I don't understand how anyone could do less. Why is, "I could've looked at this, but I did enough" acceptable? I don't get how people live with not doing everything they could have done.

I know I sound like an ad for the armed forces, go be all you can be. (Seriously, don't kill people, it's not ok even if the government tells you to. You know better, and "the government said it's ok" is not an excuse, you still know better.)

One of my very favorite quotes in the world explains things quite well. Doing less doesn't help anyone, it's not why we were put here. Doing less certainly isn't the path that led anyone into social services. As Marianne Williamson said once, in a sentiment so popular Nelson Mandela quoted it in his innaguration,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.


Eight million hours later...

I have typed tonight, and typed and typed. I don't remember school being this hard. This is only a 1500 word essay too. I think I am out of practice.

First, I wrote a whole thing about society, social welfare, communities role helping others, and a current topic that tied all of that together. For the one person who is still awake after just the thought of that, I wrote about supported employment programs.

Then, I wrote a cover letter for a job I want. Then, I retyped my resume, since I forgot to email it to myself from Cincinnati.

I capped the evening off by reading everything I'd written to correct mistakes, and mistakes there were. I'm so tired though, I'm not really sure if I've made it better or just moved the mistakes around.

We shall see, but tomorrow, tonight I am too tired.


Papers are fun (on opposite day)

I'm in the middle of my application to the University of Minnesota Master of Social Work Program. I have to do a formal writing sample about a current topic in social welfare and society's role in caring for individuals.

It's not a paper that writes itself. I'm not entirely convinced it's a paper that can be written at all. I'm stopping for the night, out of sheer frustration at the fact that I've only written 700 of the 1,500 words I was asked to write.

I'm also boycotting shoveling for the night. We got about an inch of snow, covered with ice pellets so who knows what the roads will look like tomorrow when I go to work. I'll find out though, because I have to get up and shovel the walks. It's the price I pay for being able to park my car in the garage so I'm ok with it.