Evolution, Part 4: Horchata + Quakers

Dinner was another adventure. Taqueria Mi Pueblo on Dix greeted us with a huge cement chicken (rooster, whatever) silhouetted against a summer blue sky. We had an adventurous group at our end of the long table. Gorditas, Tostadas, Gringas, Rellenos were all ordered with enthusiasm. I don’t think anyone ordered the same meal. I also discovered a new treat. Actually, I overheard it requested by a young lady as her beverage, so I asked about it. The best way I can describe the taste would be liquefied, drinkable rice pudding. Perfectly spiced, watery, yet creamy, Horchata is rice milk made by steeping white rice for 24 hours, adding vanilla, nutmeg and lime, among other variations. I checked the recipe. It’s labor intensive due to straining, but still easy enough to conquer on a snow bound winter day. In Michigan, we save stuff like this anticipating days when we’ll need something to prevent all the cold whiteness from freezing our brains.

Three more surprises came along. First, our meal was paid for by our youth group hosts and hostesses. Next a sweet surprise (and yummy) piece of Tres Leches arrived with fanfare, requested by my sweet friend. The third surprise was the hat. Actually, it was a sombrero: a big, heavy, red velvet, silver embellished festivity designed for someone with a much bigger head than mine. Truth is almost everyone’s head is bigger than mine, except for most children. Truth. Most of my hat buying most occurs in their kiddie section of department stores. In any case, the singing waitresses and the cake triggered additional surprise among my day-long companions. “How did we not know it was your birthday?” one asked. The fault there was mine. I did not advertise my predicament. Ok, predicament may not be the correct term to use for the routine occurrence of growing older. It was a mindful choice for me to be there on that particular day. It’s how I chose to spend it; doing something that I love – volunteering.

Post dinner, back at Cass, we headed back into the warehouse for Wednesday Praise. We weren’t the first to arrive and we weren’t the last, either. But, we were required to split up, taking seats wherever we found one. I found one at the end of a row or two of boisterously happy strangers. Their joking and laughter was contagious, even throughout the message. The Ambassadors entertained in a way that defies entertainment. Their inspiration was contagious; their song choices uplifting and inspirational. A few 1960’s songs even took on a different meaning for me that afternoon. Something amazing happens when mainstream is turned into praise. “You’ve Got a Friend” was one in particular. There was a brief introduction of the many groups that had volunteered that day. Again, I was surprised, but this time it was to learn that I was sitting with visiting, volunteering Quakers. Proving, once again, stereotypes are rarely ever accurate.

The end of praise left me teary. Not surprising really.

Regular days are exercises in emotional containment.

Special days stretch the limits.

That’s when everything changed….


Quote of the Week:

 stereotypes all roosters crow at daybreak taqueria rooster july 23 2014

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Mexican Cuisine: http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/mexicanfoodglossary/

Defining Praise: http://www.wadetaylor.org/William/2014/2PraiseinEverydayLifebyWilliamTaylor.pdf

Quakers – introduced with a bit of Humor: http://quakerinfo.org/index



Evolution, Part 2: Work + Welcome

Maybe angry isn’t exact; anger is a flash. This was more of a deep resentful annoyance over unaccountability and team members who chose not to participate. Had I been in charge, I would have required everyone contribute to the outcome. Admittedly, this stands as solid evidence as to why I shouldn’t ever be in charge.

There was work to be done. Retrospectively, I can attribute unintentional engagement; works in progress. Still, the split bothered me.  Eventually, even the committed became distracted by their uncommitted peers, gathering in small groups around a pool table, a punching bag, and a ping-pong table. The pool players played with others outside our group. There was a proper punching bag technique demonstration by two also outside our group. As for the teens playing ping-pong without paddles, tosses became wilder, volleys less controlled, and soon the game bore no resemblance to a game, at all.  This make-it-up-as-you-go-along ball flinging frenzy didn’t sit well with me. Despite the interpretation, this wasn’t intentional downtime.

At least not being in charge leant me some perspective. If someone lacks a volunteer heart, no amount of pushing will mold it into one. I was honestly just let down; bummed. Unfortunately that disappointment turned into high-energy annoyance when one of the players laughed loudly and shouted, “Is this what being homeless is like?”

I understand youth are youth. I also understand the weak correlation. No paddles, doing without, making the best of things, finding another way to play. I don’t understand how those words left anyone’s mouth while in the presence of more than one homeless unfortunate. I don’t understand the lack of impress; how do you not know where you are and why you are there? No one else seemed to notice or react. Without discussion or direction it is probable that ignorance and impropriety would remain ignorance and impropriety.

Loosely congealed, we wandered into the lunch line. I didn’t completely understand. Due to short shifts, I had never been fed as a Cass volunteer. I had never stood on a lunch line. I conjured up the expectation of cold sandwiches and chips. I imagined meeting and eating with other volunteers. What I imagined was segregation. I never even considered sharing the same meal in the same space with the women and children and men standing patiently between gaps in volunteers, waiting for the gift of a good, solid meal for themselves or their children. I never expected to feel as if I were unworthy of receiving. I knew I was as welcome as anyone. I also knew I had a granola bar in my pocket that would hold me.

I thought of stepping out; stepping away with a lavatory excuse. I labored with this until it was my turn to follow through. At that point, there was no way to bow-out without having to explain. Instead of creating a fuss, I accepted a plate, requesting smaller portions than were offered to those before me, skipping items. The only beverage offered was fruit punch. Allergy wise, my history with fruit punch isn’t positive, so I made do with chewing ice, and eating slowly to match the cadence of my table mates. I still didn’t eat slowly enough to avoid sitting with an empty plate, hands folded. I occasionally made what I thought might be a friendly or cute comment with not much response. Mostly, I was just awkward, caught between age groups, layers of unexpected feelings and thirst.

Really, I just wanted to work.

Quote for the Week:

Expecting to be treated differently than others better than or worse than

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Conquer Frustration: http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/conquer-frustration/

Not Everybody Should Lead: http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2013/01/23/why-youre-not-a-leader/

Statistics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homelessness_in_the_United_States




worn, grey, nothing special

yet, salvation’s stairs to some

moved to still and stay

absorbed by art, homeless

outside the protection of fences,

it shouldn’t have been safe.

exposure sat me there, and kept me there,

and brings me back with every blink

an unnecessary repeat, what I didn’t think

was true, isn’t. yet.


Quote for the Week

where you're at

Enjoy this week’s discovery links:

Concrete secrets:  http://www.romanconcrete.com/Article1Secrets.pdf

You Don’t Have to Be Local. Just available:  http://www.meetup.com/One-Brick-Ann-Arbor/members/?op=leaders

Reducing Fear:  http://www.wikihow.com/Have-No-Fear



I’m obsessed with green. Every shade, every texture is mesmerizing. Pines on Esch and Eisenhower; Oaks and Maples and Birch on Hayes and King George.  Shimmering in the morning or in swaying at sunset, they never stand still. Perhaps, it’s the movement that makes them fascinating; creating moments that just aren’t capture-able, at least not on my camera.

Due to a dinged and perpetually smudged screen, it’s not easy to pause the mapping app, but logic loses to chance creativity. I keep stopping short; sometimes fighting a little longer and then sheepishly circling back. Frequently unable to employ an appropriate amount stealth, I am at times, forced to speed-walk on by fear of an audience, and my own nervousness regarding the previously mentioned questionable practice of photographing other people’s property.

It only matters because I want to share them. If I were content keeping them to myself, I probably wouldn’t try so hard. But now that I’ve noticed them, they need to be preserved.

A few weeks ago, luck of timing landed me rounding the bend and encountering the gardener tending on the same morning. I really do try not to impose, but allow myself permission when it may mean something. So, I compliment the impact and offer thanks for the effort. I can’t really tell if the lack of much of a response is from being startled, suspicious or hunched over pulling weeds in a way that might not allow enough air for conversation. No matter. I hope she enjoys the memory later, as much as I enjoyed that moment in the present.

On another day, somewhere between late afternoon and early evening, I stop at the corner again, and hatch a plan I didn’t know was even incubating. Close-up photographing to the best of my phone camera’s ability, a little green light dings in my head. Go, go, go! I do. In cartoon mode, suddenly the greens are popping. The purples and the pinks, the yellows, whites and red appear in abstract over definitive shades of green. My disappointment in trees and leaves and needles is borne from that lack of clear contrast. There’s no way to convey the shades of green that either only I can see, or actually require in-person observance.

Cartooning creates interesting abstracts that still don’t capture the subtle shades. It does, however, result in inspiring impressions of a well-planned corner garden ready to greet neighbors and travelers. I’m pleased with the color-clumps, vague shapes, and impressions, because that is what it all boils down to anyway – personal perspective.

It’s like those impressive vacation photos that seem magnificent, but often are belittled by the phrase, “The pictures don’t do it justice.” There’s no way to convey a million colors through one electronic eye. You had to be there, which leads me to this. I guessing I’m being there more often; regularly. I still want to take it with me; just in case I never see so many green leave rivers again.

The hard part is being content with memories. The responsibility part is encouraging others to do the same. There will always be more richness in person, so walk with purpose. The memory of the experience, enamorable and elegant, undoubtedly makes the journey more colorful. 

Quote for the Week:

The well planned corner garden 07 22 14

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Tree Planting Government Grants: http://www.education.com/science-fair/article/find-color-pigments-hidden-green/

Street Corner Gardens: http://www.learn2grow.com/inspirations/gardenstyles/smallspaces/CorneringBeauty.aspx

Camera Apps for Android: http://www.androidauthority.com/the-best-camera-apps-for-android-188148/


Shoes and Pockets

It mostly takes sorrow to understand what it means for life to change in a minute or less; a blink of the eye.

I recently made my first volunteer trip without a notebook. Actually, I had a notebook, a specially made one, at that. I never had the chance or made the time to pick it up at night, in the morning, or during the day. I was that busy, that engaged, so much a part of the experience.

A few times, with a few spare seconds, I’d text myself notes without actually capturing the story. I only took one phone call on the job as well. It’s a number I always answer with one eye closed, as if grimacing and half-sight would lessen the possible bad news or make whatever I’m about to hear better. That day, I wasn’t fielding a crisis call, just an interestingly timed hello that coincided with a break between events.

My usual crutch, this time imprinted, spiral bound, soft-covered, had no place to ride. I made sure I packed pants with plenty of pockets, but it was just too wide; not easily rolled, cumbersome. So, my business card coordinated journal only left my shallow suitcase to be unpacked and repacked a few times as sleep accommodations changed. Accommodations changed four-times, but still, the pages remained blank, and my pockets remained full of emergency preparedness, and my shoes became varied.

Advised to bring along, the most comfortable, non-open-toed footwear owned, as a seasoned volunteer I brought along three. The most comfortable travel shoes, the broken-in but not broken-down lightweight running shoes, and the heavier, clunkier, dingy white walking shoes I’ve had for years. The travel shoes for the trip, the lightweights for indoor, the heavy-weights for potentially wet or muddy conditions; I thought I had it covered. After the first 4 hours of unexpected continuous circling on concrete, the day before the venue opened, my feet already disagreed.

Even the most comfy shoes can become the wrong ones in a given situation. When your absolute comfort zone becomes absolutely uncomfortable, it’s time to take the next step and step-out. Switching often was the recommended cure. I redefined “often” to suit my schedule: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, and then 5:30 pm – ?, and because an extra pair of shoes wouldn’t fit in any of my pockets, either.

That’s how I came to be leaning slightly against a tall cushioned stool on my third night as Press Room, Cooler and TV Monitor, and how I came to be fully sitting as often as possible on the fourth evening. It’s how I arrived at a greater understanding of shoe references in folk-lore and axioms, and challenge their worth.

In the midst of high profile questions and cameras, gratefulness, humble humility and recognition of greater things were common themes. Often repeated, regarding a tragic event or overcoming odds, one phrase floated. Seemingly hovered near the ceiling, drawn in with deep breaths, and released again and again, made known by succession – it really was remarkable.

The common implication that life can change in a minute or in the blink of an eye usually refers to the unexpected – something bad. Nursing painful feet, cramping calves, traumatized thighs, I’ve exhausted-but-clear-headedly come to the conclusion it can go the other way. From good to bad or from bad to good are the really the only two options of change available. These are the roads thoroughly traveled by artists, musicians, poets and dreamers; everyday people – the ones who make things happen and keep life running.

So, maybe it’s time to stop expecting the other shoe to drop, and graciously accept another pair.

Perhaps it’s time to preemptively trade the moulded cradle effect of the same shoes we’ve been wearing over and over to allow our standard stance some breathing room, stress-reduction and sore spot-regeneration.

I’m not recommending a challenging cliché. I’d really rather you didn’t attempt to walk a mile in my shoes.

I’d rather you dance a few feet, run a mile or appreciatively stand still in your own shoes.

I do suggest changing them often or finding a new pair; a shoe-in process proven to combat the painful bondage of repetition.

Then, be sure your pockets are deep enough to hold all the happiness that comes your way.

Ephesians 6:15: For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.


Quote for the Week:

To be happy, it first takes being comfortable being in your own shoes. The rest can work up from there. Sophia Bush


Enjoy this week’s discovery links:

Stop Waiting for the Next Shoe to Drop: http://www.rolereboot.org/life/details/2012-12-why-you-should-stop-waiting-for-the-next-shoe-to-dro

How to Find Shoes that Fit: http://foothealth.about.com/od/shoessocks/ht/ShoeFit.htm

Sophia Bush: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/s/sophia_bush.html

if the shoe fits wear it 06 17 2014