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 3: Cut + Weave

There are many shades of innovation. Some are brighter than others.

There are two engaging and admirable industries within Cass Social Services. Both use recycled/reclaimed materials. Sheet glass becomes handmade coasters packaged in boxes hewn from reclaimed wood. Trashed tires become mud mats, and flip-flops.

Riding around Detroit picking up discarded tires for reuse brings tire recycling to a higher level. Repurposing illegally released rubber into colorful mud mats and trendy flip-flops is out-of-the-box inspiring; a home run from Detroit for Detroit. Even the big “D” logo shows up and adds pride to the sandals. How cool is it to tread on treads? Very. Freaking. Cool.

Rotating through various work stations in smaller groups was also engaging. At each interactive stop, we met mentors, ranging from self-conscious to confident, reserved to animated, a bit distrusting to upright happy. All had story to tell: who they were, who they are, who they are trying to be, a timeline of weary challenges and personal successes.

I tried my hand at glass cutting, after almost everyone else had. The basics: run the blade along the ruler at a 45° angle using firm, even pressure. Since all the kids were doing it, I denied my initial reluctance, carefully applying caution and draw. My instinctive “pass” was reinforced when my efforts failed to split evenly. A portion of the jagged piece I created would be salvageable, just not by me.

Our final afternoon assignment wasn’t about footwear, but an underfoot of another kind: mud mats.

Our two-person team’s teacher was reluctant. His nervousness was recognizable; his mannerisms familiar. You know the feeling you get when the last twist of the Rubik Cube nets the results you’ve been struggling with? You know the contented click of slipping in the last puzzle piece? You know the charge you get when you know you can succeed? With 30+ years of personality variation patience building behind me, I knew what to do. This was my right-place useful moment, although, that might not have been his initial impression

I know we were frustrating. Switching back and forth between thick and thin strips of sliced tire creating an unclear pattern while keeping track of non-repetitive rainbow colors was a bit like Suduko, which has never been a strong point of mine. Rework would be required a number of times.

I understand there is a color version of the game. That may indeed be manageable for me. Shapes might work, too. I’ve never viewed the solution as the need to create a single sum on each line. Too busy trying to figure out what doesn’t go to seemingly no purpose. But a puzzle is just that – an exercise in solving a problem. We all solve problems on a daily basis. Some of them are monumental and some of them are minute. All can be resolved; review, reanalyze, rework.

I know we eventually made him a little more comfortable. I know we made him shake his head in bemusement, and later amusement. I know he didn’t understand how we could not understand. Perhaps too bold, I want to believe our failure, could have proved positive self-worth. He was the teacher, doing something we could not. We left him with a smile, and to my great happiness, he smiled back.

Quote for the Week:

ALL can be resolved Sep 16 2014

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Flip-Flops: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip-flops

Flip-Flops, Mud Mats, Coasters: http://cass-community-store.myshopify.com/

Flip-Flop: sound, reversal, circuit, sandal: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flip-flop

 

 

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

 

 

Evolution, Part 1: Energy + Shred

A Wednesday in July, found me once again at Cass Social Services, Detroit.  I had already decided to say “yes” to any opportunity offered.  As usual, assignments are always vague. Recyclable paper sorting sounded simple enough. Separate white from color, remove staples, clips, rubber bands, metal; cardboard and note pads had their own place, away from the action. Go.

At first, frantic sorting at the front end resulted in nothing to do down the way. As the loads came faster, the questions rolled.White on one side, printed on the other, which bin? Manila folders – color or cardboard? We’re all uncertain. Nobody wants to make judgment calls. Stop.

Readjustments are necessary, as is accepting redirection from seasoned volunteers. Don’t run the conveyor belt, our advisor advises. Place your bins on the belt, not under the table. Depends on how much ink covers the surface. Logo printed letterhead – white. Full-color picture checks – color. Use the ledges to gather clips and bands. Go.

Out of necessity, voluntary role fulfillment begins. The step-ups absorb additional duties, identifying gaps. One paid particular attention to empty space on the conveyor belt, reacting by a step-away and back with another full box, and another. Our little piles of clips and bands began to overflow the little ledges we set them on. Soon, another volunteer appears collecting our collections and carrying them away. I love the evolution of teams.

Of course, there is confidentiality involved. I doubt there would be any documents to shred if there wasn’t. The pace is steady. Occasionally comments float by. “Handwritten formal correspondence!” “Typewriter carbon-paper copies!” “Pre-rolodex index cards!” “Gregg shorthand!” Oddities and treasures some of us remember; others need further explanation.

“I can’t shred this,” someone says, displaying an ornamental parchment. It is a beautiful baptism certificate. She frets over its importance and sets it aside, before drawing more items from the same folder. “Birth certificates, marriage license, divorce papers, will, death certificate,” she ticks, and we pause.  This is someone’s entire legal life. It doesn’t seem right, destroying a paper life, but the all-inclusiveness suggests that none of these documents are needed anymore. They are sorted into the appropriate bins, headed to the shredder.

In less than an hour, we have conquered the separation. The shredder is still shredding, operated by other volunteers from our group, and we are recruited to a new task. Moving cardboard from the almost-up-to-the-warehouse-ceiling tall pile of broken down boxes closer to the strapper which will compress them into bulk bundles. A line forms at the pile, and for a few minutes, we pardon-me and excuse-me past each other carrying as many as possible.

Someone suggests we split up into pilers and movers. The pilers will position small loads on the outstretched arms of movers, who will move them to their destination. There are still jam-ups, but the mountain is moving faster. A few minutes more, and another solution arrives via a team youth.  With an observant tilted head, she theorizes we could still do better by employing the Fireman’s bucket brigade. She is correct and within another few minutes, another task was complete.

Together, the shredders, strappers, pilers and movers move along to the Green Room. The Green Room may have been the hardest task. At least, it seemed that way to me. We’d already been standing and moving and bending and reaching for two hours. Still, we collectively strapped our tired feet to elliptical machines and stationary bikes, and pedaled. The point of the Green Room is twofold. A way to provide exercise equipment to shelter seekers and temporary residents, each piece is also attached to a power generator. Credits are issued for energy generated here, helping defray operation costs. Following a few rounds of “I’m not generating, anything! Are you generating anything?”

A quartet of young men joined the effort on the other wall, pedaling wildly, competitively announcing wattage as it rose. We balked because our machines still showed no observable results. Slowly, not collectively but individually, not all at once but eventually, each slid from our seats to allow others the opportunity to add to gains that would presumably be more significant than ours.

The Green Room was also where my ideals evoked my internal green Hulk anger.

(* We were actually generating a legitimate watt or two as a group, just not significantly: individually or quartet comparatively.)

Quote for the Week:

There is always room for an improvement 09 02 2014

 

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Power Biking: http://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-use-a-bicycle-to-make-renewable-energy#.VAZTicJ0yM8

Shred Stats: http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/paper/faqs.htm

Bucketing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bucket_brigade

 

Taming of the Selfie

“Head Shot – needed for profile.”

I hadn’t heard that phrase flung my way in quite a while; a 25 year while.

Never liked the things. Never expected to need another one. Ever.

_______________________________________________________

Dear Friends,

Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a selfie?

Two hours and fifteen minutes. Uh, huh. I’ve been explaining for a while, that although my pictures reflect near complete baldness, I do in fact actually have hair. Very fine hair, but there’s enough of it to get messed up in the wind so it counts.

One hour and twenty  minutes into the how-hard-can-this-be selfie suffering, I stopped worrying about my hair (or lack thereof) and starting hoping for just one missing an expression of possession. I mean seriously strange eyes.  Dually a victim of circumstance and admitted over-eying, I’m absolutely confident that I have (pictures-taken percentage wise,) surpassed Sir Harley of Perpetual Surprise with my wide-eyed level of shock at absolutely nothing.  I was truly just attempting to avoid the blink.

I must either be an older model of form or an anomaly possessing disproportionate arms. Bottom line: mine are simply not long enough evidenced by missing chins and the removal of that pitifully fine hairline that barely show up, anyway. I trial-and-error landed on a revelation regarding above head poses. Appropriate but still semi-distorted, the elbowed angle determines a corresponding head tilt.

Still, like the last hold-out microwave kernel of corn, more problems popped. How do you keep your elbow from elbowing in or a shoulder crease from announcing obvious buff-less biceps? I suspect some sort of cheat is involved in the process. There has to be a third hand launching the click. Otherwise, everyone would have sprained fingers and tight gripping claw hand residue.

Let me also mention the whole mirror, backwards, go left to go right thing? Yeah, that wasn’t a cake walk, either. The rapid neck-lash routine left me slightly more off balance than usual. At this point I decided to sit for safety, and continued the ego shattering shuttering.

Meanly, cartoon mode isn’t available for selfies. Undeterred, I retry all of the above approaches. All I achieve are arm cramps and a few faintly-fine, low-grade Warhol-ish, but won’t be mistaken for one, images. Due to twist and burn, I’m counting the arm stretches as exercise. It’s also possible that I’ve just invented Photo-Yoga. Momentarily distracted by the possibilities of funky feline portraits, I’m a little bummed to find the cats come out better; especially when annoyed. Raised hackles and alert ears create great contrast and light-play differentiations

Click, click, click. I supposed I could de-sound the clicker. It can already be classified as gone past starting to annoy me. Not even close to the  musically enhanced rapid fire intro of Duran Duran’s Girls on Film, my sounds are more guttural. Click, grumble, click, soft-explicative, click, whoops dropped the phone, click, for goodness sake, click, click, click.

The clicking seems to be getting to Miss Freddie, too. She seems a little “I’m plotting something” more than normal. I’m familiar with her squint of slotted eyes and thin lip fang reveal. It turns out I can smile scary, too. In embarrassing desperation, I conjured up laughter as if I was laughing at a joke. My eyes were no longer staring wide. They disappeared entirely. As added insult, my mouth takes on a dreadful twist. I re-file that wonderful idea under woeful fail, and sigh. Ok. Good to know. I’m pretty sure it’s a little late to outgrow that.

Shooting below while looking down ended up producing a completely creepy cautioning I was about to charge and possibly maul with (as of yet) still hidden horns, probably, because I was feeling that way. In a flashbulb moment, I imagined a charge and mall situation where I might possibly convince JC Penney to let me use one of those kid portrait deals.

107 poses later, two pairs of glasses, above the head, below the head, lying down (disaster), over the shoulder, giving up… the giving up one is actually cute, but not at all “Head Shot” material. I think about that and get my grump on.

There are sparse and scattered I-would-have-liked-that poses, except for the exceptional flaws. Oddly, they add artistically fierce fascination. Left ear left out of the shot, micro-movement fuzz effects, irreparable background noise, shiny nose, eyeglass reflection, crooked smiles, mis-angling into distorted chins, chipmunk cheeks or Churchill noses. I nod to the memory of Poppy Selin’s WC Fields-ish nose. His was due to a welter-weight boxing championship. Mine is merely repetitive lack-of-grace breakage.

I’ve chased the late afternoon and early evening light from room to room. I’m either chiseled like a cartoon fiend, or seamless like porcelain. The stark lights are not kind. The soft lights blanks into expression-less-ism. There are a couple of “take the damn picture” glares and I wonder who I’m trying to intimidate the phone or my fingers?

The good news is I don’t need a zoom loop to identify the absolutely nots . Delete, delete, delete.  I pause at one awkward affected 1980 style “looking off into the future” pondering gaze.” Starry and unfocused, if it was the 80’s… it could be a contender.

I should just scan my senior high school picture. It seemed so ridiculous at the time, and even more off-base now. I’m peeking out from behind some tree. It’s got more bark than I do, literally. There’s more of the tree than me. Perhaps a New York photo or the Tennessee head shot which to this day I can’t believe is me. I mean I recognize the clothes, but the young person who I thought was old at 30 looks 20 now to me. Plus, there’s hair. 85% of the people I know now have never seen me with hair; at least, not that much, comparatively.

Eight. I’ve narrowed it down to eight. I think. I’m tempted to take more, but am holding off for tomorrow. Maybe there’ll be better light and a flattering head shot tilt in the Earth’s rotation.

Some of the better one’s have debris in the background. Doesn’t that figure? Photoshop is on my to-own list. I’ve learned I need more than just an ability to “get the red out” of my eerie orbs.  Trying to posit natural eyes isn’t natural. Naturally, I look surprised, skeptical, cross-eyed, lazy-eyed, one-eyed, and tired.

Out of the corner of one of those same self-portrait  wandering eyes, I spy my very reasonable Friday night to-do list that was feasible at 4:15 PM. At 7:48 PM, I haven’t eaten dinner, yet, which might account for some of my shrew-ness. Prior to this marathon of discovery, I prepped cucumbers and zucchini for that “Zucchini Cold Noodle” recipe everyone’s been talking about. Julienne the squash; omitting seeds. Matchstick cucumbers, carrot, peppers, broccoli, radishes, onions, anything really, add red wine vinegar, celery seed, a little sugar, chill and let set and you’ve got it made.

It looks pretty good. I think I’ll plate it. Plop some in a chicken bowl, take a picture, and send it off with a note:

Sorry, no headshot available. Please accept this Bowl Shot as a consolation prize.

Or, maybe I should just take a picture of my smiley face Joe Boxer watch I once used for a staff id photo. Don’t see why it wouldn’t fly now. Wish I’d thought of that, hours ago. 🙂

 

Quote for the Week:

if i couldnt laugh at myself

Here is my collage of I honestly thought these would come out better pictures.  All were attempts to be natural; none were staged.

One has to be used for my One Brick Detroit profile. Positive opinions welcome.

selfies semi selected

None of these will be used, however, since I described them above…

selfies unselected