Monday, November 28, 2011


Here's where you come in....

Here at PBMR (Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, duuuuh where I work) we are collaborating with a project called Help-Portrait. The basic breakdown is, professional photographers come and volunteer their time at lower income areas. We strategically pick a place to house these photographers, people to do hair and make-up, everything! Families or people get to come and get their family photo's taken, and receive a FREE photo! Here is the video for this years campaign, I dare you not to shiver or smile when watching this video ;)

Told ya not to smile :) I am super excited to be promoting such an awesome event. It's funny to think about family photo's and thinking that some families have never had one before. Back home we have a whole wall of family photo's, you can buy a book at Urban Outfitters filled with "awkward family photo's (which I love picking up when I am there and leafing through it... classic). But through Help-Portrait you get this awesome opportunity for a family photo with REAL/Professional photographers AND a print out for FREE! So tight.

Here's the deal. We maaaay or may need a little funding. All proceeds go to buying the photo paper, ink, printers ect. No one makes any money here, we just need a little bit of help (who knew all paper and all that stuff cost so much!) Here is the link to donate: 

My birthday is this Friday (if you didn't know ;)) and I have a few friends coming in town for it!!! Hopefully, I can talk em into volunteering for a bit at the event. hehe

Another way you can help is just send some positive vibes and prayers our way! This is the first time that we will be doing this here in Back of the Yards (the area I work in, they have this event elsewhere throughout the city as well). This week is our week to promote the event! EEEK! We just hope that we are successful in gathering a lot of families to come and take advantage of this awesome opportunity. So, be thinking about us, hoping that this is a success!

I wonder if I should just walk down the street with a big ol sign promoting all the info for the event in a Statue of Liberty costume would help? What......everyone else promotes stuff that way? haha

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Home Sweet Home: Thanksgiving addition

Ahhh a break from all the Chicago action for just a little while.... such a much needed break! I was beginning to think too much, ask too many questions, worry about nothing, stress about who knows what and have a constant antsy feeling like, I needed to be doing SOMETHING!

The day before I was to come home I was literally jumping all over the office, being an absolute crazy girl, laughing about anything and everything, jib jabberin about anything to whoever would listen. (And I only had one cup of coffee that day too! I am sure everyone thought I was a nut case haha) I knew that I would be coming home for a short stay and I couldn't sit still! After hours of running all over, packing, kind of sleeping I was finally on my way home! Once on the plane, a quick read through the latest People Magazine, a complimentary water and all of the sudden, "Welcome to Kansas City," came over the intercom. As lame as I am... not gunna lie, I miiiiiight have had some watery eyes and an escaped tear here and there. I was home.

As my week flew by, I learned a few things. My family is AMAZING (well I already knew that, but it never hurts to have a reminder here and there) Getting home, picking up my Niece and Nephew from school, game night at Grandpa's, my first night home, I was happier than happy. It's true what they say, "Home is where the heart is," (eww I totally sound like a cheese ball) family is who you are, they are the people that have truly been there for me. I've had some rough times and realizations in Chicago. Its those bad days that by chance I get a random e-mail, text, letter or phone call from one of them that has helped me push through every day. I don't think I can thank them enough for how much I love them. And of course, my friends never cease to amaze me. Those girls that have been my friends for so long, its funny, we may not see each other allll the time, but it doesn't matter. Time passes, but just because time passes doesn't mean the friendship does. You graduate college, run off in different directions, and when you take that path, you learn not only a lot about yourself, but about who cares about you, supports you and is truly there for you. This week has shown me who those people are. Its been an interesting realization to say the least ;)

I finally feel rested up, stuffed (no seriously, I still have a stomach ache), energized and .... happy. I would be a liar if I said that I didn't miss Chicago, because I have. I can't wait to get back and jump in on some new project, get some old ones re-kindled and do... what I do (again, still trying to figure that out haha)

So until Christmas here is the itinerary: (according to my nieces and nephew haha)
1. Bon-Bon's Birthday (Which I am VERY excited for some visitors and maybe my BEST birthday in YEARS!!)
2. Col-Col's baby is born (pretty bummed I will miss out on this one... BUT I call first dibs on him when I get back.... GODMOTHERS get to go to the front of the line... according to me!)
3. Christmas! (and then of course... thats all that matters to an 8, 6 and 4 year old! SO... thats all I'm planing for too)

I need to make a b-day/Christmas list... But I don't know what to put, I don't really need anything. I am a lot richer than I thought :)

I take that back.... I do need snow boots... but thats all! (rumor has it, this winter will be one of Chicago's worst winters, did I ever mention that I am a whimp when it comes to super cold weather? Yes, I did move to Chicago, knowing this.... Truelife: I am a nutcase.) Till... later- Peace

Look for a new update pretty soon! I need YOUR help with something!!!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I get it... but I don't get it.

It has been really hard to try and explain to the boys why I am here. I can't say its my job, because its not. If I say I am a volunteer, there second question is why am I here all day and what is my second job? Finally concluding in, where do you live, how do you have money, and then of course when I tell them I am living with Sister Donna the next question is, are you a nun?

When I fully explain what I am doing here I get this small twinge of guilt mid sentence everytime. Here I am a college graduate, volunteering a year. The population I work with see's a college degree as the golden ticket out of their neighborhoods. Here I am with one, first comming to their neighborhood. They ask me why, why am I here? Why would I waste a year of my life, at 22, volunteering in the ghetto of Chicago?

I never know what to say now. In the beginning it was easy. Now that I have been here a little longer, gotten to know the issues of the culture, and have made friendships, its harder. Now I feel some what guilty. I have nice cloths, I don't wear the same thing every day or even twice a week. I don't worry about a cold house when I get home. I don't worry about food. All of those things are just minor issues. I don't worry about surviving, staying alive.

You always see movies coming out about the ghetto and how its portrayed and you think its so untrue. People belive racism is dead; non-existant. Some see the poor as lazy, dumb and African Americans as violent.

I'm not going to sit here and lecture or blab about social issues. No one wants to hear of some ones account or take on such issues. But each of the issues stated above... exist in a bigger way than many belive. Racism is very much still in our world. The poor have never been given good education and a quality chance to overcome... anything. African Americans are not violent.

All I am saying today is that.... I get it..... but I will never get it because I never lived it.

This week I was, for the first time scared. After that minor encounter it shook me up big time. Then I saw a movie that was very cleaver in disguising the portrayal of America and the poor and rich. These events all following the week before with the art exhibit. All these events and encounters made me shift in my ideas of why I am here and my views of the people around me.

I still can't answer the question, "why are you here?" Beacuse frankly.... i'm not exactly sure yet. What I can say is that I have learned far more than my college degree ever taught me, and its only been roughly, 3 months. And with my faith... I am here for a reason, I just haven't quite figured out why yet.... but in time, I will know.

So maybe the title of this blog shouldn't be, "I get it, but I don'g get it," but instead, "I get it, but I never will get it."

Monday, November 7, 2011

A weekend.....

 As promised.... another post after the eventful weekend! Saturday, along with co-workers, we took a group of the boys to Ohio. The boys that came were ones who come to the center frequently. We drove to Salina, OH where a fun little cabin awaited us. The big question was.... who was going to ride with me in my car? haha It was either me, or the van with Fr. Denny along with a TV and of course, the Xbox. Poor Jonathan had to ride with me first haha... after getting out of the city the music wasn't coming through.... this is what happens when all I have in my car is a Taylor swift CD...... haha oops

Once we got to the cabin, I felt like I was babysitting 10-11 year old boys instead of hanging out with 18-22 year old's. Each ran to the rooms to claim their place to sleep. Once that was done we went out to the little pond out back where the competition of skipping rocks began, and "who can hit the bush with a rock on the other side of the pond." In the distance you could see a deer stand... or in other words, "the club house." As they ran around looking at everything and laughing I couldn't help but laugh right along. Then they found one of those paddle boats and of course they had to pull that out.  

Getting a little too close to the water in the back?

Everyone in the boat: Success!

Of course there were a few, uh malfunctions. Once they were in, the peddles didn't work oopsies.... so they were just kind of.... floatin around. And then of course they got scared and jumped out as soon as they got close to the edge, no one grabbing the rope. So, it went a float. haha I have not laughed that hard in a long time, tears streaming down my face. Amazingly enough, no one actually fell in, just a little water on the shoes.

Later in the night, as it began to get a dark outside, I guess the environment created some creative minds? The boys thought it would be a great idea to make a movie! Of course a murder movie. Typical, car breaks down, creepy house near by and people are disappearing left and right ;) Yes, we made a movie.... well only half. After yelling how the plot would go, and then filming some we got a little side tracked. Too bad though.... I think it would have been a hit haha

Sunday morning we woke up, ate some fillet Mignon and eggs (no that was not a typo.... that was breakfast, compliments of Trader Joe's donations). Then off to Dayton to see an art exhibit. The exhibit was titles, "KKK: Kin Killing Kin," by James Pate. The art was a powerful and thought-provoking series of images reflecting Pate’s deep love for youth and his great concern for the epidemic of youth violence in the African American community. This is one of the most critical social ills of our time—Youth violence. Here is some of his art.

"Your History" I'm the king of the drug trade, Which is the number one option and the number one means of commerce that dominates my exposure. I am ready to kill or be killed by any kin that opposes my effort. I'm prepared to lose my life at the hand of any kin in defense of my commodity. I'm a descendant of the Ife Kingdom Olokun, founder of the Yoruba Dynasty of West Africa. I am what I am not.

After viewing the art work we got to meet the artist, James Pate. The exhibit was moving and the conversation was beautiful. As we sat in circle and listened to the voices and stories of many African American males that came just to see the boys, I couldn't help but sit there and watch each of their faces. Each face was so involved, every one of them grasping on each word that was shared. Then they shared their lives, their troubles and triumphs, their wishes. (To a minimal.)

During the Civil Rights movement over 6,000 African Americans were lynched. In our world today 2,000 African Americans are killed because of youth violence. Many of those killings are brothers killing brothers. Many of these pictures hold a history of America's past and Americas present. In many of the pictures if you look the into the backgrounds you find African Americans being hosed down by firemen, in the foreground, kin killing kin. What America fought so hard to make disappeared, is still present today. It's just in a different form.

This weekend I got to watch these boys evolve from the men they are into silly teenagers running around a cabin doing things I did when I was 4 years old (skipping rocks) riding in a boat (any time) and making a video (definitely did that in high school) then back into men. I got to hear what they thought of the art, hear about their lives and get to know them a little bit more. I know I have barely been here at all but I had this feeling of being.... proud. Proud and privileged to be able to just sit and watch them, even if I am the intimidating white girl that's always around, skinny and pretty eyes. I'll take what I can get :)  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Just another week....... (whatever that means)

Last weekend I had the blessed visit of some familiar faces! My Mom and sister came to visit!!! It was definitely perfect timing. I was able to take the weekend to just relax, stay in a nice hotel and feel as if I was almost on a vacation as well! I showed em the hood, then we walked through Grant Park, people watched in Millennium park by the bean, shopped around a bit and caught Mary Poppins on Saturday! (I am kicking myself now for not taking ANY pictures... so dumb.) Sunday we walked Navy Pier and relaxed at the hotel and then caught a Second City show.Of course we grabbed some Garrett's Popcorn and Gino's deep dish pizza. My favorite part of the weekend though was just sitting and doing nothing. For the first time in a long time I was able to just sit and relax. I didn't have to stress about anything (I am learning I stress about way to much...and for no reason at all) I was in my comfort zone where I could just fall asleep on the couch, or sit and talk about anything I wanted. I didn't have to explain myself or worry about what someone thought about what I was saying. I was with family. I miss that comfort zone.

The past week I got a new education. Halloween. In the past I would have had 3 different costumes for the different parties in college. This year... I didn't dress up at all (that was kind of sad haha) Most people know that Halloween in the ghettos are known as gang initiation. In the Hispanic culture they refer to it as Day of the Dead; a day to come together and remember those who have died. Now, put all those things together.... what do you get? Killing and violence. The Thursday before Halloween there was a gang war not far from where I work. In remembrance of a former gang member, one gang went after the other. One boy was killed, another hospitalized. When Monday came everyone in the office was almost a little on edge. You could feel minds spinning, questions to the boys, "What are you doing tonight?" ect. Trick or Treaters leave the neighborhood to go elsewhere or one street is protected by police to allow safe trick or treating. Some areas restrict Trick or Treating hours 3-6 (daylight). I can see about a bazillion things wrong with this picture. How many do you see?

Wednesday night we had a bonfire in the parking lot of our center! We are celebrating 100 days of peace; Make your voice heard! How/what will you do to make peace heard in your community? We had a bonfire and invited local non-profits in the area, shelters and neighbors down the block. It was a success. We think maybe 75-100 people came! I of course was so excited because I would get to have a yummy s'more made on an actual bonfire (my former diet I had 2 summers ago when I was working in Yellowstone)! When we were inviting people, some of the boys said they had never had a s'more before, or roasted hot dogs. I was shocked. When the bonfire was built I think that they all thought I was nuts roasting my hot dog and making a s'more. As they watched many other people doing the same all the sudden they were all over that fire doing the same. AND enjoying it! Just because they may look burnt, doesn't mean they taste burnt. It was a fun night. We are trying to, "Put the neighbor back in the hood."

I woke up this morning, walked outside... annnnd had my first parking ticket...Welcome to Chicago.... apparently there was a sign A BLOCK down from where my car was, that said that the street was supposed to be cleared for street cleaning.... thank God a neighbor was out and said that the neighbors were going to fight it. Apparently no one else saw the sign either and got a ticket as well.... so fingers crossed we win? So lame. At least the neighbor was super nice and helpful!!

Agenda for the day/weekend: China town (I need a new phone cover... pray I can find one WITHOUT Hello Kitty on it!), Remembrance mass tonight and then tomorrow-Sunday myself and Fr. Denny are taking a group of boys to Dayton, OH to see an art exhibit called, Kin Killing Kin (KKK, play on words?) So, it should be an interesting weekend to say the least. Check the blog on Sunday... I am sure there will need to be an update.

Until then, happy weekend!