Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 Retrospective (Part 2)

As the year wraps up, I am spending a lot of time reflecting on what this year has brought to my life. This is the second in a series of these posts. See also Part 1.

Come August 6th, I was on a plane to California. I officially started JVC that day with orientation in Aptos, CA. It was a gorgeous place, but also so cold. Especially for me--it was 60 degrees and I had been dealing with 107 all summer in Austin. It was an interesting, fascinating week learning all about living in JVC and getting to know my housemates. On the way down from orientation in NorCal, we drove aways on the coast and then went to (most of us at least) our first In-N-Out experience!

The next week came my first week at Urban Compass. The kids didn't start school for almost a month after I began work, so it was mostly a lot of prep work and getting to know the ropes on the admin stuff. And then come September, the kids came back to school and though I may not have fallen in love immediately--I have now, and there's no going back. Read all Urban Compass related posts here.

At the same time, it has been a wonderful challenge to live in intentional community. My house-mates are all incredible people individually as well as a collective blessing to my life. We've had some wonderful times exploring LA and spirituality. These people help keeps me going in the foreign land that is Los Angeles. It's overwhelming at times, and we are all thankful for each other to work through the hard times together.

I have been working on driving again, and I have now officially failed the test three times. And I still hate driving, but doing my best to get my license.

It's a fascinating experience being part of JVC. We are put in such unique positions in many aspects of our lives and made to make the best of it. It's difficult, but especially with the support of my house-mates, church families, family and friends, it is do-able. As readers of my blog, you are part of my journey, and I appreciate each and every one of you. Blessings to you in 2012!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 Retrospective (Part 1)

As the year wraps up, I am spending a lot of time reflecting on what this year has brought to my life. This is the first in a series of these posts.

This has been an interesting year.

I would never have imagined on 1/1/11 that I would be living in Los Angeles.

I embarked on this year as a fresh college graduate joining the ranks of everyone else, trying to find a job and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I spent about two months applying to jobs, interviewing for some, exploring post-graduate service programs and working on those applications. And a lot, a LOT of folklórico. I went to practice every day to have a concrete reason to get out of the house, and since I didn't really have much else to keep me from going. I also started going to zumba at St. Ed's pretty often (blending in with the students...). In January, I had started Weight Watchers, so the exercise went along with my eating better, and in the first half of 2011, I lost 15 lbs! (It has stagnated since then since I haven't been keeping up with as good exercise/eating habits, but I haven't gained it back either...)

Then came March, and I was hired as a temp at the IRS. One of the most interesting two months of my life. The job was... pretty boring. (I say that if my most boring job of my life is at age 21, then I'm doing pretty good). It was tedious work of opening envelopes, restapling, stamping, paperclipping and filing tax returns. That's what I did for 8 hours a day. And I also worked nights. But it paid well, and it was two blocks from my apartment so I could walk there. (David picked me up at night since it was 12:30 when I got off). And the people I worked with were really, really amazing. Don't miss the job itself, but I do miss those people.

In April, I also participated in the Relay for Life at St. Ed's, especially in honor of my friend Madeleine, whose seventh anniversary of her death passed on on April 28th.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Looking for the Light

When a classmate of mine died in tenth grade, a good friend told me to look for the light in my life. I have received a lot of good advice in my life, but this is something I try to always remember when the times are dark.

And tomorrow always comes. There's always a new, fresh day to start over with. There's a lot of things I would change about my life and many that I plan to work on now that I have the time. But there are so many more things that I wouldn't change for anything. I keep looking for the light. And I can always find it if I look hard enough and if I'm not afraid of what I'll see in the process.


It's something I've been trying to remind myself in the last few weeks, where there has seemingly been a lot of darkness in people that surround me. This darkness could affect any of us in a particular circumstance, and it is especially hard to see the young ones of Urban Compass have to deal with some of the struggles that they do. I remember at the beginning of this job, I would mostly just have fun with the kids and then something would remind me of the lives they live outside of us. Lately, I can't seem to forget.


With the stories these kids tell us, it puts a whole new perspective for me on what it means to have a good childhood. I didn't grow up oblivious to the world's problems but most of them weren't at my house. My home was a safe space, my neighborhood was pretty safe. I had parents that were around and made enough money for us to live comfortably. So many of the kids we work with in Urban Compass are missing out on one or more of those things--some even, all of the above.


So it's been harder for me to look for the light, but each one of these kids is a blessing. I learn from them each day. I hope that we at Urban Compass serve as a light in their lives, which is absolutely what we strive to do.


There's one particular Urban Compass student that has shown a lot of light to me recently. She and I butted heads a lot at the beginning, and she was the one I struggled with working with the most. But she has made so much improvement in the last 8 weeks, and then still seems to like me. And she made me this picture. On the back it also said "Ms B and me are special. Ms B is nice. I am nice. We are best friends."


"Ms B and me"




And I feel like I must be doing something right. 


There's the light.

Christmas Cards


This is the third year in a row I've made Christmas cards for my friends and family. It's a blessing that my circle keeps growing, but it meant I had 96 cards to make this year... Yeah. I had been working on them off and on in the last few weeks but finally just set aside a day to get inspired and do them on this past Saturday, and cranked out about 70. I enjoy the process and the finished product, and I'm glad I get to share something beautiful with my community during the holiday season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

December?!?

How is it December? How is it that 2011 is almost over? How is it that it's been a year since I graduated from St. Edward's University?

I don't think I had any idea a year ago where I would be right now--sitting in an office in Watts in LA working for an after school program. Yeah, I had the idea of doing a year of service, but never would have known that this is where I would end up.

It's been a crazy few weeks. Got back from Thanksgiving, and my dad and brother came to visit, and even came to volunteer at Urban Compass one day! We had a lot of fun wandering around LA, going to some museums, eating out (which I rarely do here) and had a day trip to Malibu. They also got to spend time with my community. The three of us made dinner one night--zucchini boats (yum!), salad and sweet potato bread for dessert (this was an experiment, but it was SO good).

I really enjoyed my time with family here. Even though I will see them again really soon at home, I loved showing them my world here in LA. I could really illustrate the stories I tell them by showing them my context.

A few photos:

Dad drawing with fourth graders Arianna & Michelle

David drawing with first grader, Ruth

Broadway men searching for shells and rocks in the Malibu coast

David & I and Malibu sunset

Dad & I & Malibu sunset


Last week, we had a few dramatic things happen at Urban Compass, that I will perhaps write about in another post, so it was a struggle for us. It showed us just how our vision as an organization meets the actual reality of kids growing up in the projects.

We also had a Coat Party!

Casa DK is planning on doing our family Christmas on Wednesday. Friday, we say goodbye to Kevin and Mike P. Saturday is the Urban Compass Holiday Party! Sunday, I head back to Austin. I can't wait to go home for a couple of weeks, but I will absolutely miss my kids and my casa-mates so much, so I know I can't wait to return!

Monday, December 5, 2011

California Roses: Photo Post

I've been enjoying roses in the fall/winter and wanted to share some of the photos I've taken recently.






Sunday, December 4, 2011

Honoring Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Jean Donovan

On December 2nd, it was the anniversary of the murders of Dorothy KazelIta FordMaura Clarke and Jean Donovan by the Salvadoran military in 1980. These four women are the namesakes of the JV Casas in Los Angeles--I live in Casa Dorothy Kazel.

On Friday night, Mount St. Mary's College held a memorial service for the churchwomen, as they have done for 31 years. For 31 years, they've decried violence and injustice. For 31 years, many sisters have come to this service memorializing the deaths of women they knew, women that were their friends. 31 years, they have bought roses in December and placed them on the altar.

We had people attend the service from each JV house in LA. My dad and brother are in town, so they came as well. There were many sisters that came to the service, and it was fascinating to hear from these women about their connections to the churchwomen. It was such a blessing to be among them.






Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend


What a fabulous way to spend Thanksgiving! Wednesday night, five of us (Mike P., Mike H., Jackie, Erica & I) piled into Barney (our purple 4runner) to head down I-10 to Phoenix, Arizona! Each JV SW house traditionally hosts a holiday, and the Phoenix houses band together for Turkey Day.

We had some fabulous food, thanks to the amazing chefs in Phoenix. Here's the spread:




We hung out and watched A Very Gaga Thanksgiving that night and then settled into our food comas.




Friday, I skipped out on a hike (I'm not much of a hiker...) that Mike P., Jackie & Erica did with a bunch of other people, or exploring Phoenix with Mike H. & others, in favor of meeting my friend Elena for lunch! Slightly embarrassing, but we met through a very pink website at age 14/15... We've been friends through cyberspace for about 7 or 8 years, and since she lived nearby, we finally got to meet in person!



We also ate delicious Indian food.

Friday night we partied a bit, but still got up bright and early to head to the Grand Canyon for a few hours on Saturday.

We spent about two hours there. So beautiful.








Then it was 8 hours back to LA--which was actually not too bad.










The next night we had our Casa DK Thanksgiving, since Sonia and Kevin weren't able to come to Phoenix. We had a ton of leftovers from various Thanksgiving parties at our workplaces the previous week, so we really didn't have much cooking to do--just reheating. It was good to reflect on how thankful we are for each other and our experiences in JVC.