Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunday Funday

You know how every now and then you're all like "hot dang today is a good day!" Today was one of those days. Allow me to walk you through it.

I woke up around 9:30. An excellent time to wake up. I put on some pants and went downstairs to make some coffee. We just bought some whole bean coffee from Cafe Justo so I was looking everywhere for the coffee grinder and I just couldn't find the danged thing and just as I'm about to move into a full blown I've got to have my asdfjhlks coffee freak out, I found it. So Brent and I sat and chatted over some bomb coffee. Then I took a really long shower and listened to the Muddy Waters Pandora station. Refreshing in many ways.

Next I was on my way out for the day. Packed up a new book, a drink and a snack, a sweat shirt for later (which later didn't happen until once I got back home so that was pointless but who even cares) and went to a meditation meeting. Got some hugs and from there I was off to meet some friends in Chinatown. So I went to get on the red line and only had to wait like two minutes which was awesome, hopped on the train, read the aforementioned book, got off the train, got on the gold line which I like because it's above ground, and got off in Chinatown. I was planning on walking to my friend's apartment so I was totes surprised when I saw them waiting at the stop. We headed over to Grand Central Market for some eating. Brent met up with us and we ate and chatted about some things we've been up to, what we will be up to, and pros and cons of the non-profit world. Then we climbed like 1908213 stairs (not really) to the water court, Sara and I paused to look at a huge garden at a retirement center, and walked around the fountain filled plaza. I had a blast walking through and playing in the fountains. I had never been to this particular spot before, but at one point I realized I had walked by it a handful of times without knowing it was there. You never know until you know, I guess. Next we moved onto Grand Park, a fan favorite, where I played in more fountains and watched all the kinds of people that go to Grand Park on Sunday for electronic dance music. It definitely made me think about Asheville and Warren Wilson. Brent left and the rest of us headed to Sara's new place before she, Cole, and I took off to Tribe, where we worship. I really enjoy seeing people's abodes for the first time and this one was full of awesome art so that's awesome. It got me excited about finding my next place. And I had what in that moment seemed like the best glass of water I've had in my life. And we talked about having a mac and cheese bake off dinner - talk about my heaven. Tribe was excellent of course - good food, good peeps, good words. I laid on the floor and started what I think will be a pretty dope drawing. Then it was back on the red line, did some more reading, and then ran into Brent at the bus stop. I love those little moments of running into people, especially in this city.

And now here I sit, writing this blog post on our tiny second story porch, under twinkle lights and the stars that I assume are still up there even though I can't see them and saying goodnight to a pretty good day.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Meditation and Mondays

This blog post is long overdue. I feel like I have to start every blog post by saying sorry. Sorry I don't post more frequently. I really am. For you, and for me. My friends and followers deserve more updates, and I deserve more time to sit down and process and reflect on everything that's going on - each day, each week, and each month - as I move through this year in Hollywood. 

I've often told myself that I'm good at reflection - good at evaluating situations and their effects, good at reflecting on myself. But I have to admit I'm nowhere as good at it as I'd like to think. But I can also admit that I've been getting better. 

Through YAV, and DOOR, and My Friend's Place we talk a lot about self-care. It's crucial for our mental and physical health. But me, I've never really been too good at it. I sometimes get jealous of and frustrated by people who seem to just know what they need for self care. I've always been one to just push through and say I'll be ok. But then I burn out, somehow gather the pieces, and start over again. It's taken this year for me to really start focusing on what tools I need and have to care for my own well-being. What I have known is that I need a good balance of being surrounded by good people and some quality alone time. Lately, I've actually been using some of that alone time for meditation. I've always thought about practicing mediation but have only lately been making it happen. It isn't always fully successful, but when it is my head becomes clear and I feel grounded and more peaceful. It's grand. 

A few Mondays ago, we went up to St. Andrew's Abbey for a mini silence and solitude retreat. I absolutely loved it. I spent the morning atop a desert mountain just past a cemetery. I found a good little spot and plopped down. After jotting down some initial thoughts, I let my mind go blank and allowed my spirit to take over my body as I moved around my sandy plot. I then just laid there until it was time to move down the mountain and have lunch, silently, with the rest of the group. After lunch, I found a totally different spot and laid down in thin grass under some pine trees. I rotated between little naps, just being, and reading. I may or may not have also been rotating from laying in different piles of what I imagine was rabbit poo - but hey, I was one with nature. We broke silence over dinner and then headed back home. It was a very grounding, calming, and clearing day and couldn't have come at a better time. 

Let's keep talking Mondays. We don't go to our respective placements on Mondays and use that time to spend together as a community. We usually take advantage of these "Community Days" to take care of business - house meetings, grocery shopping, and whathaveyou. The rest of the time we fill with some quality family fun. Earlier this month Brent and I planned a community day out at Paramount Ranch. It's a cool park in the Santa Monica mountains with old western movie sets. The sets are still used today and while we were there they were wrapping up shooting the hulu series Quickdraw. I dressed the part and had a big ol' time posing for pictures. 

We also recently took a tour on Skid Row, which contains a concentrated portion of Los Angeles's homeless population. Rudy, a grand fellow who works at Housing Works and a couple of former dwellers, drove us around pointing out some [not always so] successful agencies and resources. Rudy was full of good stories and info. One of the main things that stuck with me was dumping - hospitals and law enforcement agencies would just literally dump homeless folks at a street corner. 
Skid Row is downtown and we spend our time working in Hollywood, so it was cool, so to speak, to spend some time in this infamous part of the city.

Last Monday, we headed out to Venice Beach for the day. John and Tara put together a fun little photo scavenger hunt, so we spent the morning running around taking pictures of random things with random people. We had lunch in Venice and then spent the afternoon chilling on the beach. 

Makes Mondays not so bad.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving has passed, but guess who has two thumbs and is still grateful?

This guy!

Thanksgiving hasn't always been my favorite holiday. We celebrate a falsified history and binge eat, only to be followed by violent shopping. But I do love what Thanksgiving brings: a focus on togetherness, gratitude, sharing, and community. I've said it before and I'll say it again - it is the love of people that helps me see the love of God. And of course I love eating a poop ton of really great food.

I got to celebrate Thanksgiving multiple times this year. It was kicked off with a nice little Friendsgiving gathering last week. This was followed by an excellent Thanksgiving celebration at My Friend's Place on Wednesday. My team is in charge of special events like this and I anticipated myself running around like a chicken (or turkey...) with its head cut off spewing stress out of every pore. On the contrary, things ran smoothly and it was a joyous celebration. I donned a turkey hat I made from construction paper a la 1st grade and smiled at everyone's smiles. It was great to see a ton of folks super psyched about getting a bunch of great food, serving food, having a place to be, having something to give, and celebrating together.

Here's a photo I stole from the My Friend's Place facebook page of staff and some of our awesome volunteers.

Here's another photo I stole of myself with a couple of turkeys, and some paper turkeys too...OHHH

A definite highlight of the day was when one of our clients came up to me and said "Freddie, I'm so glad to see you - it always puts a smile on my face." Felt good. But you know what felt even better? Getting to genuinely say the same for him. 

On Thanksgiving day we had a nice little gathering at our house with some friends and families from our neighborhood. It was great to have folks over and not just eat together, but eat together OUTSIDE! Oh, California - you and your sun. 

I am so blessed to share time and love with all these beautiful folks and am full of gratitude. 

I'm grateful for our community hours and the kids that come hang out with us. Every kid is super cool and they are all so funny in their own ways. Sometimes after a long day, I'm not exactly excited for community hours. But then we just be together, someone gets me cracking up, and I have a great time every single time. Love it. 

I'm grateful to get to know other folks who are out here doing the same things we are and to hear about their experiences. 

I'm grateful for the handful of familiar faces that have made their way into LA this week. It's so good to see Wilson friends and feel a taste of home in this crazy place. 

I'm grateful for live music, farmer's markets, and good views. 

I'm grateful for walking down the street with my neighbor, even if I did miss the bus.  

As this time of Thanks comes to a close (try not to let it) and the season of Giving (see what I did there) is upon us, please consider giving me more to be grateful for by financially supporting my year here in Hollywood. You can make a donation here. Every little bit helps and gets me that much closer to my overall goal. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Best Attitude is Gratitude

Once a week at My Friend's Place, we spend a morning doing what I'll call inside work. Once a month we spend a whole day doing a ton of inside work. This inside work always includes domain meetings. My domain, or team, is the bestest team - transformative education. We check in with each other, see what we're celebrating and/or struggling with, and go over the things we have going on. This Thursday, my supervisor (she's pretty cool) referred to November as the month of gratitude and she was absolutely right. We each shared something we were grateful for and mine was something I have thought about often and expressed a few times - I am so blessed to be a part of My Friend's Place and this whole YAV/DOOR experience. I get to build relationship with so many wonderful people - children of God - it's insane. The people I live with are excellent, the people I work alongside are beautiful, the folks who walk through the doors of MFP are too cool, my fellow YAVs are incredible, my neighbors are something else, the list could go on. Throughout this life of mine, but particularly right now, I am so grateful to be where I am, doing what I'm doing, and knowing the people I know. They/You all are beautiful gifts to this world and I'm honored to be a witness to that. Again, I'll say here what I said at work - I love people (even though I'll admit that sometimes I hate them too...just to be honest...) and all we have is each other so I am so joyed to be building all kinds of cool relationships with all kinds of cool folks. It's the people that show me God and I get to see that Love everyday.

I already have many other LA related things I can express gratitude for, but I'm going to save them for some more frequent blog postings ;) (ideally - no promises...)

I'd also love to hear the things that incite gratitude in your life. Share with me and with everyone!

I'd also love to point out that my birthday is Monday and I'll be 25 and that's like a really adult age and that's scary. You should probably send me things to help me cope with growing up. If you feel so called, anything that fits in a mailbox (not the kind at the end of your driveway but the kind on the wall next to your front door) can be sent to 5846 Gregory Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038. If you're cool enough to send something bigger than that, you should send it to me c/o Hollywood Presbyterian Church 1760 N. Gower St. Hollywood, CA 90028. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Telling Stories in the Dark

I'm going to get better at posting more blogs, I swear.

A lot has gone on since the last post. Shall I tell you about it? Ok, I will.

A while back my good pal Jack took me to a reading of Pinocchio at Mack Sennet Studios. I was super excited to find out that this sound studio was a common stomping ground for the likes of Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin. The reading was great as well. Pinocchio is a pretty dark story, but one full of light as well. And puppets. Awesome puppets.

I made a trek down to Tucson for the More Light Presbyterian Conference. It was great to see some other awesome YAVs and be in a place full of people excited to celebrate and support LGBTQ Christians. My favorite part of the conference was a discussion panel with folks from Borderlinks and Southside Presbyterian speak about immigration and LGBTQ issues and the intersections of oppression. It would be really easy to throw being homeless into this discussion as well. There are many things that can make us be viewed as strangers - being queer, an immigrant, homeless - that pretty soon we're all strangers. Except for you, white straight man. When we see how all of these things overlap and intersect in single or community identities it is easier to see the power of coming together. We can't separate and compartmentalize oppression. But we can tell our stories and our voices will get louder. And the white straight man will hear them and our stories will become a part of his and maybe, just maybe, we will start to see more light.

I also got to meet some pretty awesome folks while I was down in Tucson. And reconnect with old and new friends. We had come from all over but gathered in one place and I felt so much love and support. I would even say it felt like home. Somewhere in my notes from the conference I wrote down 'revolution begins at home.' Where the heck is home, anyway? It is nowhere and everywhere. Home is where the heart is, pft. Home is the heart. Home is a pocket of love. Home is organic vulnerability. Home is laughter and tears. Home isn't a physical place but a feeling of support, comfort, stability. Which is exactly what the people I hang out with everyday are looking for. My confident hope is that these young people find a sense of home at My Friend's Place and are able to take that with them, hold on to it, and create their own places of support, comfort, and stability. A physical home is great too.

I really love my job you guys. I get to go hang out with folks and hear bits of their stories. Some highs and some lows, but then we get to make stories together. And my job is the best because it's transformative education that really makes this happen. Whether it's through walking on stilts, making some art, going on field trips, faking my way through a football conversation, we are building relationships that set a foundation for a future of stability. Something from my story allows me to be a part of all this and I couldn't be more proud and honored because it works. My Friend's Place recently had a fun and fancy event to celebrate 25 years. While there, a coworker and I started chatting with one of the performers. We talked about MFP and he thanked us for our work because he wouldn't be where he is without MFP. MFP helped him get back on his feet, his feet that then shared a stage with DMC. Imagine all the success stories that have come out of My Friend's Place over the past 25 years. Too cool, y'all. Too cool.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

It's been three weeks (I know, SORRY) since my last post and what a three weeks it's been.

The first week consisted of testimony sharing and more acclimation. And praise God for some much needed beach time. I love water and always feel the Spirit in it. The in and out of waves is beautiful and powerful. There is so much energy in water. It covers and it flows. It is strong and calming. It is vast and mandatory. Kinda like God's love, huh?

I have been thinking a fair amount about baptism over the past month or so. I cherish that I was baptized as an infant and know that I am God's, always have been and always will be. I have been tossing around the idea of being baptized again. I honestly haven't come to any conclusions about what that might mean, but perhaps we're regularly receiving baptism: each time we are fully immersed in water. When I jump in the Swannanoa River. When I dive into a wave that both pushes me down and pulls me up. When I splash my face in the morning to give me life. The Holy Spirit continuously anoints. As we dive into this year of serving and seeking God, we are entering a new, or living out in a new way, our covenant with God. We are being welcomed and welcoming others. Though where we (YAVs/Dwellers and those we are meeting) come from is important, we are cleansed of it and called to be in community. We are to meet each other wherever we may be and love each other for it. (Easier said than done, am I right?!)

My Friend's Place is a Safe Haven. It is a welcome table. Folks are invited and welcome to come in as they are. "Serve the person, not the personality" is a phrase I heard a lot during my training at MFP and have come to love. Sometimes anger, frustration, and impatience flow easily from our clients. But equally so, love and strength abound. Sadly, I entered My Friend's Place in a time of mourning as a client had recently passed. This week we held a memorial service for the young man and many clients attended. I stood in a corner of the room and was brought to tears pretty quickly. There was a time for anyone to share and I was constantly touched by what some brave young folks had to say, not only about their friend and peer, but about themselves. These kids are strong, intelligent, and resilient. We all know life is hard, but some of us have to face more challenges more frequently. Times like these remind us, reminds these young people, that the best, and maybe only, thing we can do is push on and love kindness. The smile on my face changed the path of my tears.

And there have been plenty of smiles. I get to be a part of some pretty cool things at MFP, y'all. So here's how it works. We open services in the morning and clients come in, grab some food, try to snag a shower and some clothes and can participate in various workshops and activities. We close for lunch and then do round two in the afternoon. Soon, I will be leading an art workshop on Tuesdays - simply creating a space for folks to create. Wednesday and Thursday afternoons consist of Cirque de Monde. Folks from Cirque de Soleil come in and lead folks in doing all kinds of cool tricks. I've been working on my juggling and trying to get my forward roll solid. There's a tight rope and trapeze. Sometimes it's a space for break dancing. Sometimes for stretching. Sometimes for just sitting back. There's unicycles, stilts, hula hoops, and a gamut of other cool stuff. There's talented young people doing crazy feats and balancing acts - once again revealing their strength and courage. Other times folks can get on the computer, make jewelry, play video games, do improv or watch a movie. Pretty soon gardening and music recording workshops will be running again as well. It's been two weeks since I started at MFP and I am so glad to get to know our clients and stoked about the ways I get to go about it. I'm also pretty stoked about getting to know the whole staff team as well. They're pretty darn fun and I love the dynamic the team has.

Things will definitely be challenging as the year goes on but I continue to feel pumped and blessed.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

It's a Party in the PC(USA)!

It's pretty hard to tell, but I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan...after a week of YAV Orientation in Stony Point, NY. The week was a total roller coaster of energy and exhaustion, pressure and relief, anxiety and confidence, laughter and tears, and playing and praying. As is their nature, roller coaster rides come to an end and as each day came to a close I felt grounded and at peace. What an honor to have spent that week surrounded by my people, by my brothers and sisters. We grew together through worship and fellowship and did our best to break down some challenging topics. I joined a herd of manatees and began some excellent relationships. Feeling God in these connections brought me to tears nearly every day and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

My five housemates and fellow dwellers and I have been in Hollywood for pretty much a week now. It is really starting to feel like home but I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel like a vacation still. I am eager to start working at My Friend's Place and develop a routine but am pleased to be present in this 'in-between' time as we grow as a house community and neighborhood and get to know the city. We went to a taping of an episode of The Soup which was pretty darn exciting. We started settling into our apartment. We worked with the Angel Food Project which provides meals for folks living with HIV/AIDS. We are figuring out how to best grocery shop on our budget. We are learning about each other, hearing stories, and sharing talents. We have done some balling in our courtyard. We've sweat more than anyone ever should. We've broken bread together. We've been welcomed home with open arms. 

Thank you to everyone who is supporting me and following along with this journey. I am blessed to have brought you with me. I carry you all in my heart.