Monday, February 28, 2011

Self Care Short List

As my acupuncture days wind to an end (insurance only covers so much!), I've been trying harder to incorporate my own version of extended meditation/reflection along with muscle relaxion into my everyday life. I feel like I write about these activities a lot--reading, writing, redecorating my room, etc, but when I can't take the Ashland bus north for half an hour and lay under a heat lamp with needles tingling in my back, I can still (and absolutely should for my mental health) put on some quiet music and just sit, put on loud music and jam, stretch, focus on my breathing, or light a candle and contemplate the world.

Here's a short list of my most recent self care outlets, in all varieties:

Books! like Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini, which appeals to me largely because it's set in Rome, but also because of the intense and lengthy discussions about why food, simple and real, is a necessity to survive and succeed in this world. As far as I'm concerned, anyone's story of how Rome fits in their life is worth a read...and this one has had me gripped, even during my distracting bus ride to acupuncture!

Music! by Andrew Bird, Gold Motel, Bela Fleck, KaiserCartel, Usher, Iron & Wine, Guster and as always, Dave Matthews is great when I need some noise in the background for journaling, falling asleep, or rearranging my bedroom. Most of these artists have free tracks available at, a recording studio that features sessions by all sorts of artists.

TV Shows! like Glee, NBC Thursday Night Comedy, Jersey Shore, and (a new soon-to-be-favorite?) The Chicago Code all help out when I need to veg for a bit. Mostly they're for the laughs, but that last one (though I've only currently seen the pilot), is kind of a thinker. It's fast-paced and shows a Chicago I'm learning more and more about. At any rate, I had fun trying to figure out where all the scenes were shot in relation to where I live.

Finally, with the weather slowly but surely getting better (read: not so gray, above freezing), I find myself actually wanting to spend time outside. Then, when the Mercy bubble grows too small and I need to get out or go crazy, I'm not in danger of frostbite.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


The weather can't decide what it's doing, and apparently neither can I. I've been wandering around my apartment for the past hour, starting a load of laundry, making one of my roommates braid my hair, eating trail mix, and posting insightful quotes on the bulleting board in my room. And now giving short updates on my last week:

Children and parents in my apartment this weekend = waking up earlier than usual, getting fed an awesome meal, embracing my inner child.

I also attempted running this weekend. And by running, I mean jog-wheezing for two miles. The most important part was that I got outside before it started to snow in Chicago again. Or rain. Or both at the same time, which was the case on Sunday.

A happy mistake gave me Sunday off this week, such a rare luxury, but I felt very out of my element the entire day. I got to check out Soul City Church, which is just across the street from us. It's a great space and seemed like a young crowd (they've only been in the building for several months). I liked the message juxtaposing Chicago's homeless, underprivileged, and under-served with it's awesome accomplishments, architecture, and rich cultural background. It's funny (not funny-ha ha) how such things coexist without many questioning it.

Back to work on Monday, my staff team met to revise the handbook each youth is supposed to get. Five hours later, I felt like I had spent the day in the Writing Center. It was not an awful feeling. I also loved having a day shift and being home before dark. I ate dinner, read the newspaper, and watched Anderson Cooper 360 like a real person.

Civic Duties Rule! I voted yesterday in the mayoral election. Chicago had no Republican candidates, so this was the real thing, not a primary. It would have gone to a runoff between the top two candidates had Rahm not claimed a clear majority with 55% of the vote, but alas, I won't be voting for mayor again this year.

Today was blood drive day at Mercy Home. The MercyWorkers showed up in full force, aka 57% of us donated throughout the day. I also made the mistake of wearing heels to work today, which for some reason made one of my guys ask if I was getting married. I went with it.

And I heard/read today that Wal-Mart is moving to my neighborhood. WHA? I'm not sure yet if it's good or bad.

Up next: acupuncture and spiritual direction tomorrow, along with supply shopping for the house so we can do more laundry and brush our teeth.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Today was a day for miracles. Most Thursdays are around here, though. First, Britney and I took one of our cars in for servicing, and it came back cleaned! We actually didn't recognize it when the guy pulled up. He literally had to tell us it was our car.

The next miracle came in an email telling us we each had items to pick up at the library. This was only miraculous because we both had time to go today and actually wanted to go...I requested my item back in October, which makes the Chicago Public Library interlibrary loan system hugely underwhelming and not miraculous at all, really. We'll still count it.

With those errands out of the way, we were free to clean out both fridges in our apartment. I haven't really been eating from either one lately due to the mysterious smells coming from them. Now the shelves are so clean, you almost don't see them. The best part was cleaning with the windows open for a fresh breeze. Success!

Because our simple living challenge this week is to not use the cars, Shannon and I spent time this afternoon getting groceries and schlepping them the several blocks back to our apartment from Dominick's. Then Britney and I cooked tacos and were surprised by another miracle: Shamrock Shakes! In February! Okay, so maybe we gave Pat less-than-subtle hints about our craving them, but still, the shakes were an awesome appetizer for family dinner.

Really, the night can only get better. I'll be entering food coma status shortly, then before you know it, it'll be Shore Time.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I sometimes wonder what it felt like
to see the Earth from space
for the first time in history.
When the moon, rockets, and astronauts
were still novelty and science fiction.
Before outer space became textbook.
Seeing ourselves took on a whole new meaning,
a dizzy meaning.
I want the world to be big again.
I want to feel awed by immensity.
I want to forget what we've discovered,
then find it again for the first time,
untouched and unassuming and unconnotated.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What the world really needs is more love and less paperwork. -Pearl Bailey

Update on offensive Groupon commercial here.

Back to work today meant having to catch up on over a week's worth of events in Daley Home. It took me a bit to reorient myself; I feel as though I've been gone from work for a month based on how much has happened this past week. The guys stayed pretty occupied with basketball games through Hoops to Homework, Mercy's internal basketball league, and IIAA, an inter-organizational youth basketball league, so I had some time to myself throughout the day for paperwork (lucky me).

Friday, February 11, 2011

photos and liberation

New photos from retreat are up, find them on the "Photos" page!

Now that we've started listening to NPR, Mercy Home has stopped feeling like so much of a bubble. And today I just want to have an Egyptian celebration!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Missing College-y Things? Weird.

Here are some of the social justice/human interest resources we shared with each other over retreat. Or rather, these are two things I learned about (the book) and promoted (the website) during retreat. If you are in any way remotely interested in the prospect of world peace, a better planet, or fair and equal treatment for every human being, you should check these out.

The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear
The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear - edited by Paul Rogat Loeb, this collection of essays give examples of what keeps people going in rough times. My favorite essay, "Jesus and Alinsky," by Walter Wink is about the use of irony to reveal corruption and gives a reinterpretation of the message to "turn the other cheek"--one that isn't about acting like a doormat to be walked over. - I'm personally addicted to this website and it's delightful talks. It's not social justice-y per se, but instead includes talks on a myriad of topics that tend to touch on something in the social realm. - a year round farmer's market! Yay for LOCAL food. Organic food is usually a good bet as well, but local is more than likely fairly organic already and leaves far less of a carbon footprint if you consider the energy it takes to ship organic produce around the world.

We also each brought an article about an issue that speaks to us. We had articles ranging from homelessness/housing issues to childhood prostitution/sex trafficking to the food movement to the treatment of immigrants to....well, you get the idea.

Add to that our recent trend of listening to NPR, and you've got my head full of current events and thinking about the world much like I did back in Sr. Sally Ann's Povery & Social Justice class last year. I liked that season of my life. This feels good.

If You Want Peace, Work For Justice...

I'm so glad for a few days off after a retreat to just let things simmer and to slowly make my way back into a work rhythm.

The MercyWorks Winter Retreat focused on spirituality and social justice, two of our five core values. We had it at the La Salle Manor in Plano, IL, a huge lodge that made it feel like we were meeting in the middle of a giant tree. It was the perfect time to get away from the city after being stuck in all the snow for most of last week.

We started off the retreat by having our own little Super Bowl party. We have no true Steelers fans among us, only spiteful ones, so it was a fun game to watch even on the tiny screen we had. Our favorite commercials were the Volkswagen one with Darth Vader and the Reply All Bridgestone one. I noticed that many commercials were violent, though, it didn't matter what they were selling. Violent and apocalyptic, which says a lot about the times we are living in. And I was totally appalled at the Groupon commercial reducing the Tibetan people to their fish curry. We MercyWorkers are probably one of the more sensitive groups when it comes to the exploitation of the underprivileged or suffering, so all of our jaws dropped at this one.

our pathetic little least the picture was good!

I could go on about playing on stereotypes for a quick laugh and then tie that in to several things we discussed during our retreat, but instead I'll just let you assume that we created a smooth transition from football to fighting for change. We like to start retreats by sinking our fears and floating our hopes--dropping stones into a bowl of water and placing flowers to float on top--and this is an awesome way to center and focus on what you want to get out of retreat. I sunk cynicism, since that's usually what stops me from caring/doing something about social justice, and I floated floating--I've been having troubles sleeping lately, so I just wanted to go into retreat with a sense of peaceful mindlessness. Floating would be my hopeful optimism for real change in the world.

I'll quickly outline the next three days of retreat and go into more depth in future posts. Each day had two or three sessions focusing on creating action plans for social change, discussing social justice issues closest to our own hearts, creating intention posters for our overnight prayer vigil, and connecting our own spiritualities to social justice. The night of the prayer vigil was also the silent part of the retreat, no talking for twelve hours. I found that night both the most difficult and the most rewarding, which I guess shouldn't be surprising. Another night we spent enjoying each other's company by playing silly games. I think I grew closer to more than a few of my community members this week.

Almost time for acupuncture...I'll be back on here later to post pictures and write more.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

For the First Time in My Life, a Snow Day Means MORE Work.

I'm real disappointed meteorologists don't name winter storms. Assuming this is the first one of the year, it could have been Blizzard Annie or Winter Storm Alexander. I mean, a storm big enough to make Chicago public schools call off for the first time in a decade deserves a cooler name than Winter Storm of 2011, right?

The Mercy Home blizzard experience had its ups and downs. Most youth got sent home early from school yesterday and they were pretty hyper, but then the power went out and they got strangely quiet. To keep some sort of order, we substituted quiet time for their usual study time and most used it to take a two hour nap. With no power and the kitchens closed until at least Thursday, we had pizza delivered for dinner.

Luckily the power came back before it got too cold inside and instead we focused our energies on making fun of all the cars getting stuck in the snow drifts forming in the parking lot.

The real snowing and blowing came overnight, and by the time I had to be up and back to work at seven this morning, the drifts covered cars and left nearly all the roads nearly unnavigable. All the guys had snow days today, and so did non-direct youth care staff at Mercy. So it's just been the youth care workers here since yesterday afternoon, and many spent the night either in our guest rooms or in the other staff apartment on campus. It was a fun sleepover for some, though a little weird.

A lot of guys spent the day today helping to shovel out cars that were stuck overnight, and those who didn't brave the outdoors went to activities throughout the day: hip hop dance, basketball, musical instruments, movies, board games, cookie decorating, and video games. I also got a few to make their beds, clean their rooms, and do some laundry.

Speaking of which, now that I finally have some time off, I should do laundry. Too bad I have to help shovel out our four cars, all nearly buried. Blech.

At least we can see the Sears Tower again!
People have been walking down the middle of the streets since sidewalks aren't shoveled.
GIANT drifts