Friday, February 26, 2010

here's my decorating style, straight from the IKEA catalog we thumb through in the bathroom. TMI? sorry.

i feel it's very common which automatically makes me think i shouldn't like it, but i have to push past that and give that the BIG WHATEV. i like it, so i like it, so i like it.

also, this:

now, does my house look like this? no way. but one day, it will.
i love the color (mine will have a bit more bright color - i especially love very bright and bold patterned furniture) and the wood and the ease and comfort that these living spaces seem to exude. i need to be able to live in every inch of my house and i rarely entertain. and even if i ever get into hosting dinners and stuff, it will never be in a formal place, even if the celebration is for a formal reason.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

3 weeks ago it was snowing really heavily here in chicago and my class got canceled. i heard that a group of co-workers/friends were going to this bar called rocks, to participate as a team in their trivia night. i went with them, had good food, a drink, and a ton of fun.

and we won! for winning, our group won $100 to spend the following week (at trivia night) on food/drinks.

since i have class on tuesdays right now i wasn't able to go back with them the following week, but they won again! i guess it was getting too pricey because rocks cut the winnings to $50.

nevertheless, they went back last night and won again!

i should mention that it is because of a funny chick-fil-a conversation in the cab there (i'll tell you that story another time) that our group ended up being named chick-fil-a. i think they've done some version of that name each week since.

anyway, there are always emails going around on tuesdays during work, reminding everyone what the bonus category is so they can bone up before they go that night. i came in to work today and found this email from one of the team members, and this is the whole point of this entry, and why i love the people i work with:

* * *

Hello all, It is with deep regret that I won’t be there tonight to witness your ascent to become a three-time defending Rocks champion.

Do me proud in my absence. I want people to complain to the management that “the game isn’t fun anymore” because of the fierce cerebral beating they take from those included on this list. I want people to throw their pencils in disgust and march out of Rocks in protest.

Allow me to share a few lines from the screenplay to the 1984 classic The Karate Kid to inspire you.

[just before Johnny fights Daniel in the tournament]

Kreese: Sweep the leg.

[Johnny stares at him in shock]

Kreese: Do you have a problem with that?

Johnny Lawrence:

No, Sensei.

Kreese: No mercy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Excited to read The Hole In Our Gospel

The facebook status update of a friend of mine jumped out at me this morning. It said:

"For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved." -......Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel

This is right up my alley. Of course, I had to find out who this Stearns guy is. Here's what I found out (the following text is taken from a book review from, you can find it here).

You know how sometimes vanilla people can go all salsa on us? They’re bland and ordinary until they experience a pivotal event like a spouse being killed by a drunk driver or a bullied child committing suicide. Suddenly they turn hot and piquant. They’ve seen life from a different perspective and emerged with a new mission — to stamp out drunk driving or crusade against bullying. That’s the picture I have of Richard Stearns, author of The Hole In Our Gospel.

As an executive at Gillette, then Parker Brothers Games and finally CEO of the Lenox table and giftware company, Stearns’ life was tasty American vanilla all the way. Then a set of circumstances led him to World Vision. The change in him began when he listened to the story of an orphaned boy in Rakai, Uganda, on his first World Vision assignment. It continued in encounter after encounter with the poor in over a million miles of travel to all the inhabited continents of the globe.

In The Hole In Our Gospel, Stearns presents a compelling challenge to westerners, especially the church, to forsake their myopic pursuit of wealth, comfort, and self-realization and to fulfill the uncomfortable command of Jesus to care for the poor. As Stearns says in the book’s introduction, “…being a Christian or follower of Jesus Christ requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world.”

The book’s 26 chapters are divided into five sections in which Stearns explores a variety of topics. He talks about the gospel and what it is. He describes his own journey of faith and how he came to head World Vision. He names the many challenges that the poor of the world face (disease, poverty, lack of water, hunger, political turmoil) and drills down with details, statistics and stories that bring facts to life. He exposes the self-absorbed tendencies of people in developed societies and challenges especially the church to remember the poor. As he says in the beginning of the section that examines the western church’s response to poverty around the world:
“Where was the church of Jesus Christ? That was the question I cried out that first day in Rakai, Uganda, after seeing the suffering of orphans living in child-headed households. That question has troubled me ever since. Where indeed was the Church? If the world as I have described it truly is wracked with poverty, injustice, and suffering, and God has clearly called us to embrace the whole gospel – characterized by love for our fellow man, a commitment to justice and proclamation of the good news of His salvation to all people – then we must next look at His Church and ask whether it is being faithful in its responsibility to bring the whole gospel to the whole world.”

Stearns is well qualified to meddle in this way. As a former member of the lethargic Christian majority, he understands the mindset. But now, as the face of World Vision, he has seen with his own eyes the grim reality of how the rest of the world lives. And so we can’t shove him aside as someone who doesn’t understand us or doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Stearns’ voice is warm, his writing style interesting and easy to understand. He wields a variety of persuasive tools including statistics, Bible exposition, and stories. Finally, like a good salesman, he goes in for the close, challenging each reader to personal action.

The hardcover edition appears sturdy enough to withstand the hours of handling it will receive if the book is used with the Study Guide section at the back. The end-matter also includes the book’s website URL where visitors can share stories, join a forum, find church resources, view videos and more. The book’s last pages contain a list of notes and references footnoted in the text.

This book reminds me of the Ronald Sider’s classic Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. Like that book, you won’t be able to get through The Hole In Our Gospel and remain unchanged. So beware. Reading this book may just tip your dosimeter into the radioactive zone or change your status from sleeper cell to activated. You yourself may turn from vanilla to salsa.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

National Public Housing Museum

I work near the Merchandise Mart which is a landmark building in downtown Chicago, right on the Chicago River. The Merchandise Mart is the world's largest commercial building, largest wholesale design center, spans 2 city blocks and is 25 stories tall. The Kennedys used to own it (possibly still do, I just don't know).

The big building in the center of the pic is the Mart - I work in the red brick building to its right. Cool, huh?

Anyway, the Mart has (among other things) an amazing lobby that features some really cool seating areas (think posh, modern hotel lobby) . . . which they clear out occasionally for exhibits. Right now the exhibit is for the National Public Housing Museum, which will hopefully be complete in 2012.

It's a really cool exhibit to walk through - I hope to go back and take some pictures to post. For now, you can go to their website, look at photos, brush up on the history of public housing in the U.S. and read stories from people who lived in public housing at one time or another.

Site of future museum

I can't wait to visit this museum!! It will be located on the same site as Chicago's first public housing development, the Jane Addams Homes. Do you know who Jane Addams is? Does Hull House ring any bells? Jane Addams was a powerful woman who fought for the poor and disenfranchised, a rock star for social work before social work even had a name.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hurry Up, Spring!

This post isn’t going to be about weather (mostly, anyway) but I do need to start by talking about the weather. I went into this Winter really dreading the never-ending, miserable cold that is Wintertime in Chicago. Memories of last year’s Winter had me expecting the worst, and I struggled to maintain a positive outlook, knowing that I had months and months of commuting in the cold ahead of me. That’s the worst of it – I don’t mind the time spent commuting, but when part of that commute is standing outside, waiting for buses or trains to arrive, it makes it pretty hard to bear. Winter has been the longest season in Chicago, usually stretching from November through April or May. When other areas of the country are solidly experiencing Spring, Chicago is still having the occasional snowstorm and single digit temperatures. Our “Summer” really feels like Spring, with only a handful of really hot days. Now that I don’t live in the water the way I did as a kid, I love that sort of Summer. Chicago is glorious in the Summer, but it doesn’t last very long.

Today I went on a walk outside and realized that I was bundled up a little too tightly. I didn’t need my gloves or hat, and loosened up my scarf. What surprised me about this was that except for a couple days or weeks here and there, this Winter has been pretty mild so far. And truly, we are near entering the last phase of Winter. As I already noted, we’ll still get crazy weather every once in a while, but temperatures should show a pattern of rising.

This all came to mind as I was walking, enjoying the outdoors, and lamenting the fact that most my life – even in the glorious Chicago Summer – is lived indoors. In recent years this has really stood out to me and I’ve taken steps to spend more time outside, and to make sure my kids don’t spend their childhoods inside.

When I grew up, as with most people I know, just about every minute of the day that wasn’t spent in school, church or some other activity that required being indoors, was spent playing outside, weather permitting. This involved walking, running, playing sports/games, riding bikes, swinging, sliding, climbing and exploring. I had to come inside when it got dark, and I had neighborhood boundaries that I couldn’t go beyond (which expanded as I got older). I did this in Kansas, where the weather is extreme – extreme cold, extreme heat . . . I played outside in the rain, in the snow, I played outside when the sky was green and orange which meant a storm and possibly a tornado was on the way. We went to my grandma’s farm and I explored the old barn, the treebreak behind the house, the pasture where the small herd of cows grazed. I found limestone fossil impressions and could see for miles and miles in any direction. I can remember the smell of all these things so easily.

It seems to me that most adults live indoor lives, no matter what sort of childhood they had, unless they are very purposeful about spending time outside. We watch TV, surf the internet, entertain. In my own life, spending time outside almost always has to be a planned activity, because I live in an apartment. I don’t have a porch to sit on, I don’t have a yard that is exclusively mine – I have a grassy area in front and a parking lot in back. Because of this (and because the world is a different place than it was even 20 years ago), my kids were much older than I was the first time they were allowed to play outside with my supervision. They have more rules than I did, and they can’t explore the neighborhood the way I did at their ages.

I started noticing this a few years ago, and have worked to spend more time outdoors. I’ve done simple things like taking walks instead of sitting in front of the TV, or going to a nearby school with my kids so they can play on the playground, instead of just letting the older 2 play outside our building while the toddler stays inside with me. We take them to parks where they can run and climb trees and inspect leaves and fallen logs, and follow trails. We take the train to downtown Chicago and spend the day walking around, learning the city and visiting the lake. We go to swimming pools and spray-parks. Still, these all require effort and sometimes planning, and it just seems harder to make happen than when I was a kid. When I was a kid, I just went outside and spent hours finding fun things to do and kids to play with, and never intentionally tried to “experience the outdoors”, yet that’s what happened.

Well, I’ve got a bit of spring fever and am daydreaming of hours spent outside, remembering what grass smells like, what it feels like under my feet and in my hands . . . daydreaming of living on a farm or ranch, one in a hilly or mountainous area, with trees and a creek, with places to explore. I’m even thinking about camping. Camping!

Hurry up, Spring!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ngan featured me on her lovely blog. This is the sort of blog I’d love to maintain but never, ever will. GO HER.

* * *
This weekend as I (finally) cleaned & organized my mess of cozy materials, I began wondering how I might use my scrap fabric. I spent a lot of time considering making greeting cards out of them (they’d simply embellish cardstock) and selling them . . . but I don’t think I’m ready to take that on. I think I will just make my own cute cards, attempt to become a thoughtful, card-sending sort of person, and leave it at that. If I get bored and really need to branch out, I’ll know by then whether my cards are good enough to sell. I’m talking about something like this:

or this:

* * *
There is one little girl that I CANNOT STAND, in Kori’s little circle. Every time I’m around her and every time I hear of her, all that comes across is MEAN GIRL. Snotty little mean girl brat. I recently found out that Kori had stopped being friends with another little girl, she told me why (minor, kid stuff), but then said that Kennedy (mean girl) called the other girl (Nella) “desperate”. Oh, HELL NO. I gave Kori an earful about that, and how I did not want her to let Kennedy choose her friends for her. We have had several talks lately about bullying, sticking up for kids who are picked on, how she would feel if SHE was picked on, etc. This brought up another one of those. I talked to her frankly about the different phases I went through in school – popular, nerdy, in the middle. I told her about times I picked on other kids and times I stood up for them and times I was picked on, how it all made me feel, what I was glad about, what I regretted.

I asked if the minor issue was the only problem between them, she said yes. I asked if it was cleared up, would she still want to be friends with Nella? She said yes. I told her today at school she needs to speak with Nella about it – at recess, before school, whenever, and explain that ___ can’t happen again (it’s something in class she does that gets them both in trouble) and if she will agree to that then they can get back to being friends, if that’s what Kori wants. She said it was.

I’ve been talking to Kori about thinking about what kind of person she wants to be, who she wants to be. I also told her that I was about fed up with Kennedy and she was walking on thin ice. So – I’m sure there will be Kennedys I have to deal with forever but I will NOT be sad to move away from this one. She is going to be a terror in jr. high and high school.
* * *
I am excited to pay off my massive library fine from Christmas break when I returned around 20 videos a couple days late and was charged SIXTY DOLLARS in fines. I WANT MY LIBRARY BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!
* * *
And in other news, Bennett was almost boyfriend/girlfriend with Seneca, but apparently she threw him over for another boy! So now he's considering being Brenda's boyfriend. I don't think she will have a baby, though. If you got that, high five.
* * *
facebook: I do not like your new features. I cannot find my recently added friends. My posts don't show up in my "most recent" news feed. STOP FREAKING CHANGING. Of course, I will continue to use you as long as you remain an easy way to stay in touch with tons of people I don't know anymore.
* * *
I am hunrgy and considering eating the apple on my office-mate's desk and leaving a note and bringing in a replacement tomorrow. This way I won't eat doritos from the vending machine. Or spend my commute miserably hungry. But maybe her apple is all organic and stuff and mine definitely isn't. That wouldn't be a fair trade.
* * *
I hope we get crazy snow so I don't have to go to class tomorrow. Yet I won't know until 2pm, and my grant proposal draft is due before class, so I have to get it done tonight. There's no way I can wait until 2pm, find out we DO have class after all, and bust out this assignment before class at 6pm. So I have to do it tonight. Of course, I have known about it for 5 weeks.
But that is neither here nor there.
* * *
I'm re-reading Hearts in Atlantis. I love this story. I love Stephen King, and I most love his stories that aren't all-horror, all the time. I love his horror, but for some reason his non-horror ones seem like they have better STORIES. Hearts in Atlantis is spooky but it's not The Shining, or IT. Man, I love Stephen King.
* * *
Alright. Enough avoiding my commute. See you tomorrow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

It builds character!

I have three children, ages 10, 8 and 2, and they all sleep in the same bedroom.

That's right, I said my three kids share a room. Don’t think this is a big deal? Others do.

This is what I usually hear when mentioning it in casual conversation:

“But what about their privacy?”

“They should have a space all their own to express themselves!”

“I don’t think it’s healthy for boys and girls to share a room.”

“Can’t you afford a bigger place?”

These are reasonable things to say, I guess (except for the question about our finances – how rude!). I think, though, that our culture has become so wealthy that every child having their own bedroom is no longer seen as a luxury, but as a right. It’s simply the way things should be done. Most people I know feel this way, so I understand when people react with those questions and statements. Of course, even here in the U.S. we’ve only held this standard for 50 years or so, but that doesn’t matter much when we see so much of the past as only good enough when we were so poor we didn’t have any other options.

The truth for my family is that right now, we can’t afford a place with more bedrooms unless we are ready to give up some of the things that make our life enriched and comfortable. We live in the Chicago area – not as expensive as New York, Boston or San Francisco – but more expensive than most of the rest of the country. Each upgrade to another bedroom means an additional $3-400 more each month in rent. My husband splits his time between going to school, coaching, working part-time and being home with the kids. I work full-time, have a small hobby/business and am in school myself. We have a very busy life and we need to spend our money in ways that count the most. This means keeping food in the house, gas in the car, utilities on, clothes clean. We even have some money left over for sports & field trips for the 2 older kids, movie rentals, trips to visit family and treats like our recent purchase of a (used) Guitar Hero setup. We could scrape together $350 each month so that we could have another bedroom, but that would mean all these extras have to go and we’d be stressed over the necessities. We’ve been there and don’t want to go back if we can help it.

So – our kids share a room. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Actually, I think it’s a good thing!

No, my kids don’t have much privacy, but they are only 10, 8 and 2 – how much privacy do they need? Our daughter is the oldest, and yes, she is heading towards puberty. If her little brothers are in the bedroom, she changes clothes in the bathroom. Otherwise, it’s just not an issue right now. They know how to share and how to entertain one another. Of course they fight, but it can never last too long because they have to spend so much time together! I’m also not worried about them needing personal space to develop as an individual. Spending their lives together hasn’t kept them from becoming very unique people with different talents, personalities and interests.

Within the next two years my husband and I should both finish our degrees and our income will hopefully take a significant leap upward. We’ll have the money to rent a larger place or maybe even buy our first home. At that time, our kids will get their own rooms. I’m sure they will be chomping at the bit by then! However, I will see that as a special experience I’m providing them, not a right I’ve been delinquent in fulfilling.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Business of Being Born

The other day I watched “The Business of Being Born”, thank you very much Mr. Netflix! I really liked it, with a few objections. If you don’t know of it, it’s a documentary about the way the US culture perceives/handles birth, and the reasons that a natural, midwife-assisted birth is better than a managed, medicated, hospital birth.

I am a strange bird who feels strongly that natural is best, but who has only had births full of interventions – and I’m ok with my births. I do wish things had been different with Kori & Rian but not so much that I suffer guilt or serious regret over their births. For that I’m thankful, because I know of many women who had heavy-intervention births and suffer from trauma/remorse/anger over what happened.

Also, while I wish anyone who has the option of doing a totally natural birth would, and would opt for a more midwife-assisted birth (simply because midwives do things differently that tend to mean less interventions), I would never, never, never tell someone they are doing the wrong thing if they chose to get induced or schedule a c-section for whatever reason. That doesn’t mean I might not think what they’re doing is totally stupid – I might, depending on the circumstance! However, if they ask my opinion, I will talk to them about it, and let them know what my experiences were like and the experiences of people I really know, and I know people with a wide range of birth experiences. If they want my advice, I try to help them learn about the various options and possible outcomes, while letting them know that no matter what, I support them as a friend. I can’t stand when people ruin relationships over stuff like this. This isn’t a dealbreaker issue for me the way it is for others.

I’m thinking about this stuff a bit more right now because I’m surrounded by people at work & in my personal life who are pregnant right now. The people in my personal life are already experienced with birth or leaning toward as natural a birth as possible so there isn’t tons of birthing talk going on . . . my co-workers are first-timers, not sure what they want or what is best. I have shared a pregnancy/childbirth book I love and a website I love, and warned them that both (book & site) “lean natural” but that I had very non-natural births and am more interested in helping them learn about their options than seeing them choose one thing or another. And that I’m available to talk at any time about this stuff because I really love it. They have been pretty receptive to this. One is in her 20s, just found out she’s pregnant, and they are going to get married as a result. She’s in a long-term relationship so hopefully marriage will be the right choice, but she’s obviously still a little freaked. Though she’s older than I was and more established (and her dude is way established, I think), I still know what it was like to be unmarried and accidentally pregnant. It is terrifying.

Anyway, back to the movie. I really liked most of it, and having studied so much of this already, it wasn’t shocking to me the way it would have been 4 or 5 years ago. However, something I didn’t like about the movie is the way they argued that by having anything other than a natural birth – especially a c-section – there would be serious problems with Mom & baby bonding, that there would be a lack of the intense hormones (they call them “love” hormones) that cause Mom to be seriously in love with her babies and fiercely protect them and provide for them.

This may very well be the case with some women – many women, maybe. But this was not my experience at all. With Kori I was pumped full of Pitocin, whatever drug was used for the epidural, and who knows what else. With Bennett I had whatever was in the epidural plus serious pain meds afterward (he was my first c-section). Same thing with Rian, my second c-section. I had different types of births each time (induction, pre-term emergency c-section and scheduled c-section though I wanted a VBAC), all of which were heavily super-duper medicated, yet I had absolutely NO problem whatsoever with feeling intense love, bond and need to protect and care for each of my babies. The movie made it sound like Moms who had medicated births were all like “That’s cool, you can just lay the baby on the cold tile floor. Try not to step on it. I’m going to sleep.”

I do think it’s likely that my difficulty breastfeeding was due to the medications and how they affected me and the babies. The medication + stress, exhaustion and just not being as adamant about breastfeeding meant that my kids got very little breastfeeding, I didn’t try hard after a few days, and quickly moved to formula. Again this is an issue where I 100% believe breastfeeding is best for Mom and baby and it should be attempted – yet if a Mom doesn’t want to for ANY reason, and I mean ANY reason, my opinion is that formula is fine and I wish women wouldn’t feel guilty about it.

I think that the movie was wonderfully balanced when you compare it to the overwhelming cultural belief here in the US that birth is a horrible, scary thing that needs to be managed and medicated and feared. But within the movie itself I don’t think it was balanced, I don’t think it allowed for women to be flawed or scared or weak, didn’t leave much room for women who had been raised to trust doctors, who had husbands who were freaked out by the idea of not having the safety net of a hospital/doctor or who maybe wanted to go halfway – wanted what they felt was the security of a hospital, possibility of an epidural, but still wanted to give a totally natural birth a real try. I felt that their opinion of you was that if you weren’t 100% on board with a completely natural birth (assuming there weren’t complications) and probably a home birth, well, you must not have a functioning brain.

It’s tricky. It’s important that people know what the truth about birth is and how our culture turned the way it has (i.e. it wasn’t always this way), and WHY we’ve turned this way. It’s important that people know there are other options, if only for the very practical reasons of the lower costs, lower mortality rates (for both Mom & baby), lower chances of complications that will lead to physical & emotional scars and further complications later in life . . . people need to know that 1 out of every 3 births in the US is a c-section! And we’re moving toward 1 out of every 2! People need to know that sure, 100 years ago more Moms/babies were dying in childbirth more than they are today, but that’s what hospitals are for today - to help the small percentage of Moms who have complications. People need to the know that the pendulum has swung back too far.

Yet I don’t feel that this movie will be palatable for those who are far on the other side of the argument, who don’t have people around them having home births and birth center births and natural hospital births. For the super young mom who isn’t mature enough yet to know she should do the research for herself and understandably listens to her mom/sister/aunt/nurse/doctor, this movie may be too far for her to be able to give it a chance.

I watched it critically on purpose – took note of the music, the illustrations (like of pitocin flowing from IVs, colored bright green like transmission fluid), the obvious clips of doctors who were in mid-sentence when the scene/clip ended . . . not to pick it apart but I wondered, going in, whether this would be a movie that the Ashley who was pregnant with Kori, age 21, scared out of her mind, not knowing anyone her age who’d had a kid, who was told by everyone she met that her doctor was the best ob/gyn in the city, who watched hours of A Baby Story EVERY DAY and was given What To Expect books – whether this movie would have changed her mind. I don’t think so. I would have felt like that was nice and all but that I was sure my doctor had my best interests at heart and that I wouldn’t know where to begin to try and find anyone who’d had a natural or home birth. I would have felt even more bewildered because even if I did see sense in what they were saying, I had absolutely no way to go about getting that kind of birth.

Now, that doesn’t mean that they should not present the facts because it will be hard for some people to take or carry out. I’m just saying that they have to understand that the way they present certain parts of the movie WILL totally mean that some people will not receive it well, and I’m not talking about the “evil” doctors, I’m talking about the women they’re trying to persuade to give natural birth a try. And that’s too bad. I wish, after watching this, that there was a slightly milder version – a version with the hard facts of the original, but with less judgment – with less self-righteousness and more understanding that they’re asking women to stand against a tidal wave. The movie makes an argument that our culture is completely overrun with the current way birth is perceived and handled, that there is no real balance. Well, consider that the same force that makes this perception so pervasive is one that is extremely hard to push against, and that it doesn’t help that fight when you feel like those who are right think you’re dumb if you don’t do it completely their way.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Storytime . . .

Tonight I have to give a presentation on a fake fundraiser I'm putting on for an organization I don't really work for, the Emergency Fund here in Chicago. It's an group that provides funds and assistance to low-income folks who are faced with a crisis. They want to get around the red tape that so many other aid organizations deal with, because when you're in a crisis, you don't have time to fill out forms.

Last year at this time, my landlord, who was going into foreclosure, allowed our building's heat to be turned off. We noticed it was cold, but the heating was always iffy. We complained to him, turned on our space heaters, and daydreamed about moving when our lease was up.

A day later, frozen pipes burst in our bathroom while we were all away at work & school, and "flooded" our garden level apartment. There was only a couple inches of water in the place but it was continuously running the entire time and being soaked up into anything porous that touched the floor -- the walls, bedding, shoes, bookshelves, tables, cabinets. We came home to a place that wasn't livable, with many of our posessions destroyed.

We were lucky -- we had friends, family and co-workers who bailed us out with money, food, a place to stay, encouragement, prayers. People were extremely generous. Oh, our landlord? He'd just given us notice that the bank would be in possession of the building in a couple days. He refused to pay for any damages, and because the bank had not yet taken over the building, they also would not pay. We didn't have renter's insurance, but after investigating, found that insurance wouldn't have covered our situation anyway.

County inspectors came to our building and immediately condemned it because of the water and soon-to-be mold issue. The other 2 families in the building, whose apartments were simply cold, had to find new places to live, as did we. The state has filed a lawsuit against the landlord but I doubt anything will come of it and if so there will likely be no compensation to us as tenants.

We were so lucky to have a safety net to protect us when this crisis hit. We quickly found a new apartment, moved in, and within a couple weeks, life was back to normal. Before we got stable, though, I called around trying to find some sort of assistance - vouchers for a hotel stay, help with food, anything -- all our money and energy was going into shuttling around the large Chicagoland area (we were staying with family in the city but still working/schooling in the suburbs), trying to find a new place to live, and fixing our car which decided to get in on the fun and completely die.

Guess what - there were quite a few organizations out there to help people who were in situations like ours, but they were tapped out. No money for anyone or anything. They relied on state funding which was late, and they didn't have anything else to give out.

So - that was a long, long story to explain why my group in class chose the Emergency Fund. It was beyond stressful trying to call around to this organization and then that organization, being put on hold, telling our story OVER and OVER and OVER again - just to be told no, we can't help. Or the only person that knows how to help you is on vacation. Can you call back in 2 weeks? The Emergency Fund helps people in crisis navigate the system, helps get their immediate needs covered so they can focus on the long-term strategies to get back on their feet.

Our little group is supposed to be presenting to the EF board of directors, asking for permission to put on a BBQ fundraiser. We have the whole little fake thing figured out - corporate sponsors, in-kind gifts, advocacy to the neighborhood, etc. It should be fun.

Now - on a totally different note, I have some Valentine's Day cozies listed in my Etsy shop. I also have selected a new charity to donate 10% of all sales to: Streetwise, a publication here in Chicago that is written and sold by homeless and near homeless individuals. It's a really inspiring thing and it turns out that many major metro areas in the U.S. have something similar.

I think the next charity I'll be donating to is the Emergency Fund. :)

And, oh yeah - shipping is free for the V-day cozies, through V-day! HOORAY FOR FREE!

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