Thursday, May 27, 2010

One mind-broadening experience in exchange for another

For the last couple of years, I've commuted to work via bus and CTA train (the subway/elevated trains). Here's what the inside of a CTA train looks like:

We've just moved, so now I no longer take CTA to work, I take a Metra train. Here's what the inside of a Metra train looks like:

When I took CTA, the stop I got off at was 1 block from my office. Counting the street I had to cross (and often wait at for the light to change), my walk from train to office was about 2 minutes.

Now that I'm on Metra, my walk is about 20 minutes if I'm strolling, 15 if I'm power-walking.

For the first couple years that I worked downtown, I took the Metra, so I know the route well. It's funny, now, noticing the differences in the 2 methods of commuting.

~ Noisier
~ All kinds of people (different classes, races, languages, smells, states of intoxication)

On Metra
~ Except for the train cars holding large groups of co-workers who are having "happy hour" on the train home (alcohol is allowed at certain times of day), the cars are mostly quiet. When someone speaks on the phone, it's in hushed tones.
~ Mostly middle & upper class people, mostly White.

Something interesting to me is that in certain suburbs, there are both CTA trains and Metra trains that go to the same location. CTA trains run more frequently and later, have less delays (at least during rush hour) and are less expensive. Yet some people choose to ride Metra instead.

I'm trading certain things by riding Metra (CTA doesn't come out to where we moved to). No longer am I exposed to the immigrant population I was before. No longer will I hear languages other than English spoken on a daily basis on my commute, and that was the main place I was exposed to that, for 2 hours a day, Monday-Friday. Now, for 2 hours each day, it will be quiet time.


Now that I have a longer walk to work, I get to see homeless person after homeless person! I've noticed, on my 2 days taking Metra so far, that the number of homeless people I pass has risen quite a bit. I used to pass 3-4 on my walk. Now it's more like 10.


Time to start carrying change in my pockets for easy access again.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Moment of Clarity

Do you ever have those moments, they only happen every once in a while, when things seem to snap into focus and you can suddenly see things that weren't there before? Maybe you had a sense of something but could never find clarity . . . you stumbled around, bumping into things until WHAM a door opens and all of a sudden you see what you need? And you didn't even have a name for what you needed, you could only sense it, until it's right in front of you, and then, you know, you just KNOW, that's what you were looking for? And after seeing this thing, whatever it was, you knew which direction you needed to move in? And it helped make all the other decisions so much easier? Because now you know what's essential and what isn't and what will help you towards your goal because FINALLY you know what your goal is?

I don't have any tattoos, but I thought once that if I were to get one, I'd like it to be an image of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, looking out the doorway of her house, post-tornado, seeing the colorful scene of Oz for the first time. That's what I'm talking about - seeing things the way you've never seen them before.

I've had those experiences a few times in my life . . . it's happened in my marriage, in my parenting, in my spiritual life. I've had mini-moments like this in my working life, and they've happened a lot over the past few years. I had one when I realized what degree program I was going to get into.

Well, I've been thinking a lot over the past months about what direction my work life will go in. I have the things I care about, and the lifestyle I have to maintain (less about stuff, more about quality time with the family). I have the equation of work experience + education (or lack thereof). I have what seems to be my skill set (as discovered so far, at least). I have what opportunities are available to me in my city, region and during this recession.

I know I want to help people. I know I need to make a living and that I'll be the main breadwinner for at least a few more years until my husband graduates and gets a stable teaching job. I know what issues I care about and specifically things that really spark my mind within those larger issues.

One question of mine has been - do I continue into a Master's program? If so, what type? Another Non-Profit/Public Service generalist program? Or something more specific, like Public Policy or Public Health? Do I really even understand what I'd be learning in those degrees? Would they serve me for what I want to do? What DO I want to do, after all?

Another question has been - what sort of job can I get, with my specific background and education? Can I step into a higher role in an organization even though I've never done that sort of work before? If I have to start at the bottom, will I make enough money to support my family? Am I truly satisfied with being the lady behind the desk who makes it possible for others to go out and fight the good fight? Do I want to do some fighting myself? Will fighting wear me out so I'm not good when I go home? What time will I get home, anyway?

Am I missing something? I do this a lot - feel a pull towards something, think I need to radically change my life to incorporate that new thing, and after a while, determine that really I just needed to make some small changes. Am I doing that now? Do I really just need to get back into volunteering? Or is this really something I can do professionally?

What if I think I want to do this (whatever this is) professionally, and it turns out I'm no good? Can I handle that? What if I invest my time and money into an education for this direction and it turns out I'm not good at it? Or my specialized degree doesn't really do much for what I end up working with? Or I realize, too late, that this isn't really the direction I should have gone in? What if I plan and invest in going North, when really I should be going Northwest?

Anyway, all of that rambling spilled out of me because I wanted to say this: I think a door may have opened for me today. Maybe it was just a window. But through someone else's link, I came across an organization that puts all the things I care about into one mission statement, and that mission statement is this:

The mission of the Center for Community Change is to build the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to change their communities and public policies for the better.

All the things I want to do? That I care about and never get tired of talking about and learning about? The things that affect me and everyone around me? Wrapped up in that mission statement. Neat and tidy.

This organization is based in DC and I won't be moving there, I think I'll likely be in Chicago for the rest of my life . . . at the very least until my kids are out of school. But if an organization like that exists, and this being Chicago and all, chances are, someplace in Chicago has a mission like that too.

I just have to find it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

dream house

any idea who lives here? 'cause i'm ready to move in.

only way i'd like it more is if the flowers out front had more color, and/or it had shingles for siding instead of stucco. but dude, i'd totally take this. meow!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

soccer memories, personal failings

maybe it's spring fever . . . but i am seriously dying to be on a soccer team! i played fresh-junior year in high school, had never played before, just thought it would be fun. i remember after one of the first games of my freshman year, it was a varsity game at this tournament that always started our season, the coach used me as an example of the way people should play. it had something to do with me running full-force at a chick who had several inches and many pounds on me, and attempting to get the ball from her. he said i had guts. that made a big impression on me.

even so, at some point i got self-conscious about making mistakes and began doubting my capabilities, and wouldn't commit. i'd get psyched out and either not push hard for the ball or let it get stolen from me.

my coach had this term called "diving in" which meant if someone on the other team had the ball, and you approached them to try & get it from them - but didn't really do it with much thought or skill or commitment, you'd kind of dive into their space and they'd just keep control of the ball and go right around you. their momentum would keep moving toward your goal, but now your momentum has stopped because you dove in but didn't really make anything of it, and now you have to turn around and CHASE after the person with the ball. chasing was a big no-no. if you get beaten by an opponent and they get past you, you have to turn around and first get to the goal, or get in between your opponent and the goal. you have to run like mad to get in between them and the goal - if you chase the opponent, you're doing nothing to protect your goal and the ball is in front of them, you can't possibly get it by running behind them.

anyway - diving in and chasing were bad things to do, and our coach called us on it. i also had a couple buddies who were really great soccer players on the team and i began to get really intimidated with the thought of messing things up for them. so i basically stopped trying, stopped being fearless and became fearful. i still had my speed but just wasn't making the best choices, including lots of hesitation at the wrong moments.

other than a handful of jv games, i played and sometimes started on varsity. we didn't have a huge team. my junior year, though, we got a crop of freshman who were great and they pushed a lot of us mediocre players out of our varsity positions. along with a couple other formerly-varsity players, i only played a few varsity games that year, and played mostly JV.

the funny thing is that with the pressure of varsity games off (and likely some maturity thrown in for good measure) i began overcoming my fear, and actually played pretty well my junior year, on the jv team. i also played midfield and forward more that year (which are the attack & scoring positions). funny, those are the "glory" positions yet i'd never been interested in them before because i was so scared of messing things up and not scoring.

i lettered in varsity my fresh & soph year but didn't letter my junior year, though i thought i'd squeaked by with enough varsity time to get the letter. turns out i didn't and i found out the night of the sports banquet. i remember that was especially embarassing for me because that year my bffs and i had been "managers" for the boys team in the fall (girls play in the spring). so we were all close to the guy players. (we were basically water girls, equipment girls, etc). the coach had a rule that anyone who wanted to manage his boys team had to play for the girls in the spring, he only wanted players as managers. he also pushed his teams to support each other, so any guy players that weren't already at the spring sports banquet for baseball or track or something, were there to support us girl players. so i found out right before the banquet that i wouldn't be lettering, and i'd already dealt all season long with the embarrassment of having been moved down to jv. so when it came time for the coach to call out the players who'd lettered, he did that but then said something like "there are a few players who have lettered in the past, but didn't this year, and i want them to stand up because they're just as important to our team as the rest . . . " and then he called up me and the couple other formerly-varsity players.

i was mortified. and you know, looking back, how silly. i was so embarrassed to have not been AWESOME. on one hand, i can say i have never felt much fear at trying new things, i don't mind not being great at something. on the other hand, i am vain. i like to be acknowledged for my talent & skill. i guess i don't have a problem DOING something i'm not great at, especially when i love it anyway, but i hate being called out as not being great at something. wayyyyy too vain. sheesh.

so i'm standing there, all purple-faced (because you know i can't control my blushing) and just wishing i could die.

sometime later that year my coach asked if i'd be managing the guys again in the fall and i told him i did'nt know if i'd be playing in the spring or not, and i knew about his "you must play to manage" rule . . . he was disappointed. now, part of the reason i didn't play my senior year was because i'd gotten a job that i needed to help out at home because my mom was sick and couldn't work. my job would have conflicted with practice & games. also, by spring of my senior year i was barely attending classes because i was so over high school, i am pretty sure i was truly depressed. saw a school counselor a year later and she said everyone thought i was on drugs because pommie/soccer player/choir member/student council/gospel choir/volunteer & join everything ashley was acting so strange and getting in trouble and not going to class. but part of the reason i didn't play was because my ego was bruised and i wasn't willing to let it go.

i remember going to the last game the girls played that year, they were a couple games into the playoffs leading to the state championship, i think. i stood on the sidelines and watched as the girls i'd played with for 2-3 years huddled together, and hugged and cried (the seniors cried, it was their last game together) and feeling so left out, and regretting having not played, having let my pride run the show. but it was too late.

so anyway. that is an entirely too-long story that i never intended to get into, to say that recently i've been thinking about soccer again and how much fun it was. after high school i was kind of burned out on it, plus it seemed everyone who wanted to play pick-up games were really good & competitive and i couldn't hang, no one wanted to just "have fun" with it. so i hardly ever played again.

now kori is into it, i need some exercise and i also just became facebook friends with a guy who happened to be the superstar goalie from the guy's team. we dated a bit back then. funny, because i've been in & out of touch with other players ever since high school but it was talking to him again that brought back so many memories.

i would love to play around with kori, or find some ultra-non-competitive, we're-actually-not-that-good-we-just-want-to-have-a-good-time group of people to play with sometimes.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Blogging fail

Oh, poor little blog. Lonely, sad blog. With only 2 followers, one of whom isn't even on here anymore.

It's not your fault, it's mine. I don't have time for you right now. It's not that I don't care about you, I just care about other things more. Like my kids. And watching Netflix with my husband. If I copy/paste entries from my private journal, will you feel unappreciated? Do you really need fresh content?

If you'll be patient, I'll do my best to make it up to you.

Here's some sweet music to tide you over until then.

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