Saturday, December 23, 2006


A car abadoned in the street after the Great Blizzard of 2006.
Patty teaching the same dance to Linnea, Thane and Karen.
Patty and I dancing a traditional German dance "Ein Hut, Ein Sctuff, Ein Alter Mann!"

The blizzard of 2006...

Which sounds actually a lot more dramatic than it really is. The media here in Denver have kind of a habit of hyping the hell out of everything, particularly snowstorms. We got about two and a half feet on wednesday, and I have a four foot drift behind my car.
I was actually at the airport, in line to board my flight when all flights in-bound to Denver and out-bound from Denver were cancelled. So after a four hour bus ride (two different buses) and a two mile walk to my apartment in the blizzard, I made it home. And I am excited today because my street actually got plowed and I can get out of my garage. And I was able to order pizza and buy beer at the liquor store.
I managed to reschedule my flight for Christmas morning. But that means that I will be celebrating Christmas Eve away from my family for the first time ever. So I am going to reflect upon what the season actually means.
My good friend Kaija, who is spending the year volunteering in the Slovak republic mentioned that all she wants for Christmas is for her friends and family to "pay it forward". Well, all I want for Christmas is a puppy, but I will settle for making the world a better place since my landlord won't let me have a dog.
So, I am spending this weekend at the Ronald McDonald House. I work weekends here, and absolutely love it. Since I cannot be at home in Montana, the second best option is to be present for people in need. I have met so many wonderful people at the House. There is Elmira and her sons Hraj and Arsen. They are from Armenia and have been at the house for two years. There are Jamie and Conor who have a micro-preemie in the hospital and Jamie was just diagnosed with cancer. There is Chelsea, who is my age, with a very ill preemie who will probably not make it. Her daughter is so sick that she does not make any noise, or move. I have never seen a baby that you forget is there.
So I will answer the phones and empty the trash and call the medical supply companies for oxygen, but I will also celebrate Christmas in an entirely new way. I just feel so lucky that I am healthy, warm and do have a home and a family to visit this time of year, even though it is later than I would like.
And I feel so lucky to be with Tim, because I will be spending Christmas Eve with his brother and sister in law and three crazy nephews. And he is driving me to the airport at 4 am, because I am going to get there with plenty of time to spare.
Peace, Love, Joy and Light! (and snow, beer and friends!)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

a life uncommon

On friday evening, I went to the home of gross material excess, greed and drunkenness that is Lo-Do in Denver. Normally I avoid lower downtown, because it is really for college students who come down from Boulder, tourists who want an "authentic" Denver experience and people who like to think of themselves as chic. I prefer the smaller neighborhood bars (Streets of London, the Atomic Cowboy, Wyman's and the Elm) to the high energy clubs and high priced drinks of downtown.
Nine of us spent friday evening and the wee hours of saturday morning at Sing Sing. This is a fabulous dueling piano bar, complete with a cover charge, expensive drinks and a dancing and singing wait staff. Don't get me wrong, I had an amazing time and we practically shut down the bar, but I was struck at just how different my life is than many other people. Most of my friends are USC alums or closely affiliated with USC alums. My other friends work at non-profits so they are already choosing to live their lives differently.
At Sing Sing, money can buy you just about anything you could desire. Any sort of alcoholic drink you can imagine, a song that you want the pianists to play, souvenirs and even a chance to get up on the stage and dance and sing all you want. I watched one man fork over $50 to get the piano players to stop playing "American Pie". Just to watch someone else top him with even more money to have the song continue.
I wonder if I will ever again be so easy going with my money. I used to buy clothes, food, soda and overall, junk, without a second thought. Now I think about where every dollar is going and what it could better be used for.
$17 can help someone obtain their birth certificate
$20 buys a full bag of groceries
$10 pays for a TB test (necessary to stay in a homeless shelter)
$3 provides round trip bus fare
$52 provides an unlimited bus pass for one month
$30 provides one month of birth control pills
However, as evident on friday evening, it is not common for people to think about how their money is being spent and how they might be able to help their fellow human beings. While I do experience lots of guilt and plenty of remorse at my station in life, I can choose to live differently.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


This is Barb's (my volunteer program director) new puppy. Her name is Cara.
This is Stehekin, a tiny town on the northernmost point of Lake Chelan in Washington. It is only accessible by boat and I had a layover here on my way back to Wenatchee.
My good friend Heidi who is serving with Christian Peacemakers Teams in Palestine was on sabbatical at Holden while I was there. Heidi recruited me for the Urban Servant Corps.
The view of the mountains from Holden Village.
Me weaving at Holden.

New Job and New Life

Aug. 14th I started a new job in Lakewood, which is a western suburb of Denver. I am the development coordinator for a large non-profit, where I manage the donor database and coordinate special events.  Karla and I live in a small apartment in an older building that we love. We are trying to continue having intentional community, for example, two nights a week we eat together. We share food and just generally try to take care of each other. Also, one night a week we have a guest over for dinner. On friday we had about 30 of our closest friends over for a party!
I have been working on my grad school applications, hopefully to begin next fall. The job that I have right now is not something that I am planning to make a career of. It is good experience and pays me decently, but I am not truly happy without working directly with people in need. Several times a day I have to wander out of my office to reconnect with what I am actually raising money for.
Also, one of my good friends from the Ogden house last year, Sara, is living in the Philippines doing another lutheran volunteer program. I am hoping to visit her there this year.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ending this Adventure!

As of tomorrow, my time with the Urban Servant Corps will cease. It has been an amazing year, and I have grown and changed so much. I will be processing and unpacking this experience for quite some time to come. I will continue to make posts and updates with my reflections.

On Monday I am beginning a new job as the Development Coordinator for another non-profit agency. I will be managing the donor database, planning special events and writing some grant proposals. I am eager for a new adventure.

The last week of August I am taking a much needed vacation to Holden Village in Washington state.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

my friend Jon

Last week I found out that my friend Jon, with whom I graduated College, disappeared while hiking alone in the Sawtooth mountains in Idaho. He was working at a camp in Idaho, while taking the summer off from his youth ministry job in Utah. His family called off the search on Sunday night. They never did find any trace of him. This is much worse than knowing he is dead, because we know absolutely nothing. There is no closure because even if you rationally know that he is no longer alive, some part of you still hopes that he is. Because you do not know anything for sure.

Update: On July 24, 2007, Jon's remains were found on the rugged face of Grand Mogul in the Sawtooths. He was laid to rest in Minnesota in October 2007. His family has created a foundation to provide wilderness education and support to families searching for loved ones lost in the wilderness.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

moving on

Today Karla and I signed a lease for a new apartment to move in August 1. It is really cute, and has lots of character, as the building is older. I am so excited to bring in our own stuff and begin to live life at a slower pace. I also have two exciting job prospects and for sure a job at the agency I am at right now. I still am not really processing this whole experience and the fact that it is going to end soon. I cannot imagine leaving my roommates (although 14 out of 21 USCers are living in Denver) and leaving my job. But I am also really excited to move on!

Too darn hot!

Denver has been too hot lately (routinely in the mid to upper nineties and topping 100 degrees!) Our house, which is dreadfully cold in the winter is blistering hot in the summer. We have no insulation, and we are really feeling it. At this moment, it is 9:30 and still at least 85 degrees. I broke a sweat carrying laundry upstairs! At times like this, I think of my clients who are without a shelter. At least I have a home to lounge around in, water to drink and popsicles to eat. Summer can be really deadly for people who are on the street.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

reflections on outsiders

This past weekend I had a friend visit from Sioux Falls. I was suprised at how draining it was to try and explain my entire lifestyle to a person who has no clue about what I do or why I do it. Trying to explain intentional community is like trying to grab water. It is something to be experienced, to be soaked up, not to be discussed. When I am seperate from my community part of me is missing. It sounds silly and codependent, but the eight of us are really one whole and it is very difficult to have one part of that body missing.
Also, trying to explain my job and why I love it is also really draining. Often times, the only people that I can discuss work with are my coworkers. When we have a particularly draining day (today we saw 400 clients!) I can really only process it with the people who are closest to me.
In a way, having visitors is very difficult. I want to be hospitable and share my experiences with the people I love, but it is really difficult sometimes to do that when I am trying to process this whole year.
But it is so important for people from other parts of my life to learn what I do here, because so much of it has shaped who I am and who I will become.


These pictures are also from South Park when I returned with my friend Jason.

This is Jefferson Lake itself. Gorgeous!

Jason and I at the top of Georgia Pass in South Park.


The following pictures are from Jefferson Lake in the South Park Wilderness Area. (Yes, there really is a South Park!)
Patty and I. Renee is throwing a snowball in the background.
Stefan kicked over a log and then was covered with fire ants!

Me, Sarah W, Renee, Patty and Marta hiking the W. Jefferson Creek Trail.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

What lies ahead...

My time with this volunteer program is fast approaching an end. Everyday I feel like I am sliding faster and faster towards the last day. I have very mixed feelings about the end. On one hand, I am so excited to get a paycheck! Even just that small token can really keep up your positive attitude at work, and being able to save money makes me feel like I am planning for the future. I am also very excited to try something new. I have settled into a routine at work, at there are not really any opportunities for advancement.
However, on the other hand, I am not looking forward to the dissolution of our community and not always having the same people around. It is going to feel weird to not have seven roommates! I would enjoy having my monday and thursday nights back and being able to just come home from work and lay on the couch rather than having "intentional christian community" to work on. But the feeling is bittersweet. About half of us will still be here next year, and I am counting on that group for some continued sense of community.

Happy Father's Day!

As it is Father's Day, I would like to give a tribute to my dad. My dad gave me my common sense, love for animals and drive for excellence.
I love you Dad!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The city I love

The first annual USC talent show

Becca and Thane sing "A Whole New World".

E-Dog (aka Eric) "tells it like it is".

The Sarahs (plural, there are three!) play the piano.

other pictures

The girls in my house.

Katie (my roommate) and I before Mama Mia.

Katie, Melissa and I in Bozeman.

Me and Grandma Amy in Bozeman.

hiking pictures

In case you could not tell, I have an unnatural fascination with hiking to the top of mountains and then taking pictures. Here are pictures from a few of those hikes this spring.

Clear Creek Open Space Park in Jefferson County.

Patty and I atop Mount Sanitas near Boulder.

Karla and I at White Ranch Open Space in Jefferson County.


Me and my roommate Katie before Les Miserables.

A tribute to my mom

Being that today is mother's day, I want to pay a tribute to my mother. My mom taught me how to love, and some days that is all that keeps me going. Mom taught me how to love other people for who they are. And that is relevant everyday at my work.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My other job

My other job is an on-call weekend manager for the Ronald McDonald House. Basically I spend the night at the house and handle whatever may arise in the night. This was a very quiet weekend. This job is so refreshingly different from my other job. I get exhausted with managing the women at work, but I do not tire of being with the families here. It is nice to just relax and talk with people rather than hand out bus tokens all day long and manage sometimes difficult behavior in a chaotic milieu. Here is a more relaxed environment. Not everything is locked off, I do not have to worry about things being stolen right in front of me. Here, people mostly just want to talk and I am willing to listen. Often, after being with sick children, they are craving adult conversation. They want some semblance of normality. At work, there are just so many people that there is no time to really have a conversation with anyone. I miss that. There is no relationship.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Day Without Immigrants

Today, across the country, rallies and marches were occuring to protest the proposed immigration reform. In Denver, around 50,000 people participated in a march to the capital building. Immigrants and their allies were encouraged to wear white, march, stay home from work and not to purchase anything. A number of businesses in the metro area closed or accomodated the requests of their latino employees. I was unable to leave work, but the staff wore white and refused to purchase anything today. We had just one employee who marched with her immigrant fiance, and just having one person gone impacted us. I wonder how many other businesses were drastically affected. I hope this provides a wake up call to our lawmakers that immigrants do create a positive impact on the American economy, and we could not be the country that we are without them.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Playing the fool

I am livid. Late last week, it came to our attention that some of the women were selling drugs in our sunroom. We are not quite sure who exactly was doing the selling, but we know who was doing the coverup. They had a code to determine when staff was coming and they all accomodated the drug deals. One of our younger clients, about 21 or so, had the courage to come forward and tell us what was going on.
The women involved in the coverup were our "good" clients. They never gave us any trouble, were always willing to help and they were always kind. I am so frustrated and upset. I have been made the fool, along with all of my coworkers. We have been betrayed.
Right now, I am having a really hard time being sympathetic with any of our clients. I have seen so much this year, and it can really be so frustrating. So many of these women are in these situations because they put themselves there. They are addicted to drugs, or sex or just living a wild life, and possess no self control, no work ethic and no motivation. In addition, quite a few women are products of their environments, but very few are victims. Some no doubt, but the majority are manipulators.
I decided to do this this year because I genuinely wanted to help other people and to make a difference. I am learning alot, and I am not sure that it is all good. Another day, another adventure. We really have no idea who will walk through the doors of our shelter on any given day.

Friday, March 31, 2006

How am I qualified to do this?

Sometimes I wonder, why in the world they set me loose to work at a shelter. I feel like I do not really know that much. The other day I was holding a two day old baby (yes, two days old!) and I cannot believe that I did not drop him. When a woman comes to me who is terrified of staying at a shelter, how can I reassure her if I have never been to that shelter?
All I can do is listen and offer what I do know. And pray. For my lenten resolution this year, I decided to work to create more fulfilling relationships with the women who come to our shelter. So far it is going pretty well. They are more than willing to talk and I just need to take the time to listen.

Making your own fun

Every week we have two community nights, mondays and thursdays. Monday nights are out of our control, they are planned for us. Thursday nights we decide what we want to do. Last night our house decided to bake cookies for the other two houses. Eight people trying to bake cookies in a none too big kitchen is really not the best idea. The cookie baking evolved into launching balls of cookie dough off of spoons, trying to get them to stick to the walls and ceiling (it goes well with the noodles that are already there!). Brilliant. FYI: cookie dough does not stick to the ceiling or walls.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Drug use

The other night I was watching a PBS special on Crystal Meth. It traced the historical use of meth, from its use as an alternative drug to becoming the greatest single drug problem in the West. When Meth first came onto the scene in the early 80's, the government was highly concerned with battling the use of cocaine and heroin, and did not view Meth as a threat. Meth's largest component is ephedrine, which for a very long time, was not regulated. Meth manufacturers were able to purchase literal tons of the powder. The government did not catch onto this fact until the early 90's. Once ephedrine was regulated, illegal drug manufacturers began to use pseudoephedrine, which is nearly the same chemical makeup and functions the same in meth. Pseudoephedrine is the active ingredient in Sudafed and most other cold medicines. It can also be legally obtained. Only recently has the government passed regulations regarding the sale of pseudoephedrine. Why? Because the large pharmaceutical companies have extreme financial interest in continuing to sell large amounts of their products. Now, just about anywhere you go, it is necessary to purchase products containing pseudoephedrine directly from the pharmacy counter. Also, you are required to provide identification and are only allowed to purchase up to two boxes.

However, these measures are too little, too late. The damage has already been done. Meth irreversibly changes the brain chemistry of users. It changes to dopamine receptors (pleasure centers) of the brain to accept meth. Also, horrific physical changes beset meth users.
The greatest drug problem facing my clients is meth use. You can tell within a minute who is or has been a meth user. Their skin is honestly yellow. It is chaulky and sallow. They are often covered in sores. Around their eyelids turns a dark purple and their eyes are perpetually watering. Meth users' gums and teeth decay over time. They often lose drastic amounts of weight and are severly depressed, particularly if they are trying to kick the habit. They are generally unable to eat and often suffer seizures as they withdraw.
To see the failure of the government in battling this drug, you only need to walk down to civic park or talk to any social service provider. It is really a tragedy.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

First Annual USC/BSC Vagina Monologues

The Vagina Monologues, the fabulous play by Eve Ensler, is a worldwide movement celebrating the sexuality of women. The Play has also spawned a movement called V-Day which coincides with Valentine's day calling for the end of violence against women. The USC and the BSC joined forces to produce our own Vagina Monologues while in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe Pictures

Tensions run high

Lately has been rough. There have been alot of racial tensions between our African American and Latina ladies. This was a type of racism that I never would have expected. I always thought that the two groups would be able to co-exist with little conflict. Part of it stems from the fact that most of our Latina ladies are first generation immigrants (documented and otherwise) from Mexico. The state of Colorado is very hostile toward immigration, particularly from Mexico. One of our congressmen, Tancredo, is actually advocating building a wall from the pacific ocean to the atlantic ocean across the Mexican border. Where, exactly, is that money supposed to come from? How about we take it and meet some of the needs of our impoverished citizens in the US?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Some of the characters that I have met here...

I never cease to be amazed at some of the interesting, if slightly odd, characters that I meet in my work here.
First, is the "bag man". This man pushes around a veritable mountain of shopping bags attached to a cart. It is really a sight to see. It is five feet long, at least seven feet high and probably five feet wide. I wonder what he carries in his bags. I see him all over my part of the city. It makes me sad to see him.
Next is Jean. She lives in a camper outside the shelter where I work. She moves her camper everyday so as not to get a ticket. She is convinced that the director of the animal shelter is trying to steal her camper, because she runs her own tabby cat rescue. (basically she just lives in her camper with alot of cats)
Donna is a middle aged woman with downs syndrome who is charming and affectionate, but incredibly emotionally needy. She follows you around the shelter, asking questions, asking how you are doing, never really leaving you alone. She says at least every few days that it is her birthday.
Werke is a stunningly beautiful woman of middle eastern desert who always wears snow pants and a sweater, no matter the weather. She is completely non-verbal. I wonder what troubles her to the point that she cannot speak.
There is Maria who is convinced that I speak spanish, and speaks rapid-fire Spanish at me every time she comes in. I smile and nod and reply, "No Entiendo Espanol. Uno Momento."

However, sometimes when I see a glimmer of recognition in Werke's eyes, I admire pictures of Jean's cats or I sing "Happy Birthday" to Donna for the third time in a week it makes my job worthwhile.

Friday, January 20, 2006

My life in pictures

The Royal Arch Hike

This is my friend Erin. This was a hike along the Flat Irons near Boulder.

The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya


Me and my roommates...