where i've been


Birthdays, Bowling and Buses to the Capitol!

Hello all! To counteract the serious tone, here are some pictures of fun things!

Last Friday, we continued our birthday surprise, and took Matt out for surprise bowling and pizza.  The Garage - the local bowling alley - is an old-fashioned bowling lane, complete with a swanky bar, pool tables and shuffle board.  Let's just say we had a blast!

Karin perfects the granny shot at our surprise bowling trip for Matt's birthday.
Caitlin throws a gutterball, but gracefully!
On Wednesday, I took part in the Homelessness Advocacy through Catholic Housing Services in Olympia.  I hopped on the bus by my house at 6:30 so that I could get onto the bus to Olympia by 7.  We were advocating for a continuation of services used primarily by the homeless in Washington State.  I've never been to a capitol to talk to state representatives before, so it was a really cool experience.  Pretty much within the first ten minutes of me being there, I was sent to talk with a representative from King County.  It was scary! I just wanted to make sure I would say the right thing, you know? 

Beautiful day in the Capitol.
I ended up meeting with the representative's aide, and three other people, which was really nice.  The three other people knew a lot more about policy and technical things than I did, which was great.  I got to tell the daily stories and put the faces behind the fancy words.  Sure, I don't know what all of the laws and policies and everything are, but I do know that putting money and effort into these systems matter. And I got to share some of my clients' stories, which is pretty powerful.  I even got to tell the story of one resident who passed away recently, so it is pretty amazing that he will get to live on in these lawmakers' policies.  I hope it made a difference.

Finally, yesterday I held the annual Black History Month Potluck Celebration at the Wintonia, and whew! It was epic. So much delicious soul food cooked by the residents. 
My coworker and I went shopping for all of the goods - so much food!

All good things over here on the Seattle front! Keep smilin!



A Great Expanse

Prepare yourself for a somewhat serious post.  (I'm realizing that almost all of my JVC posts are, ha!)  I suppose this has simply been a year of extensive soul searching, if you will.

As I posted earlier, this weekend I was on a retreat with the JVC Northwest region in southern Washington.  Our retreat focused on Social Justice.  In the beginning of the retreat, I wasn't too sure I was going to get anything out of it.  I didn't really connect with the facilitators, I was in a weird headspace, and I honestly, just didn't want to be there.  But, I stuck it out, and it ended up being a really awesome experience.

Honestly, I had considered 'social justice' in my life to be my every day job.  I got that one covered, I thought to myself.  Hello, I am hanging out with the dregs of society, right?? I got this! Okay, maybe not so much.  This weekend really broke that open, and showed me that there are a variety of ways to live into the idea of social justice, and it isn't always at my job.  Living out social justice is a lot more complex than that.

This weekend really reminded me that social justice and ecological justice are found in the small, everyday choices we make.  For me right now, I am finding it through food.  Who would've thunk it, right? Yes Kandace, who couldn't even boil water, who only learned what a green onion is a year ago, who had no idea that lettuce could be bought at a vegetable stand before this year, is tackling food justice head on.  

So, there'll be a learning curve.  I am certainly not going to be getting everything right all at once, and I am not going to become one of those pretentious vegans who sneers down at you from my high horse if you don't buy whole-grain-organic-grass-fed whatever.  Because, puh-leaze, food politics are SO much more complex than that.  It's all tied up in classism, and money, and access, and there's a lot of other stuff going on than just people making a 'bad' decision.  But, hey, it's a step, people.  It's a journey.  

And it starts by asking the hard questions. 

What does it mean to truly transcend the boundaries of society?  What does it mean to meet someone where they are at?  And what is the role of the individual while still working for systematic change?  Does this mean I have to give up American Idol?

Alright, you caught me, I don't watch American Idol, but I know my mom does.  And no, it doesn't.  But it does mean you should probably think about things.  

At the end of the day, I am not content with the definition of social justice to be one person working with one other person. While I think that this is absolutely necessary, I don't think that that is everything.  Taking my residents out of trips and treating them with respect and dignity is very, very important, yes.  Lifechanging, even.  But I also can't just sit back and be content with the world as it is.  Does my helping the folks at the Wintonia help to end homelessness?  Does it change the structure of society?  Does it create lasting social change?  Not really.  Nope.

Now, I'm not saying that my work isn't important.  I wouldn't be here if it wasn't.  Bringing people happiness and sharing joy with someone who seldom experiences it is hardly something to sneeze at.  Yet sometimes I am discouraged because I feel like my two hands are the only ones trying to push back this cascading flood of injustice.  Like I am standing in front of a giant wall of water trying to hold it back with my fingertips.  It still floods through.

Which is why this weekend was so goddamn inspiring.  My two hands aren't the only ones holding back this avalanche.  There are 50 other pairs of hands, just in my JV region alone.  That's 50 pairs of hands working towards some kind of social justice.  Reaching out to those in need.  Asking hard questions, and searching for answers.  And that's pretty freaking cool.

I'm all over the place here, but I guess I would like to use this post to remind everyone reading it that they aren't alone.  There are a whole lot of people out here in the world trying to make something good happen.  And trust me, I know that it can seem overwhelmingly dark.  I hear so many stories of darkness from the Wintonia residents - this world can bring about some heavy despair.  But, there is a light at the end of that tunnel.  And all of those hands are hammering against the walls, cracking the plaster to let that light in.

Let's let that light in, people.  It's faint, but its there.  And I would much rather focus on that drop of sunshine than the torrential downpour of oppression any day.

Photo Bomb Friday

Walking along Lake Washington on a walking trip with residents.


Retreat and Valentines Day

Hello my lovelies!

This past weekend I went on my second JVC retreat, marking the halfway point of my year of service. Pretty ridiculous, I know!

I really got a chance to get to know people and talk about social justice, which was what the retreat was centered on. One way we did that was to have each house cook a meal for everyone... and the catch? You had to make it as sustainable as possible! So we made whole wheat cinnamon pancakes with orange slices.... yum!!

It was a beautiful location, with awesome trees and misty rain. I must say, I am pretty in love with the nature of the Pacific Northwest.

Yesterday we had an AWESOME dinner for Valentines Day. I went shopping at a local grocery store that only carries local organic food, and I had a blast! Doesn't that dinner look good??

Then we topped it all off with some fondue...yum!!! The night ended with an epic dance party.

Then tonight was Matt's birthday, so we celebrated with yet another epic meal! I have gotten used to eating such delicious food, that is for sure.

Life as a JV is pretty wonderful.