Tuesday, January 29, 2013

One Point In Time

English: Homeless man in New York 2008, Credit...
English: Homeless man in New York 2008, Credit Crises. On any given night in USA, anywhere from 700,000 to 2 million people are homeless, according to estimates of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
4:00 AM in the car, driving on near empty streets north of Chicago.  9 degrees exterior temperature registers on the dashboard. I meet three other people who will make up my team for the National Point In Time Count of the homeless. We go out in the dark, frigid, early morning hoping that we will be unsuccessful in our mission.  None of us really want to find people sleeping outside in 9 degree weather. 

We spend three hours driving through parking garages, construction sites, and public parks.  We walk the embankments of the canals and then the suburban transit stations, looking in the stairwells and tucked away corners.  We pause at empty lots and look for cars with steamy windows or ones with ice on the inside of the glass.

We know that most people will try to ride the trains in the city, break into an abandoned building, or enter one of the crowded and intimidating emergency shelters in Chicago when it's this cold, but we keep looking.  Before our shift ends at 7am we find 2 men at separate train stations.  They both refuse to admit they are homeless and one won't talk to us at all. The station attendants know their routine though and mention an ATM lobby that one of them stays in overnight. The attendant explains that the one man stands at the bank of public phones, pretending to make calls and looking busy as  the commuters start coming through. We record the location but have nothing that will help us match this person with housing services sometime in the future. It is humbling, moving through a suburban landscape on the lookout for hiding places.  So many people that know they must be quiet, out-of-sight, or undetectable or lose their spot.

Later that morning I talk with one of the men in the homeless drop in program at the agency where I work. I ask him if he will answer the survey for the Point In Time count. "Where is the last place you lived before becoming homeless?

He had to go back seven years before he remembered, "I used to have a place working with construction. They let me stay in the buildings as soon as the walls went up. Sometimes they let me do day labor. They paid me $25/day. There wasn't any electricity or water though."  He and his friend stayed on the train during the night and have been homeless for so long that anything that has a roof and windbreak is considered housed. For seven plus years he's been figuring out how to be safe and survive and make it through the 9 degree nights. 

Walking in someone else's shoes. It will get you every time.
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Friday, January 18, 2013

Shedding the @#$%!

I didn't make any official resolutions at the beginning of the new year.  It's not that I didn't have any ideas, it was worse. I knew that I wasn't feeling committed to success. Why say it if you know you don't really mean it, was my thinking.  My list, if I had made one, would have included better fitness, eating healthy, watching less tv, and thinking more positively.  Writing more was probably on the "non-list" also. Alas, there was not a list and 17 days into 2013, I remained listless.

As I let the obligatory guilt and low level shame sluff away, I noticed something important.  As much as I wanted to lose a few pounds off my midsection, I wanted to lose a whole bunch of other things maybe even more.  It started as a disdainful look at my cluttered closets and turned to a long, piercing stare down of my kitchen cupboards.  Slowly but persistently I began to hear an official call to arms -  purge!

clutter (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
I woke this morning mentally prepared for a day of letting go of the c-rap in my home. Who knew that we had three separate jars of cinnamon, oregano, and baking powder? Combined and tossed. Herbs that I don't even like to cook with but that have secured prime real estate on my lazy susan for years and years - garbage. How long have I stared at that half used jar of confetti sprinkles? Can't remember when? Goodbye.  I tell you, it was like a mini-colonic.  I opened the cupboard again and nothing fell out, nothing tumbled past my head or crashed to the counter. (What is this new feeling?)

Recycling bins
Recycling bins (Photo credit: olishaw)
Next, I went through the medicine.  Again, how many bottles of ibuprofen does one family need? Outdated prescriptions and boxes of allergy pills with one lone tablet remaining.  Why did we keep that dog medicine that our neighbor gave us when her pet died? Why do I have vodka, Irish Creme, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil mingling on the shelf willy nilly?  The recycling bag of emptied bottles was filling up with completely gratifying speed. (Do I look thinner in these yoga pants?)

Upstairs, the chair in my bedroom screamed out to me.  The chair from hell that holds the perfect nightmare of odd socks and mix matched tidbits.  Mutual fund statements, an Easter card, a broken and half dismantled trumpet, and so many socks! Sort to charity, toss, match and toss some more. I gave those socks a fair shake.  They had at least a year or two to find their mate.  The jig's up.  After this last load of laundry, all single footwear will be banned from my chair! The "maybe it'll show up" whispers will not sway me.  This is a brutal purge and I am not playing. (I look so good in this v-neck tee.)

The unread books, untouched refinishing project, unused cookbooks, cracked containers, and dusty jewelry still remain but they are not long for my world. The truth is that shedding so much of my @#$%! is exhilarating.  I feel 10 lbs lighter and notice a little muscle definition. During my break I sat down to jot these thoughts instead of watching an episode on Netflix. I feel absolutely positive!  Maybe this is just the jumpstart I needed or maybe I'm just better at sprint activities than I am at lifestyle marathons.  Whatever it is, I'm taking it and loving it.
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