Thursday, January 31, 2008

Too much to update...

Because my dad yelled at me to update my blog, I will give you the briefest update yet.
-My dad's visit was incredible! I think he really enjoyed spending time with me and seeing what I do... just what I wanted!
-My trip home was incredible! The wedding was absolutely beautiful and perfect and my family can throw a GREAT party!!! I'm so blessed to have been part of such a beautiful and wonderful celebration! Congratulations Michael and Beckah!

We are beginning a brown-out in my community for the next couple of days. A brown out is where we will use no electricity (aside from leaving the refrigerator on and keeping the heat at around 55 so as not to freeze the pipes). The team is going on retreat (they've actually already left) so we figured this would be a good time for us to try our whole "no electricity" business. We are not pretending to be like our guests, many of whom do not have electricity or heat, but we are using it as an educational tool for ourselves- to gain awareness of the limitations that living in substandard housing or no housing at all can present. We will not be showering (no heat = no hot water = no shower) and we will be playing games and spending time together by candle-light.
We will return to the world of electricity when the team returns from their retreat Saturday afternoon/evening so please pray for us as we embark on our brown-out!
For all of you who I saw this weekend at the wedding, it was wonderful to see you and catch up with you! Thank you all for your support and love!

...and we're off (hahaha, literally, well, the lights anyway :-) )

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Waking up to gunshots...

I was woken up Tuesday morning by men screaming outside my house. I got out of bed to see what was going on but because the guys were too far down the street I couldn't see anything so I returned to my bed. Just as I got settled in and had almost fallen back asleep (as it was just about 5am and didn't have to be up for another 3 hours), I heard our work supervisor, Karen, yelling outside. She's one of those people that has to have her hand in every matter than occurs within a mile radius of SFI, so naturally she was outside.

I was fairly confident that by her going outside, things would get resolved quickly and the street would rest again. Not long after hearing Karen outside, I heard two gunshots. Two. I panicked, underneath my blankets in my bed. Now, I wasn't about to go outside to see what happened... you see, guns scare me more than anything else and I didn't think there was too much I could contribute to whatever situation was occurring outside so I just assumed stay in bed and, in my head, run through every possible scenario of what was going on.

Just over 3 hours later, I got to mass and Fred told me all that had happened. Apparently there were two very large dogs, one being a pitbull, the other a mastif, that had attacked the two men that were outside. Bob, one of our visitors for the past couple of weeks, went outside to try to help the men and was attacked himself and was sent to the emergency room to get rabies shots and make sure his bites weren't too severe. The men were on top of cars trying to get away from the dogs when the police showed up. The gunshots I heard were aimed at the bigger of the two dogs while the smaller dog ran back to its home on the next street over.

We don't know the whole story, but much of the Team is lead to believe that it was a drug-related ordeal, where perhaps the two men owed money to a dealer and the dealer sent the dogs to take care of business. Fortunately, Bob was able to divert the dogs from the two men long enough for the men to break away, ultimately saving their lives. Bob is okay; he has a few bite marks but is still in good spirits!

In addition to this craziness, Katie, our program director, came to do a site visit with us this week! She moved in Wednesday morning and conducted more one-on-ones with us. She spent time with each of us individually, Emily and I on Wednesday and Maureen on Thursday. She slept over Wednesday night and Thursday night, participating in our community activities (dinner and general shenanigans) and tried to experience what our community is really like. Her visit ended with a 10 hour meeting with the three of us. It was such incredible time spent with my housemates in such a loving and prayerful setting. We were able to discuss a variety of things ranging from our own individual issues as well as community issues.

One of the wonderful things about my community here is that we all tend to be on the same page about a lot of things and it was made even more evident by the community meeting with Katie. Given that we've spent 5 months here (as of yesterday!), we realized the need to re-group with each other and to check in with how everyone is doing. Katie left us late last night, as we tried to convince her to sleep over one more night to no avail. She promises to return :-). I firmly believe that as a community, the three of us will now be able to go into the next 6ish months with open minds and loving hearts because of the time Katie has spent with us.

Thursday evening I was on line-up during the meal. The snow was falling, creating a really nice layer of slush all over the yard and the guests trickled in, as they normally do when the weather is fair. Fred was outside with me doing tickets when a guest, whose name I've come to learn is Alex, went up to him. Alex has a severe alcohol problem and I've only ever seen him very, very intoxicated. At the Inn, we generally let people in when they are under the influence, unless we foresee them being a danger to themselves or someone else. Alex was not really able to stand up straight and had wet himself prior to his arrival at the Inn so Fred used his better judgment to give Alex a side-door meal to go. Alex doesn't really speak a whole lot of English so when I saw him starting to follow Fred, I intervened and told him that he needed to wait at the gate for Fred to return with his food, all in Spanish. He began to cry and made his way to one of the exterior walls of the Inn and basically crumbled to the ground in a sobbing mess. Between Fred and I, we took turns being with Alex in his weakness and trying to convince him that he wasn't going to die, despite what he may have wanted, and that he just needed to get to a hospital or shelter for the night.

Alex lives on the street and both Fred and I were concerned that merely getting him to stand up and walk out of the yard was not going to be enough, but that we had to find some place for him to go so that he could be warm and safe. Fortunately, the police had pulled a car over right in front of the Inn for a traffic violation so Fred went over to get the cops to figure out what the best solution was for Alex. They ended up taking him to a hospital with our prayers and a bag of food.
Since that time, I've been thinking a lot about how Alex, likely an illegal immigrant, came to the United States for the hope of a better life. I don't know what Alex's situation was before coming to the US, but I highly doubt this is the life he was hoping for. It pains me to think what he gave up back home and the sacrifice he made to be here, and the loneliness and depression he feels here.

Monday morning my dad arrives from NH to visit for a couple days before him, Emily and I head back to NH for my brother's wedding!!! I'm looking forward to spending some time with my dad and for him to get to experience more fully what it is I'm doing here!
Thank you all so much for taking the time to read my stories. God bless you all!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

So my effort to post on my blog has fallen short... I was hopeful that after the holidays things would slow down around here but I have yet to experience a slow-down. And as it appears, there's no end in sight! All good things are coming, but they are things that are keeping me away from my adoring fans (hahaha, that's you).
Let me try to recap the past week and a half for you. In preparation for a site visit from our program director, Katie, we are each having one-on-ones with her. These mostly involve Katie taking us out for food, sometimes two meals, depending on how long we take, and her checking in with us. I had mine last Saturday and it took 4 1/2 hours!!! I was absolutely exhausted afterward and was able to relax at home afterward while Emily had hers. Sunday, a group of students from Siena College (Emily's alma mater) began a week of service at the Inn. They were such a blessing to us all week!!! Sadly, they left us today to return to school!
Between our Fun Night, our community dinner, and our prayer night, each night this week was consumed by community-type activities! Thursday night Father Michael took Emily, Jamie and I to see Sweeney Todd... I'm not sure what you've heard of it, but it's certainly not my typical movie! I actually really enjoyed it! Aside from all the blood and darkness, I thought it was incredibly artistic and oddly beautiful. I would recommend it except I think that most people wouldn't have the stomach to endure all the gore.
Remember back to November when I wrote about going to Beachhaven (down the Jersey shore) to speak at masses with Fr. Michael and Emily?! Well, recently one of the women from the parish called the Inn and asked for Emily or I. She got Emily on the phone and said that she was so inspired from our talks that she wanted us to come talk to her retirement community about how they could get involved with the Inn. We were invited for a "tea" (which I didn't even know was an event until Emily told me) at the woman's house. The tea was yesterday and we showed up to this woman's beautiful home and were met by about 25 women over the age of about 55 who were eager to hear our stories and get involved!
It was absolutely incredible to hear how interested people are in what we're doing!!! We spent about 2 1/2 hours there schmoozing with the ladies and ended up coming back with $615 and a car full of donations!
You see, it is things like this that reinforce how much I LOVE being here! It is the generosity of everyone that inspires me to continue what I do and it is because of their generosity that we are able to do it! I am fulfilled by the guests and benefactors alike, inspired and humbled by both! These women were so loving and accepting and their kind words to us demonstrated their love for others.
I have many stories to update about the Inn but feel like I've rambled on enough for this entry. It is my hope that I'll be able to update again soon, although with the impending wedding (that's right, exactly 2 weeks from today my big brother will be getting married!), the site visit from Katie, and the Team retreat (which is the weekend following Michael's wedding), they may be fewer and farther between. But please continue to send your prayers and love our way! We definitely need them!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

I have resolved to update this blog more frequently... I have heard from everyone that I am a slacker so I will attempt to write more. I've also resolved to get back into my healthy lifestyle. I was doing so well for awhile but then the holidays came and it was all downhill from there. I ahave to be healthy so I can serve so it's about time to get myself back on track. Emily and I are going to Holy Family University tomorrow morning to meet with the Athletic Director to have a gym orientation, then hopefully we'll figure out some kind of regular schedule. I'm really excited!!!

But enough of that boring stuff--- I hope that you all found a fun and safe way to usher in 2008!!!
Last Saturday evening Kathy, our outside contact person, took us to Longwood Gardens, a big consevatory filled with flowers and plants. During Christmas time, they decorate inside and outside with Christmas lights and poinsettias. We had been hearing about it and looking it up online and then Kathy offered to take us so we all went! It was so beautiful and a really great way to spend the evening! Afterwards we were taken to dinner and had such a great time just spending time with Kathy! She's such a blessing to our community!

Since last week, Michael was talking about our Christmas dinner and where he was taking us. Well, Thursday of last week he had this wonderful idea that he wouldn't tell us, which was yet another way to celebrate Christmas with his "Honey-bunnies" as he calls us (such an improvement from hussies :-) ). He requested that we made ourselves available Monday night (we had previously planned for our dinner to be on Tuesday night) as well, so because we basically do whatever he tells us, we cleared our schedules and at 8pm, we were ready for an adventure downtown!!! We walked down Broad Street in Center City (which is the Arts district) and he cut us off and went into a theater!!! We had no idea what we were in for until we got inside the theater and saw signs for STOMP! We had incredible seats and had the absolute best time!!! It was such a phenomenal show, so high-energy and we were all so impressed by the talent of the performers! For those of you not familiar with the show, there are about 7 percussionists that create music using various household items including trash cans, sinks, pipes, fire extinguishers and other stuff to make an incredible beat! It was so loud but one of those shows that you just get sucked in to!
Emily, Michael and I went back to Kensington while Maureen went up to Allentown with Ryan, her fiance. Emily and I went over to Jamie and Renee's to watch the ball drop and ring in the new year with some friends! It was so much fun and the perfect way to celebrate the New Year!
New Year's Day we had an early meal (11:30am-1:00pm) and then most of the Team went over to the Women's Center because they had an open house. It is the only time throughout the whole year when men are allowed inside. We had some small snacks before coming back here to nap. Because the three of us had been up late the night before celebrating, we decided we should get some rest before going out to dinner with Michael (yep, in addition to taking us to Stomp, he also brought us out for dinner!).
On another mystery ride, Michael took us over to New Jersey to a restaurant called Bahama Breeze (it's a chain so you may have heard of it before). It was a Carribbean restaurant with lots of delicious food! We ate lots but brought a lot back with us. When we got home, Michael gave us our presents to open which were animal slippers!!! (the ones with the dogs are my feet!) We got him "lounge pants" and a picture frame with pictures of us! He seemed to enjoy both, although he seemed slightly weirded out by the lounge pants... which was our goal!

So now that our Christmas celebrations are finally over, I am able to reflect on how incredibly blessed I am. Not only did I feel the love from my family back home, but when I returned to Philly, I was showered with it all over again. Between Michael and Kathy, we have been so spoiled by everyone here and I'm not quite sure what I did to deserve it, but I sure am grateful for all that I have been blessed with!
I am looking forward to the New Year! A lot will happen and a lot will change so I'm excited to see what's in store for me! I hope that you're all looking forward with hopeful hearts!!! Happy New Year!!!