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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Vulnerability and Growth

People have so great a need to reverence, to worship, to adore; it is a psychological necessity of human nature that must be taken into account. We do not like to admit how people fail us. Even those most loved show their frailty and their weakness and no matter how we may will to see only the best in others, their strength rather than their weakness, we are all too conscious of our own failings and recognize them in others.                      –Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness, 84 

I love that quote. It think it’s so true. I’ve been reading Dorothy Day’s autobiography to learn more about her life and why she decided to start the Catholic Worker Movement. It has helped me understand what her ideology was behind the Worker. This quote reminds me of a TED Talk that was screened for the Loretto Community last week. The video was on Vulnerability… http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html I suggest everyone watch it because everything Brene Brown says will hit home in some way. I had already seen that video on my own one day surfing the web, but watching it again this time it made me feel different. The first time watching it I related so much to the numbness she talked about because I think that’s pretty much what I did when first going into college. I didn’t really get homesick or nervous about starting college and not living at home anymore. I wasn’t excited either though…I just went through the motions without feeling much, and I didn’t like it. This time around I totally understood why vulnerability is so important. Without putting down your walls and letting people in sometimes you won’t get someone to really get to know you. Why would you want people to really know you, you ask? Well for me it just makes me feel more connected. If you are going to have daily (or almost daily) interactions with people who you trust and make you feel good why wouldn’t you want them to really know you, regardless of whatever has happened in your past or what you’re going through? This summer has made me realize how there are so many caring people everywhere, not just at home with friends and family, but here as well! I think if I came here and didn’t tell people what’s been going on in my life I could enjoy being here. As much as vulnerability may seem like a bad thing (this stigma has been put on it here in the U.S.)  I really don’t think it is because as Dorothy Day says “we are all too conscious of our failings and recognize them in others”. No one is perfect, no one is free from stress or problems, and we all know that but sometimes fail to recognize it. We shouldn’t ignore it, but instead talk about the things we are going through because chances are someone might have gone through the same. Aside from all this pep talk, or whatever it is I started ranting about, I’ve learned being here that being vulnerable is actually okay. No, it’s better than okay because as much as people sometimes don’t know what to say, I know they’re glad I can open up to them. It just makes experiences more real!

Being in the middle of some big things going on makes me glad to be here. Although I’m not directly involved in issues like immigration or the camping ban in Denver I feel somewhat a part of it because the people that are directly involved let me know about what is happening. Last week I watched a documentary with a group of people Natalie (my supervisor at the Loretto Community) knows. It is called the Harvest of Empire, The Untold Stories of Latinos in America. I personally don’t like using the term “America” because uh the United States is part of the Americas, you know North America and South America…but that’s a whole other story. The documentary focuses on some of the reason people from Latin America migrated to the United States and how in some cases the United States had a lot to do with it. I did not know so much happened not too long ago. I learned a lot, a lot that I never learned in history classes…but that doesn’t surprise me. It was really emotional for Natalie and the two other sisters who have been working with immigrants and have worked in some of the countries mentioned. And it was also emotional for me because I’ve gotten a feel of it since my parents both immigrated from Mexico before I was born. I’ve seen first hand how difficult it’s been for my sisters to pay for college without any scholarships from the government and how hard they’ve had to work for “the American dream”. Now before coming here as I mentioned earlier I didn’t really know too much about the homeless population. Working at the Catholic Worker House I have learned a lot. Today all the workers and I went to a meeting in Denver City Hall about the Denver Camping Ban. Marcus and Sarah have been directly involved in this coalition along with Ben and others that truly care about the impact this ban has made. If any of you are interested in the information that was presented at the meeting today just go here:  http://issuu.com/denverhomelessoutloud/docs/surveyreport I believe the purpose of the meeting today was so they could partner up with some congress people about the issue and try to make things happen to change it. Unfortunately there was really not a lot of time left, in my opinion, to discuss it all thoroughly so another meeting was scheduled for next month. Hopefully in this next meeting they get the help they need!

Well just a couple of days until June is over and I will be here for a complete month, half-way done with this fellowship. I have already committed to coming back at least once a year to visit everyone. It’s neat to have a family away from home, at the Worker, at Loretto and of course with my host family. I could not have been luckier!

Catholic Worker House; Chris throwing a ball at me...haha

Catholic Worker House; Chris throwing a ball at me…haha

(Late post) Rocky Mountain National Park

(Late post) Rocky Mountain National Park

Guanella Pass with Catholic Worker people!

Guanella Pass with Catholic Worker crew!

The lake we hiked to @ Guanella Pass

The lake we hiked to @ Guanella Pass

Kristen and Baby Brielle and I at a Festival in Denver

Kristen and Baby Brielle and I at a Festival in Denver

 

Connections

I had always heard that it was important to have connections, but it wasn’t until this week that I have seen how they can come as a big advantage. I’m not saying that everyone should go around meeting random people just so that they can use them, but that it is beneficial to know someone who could help you.

On Friday me and Sister Natalie were on our way to a cabin in Lyons that the Loretto sisters own and the car broke down. She didn’t think her insurance would cover the tow and wasn’t sure what to do so she called one of the sisters in Littleton. One of the sisters there said she had AAA so she came to pick us up and call her insurance company. We were there for 2 hours until the car finally got towed. The car was towed to a dealer that the Loretto Sisters have been using for many years. Anyway to fastforward my point, this man that has been in the business for a while and knows the sisters personally made sure the car was taken care of as soon as possible and he even gave them some discounts. Natalie and I were grateful that she had the sisters to help us out and that they had this good connection with that dealership.

This past weekend was busy, but it was good for me. Since I didn’t have a car to drive back to the house and it was pretty late for the sisters they let me stay at the center. The sisters joked that I would get to experience living in a convent since I worked there that day and then spent the night. Totally crossing that off my bucketlist…ha, not really. So Saturday morning we got up and left like at 8am. We got to the cabin, explored a bit, and then got to work. Our task that weekend was to sand and paint the deck of the cabin. At first we didn’t think it was going to be so hard, but after sanding it down we realized it was going to be more work than we expected. We eventually finished it and it looked great! The next day we decided we would go to Rocky National Park since we were so close, only like 45 minutes away it seemed to me. It was perfect! Natalie actually worked there a couple summers as a park ranger several years back, so she knew exactly where the best places to stop and hike were. It was beautiful, I am so glad she took me! When we got there it was cloudy so we got out of the car and hiked a bit. Then as we kept going up the mountains it started raining and snowing! Snow in the summer? That was crazy, but in a good way. It was neat to see the park while it was kind of overcast, but also seeing it when it snowed. Our timing was perfect because we were almost done seeing the whole park (by car) when it started snowing. Once we left Estes Park the sky cleared up and it was hot again! Since we hadn’t really eaten lunch yet we stopped by Lyons and ate a local restaurant. I was starving, I ate a huge cheeseburger, but it was so good! Anyway, aside from the random adventures this weekend, it was nice to do something different. Even though I had only been around for 2 weeks, (now 2 weeks and 4 days) the routine was getting to me. It was good to have some time away from everything and everyone for a couple of days and just enjoy nature. I hadn’t felted connected to nature in a long time, I have missed going to Yosemite every year in high school as a cabin leader and after this weekend I realized that I need time just hiking around and enjoying it all. So even though it isn’t with a person, I have a connection with nature that will always give back to me!

This past days have been tiring. The weekend doing manual labor and hiking and the past weekdays pretty much doing the same. At the Catholic Worker we had been working on fixing up the kitchen, fixing the roof and painting. Monday I spent the day painting and helping make a shelf. Today we had community day (I had no clue where we were going) until I got there. We ended up driving to Georgetown and up some mountains from there. The town was cute and the mountains we saw were amazing! We had a nice picnic and then started hiking toward a small lake. It was so hard to breathe up there! I was telling the workers how I hadn’t even felt like that in Rocky Mountain National Park! But, it was a fun trip overall! It was a nice change of pace for the workers since they had been working on the kitchen for a bit over a week. On our way to Georgetown, Kristen and Marcus were discussing what the Catholic Worker means to them. It was great getting their perspective on how it should work and how it could be changed. One of the biggest things that struck me was when Marcus brought up voluntary poverty (something pretty much required for any of the workers). He said how it kind of puts people up on a pedestal as if they are a hero for living in poverty intentionally. He told of how instead, that value should be replaced with living simply, or just being humble. I really like that concept. Marcus also explained how he thought it was kind of ironic how the workers should practice voluntary poverty, yet how the whole point of the Catholic Worker is to assist people in getting them back on their feet. That’s a good point. They made me think a lot about how there is much more to it than just being in a house full of people and having the title of a Catholic Worker house of hospitality. Also about how even having that title means so much. It was really interesting hearing how passionate they are about the house. They are truly inspirational people for just being themselves!

I can already see how this summer is going to go by so quickly! I have felt so blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people every day. When I first came to Colorado I prayed that I would feel at home here and so far my prayers have been granted. Although it has still been hard being away from friends and family back home I am glad to be here because I am learning so much and experiencing things I wouldn’t have ever had the chance to. Like on Monday I accompanied Anna (a sister that lives at the Catholic Worker) to a meeting she had with congresswoman Diana DeGette. The meeting was with a group of religious people (not all Catholic) who were working together on immigration issues. It was awesome just being there listening to some things that I understood and other things I wasn’t too sure about. I also enjoyed being there because most of the things they talked about in some ways pertained to me and my family.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Beauty is Everywhere

When I first got to Colorado I thought I was going to insanely miss the state I’ve grown up in-California. I love it there so much; the agriculture, the mountains, the hills, the beaches, the cities, the PEOPLE…everything! But coming here made me realize how maybe I shouldn’t be so biased about California. Every day that I drive to work I look to the west and see these beautiful mountains, and so much green whenever there aren’t buildings. I think I came at a perfect time because even though there have been hot some days, it doesn’t compare to the heat I would have endured if I was back home where it has been hitting high 90’s.

Now, I’m not just talking about aesthetics or the weather here, but the people as well. As much as I miss my friends and family everyone I have met have contributed to making me feel right at home and have taught me things they don’t even realize I value so much. At the Loretto Community, I have gotten a more well-rounded view of what the sisters here do. I’ve learned that the nun stereotype is SUCH a stereotype, they don’t have to wear a veil or habit anymore, in fact they haven’t had to since like the 70’s! They are like normal people, they aren’t praying all the time, but actually get out and practice their faith with the community. Although some of the sisters here are semi-retired they still find ways to get involved and as their mission says, they “work for justice and act for peace because the Gospel urges” them. On the days that I’m here, I eat lunch and dinner with some of them. I’ve learned about what they did before they settled down here, about their families, and just about their personalities in general. Some of them have a great sense of humor and like making the rest of us laugh. Overall, being around such wonderful women who have done amazing things makes me feel awe. One of the sisters I talked to yesterday she was telling me about how she was rare in the public education system because there aren’t a lot of religious men or women teaching outside of private schools. I hadn’t made that connection until she mentioned it. I had always gone to public schools before I got to Saint Mary’s, so I hadn’t even thought about that fact. That’s pretty admirable on her part. I’ve also spoken to other sisters who have enjoyed being in Latin America and have even picked up Spanish. I love that! I think it’s awesome when people actively learn a language, not just because they want to add it to their resume, but because they genuinely want to communicate and understand another culture.

It’s crazy how different cultures are. Coming here I hadn’t felt so foreign, even though I was born in California, and even though I speak English. I thought that after going to Saint Mary’s (a dominantly White school) I would have gotten used to feeling so…it’s hard to describe the feeling…but I guess just uncomfortable. It is a complicated feeling because I know people aren’t racist, no one dislikes me because I am brown skinned and grew up with a Mexican culture. It’s just hard to explain. But anyway coming here I’ve been surprised to find how little some people know about my culture. Something so simple to me, like tacos, is different to people here! I’ve tried to sort of make it a game to teach some of the people here about the traditions and foods that I’ve grown up doing and eating. So tacos…I’ve asked some people what they think tacos consist of. Typically I’ve gotten tortilla (yes), some sort of meat or protein (yes), salsa (yes), but then comes the most wrong ingredient: CHEESE. I don’t know how tacos have evolved to contain cheese! Any taco that has a tortilla, meat, and salsa should not have cheese. I like to call those Taco Bell tacos. Real Mexican tacos don’t have cheese or lettuce, they have onion, cilantro, and lime, that’s it. Anyway, through that random tangent on tacos what I’m saying is that it’s been something else being like the only Latina around here. At least at Saint Mary’s I had some people who totally got where I’m coming from. Being here has taken me out of my comfort zone completely, but that’s okay. I’m learning!

As I was telling one of the guests (Ben) at the Catholic Worker I have been involved in social justice events, and community service, but never with that population of people. I’ve learned about the food deserts in the area, like Oakland. I’ve learned about socio-economic struggles. I’ve learned about oppression, racism, and microagressions. I’ve helped teach ESL to those who wanted to learn English. I’ve spent time with older populations of people in Berkeley. I’ve known all my life about people who don’t have a place to call home, and it’s always made me so sad to think about it, which might be a reason I’ve stayed away from homeless shelters or food banks. It’s just not fair. How could there be so many people who don’t have basic necessities? Talking to Ben he told me me about how there’s a camping ban in Denver. He told me of how homeless people aren’t even allowed to sleep in the streets anymore. The point of it was to try to make people seek out shelters, but the problem with that is that they’re all full. He told me of how he is part of Denver Homeless Out Loud,  http://denverhomelessoutloud.org/ , because he doesn’t believe this ban is benefiting the homeless population in Denver. Before moving in to the house, he was part of that population too, but even then was working to try to help others. That’s so admirable. And all the people that work there, Marcus, Kristen, Sarah, none of them get paid to be there. They all recognize the crappy things people go through and to me it seems like they’ve made it a point in their lives to simply be there with everyone else. The Catholic Worker is not a homeless shelter, it’s truly a home. Everyone works together to make things happen. Like this past week, it’s been stressful for them and Rob and Amanda (who came from another Catholic Worker until they find another place) to be working on construction in the kitchen. It was only going to be the roof, and more things started coming up. The electrical lines looked like they might be a problem, there was a point where the phone line got disconnected. Once we were done scraping and we were getting ready for dry wall the package we got was already half dry (meaning useless). But throughout all these hiccups everyone made it happen! They all knew it had to be done and worked around the unplanned events. I haven’t been there since Wednesday, but I am sure once I go back on Monday they will be right on track.

Another thing I recently learned is that the Catholic Worker house isn’t part of a 501(c) meaning if people donate , it won’t show up on their taxes like it does for the Salvation Army or other organizations. I’ve learned this makes it difficult to get people to sponsor anything. In high school I was president of a club called Renaissance that rewarded students for “academic excellence” and the only reason some of the restaurants or businesses would donate to us would be because it was tax exempt. But I guess that’s the point of the Catholic Worker, it’s not something you give to because it benefits you it’s so it benefits others. 

Even though the Catholic Worker in Denver isn’t a 501(c) doesn’t mean they don’t get donation though. They do, but it’s not really enough. This is where “dumpstering”/ “dumpster diving” comes into play at the house. Apparently every Sunday night Marcus and I don’t know who else, goes in the truck to snag some food, or whatever else they can find. At first, it seems kind of gross right? Food that comes from trash! But guess what people, it’s not even really trash. It’s just stuff that stores didn’t sell, stuff that didn’t fit, stuff that “expired”. Most of it is alright condition. You all wouldn’t believe what treasures they’ve found. Anything from strawberries, to shampoo, to cookies, all packaged and sealed. It is ridiculous. So much stuff gets wasted, so much food. There are so many people going hungry and stores are throwing food away instead of giving it away. It makes no sense to me. They really aren’t liable for it once they give it away, so what gives? I watched the documentary called Dive and ugh, I just couldn’t believe it. But at least at the house we are saving money and saving the food that could have just rotted away in a dumpster. The only problem with that is that it’s kind of a pain having to go through all the food to make sure it’s okay. We don’t want people getting sick. And from the times I’ve been there, I haven’t gotten sick so I think they’re doing a good job of checking things.

Okay I should finish this up 🙂 In these (almost) two weeks I have been here I have learned how to live simply. I haven’t eaten out since like last Saturday, but that was only because Steven offered to buy me this Greek sandwich thing that I had never tried. It was delicious! I actually haven’t bought anything since I first got here, only used money on gas…that’s all I’ve needed. I’ve become more conscious of how my time should be spent here. Not alone or on my computer, but with people and just talking. I love getting to know people better, it’s made my time better here. Teaching others more about my culture has also been fun. Last week I taught Steven how to make tacos de papa (potato tacos), and pepino con chile (cucumber with powdered chile, salt and lime). So far I’ve gotten a huge sense of community everywhere, at the Loretto Community, at the Catholic Worker and of course with my host family. It’s beautiful.

The view from the Loretto office

The view from the Loretto officeSarah and Kristen sorting food

Sarah and Kristen sorting food

Baby Brielle and I at Aurora Reservoir

Baby Brielle and I at Aurora Reservoir

Watched professional lacrosse with Steven and Brielle

Watched professional lacrosse with Steven and Brielle

Rooftop view of Denver

Rooftop view of Denver

 

 

 

How’s Colorado?

That’s the question I’ve been getting from a ton of people I know! I know they mean how am I doing, how am I adjusting, maybe even how is the weather and the people are. Well, Colorado is a beautiful place full of really nice and caring people. And its capital is full of a bunch of one ways streets and freeways that turn into roads! I am definitely not a city person. There are way too many lanes and cars for me to feel comfortable driving, but I’ve been doing it! My host family said that I’d learn my way around better if I got lost, and they were right! I’ve accidentally explored a lot of Denver. Now when I get out of work I think I’ll walk around downtown.

It’s so crazy to think I’ve only been here for four days and I feel like I’ve been here for so much longer. It’s definitely not a bad thing though, my host family has helped me feel really comfortable about being here. I really think I lucked out with this family. They are really helpful, nice, and overall good people. Knowing that they had a baby made me feel many things because of what I have just gone through. Its personal, but I will say that I just didn’t want to be around babies much. Being here with her has made me get over it, because I can’t help but smile at her, and want to play with her and make her laugh. She’s a good girl and I hope to see her start walking before I leave since she just turned one. My mom was right, she said I’d love that baby before I left, and woah I just got here.

I thought that work on Monday might not be go so well since the weekend in Highlands Ranch with my host family went great, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not too many things go great all in a row usually! I went to Denver that day to the Catholic Worker. I was nervous about driving in the city and did fine all through the different freeways until I got to the city…then I got lost. And my phone kept telling me I was in one place when I was positive I was not there. After I called my host family and they didn’t pick up I took a deep breath and relaxed. Then I thought about just looking for it “the old fashioned way”, I looked at the map on my phone and gave myself directions to follow. Once I thought I was close enough I made sure I parked in a place I wouldn’t get a ticket. I know to many people this is not a huge accomplishment, but me being a girl from the Central Valley who drives around small towns where all I have to worry about it passing up a tractor or speeding up past a smelly dairy, this was a pretty big feat! I walked around for a bit until I found the address of the house that didn’t even have a sign on it (which I later learned is so that guests feel it is truly their home and not just a homeless shelter).

From the moment I walked in, to the moment I left everyone was so nice to me. I got a lot of warm smiles, handshakes and hugs. I thought I would feel like an outsider when I first got there because the three workers that were there have been working there for years, but after a few minutes I felt right at home. After a weekly meeting, we had half an hour for prayer. For me it was more like meditation because we sat in the living room floor in silence. It felt so good to just sit there and take it all in, thinking about the past few days I had been in Colorado and what more there was to come. I thought about the many relationships I would foster, including one with a dog named Beer who sat right next to me during that moment of silence 😉 (I love dogs!) After that Marcus (my supervisor for this trip), gave me a tour of the house which didn’t look so big at first but has a bunch of rooms for the guests. All guests are allowed to stay until they can get back on their feet. They are required to leave the house between 9 am until 4 pm to look for jobs or any other benefits to better their lives. They have no obligations other than one weekly chore and one night a week of doing the dishes. It was pretty easy to take that part in. But I didn’t realize the people working their put so much effort into the house until a bit later. Every Monday they sort food that they get and organize everything so systematically, it took us hours to do it. Someone is also assigned to cook for a full house. Yesterday it was 10 people including myself. There was a lot of food on the table! At this house (its basically just a big house full of hardworking people that I forgot it was a house where some people that were homeless prior live) there is a lot of green things going on. I was impressed! They make their own laundry detergent which is so much cheaper than trying to buy a $12 container every week since they wash so much throughout the week and has like no bad chemicals. They compost food and even do vermicompost which I learned is just with worms. Everyone in the house works together to make everything run smoothly, it was great. Yesterday I got to interact with some of the guests and learned a bit about some of them, but I look forward to getting to know them better in the coming weeks!

Today I wasn’t so nervous for the drive because the Loretto Community is about half an hour away from my host family’s house. It’s in the city of Littleton and not Denver so I found it fine! I might slip down the stairs or something soon because I’ve had such good encounters with people so far! The first person I met from the Loretto Community (which is a sisterhood of religious women who believes in peace and justice for all) was a woman named Natalie. She spent some of her time in Mexico and Guatemala that she now knows Spanish and so much more. We’ve had really good conversations about the culture and some of the crisis that people in Latin America have encountered. She is such a nice person, she sacrificed her car to let me borrow it for two months and has offered to take me out a couple of weekends that I’m here so that I can enjoy Colorado! The second person I met was Anna, which lives at the Catholic Worker with Marcus, Kristen and the guests. That’s a lot of commitment. She has been living there for about forty years! She is really dedicated to it. I met more sisters today at the community and they were all really nice and welcoming. I’m happy to help them out with technology stuff! When I talked to my mom after work and told her about what I’ll be doing with them she asked why I’m not teaching her how to use the internet and things I will be showing them…ha she hadn’t asked me so I just hadn’t done it. But I think I will become patient with my mom after teaching the sisters. It’s a totally different environment from Monday, but the sisters will be fun!

As I’m sitting here in my host family’s living room listening to Kristin playing with Brielle and Roxy (their dog) sitting on the floor next to me, I feel pretty good. I’ve had moments where I’m like what am I doing here?! I miss my family and friends and it’s so odd knowing that they aren’t just two hours away like when I left for Saint Mary’s. But it makes me feel so much better having so many people here that want to make me feel at home. Natalie wants to take me camping since I told her I’ve never been. Kristin and Steven want to take me to Red Rocks and other cool places around the area. And everyone in Denver quickly made me feel like a part of them! I think I made the right choice in coming to Colorado. So to answer everyone’s question again, Colorado is great and it’s going to be better by the end of my two months here. I’m definitely going to want to come back!

The Loretto Community

The Loretto Community

The side of the Catholic Worker house

The side of the Catholic Worker house!

On a walk in Highlands Ranch, CO

On a walk in Highlands Ranch with my host family: Kristin, Steven, and baby Brielle